Australia and New Zealand are often neglected among nationalist/reactionary circles largely due to their irrelevance on the international stage. This has always been the case. Since the British began colonisation in 1788, Australia has always relied on the immense naval power of a foreign entity in-order to keep her shipping lanes safe, largely due to her geographical isolation. During the Second World War, this role would be taken over by the United States. As a result, Australia’s foreign policy, and to some extent her domestic policy, has been at the mercy of foreign influences both from Europe and North America. What the North Atlantic does, Australia and New Zealand will usually follow. Hence, the political events of America and Europe in actuality hold greater significance to Australian political life than her domestic political events ever have and ever will.
Starting in 1788, the New South Wales convict colony soon began to grow around current day Sydney, and throughout the early 19th century the birth-rates boomed in conjunction with establishment of more colonies across the continent. The Gold Rush during the 1850s drew in large amounts of Chinese looking for wealth. Naturally, this created the first sense of racial tensions during Australia’s colonial era. Similar to the massive population boom of the Americas during the 17th and 18th century, by 1901 Australia’s white population had grown from 0 to 3.8 million in little over a hundred years.
By this time, Australia had developed a keen sense of identity, molded by Australia’s unique landscape and the Anglo–Irish ethnic dynamic. When the colonies federated to form the independent Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, the founding fathers considered the European character of Australia to be of utmost importance. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 was one of the few things that all political factions agreed upon when drafting the constitution of Australia. It explicitly excluded non-Europeans from being allowed to migrate to Australia and this policy would remain in Australia law in some respect for over 70 years. What would become the White Australia Policy, would go on to be the most important piece of legislation in the country’s history.
Influenced by British-Australian Charles Henry Pearson and his 1893 work National Life and Character: a Forecast, where Pearson posed the notion that black and Asian races were in the ascendant both population wise and through greater industrialisation. The book challenged the pre-conceived invincibility of Western colonial influence and greatly influenced early Australian politicians and was also praised by US President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Gladstone.
Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton speaking before parliament in 1901:
We know that coloured and white labour cannot exist side by side; we are well aware that China can swamp us with its single year’s surplus of population; and we know that if national existence is sacrificed to the working of a few mines and sugar plantations, it is not the Englishman in Australia alone, but the whole civilised world that will be the losers.
This was in general defiance of the British Imperial doctrine as mercantile profit was largely seen as the first priority, not particularly the ethnic make-up or independence of her respective colonies. Had history gone differently, it wouldn’t be all that unlikely that masses of Chinese would’ve been imported (either voluntarily or forcibly) into Australia to become labourers, similar to that of Black Africans to the Americas. Fortunately, Australia escaped this fate. The policy was viscerally promoted by both major political parties throughout the first half of the 20th century. The founder of the Australian Labor Party, William G. Spence in 1909:
The white races should come to a common understanding; and present a united front to its potential enemies. We say that the policy of White Australia is worth defending and we are prepared to defend it.
Australia’s second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin:
A White Australia does not by any means mean only the preservation of the complexion of the people of this country. It means the maintenance of conditions of life fit for white men and white women; it means protection against the underpaid labor of other lands; it means social justice so far as we can establish it, including just trading and the payment of fair wages.
An interesting quote from American-Australian King O’Malley (Australian minister for foreign affairs 1910-1915):
If the Australian people had only lived in the southern states of America, as I have — and had seen the dire results present mingling of Africans with the whites, they would put their foot down and say: We are not going to leave such an unholy problem behind for future generations to solve.
Australia’s 8th Prime Minister Stanley Bruce (1923-1929):
We intend to keep this country white and not allow its people to be faced with the problems that at present are practically insoluble in many parts of the world.
In a sense, it could almost be said that Australia was the first country to be established with explicitly white nationalist intentions as its foundation. Robert Menzies would be the last Prime Minister (1949-1966) who would defend the policy:
The White Australia Policy was racial in the best sense of the word, it is based on a belief that by drawing immigrants from races which assimilate readily, we shall produce a stronger and more cohesive people and avoid unhappy racial differences.
Keep in mind, this was after the great cultural catastrophe of the Second World War and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which explicitly condemned racial discrimination. After Menzies’ retirement in 1966, the White Australia policy began to be slowly deconstructed until it was completely abolished by the New leftist Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1973. However, the policy would continue to have supporters across the left-right spectrum for years to come. Throughout the seventies, Labor MP Arthur Calwell was among many who continued to support the policy:
If Australians are ever foolish enough to open their gates in a significant way to people other than Europeans; they will soon find themselves fighting desperately to stop the nation from being flooded by hordes of non-integratables.
By this time it was too late. Australian birth-rates had dropped to below replacement levels, and like many other western countries at the time, the gates were opened. This time for good. The days when Australia was more ethnically British than Britain herself were over. Like so many of Australian political decisions, this was largely due to the influence of foreign powers, such as the American immigration act of 1965.
Jack Lang, former Premier of New South Wales during the Great Depression who pushed for the construction of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, also defended the policy long after his party had abandoned it. During the early seventies he wrote:
White Australia must not be regarded as a mere political shibboleth. It was Australia’s Magna Carta. Without that policy, this country would have been lost long ere this. It would have been engulfed in an Asian tidal wave.
This year, the amount of foreign born residents in Australia is at its highest level since the 1890s approaching nearly one third of the population. The largest source of this immigration is largely from South and East Asia. Australia is now seeing the results of its abandonment of its founding document. The Asian tidal wave has arrived.