Senator Achilles Samut

In 1926 another Maltese politician went to Australia as Malta's delegate to the Empire Parliamentary Association. He was Senator Achilles Samut of the Constitutional Party. He left Malta on August 8, 1926, accompanying thirty emigrants. When Samut arrived in Fremantle he saluted the thousands of Maltese who had settled in Australia and forcefully repeated the legitimate claim of the Maltese to British citizenship and status.

A number of Maltese in Malta and Australia considered Samut as being too much of a Loyalist. Not all the Maltese in Australia were enthusiastic about his visit because they suspected that the Senator was using the Australian platform to enhance his party's prestige at the expense of those who did not support his views in Malta.

Samut's speeches did not fail to show where his political affiliations were. According to Samut the Maltese were as British as the English, Scots and the Welsh. Samut kept on repeating his arguments in favour of the British character of the Maltese, but the "Age" of September 15, failed to be moved by the Loyalist expressions of the visitor from Malta. That newspaper decided that the Maltese were aliens in the light of the White Australia Policy. However, that newspaper did admit that Samut's people were also British subejcts and therefore should not be entirely barred from entering Australia.

When the Senator arrived in Sydney he created problems for the Maltese in that city. The Melita Social Club had made it a point to invite to its premises those Maltese who happened to be visiting Sydney. Dr. Bartolo and Mgr. Gauci had been warmly welcomed there. However, the current president of the Club, Mr. joe Gatt, indicated that politically he was very much at odds with the Senator and that he felt that he would oppose any formal welcome extended to Samut. Eventually a compromise was reached and Samut was invited to a social evening.

Although his presence in Australia proved somehwat divisive, Senator Samut did his share to improve the image of his countrymen then living in various Australian States. He made an important contribution to Maltese emigration to Australia when he wrote to the Hon. Earle Page, who in 1926, was the Acting Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth.

On October 20, 1926, Senator Samut wrote to Earle Page to ask for the inclusion of the Maltese in the scheme which provided financial assistance to husbands already settled in Australia and who wished to bring over their wives and children. Samut's letter ran as follows:

"Dear Mr. Page,

I desire to bring to your attention the following matter which affects the people of Malta and trust that your Government will see its way to give its most sympathetic consideration.

As you are aware Malta is a British dependancy and its people are most loyal to the Empire.

During my travels through the Commonwealth I have come into contact with many of my countrymen who have now established themselves here, but regret to have found that many of' them are here without their wives and families as their means are not sufficient to enable them to pay the full fares to bring them to Australia.

I understand that your Government arranges for concession fares for wives and families of persons of British nationality from Great Britain and other parts of the Empire.

I feel that the people of Malta might he included in this arrangement. If your Government could see its way to agree thereto it would be a matter which would earn the deep gratitude of the Government and people of Malta, and 1 am sure would increase their attachment to the Empire, of which the Commonwealth forms such a wealthy part in comparison with the little island of Malta, which is the only self-governing dominion of the Empire where the struggle for livelihood is intense through over-population.

As the number of Maltese in Australia who would be affected by the suggested concession is very small, I sincerely trust that your Government will be able to see its way to agree thereto".

In less than four weeks Samut received a favourable answer from Melbourne. On November 18, 1926, the Hon. Earle Page wrote:

"Dear Senator Samut,

With reference to our conversation on the subject, I desire to inform you that the Commonwealth Government has now discussed the measure of assistance which may be extended to Maltese migrating to this country.

A decision has been arrived at to the effect that Maltese residents in Australia who produce evidence satisfactory to the Minister of Migration that they are likely to remain here, may nominate their wives and a contribution towards the cost of passages of such wives to the extent of 8.5sOd will be paid by the Commonwealth Government on arrival provided that the assisted migrant furnishes a satisfactory medical certificate on landing in Australia".

Senator Samut sent a telegram to Dr. Ugo Mifsud, who was then the Prime Minister of Malta, to inform him of the favourable decision arrived at. Dr. Mifsud read the telegram at the sitting of the Senate on November 24, 1926. Senator Samut was back in Malta on December 18.

Source: The Great Exodus by Fr Lawrence E. Attard. (C) P.E.G. Ltd - 1989.

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