Paul Sheehan rides again



In the 1990s Paul Sheehan wrote a tendentious, sensationalist and superficially rational heap of shit called Among the Barbarians. It was very successful. Now I knew it was a heap of shit at the time, cashing in on our thing then about being “swamped by Asians”, because I was working with such Chinese students as the ones Sheehan gave the treatment to, had met the author of the book Sheehan selectively quoted, and was living with a Shanghainese.  I really despised that book and, at the time, its author.

Even Anne Henderson at The Sydney Institute in 1998 rather despised the book too.

My first remembered encounter with Paul Sheehan was at a function in Sydney. Without introduction he approached and criticised my short haircut. The longer version was more flattering. His comments were dogmatic and overly familiar, but when I observed that my hair was my business and his taste somewhat old fashioned, Sheehan seemed affronted. Understanding the prickly Sheehan helps when reading Among The Barbarians.

This is a book with axes to grind and scores to settle. It’s lucidly written and has a clever style. It is also a confusing mix of overstatement and understatement, a tract rather than a considered thesis; much preaching and not too much research.

And it’s already a best-seller. In two weeks, Random sold 20,000 copies, by mid-June 55,000, echoing that right-wing best-seller of 1992 – Brian Wilshire’s The Fine Print (self-published).

Paul Sheehan is a Sydney Morning Herald journalist who returned to Australia in 1996 after a decade in the US and, according to his book he liked what he found: “The overt culture of the nation – its language, cuisine, music, writings, film, dance, architecture, design, sport – all, at their highest expression.” Australia, Sheehan believed, had triumphed from a cultural revolution…

What makes Among The Barbarians a disturbing book is Sheehan’s defensiveness and obsessive selectivity, matched with conspiracy theories. Despite years of key conservatives as regular commentators in Australian newspapers, more than a decade of Hanson-style voices filling talkback radio on race, immigration and indigenous issues, saturation propagandising by top rating radio presenters like Alan Jones and Stan Zemanek, Sheehan earnestly believes that, under Labor, “so strong and so ruthlessly imposed were the protocols constraining discussion of racism, discrimination, affirmative action and immigration, it would be a foolish move to smash through and express, with undisguised resentment, the unpleasant fears felt in much of the electorate”.

Among The Barbarians is a skewed Australian canvass, self-justified as setting the record straight. Just one side of the debate on the grounds that it’s never been heard. Sheehan picks at topics rather than digests them, often relying on a handful of opinions to support his…

Well, he’s back.

Riding his hobby-horse:


Grinding his favourite axe:


And, just as he did in 1998, channelling xenophobia, whatever the superficial meaning of what he says:


And of course the message is that those evil so-called asylum seeker illegal bastards with funny coloured skin and unAustralian cultural traits are playing us for suckers, and even if it has been comprehensively shown that the email purporting to show that asylum seekers in Australia are living like Lotto winners is a hoax yet, according to Sheehan, it is still true! As that woman said on QandA…

Sheehan’s remarkable logic – and not the first time he has employed such mental gymnastics as Marcellous once noted – may be read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. I am not going to quote it: go there and make up your own mind.

See also the very funny Among the barbarians: Nick Possum and the Victims of Political Correctness Inc. (1998)  and among my posts Pub talk, reality TV, reality and “Go Back to Where You Came From” (2011), About last night’s “Send them back…” and Paul Sheehan (2011), A rather odd argument? (2009).


Kind of related: John Menadue — Updating the Malaysia solution. And click on the cartoon above.

How to read Paul Sheehan

1.  Realise as fifteen years and more of reading him has taught me that his “objectivity” is a pose. I formed this impression from his shit book because I knew the people who he was hurting then and I knew who thought he was “wonderful” and why – and that has not changed.

2. In reality he is Pauline Hanson in male drag with polish, and he without fail will demonise, often on the basis of highly tendentious selection of evidence, whichever Other it is currently fashionable to decry. And never underestimate how much I deplored/continue to deplore Pauline Hanson.

3, There is nothing about today’s article – which I have indeed read as steam from my ears built to higher and higher pressure – that is inconsistent with the character who wrote the shit book.

4. That said, I acknowledge the difficulty of coming to a reasonable and equitable policy on asylum seekers who get on boats. Hence my link to Menadue, and a number of things I have written lately.

5. Taking Sheehan at face value, however, is a big mistake. He is an absolute master of the dog whistle. He is a polemicist NOT an objective commentator.

See also Four Corners replies: cop this Paul Sheehan and “Illegal immigrants” Press Council ruling: Why is Paul Sheehan is allowed to say it while Greg Sheridan is not?

And this is something related to look forward to:




In 1904, the town and monastery were attacked by British soldiers under the leadership of Francis Younghusband (commanding 1000 troops, 10,000 servants, and 4,000 yaks) and although most of the damage was later restored, bullet holes from this attack remain in the monastery to this day. Following the capture of Gyantse fort, the agreement signed by the Tibetan Regent, resulted in establishment of British Trade Missions at Gyantse and Mt. Kailash in Tibet. In 1906, the British signed an agreement with the Chinese authorities, which established their influence over Tibet and thus "effectively ending both British and Russian influence".

It was partially destroyed in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese rule. It was ransacked again during the Cultural Revolution, but has since been largely restored.[8][9] Prior to the uprising there were 1520 monks but now they number less than 80.


Younghusband’s well-trained troops were armed with rifles and machine guns, confronting disorganized monks wielding hoes, swords, and  flintlocks.  Some accounts estimated that more than five thousand Tibetans were killed during the campaign, while the total number of  British casualties was about five.


In 1901 The Living Races of Mankind was published. The book was compiled from various “eminent” specialists, and it gave illustrated accounts of the “customs, habits, pursuits, feasts & ceremonies of the races of mankind throughout the world.”  Within the book, the section dedicated to Tibet was written by A. H. Savage Landor, an Englishman who had traveled to Tibet in 1897. Landor describes the Tibetans as a deeply religious “race”, hostile towards strangers, very ignorant, immoral, and very dirty. He describes Tibet women as repulsive, unattractive, and having little to be admired. The only praise he has for them is that they are “vastly superiour in many ways to the Tibetan male, as she possesses a better heart, more courage, and a finer character.” This practice of classifying cultures or “races” was a very important tool for Western imperialism. By creating these classifications, imperialist could police discourse, assign positions, regulate groups, and enforce boundaries. It allowed the imperialist to classify the “Other” as barbarian or savage and validate its dehumanization of the “other” and justify the use of violence in order to impose European norms. The debasement of Tibetans by describing them as dirty, the Tibetan women as unattractive and repulsive, and the men as cowards, and immoral was therefore used to enforce colonial oppression and project a sense of inferiority on the Tibetan people. The describing of Tibetans as dirty and immoral was also part of the representational technique used to show the moral strength the British had over the Tibetans. This idea of Tibetans as lacking morals was a common idea among many British observers, like Younghusband and Curzon whose imperialist actions were subsequently seen as justified because of this perceived moral high ground…


And my latest reading:



From it one looks down through the wealth of forest on to the valley below, intersected with streams and water-channels, dotted over with wooded villages, and covered with rice-fields of emerald green; on to the great river winding along the length of the valley to the Wular Lake at its western end; on to the glinting roofs of Srinagar; on to the snowy range on the far side-valley; and, finally, on to Nanga Parbat itself.

And never for two days together is this glorious panorama exactly the same. One day the valley will be filled with a sea of rolling clouds through which gleams of sunshine light up the brilliant green of the rice-fields below. Above the billowy sea of clouds long level lines of mist will float along the opposite mountain-sides. Above these again will rise the great mountains looking inconceivably high. And above all will soar Nanga Parbat, looking at sunset like a pearly island rising from an ocean of ruddy light.

On another day there will be not a cloud in the sky. The whole scene will be bathed in a bluey haze. Through the many vistas cut in the forest the eye will be carried to the foot-hills sloping gradually towards the river, to the little clumps of pine wood, the village clusters of walnut, pear, and mulberry, the fields of rice and maize, to the silvery reaches of the Jhelum, winding from the Wular Lake to Baramula, to the purply blue of the distant mountains, then on to the bluey white of Nanga Parbat, sharply defined, yet in colour nearly merging into the azure of the sky, and showing out in all the greater beauty that we see it framed by the dark and graceful pines in which we stand.

And this forest has no mean attractions of its own, of which to my little girl the chief were the white columbines. Here also are found purple columbines, delphiniums, what are known as white slipper orchids, yellow violets, balsams, mauve and yellow primulas, potentillas, anemones, Jacob’s ladder, monkshood, salvias, many graceful ferns, and numerous other flowers of which I do not pretend to know the name.

What a paradox. There is a book I must try to get from the Library:

Patrick French’s biography of Francis Younghusband – `the last great imperial adventurer’ – is beautifully written, insightful and above all humane. I say humane because at first glance Younghusband could easily be ridiculed – in his youth for a reckless jingoism that cost lives and embarrassed the British government, and in his later years for a brand of religious mysticism that was, well, bordering on insane. It is a tribute to French’s understanding of his subject that he digs beneath these criticisms to bring us a deeply satisfying portrait of a surprisingly complex man.

Frank Younghusband’s most pressing claim on history was that he led the British expedition into Tibet in 1904 – even at the time seen as being based on a flimsy pretext of stopping Russia from gaining control of central Asia. Some 2000 Tibetans were killed as the British force made its way into Lhasa. Younghusband forced a treaty on the 13th Dalai Lama pledging loyalty to the British empire. The Government in London found this deeply embarrassing and almost immediately repudiated the treaty. Younghusband himself was convinced of the threat Russia presented to British interests in India and central Asia.

But while the expedition created popularity and profile in England, it finished any chances of a senior career with the civil service. Younghusband served in India in a number of middle-ranking posts and wrote books about Tibet and his earlier exploits as an explorer in central Asia. In 1906 he played a bit part in the Jamison raid in South Africa – in the pay of The Times. Most importantly Younghusband thought about spirituality. Literally following a mountain top revelation in Tibet, he increasingly devoted his life to promoting a form of all-embracing spirituality which led in its silliest form to speculations about aliens living on a planet called Altair. His later years were devoted to boosting this form of spirituality by establishing popular movements in England, lecturing widely including in the US, running the Royal Geographic Society and supporting Indian independence.

All of which one could easily ridicule. But French brings life to his subject and a subtlety of understanding which makes the book absolutely engrossing. One reason is that Younghusband was a prolific letter writer – the India Office Library contains 600 "bulging" boxes containing his papers. Through these we see into the private mental world of Francis – his arid and rather sad marriage to Helen, and the relationship in his very last years with Madeline Lees – truly the love of his life. These insights allow French to paint a much deeper and satisfying portrayal of a complex man – a person of his time and place but also a complete iconoclast, some one who pushed against the establishment for most of his life. Remarkably, this is Patrick French’s first book, written in his mid-twenties. He is a natural, a gifted writer with a fine sense of judgement. No sentence rings out of tune in the whole book. In short Younghusband is worth every one of its five stars. If the publishers have any sense they will issue a reprint soon. If not, readers should do everything they can to somehow find a copy of this wonderful biography.


The Kashmir of 1911 straddled much of north-west India and Pakistan. M was in the region – especially the Pakistani side – in 1999-2000. This is one of his photos from that time.


The Schadenfreude of old books–2–Sir Frank Fox

This one came out the year my parents were born.



He was no dill.

Sir Frank Ignatius Fox (1874-1960), journalist and Imperialist, was born on 12 August 1874 at Kensington, Adelaide, second son of Charles James Fox, journalist, and his wife Mary Ann, née Toole. He moved to Hobart in 1883, when his father became editor of the Tasmanian Mail, and was educated at Christ’s College. At an early age he wrote paragraphs for his father’s paper.

Stranded in Sydney about 1891, Fox abandoned the idea of reading for the Bar, and became an office-boy on the Australian Workman. He became a shareholder in the staff co-operative that took over ownership from the Trades and Labor Council; as its editor in 1893-95 Fox opposed the efforts of the ‘outside’ Labor men to impose on the parliamentary party ‘an impossible & silly pledge’. On 13 June 1894 he married, with Congregational forms, Helen Clint (d.1958); they had a son and two daughters.

Next year Fox became editor of the Bathurst National Advocate and supported Federation. In 1898 he could not pay debts incurred by the illness of his wife and himself; he was released from bankruptcy in July 1900. Meanwhile he had returned to Sydney and worked for the Daily Telegraph and Truth. Fox joined the staff of the Bulletin in 1901. Next year, as ‘Frank Renar’, he published Bushman and Buccaneer, a memoir of Harry ‘the Breaker’ Morant

And went on to do quite a lot.



A dwindling race; their curious weapons—The Papuan tree-dwellers—The cunning witch-doctors.

The natives of Australia were always few in number. The conditions of the country secured that Australia, kept from civilization for so long, is yet the one land of the world which, whilst capable of great production with the aid of man’s skill, is in its natural state hopelessly sterile. Australia produced no grain of any sort naturally; neither wheat, oats, barley nor maize. It produced practically no edible fruit, excepting a few berries, and one or two nuts, the outer rind of which was eatable. There were no useful roots such as the potato, the turnip, or the yam, or the taro. The native animals were few and just barely eatable, the kangaroo, the koala (or native bear) being the principal ones. In birds alone was the country well supplied, and they were more beautiful of plumage than useful as food. Even the fisheries were infrequent, for the coast line, as you will see from the map, is unbroken by any great bays, and there is thus less sea frontage to Australia than to any other of the continents, and the rivers are few in number.

Where the land inhabited by savages is poor in food-supply their number is, as a rule, small and their condition poor. It is not good for a people to have too easy times; that deprives them of the incentive to work. But also it is not good for people who are backward in civilization to be kept to a land which treats them too harshly; for then they never get a fair chance to progress in the scale of civilization. The people of the tropics and the people near the poles lagged behind in the race for exactly opposite but equally powerful reasons. The one found things too easy, the other found things too hard. It was in the land between, the Temperate Zone, where, with proper industry, man could prosper, that great civilizations grew up.

The Australian native had not much to complain of in regard to his climate. It was neither tropical nor polar. But the unique natural conditions of his country made it as little fruitful to an uncivilized inhabitant as was Lapland. When Captain Cook landed at Botany Bay probably there were not 500,000 natives in all Australia. And if the white man had not come, there probably would never have been any progress among the blacks. As they were then they had been for countless centuries, and in all likelihood would have remained for countless centuries more. They had never, like the Chinese, the Hindus, the Peruvians, the Mexicans, evolved a civilization of their own. There was not the slightest sign that they would be able to do so in the future. If there was ever a country on earth which the white man had a right to take on the ground that the black man could never put it to good use, it was Australia.

Allowing that, it is a pity to have to record that the early treatment of the poor natives of Australia was bad. The first settlers to Australia had learned most of the lessons of civilization, but they had not learned the wisdom and justice of treating the people they were supplanting fairly. The officials were, as a rule, kind enough; but some classes of the new population were of a bad type, and these, coming into contact with the natives, were guilty of cruelties which led to reprisals and then to further cruelties, and finally to a complete destruction of the black people in some districts…

Usually the Australian black is altogether spoilt by civilization. He learns to wear clothes, but he does not learn that clothes need to be changed and washed occasionally, and are not intended for use by day and night. He has an insane veneration for the tall silk hat which is the badge of modern gentility, and, given an old silk hat, he will never allow it off his head. He quickly learns to smoke and to drink, and, when he comes into contact with the Chinese, to eat opium. He cannot be broken into any steady habits of industry, but where by wise kindness the black fellow has been kept from the vices of civilization he is a most engaging savage. Tall, thin, muscular, with fine black beard and hair and a curiously wide and impressive forehead, he is not at all unhandsome. He is capable of great devotion to a white master, and is very plucky by daylight, though his courage usually goes with the fall of night. He takes to a horse naturally, and some of the finest riders in Australia are black fellows.

An attempt is now being made to Christianize the Australian blacks. It seems to prosper if the blacks can be kept away from the debasing influence of bad whites. They have no serious vices of their own, very little to unlearn, and are docile enough. In some cases black children educated at the mission schools are turning out very well. But, on the other hand, there are many instances of these children conforming to the habits of civilization for some years and then suddenly feeling “the call of the wild,” and running away into the Bush to join some nomad tribe.

It is not possible to be optimistic about the future of the Australian blacks. The race seems doomed to perish. Something can be done to prolong their life, to make it more pleasant; but they will never be a people, never take any share in the development of the continent which was once their own.

A quite different type of native comes under the rule of the Australian Commonwealth—the Papuan. Though Papua, or New Guinea, as it was once called, is only a few miles from the north coast of Australia, its race is distinct, belonging to the Polynesian or Kanaka type, and resembling the natives of Fiji and Tahiti.

Papua is quite a tropical country, producing bananas, yams, taro, sago, and cocoa-nuts. The natives, therefore, have always had plenty of food, and they reached a higher stage of civilization than the Australian aborigines. But their food came too easily to allow them to go very far forward. “Civilization is impossible where the banana grows,” some observer has remarked. He meant that since the banana gave food without any culture or call on human energy, the people in banana-growing countries would be lazy, and would not have the stimulus to improve themselves that is necessary for progress. To get a good type of man he must have the need to work.

The Papuan, having no need of industry, amused himself with head-hunting as a national sport…

So interesting just to register, without surprise, what was the received wisdom in the year my parents were born!

The Schadenfreude of old books…

Who would get away with this today?

No branch of that large section of the human race which, whether by the colour of their skin or by some other natural or fortuitous circumstance, has received from nature, or the hand of Providence, the impress of inferiority, seems to have occupied less of the attention or research of civilization and philosophy than the portion of the sable sons of earth inhabiting the Australian continent. This, no doubt, is in a great measure owing to that physical inferiority which this people certainly exhibit in as great a degree as almost any other race of men known. Their isolated and scattered position, their roving mode of life, their unwarlike character, their rude and all but harmless weapons, the utter absence of anything like concert in their habits and operations, have ever rendered them unimportant neighbours and feeble and insignificant enemies. Incapable of creating any considerable mischief, they have never, by war or by their opposition to the progress of the white man, forced themselves on the attention either of the governments or philanthropists of Europe. Another cause, no doubt, of the unbroken obscurity in which the history of the aborigines of this territory has been permitted to remain involved, is the extreme difficulty which, from the very first, presents itself to the dispelling of the thick cloud which hangs around the primeval origin and subsequent progress of the Australian tribes. No monumental ruin, however obscure, or however feebly defined, has ever been discovered, throughout the length and breadth of the country, which might afford a clue to the civilization or barbarism of the people from whom they have descended. No form of worship, or well-defined religious belief, such as is found amongst almost all other barbarians, suggests the particular class of worshippers to which they originally belonged. No arts, however rude—none, however, in any way worthy the name—attest in the remotest degree, by their progress and condition, the period during which they might have been practised. Conjecture and analogy alone remain to guide the inquirer in any investigation touching the original inhabitants of the Australian wilds…

NOTE: “In his short life, Roderick J Flanagan (1828-1862) was a poet, journalist and historian. He was born in Ireland, but spent 22 years of his life in Australia. He founded a newspaper in Melbourne and was the author of a history of New South Wales, and a study of Aboriginal life. Among his other works was a posthumously-published volume of poetry in 1887 entitled ‘Australian and other Poems’, which appeared in 1887. One of the poems, The Vale of Manly, (composed late 1850s?) is notable for being probably the earliest literary response to the beauty of Manly, at that time sparsely populated.”


On the other hand, who said the “black armband” is a recent interpretation of our history?


The Australian settlers have not dealt as kindly with the natives as they should have done.

From the beginning the white man has thoroughly ignored any right or title to the land on the part of the aborigines.

Squatters taking up large “runs” for sheep and cattle, must have been perfectly well aware that they were usurping territory which had been the undisturbed possession of other men for centuries.

The natives found the animals upon which they and their fathers had depended for ages for food, driven out by the white man.

They dare not encroach upon the territory of a neighboring tribe for game or food of any sort without violating those sacred regulations which had always controlled the tribes in their amicable relations to each other.

To have thus transgressed their own native laws would necessarily have resulted in tribal wars.

A tribe finding itself hemmed in and pressed for food would not consent, on the one hand, to wrong their native neighbors, nor, on the other, to starve while food was so near at hand, as that which now occupied the former grazing grounds of the kangaroo and the emu, so they did that which any one of us would expect them to do, they speared the squatter’s sheep and cattle.

At once war was declared on the part of the squatter. He and his men made no conscience of shooting down the blacks as they would shoot down a dingo. Resistance with clubs and spears was of small account when it arrayed itself against the rifle.

Sometimes the Government stepped in to aid the squatter in his work of usurpation of the rightful-property of others, and his extinction of the possessors. Native mounted police were employed under the control and direction of a white " inspector."

There was no difficulty in getting these men to do their unnatural work most effectually, if only removed 200 or 300 miles away from their own tribe, and, of course, nearly as far from any tribe whom they had formerly known.

These fellows, set on by their "inspector," and thoroughly trained by him in the use of the rifle and revolver, were as eager for their work as bloodhounds.

The men of the offending tribe were shot down by the score, and the women were handed over by the worthy official to his " boys " for a fate worse than that which had befallen their husbands, their sons, and their brothers. When the bloody and wicked campaign, which could not last very long, was over, the inspector simply reported that the tribe had been " dispersed."

What the rifle failed to do, intoxicants and diseases, some of them of the most loathsome kind, all unknown previously to the blacks, have done—destroyed these poor creatures by thousands. With these destructive forces at work for the last half century or more, the native population has been in all the settled portions of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, largely swept off. With the mere fraction which remains, the Government and people of the present day are dealing more kindly. A part of the remnant are gathered upon " reservations." They have schools and churches, and domestic comforts, of which their fathers knew not.

All this, however, does not atone for the wicked treatment which has been shown multitudes of their race, by a people who should have had more honor and humanity.

Little good can come, perhaps, from berating those on whom now devolve the responsibilities of government for the sins committed by those who went before them.

Let those, however, who feel an interest in the honor and fair fame of their country (and Australians have many things of which they may justly be proud), put forth a greater effort to educate and save the remnant of these native people. Some of them may be very low, and offer little encouragement for effort, but others are brighter, especially among the children, as I can testify from personal observation in some of the schools I visited. I hold that they all have a just claim upon the humane and philanthropic efforts of the stronger race which has displaced them…


An Australian Native

Image and quote above from Australia and Homeward by D V Lucas. Toronto 1888.

And how about THE WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY by the Rev. Dr. Andrew Harper of St Andrew’s College, University of Sydney? It’s in Australia; Economic and Political Studies ed Meredith Atkinson. Macmillan 1920.

In the first year of the Commonwealth of Australia the first general Immigration Restriction Act was passed, and when it was being discussed Sir William McMillan expressed in a memorable way the feeling of many in Australia, and of practically all Britain regarding the object we were seeking to secure. H6 said: "" Every one of us must feel that in attempting to shut out any human beings from our shores, and from the privileges of British freedom, we are doing a very extreme act." That was inevitably the prima facie view which anyone approaching the subject from the old liberal point of view would take, and it probably is the view still held by English Liberals and by many modern Conservatives in Britain. America, Canada and Australia had been for a long time competing for immigrants from Europe; and the emigrants had so greatly bettered their condition that emigration had come to be regarded as the panacea for all the ills of the working classes. Looking at the question entirely from the British point of view,  the point of view of a country which desired emigration in order to keep up the standard of living among its own people, unlimited immigration into all sparsely populated countries was regarded as one of the great hopes for the world. Hence arose the feeling that it would be cruel to shut out " any human being” from its bounty. Careful inquiry has convinced the present writer that this is a one-sided ‘ and mistaken view, and this Essay will be mainly an attempt to show that from the point of view of the countries to which immigrants come, any such principle as Sir William McMillan lays down cannot be, and has never has been, accepted by any nation that deserved to survive, [corrupt text]  the standard of living, and a constant danger of war would Inevitably be the result of accepting it in Australia.

But in the face of this economic prejudice among Liberals, which has allied itself in a vague way with the recognition of our common humanity, it is necessary to be precise in our statements. The first thing, consequently, to be done is to define what the White Australia policy is, and what the means proposed for carrying it out are.

I.—Definition of Policy and Means of Carrying it Out.

In general terms, then, the “White Australia " policy is the policy which seeks to prevent the free influx into Australia of labourers and artisans belonging to races whose traditions, and whose political, social and religious ideals differ so much from ours, that it would be very difficult in any reasonable time to assimilate them, and if they came in masses, impossible. And the foundation of that policy is the conviction that such an influx always produces grave evils for both races, and that it cannot really be desired by either, unless as a cover for designs of conquest, either economic or territorial.

The means for carrying it out are simple, and such as should give offence to no people, if once the policy is accepted. Power is given to the immigration officers to compel each immigrant to write out fifty words in any language he chooses. Virtually, therefore, the Government can make any man’s rejection sure, but no special nation is named as objectionable…

III.—True Object of Policy Is to ward off National Danger.

These misconceptions being removed, we have now to ask what was the object of the policy? ^It was an effort to ward off a great national danger which may any day become pressing, but which Australian political leaders first clearly saw and tried to meet at the Colonial Conference of 1897. That danger is the revival, under hew names and different conditions, of that migration of the peoples which overwhelmed the Roman Empire. The great difficulty in dealing with opponents of the " White Australia " policy is that they entirely fail to see how new in modern times, and how portentously great the evil to be fought against is. It is not, as they for the most part conceive it to be, merely natural infiltration of wandering labourers from one similarly civilised country into another, like the influx of Germans into England, or of Italians into France. In such cases the immigrants, having similar social, moral and political ideals, their descendants imperceptibly merge into the population of the country they have migrated to. Nor is it even a case like the immigration of Russian and other Eastern Jews into England, though that is so much more serious than the other cases that it has compelled England to pass an Immigration Restriction Act.

The special features that render that more serious are of the same kind as those which render the immigration of coloured labour into Australia dangerous. The ”immigrants” are  not at the same  stage of civilisation as the English people; their "standard of living is much lower; their education is greatly inferior; and they tend to cling to their own tongue and to cohere in masses in the strange land to which they have come. All this makes them difficult to assimilate, and because of that even Britain has had to face an agitation for their total exclusion. Yet the greater elements of danger in the Australian case are absent here. After all, the alien immigration into England of all kinds is only 12,400 a year, and the people among whom they come to live are 40,000,000. The aliens are, consequently, not nearly numerous enough to alter the type of civilisation which prevails. Moreover, they are mainly exiles driven from their homes by persecution, and they neither could nor would form the advance guard of an armed invasion. Lastly, their religion is, in all its higher aspects, related to English religion, and there is a large community of English Jews thoroughly assimilated to their environment, who are eager to help in the education and assimilation of the backward members of their race.

Consequently, even this immigration is a harmless thing compared with the immigration of Asiatic labourers and artisans into Australia. To find a fitting parallel to that, we have to go back, as we have said, to the great migrations of the peoples of Europe and Asia in the fourth and fifth centuries….

Paranoia then and now wears much the same clothing, eh!

See The Australian Dictionary of Biography on Harper, who was an interesting character.

… Harper’s critical approach to Scripture made him a controversial figure in British church circles, his impact spreading to the Melbourne press by 1890. Public addresses on ‘the Higher Criticism’ drew fierce clerical attacks thereafter, and some critics explicitly compared his stance to that of Charles Strong; supported by John Rentoul, Harper maintained his position. His insistence that the religious revelation of Scripture and Christian faith were not dependent upon the historical infallibility of biblical statements became acceptable: his staunchly evangelical teaching and practice, and overseas standing, overpowered his critics. In 1895 the Presbyterian Church appointed him editor of the Messenger, whose columns had previously carried many attacks on his ideas.

Convinced that a nation without religious belief was doomed to disintegration, Harper argued strongly for religious teaching in schools. He also led Protestant agitation for a ‘Godly contribution’ during the Federation debate. He was deeply influenced by nationalistic German theologians and, though he denied ‘racist’ attitudes, his spirited defence of the White Australia policy and his attitude to Aboriginals were based on rigid notions of European cultural superiority, as well as desire to maintain living standards for Australian workers of any colour. Genuine concern at human suffering was tempered by conviction of the inevitability of the labourer’s hard lot, but he dreamed the Australian dream of a southern paradise sharing its common wealth.

In 1902 Harper resigned his Ormond chair and took up duties as principal of St Andrew’s College within the University of Sydney. At the same time he was appointed to the college’s Hunter Baillie professorship of Oriental and Polynesian languages and to its theological faculty’s chair of Hebrew and exegetical theology of the Old Testament. He moved his large family to Sydney but retained his seaside home at Lorne…

These are just some of the treasures to come my way via The Open Library and The Internet Archive. Be aware though that many of the million and more texts available are not clean copies – that is the scans haven’t been proofread and they can be a bit weird, unlike sites such as Project Gutenberg. But even so – it’s rather like burrowing around in the book stacks at Fisher Library – something I did far too often as a student in the 1960s… Amazing what you may find.

And I have downloaded Mein Kampf and Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies, among other things… And even more Australiana.


From Herbert Pitts, Children of Wild Australia, Edinburgh 1914


Snippets from my eBook browsing

Just love things like this.


Going local, I was rather fascinated by Early Days in North Queensland, by Edward Palmer (1903). Edward Palmer (1842–1899) was a squatter, public servant and conservative Queensland politician. Classic on the Federation era background view on such matters as Aborigines.

In the three hundred years since the first contact between Europeans and the New Hollanders, no change has occurred; they were then spread over Australia, the same in habits and life as they are now, and the only result of the contact of the two races of men, the civilised and the savage, is that the native is fading away before the white man like mist before the morning sun. Nothing can avert the doom that is written as plainly as was the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast. And to what purpose would we preserve them? What good could accrue from maintaining a remnant of a race that it is impossible to civilise. The buffalo of America, like the Red Indian himself (the hunter and the hunted), pass over the river in front of the advancing tide of civilisation.

Rather more frank than some later whitewashers, however:

The treatment of the native races has always been a difficult question. Whenever new districts were settled, the blacks had to move on to make room; the result was war between the races. The white race were the aggressors, as they were the invaders of the blacks’ hunting territory. The pioneers cannot be condemned for taking the law into their own hands and defending themselves in the only way open to them, for the blacks own no law themselves but the law of might. The protection of outside districts by the Native Police, was the only course open, although the system cannot very well be defended any more than what was done under it can be. The white pioneers were harder on the blacks in the way of reprisals when they were forced to deal with them for spearing their men or their cattle or horses even than the Native Police. But how were property and the lives of stockmen, shepherds, and prospectors in the north to be protected unless by some summary system of retribution by Native Police or bands of pioneers? …

Yes, the “I” word and no bones about using it either!

Turning to someone who is truly fascinating in his own right, though I had never heard of him: Basil Thomson (21 April 1861 – 26 March 1939) — British intelligence officer, police officer, prison governor, colonial administrator, and writer.  What an odd effect these words from The Fijians — A Study of the Decay of Custom (1908) have on a 21st century reader!

The present population of the globe is believed to be about fifteen hundred millions, of which seven hundred millions are nominally progressive and eight hundred millions are stagnant under the law of custom. It is difficult to choose terms that even approach scientific accuracy in these generalizations, for, as Mr. H.G. Wells has remarked, if we use the word "civilized" the London "Hooligan" and the "Bowery tough" immediately occur to us; if the terms "stagnant" or "progressive," how are the Parsee gentleman and the Sussex farm labourer to be classed? Nor can the terms "white" and "coloured" be used, for there are Chinese many shades whiter than the Portuguese. But as long as the meaning is clear the scientific accuracy of terms is unimportant, and so for convenience we will call all races of European descent "civilized," and races living under the law of custom "uncivilized." The problem that will be solved within the next few centuries is—What part is to be taken in the world’s affairs by the eight hundred millions of uncivilized men who happen for the moment to be politically inferior to the other seven hundred millions?…

Cheap and rapid means of transit are sweeping away the distinctions of dress, of custom, and, to some extent, of language, which underlie the feeling of nationality, and the races now uncivilized will soon settle for themselves the vital question whether they are to remain hewers of wood and drawers of water for the white man, or whether they are to take their place in free competition with him. The "Yellow Peril," which implies national cohesion among the Mongolians, may be a chimera, but it is impossible to believe that a white skin is to be for ever a sort of patent of nobility in the world state of the future.

History teaches us that there can be no middle course. Either race antipathy and race contempt must disappear, or one breed of men must dominate the others. The psychology of race contempt has never been dispassionately studied. It is felt most strongly in the United States and the West Indies; a little less strongly in the other British tropical colonies. In England it is sporadic, and is generally confined to the educated classes. It is scarcely to be noticed in France, Spain, Portugal or Italy. From this it might be argued that it is peculiar to races of Teutonic descent were it not for the fact that Germans in tropical countries do not seem to feel it.  It is, moreover, a sentiment of modern growth….

At the dawn of this twentieth century we see the future of mankind through a glass darkly, but if we study the state of the coloured people who are shaking themselves free from the law of custom, we may see it almost face to face. Race prejudice does not die as hard as one would think. The Portuguese of the sixteenth century were ready enough to court as "Emperor of Monomotapa" a petty Bantu chieftain into whose power they had fallen; and the English beachcomber of the forties who, when he landed, called all natives "niggers" with an expletive prefix, might very soon be found playing body-servant to a Fijian chief, who spoke of him contemptuously as "My white man." In tropical countries the line of caste will soon cease to be the colour line. There, as in temperate zones, wealth will create a new aristocracy recruited from men of every shade of colour. Even in the great cities of Europe and America we may find men of Hindu and Chinese and Arab origin controlling industries with their wealth, as Europeans now control the commerce of India and China, but with this difference—that they will wear the dress and speak the language which will have become common to the whole commercial world, and as the aristocracy of every land will be composed of every shade of colour, so will be the masses of men who work with their hands. In one country the majority of the labourers will be black or brown; in another white; but white men will work cheek by jowl with black and feel no degradation. There will be the same feverish pursuit of wealth, but all races will participate in it instead of a favoured few. The world will then be neither so pleasant nor so picturesque a place to live in, and by the man of that age the twentieth century will be cherished tenderly as an age of romance, of awakening, and of high adventure. The historians of that day will speak of the Victorian age as we speak of the Elizabethan, and will date the new starting-point in the history of mankind from the decay of the law of custom.


I should add that both books are quite fascinating and well worth spending time with.

And finally a bit of a critique of the USA:

… if a body of ingenious men had gotten together to make the frame work of a government to absolutely take from the people all the power they possibly could, they could not have contrived anything more mischievous and complete than our American form of government. (Applause).

The English Government is simplicity itself compared to it. As compared with ours it is as direct as a convention of the I. W. W. (Applause). The English people elect a Parliament and when some demand comes up from the country for different legislation which reaches Parliament and is strong enough to demand a division in Parliament and the old majority fails, Parliament is dissolved at once, and you go right straight back to the people and elect a new Parliament upon that issue and they go at once to Parliament and pass a law, and there is no power on earth that can stop them. The king hasn’t any more to say about the laws of England, nor any more power than a floor manager of a charity ball would have to say about it. He is just an ornament, and not much of an ornament at that. (Applause). The House of Lords is comparatively helpless, and they never had any constitution; there never was any power in England to set aside any law that the people made.  It was the law, plain and direct and simple, and you might get somewhere with it. But we have built up a machine that destroys every person who undertakes to touch it. I don’t know how you are ever going to remedy it. Nothing short of a political revolution, which would be about as complete as the Deluge, could ever change our laws under our present system (applause) in any important particular.

That is famous lawyer Clarence Darrow in 1912.

Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta Episode 3–SBS last night

I did watch it, despite the many alternative offerings last night – and I found it informative and ultimately inspiring. The web discussion covers everything from the cretinous upwards – more upwards, thank God. I’m afraid I get increasingly impatient with Hansonite whingers however:

This show could have been great but it was let down by the programmers’ relentless blame directed at people in government often referred to as "the authorities". At the same time, the people who were selling heroin to make easy money, instead of going to school or working, were mostly portrayed as victims. The whole show was one sided – quite ironic when sbs is supposed to promote ALL cultures not make Australians the bad guys.

That’s not racist; it’s merely stupid. Yes, “the authorities” comprehensively fucked up – as even Tim Priest has been saying for years – and no-one can accuse Priest of being a chardonnay socialist or a hippy multiculti.  On the other hand, thanks to the likes of Thang Ngo and Ross Treyvaud (at one time a Liberal candidate for Cabra) the end of the story really is uplifting – and the ‘authorities’ finally began to get it right. No way is this a case of the Australians being the bad guys, partly because, my Hansonite zombie friend —




Sad how something so bleeding obvious as that constantly escapes what passes for consciousness in some of my fellow citizens, especially at this time of year.

As Andrew Jakubowitz noted in one of many insights through the series, in the end the system actually worked as people realised that the essence of Australian multiculturalism is that ALL Australians are entitled to a say and a voice.

Kudos too to Helen Sham Ho.

I was in the ESL/Multicultural Education sector from 1996 through to 2005. I was aware of some of the Cabramatta issues, indeed now and again some of them even impinged on SBHS, but mainly through the sources available to us all and the distortions of the politicians on the one hand, the former police commissioner included it appears, and the sensationalising tabloid media on the other. It has been very valuable to have this overview. Thanks, SBS.

The first episode attracted 626,000 viewers, coming in 9th for the night and 2nd in its timeslot.

I can’t believe the brain snaps Charlie Teo is causing…

First off, let’s wait and see exactly what he says. Second, I find nothing at all objectionable about what he has said so far. It’s simple. Respect the man because he really does deserve respect and admiration. Listen to what he says and when he says something is the EXPERIENCE of himself and his family then assume he is not lying and take what he says on board. That’s also respect. Then third, let’s get over the really juvenile attitude where the only things anyone dares say about our country are nice and flattering. I really thought that belonged sometime in the 1950s.

Good on you, Charlie, for all you have done – and I am quite happy to listen to what you have to say.