Immigration and Australia: Two Views

Denis McCormack

(Australian Retrospective Series)
by James Jupp

Sydney University Press
136 pages

by Lionel Duncombe

Kalgoorlie Press
148 pages

These two books represent the polarization which has occurred within the intellectual community in Australia over the issue of mass immigration. James Jupp is the Director of the Center for Immigration and Multicultural Studies at the Australian National University. Jupp, predictably, is a supporter of continued mass immigration, and has made multicultural studies his specialty. He has received substantial grants from the government-funded Bureau of Immigration Research (BIR). In the 1989-90 fiscal year he received two individual grants totalling A$50,000 [Australian dollars] and a third in conjunction with two A.N.U. colleagues totalling A$57,000. He has been commissioned by the BIR to edit a book on the politics of immigration which saw a further grant to him of A$15,000. Jupp is also engaged in immigration consultancy work - as are many other academics in this country. On October 12, 1992, Mr. P. Ruddock, the Opposition Shadow Minister for Immigration, read into the parliamentary record well over one hundred questions about multicultural funding addressed to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs. We find a termite mound of academics receiving extensive grants and consultancy money in support of the status quo. Jupp's name, along with dozens of other ''white ants,'' occurs in Mr. Ruddock's list with payment to him of A$8,150 in 1991-92 from the department of Prime Minister to provide advice on a framework for evaluation of the government's access and equity strategy, along with another A$16,000 through the Office of Multicultural Affairs to edit a volume containing research commissioned for the access and equity evaluation report.

In Australia, no government funding has ever been granted for research projects systematically critical of the combined effects of immigration and multiculturalism - even though the great majority of Australians, as the Duncombe book shows, are opposed to both the scale and nature of continued immigration, as well as to institutionalized, government-funded multiculturalism. This is not a conspiracy, but it is a blatant display of power on behalf of and by Australia's political and intellectual elites.

Lionel Duncombe's book was originally presented as a thesis for a higher degree. It was not regarded as politically correct, so Duncombe wrote another thesis on the environmental aspects of population growth, meanwhile presenting the original work to Graem Campbell, Labor Party Federal Member for Kalgoorlie for publication in his Kalgoorlie Press series. Campbell is the only politician in Australia who consistently and systematically ''walks tall in his Akubra'' [similar to an American Stetson] and remains unruffled by the taunts of ''racist'' and ''xenophobic.'' Duncombe, unlike Jupp, wrote his book from the breadline without prospect of profit or employment.

Jupp's book consists of nine chapters describing distinct phases of Australian immigration. He tells us that ''Modern Australia cannot be understood without constant reference to its history as an immigrant nation'' (p. vii). The chapters are titled as follows ''Building a New Britannia,'' ''English Immigration in the Nineteenth Century,'' ''Celtic and European Immigration,'' ''Non-Europeans and White Australia,'' ''British Immigration in the Twentieth Century,'' ''`Populate or Perish','' ''The End of White Australia,'' ''Creating Multicultural Australia,'' and ''Debating Immigration After Two Hundred Years.''

From the first pages, Jupp wastes no time in morally condemning British settlement. The Aborigines were expropriated by a brutal people. Britain was not a democracy (p.2), power resting in the hands of a small elite. Capital punishment was practiced for crimes against property as well as persons. Australia, created in Britain's image, ''was therefore brutal, undemocratic and corrupt'' (p. 2). No one can deny that by today's liberal standards the formative years of any new world nations were harsh. But pioneers must be judged with an eye to the standards of the times, to the harshness of the lands, and to the zeitgeist of the era. Africa, China, Japan, and New Guinea were all short on democracy at the time, all had brutal capital punishment - as many still do.

''On what basis could Jupp honestly think that
settlement of Australia by Imperial Japan, China,
or some other non-white, non-Christian empire
would have been better?''

While Jupp portrays the Aborigines as the noble savages who were dispossessed by the evil and corrupt British, more balanced scholarship by competent historians, such as Geoffrey Blainey in Triumph of the Nomads, have corrected such a view. They were tribal, cannibalistic, internally disunited, and hostile among hundreds of linguistic and cultural groups. Against superior organization, cohesion, and weapons technology they fought the good fight and lost, as did native peoples throughout the new world. It is a contradiction for Jupp to propose on the one hand that immigration and multiculturalism are so wonderful, while on the other hand advancing a thesis, however subtly, about the original sin and guilt to be felt by Anglo-Saxon/Celtic settlers of Australia and their descendants. One would have thought that if the latter thesis is true it would be a black mark against immigration and multiculturalism. On what basis could Jupp honestly think that settlement of Australia by Imperial Japan, China, or some other non-white, non-Christian empire would have been better?

One need only compare Jupp's book to that of Geoffrey Blainey's A Land Half Won to notice Jupp's anti-Anglo-Saxon bias which, in his own case as an English migrant to Australia, amounts to self-loathing. Blainey celebrates the triumphs and fortunes of the pioneers of Australia; Jupp, while presenting some of the same basic historical facts as Blainey, does so in order to constantly portray the founding fathers as ''brutal, undemocratic, and corrupt.'' He does so because he is operating from within a paradigm which is openly hostile to the achievements of white people in general, and Anglo-Saxons/Celts in particular. The White Australia Policy is dismissed as an openly ''racist'' (that word again!) policy without any balanced review of why the founding fathers of our nation wished to exclude non-European immigration.

Nor does Jupp consider this policy alongside the immigration policies of most Asian nations, such as Japan, which today are more ''racist'' than Australia allegedly was a century ago - if a desire for homogeneity must be called ''racist.'' Jupp even writes of the ''victims'' of the White Australia Policy (p. 49) but he offers no arguments as to why such a policy is wrong in any philosophical sense, and fails to explain how someone could be a ''victim'' merely by being excluded from a country. I am, by these standards, a ''victim'' of Japanese immigration policy. He bluntly states that the White Australia Policy was an attempt to maintain ''racial purity'' (p. 83), and infers that this was along Hitlerian lines by saying that arguments about genetic inferiority were brought into disrepute by the collapse of Nazism. Disregarding the fact that Australia fought against the Nazis, the White Australia Policy was seldom defended on grounds of racial purity - and even if it was, it would have nothing to do with Nazism, for logically its merits would have to be considered on its own basis. In essence, White Australia was the assertion of the right to existence for Europeans who for historical reasons were the founders and builders of a nation on a landmass alien to them and to the Asian civilizations and peoples to its north. The White Australia Policy was aimed at socio-cultural and racial respect for differences between Australians and neighboring peoples with an eye to long-term self-preservation. Protection against swamping by Asian immigration in this light would seem a perfectly rational response.

Nowhere in Jupps' book are his philosophical biases more evident than in his discussion of Asian immigration. It is of unquestionable benefit, he believes. Filipino settlers, for example, are said, without evidence, to be ''better educated than the average Australian and to be in better jobs'' (p. 92). However, we are also told that the majority of these immigrants are female and married to Australian men as ''mail order brides.'' The Philippines government outlawed such schemes in 1990 because it was felt to be exploitative of highly vulnerable women who often have poor English language skills and are chosen by certain Australian men, not for their upward mobility as Jupp would have us believe, but because they are easily exploited.

''...mass immigration is not a policy of the people, by the people,
but has always been a policy by the elites for the elites,
and is becoming more so.''

Where scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (''The Cult of Ethnicity, Good and Bad,'' Time, July 8, 1992, p. 14) see racial and ethnic conflicts as being the most divisive and explosive issues of our times, Jupp sees Australian society as infinitely elastic and quite capable of becoming a fully multicultural, multiracial society. There is no real consideration from Jupp as to whether all this is first desirable (and why) and if it is desirable, whether it can be achieved without the bloodshed now witnessed daily in any number of nations - and societies within them - which have already found themselves in deep evidence of problems, from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles.

Lionel Duncombe's book, Immigration and the Decline of Democracy in Australia, gives comprehensive arguments against all of Jupp's. He maintains that mass immigration is not a policy of the people, by the people, but has always been a policy by the elites for the elites, and is becoming more so. With respect to economic, social and environmental variables, post-World War II migration is not seen to have been good for Australia, and today migration is a phenomenon that has long since outlived its usefulness. Duncome's book builds well on the work of other Australians - Betts, Rimmer, Wayne-Smith - whose work will be familiar to readers of this journal. He also shows that the Asianization program is inconsistent with the liberal-humanitarian idea of cultural plurality, for it is more likely to create a new dominant hierarchy than the warm, cuddly patchwork quilt of plurality that Jupp has on his imagined cultural bed.

Near the end of his book Duncombe writes

    The most cogent example of the collective attitudes of those involved in the Asianization debate was well demonstrated on the Couchman Show ... Featured on the show were the usual immigrant, church, and business group advocates for an Asian Australia that the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Company] invariably stock their audiences with ... But no matter how hard they tried to hide it, they were unable to contain their customary carping cultural cringe about how marvelous Asian culture is, and how insignificant and racist Australians were and are. The general consensus of the immigrant and anti-Australian lobby on this show was that Australia must go cap in hand, contrite and fawning, if we ever want to be accepted as part of the Asia-Pacific region. ... The antagonistic attitude of some of the immigrants on the show to a nation that has so willingly opened its doors to them, showed clearly the cultural imperialism of some, not all, of our new arrivals. It also must have made many Australians wonder why we are so foolishly letting such antagonistic people settle here. The show also showed clearly why Australians do not want any more migration, and why they are very hostile to multiculturalism. If the majority of the migrants on the Couchman Show, and their opinion of Australia and Australians, is any guide - the division and fragmentation of our culture is assured. Future conflicts between minority ethnic groups and the majority population in Australia appear to be inevitable.

Denis McCormack is a researcher with Australians Against Further Immigration (AAFI) and a reporter for The Social Contract.
[Reprinted from: The Social Contract, Winter 1992]

Articles by Denis McCormack