Black Power and a multi-racial society, by Arthur Calwell

[In this extract from his autobiography, Be Just and Fear Not, Arthur Calwell mounts a passionate defence of Australia’s traditional immigration policies; opposes non-European immigration; and explains that the creation of multi-racial societies invariably leads to bloodshed and disaster. Calwell was Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-1949), and was leader of the Australian Labor Party (1960-1967).]

Black Power and a multi-racial society

Arthur Calwell, Be Just and Fear NotAll nations — black, brown, yellow and white — are racist, simply because the world consists of different races and nations. All races suffer from a deep feeling of xenophobia and all are determined to preserve the homogeneity of their own people. They all reject the brotherhood of man concept. Some people call me a racist because I am proud of the blood that flows through my veins. I am proud of my white skin, just as a Chinese is proud of his yellow skin, a Japanese his brown skin, and the Indians of their various hues from black to coffee-coloured. Anybody who is not proud of his race is not a man at all. And any man who tries to stigmatize the Australian community as racist because they want to preserve this country for the white race is doing our nation great harm. Those who talk about a multi-racial society are really talking about a polyglot nation. Some people talk about a multi-racial society without knowing what the term really means, while others talk about it because they are anxious to change our society. No matter where the pressures come from, Australian people will continue to resist all attempts to destroy our white society.

I reject, in conscience, the idea that Australia should or can ever become a multi-racial society and survive. More straight-thinking and less intellectual dishonesty are essential for any worthwhile discussion on Australia’s restricted immigration policy. What do those who advocate the creation of a multi-racial Australian society really mean? Do they even know what they mean? Do they want Australia to cease to be a homogeneous nation? No nation can be homogeneous and multi-racial at the same time. Our ever-increasing band of pseudo-intellectuals should be aware of that.

Do the multi-racialists want Australia to consist of a small number of people from all the African and Asian nations, or do they want to admit millions of coloured migrants from those nations for permanent settlement in a continent that was first settled 184 years ago by Europeans while other, nearer nations passed it by as a useless, barren land? If Australians are ever foolish enough to open their gates in a significant way to people other than Europeans, they will soon find themselves fighting desperately to stop the nation from being flooded by hordes of non-integratables. Then we will also need a Race Relations Board. None is needed now. A Race Relations Board is necessary only where there are racial problems and racial tensions. We are currently spared this rather expensive luxury.

Every country has the inalienable right to determine the composition of its own population. Its policies on immigration are its own affair. It is entitled to enforce them without any interference from any other nation. And this applies equally to every nation, large or small, be it in Asia, Africa, Europe, America or Australia. The question of morality or ethics does not arise and cannot be artificially created.

In 1964, the brutal slogan, ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour’, was daubed on walls and hoardings in the electorate of Smethwick during the British general election campaign. The slogan took deadly effect. It led to the defeat of Patrick Gordon Walker, a Minister in Harold Wilson’s Labour Government. Three years earlier, Walker had opposed the Conservative Government’s Commonwealth Immigration Bill, denouncing it as ‘bare-faced open race discrimination, serving only to keep non-whites out’. He criticized the timing of the Bill and maintained that the real issues were social relations, housing and jobs. It all added up to an implication that the workers of England could be sacrificed. No wonder Walker lost. It was his defence of unrestricted Asian-African immigration that humiliated him and triggered of the violent outburst of xenophobic feeling that now burns fiercely in British politics and will persist for many years to come. Enoch Powell is not the cause of all this bitterness. He is a shrewd, calculating spokesman for those in Britain who say that one and a-half million non-integratable Asians and Africans in a population of 60 million whites are far too many. There will be three million of them by the end of this century, because they are fecund people. Powell has been saying what millions of white Britons think, and I believe. And it must not be forgotten that it was Enoch Powell, and not Edward Heath, who defeated Harold Wilson’s Labour Government. Russell Kerr, an Australian-born Labour member of the House of Commons, is one of many who testified to this frightening fact. Three years ago, London dockers marched to the House of Commons to cheer Enoch Powell because they feared that coloured migration would threaten their jobs. It was Powell who said that by 1980, the City of Wolverhampton, in his own electorate, will have a black mayor and an all-Black council. In 200 years, every Englishman will have a dash and more than a dash of Indian, Pakistani or Caribbean blood in his veins if two million of these people in Great Britain become integrated.

Australia, like every other country, has the right to determine the composition of its population, the rate of its development, and the measures to be taken to guard its security. These are matters for determination by the Australian Parliament alone. They are not matters to be decided by newspapermen, multi-racialists, academics, humanists and a handful of assertive, garrulous State politicians and over-zealous do-gooders. These people all mouth noble ideals. A noble ideal is a wonderful thing, but common sense must be used in its application. A little idealism must be mixed with large doses of pragmatism. I suggest that the Colombo Plan, now twenty years old, has fulfilled its purpose and should be scrapped. It should be replaced by a better system costing Australia as much money, or more. No more Asian or African students should be brought into Australia. High-ranking Australians should be sent to teach more of these students in their own countries.

Australia can admit a migration intake of only one per cent of the current population each year. There should be no reduction of British, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Maltese or such migrants, but we should tread warily when dealing with applications from certain other countries. The Labor Party’s policy on immigration permits of no ambiguity or misrepresentation. Those who think it means that a Labor Government would be authorized to open the flood gates to Indians, Pakistanis, Ceylonese, Indonesians or Caribbean negroes are hopelessly wrong. Such a policy would cause a grievous split and jeopardise Labor’s election prospects. Foolish people who try to help their arguments for a multi-racial society by abusing Spaniards, Greeks, Lebanese, Maltese and Italians, betray their own arrogance and sectarianism. The next generation of these good people will be well-educated, devoted citizens. They will be absorbed into the Australian community. The non-Europeans who are troubling the United Kingdom today will always be ‘chip on the shoulder’ citizens. Some of them will always be unhappy misfits while others will become ‘black power’ happy. The British, more than any other people, erred badly in allowing so many Asians and Africans to settle in their country under the guise of being British citizens.

I saw very few coloured people in Moscow, Leningrad and the Ukraine during my visit to Russia in 1967. It is not easy for non-Russians, white or non-white, to enter Russia. The same is true of Germany and Poland. Mrs Gandhi has told the white missionaries in India, men and women of various religions and nationalities, that they can stay until they die or leave India, but no permission will be given for any replacements. Is Mrs Gandhi a racist? Ceylon insisted that 600,000 of the 800,000 Tamil Indians in Ceylon must go back to India. Is Ceylon racist?

For political and diplomatic reasons, the 1965 Federal ALP conference removed the words ‘White Australia’ from the Labor Party platform. We certainly did not try to water down the policy nor take the ideal of a White Australia from the hearts and minds of the Australian people. Nobody will ever be able to do that. A Gallup Poll published in October, 1969, showed that only 9 per cent of those interviewed would favour the admission of 10,000 or more Asians a year, and only 5 per cent would admit between 2,000 and 9,000 a year. Twenty-two per cent of the people said 1,000 Asians a year was all right, 6 per cent would reduce Asian immigration, and 8 per cent would stop it completely. Fifty per cent of those interviewed did not give an opinion. As the recent rate of Asian immigration has been much higher than l,000 a year, the poll indicated that 36 per cent of our population would not care if all Asian immigration was greatly curtailed. Another Gallup Poll, published in September, 1971, found that Australians were two-to-one against increasing immigration from Asia to 25,000 a year. Interviewers told the people that about 3,000 non-Europeans and about 7,000 people of mixed blood were being given permanent residential status in Australia each year. Sixty per cent of those interviewed opposed an increase to 25,000 a year, 30 per cent favoured it, and the rest were undecided. Among the reasons given for opposing an increase were ‘There are enough Asians coming here now’ and ‘They create racial problems’. Those who favoured the increase often qualified their answers by saying that Asians should be admitted only if they were educated and properly screened.

The Labor Party’s immigration platform, as approved by the 1971 Federal conference in Launceston, contains six clauses, one of which is ‘the avoidance of discrimination on any grounds of race or colour of skin or nationality.’ However, an earlier clause calls for ‘the avoidance of the difficult social and economic problems which may follow from an influx of peoples having different standards of living, traditions and cultures.’ A number of Labor Parliamentarians have warned the leader, Mr Whitlam, that an open door policy towards coloured migrants would cause a grievous split and jeopardise Labor’s future, particularly in South Australia, where many British migrants have arrived to escape the racial tensions in the United Kingdom.

South Australia’s Premier said while visiting Singapore that Australia should admit 27,000 non-European migrants each year. This would mean a total of more than a quarter of a million coloured people, including Indians, Pakistanis, West Indians and other unassimilable races in 10 years, and about 600,000 in 20 years. I think 3,000 coloured people a year is too many. When the extraordinary idea of bringing in 27,000 a year is accompanied by the insulting implication that the same number of Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, Maltese, Spaniards, Egyptians of European origin, and Jews, whose relatives are already here, should be denied admission to Australia to make place for coloured people, I resent the whole proposition. I appreciate all the hard, devoted, constructive labour which the Italians, Maltese, Greeks, Lebanese and other Mediterranean people have expended and are expending to build a happy, self-contained Australia in the years ahead.

In the South Australian Parliament, the Premier described Australia’s immigration policy as racist. His allegation was rejected by the Federal Minister for Immigration, Dr Forbes, who said:

Racism means prejudice, bigotry and attitudes of superiority, all of which emphatically have no place in Australia’s immigration policy. Mr Dunstan well knows that the aim of the policy is to avoid serious social problems, but he chooses to distort or ignore this basic principle. It is disturbing also that he should misrepresent Australia’s policy of expecting overseas students to return to their homelands when their studies are completed. He should be aware that Australia is trying in this way to relieve neighbouring countries’ shortages of qualified people. Successful Asian students whose qualifications are not needed in their own countries are allowed to stay. Is this racism?

It was reported that at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labor Party executive in Canberra on October 13, 1971, the former Labor spokesman on immigration, Mr Fred Daly, cross-examined Mr Whitlam about the party’s immigration policy. Mr Daly asked Mr Whitlam to spell out Labor policy with regard to assisted passages without any discrimination on any grounds of race, colour or nationality. Mr Whitlam was reported to have said that the policy meant what it said: that non-Europeans, all things being equal, would be eligible for assisted passages. It was pointed out by Mr Daly that this policy could mean, in certain circumstances, that the majority of assisted migrants arriving from Britain could be of non-European origin. Mr Whitlam was reported to have agreed that this was correct. We have never prevented anyone from entering Australia because of colour, but because we feared interference with our living standards by unintegratable minorities.

Since Federation, the number of coloured people entering Australia has been limited because of economic considerations. We do not want a repetition of the race riots that occurred with the Chinese on the goldfields at Buckland River, in Victoria; at Lambing Flat, now Young, in New South Wales; and at Gympie, in Queensland. Later there was trouble over the importation or ‘black-birding’ of Kanaka labourers from the Pacific islands into the Queensland canefields. At that time the argument was bruited forth that white men could not live in the tropics. But there have since been three or four generations of the same white families born and raised in the tropical regions of Australia, and they are as healthy as, if not more healthy, than many people born in the more temperate zones of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

The question of White Australia was raised at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Canberra in 1959. I was chosen to speak in defence of the policy. One of the delegates was Learie Constantine, a famous West Indian cricketer who was later knighted and became a member of the House of Lords. After I had explained our policy of admitting a limited number of non-European migrants, the delegates from Africa, the West Indies, India and Pakistan were still not entirely happy, but they were greatly mollified.

I said:

White Australia is a term that finds no place in any of our laws. It was a term that grew up forty years before we had a Federation. It is journalese. It arose over difficulties on the goldfields between Chinese and, for the most part, Englishmen, Scotsmen and Irishmen who had also come here in search of gold. Under our immigration laws, we do not exclude people solely because of race or colour. There is not one delegate to this conference who could not come to Australia to live permanently if he could fulfil the requirements of our laws . . . Our laws are much more liberal than are many Asian laws in respect of immigration. There is discrimination in Asian laws, as I know, between the peoples of one Asian country and another, but it is the right of Asian people to discriminate, if they wish to do so, even against fellow Asians or any other people. The Americans have a quota system. They allow 100 Australians into the United States each year. They allow in 100 Indians and 100 Chinese each year. But they allow 65,000 Englishmen and 25,000 Germans and 5,000 Italians and 2,600 Russians to enter their country each year. As an Australian, I refuse to believe that one Englishman is better than 650 Australians or that one Russian is better than twenty-six Australians, no matter what American immigration laws might say. But if that is the way the Americans wish to have it, let it be. I am the grandson of an American; I have a tremendous regard for America, but I am not worried about the provisions of American immigration law, because I want to live and die in my own country, and I think most Asian people want to live and die in their own country. Very few people anywhere ever want to emigrate if they can avoid doing so.

When the conference adjourned, I met the former Australian Test cricketer, Jack Fingleton, who was working there as a reporter. He was waiting to go to dinner with Learie Constantine, who, by his long residence in England, was regarded more as an Englishman than a West Indian. Fingleton introduced me to Constantine, who said with a glint in his eyes: ‘Never mind the bloody White Australia policy. Come and have a drink.’ So we went and had a drink. In fact we had three drinks. And I respected Constantine, because he was a highly intelligent man who recognized the wisdom of our immigration policy.

My colleague, Dr Jim Cairns, asserted in Perth in 1971 that a Federal Labor Government would admit more than 12,000 coloured migrants a year. This is four times as many as the average intake of all coloured migrants, apart from those of mixed blood, who had been given entry permits in the previous three years. If we established a quota system, would we allow more migrants from India, with its huge population, than from Ceylon or Fiji? This is one criterion that would have to be determined. How many manual workers would be admitted? And how many educated people? Would we exclude qualified architects and engineers because there was an over-supply of people in these professions in Australia? I am completely opposed to our bringing out coloured doctors from India, Pakistan, Ceylon, the West Indies and England when our various medical boards will not permit enough Australians to graduate each year, either on the pretext of lack of teachers, lack of facilities, lack of cadavers, or lack of money. Indian and Pakistani doctors, in particular, should be encouraged to go back to their own countries, where the need of their services is the greatest. They should show some patriotic interest in the sufferings of their fellow countrymen, women and children. Hundreds of thousands of emaciated and disease-ridden Pakistani and Indian people have been dying from malnutrition and a lack of medical attention. I have always objected, and I always will, to the sending of Australian doctors and nurses to Asian and African countries while we import people from those countries. The sooner these ridiculous practices cease, the better it will be for the peace of mind of the Australian people, and the better, too, for the victims of social and wage injustices in the Indian sub-continent.

In a debate on immigration in the House of Commons in l971, the British Home Secretary, Mr Reginald Maudling, said that when considering the admission of people from other countries, the Government’s first concern must be for the people of Britain. He said Britain must be protected from the tensions which were such a sadly frequent feature of modern life in many countries. I think the same applies to Australia. I maintain that a big influx of coloured migrants would be a menace to social standards and to the trade union movement. The coloured people would tend to congregate in ghettos. They would form the nucleus of ‘black power’ in Australia. They would try to identify themselves with the Australian Aborigines who have been maltreated from the earliest days of white settlement in this country. The Aborigines are still an unhappy people.

What is wrong with most coloured migrants is that they form hard core, anti-white, ‘black power’ pressure groups in every country that accepts them. I predicted a long time ago that immigration would become not only a highly emotional issue during the 1972 election campaign and all subsequent campaigns, but also an explosive issue.

More than 9,000 coloured or partly-coloured migrants are arriving in Australia every year, and such a flow should be cut. The Immigration Department has supplied me with figures which show that 44,52I persons of non-European and mixed descent arrived in Australia between January 1, 1966, and December 3I, 1971. The total arrivals in the past three years were: 9,4I0 in 1969, 9,055 in 1970 and 9,666 in 197I.

I have never been a lone voice in my advocacy of a homogeneous Australia. In fact, I believe I have the support of a big majority of my fellow Australians, and of many people in other countries. Only the small minority of Australians who are too blind to see will continue to ignore the hideous tragedy of the United Kingdom and the United States. Why should Australia, always so free of racial strife, wish to import trouble? In 1968, six out of ten British immigrant families interviewed on their arrival in Australia said that their main reason for leaving Britain was their fear of the colour problem.

The late Sir John Latham, an outstanding jurist and politician, wrote in 1961:

Australian policy is not based on race or colour, but on difference. Ours is a European civilization . . . At a press conference in Japan, I found no difficulty in dealing with Australian immigration policy. I asked my forty interrogators why Japan imposed restrictions, amounting to prohibition, upon immigration of Chinese and Koreans into Japan. They knew that Japan was protecting a standard of living and a manner of life. They were not prepared to contend that Australia could not properly do the same thing.

In l959, the then Minister for Immigration, Mr (later Sir) Alexander Downer said Australia had the clear right to follow a policy of building up a homogeneous society. In 1966, as Australian High Commissioner to England, Sir Alexander Downer said Australia could afford to relax its immigration policy to allow an annual influx of non-Europeans as its population increased. But he added that we should make haste slowly because ‘no country has yet solved the problems of multi-racial harmony within its frontiers.’

In 1969, another Immigration Minister, Mr Billy Snedden, said: ‘We must have a single culture. We must be a single Australian people. That is a view I strongly hold … So help me, so long as I am in a position of authority, that is what I will preach.’

However, in 1971, Gough Whitlam made a speech to the Perth Press Club in which he said it was nonsense to suggest that Labor’s policy would open the floodgate to coloured migrants or be the thin edge of the wedge. Is it nonsense? The flow of coloured migrants from India and Pakistan into the United Kingdom began slowly after I945, but built up rapidly. Mr Whitlam then said: ‘The administration by our immigration authorities requires immensely more humanity, subtlety and common sense than has hitherto been shown if continuing and permanent damage is not to be done to our reputation and our relations in our region.’ This I regard as a reflection on Chifley, Evatt, Ward and myself particularly.

In May, 1972, I criticized a statement by the Minister for Customs, Mr Don Chipp, who had said that he would like to see a stage, in the l980s where Australia was becoming the only true multi-racial nation in the world. I said that no red-blooded Australian wanted to see a chocolate-coloured Australia in the 1980s. There was considerable reaction to my remarks. I was taken to task by sections of the press and by members of my own party.

However, I received a great number of letters from people who supported my point of view. I was also commended by some of my political opponents, including Dr Forbes and the Victorian Premier, Sir Henry Bolte. Dr Forbes said that the Federal Government was determined to maintain a predominantly homogeneous society. Sir Henry Bolte said: ‘I believe that the huge majority of Australians would agree with Mr Calwell and Dr Forbes. If there is one man in Australia whose opinions on immigration should be listened to, that man is Arthur Calwell. I give him his due. He was the originator of Australia’s immigration policy. He fought his own party to do it. He rewrote Australian policy in favour of immigration. I always salute him for that.’

About that time, Dr Forbes said in the House of Representatives:

Our policies are more genuinely liberal in concept and in administration than those of many countries. But they are also in harmony with, and do not prejudice, our national interests. To go further would be to put those interests at risk.

As I have said many times, a homogeneous Australia is possible. A multi-racial Australia is also possible. But a combined homogeneous and multi-racial Australia is impossible. Australia must be one thing or the other; we can never be both.

In April, 1972, the Governor of South Australia, Sir Mark Oliphant, predicted in a speech at the Adelaide Festival of Arts that sooner or later, the whole world was bound to be populated by a coffee-coloured fusion of all peoples. He said it was impossible to prevent miscegenation. Sir Mark’s speech was one that no State Governor, whose only function is to act as the representative of the monarch, had the right to make. The Queen never enters into the political arena in the United Kingdom, and neither should her vice-regents in the countries of the Commonwealth.

I later made a few innocent, but sapient, remarks about the grave danger of Australia becoming a chocolate-coloured nation if 8,000 to 10,000 dark-skinned people continued to arrive here every year. The occasion for my observations was the off-the-cuff advocacy of a multi-racial society by Customs Minister Don Chipp in a dissertation on pornography and censorship. There was no real difference between Oliphant’s prophecy of a coffee-coloured world and mine of a chocolate-coloured Australia. Nobody took any notice of Oliphant, but a vocal minority of newspaper scribblers, do-gooders and other strange idiosyncratic citizens, voiced their peculiar nostrums after I made my statement.

What I objected to was not the colour of any man’s skin, his culture or his history. I objected to the mass importation of people who will form ‘black power’ groups and menace the security of Australia when their numbers have grown sufficiently to enable them to behave as they are behaving in Great Britain and the United States. Japan, India, Burma, Ceylon and every new African nation are fiercely anti-white and fiercely anti one another. Do we want or need any of these people here? I am one red-blooded Australian who says no, and who speaks for 90 per cent of Australians.

Reverting to Governor Oliphant’s speech, I cannot use the term ‘coffee-coloured’, which he coined, because I could never be a plagiarist. It seems that ‘coffee-coloured’ is not offensive, but that ‘chocolate-coloured’ is. I am not a professor of semantics, as Sir Mark Oliphant is a professor of nuclear physics, but one would not need to be a professor of anything to realize that there is no fundamental difference between the two terms.

Arthur Calwell, Be Just and Fear Not, Adelaide: Rigby, 1978, pp. 117-127 (chapter 14: “Black Power and a Multi-Racial Society”)

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