Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What was behind the white Australia policy?

Although it is now a forbidden belief, a belief that race differences exist and are in some cases important was virtually universal up until fairly recently so it is easy to conclude that the legislation enshrining what was generally known as the White Australia policy was motivated by racism.  While racial beliefs did no doubt provide some background to, and justification for, that policy, however, I would think that most people with any awareness of Australian social history will be aware that the "Immigration Restriction Act", as it was called, was motivated primarily by a strong demand from the working class to exclude cheap labour, Chinese labour in particular. It was motivated by what unions call a desire to maintain their "conditions".  Suspicion of cheap labour brought in from China still surfaces among union spokesmen to this day. 

For those who know little about Australian social history, a long and erudite essay by a pseudonymous author has just appeared.  I reproduce below the section most immediately relevant to the enactment of immigration restrictions at the very beginning of the Australian federation. 

There is one small error in it.  The white Australia policy was abolished not by Gough Whitlam but by the conservative government of Harold Holt.  Whitlam just tidied up a few details

Australia was singularly fortunate that, by the beginning of the 1890s, the “common man” actually had political power via the franchise and elected his own representatives to the various colonial Parliaments. In a world ruled mostly by absolute monarchs and the hereditary aristocracy, Australia was unique in being governed by “the workers” the majority of whom were also literate and numerate. In Australia almost the entire population, from the top professionals to the lowest ditch-diggers, were directly connected with the convict “assigned servant” system or had come from the disenfranchised and oppressed classes of Britain, Europe and America. Here people, men and women, could breathe free and truly believed that “Jack was as good as his master” and there was no way they were ever going to allow British or foreign Imperialists, aristocrats, or the filthy rich share-holders to establish a plantation system in this country worked by exploited whites or anyone else. The only way to stymie foreign plans for exactly that was to pass legislation that would deny such exploiters the one resource they needed – and that was the importation of a huge coolie workforce. That’s why the various colonial laws restricting immigration were made consistent and became the “Immigration Restriction Act” that was the first legislation ever passed by the Australian Federal Parliament and became known as the “White Australia Policy” – even though it did not deny anyone entry on the basis of race.

Between 1901 and 1914 Australia was “the most democratic country on earth” and led the world with social reform that, for the first time in world history, gave the common man a real opportunity to rise above the station of his (or her) birth. A place where a man really could be judged on the content of his character, his own abilities and innate worth, rather than on whom his father was or the “Public” school that he’d attended – or his accent. At that time visitors to Australia were often appalled by the lack of “respect” and “reverence” Australians showed to their social betters and their refusal to doff their hats or tug their forelocks to anyone or to “know their place”. Australians had also developed a distinctive accent that, unlike anywhere else in the English speaking world, is the same regardless of geographical location or social status. George Bernard Shaw could never have written “Pygmalion” if he’d been born and raised in Australia; that could only have been written in, and about, a class riven society such as Britain where people are instantly judged, and assigned a social role, by their accents. Australia at that time, just over a century ago, also had a very powerful union movement that ensured that employees, regardless of the complexity of the work done, received a liveable wage and had a real and tangible opportunity to own their own home or piece of land and made sure there were schools for their children and hospitals for their sick and pensions for those of them who were old or infirm. Those ideas were “revolutionary” in the world of the first decade of the 20th Century. Australia also elected, for the first time in world history, a Labor Government made up of men who wouldn’t even have had the vote in Britain (or most countries in the world) at that time.

In that first decade of the 20th Century Australians were the richest and freest people in the world and in all human history. The wealth distribution between the rich and poor was also the narrowest and we had avoided a war of independence, a civil war, serious uprisings or any of the other great societal conflicts that plagued older and more traditional societies. But while we avoided all those things and the horrors of the Industrial Revolution with its 5 year-olds down mines and cleaning the cotton mills, the little match girls and chimney sweeps, the share-cropping system, and the factory fodder living in a company hovel and working a six day week for one day’s pay and forever in debt to the company store, there was an element, both domestic and foreign, who still hankered after a coolie-worked plantation system that would bust the unions, drive down wages, and chase the common ruck from the Halls of Power that “rightfully” belonged to them on the basis of their birth and inherited wealth. Australians were the bastards of the British Empire, a collection of lower-class upstarts descended from criminals and street sweepings that needed to “compete” in a reverse-auction for work and political power – for their own good – against a few million coolies imported from around Asia and the Pacific Islands. But they failed. The White Australia Policy lasted on the statutes until the mid-1960s when it began to be watered down and then finally abolished by the Whitlam and Fraser Governments and was replaced, without any popular support or, heaven forbid, a referendum of the people, with Al Grassby’s policy of “multiculturalism” – an idea that had been around since the days of the Roman Empire and has a 100% failure rate everywhere it had ever been tried – and is failing everywhere it’s been implemented over the last 50 years.

The Immigration Restriction Act was not about white supremacy, racism, or the belief that whites were higher up the evolutionary tree than the coloured races. Rather, it was designed to STOP the racist exploitation of non-whites (all of whom would have been illiterate peasants practicing religions and cultures anathema to progressive democracy) being conscripted into a life of semi-slavery in a coolie-worked plantation economy for the benefit of the absolute monarchs, hereditary aristocracy and the super-wealthy companies and share-holders of the northern hemisphere. It was also about stopping the creation of ethnic-racial enclaves and ghettoes, inter-religious schisms and conflict, and from destroying the “working man’s paradise” that had been created by the native-born, the “currency” lads and lasses, of Australia. We did not want the racial and ethnic conflicts that plagued every part of the Americas and the Caribbean or the rigid class structures of Europe or the oppression of ethnic minorities as was normal in the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, American, Russian, Chinese and Japanese Empires of the time. We only wanted people who believed as we did: that a man should have dignity, a say in government via a universal and compulsory franchise, and a fair share of the wealth of the nation; that people should rise in society on their own merits and find their own station in life regardless of who their father was; that women should have the same rights to an education, inheritance, personal wealth and social advancement as anyone else; that no man, woman or child should ever be a slave or a serf or work in indentured bondage; that anyone could say what they damned well liked without fear of exclusion, impoverishment, the knout, the cell, the chain-gang, or the gallows. The only way to ensure all those revolutionary freedoms was to keep one commodity in short supply – and that was labour. The White Australia Policy was about self-preservation and the continuance of a social experiment that had been a spectacular success.


Renewable energy deal close

Both sides may settle for half a loaf

A deal on the Renewable Energy Target could come within weeks after the federal government indicated this morning it is willing to back down on a demand the scheme be subject to biannual reviews.

The development has been welcomed by industry, which has seen investment collapse by nearly 90 per cent since the Abbott government recruited self-professed climate sceptic Dick Warburton to head a review in February last year.

“It’s the reviews that have really killed the industry over the last couple of years,” said Russell Marsh, Director of Policy at the Clean Energy Council.

The council, supported by Labor and the Greens, had last week dismissed continuing reviews as a “deal breaker” after the government met with the Opposition and made an offer to break the deadlock over the target.

At the meeting, the government changed its position on the target, announcing it would agree to set the amount of electricity that must be sourced from renewables by 2020 at 33,000 gigawatt hours (GWh).

The target was established at 41,000 GWh with tri-partisan support in 2009, but industry is willing to accept the Abbott government's cut to 33,000GWh so as to maintain bipartisan support, which will help calm investors’ nerves.

“It’s really only having the legislation locked away and changed that you’ll see investor certainty returning,” Marsh said.

Reacting to this morning’s news Kane Thornton, the Chief Executive Officer of the Clean Energy Council, said he’s “now confident that a final agreement can be negotiated, which will deliver the necessary bipartisan support for the RET, restoring stability to the policy and allowing the industry to meet the revised target”.

“It has been a tough 15 months, but this development will be a huge weight off the shoulders of the 20,000 people working in the industry,” Thornton said.

Labor has not yet responded to the government’s changed stance. While it will welcome the government’s decision to drop the reviews, another “red herring” could still derail a deal.

Last time the government met with Labor to discuss the RET it also demanded that native forest wood waste, which was delisted by the Greens and Labor in 2011, be reclassified as a renewable energy source.

Labor remains opposed to including wood waste but it has generally followed the industry’s lead in negotiations, and while the Clean Energy Council also opposes the reclassification, it is urging politicians to focus on the big picture.

“They should get on with the job of getting the legislation passed and not let those other minor details (in the scheme of things) get tangled up in the process,” Marsh said.

The compromise on reviews could see new legislation introduced before parliament breaks for winter recess on June 25, and Thornton remains hopeful “the major parties will continue to work through this issue for the good of the tens of thousands of people employed by the renewable energy industry”.

Environmental groups, however, have argued that including native wood waste would undermine the effectiveness of the RET.

“The regime would be a hell of a lot more certain if native wood waste was excluded from it,” the Climate Council’s Andrew Stock said.

“In the short run - 20 or 30 years - while the trees are replanted and establish themselves, you’re probably net adding to emissions because you’re burning trees that have been there for 50 to a 100 years,” Stock said.

“And if the power station isn't right next to a sawmill or something the costs and the emissions associated with the transport of the wood waste is an additional emission.”

“It is clear there is a serious intention to proceed with forest furnaces,” said Peg Putt, Chief Executive Officer of Markets For Change.

“Large greenhouse gas emissions result from burning native forest wood,” she said.

“If it proceeded then energy from native forest biomass would be at a scale that would reduce the proportion of the RET available to wind and solar, undermining these genuinely clean energy sources.


Abbott won't let foreign militant fighters back into the country after they leave

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday ruled out an amnesty for Australian citizens seeking to quit foreign militant groups and return home in the wake of media reports that his government was negotiating with potential defectors.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Australian authorities in the Middle East were negotiating with three Australian fighters with the Islamic State radical group who wanted to leave but feared imprisonment at home.

Abbott seemed to confirm their fears on Tuesday, taking a hard line that includes prison time for those who have ignored Australian laws expressly barring them from participating in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

“If you go abroad to break Australian law, if you go abroad to kill innocent people in the name of misguided fundamentalism and extremism, if you go abroad to become an Islamist killer, well, we are hardly going to welcome you back into this country,” Abbott told reporters.

“If you go abroad to join a terrorist group and you seek to come back to Australia, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and jailed.”

Security analysts have put the number of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, travelling from scores of countries around the world, in the thousands.

Abbott has told parliament at least 70 Australians were fighting in Iraq and Syria backed by about 100 Australia-based “facilitators”.

Australia is on high alert for attacks by radicalized Muslims or by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, having raised its threat level to high and undertaken a series of high-profile raids in major cities.

Under tough new security powers won by Abbott’s conservative government in October, Australian citizens can face up to a decade in prison for overseas travel to areas declared off limits.


High-quality 19th century marker shows that the sea-level has FALLEN since then

Tasmanian marker showing that the mean sea level of the mid 19th century was ABOVE the mean sea-level of today

The ‘Isle of the Dead’ may yet prove to be another nail in the coffin of global warming and its gruesome companion, Disastrous Sea Level Rises.

The `Isle of the Dead’ is over two acres in size and is situated within the harbor of Port Arthur opening directly to the Southern Ocean. The isle itself is actually a graveyard (thus its eerie name), containing the graves of some 2,000 British convicts and free persons from the 19th century who lived and died at the nearby convict colony of Port Arthur between 1832 and 1870.

In 1841. renowned British Antarctic explorer, Captain Sir James Clark Ross, sailed into Tassy after a 6-month voyage of discovery and exploration to the Antarctic.

Ross and Governor Franklin made a particular point of visiting Port Arthur, to meet Thomas Lempriere, a senior official of the convict colony there, but who was also a methodical observer and recorder of meteorological, tidal, and astronomical data. It is important to note what Captain Ross wrote about it.

    “My principal object in visiting Port Arthur was to afford a comparison of our standard barometer with that which had been employed for several years by Mr. Lempriere, the Deputy Assistant Commissary General, in accordance with my instructions, and also to establish a permanent mark at the zero point, or general mean level of the sea as determined by the tidal observations which Mr. Lempriere had conducted with perseverance and exactness for some time: by which means any secular variation in the relative level of the land and sea, which is known to occur on some coasts, might at any future period be detected, and its amount determined.

    The point chosen for this purpose was the perpendicular cliff of the small islet off Point Puer, which, being near to the tide register, rendered the operation more simple and exact. The Governor, whom I had accompanied on an official visit to the settlement, gave directions to afford Mr. Lempriere every assistance of labourers he required, to have the mark cut deeply in the rock in the exact spot which his tidal observations indicated as the mean level of the ocean."

That mark is still there today, as can be seen in the photo.The photo was taken at midway between high and low tides.

There is intensive research presently underway by several institutions including the now corrupt CSIRO assisted by the head of the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science & Technology, Dr David Pugh, who is based at the University of Southampton, UK. But in spite of plenty of time we have yet to see their detailed explanation of just why this mark confounds all the predictions about sea level rise.

Dr. Pugh airily waves his hands and says in effect that poor old confused Lempriere, in spite of the detailed instructions about getting a Mean Sea Level (half way between high and low tide), he just put in the high water mark. This, of course, sounds logical to anybody steeped in the Green religion.

But not to anyone else and not to real scientists who look at evidence unflinchingly.


Don Argus slams iron ore inquiry

Former BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus has warned Australia would become a “laughing stock of the world” if the government ­intervened in the iron ore market.

As the Abbott government considers an inquiry into claims by Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest that industry giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have been forcing down prices and driving out smaller rivals, Mr Argus warned that intervention would make the nation non-competitive and send mixed signals about whether Australia was a command economy or a market economy.

“We will be a laughing stock of the world because, in a market economy, prices will determine what is produced, how it’s produced, and who will get the things we make,” Mr Argus, also a former National Australia Bank chief executive, told The Australian.

“A market economy uses prices as signals telling us how to use ­resources.”

He sounded a note of caution that the proposed inquiry could become a “political football” and expose very sensitive commercial information to offshore buyers of iron ore. Officials in Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s department could already be called on to seek an explanation of the “various” components that drove iron ore pricing.

Mr Forrest has been leading the call for the inquiry and found support from smaller producers such as Atlas Iron, BC Iron and US company Cliffs Natural Resources. In March, Mr Forrest called for a cap on iron ore production. Last week, Mr Forrest urged Australians to lobby the government to “consider the multinationals’ ­licence to operate in Australia if they don’t market Australian iron ore responsibly for all Australians”. On Sunday, an “Our Iron Ore” campaign was launched to gather support for an inquiry.

Mr Argus said an inquiry was not needed.

“If you don’t understand something, sit down with the miners and talk to them, they will tell you,” he said.

“It’s just ­beyond my comprehension how anybody would even be thinking about it.”

He said he was “aghast” that politicians had not used officials from Mr Macfarlane’s department “to get an explanation of how pricing is done” given that they are “a very talented group of people and understanding of the resources industry”.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has continued to push for an inquiry. Tony Abbott flagged an inquiry last Friday, and yesterday said he wanted to get to the bottom of the “claim and counterclaim” being made within the market. “An inquiry may well be a very good way of doing that,” the Prime Minister said.

He said an inquiry could not be a “witch hunt”, vowing that “one thing you will never find from this government is any attempt to regulate a market which is working well”.

While there has been speculation the terms of reference could be released shortly, others insist the government will take a more cautious approach and is open for an inquiry to be done by a regulator or statutory body.

Mr Macfarlane and Trade Minister Andrew Robb confirmed yesterday that the government’s leadership group was seeking views but no decision had been made.

“No decision has been taken as yet but the leadership group have, quite appropriately, been canvassing views — various views — amongst various colleagues,” Mr Robb told ABC radio.

“I’ve put my views, as others have, to the leadership group and it’s up to them to weigh up the merits of all the views that have been put to them, and to make a decision for the government,” Mr Robb said.

Mr Macfarlane said: “My understanding is that this is a discussion which the cabinet will have.”

Labor has said it would participate in the inquiry if it goes ahead, but competition spokesman Andrew Leigh said there could be “potential threats to investment if the government’s rhetoric gets out of hand”. Dr Leigh told Sky News that parliament should write competition laws and leave it to the competition watchdog to administer them.

The iron ore spot price peaked at more than $US180 a tonne in early 2011, but has fallen sharply in the past 18 months to as low as $US47.08. Iron ore is currently trading about $US61 a tonne.

The sharp price fall has wiped off billions of dollars in tax and royalty revenues, and has been felt most keenly in Western Australia.

Last week’s West Australian budget showed that the state had had to adjust its revenue expect­ations for the next three years by $12 billion after slashing its iron-ore price projections.

In last week’s federal budget, the fall in the iron ore price wiped $20bn from forecast tax collections compared with the previous budget.

On the push for intervention in the market, Mr Argus echoed warnings that Australia would risk giving up market share to Brazil’s Vale and other producers, saying that Vale and Brazil would be “salivating at this”.

“If anybody was thinking about investing in Australia, they would be thinking twice, I think,” Mr Argus said.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said Australia had to decide whether it was committed to open markets, and whether we “junk that proposition as soon as one producer finds the commodity price cycle uncomfortable”.

The comments by Mr Argus were echoed by the head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore arm, Andrew Harding. He said any inquiry into iron ore would not only find that the iron ore market was operating freely, openly and normally, but would also send a worrying signal to major trading partners.

“Australia has been a global champion of free trade and open markets,” Mr Harding said.

“These have underpinned our economic development. We should be careful not to disturb this hard-earned reputation. Our global standing as a supporter of open markets has already been undermined by calls to cap iron ore production and for government intervention in the market.”


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