November 18th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

QUARANTINE: Apples decision set to rile city electorates

EDITORIAL: IVF unlimited - time to call a halt

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Vote rigging - the ripples widen

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Don’t bank on the banks


LAW: International Criminal Court - Parliament by-passed


Straws in the Wind

INTERVIEW: Democracy needs a "virtuous" society - George Weigel

ECONOMICS: Globalisation - what it is, what it isn’t

ASIA: Taiwan enters uncertain waters

COMMENT: Australia before multiculturalism

Reading the trends

AD 2000 and the sky isn’t falling

Books promotion page

Australia before multiculturalism

by Antonia Feitz

News Weekly, November 18, 2000
F ew Australians know that one of the "intellectual architects of multiculturalism", Jerzy Zubrzycki, said in 1996 that "the clumsy, pompous, polysyllabic noun - ‘multiculturalism’ - adopted from the Canadians and incorrectly (my emphasis) associated in the public mind with the ethnic groups, has outlived its purpose".

He said that politicians and self-serving ethnic leaders had made the policy "a metaphor for the entrenchment of minorities. We need another term to describe Australia's national goal as a country that has been immensely successful in integrating a wide number of ethnic communities into the Australian mosaic".

Indeed we do. One of the more bitter slanders that Australians have had to endure under governments which have caved in to the multicultural bigots is that they were, and are, racist and intolerant. It is the received wisdom among those too young to know any better, and those who have swallowed the propaganda of the multicultural revisionists, that Australians were a racist and intolerant people who were only educated out of such sentiments by the introduction of multiculturalism under the Whitlam government. It is a monstrous and insulting lie.

The Whitlam Government was elected in 1972 and the massive post-WW2 migration started in the late 1940s. So what was it like for Australians and for migrants in that more than twenty-year period before the word ‘multiculturalism’ was ever heard of?

When the migrants first arrived, most of them couldn’t speak a word of English. It’s true that their arrival caused some suspicion and resentment among Australians, particularly working class men. For a start, the migrants looked very different to the Australians who were predominantly of Anglo-Celtic descent. In the main, the migrants had impossible names. The Australian men would have been brain-dead not to have had concerns. Were these strange-looking and sounding people peaceful? Were Australian men’s jobs under threat? How did they know?

But as people lived together - with no government interference let alone bureaucratic bullying - the Australian tradition of the fair go ensured tolerance. The migrants belonged to the same demographic group as my parents - mostly married couples with a few young children. They were battlers. My mother would not have been alone when she said to her husband: "The poor buggers, Tom, how would you like to be in their shoes?"

Yes, the Golden Rule that abides in the human heart beats the hell out of the Office of Multicultural Affairs any day as far as establishing good relationships between people goes. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism also helped, as many of the Poles and other Baltic state migrants were Catholics. As the Latin mass was universal, there was a connection between the migrants and the local Catholics.

During those days, there were mean-spirited acts of resentment, and there were acts of great kindness. My Hungarian mother-in-law said she was humiliated by a butcher in Parkes for her poor English. In the same town, a local farmer - a total stranger - kindly paid the difference when a Polish woman was embarrassed by not having enough money for the grocery items she had selected.

Australians didn’t know it then, but most Europeans celebrate Christmas on the eve rather than the day. In their first or second Christmas in Australia, our Polish neighbours insisted my parents celebrate with them. They offered vodka and such European delicacies as rollmops (pickled fish) - which my parents had never experienced. Describing the rollmops, my mother later told a sister-in-law, "Cripes, Norma, it looked like bloody snake!"

On another occasion, another migrant neighbour invited my mother and another Australian woman to her house to celebrate the birth of her Australian-born son. (While I'm sure it is not documented being very politically incorrect, many migrant couples deliberately had "one more [child] for Australia" - an act of gratitude and faith in the future). Again spirits were offered - alcohol seemed to make up for language deficiencies - and to this day my mother cannot remember how she got home. That woman's husband worked on Warragamba Dam, and he took our family on a tour of it while it was under construction, leading us through tunnels deep inside the walls.

My mother minded her Polish migrant neighbours’ toddler while she worked. The migrant woman was grateful that her child was learning English with my mother, and the two women were hugely amused when my brother, the same age as little Hendryk, started speaking Polish! My parents also helped their migrant neighbours with income tax and other official forms. At school the Old Australian children, greatly outnumbered by the migrants, helped New Australian children learn English.

In this way, with simple goodwill and kindness, people coped, day by day.

But these days it’s de rigueur to document the hardships, intolerance and misery that migrants endured at the hand of the callous, racist Australians. So it’s very interesting indeed to read a first-hand account, as opposed to the sociological deconstructions of the migration experience by tertiary twits who weren’t even there.

For example, in the year of the 50th anniversary of the Bonegilla migrant camp, Sir Arvi Parbo, who arrived in Australia as a penniless 23 year old, described the camp as: "Sheer unadulterated luxury. Here in the middle of the Australian bush, was a camp that embodied all the things I craved. Food. Shelter. Warmth. Clothing. Peace. The very basics of life that people were still struggling for across Europe were available here. Nothing in abundance, mind you, just enough for everybody in sufficient quantity to get your way again.

"I went from being a mine worker to owning several myself. The journey went from a quarry to the chief executive's office in 25 years. Australia let me do that and, outside America in the late 19th century, few nations on earth have ever done the same thing for humanity."

Giving the lie to the revisionists claim that the term "New Australian" was discriminatory and suggested an inferior status Sir Arvi said:

"At Bonegilla there were as many as 10,000 from 30 countries in camp at any one time. That was more than the combined population of Albury-Wodonga. Everyone quickly dropped their old nationalistic ways and enthusiastically became what we liked to be called by the locals: New Australians."

Note, his "what we liked to be called". The pride in being accepted as new Australians was pervasive. It was the spirit that made huge works such as the Snowy Mountain Scheme and Warragamba Dam such vibrant projects. How extraordinary that men from so many different countries - even former enemies - worked peacefully together.

By the fifties and sixties, migrants and Australians alike were immensely proud of this new spirit of co-operation and tolerance. Parbo continues:

"We weren't Estonians, Russians, Greeks, Italians or Latvians. We were New Australians. Imagine that! We'd only been in the country for a few days and already we were being accepted. Even being called a ‘bloody reffo’ was a compliment to me in 1947."

The charge that Australians routinely discriminated against migrants is as absurd as it is insulting. If the old Australia was such a morass of xenophobia and discrimination as the multiculturalists assert it was, how did Sir Arvi Parbo end up a heading major corporations when he landed in Australia as a penniless migrant with nothing other than his brains, his enterprise and the opportunities that a free Australia offered?

How did Jenni George, also a Polish migrant, end up President of the ACTU? How did Sir David Smith, of Polish Jewish parentage, end up Secretary to the Governor-General? How did my Polish brother-in-law, who landed in Australia aged 12 unable to speak a word of English, serve as an Australian naval officer and eventually become a consultant physician? How did so many migrants manage to buy their own homes, establish small businesses and send their children to university? The list of achievements is endless.

Because they were poor, many post-WW2 migrants settled in the outskirts of the cities, where land was cheap. Consequently the great Australian migration success, trumpeted by the elites as a victory for multiculturalism, was actually achieved in the main by blue collar families and the least educated Australians in the country - without any government interference. We even intermarried. Some intolerance.

In his paper, "Our Nation: the Vision and Practice of Multiculturalism Under Labor", Bob Birrell has documented the corruption of multiculturalism as a policy to ensure equality of opportunity to one which, like feminism, demands equality of outcomes.

For example, under the 1993 Federal Government’s Strategic Plan for the Public Service, employment targets for NESBs - people from non-English-speaking backgrounds - must be met by the year 2000. Other Commonwealth instrumentalities like the ABC must also comply. The Public Service has set a NESB target of 15% . Not to be outdone, the ABC has set an employment target of 18% NESBs, increasing to 20%.

When a NESB can be a person either born in a NESB country, or be the Australian-born child of such persons, the scheme is a rort of classic proportions. As Birrell notes:

"But the young people of first or second generation NESB background in Australia ... are ... not a disadvantaged group. This is especially the case for second-generation NESB people. They have achieved tertiary degree qualifications at a higher rate than their Australian and English-speaking-background migrant counterparts. As a group, NESB people begin with an advantage in applying for Public Service or ABC positions since these positions usually require a degree as a prerequisite. As might be expected, analysis of the younger cohorts of the Public Service indicate that second-generation NESB people are over-represented relative to their share of population."

Multiculturalism is on the nose. The un-euphonious, un-English word itself stinks, and though it might once have had a good meaning, it’s now lost all credibility. What it has come to mean is the opposite to the traditional Australian tradition of the fair go. It’s time for Australians of all backgrounds to ditch multiculturalism and revert to the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated; walk a mile in another man's shoes.

If fifty years ago, blue-collar workers and Australians of the lowest social class managed to do that unaided by government, surely their social superiors might rise to the occasion and emulate them?

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