Professor David Day,
Vice Chancellor - La Trobe University,
Dear Professor Day,
We refer to the report by Professor Marilyn Lake for your information.
We wish to congratulate Professor Lake for her historian’s balanced and responsible report as she is acknowledging the fact that as Australians, we must continue to practice gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity as our exclusive possessions of no one race or religion but as belonging to all.
However, as a historian, she forgot to be objective enough to point out that due to various unions pressures, Labor is already seen to be reverting to its former White Australia Policy by raising the English Dictation Test score from 4.5 to 5 last year. As a result of this discriminatory policy, no 457 Visa workers from China can now land on our shore.
This reminds us that racist Arthur Caldwell’s statement seems to us to be still well and alive: "Two Wongs don't make a White" and we would add that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Unity Party WA
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MARILYN LAKE - April 3, 2010 - Age
Chinese were once vilified in Australia, a travesty we'd do well not to repeat.
THE harsh sentence handed down to Stern Hu this week and radio talkback on Chinese investment in Melbourne real estate have converged in focusing attention in Australia on the consequences of the rise of Chinese power in the contemporary world.
Business leaders join would-be home owners in waxing indignant at the new turn of events. Australians are complaining about being sidelined. Suddenly it seems that Charles Pearson's remarkable prophecy of almost 120 years ago has come to pass.
In 1893, Pearson, a leading Victorian Liberal politician and journalist, predicted in what would become probably the most influential book ever written by an Australian - National Life and Character: A Forecast - that the day would surely come when the Chinese, victims of colonial persecution, would become a great power in the world. White men would be humiliated, ''elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside by peoples whom we looked down upon as servile''.
Across the world, startled readers took notice. Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Pearson from Washington praising his book, but asserting that the timid colonial was surely mistaken. In any contest between East and West, according to the future American president, white men, soon to embark on new imperial conquests, would certainly prevail.
The Athenaeum magazine in London, on the other hand, urged its readers to heed the new insight deriving from Pearson's different perspective: ''He regards the march of affairs from the Australian point of view, and next to Australia what he seems to see most clearly is the growth of Chinese power.''
But Pearson's forecast was not as original as it seemed. In fact, he borrowed the idea and, in some cases, the exact words from the Chinese colonists among whom he lived in Melbourne.
Subject to relentless discrimination and humiliation at the hands of Victorians accusing them of alien customs and cheap labour, Chinese community leaders such as Lowe Kong Meng and Cheok Hong Cheong were moved to write numerous letters, booklets and petitions demanding fair treatment and recognition of their common human rights. They pointed out that Chinese worked just as hard and enjoyed material comforts just as much as other Australians.
They were often well educated, literate and usually law-abiding, and they objected strongly to the insults heaped upon the Chinaman solely because of the ''colour of his skin''. But perhaps the time for forbearance was past. Evil treatment, they said, would bear bitter fruit and wounds would fester.
''A time may come … probably will come sooner than is supposed, when the presence and power of China as a great nation will be felt in these seas.'' Pearson made the warning his own.
Australia's response to the prospect of Chinese power was the White Australia Policy. The passage of the Immigration Restriction Act and the ruse of a dictation test were aimed at barring all Asiatics from migrating to the new Commonwealth of Australia. A raft of state and federal legislation further discriminated in employment and welfare policy against those already in the country.
The number of Chinese-born Australians rapidly shrank to just a few thousand. With the end of racial discrimination in immigration, the numbers of Chinese migrating to Australia and arriving as visitors has risen again.
No longer accused of augmenting the ranks of cheap labour, they are now attacked for their apparent wealth and blamed for the difficulties experienced by young white Australians in buying their own homes, in realising the Australian dream.
The offence of the Chinese, it seems, is that they now have too much money. Increasingly, callers to talkback radio blame not just negatively geared investors exploiting Australian tax law, but Chinese buyers who speak Mandarin.
The visibility of Chinese buyers at auctions makes for good stories on the evening news - other foreign investors are not so easily identified.
A hundred years ago, warnings about the rise of China as a world power and the migration of thousands of Chinese people to southern Africa, Australasia and North America led to the adoption of racist policies of exclusion and discrimination, whose legacies continue to haunt us, as, for example, in Indian reaction to incidents of racial violence in Melbourne.
In responding to the housing crisis, let us be wary of reverting to type. Recent calls for tighter regulation of foreign investment in Australia, along with demands for cuts in the migration intake, deserve wide and open discussion, but we should not repeat the mistakes of the past by making race or nationality or colour the basis of our grievances and the ground on which we shape our policy.
Marilyn Lake is professor of history at La Trobe University.