The first parliamentary legislation seen and passed in Australia in 1901 was to restrict immigration. Ironically, those bringing that legislation had immigrated to the continent already inhabited by hundreds of Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigine nations.
The landscape was not one that anyone would describe as a “white continent.” Still, those who descended on the indigenous people wanted to ensure that the populace remains collectively British.
In an effort to enforce this strategy, the settlers went about implementing legislation to that effect. Please see the White Australia Policy page for details. These were following policies already set in parts of the country restricting Chinese immigrants from entering.
The Immigration Restriction Act
Australian Parliament enacted the Immigration Restriction Act in the year 1901. It was a first for legislation with an anglocentric focus revealing which immigrants the Act prohibited. Some of the descriptors in the language included (quote) “an idiot or insane person,” a person who suffers with “an infectious or dangerous disease,” or “sex workers.”
A primary contingency indicated that an individual had to pass a dictation exam to enter the country. A migrant needs to pass a 50-word test with immigration officers deciding on the European language. Later, any language was acceptable. The strategy gave the officer full authority to bar those felt to be unworthy of entry.
The dictation exam effectively kept non-white from attempting to make the journey to the continent and prevented shipping companies from issuing tickets to people who were bound to fail. By the year 1909, only slightly over 50 people could excel out of approximately 1500 taken. After that point, no one passed.
With the Immigration Restriction Act, Parliament added a policy known as “turfing out.” Officials could give a dictation test to a non-citizen resident convicted of a violent crime when released. If they failed the test, the officials would deport the person. It applied to everyone who was not born within the country except those of British descent—view details of the Immigrations Restriction Act at https://www.naa.gov.au/explore-collection/immigration-and-citizenship/immigration-restriction-act-1901/.
The Pacific Islander Laborers Act
Upon “founding” the nation, the federal government passed another bit of legislation meant to enact deportation laws. Beginning in 1863, coercion, often kidnapping, resulted in South Sea Islanders coming to Australia for work in various industries. The practice became known as “blackbirding.”
The individuals saw very little pay with treatment, not unlike that of a “slave,” but the term used for them was more along the lines of (quote) “indentured laborers.” Sadly, the officials segregated the islanders from society, punishments were of a corporeal nature, and in most cases, the laborers worked themselves to death.
British descendants were less than happy with blackbirding because these processes threatened their own jobs. Once the lowly laborers helped construct the industries, federal laws instituted deportation of the remaining islanders.
The Post And Telegraph Act 1901
The White Australia Policy also comprised the Post and Telegraph Act dictating how these services would operate under the Postmaster-General’s guidance. These were important to the descendants because they outlined how posts coming from abroad would enter Australia.
A section of this law pertaining to foreign mail basically reads that the government would not agree to receive posts from other countries abroad unless there was a condition in the agreement that only a white laborer would be responsible for carriage.
In essence, it’s the last base that needs covering for the British to carry out the intention to maintain an Anglo Australia by avoiding migrants referred to deplorably as “alien colored” walking on Australian shores. The White Australia Policy stood firm until 1958 when the Migration Act ended many of the key policies.
It seems the British might have had second thoughts here and there about their narrow thought process when the government began to suffer due to labor shortages under the famous policy. But that doesn’t mean the country has committed to multicultural diversity as is often associated with varied Australian marketing schemes.
The “turf out” deportation policy for convicted non-citizen residents made to take dictation tests (not British) happens. Still, there are amendments as soon as 2014. That includes the notation that any kind of sentence amounting to 12 months or more results in automatic deportation. Some people would go for a mere build-up of minor offences even if they lived on the continent their entire life.
The government tried to use this policy against Aboriginal gentlemen who were not born in Australia. Still, the High Court disallowed, saying they could not deport indigenous people from the country as aliens. Go here for an account of how one refugee signalled the end of White Australia Power.
The White Australia Policy might not be “officially” active, but it seems the government uses it as a reference anytime they need to make changes, or there are changes in Parliament. There’s evidence that when the prime minister in 2014 decided the “turf out” was actually a good idea and needed to be made just a little bit more stringent.
Now deportation of non-citizen residents convicted of any crime with a sentence of 12 months or more (even if these are an accumulation of minor offences) will be automatically deported. There have been thousands of people taken out of the country, many of whom were New Zealanders, and attempted removals of Aborigines.
The latest “quiet” announcement was the addition of English language exams for partners of permanent residents who plan to migrate to Australia. The logic is that these potential residents need to have a sense of economic and social empowerment when entering the community. Without these skills, partners can be at risk for domestic violence or abuses within the workforce, or violation of their rights.
Is this genuinely a noble attempt to protect a group of people from having problems when they come into Australia, or is this another method for keeping people from entering? Does Australia strive to be the diverse, multicultural country they claim, or will they always have a white goal?