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Rethinking the White Australia Policy

By Andrew Fraser - posted Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Over the past 30 years, Australia, along with just about every other Western society, has been transformed by a revolution engineered from the top down by the leading echelons of the corporate welfare state. “New Class” cadres of managers, professionals, politicians and academics have dismantled the foundations of Australian nationhood. The arbitration system, the protective tariff and the White Australia Policy: all have gone in order to facilitate the free flow of capital, technology and labour in a globalist economy.

The most revolutionary, by far, of these radical changes has been the decision to open Australia to mass Third World immigration. Since the end of World War II a strange alliance of Communists, Christian churches, ethnic lobbies and other pressure groups working through the corporate sector and within the centralised apparatus of state power has set out deliberately to flood the Anglo-Australian homeland with a polyglot mass of Third World immigrants.

Chief among the ideological weapons deployed in that campaign have been the interwoven myths of equality and universal human rights as enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. According to that document, “any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous”. There can therefore be “no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere”. Those who subscribed to the doctrine of racial egalitarianism were bound to oppose a colour bar on immigration to Australia as being both immoral and pointless.


Racial egalitarianism flies in the face of the more realistic premises of the White Australia Policy. The founding fathers of the Australian nation regarded racial differences as a fact of life and racial conflict as the inevitable consequence of a multiracial society. In their view, ethnic homogeneity was one of the great strengths of the Australian nation, one that ought not to be thrown away in pursuit of utopian visions of universal harmony in which lions could be re-educated to lie down with lambs.

Advances in genetics, paleo-anthropology, psychology and medical science are placing the universalist doctrines of racial egalitarianism under serious pressure. A vast range of studies in a number of disciplines has revealed real and important differences between the races in cognitive and athletic ability, behaviour and temperament. Faced with such intellectual challenges, defenders of the ruling orthodoxy are resorting to social ostracism, legal repression and even the sort of physical coercion deployed against members of the One Nation Party some years back. The time is clearly ripe for a courageous and well-informed reappraisal of the White Australia Policy and the decision to dismantle it, but Keith Windschuttles’s recent book, The White Australia Policy, is a disappointment.

Windschuttle’s rehabilitation of the White Australia Policy is premised on a familiar tenet of neo-conservatism: he maintains that the operating premise of Australian society is the proposition that all people are equal in principle and in potential. Windschuttle contends that the White Australia Policy, far from being the reactionary spawn of an irredeemably racist nation, grew out of a long-established, progressive program aiming “to extend both the freedom and the dignity of labour”.

Windschuttle insists that mainstream Australians have never subscribed to biological theories of race. He is struck by the ease with which opponents of the White Australia Policy were able to overturn it.

For decades, there was no effective political opposition to the revolution from above in immigration law and policy. Among the managerial and professional classes, a complacently “cosmopolitan” consensus reigned supreme; the political equilibrium was not upset until the meteoric rise of the One Nation party in the late 1990s. Then, for a brief, shining moment, the patriotic instincts of the more “parochial” outer suburban, white Australians found a political voice.

As a committed racial egalitarian, Windschuttle desperately wants to drive a stake through the heart of racial realism. He worries that residual forms of racial identity might someday reawaken in the hearts of white Australians. For that reason, Windschuttle happily joins the left in its attack upon race as “an unscientific category”, as a thoroughly modern, bad idea “engendered by the new social sciences and brought to maturity by the evolutionary biology of the 19th century”. Windschuttle resolutely denies that differences between “races” have a biological or genetic foundation. For him, the evident differences between the various races of mankind are the malleable product of their cultures and the particular stage each may have reached in the long ascent from savagery to civilisation. Somewhat imprudently, Windschuttle suggests that to take any other view on this question “is to betray one’s ignorance of the subject”.


There is still room for debate on the precise genetic contribution to any given racial difference in, for example, intelligence, temperament, criminality and athletic ability. But, that such racial differences do exist and that they have a biological basis is no longer open to serious scientific question. As Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele put it, “the case for race hinges on recognition that genetic variation in traits that affect performance and ultimately survival is the fuel on which the evolutionary process runs”. Without that “functional genetic variation, there can be no adaptive evolution”.

In fact, Sarich and Miele suggest the range of genetic variation between different races of Homo sapiens is much greater than for any other species, including domesticated dogs. They observe that commonly used genetic tests can determine with great precision not just an individual’s race but also “the percentage of racial background in people of mixed ancestry”.

Race exists, and it matters across a wide range of public policy issues. It is of particular relevance to any analysis of immigration law and policy. Windschuttle does recognise the seemingly insuperable cultural barriers alienating mainstream Australians from other racial groups, particularly the Chinese. Nevertheless he asserts that it is a fundamental error “to slide from the concept of culture to that of race”. Cultural differences are not inbred and immutable.

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Article edited by Margaret-Ann Williams.
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This is an edited extract of Associate Professor Andrew Fraser's paper entitled Rethinking the White Australia Policy. The paper in full can be found at

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About the Author

Andrew Fraser is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Law, Macquarie University, Sydney.

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