January 22

What secret, SBS?

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Why does the public broadcaster SBS call its documentary series Immigration Nation: the Secret History of Us ?

Secret?

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I suppose that when this is prescribed in the schools under some national history curriculum, the young will be led to believe that the White Australia Policy was a state secret.

And incidentally, why is John Howard's voice surreptitiously slipped into the trailer? 

 

…white republic….

 


Indeed, a wish to keep Australia white was the principal cause of nineteenth century republicanism. Its proponents wanted to escape the liberal immigration policies which prevailed in the British Empire.

But by the late nineteenth century, those in favour of a White Australia realised this could be achieved by the new federal entity, which the founders ensured had power to deal with immigration. 

A white republic outside of the Empire was not necessary. After that nobody was interested in a republic.  Not one elected delegate to the Constitutional Convention proposed this.

…British opposition…

  The politicians realised British opposition to a race based immigration policy could be disregarded at the federal level.   In the hope of placating London, the policy was disguised by the administration of a dictation test. This transparent piece of hypocrisy was borrowed from South Africa.

The strongest support for the policy came from the trade unions and the Labor Party, who feared that their new won standards would be reduced by Asian immigration. This was to change in the sixties when the policy was relaxed and abolished by Prime Minister Harold Holt.


Incidentally my maternal grandparents and my mother, then aged 12, were given the dictation test in 1917 when they arrived in Sydney from the Dutch East Indies in 1917. Fortunately this was in English, one of the several languages in which they were proficient.

…tendentious rewriting of history…


The first  review I saw on the series was by Peter Coleman in The Spectator Australia (22/1). (His column, Australian Notes, is one of the delights of what has become the nation’s leading political weekly.)

He slams the series as  “a tendentious rewriting of history.”

"It wheels out the usual suspects but not their critics. We get lots of Henry Reynolds but nothing from Keith Windschuttle."

( Keith Windschuttle  after all has written a learned book on this. Will it be prescribed in the schools?  His book does explain the Labor party’s strident support of the policy as more related to union needs than to racism.)

Peter Coleman notes there is no reference to speeches in parliament acknowledging the superiority in many respects of Asian culture, the more or less absence of racism “except among a coterie of leftist and republican individuals associated with magazines like The Bulletin” ( a  widely read journal whose cover until the sixties carried the banner “Australia for the White Man”), or the ease with which the policy  was abandoned.

This is evidenced by the fact that there was littl eprotest and no demonstrations, a fact which must disappoint  those in the academy who are intent on declaring Australians ultra racists. 

… the Policy caused the Japanese to bomb Australia…


As he says the series descends into comedy when the White Australia Policy is given as the ludicrous explanation for the Japanese bombing of Australia.

 According to Alex McDermott  the White Australia Policy “Australia turned an ally into an enemy.”

Writing in Quadrant OnLine, John Izzard says Mr. McDermott really needs to read more history. He continues:

In his 2004 book The White Australia Policy Keith Windschuttle points out that the Japanese were largely exempted from the 1901 Immigration Restriction Bill. Indeed, the major Japanese multinational firm, MBK, established branches in Australia in the year 1901 itself and subsequently developed a large trading company network.

In 1904, Japanese merchants could come to Australia and bring their wives and children with them. Despite the widespread un­ease about Japanese imperial ambitions on our northern coastline, Japanese divers in the pearl shell industry of the Kimberley coast and Torres Strait were also granted dispensation from the policy. Some other Japanese residents of Broome, such as the doctors of the town’s Japanese hospital, also had exemption.

By 1938 there were still ninety Japanese luggers operating between Broome and Darwin. Japanese merchants and students in the southern states were also exempted from the policy and could enter Australia without being subject to any dictation test for as long as they needed to pursue their vocations.

Our government calculated this was in our economic interests since by 1936 Japan had become Australia’s third biggest trading partner. It was not until the outbreak of warfare in 1941 that Australia put an end to the relationship. 


…."appalling, biased, one sided,  ill-considered"…

( continued below) 

He quotes Keith Windschuttle:

Despite the claims of academic historians, mainstream Australian nationalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was not based on race and bore few parallels to the ideologies that emerged in Germany and some other European countries at the same time.
Instead of racial nationalism, Australian identity was based on a civic patriotism, which encouraged loyalty to Australia’s liberal democratic political institutions rather than to race or ethnicity.

Most Australians at the time held dual loyalty, both to Australia at home and the British Empire abroad. Both the official policy and the popular culture of the Empire discouraged the notion of hierarchies based on race. And yet, John Izzard recommends Australians watch this “appalling, biased, one-sided, ill-considered SBS program. ”

 Why?

“I urge all concerned about intellectual honesty to view this series and to consider carefully the never-ending “Rubbishing of Australia” by Australian academics and their fellow travellers.”  
  

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..Postcript…

 I have just noticed the first programme says all new legislation  after Federation requires Royal Assent from London. That is wrong.  Royal Assent was given in Melbourne by the Governor-General , and it has never been refused.  And the power of disallowance was never used.


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