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The Labor Party And White Australia

Part One:

Labor Parliamentarians 1901-1935

Kevin McCauley

Sydney: June 2001


1. King O'Malley
2. James Page
3. George Pierce
4. Hugh Mahon
5. Dr. William Maloney
6. Edward James Holloway
7. Senator De Largie
8. Senator McGregor
9. John West
10. Frank Brennan
11. Senator Hoare
12. Senator Ogden



What follows in this pamphlet are extracts from the parliamentary speeches of Australian Labor members of parliament. All extracts are taken from 'Hansard', the printed record of these speeches. Dates are generally provided for each extract.

The reader should note that this pamphlet is part of a series which includes also: Queensland Labor Leaders, Labor Premiers of New South Wales, Federal Labor Leaders: Watson To Calwell (1901-1966), White Australia Defeated W.M. Hughes Over Conscription 1916.

History tells us that those people who don't learn the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat it in the future. The problems that confronted Australia after Federation are the same problems that confront Australia now. Globalisation, economic rationalism, privatization and the New World Order are new terms for policies which in other forms, have been around since the nineteenth century.

In the 1890's a group of patriots formed the Australian Labour Party. These people fought for and won the battle for a 'White Australia'. They won the battle for protecting Australian industries with high tariffs. They also won the battle to establish a centralised wage fixing system that gave the Australian worker the highest standard of living in the world. All the gains that our forefathers fought for, some-times with their blood, have been thrown away. The Labor Party of today advocates policies that are exact opposite to the policies of the party of yesteryear. Today, Australia should look back on the founding fathers of the Labour movement, not just as some characters in a dusty history book, but as real men who made Australia for a time, a great nation that passed on to its children the benefits that they fought so hard for. In presenting the quotes from the following Labor members of parliament, the reader should be aware that the gains which have been lost must be won - again!

Kevin McCauley, Sydney.

1. King O'Malley

Born United States of America in 1854, died 1953. Labour and Insurance Agent. Elected to the House Of Assembly, South Australia for Encounter Bay April 1896, representing that constituency until April 1899 when defeated; elected to the House of Representatives for Tasmania General Election 1901 and on the division of that state into electorates, for Darwin in general elections 1903, 1906, 1910, 1913, 1914; Member of Select Committee On Old Age Pensions in 1904 and or Royal Commission on7 same 1905-1906; Minister For Home Affairs April 1910 to June 1913 and from October 1915 to November 1916; Member of Royal Commission On Powellised And Other Timbers; defeated in General Election 1917. O'Malley was the driving force in the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, Old Age Pensions, Trans-Australia railway and the foundation of the national capital in Canberra.

“I am pleased that the House, as the mouthpiece of the people, so shortly from the people, is going to be united upon the greatest question which ever came before a nation to solve - one of the problems of the age. If the Australian people had only lived in the southern states of America - as I have - and had seen the dire results of the present mingling of the Africans with the whites, they would put their feet down and say - we are going are going to profit by the terrible mistake of the American people, and we are not going to leave it to posterity to solve such an unholy problem……

I wish to point out that the educational tests proposed in this Bill will keep out the labouring people. It will keep out a million Canadians if they want to come here - men who are splendid farmers, but who cannot read English….

But from my experience in the East, I cannot assure Honourable Members that the education test proposed will not shut out the Japanese if they desire to come to Australia. It will not shut out the Indian toff who becomes a human parasite preying upon the people of the country. It will not shut out the intellectual Afghan. We have more to fear from the educated coloured people than from the ignorant coloured people, because the latter will not attempt to mingle or associate with the white race. My experience in the southern states of America is that a first class education disqualifies the black people for any kind of work whatever in the line of industrial creation. They at once go forth to the big cities, and settle down to live upon their wits just as some white men do. That class of people will not be shut out by the pro-posed educational test. Its adoption will only add to the great volume of the parasitical element which is now sucking the lifeblood out of the worker in Australia…

Then again let us look at the Chinese merchant. Does the proposed test shut out the educated Chinaman, who is the very worst man we can have in the community? I remember when the Chinese drove the servant girls out of California, and when all the farm hands cleared out because they could not compete with the six Chinese companies. How did it wind up? It wound up by all the little farmers selling out to the big men and leaving the country. Then the big men engaged Chinese from the six companies which bossed the show ….

I heard the late Henry Ward Beecher say that God made America for all nations and all people. 'Let them come', he said, 'oh! Come ye to the waters, our wine and milk we will freely give to all your sons and daughters.' That is all very fine coming from the pulpit but when the people of the Pacific Slope persuaded certain members of Congress to visit California they dropped them down in the Chinese dens and left them there for a night. The result was that the Congressmen went back to Washington and passed a law shutting out the Chinaman for twenty years…

We are here upon a Continent set apart by the Creator exclusively for a southern empire - for a southern nation - and it is our duty to preserve this island-continent for all eternity to the white race, irrespective of where they may come from.”

September 6 1901

“I do not say that Orientals are inferior to Europeans - I an not speaking from that standpoint, but I contend that they cannot be assimilated with white populations. The poll tax imposed by the United States proved utterly inadequate to exclude Chinamen from that country. The six big companies of California not only paid to ship captains the $500 deposit required by the customs officials, but also bribed them to allow Chinamen to get away from their ships…

The public will not be fooled into the belief that Chinamen will be kept out whilst it is possible to bribe ship captains and others to bring them in here. It was reported recently that Chinamen were stowed away in the coal-bunkers of a vessel which recently arrived at Freemantle, and there is no doubt that shop captains are being bribed to bring coloured aliens to Australia. Everyone in this country who is not a millionaire is endeavouring to become one as soon as possible, and many people are not particular as to the means which they employ to that end. Is it to be supposed that men who are anxious to become rich will be proof against the inducements which could be offered to them under a measure of this kind to introduce Asiatics into Australia? Bad as the Chinese are in America, in that they drive white workers out of certain employments, the Japanese are infinitely worse…

The Japanese now own a large number of the orchards of California. They do not spend a single dollar in the country, they import everything they want from Japan, and send their money to that country. That might be very good for Japan, but it would not be of benefit to a country like Australia. If the Japanese settled in Australia in any large numbers, whether in the Northern Territory or elsewhere, they would gradually acquire vested interests, and, if we attempted to regulate tem, would appeal to their government, and bring upon us a trouble similar to that which arose from the settlement of Uitlanders in the Transvaal….

It is a well known fact that the recent boycott of American goods in China was inspired by the capitalists of the United States, who wished to create a feeling in favour of weakening the Alien Immigration Act of that country. Their objective was to be able to do as the millionaires of the Rand had done - import Chinese as slaves to work in the mines. Files of the American newspapers to hand show that American capitalists wished the Chinese to brought into America in order that they might replace white men by docile slaves. They desire to substitute Chinese slavery for black slavery.”

December 16 1905.

2. James Page

Labor Member for Maranoa. , born 1860, died 1921. Rural worker and hotel keeper. Member for Maranoa (House of Representatives) 1901-1921.

“Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to talk to the House upon the subject of a White Australia. It is one of the objects for which I have been fighting for many years. The first gentleman who aroused enthusiasm in me upon this question is, I am pleased to say, a colleague of mine in this chamber. I refer to the Honourable Member for South Australia, Mr. V.L. Solomon. I read many of his pamphlets upon the exigencies of the situation at the time he was conducting his anti-Chinese crusade. That was when the desire was awakened in me that Australia should be reserved for the Australians…

The Japanese are practically acquiring the ownership of the whole of northern Queensland. They are going on inch by inch, and retaining their hold, simply because the white man leaves it to them. Then the planters say that there is no white labour available. Why is that? Simply because there is no labour for the white man to stop for. Therefore, there is the same old cry, 'Go West Young Man, Go West.' And out west the young men go. The Japanese and other eastern races, however, are following them there….

I am anxious to do all that I can to get rid of these aliens and keep our race pure. Everyman knows what happens when coloured races get in among us. They at once bring the white races down to their level, instead of rising to the level of the whites. Those who do raise themselves to the level of the whites get as cunning as foxes, and, not withstanding our laws and our detective skill, they beat us at every turn. For that reason, if for no other, I would assist anyone, no matter what his political opinions were, to rid Australia of the curse. What do we find as to their vile eastern diseases? Who brought the plague to Australia? Did it not come from the eastern countries? Where did the leprosy come from? If Honourable Members would only pay a visit to the Queensland lazarettes the opinion would no longer be expressed that the time is not opportune for dealing with this subject….

Who brought this disease to Australia? The vile eastern races, which I am pleased to say, the Barton government is going to keep out. These are some of the evils that follow in the train of the Asiatic. There are many more…

During my election tour in Queensland I saw a contract called for clearing between Bundaberg and Gladstone, in the Honourable Member for Wide Bay's district. The price offered was so low that no white man would take it. The consequence was that a sparkling subadur went up with a new shipment of Hindoos - full-blooded bucks from Bombay - who took the contract at one twentieth of the lowest rate for which a white man could do the work. That is another reason why we desire to get rid of these aliens. They not only enter into competition with the white worker, but with the white store-keeper, and it is because of the fact that we polled such a solid vote in Queensland for a white Australia. Everyone knows the danger….

When they go down to these centres they inhabit certain quarters of the towns, and as everyone else gives way to them, property goes down in value, and they are left to their own sweet will. This is why there is such an outcry for a white Australia from the middle-classes. The only way to induce this class of people to take the proper democratic view is to touch their pockets, for immediately they feel the grievance they seek redress. In several of the towns out west in Queensland, the Hindoos have established themselves, sold their goods at prices well below those at which the white trader could obtain them, and have practically hounded the white store-keepers out of the place. Some people might say that this is the fault of the white people who, proceeding on free trade principles, buy in the cheapest market, and I am sorry to have to admit that by adopting these principles we are cutting our own throats.”

September 6 1901.

It has been urged that the white Australia vote was a catch-vote. But what was the voice of the Commonwealth upon that principle? How is it that the cry of a white Australia caught on from one end of the Continent to the other? The explanation is very simple. When the Premiers of the different colonies - on their return from the Jubilee celebrations in England, where they had conferred with Mr. Chamberlain upon the introduction of legislation for the exclusion of undesirable immigrants - made a compact to give us a white Australia, the Queensland Premier ratted and made a secret treaty with the Japanese government. The country at the time knew nothing about it. The fact had to be completely dragged out of him before the public knew anything about it. These are the sort of men who have been at the head of affairs in Queensland….

Yet we are asked why we have not freed Queensland of this black labour before. We are here to do it. All honour to the Prime Minister when he says that he is going to give us a brand spanking new white Australia for a New Year's gift….We came here to make that state white….

These white men in Queensland are going to fight for the black man, but they brought white men from Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania to down us in Queensland, and take the bread from our mouths ten years ago, and that is the sort of thing that the men I have the honour to represent in far western Queensland would very much resent. They only wish that those who are dissatisfied with this Bill would rebel. We should then give them a dose of their own physic. There is nothing that would give me greater pleasure than to take up one of those magazine rifles that the Minister For Defence has asked us to practise with, in defence of a white Australia, and there are many thousands more who would do the same thing. We should very soon settle the Kanaka business. I only wish they would rebel but talk is cheap.”

October 10 1901

“As long as I occupy a seat in this House, I shall vote for the exclusion of the coloured races. The honourable and learned member for Corio put the matter very well this afternoon, when he stated that it is the force of Japanese arms which is making Australia apprehensive. I am getting on for fifty years of age, but I am quite prepared to take up a gun in the defence of Queensland and there thousands more who would follow my example…

The honourable member wishes to break down the existing barriers. It is the swindling mining syndicates which have been formed - not the Labour Party - which have 'cooked' Australia. The Labour Party endeavours to purify politics, and it is doing it. We are opposed to alien immigration.”

December 6 1905.

3. George Pierce

Born South Australia 1870, died 1952. Carpenter, secretary Carpenters' Union, Western Australian Labor Senator 1901-1916, first Labor Minister For Defence under Andrew Fisher 1908-9, 1910-1913 and under Hughes 1914-1916. He sided with Hughes over conscription in 1916. He once said outside of parliament: “the only doctrine these races respect is the doctrine of force. Our White Australia legislation is so much waste paper, unless we have rifles to back it up.:" While he had opposed sending troops to the Boer War, he supported conscription and citizens' military training after Japan's victory in the Russo-Japan War of 1904-5.

“The Labour Party have been supporting the government in an effort to rid Australia of a large number of people of a coloured race, and on which side have honourable Senators been in that discussion, who are now so anxious to take the extreme step of complete exclusion to which the Labour Party is pledged? They have been most severe in their criticisms of the attitude the Labour Party have taken up upon that question, and yet they are then men who led the movement for an extension of time for the planters in Queensland. That is a significant incident in a week's proceedings, and should be sufficient to make us pause before we again walk into the spider's web. If anyone is responsible for the present position it is the free-trade party, and their lack of organization, and their lack of loyalty to their leaders…

On the other hand, the free trade party said - 'we will go the whole way with you, and vote for complete exclusion'. In good faith we brought forward our proposals for complete exclusion, and honourable Senators of the free trade party united with us to create a blank in the Bill. But when we wished to fill in the blank, what support did we get? We were in a minority. In one division we had a majority of six, and in the next we were in a minority of two. Now we are again asked to move the Amendment again, but we have to remember that this is not the last stage of this Bill, and we may have to depend on the men who have failed us once to fight this Bill if we come into conflict with the other House….

Like the last speaker, I think we should not lose sight of the fact that the principle Act which this Bill seeks to amend, has largely accomplished what it set out to accomplish. It has not only not prevented a large number of Asiatics from coming to Australia, but it has served as a warning throughout eastern nations that the ports of Australia are closed to them, and that has been efficacious in practically stopping numbers of Asiatics from coming to our shores….

Take first the question of the education test. Is it not a fact that the education test has been found to be faulty, and that at least three Chinamen have been added to our population because of the faulty application of that test?


4. Hugh Mahon

Born Ireland 1853, died 1931. Member of the House of Representatives for Coolgardie 1901-1913 and Kalgoorlie 1913-1917, 1919-1920. Post Master General April-August 1904 under Watson's Labour Government; Minister For Home Affairs 1908-9, Assistant Minister For External Affairs September-December 1914, Minister For External Affairs 1914-1916. Mahon was the only Member of Parliament to be expelled. His expulsion in 1920 was for supporting Irish independence and his statement describing the British Empire “as this accursed and bloody empire”.

“Now it seems to me that the people who advocate the continuance of this traffic must be strangely oblivious of the teachings of history. Never yet has a servile race existed alongside a superior race without sooner or later resulting in the downfall of the civilisation and institutions of that country.…

This traffic has gone on for very many years, and so long as I have been in Australia I have heard it objected to. For over twenty years I have known of an agitation against the continuance of the importation of labourers from the Pacific islands. In view of the fact that the parliament of Queensland has legislated against the traffic, and at one time had actually resolved to stop it, and that the evils of this system have been generally recognized in the state in which the Kanakas are employed, nothing is likely to be gained by delaying our decision on the question. I have carefully read most of the literature on this subject, and I have not been able to ascertain that we are likely to ascertain any further facts by delay. Neither do I find that the advocates of Pacific islands' labour agree as to the remedy. I fid that Mr.Philip, the Premier of Queensland, says one thing and that the Chamber of Commerce of Mackay says another…

I find that the Premier of Queensland contends that because some of the representatives of that state hold extreme views in regard to socialising the means of production, therefore their opinions in reference to coloured labour should not be received with any consideration in this House. That seems a most extraordinary contention.”

November 6 1901.

5. Dr. William Maloney

Born Victoria 1854, died 1940. Member of the Legislative Assembly for West Melbourne 1889-1903, Member of the House of Representatives for Melbourne 1904-1940. Arthur Calwell had served as one of his campaign managers and took over the seat at Maloney's death.

In the decade between Japan's victory over Russia and the First World War, many Australians made it their business to travel to Japan; one of these was Dr. Maloney. He had been pro-Boer and anti-Empire, but the Japanese menace modified his views. With the help of a journalist, Maloney gave an account of his journey. In a booklet in 1905, entitled Flashlights On Japan And The Far East, he said, “in this decade or in the next, the East will most assuredly insist on what she may regard as her rights. And those rights may include the domination, if not the occupation, of the Eastern Hemisphere. How stand we then? Little will all that home defence avail us, if once the whole volume of the East is permitted to break on our shores. The dividing line must be drawn on the ocean and far to the north of Cape York.'

He went on to criticise Britain for not arming Russia against Japan who will claim leadership of China and India. Maloney advocated Indian independence in order to prevent her falling into Japan's clutches, but this was but a delaying tactic:

“The awakened East, which, obedient to the natural laws of expansion, all in retaliation, or in the undying and unchangeable desire of conquest, must seek to advance. Consequently, it is the business of the Commonwealth to begin forthwith to arm every man, to fence with the latest and most terrible scientific devices, every port, to establish armouries and arsenals, to put its people in a position both to make and wield arms, so that the whole may stand as one strong man, well armed whenever the foe may seek to intrude.”

Anticipating Curtin by thirty-six years, Maloney called for an American alliance, a popular idea in pre-1914 Australia. Advocated on strictly 'racial' grounds, it was put forward to secure White Australia and national sovereignty.

“America is, therefore, not only a sentinel in the Pacific against the military dangers of the future, but in the present day is guarding us against the spread of disease from eastern countries. In what is, perhaps the most eventful epoch known in history, forty seven million people have suddenly slipped into a first place among the nations of the world, but that is no reason why we should open our doors to them. If the peril is to come, the white races were never stronger to meet it than they are today. As the years roll on, the organization of the mighty millions in China, and also in India - where the natives are not too fond of English rule - will become more complete. Millions of native races in India, not withstanding the high intellectual standard of many of them, are in a state of semi-slavery, and will never be permitted to have a vote. On the other hand, the Japanese are allowed to exercise the franchise….

I think that the proportion is larger, but there are tens of thousands of Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotsmen who are not thought fit to have a vote. The Japanese, therefore, have that which many white people do not enjoy. Then again, they have never insulted the Chinese, as our white races have too frequently done. That in itself constitutes a serious menace. If George Washington - that man of mighty intellect and splendid character, who threw aside the crown that was offered him - had with his compatriots stood between the Americans and the Africans and had said, 'these coloured men shall not come to our shores', would not the people of America have revered his memory even more, if that be possible, than they do so now? The Labour Party in Australia is standing up for a White Australia, and the Prime Minister will endorse my statement that the two words which aroused the audience at the defence meeting held in Melbourne last week to the highest pitch of enthusiasm were a White Australia….

We do not give fair play to the people of our own race. The honourable member for Kooyong why we do encourage people from Great Britain to immigrate to Australia. It is because even in this sparsely populated country the land has gone into the possession of the few. Our land system is a huge monopoly. As the leader of the government of Western Australia, the Treasurer succeeded in placing on the statute book of that state better land laws than we have here. Hundreds have to leave Victoria to seek holdings elsewhere. These are the men who would help us against the attack of alien races. If the removal of one offensive word from our statute book will enable the splendid diplomacy of the Japanese to assist us in our desire to keep Australia white, no one will welcome the change than I shall do. Peace is always better than war, but if the Japanese come here, it will be our duty to force them away by every means in our power. I do not think that the United States of America would see us controlled by an Asiatic race. If there is to be a realisation of the present fear, I hope that the Europeans will join, not in a marauding crusade, like many of those of ancient days, but in a true crusade in the interests of the white races. I hope that it will be a crusade of the Latins, the Slavs, the Teutons, and the great Anglo-Saxon-Celtic races. But no word of mine will ever give offence to the Japanese. I have too much admiration for their art and splendid inventive genius to insult them.”

December 6 1905.

“What is the Labour Party's view of migration? The Labour Party believes that we should open our arms in welcome to all the white races, first of all to the British Race, next to the Nordic races and then to the people of Switzerland and then to the northern part of Italy. It would seem that this country was given to us by Providence to hand on as the heritage of the white race. I should like the honourable member for Wentworth to know that, in my opinion if there should be in the future be a struggle between the East and the West, the colour of the people who will control the future of Australia will be the colour of those who will ultimately dominate the world. Australia is the fifth continent and the last to be settled. If we permitted it to pass out of the hands of the white race I believe that in a short space of time Europe and America would suffer a similar fate. It behoves us, therefore to people our empty spaces with immigrants of the white races, but we should not introduce people merely to lower our standard of wages. The settlement of a country like Australia is an economic question, and if women and children are brought in in order to lower our standard of wages that will tend to prevent people of the white race from making good in Australia…..

If we give white workers a chance in Australia we shall have no need to advertise for immigrants from the old land. There never was so fine an advertisement for immigrants as that which was given by the fact that we paid our soldiers who fought in the Great War more than was paid to its soldiers by any other nation, not excepting the great white republic of America. Diggers have told me that English tommies when they heard what they were getting said, that is the land for us by and by. We want no privileged classes in this country. We want men and women to know that their children will have a chance, and we should do away with class privileges such as existed in older countries, and particularly in England, where I spent so many years….

Every honourable man should work to keep this country as a heritage for the white races so that ultimately Australia may reach a pinnacle of civilisation enabling it to become the school-house of advanced legislation for the whole white world.”

July 15 1925

“We should ask the Japanese in the sacred name of reciprocity to listen to us. We should tell them that if they desire to settle in Australia we are willing, provided they tell us how many Australians are settled in Japan. No Australian owns a square inch of land in Japan. We should tell the Japanese that as the population of Japan is thirteen times greater than the population of Australia, they are welcome to thirteen times the quantity of land in Australia that Australians own in Japan. This is the one continent in the world throughout which the same language is talked, spoken and read, and we hold it as a sacred trust for the millions to come after us. We should tell the Japanese that, for every Australian settled in Japan we are prepared to welcome the settlement of thirteen Japanese in Australia. In my two visits to Japan, I met only some ten Australians who were settled there, and three of them have since left the country. Using the same word reciprocity, we should tell the Japanese that as they have adopted certain measures on the advice of Herbert Spencer, to safeguard the integrity of their country, they cannot blame us if we follow their splendid example. As imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, the Japanese cannot help being pleased if we decide to follow in their footsteps. I hope that the Attorney General, Mr. Latham, who will represent this great white Australia at the Assembly of the League of Nations, will make it plain that Australia will in no circumstances permit the White Australia Policy to be tampered with. I should prefer to see every man, woman and child in Australia dead rather than lower that flag of ours.”

July 30 1926.

6. Edward James Holloway

Born Tasmania 1881, boot-maker, official of the Boot-makers' Union, President and General Secretary of the Melbourne Trades Council, state and federal president of the ALP, Member of the House of Representatives for Flinders, 1929-1931 and Melbourne Ports 1931-1951, Assistant Minister for Industry and Assistant to the Treasurer 1931, Minister for Health and Social Securities 1941-3, Assistant Minister for Labour and National Service, June - September 1943, and Minister 1943-49, Acting Prime Minister and Acting Minister for External Affairs April-May 1949.

“I recall that when I attended a conference at Geneva, the principle of the White Australia Policy arose, and among the representatives of three or four nationalities, exception was taken to it. I was able to point out that the White Australia principle was a matter of national policy, and was not dictated by any hatred of coloured races. I declared that our Constitution differed from that of any other country in that that there was no colour bar. We did not make a black man walk on the side of the road or prevent him from riding in first class railway carriages if he desired to do so. There are, however, such inconsistencies as that which I have mentioned which spoil the general trend of the Australian Constitution.”

October 1936.

7. Senator De Largie

Born 1859, died 1947. Miner, General President AWA, Senator for Western Australia 1901-1923.

“If I were to judge from the tenor of the speeches of some honourable senators this afternoon, I should come to the conclusion that the White Australia question was one of no great importance at the last election. It has been described as being a mere political cry, and those who favour it have been represented as rather hunting after popularity than anything else. While I do not presume to thoroughly understand the full purport of the question in relation to the eastern and southern states of the Commonwealth, I can with much more certainty speak of the feeling that existed at the time of the Federal elections in the western state. I can assure the Senate that there could have been no greater unanimity or enthusiasm on any subject than there was on the question of a white Australia. So much was that the case, that no candidate at the election could have had a possible hope of support unless he was thoroughly sound upon this particular question. There was no counterfeiting about the cry for a White Australia in the state I represent. Every Senator returned was elected upon that question. Therefore, as far as the western Senators are concerned, we have no doubt whatever about our position. Perhaps that has been brought about owing to the fact that in Western Australia we have had a taste of what the Asiatic curse is. We have also had in operation here legislation similar to that proposed in this Bill, and we have found out how very deficient it is. We have thus come to the conclusion that the proposals of the government are altogether inadequate. Senator Harney last night struck the keynote of the position as far as the educational test is concerned. We have tried it in Western Australia, and it has failed so miserably, that we are able to produce figures which although incomplete, prove our contention…

Perhaps this is an Imperial matter, but in my opinion, it is far more of an Australian question. So far as I have been able to understand it, the people at home, with the exception perhaps of the officials in Downing Street, do not care how the question is decided. It is a matter of indifference to them. They have not given much consideration to it. It has been said that the small population is presumptuous enough to desire to dictate to the Empire in this matter, and that we want the forty million people at home to play second fiddle. I am confident however, that not one million out of the forty million have ever allowed this matter to cross their minds. Downing Street may have given much thought to it, but there are millions of Britishers who have not. The question naturally arises whether we are to listen to the notions of Downing Street in this regard, or to consider the demand of the electors of Australia. Putting it in a nutshell, the question is whether Downing Street or the people of Australia are to be the governing power in this instance….

How would the very people to whom such frequent references has been made - the Japanese - act if they were in the same predicament as that in which we find ourselves? Would they have any doubt in the matter if they felt that they were in danger from an influx of foreigners to such an extent that their country would be swamped by these foreigners. Would not the law of self-preservation dictate the action they should take? Would they want to elicit the opinions of people on the other side of the world before determining how they should meet the case? It is absurd to say that because Mr. Chamberlain looks upon the colour test with displeasure, we should not carry out the wishes of the country. Whether it be an inconvenience to Chamberlain, or any other British statesman, I should be prepared to vote in accordance with the wishes of the country. I should like to read some expressions of opinion given in Western Australia upon this question. They are not very long, while they are very much to the point. They come from people whose opinions are well worthy of consideration in a matter of this kind. I shall first read a telegram from the President of the Australian Natives' Association in Western Australia, which is one of the most powerful and influential friendly societies there.

The President was instructed to telegraph the opinions of the society, and he wired me as follows: 'Australian Natives' Association of Western Australia strongly supports total exclusion of Asiatics. Protests against consideration of anything but Australia interests. Let Australia's loyalty be for Australia first'”

8. Senator McGregor

Born Scotland 1848, died 1914. Store-keeper, labourer, trades union official, South Australian State President of the ALP 1893-99, Member of the Legislative Council for Southern District 1894-1901, Senator for South Australia 1901-1914. Leader in Senate 1901-1914.

“We shall talk about half a loaf when we cannot get the whole loaf. Those who are opposed altogether to legislation of this description are opposed to it for various reasons. I propose to indicate some of those reasons in my own way. Some say there is no necessity for this legislation. Others say - for the view has been given expression to here, if not directly, then inferentially - that it would not be advisable to exclude the people of some of these Asiatic countries, first, on account of the tropical character of some of our territory and secondly because some of them are British subjects….

I feel confident that the reason why Australia has not been invaded to a far greater extent by coloured aliens is that legislation has been passed in some of the states, and that very hazy ideas in their minds with respect to Australia put them in such a state of doubt that they can hardly tell which state they can come to and not be debarred from entering, and sooner than run any risk they stop away. I believe that several arguments have been used to show that there is no absolute necessity for aliens to be brought in to develop the resources of certain portions of the Commonwealth. All that is required is proper opportunity for the Australian people, and those who may come from countries more civilised than do coloured aliens, to carry out that development. Even with the very limited opportunities which aliens have had for coming to Australia and in spite of the restricted legislation in some of the states, a great evil exists…

Did not the honourable Senator use the term 'parrot cry' in a more extended sense than that? He said, in the words of a great man who is gone, that it is the virtues and not the vices of these races that we have to fear. Even against the authority of Senator MacFarlane and Mr. Gladstone, I deny that it is their virtues that we fear. We are told that it is their frugality, industry, and energy that we fear. Is it thrift to live on rice, and almost the most degrading offal that our animals live on, when nature has provided us with a world that will give us everything of the best.? Do honourable Senators call it energy or industry for aliens to work almost all the night and the greater portion of the day for the purpose of getting together this heap of offal, and that they may live on it? Are the aliens to be compared with the Australian people, who desire to get everything they possibly can from the land they belong to, to live in the best and most civilised manner that nature will allow, and to do all this in reasonable hours, to have sufficient time for recreation, the cultivation of their intelligence.”

November 15 1901.

9. John West

Born 1851, died 1931. Plumber, official Master Plumbers' Association, delegate to trades council, Member of the House of Representatives for East Sydney 1910-1931.

“That is a small matter compared with the maintenance of our White Australia Policy. I remember that Sir Henry Parkes, as Premier of New South Wales, placed a poll tax of one hundred pounds on Chinese, there was quite a turmoil on Circular Quay, numbers of men, each armed with a lump of wood, being prepared to meet the immigrants. The Chinese were on the ships in the harbours, and I asked Sir Henry whether he intended to prevent our stopping a Asiatic races from entering this country of ours - whether he would like his daughter to bring home to tea on a Sunday one of the Chinese as her young man. Would you like a lascar for your son-in-law, I asked. He replied, Jack, I certainly would not. Then, said I, you should not do anything that would make it possible for any girl to put her father in that relation. That would be the result of any departure from our White Australia Policy. Either the white population would be driven out of our northern areas or they would be dragged down to the level of the coloured and Asiatic races. Any attempt in this direction must be sternly checked. The authority of state governments must give way to the will of the national parliament.”

August 1924.

10. Frank Brennan

Born Victoria 1880, died 1950. Member of the House of Representatives for Batman, 1911-1931, 1934-1949, Attorney-General 1929-1932.

“That, according to honourable members opposite, is the danger which confronts. In the discussion of the Development And Migration Bill, the argument was advanced again and again that unless we populated this country some other country would challenge our right to hold it. We have been told on more than one occasion that nations which have overcrowded populations may challenge by force of arms our right to hold this country. The honourable Member for Richmond, Mr. Green, says that we will fight for it. I ask him if he really means that we shall fight for Australia, or hang on to the apron strings of the mother country…

Does the honourable member accept the popular view of his side that our fight will be futile and hopeless if we stand alone?…

What right have we to talk about a White Australia if we are not prepared to back up our claim by our own strength? That brings me to the point that, if we cannot defend our policy of a White Australia, upon what ground can we expect Great Britain to support that policy for us?…

I suggest that by no right - moral, international or legal - can we call upon Great Britain to unsheath the sword in defence of the policy of a White Australia, without making her appear utterly ridiculous - and worse still, odious - in the eyes of the nations of the world. Does the honourable member recognise what are the constitute parts of the British Empire? Does he know that hundreds of millions of coloured people go to the making up of that Empire? The white people in our Empire are comparatively insignificant in number compared with the coloured races. According to the arguments of honourable members opposite, there is a possibility of our being attacked by a nation whose population is over-crowded, because we are selfishly holding for a handful of people a vast, unused territory of potential wealth. If we are attacked upon that ground we shall be called upon to defend an immoral position, and Great Britain's support of such a position would be ten times more immoral and untenable….

Therefore, I come to two conclusions - that if the policy of a White Australia is challenged by force of arms we shall be absolutely thrown upon our own resources, and that from the military point of view it would be impracticable to attempt to defend ourselves….

That we cannot look to Britain to defend a White Australia….

What has become of the strategy of the German Empire, the greatest military nation in the world? She has thrown it all adrift. Germany is said to have lost the war. In God's name, in what way has she lost the war any more than Great Britain or France has lost it? Certain it is that we have all lost by the war, and even the light of international jealousy fails to show what country was more particularly to blame than another for the curse that came upon us…

We all lost the war, unmistakably, no country gained by it, or gained anything but death, devastation, and debt. Let us have no misunderstanding about the real facts.”

July 30 1926

11. Senator Hoare

Born South Australia 1880. Labourer and storeman. Trades Union official, Senator for South Australia 1923-1935.

“Senator Millen expressed the fear that the White Australia Policy was in danger. I go further and say that the whole of the white races of the world are in danger. Their position is such that it was folly on their part to war with each other a few years ago. The coloured races must have viewed with much complacency the trend of events in Europe which gave rise to the war that shattered western civilisation. In all probability there is now approaching a war even greater than was the last - a war between the coloured and the white races of the world. Therefore, the white races should come to a common understanding, and present a united front to the potential enemies. We say that the policy of a White Australia is worth defending and we are prepared to defend it…

In speaking thus of a White Australia, I am well within my rights as a member of the Labor Party. I repeat that the White Australia Policy is worth defending, and that we are prepared to defend it.”

August 13 1924.

12. Senator Ogden

Born Victoria 1868, died 1932. Miner, President AWA 1904. Member of the House of Representatives for Zeehan 1906-1909, for Darwin 1909-1922. Treasurer October 1912. Chief Secretary and Minister for Mines and Labour 1914-1916, Senator for Tasmania 1923-1932.

“I believe in implicitly in the principle of a White Australia, but I do not think it can be maintained simply by waving a sheet of paper containing the dictation test. If we want to preserve it, and I am sure we all do, we shall have to provide means for maintaining it, by force, if necessary. We cannot keep out the people of the Japanese race by means of a dictation test, and we do not want them to come into competition with Australian workers. There would be a public outcry if Parliament removed the present embargo against the introduction of Asiatic labour. What would happen if we cast adrift our defence policy and severed our connection with Great Britain? I do not say that the Japanese would attempt to come here by force of arms, but if we were no party to the scheme of empire-protection, they would certainly insist on the removal of certain provisions in our Immigration Act, and would then invade Australia by the process of peaceful penetration.”




I produce hereafter a number of extracts from Labor's political programme (as it developed). I produce some other text and cartoons of the day. All documents a sincere Nationalism and commitment to a new economic-social order built for the whole people.

From William G. Spence, Australia's Awakening

The Worker newspaper expressed the concern that Queensland capitalist were allied with Japanese investors who were pushing for immigration rights. Before its time?

These programmes appeared at a time when words like 'racial purity' did not invite the liberal 'hate' chorus, because these words symbolised a positive not a negative dream for Australia. Note that 'White Australia' and economic-social reform were placed side by side.

Another programmatic expression of Labor nationalist principle.

The futility of a 'language test' to keep out undesirable immigrants was understood by Australian patriots.


The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture