THE WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY, by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
by Keith Windschuttle
, May 7, 2005
THE WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY
By Keith Windschuttle
Sydney: Macleay Press, Paperback RRP: $34.95.Keith Windschuttle has given us the best and certainly the most comprehensive account of the White Australia Policy since Myra Willard's history, published in 1923 by Melbourne University Press.
In between these two there was a steady drip of books, etc, on the policy and then, as the multiculturalists took over the best places in our education and information sectors, a flood of taxpayer-backed publications purporting to tell us the true story of "The Policy" and how racist and ruthless our forebears were, and how most Australians still haven't really rid themselves of these dirty habits.
A few comparisons with the Nazis turned up, but many more with South African apartheid systems.
These "histories", this "information", from the new breed of radical historians, dominates school syllabi, our university departments and research institutes, the public media and the utterances of left Labor activists, helping to explain why so many ordinary Australians have turned away from Labor.
Normal Australians judge their countrymen by mixing within their society and by remembering their parents' attitudes, and quite often their grandparents'.
So they know by direct acquaintance that most Australians are neither racist nor callous, and that most settlers from other lands agree with them. Also, large numbers of Australians travel and live and work for periods overseas and encounter varieties of racism and exclusionism which have never gained a foothold here.
They return, often expressing surprised pleasure at the fact that this is one of the most tolerant and easygoing societies on earth.
The New Class, nevertheless, have muddied, and in some places polluted, the waters of enquiry and legitimate discussion, such that Windschuttle had to spend much time researching their numerous utterances and pronouncements and trying to trace these to their source.
Time and again he found that our new revisionists had not gone back to the primary sources but been content with quoting one another, or scraps from newspapers - especially the undoubtedly racist Bulletin
- or particular politicians or people on the margins of the political and quite often the social system.
When a primary source had been accessed by the writer, Windschuttle too frequently found the quote wrong or truncated by leaving out a sizeable or important part of the original utterance.Fallacious and incompetent
So, the overall conclusion that Windschuttle is obliged to draw is that the main body of the attitudinising of the New Historians concerning the history, origins and motivations of the White Australia Policy and the tendentious conclusions which they have drawn and insistently disseminated, are fallacious and professionally incompetent.
In particular, the author singles out and examines Henry Reynolds' North of Capricorn
and describes it as a travesty of the truth. "He has scraped together comments from what was clearly a minority opinion within Parliament to claim that everyone thought that way.
Reynolds, of course, is not alone. He has done no worse than other members of his generation of historians who have dominated this debate since the 1970s and who have presented the same kind of selective and skewed evidence to reach the same conclusion, while carefully keeping from their readers any opinions or information that might suggest a different interpretation."
Strong words these, and the occasion is the examination of the long debate in the new Australian Parliament at the end of which the White Australia legislation was passed.
This debate occupied more than 600 pages of Hansard, but a pitiful handful of quotes makes up the New Historians' reportage. These conspire to produce a picture of a parliament virtually united, roaring to keep out the Asians, at all costs, and on primarily racist grounds.
In reality, there was a kaleidoscope of opinions, with the only united body the new Labor Party.
This debate - often argued at a level which puts our contemporary efforts to shame - revealed a strong liberal swell which quoted long-held British views of the undesirability of judging the members of a worldwide Empire on grounds of race and colour.
Many members insisted that talk of one race being more intelligent than another was nonsense, while one member insisted that the Japanese were more intelligent than Westerners. One Senator said that the Chinese were more moral than the locals, while another, refuting statements that many Chinese were living in insanitary conditions, invited people to consider the circumstances under which many poor Australians were living. And so on.
Senator Don Cameron, a free-trader from Tasmania, tried to sum things up. "It appears that two-thirds of the honourable members of this House really object to the Chinese, not so much on the ground of the possible contamination of the white race as because they fear that, if they are allowed to come into Australia, the rate of wages will go down."
Although the Labor Party didn't talk about class but race, that appears to have been their concern. Thus the proposal to exempt those Asians who were educated and spoke English well was attacked by one of the heroes of our contemporary Left, King O'Malley. Indeed, a play on his career was written in 1970 by Michael Boddy and Bob Ellis.
O'Malley, speaking to the Immigration Restriction Bill, said: "From my experience in the east, I can assure honourable members, that the educational test being proposed will not shut out the Japanese should they desire to come to Australia. It will not shut out the 'Indian toff' who becomes a human parasite preying upon the people of the country; it will not shut the intellectual Afghan.
"We have more to fear from the educated coloured people than from the ignorant coloured people, because the latter will not attempt to mingle or be associated with the white race. My experience in the southern states of America is that a first-class education disqualifies the black people of any kind of work whatever in the line of industrial creation.
"They at once go forth to the big cities to settle down and live on their wits just as some white people do. That class of people will not be shut out by the proposed education test.
"Its adoption will only add to the great volume of the parasitical element which is now sucking the lifeblood out of the worker in Australia."
I can't remember this in the play.
But Labor leader Chris Watson did much better. He told the House, "We object to them, not alone on the ground of competition with our own workmen - though I admit that is one of the grounds - but also, and more particularly, on the ground of racial contamination."
His strongest statement was, "The question is whether we would desire that our sisters or our brothers should be married into any of these races to which we object ...
"The racial aspect of the question, in my opinion, is the larger and more important one; but the industrial also has to be considered."
Watson proposed an amendment removing the dictation test and substitute an outright ban on immigrants from Africa and Asia because he wanted to keep out not only the labouring classes of these continents.
He said, "We know that education does not eliminate the objectionable qualities of the Baboo Hindoo ... With the Oriental, as a rule, the more he is educated, the more cunning he becomes, and the more able with his peculiar ideas of social and business morality to cope with the people here."
None of this turned up at the ALP's recent launch of a new biography of Watson.Social Darwinism
Keith Windschuttle has a long and, I think, important early chapter on Social Darwinism and the Scottish Enlightenment, in which the author puts to rest, once and for all, the story that Australians and their opinion-formers were Social Darwinists and that this mindset provided an important element in Australian racism and the reasoning behind "Australia for the Whites".
In fact, most intellectuals and most Australians were not attracted by Social Darwinism. Books by Pearson and Haeckel and the like appealed to but a few and these mainly from the Left - people like the Victorian socialists, a small, disputatious group which lasted until the early 1920s. They also advocated eugenic selection and preventing the congenitally unfit from procreating.
If people were looking for offbeat theories then - and many were - they were likely to favour theosophy, spiritualism, Eastern religion. As Windschuttle demonstrates, this whole story of a Social Darwinist Australia is a beat up.
So was the picture of Broome, where we had our biggest race riot, a multicultural paradise which was callously wrecked by "the whites". The riot was between the Japanese and other Asians - divers from Kopang, some Chinese, etc.
The greatly outnumbered whites had to restore the peace, keep the peace and regulate the pearling industry.
The Japanese were the best divers, had the best boats, and dominated the pearl industry and the town. Some of our multicultural scribes have praised them for employing aboriginals on their boats. Trouble was, they often paid them in opium. And the whites had to combat that evil.
In Darwin, as in Broome, the whites were outnumbered - at times, six to one. The agitation to stop further influxes from China came from local businessmen who objected to the iron grip of Chinese businessmen acting in concert with, and repatriating much of their profits to China.
The other carefully fostered myth that Windschuttle attacks is that of Pacific Island blackbirding, with South Sea Islanders allegedly kidnapped and virtually enslaved when they came and worked here. The analogy drawn was the slave trade from Africa to the Americas.
Although there were some kidnappings, these were from the early, unregulated days, but there appears to be no substance in this story of racial exploiters.
An industry of indentured labourers working in what came to be a highly regulated industry, sprang up before Federation at a time when it was said that whites couldn't work in the tropics, especially on plantations.
This was all piffle. Australians wanted good wages and unions. So masses of Kanakars came, worked their two or three years, and then returned home with some money and Western artefacts. Many wished to return for more, and many did. Soon they wanted to settle. And many did.
Windschuttle has himself written a most impressive book, introducing a great deal of fresh material - the fruits of sustained and painstaking research. This subject - the White Australia Policy and its history - will never be the same again. He is to be congratulated.
This is the intellectual Stalingrad for our New Class mythmakers. So we are already getting deafening silence from the bunker, while they dream up ghost divisions and secret weapons.