Strangers In Their Own Land

Strangers In Their Own Land

This bulletin is a synopsis of many major points made in “All For Australia” written in 1984 by Australian Geoffrey Blainey, Professor Of History. The National Trust of Australia has classified Dr. Blainey as an “Australian Living Treasure”. His thoughtful and critical observations (primarily social, but also economic and environmental) on Australian immigration policies are particularly relevant for Canada today.


All For Australia

A. Principles

* Every nation has the right to control immigration. Ironically, the Third World countries which some Australians are afraid to “offend” have no hesitation in using this right to retain their present ethnic composition. (P.164)

For the sake of national unity, the typical nation practices discrimination against migrants. Every nation in Asia limits the entry of immigrants from other ethnic groups, especially those ethnic groups that seem to be very different. “A family of Australians, of European descent, would now have faint chance of emigrating, if it so wished, to any Asian land.” (P.52)

Sri Lanka “would not allow the typical Australian family to become citizens”. The former Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (now Myanmar) requires an applicant for citizenship “to speak well one of the Burmese languages”. Japan requires any of the hundreds of thousands of Koreans who live there “to be financially stable” and to be “judged capable of contributing to Japanese society in order to gain citizenship. Few (Koreans) have become citizens.” Papua New Guinea calls for “a knowledge of English and one local language, demands a willingness to contribute to the nation's culture and requires eight years' residence…before a resident can apply for citizenship”. Thailand demands that those applying for citizenship should have a regular job, a knowledge of the Thai language, and five consecutive years of residence. Thailand limits to 100 the number of immigrants from any one country…. That is one reason why the Indo-Chinese living in the refugee camps in Thailand have to look elsewhere for a haven.” (Pp.52-53)

In the space of half a year (circa 1984), about 40,000 illegal migrants from Bangladesh have settled in Assam in India. The Indians, fearful of heavy immigration, are now planning a long fence along the border at an enormous cost.” (P.54)

“Our immigration policy is increasingly based on an appeal to international precepts that our neighbours sensibly refuse to practice. We are surrendering much of our own independence to a phantom opinion (that ethnic composition makes no difference) that floats vaguely in the air and rarely exists on this earth. We should think very carefully about the perils of converting Australia into a giant multicultural laboratory for the assumed benefit of the peoples of the world.” (Pp.54-55)

* “The controversy about immigration is a controversy about about who we are and where we are going.” “Immigration is everyone's business: it is one of the most important national issues. The idea that it is too dangerous to be debated is a mockery of democracy. It is too important not to debate.” (P.164)

* “The present government believes an immigration policy should primarily reflect the truth that all “races” are equal. On the contrary, an immigration policy should not, any more than a trade or tariff policy, be designed primarily to reflect that fact.” (P.164) (Note: Blainey's point is that the interests of the majority of Australians come first, not some social experiment which will probably damage those interests.)

* Australia, in normal conditions, should accept its share of genuine refugees, irrespective of which continent they are fleeing from. At present, Australia is taking far more than its share of refugees.” (P.165)

B. Asia

* “It is vital that Australia maintain sound relations with Asian nations”, but it is simplistic to think that admitting more Asians is “a certain way of improving relations with Asia”. A careless Australian immigration policy “can too easily lead to social and ethnic tensions within Australia, thus weakening relations with Asian countries from which immigrants have come.” (Pp.165-166)

* “There is little evidence to support the government's view that increasing migration from particular Asian nations will improve our trade with them.” (P.166) In fact, Australia's dramatic increase in trade with “China and Japan occurred in years when we admitted only a handful of migrants from East Asia”. (P.77)

* Immigration is not the most effective way of giving aid to the nearer parts of Asia. A humanitarian policy should place emphasis on educating engineers, geologists and agricultural scientists for Asia and on supplying new technology and, in a famine, food. It is more humanitarian to supply food for 10 million than to bring in a mere one-hundredth of that number of Asian immigrants.” (P.167)

* Our attitude to Asia has oscillated widely. Whereas half a century ago, we saw ourselves as part of Europe, we now say that we are part of Asia, a proposition that is true and false. Our danger today is that we so emphasize the importance of Asia that we forget the importance of Australia.” Australia's immigration policy “now gives the tiny Asian portion of the Australian population four out of every ten migrant places”. (P.167) Australia's Minister of Immigration, Stewart West, has commented that “the increasing Asianization of Australia” was inevitable”. There is nothing inevitable about Australia's future. It has a choice. (Pp.28-30)

* “Australia will have to find ways of impressing on Asia and the rest of the world that much of its territory is arid. …(and that it) “can support few people”. (Pp.167-168) (Note: As of 2007, Australia has suffered from a drought for 7 years.)

C. Recipe For A Sound Policy

* “The ethnic composition of the population–and the particular mixture of nationalities, language and cultures–is a matter of importance to all nations. (P.168)

* “Any rapid alteration in the ethnic composition of the population can lead to strong social tensions and the placing of strong pressure on democratic institutions–unless that rapid alteration has the support of a majority of Australians, especially in the districts most altered by the new migration.” (P.168)

* “Every nation relies on a sense of community. That sense of belonging is delicate and can easily be upset by the too rapid entry of peoples who unintentionally challenge the sense of cohesion.” (P.169)

* “One lesson of Australian history is that immigration should not be encouraged in times of economic adversity. This (1984) is the first depression in which immigration is not being discouraged, overall. (P.169) “For those arriving from Asia since the start of 1983, the unemployment rate is the remarkable 55 per cent. It is as if Australia is importing unemployment, but not announcing what it is actually doing.” (P.74)

* “It is a fallacy to believe that Australia's present difficulty in digesting or welcoming immigrants is a close parallel to that of the 1950's, and will be solved with equal ease. Thirty years ago, there was almost full employment, the public overwhelmingly believed that immigration was vital to Australia's future, and most immigrants came from a cultural background that was similar. All these advantages have ceased.” (P.169)

* “The social effects of an unpopular immigration policy are probably far more important than the economic effects. And the social effects are felt mostly by the poor, the unemployed and the people who are tied to the neighbourhood where they live. Whereas the prosperous residents protect their neighbourhood from heavy traffic, factories and high-rise flats by collective action, they are the first to object when other neighbourhoods, faced with an influx from a different culture, quietly protest.” (Pp.169-170)

* “An immigration policy is unlikely to succeed if the entire parliament supports it, but millions outside parliament do not support it.” (P.170) “In June 1984, only three out of every ten Australians supported the present immigration policy.” (P.44) “…our present policy, in its divisiveness, makes greater numbers of Australians feel…like strangers in their own land.” (P.125)

D. Multiculturalism

* “The multicultural policy has, at times, tended to emphasize the rights of ethnic minorities at the expense of the majority of Australians, thus unnecessarily encouraging divisions and weakening social cohesion. It has tended to be anti-British, and yet the people from the United Kingdom and Ireland form the dominant class of pre-war immigrants and the largest single group of post-war immigrants.” (P.170)

* “Recent governments emphasize the merits of a multicultural society and ignore the dangers. And yet the evidence is clear that many multicultural societies have failed and that the human cost of the failure has been high. Many of our refugees actually come from multicultural societies that are faltering or in disarray.” (Pp.170-171)

* “There are dangers in the increasing belief that toleration can simply be imposed on people by a variety of new laws and by a bureaucracy specializing in ethnic affairs, cultural relations and human rights. Unfortunately, the laws and regulatory bodies, introduced in the hope of promoting toleration, can be invoked to attack freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and those principles on which minority rights must, in the last resort, depend. A sensible humane immigration policy is more likely than most of these new agencies and laws–present or proposed–to maintain and foster racial toleration.” (P.171)

E. Immediate Reforms:

* The changes in the immigration ideology and policy that took place under the Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke governments were attempts to cope with new situations, but it is time to re-examine closely that change in direction, because of the new economic climate and the experience gained in the last decade.” (Pp.171-172)

* “There is a strong case for reducing–perhaps halving–immigration while unemployment is so high. (Australia was experiencing its most severe depression in 50 years.–P.23) The reduction should not affect genuine refugees, but should affect the increasing emphasis given to family re-unions. (P.172)

* “There can now be little doubt that (Illegal immigrants) exceed 15,000 a year. (P.152). This matter “should be tackled vigorously. It fosters the fear that we cannot control our own ports and airports and even our own destiny.” (P.171) Amnesty is “an official confession of failure, a mockery of the concept of a planned immigration programme, and an incentive for others to arrive, hoping to benefit from a further amnesty.” (P.151)

* “The immigration department should produce and present more realistic statistics and forecasts. Confusing and deceiving statistics should be no more acceptable in immigration than in the federal budget.” (P.171) Reports that UK interest in migration to Australia had declined were untrue and were deceitfully used to justify high immigration from other areas. (Pp.111-112) In spite of pretences that they were deities impartially dispensing justice, immigration ministers and their departments have deliberately withheld important statistical and demographic information from Australians in order to cloud what they were doing. (Pp.65-66)



NOTE: “All For Australia” was published by Methuen Haynes. Its ISBN number is 0 454 00828 7.