Australian Labor Party

Steve Painter and Rose McCann spainter at
Tue Sep 17 16:24:33 MDT 2002

Phil Ferguson wrote:
>>the number one policy plank of the ALP when it was founded was to fight
for a White Australia.>>

Bob Gould some time ago wrote a long and informative piece, from a Marxist
perspective, on racism and the ALP.

The ALP, the Labor Movement and Racism. From the 'Bulletin' and White
Australia to Terry Muscat, Jenny George, Mick Costa, Henry Tsang, Nick
Bolkus, Steve Bracks and Kim Beazley

Humphrey McQueen, in his influential book 'A New Britannia' emphasises the
racism endemic in the labour movement at the start of its development in the
1890s. Iggy Kim, of the 'Green Left Weekly', in his pamphlet, 'The Origins
of Racism', locates the early Labor Party as the prime source of racism in
Australia and then draws a very long bow to argue that you should vote in
current elections for his small socialist party, because the Labor Party has
these racist roots, and in his view, is still hopelessly deformed by them.
At the same time, Pauline Hanson accuses Labor of flooding Australia with
unassimilable migrants, so that by the year 2050 we may be governed by a
half-Indian, half-Chinese lesbian cyborg. Journalist Paul Sheehan accuses
the Laborites of stacking safe Labor seats with Asian migrants, and asserts
that the whole migration practice of the 1982-96 Labor government was an
attempt to unacceptably change the racial character of Australia. The
Geoffrey Blainey, Robert Birrell, Katharine Betts bunch put a similar spin
on current Labor attitudes and practices in migration. "News Weekly", the
fortnightly newspaper of the Bob Santamaria founded National Civic Council,
also constantly denounces Laborism for encouraging multiculturalism and
"unacceptably high" levels of family reunion. Finally, the Liberal
government of Howard and Costello tip their hat towards all this perceived
opposition to migration by reducing migration quotas and placing increased
obstacles to family reunion and to migrants receiving social welfare,
obviously with the hope that they will gain electoral advantage from this.

This vortex of accusations against the labour movement about migration has
the effect of arousing my latent labour movement patriotism, which has been
mostly submerged during the last few years by my anger at the seemingly
inexorable shift of the ALP to the right. My old instinct to defend the ALP
is stirred up by all these contradictory, but possibly currently popular,
conspiracy theories about the Labor Party and migration. The main aim of
most these attacks on Labor over migration is to damage Labor's prospects by
appealing to what is perceived by many conservative pundits to be a latent
racism and atavism in Australia. All this tends to make me feel that the
trundling old ALP monolith can't be quite as bad as it often appears in
other circumstances.

A more important question, ideologically and theoretically, and a very
useful one strategically, is to try and understand what realities are
reflected in these strange contradictory attacks, to equip us for the
future. When you look at it, it is a very important question to ask, how we
got from the labor movement racism of the 1890s to the relatively civilised
policies and practices of the labour movement today. It is really quite
extraordinary that the same political party, the ALP, which fought extremely
hard to entrench the White Australia Policy in Australian life, should now
be denounced by the Hansons and Sheehans, for "being the main agency
flooding the country with Asian migrants and pouring them into safe Labor
seats". A serious investigation of how the labour movement's attitude to
migration, and particularly Asian migration, was changed, has a very
practical bearing on how we can ensure that the labor movement develops and
entrenches a civilised and realistic policy and practice in migration


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