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Unleashing the White Australia virus

By Chek Ling - posted Friday, 22 May 2020

At any rate there is no need to goad them. The May 4th Movement in 1919 was a spontaneous uprising, all credits to our own Billy Hughes! His brazen insistence on the righteousness of the White Australia Policy at the Versailles Peace Conference had resulted in the Shandong Province's being given to the Japanese as a diplomatic face-saver. That was the fuse that lit the May 4 Movement. It should tell us that China is capable of producing its own intellectual class committed to reforming their polity.

Shandong, as it transpired, became in 1931 the beach-head for Japan to launch its 15 year long military carnage and germ warfare experimentation upon China. The Chinese cannot forget all this history, just as our Indigenous peoples have not forgotten their "dispersal", the dispossession of their land, their stolen generation, and their own Anzacs discarded on the scrap heap upon their return from Europe.

If we want to advance humanity across the oceans we need to put our feet in the shoes of the people towards whom we have historical antipathies. But if we care only about chop-sueying up some cold-war remains to rally the lackadaisically educated, still nostalgic about our Imperial heritage, but living largely hand-to-mouth in voter-land, then anything will do.


It seems that the White Australia Virus (WAV-1901) has been unleashed again, this time in response to Covid-19. It seems to break out every time we feel our existential fragility: Blainey in 1984 who fomented the fear that social cohesion was strained by the trickle of Asian immigrants; Hanson in 1996 who claimed that we were being swamped by Asians who would not integrate; and now Covid-19, the pestilence pasted upon an authoritarian China, as though presaged by the popular Fu Manchu novels in which the eponymous evil no-slouch with doctorates from Cambridge and America, also extensively featured in cinema, television, radio and comics for much of the 20th century, was hell-bent on bringing western civilisation to its knees. The plucky Englishman creator, in his end days, confessed that he knew nothing about China!

Is his legacy still with us?

I hear a distant rumble: Donald Horne, turning in his grave. He had after all taken down "Australia for the White Man" from the masthead of The Bulletin, not long before he chronicled the Lucky Country of the '60s.

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This article was first published on Pearls and Irritations.

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About the Author

Chek Ling arrived in Melbourne in 1962 to study engineering, under the Colombo Plan, from the then British Colony of Sarawak, now part of Malaysia. Decades later, the anti-Asian episodes fomented by Blainey and later Hanson turned him into a mature age activist.

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