December 06, 2004


Historian Keith Windschuttle calmly reviews the White Australia Policy:

Because Australian political identity was based on civic patriotism rather than racial nationalism, the White Australia Policy could be readily discarded once the political decision was made. Immigration restrictions were gradually liberalised, starting with the Menzies government in the mid-1950s and completed by the Whitlam government, with Coalition support, in 1975. Ending the policy required no cultural crisis and was accomplished by liberal politicians from both sides of parliament whose values were similar to those of the 1901 bill's original critics. The proof that Australia wore the policy lightly was the ease with which it discarded it.

Overall, the White Australia Policy had aspects that were both reactionary and progressive, discriminatory and humane. But its history shows no deep-seated racism has ever lurked permanently at the core of Australian culture.

Sounds about right. John Quiggin is all hysterical about this, however, and is calling for Windschuttle to be condemned.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 6, 2004 12:45 PM

I was always told (in Australian Economic History at Uni) that the basis of the White Australia policy was much like Windschuttle's review:

1. To prevent "coolies" - underpaid Chinese workers from flooding the labour markets and creating "ghettoes" of underpaid workers.

2. To prevent said underpaid workers from bringing down the wages of existing workers and causing the overall standard of living to decline.

In the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II, the 50s boom times saw a new confidence in the Australian economy and the fear of a "permanent underclass" of low paid workers was abated by the need to populate, hence the beginning of the end for "White Australia".

There may have been racial overtones, but racism was never its motivation.

Does that make my old Uni an extreme right wing racist institution? I truly doubt it!

Posted by: Conno at December 6, 2004 at 01:20 PM

Quiggin's diatribe is too ignorant and stupid to be commented upon.

The main motive for the White Australia Policy was Labor/Union fears that non-white labour would undermine Australia's high-wage union culture.

After the Russo-Japanese war there was added to this a (perfectly justified) fear of Japanese military aggression.

Racism was a feature of the policy but it was a minor one - the main aspects were economic and military.

Posted by: Sue at December 6, 2004 at 01:43 PM

Silly debate. I'm sure that plenty of people who supported the White Australia policy in its day did it because they thought that coloured people were inferior - this was, after all, a pretty common belief at the time. But the primary motivating factor, from the documents of the day, does indeed seem to be the desire for economic protectionism by organised labour types.

John Quiggin is probably right in saying it's useless trying to say that the policy itself isn't "racist", since by definition it is. But Windschuttle is correct in saying that the motivations behind it weren't _quite_ as objectionable as they are often made out to be, and in particular in tying the policy strongly to a desire for economic protectionism rather than a belief that non-white people are subhuman scum.

Still, doesn't Windschuttle know better than to use silly, undefinable words like "progressive" and "reactionary"?

Posted by: Jorge at December 6, 2004 at 02:15 PM

Immigration restrictions were gradually liberalised, starting with the Menzies government in the mid-1950s and completed by the Whitlam government, with Coalition support, in 1975.

That can't be right - I'm sure I learnt at school that Gough Whitlam ended slavery.

Posted by: Peter at December 6, 2004 at 02:15 PM

Is a policy "racist" or "culturalist" (although in this case, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of re-interpreting history by todays mores)? Is this policy "culturalist" or purely "economic" ?

I ask because I would not consider myself a "racist", but I would consider myself a "culturalist" (I think Mark Steyn raised the issue some years back).

Posted by: Andrew at December 6, 2004 at 02:24 PM

Quiggin's article is hysterically funny, he states that not being able to call someone racist is the "new political correctness". The man is an obscene baboon.

Leftists are the biggest racists on Earth, they use race to prop up and project their Socialist ideology and to brow beat anyone that objects to immigration levels or multiculturalism, and they get all "snooty" when they can't go around calling everyone racist, anyone that is that doesn't toe their Stalinist line.

Posted by: klein at December 6, 2004 at 03:49 PM

I think one of the big crimes in the thought police state we live in is the mantra that Whitlam ended the WAP.

I found out, more or less by mistake, that Sir Hubert Opperman, Australia's geatest ever cyclst and Immigration minister under Menzies and Holt was the person most responsible for the effective ending of the WAP. Under Opperman's tenure the Immigration Department effectively phased out the WAP and all what Whitlam did was remove the legislative framework that existed, but Whitlam did not end the WAP, as Opperman had already ended the policy.

Posted by: Pauly at December 6, 2004 at 04:42 PM

Hmmmm, just read the John Quiggin comments. A lot of botheration.

Seems like we all need to redefine 'racism', whatever that is.

Posted by: rog at December 6, 2004 at 04:49 PM

It seems the idea of "racism" provokes a faster hysterical reaction in JQ, than in a Dutch jihadi at the mention of Theo Van Gogh's name.
As is typical of lefties, it's a question of "don't do as I do, do as I say"
This is what JQ had to say on the same subject:

"Much discussion of microeconomic reform in Australia begins with the ‘Federation trifecta’
(Henderson 1983) or ‘Australian settlement’ (Kelly 1992) consisting of early twentieth century moves towards tariff protection, industrial arbitration and the White Australia policy (seen, in this context, as a measure to protect Australian workers from immigrant competition)."
When Windschuttle say's the policy should be seen on the basis of "civic patriotism" he is by definition a "racist" , but if it is seen "as a measure to protect Australian workers from immigrant competition" it is not racism. What's the difference, what justifies the hysterical reaction?

Posted by: tipper at December 6, 2004 at 05:27 PM

Conno, Post1

I was taught pretty much the same thing at HS & Uni. as well - much the same as what Windschuttle is propounding now. What the current hissy fits (currently being thrown by the self-styled intelligentsia) proves is that urban Australians has been fed on bland pap for so long that a little real meat is too strong for their stomachs. I can't wait for Manne, et al, to respond (sic) with their hyperbole and spins - always good for an (ironic) laugh. The sad thing is that the 'old' media will, probably, still back the wrong horse. Hell! Bullshit baffles brains anytime! Never mind, roll on the revolution.

Posted by: Boss Hog at December 6, 2004 at 06:13 PM

Robert Manne will be most unhappy to hear that Keith Windshuttle is still undermining his cherished dogma that Australia is a shameful place.
He should be hitting the Opinion Pages about right now.

Posted by: david at December 6, 2004 at 06:22 PM

I support the broad lefts campaign, especially the ALP, AlpBC, Greens, Democrats and Quiggin's of the world, ongoing campaign to remind the Australian people that they are a worthless, racist, rapacious and a thoroughly ignorant people that must see the error of their ways.

I strongly support this campaign at election times.

I also look forward to the repudiation of this view via the ballot box for many elections to come.

Posted by: astonished at December 6, 2004 at 06:30 PM

In an effort to struggle with my own racist demons I was somewhat perplexed by my now redefined ethnicity;

"On Australia, another favourite target during his premiership, Mr Mahathir maintained his opposition to Canberra's attempts to forge closer ties with Asian political and economic groupings.

Asked what Australia could offer the proposed East Asian Community, he replied: "Nothing".

Some countries have suggested that Australia should be invited to join the EAC, but Mr Mahathir said: "They are ethnic Europeans, they cannot be Asians."

Is there a doctor on the house?

Posted by: rog at December 6, 2004 at 07:18 PM

..better still\in the house

Posted by: rog at December 6, 2004 at 07:20 PM

Gawd, just call me Darlene

Posted by: rog at December 6, 2004 at 07:21 PM

Hells teeth! What a useless lot we (mainly white Australians) are? We came to this gentle paradise (What's that? Who said it was a scrubby wilderness? Throw that white supremacist out!) with its noble, docile indigenous population (Sarjeant-at-Arms, eject that racist bastard. They were not, NOT, I repeat, a primitive people living a marginal existence - that's a foul whitey lie) We imposed an alien and unjust system on these noble savages, ehrr, people. (Damn you Sir, tribal law was infinitely superior to the Westminster system, haven't you been keeping abreast of current events, never heard of the Groeningen Protocols? I though not - damned reactionaries!) Not content with befouling this paradise with our decadent political and social ideas we also cunningly introduced alien species into the Australian environment (What's that? Sheep, beef and grain products make up more than 70% of Australia's exports? Irrelevant, I tell you, irrelevant!) What about native species? Screw you! I don't give a damn about facts. What about kangaroos? Oh! Right! So there are ten times more kangaroos in Australia than there were at the time of white settlement? Big deal! How is that helping the great Southland?
WE-ARE-EXPORTING-KANGAROO-MEAT-AS-FOOD? Oh! My God! Oh! The horror! People are EATING! Australia's national icon? How low can the white race sink? (I don't care if it's fat-free and healthy - it's I-N-D-I-G-E-N-O-U-S!)


I could go on with this crap for about the next 24 hours. But I'm tired. I meant to finally get to the WHITE AUSTRALIA policy but Mrs Hog is calling me to the trough and the piglets are getting Internet deprived. It'll keep......

Posted by: Boss Hog at December 6, 2004 at 07:32 PM

Quiggin has shown in spectacular fashion what happens when people combine emotion and ignorance in the public sphere. Ain't blogdom grand! What isn't so grand is how much money Australian taxpayers are paying a professor - who should know better - to produce essays that would barely rate a pass in high school (around AUD 100,000 per annum, I believe). Not unlike the lawyer in Darwin - whose name escapes me - who thought commentator meltdown in public was a genuinely intellectual pursuit. Amazing stuff by any standard. How would you feel, though, if one of these retards was teaching your children?! Or worse still, taking consultancy or legal fees from your company?! Australia's far north; perfect one day, full of cupid stunts the next.

Posted by: The Anti-Quiggen at December 6, 2004 at 07:50 PM

Has anyone lese noticed that people like professors claim to do it for the people, but really parasite off other peoples backs?

Strange eh?

Andrea, why can't the "Turing-test" box be ABOVE the post button?

Posted by: Rob Read at December 6, 2004 at 09:44 PM

Quiggin and co. hate and fear Windschuttle, because he exposed Leftist high priests like Reynolds, Ryan and Manne for what they are- pathological liars who will say and do anything to undermine Australia. Windschuttle's only downside is that his research is so exhaustive and time-consuming his books take too long to write. Hopefully his stellar example will inspire others? A book written using his methods about Australian environmentalists would go straight to number one.

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at December 6, 2004 at 09:47 PM

ot from BBC
"I can confirm there has been an attack on the US consulate in Jeddah. The incident is ongoing with Saudi security forces trying to secure the building," said Carol Kalin, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Riyadh.

Security sources quoted by Reuters say four Saudi guards were killed and 18 local staff taken hostage.

Posted by: davo at December 6, 2004 at 09:57 PM

"Andrea, why can't the "Turing-test" box be ABOVE the post button?"

Because I don't feel like editing three templates and rebuilding the site right now. Since the number and box is clearly visible I don't see what the big deal is.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 6, 2004 at 10:12 PM

One of Quiggan's supporters said:

"Many who remember the 1960s may recall that the Colombo plan provided novel opportunities for the practice of racist callousness. There were several cases of Indian and Ceylonese (as the were known then) who had settled and married yet were hustled out of the country under the "race powers" provisions."

Now my understanding of the Colombo Plan was to educate students from Asia in Australia so that they could return to their home countries to accelerate economic development.

If those students had stayed in Australia they would have been violating the very purpose of the program they were being educated under. Consequently they were deported.

I could be wrong though.

Posted by: amortiser at December 6, 2004 at 10:13 PM

I had a Chinese girl friend once who did her masters on the Chinese community in Victoria before 1950 and it is was rather interesting some of the things she found. First of all before the 1960s the Labour Party always was alot more dogmatic about enforcing the WAP. The filipino sergant and japanese occupation brides conroversies of the 1940s for instance would never have happened under a liberal government.

One account of a Chinese soldier in the Australian army in the First World War was very interesting. Him and his brother joined up in 1915 (as I recall). At the time he was studying at the Melbourne Teahers College in carlton on a Education Department scholarship. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of sergant (or perhaps it was corporal) and returned to Melbourne to complete his studies. He became a primary school teacher, later a primary school head msster and mostly lived in Yarram in Sth Gippsland where be became head of the local RSL.

When I read the account it raised a few questions about Australia's racism in my mind.

1. Why did the Education dept give this man a scholarship if the hated chinese?

2. Why did the army promote him to NCO and persumably made him rank over white Australians.

3. Ditto the Education dept re his being a headmaster and boss both white Australian pupils and teachers.

4. Finally the red necks down in Sth Gippsland allowed him to become head of their local RSL.

All very confusing. Perhaps people just judged him on his individual merits.

Posted by: mike.a at December 6, 2004 at 10:26 PM


You obviously missed a critical day at your Racism 101 class: in order to sow confusion and doubt in the minds of easily confused doubters (also called leftists), every once in a while we need to pretend to treat racial minorities as individuals judged on their merits (think Colin Powell, Condi Rice). That's the most insidious (or is it invidious) aspect of our secret racist cabal! They'll start thinking, "Hey, those racist facists aren't so bad!", relax their guard and then blammo, genocide!

And keep this quiet, will you?

Posted by: nobody important at December 7, 2004 at 02:24 AM

Character asassination isnt cool guys.
Please dont degrade yourselves by resorting to personal attacks, like most of you here have.

Posted by: Nic White at December 7, 2004 at 03:52 AM

Fuck you Nic, you pretentious wanker!

Aah, now I feel better.

Posted by: Quentin George at December 7, 2004 at 05:25 AM


Just going on about your point about chinese Australians, one of the most openly racist men I know is a chinese aussie, a scion of the gold rush coolies. In particular he's racist against the Japanese and Koreans, but no other race seems to bother him. He also has the broadest Aussie drawl of anybody I know, which makes him a fun travelling companion in Europe.

Posted by: Pauly at December 7, 2004 at 11:19 AM

another story from the past I remember was Ned Kelly's first brush with the law. He was arrested and prosecuted for assulting a Chinese man. I guess its easy to conclude that Ned was a bit of a racist but what about the police and the courts. I guess its possible they hated Irish Australians more than Chinese but more likely that protecting law abiding men who happened to be Chinese was more important than sticking up for young thugs even if they had white skin.

Posted by: mike. a. at December 7, 2004 at 07:06 PM