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The White Australia Policy refers to a range of legislative Acts of the Australian Parliament which all but excluded Non-European immigration into Australia. The three key Acts which are the Immigration Restriction Act (1901), the Pacific Island Labourers Act (1901) and the Naturalisation Act (1903). The term "White Australia" emerged in the 1890's as an ideal to strengthen racial homogeneity and the overwhelmingly European character of the population. The Federation of Australian colonies in 1901 made the realisation of the White Australia Policy possible. Previously to this the six Australian colonies had to implement separate and at times inconsistent legislation. Australian Federation made it possible for the Australian Parliament to enact legislation which covered the entire continent. While the "White Australia Policy" was usually regarded as a policy of immigration restriction, or exclusion, the deportation of thousands of Melenesian people from Queensland before 1907 was also considered an important aspect of the initial policy.

Discriminatory immigration policies were gradually removed between the end of World War II and 1982 with racially discriminatory aspects of the Migration Act officially overturned in 1973.

In contemporary Australian public and academic discourses, the term 'White Australia Policy' is commonly used to refer to the conception of Australia in ethno-nationalistic terms.

Immigration policy prior to FederationEdit

Pre Gold Rush ImmigrationEdit

Prior to 1830, the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land had no specific policies on immigration; they were predominantly concerned with the transportation of British convicts and the support of these new settlements. Of the nearly 150,000 convicts transported to Australia, only 4,000 were not from the British dominions and of these only 900 were non-white.[1] These figures do not reflect a deliberate bias in immigration policy, rather they likely reflect the ethnic distribution of persons processed by the British legal system at the time.

From 1830, the two Australian colonies made deliberate efforts to increase the number of Britons in Australia, as part of a program to increase their population. Incentives, including relocation expenses, were offered to British citizens to emigrate to Australia. This was driven by a "new Britannia" policy which aimed to see Australia recreated in Britain's image. Between 1830 and 1940, 1,068,311 Britons accepted this subsidised relocation to Australia.[2]

Gold Rush EraEdit

The discovery of gold in Australia in 1851 led to an influx of immigrants from around the world. Over the next 20 years, 40,000 Chinese (mostly Cantonese) were attracted to the gold-fields, and found much gold.[3] Competition on the gold-fields led to significant conflict between groups. The Chinese, who kept to themselves for reasons of language and community, were frequently denounced by white prospectors. Chinese were blamed for bad luck and "unfair" competition.[3]

This tension eventually led to a series of protests and riots, including the Lambing Flat Riots between 1860 and 1861. Governor Hotham, on the 16 November 1854, appointed a Royal Commission on Victorian gold-fields problems and grievances. This led to restrictions being placed on Chinese immigration and residency taxes levied from Chinese residents in Victoria from 1855 with New South Wales following suit in 1861. These restrictions remained in force until the early 1870s. But the tension never ceased.

Racism in the labour movementEdit

The growth of the sugar industry in Queensland in the 1870s led to searching for labourers prepared to work in a tropical environment. During this time, thousands of "Kanakas" (Pacific Islanders) were brought into Australia as indentured workers.[4] This and related practices of bringing in non-white labour to be cheaply exploited was commonly termed "blackbirding".[5] In the 1870s and 1880s, the labour union movement began a series of protests against foreign labour. Their arguments were that Asians and Chinese took jobs away from white men, worked for substandard wages, lowered working conditions and refused unionisation.[3]

Objections to non-white immigration restrictions came largely from wealthy land owners in rural areas. It was argued that without "Asiatics" to work in the tropical areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland, the area would have to be abandoned.[4] Despite these objections to restricting immigration, between 1875-1888 all Australian colonies enacted legislation which excluded all further Chinese immigration.[4] Asian immigrants already residing in the Australian colonies were not expelled.

Agreements were made to further increase these restrictions in 1895 following an Inter-colonial Premier's Conference where all colonies agreed to extend entry restrictions to all non-white races. However, in attempting to enact this legislation, the Governors of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania reserved the bills, due to a treaty with Japan, and they did not become law. Instead, the Natal Act of 1897 was introduced, restricting "undesirable persons" rather than any specific race.[3]

From Federation to World War IIEdit

Federation Convention and Australia's first governmentEdit

Immigration was a prominent topic in the lead up to Australian Federation. At the Federation Convention, Western Australian premier and future federal cabinet member, John Forrest, summarised the prevailing feeling:[5]

[It is] of no use to shut our eyes to the fact that there is a great feeling all over Australia against the introduction of coloured persons. It goes without saying that we do not like to talk about it, but it is so.

Australia's first government following Federation in 1901 was formed by the Protectionist Party with the support of the Australian Labor Party. The support of the Labor Party was contingent upon restricting non-white immigration, reflecting the attitudes of the Australian Worker's Union and other labour organisations at the time, upon whose support the Labor Party was founded.

Immigration Restriction Act 1901Edit

Template:Main article The new Federal Parliament, as one of its first pieces of legislation, passed the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 to "place certain restrictions on immigration and... for the removal... of prohibited immigrants". The act drew on similar legislation in South Africa. Edmund Barton, the prime minister, argued in support of the Bill with the following statement: "The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman."

Early drafts of the Act explicitly banned non-Europeans from migrating to Australia but objections from the British government, which feared that such a measure would offend British subjects in India and Britain's allies in Japan, caused the Barton government to remove this wording. Instead, a "dictation test" was introduced as a device for excluding unwanted immigrants. Immigration officials were given the power to exclude any person who failed to pass a 50-word dictation test in any European language.

Australia was not the only British Dominion to have such immigration policies. South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand also had racially restrictive immigration policies in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Similar restrictions also existed in the United States of America. In 1905 legislation was introduced to the United Kingdom, principally affecting Jews. (see also Komagata Maru, and the Red Summer of 1919). Australian soldiers were involved in the assaults on the Black British community in Cardiff, Wales in 1919.

In the same year, the government also passed the Pacific Island Labourers Act. The result of this legislation is that 7,500 Pacific Islanders working in Australia were deported.

The Paris Peace ConferenceEdit

At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference following World War I, Japan attended the conference with the explicit intention of having a racial equality clause included in the League of Nations Charter. Japanese policy reflected their desire to remove or to ease the immigration restrictions against Chinese and Japanese (especially in America and Canada) which Japan regarded as a humiliation and affront to its prestige. Emperor Showa (Hirohito) was later to suggest that this was one of the reasons for the Greater East Asian War (Pacific Theatre of World War II).

Australia was one of few countries which had race as a dominant political ideology at the time. Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes vehemently opposed the proposition. Hughes recognised that such a clause would be a threat to White Australia and made it clear to Lloyd George that he would leave the conference if the clause was adopted. When the proposal failed Hughes reported in the Australian parliament:

"The White Australia is yours. You may do with it what you please, but at any rate, the soldiers have achieved the victory and my colleagues and I have brought that great principle back to you from the conference, as safe as it was on the day when it was first adopted."Template:Citation-needed

Abolition of the PolicyEdit

World War IIEdit

Between the Great Depression, starting in 1929 and the commencement of World War II in 1939, global economic pressures kept immigration to very low levels.[6] At the start of the war, Prime Minister John Curtin (ALP) reinforced the message of the White Australia Policy by saying: "This country shall remain forever the home of the descendants of those people who came here in peace in order to establish in the South Seas an outpost of the British race." [7]

However, by the end of World War II, Australia's vulnerability during the war in the Pacific and small population led to policies summarised by the slogan "Populate or Perish". During the war, many non-white refugees, including Malays, Indonesians and Filipinos, had settled in Australia. Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell, controversially sought to have them all deported. In 1949 Harold Holt allowed the remaining 800 non-white refugees to apply for residency and also allowed Japanese "war brides" to settle in Australia.[7]

Relaxation of restrictionsEdit

Australian policy began to shift towards significantly increasing immigration. Legislative changes over the next few decades continuously opened up immigration in Australia.[6]

  • 1947 The Australian Government relaxed the Immigration Restriction Act allowing non-Europeans to settle permanently in Australia for business reasons.
  • 1950 Colombo Plan, students from Asian countries were admitted to study at Australian universities.
  • 1957 Non-whites with 15 years' residence in Australia were allowed to become citizens.
  • 1958 The Revised Migration Act of 1958 abolished the dictation test and introduced a simpler system for entry.
  • 1959 Australians were permitted to sponsor non-European spouses for citizenship.
  • 1964 Conditions of entry for people of mixed-descent were relaxed.

After a review of the non-European policy in March 1966, Immigration Minister Hubert Opperman announced applications for migration would be accepted from well-qualified people on the basis of their suitability as settlers, their ability to integrate readily and their possession of qualifications positively useful to Australia. At the same time, the Holt Liberal government decided a number of 'temporary resident' non-Europeans, who were not required to leave Australia, could become permanent residents and citizens after five years (the same as for Europeans).

As as result, annual non-European settler arrivals rose from 746 in 1966 to 2696 in 1971, while annual part-European settler arrivals rose from 1498 to 6054.[7]

End of the White Australia PolicyEdit

The effective end of the White Australia policy is usually dated to 1973, when the Whitlam Labor government implemented a series of amendments preventing the enforcement of racial aspects of the immigration law. These amendments legislated that:[7]

  • All migrants, of whatever origin, be eligible to obtain citizenship after three years of permanent residence.
  • Ratified all international agreements relating to immigration and race.
  • Issued policy to totally disregard race as a factor in selecting migrants.

The 1975 Racial Discrimination Act made the use of racial criteria for any official purpose illegal.

It was not until the Fraser government's review of immigration law in 1978 that all selection of prospective migrants based on country of origin was entirely removed from official policy. Currently, a large number of Australia's immigrants are from countries such as China and India, though the United Kingdom and New Zealand respectively remain the two largest single sources of immigrants.

The last selective immigration policy, offering relocation assistance to British nationals, was finally removed in 1982.[2]

LegacyEdit

Population DistributionEdit

The 2001 Australian census results indicate that a majority of Australians claim some European heritage: English 37%, Irish 11%, Italian 5%, German 4.3%, Scottish 3%, Greek 2%, Dutch 1.5%, Polish 0.9%. Non-European origin forms a significant but still relatively small part of the population: Chinese 3.2%, Lebanese 0.9%, Indian 0.9%, Vietnamese 0.9%. 2.2% identified themselves as Indigenous Australians. 39% of the population gave their ancestry as "Australian". In Australia, although the definition of 'white' is always opinion based, it primarily pertains to people of Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic and other people of that origin or appearance, sometimes excluding people from the Balkans, and Mediterranean basin. (see definition of Wog in Australia usage) (Note that subjects were permitted to select more than one answer for this census question.)[8]

15 percent of the population now speaks a language other than English at home.[9] The most commonly spoken languages are Chinese, Italian, Greek, and Arabic.

Given that current Australian birth rates are below levels required for population replacement, it is possible that, with declining birth rates compensated by immigration, there may be fewer native-born Australians than immigrants by 2100 (see graphs).

Political and Social LegacyEdit

Discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity has been illegal in Australia since 1975. Australia's official policy on racial diversity is: "to build on our success as a culturally diverse, accepting and open society, united through a shared future".[10] The White Australia Policy continues to be mentioned in modern contexts, although few politicians ever mention the policy, except when denouncing their opposition. John Howard argued for restricting immigration in 1988, later admitting that his comments cost him his job at the time:

I'm not in favour of going back to a White Australia policy. I do believe that if it is -- in the eyes of some in the community -- that it's too great, it would be in our immediate-term interest and supporting of social cohesion if it [immigration] were slowed down a little, so the capacity of the community to absorb it was greater.[11]

At their peak, Ms Hanson's One Nation party received 9% of the national election vote.[12] Pauline Hanson was widely accused of taking Australia back to the days of the White Australia Policy, particularly through reference to Arthur Calwell, one of the policy's strongest supporters:

I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate.[13]

Topics related to racism and immigration in Australia are still regularly connected by the media to the White Australia Policy. Some examples of issues and events where this connection has been made include: reconciliation with Aborigines; mandatory detention and the "Pacific Solution"; the 2005 Cronulla riots. Former opposition Labor party leader Mark Latham, in his book The Latham Diaries, described the ANZUS alliance as a legacy of the White Australia policy. In 2006, there was a proposed revision of the citizenship test to include a tougher English language test, and a test on "fair dinkum" values.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

ja:白豪主義 zh:白澳政策

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