By 2001 ASIO no longer had a local target. The Yugoslav ambassadors and staff all went home to their six respective states to await relocation. The war in Vietnam had led to American defeat and withdrawal. Communism and the Soviet bloc disintegrated. But asylum seekers arriving by boat increased to 4,000, most being Afghans. In 2001 the Norwegian container ship Tampa picked up 400 mainly Muslim refugees, was denied access to Christmas Island and boarded by armed Australian border guards. After detention and processing, the majority secured residence in Australia, but not before official efforts to send them elsewhere (Brennan 2003; Marr and Wilkinson 2003).
From 2001 security emphasis shifted towards Islamist terrorism, which was not organized in the same way as either the communists or the European nationalists. There were no undisputed national or local Muslim leaders in a potential Australian base approaching half a million (Chulov 2006). International contacts were varied and splintered, especially between Saudi, Pakistani and Yemeni Sunni and Iranian and Iraqui Shia, and their followers. Islamic affairs, whether terrorist, religious or business, were conducted in Arabic. This language is taught in few Australian institutions, but is the fourth most common Australian language after English. (Kabir 2005). The new enemy actually killed people (including themselves) and bombed civilians, which the Australian communists never did. This did not seriously apply in Australia, with less than a dozen deaths, including Muslims. It certainly applied to Australian jihadists in the Middle East. A handful of individual murders were enough to create serious concern in Australia. The greatest loss of Australian life was in Bali among holidaymakers.
The Islamist threat might have been overlooked until the 2001 World Trade disaster of 9/ 11 and Australian involvement in the war in Afghanistan. The replacement of the communist target by Islamist terrorists presented major challenges to ASIO, despite the expansion of a new legal system designed to enhance its work. Cooperation was strengthened between ASIO and the Federal Police as well as the state police. ASIO powers started to expand from the ASIO Legislative Amendment (Terrorism) Bill of 2002.
‘Operation Pendennis’ from 2005 to 2008 continued under these new laws and arrangements, focussing on local Muslims. Eventually 18 arrests were made and 15 successful convictions won for advocating and planning, but not implementing, terrorism (Chulov 2006).
Official attempts to find satisfactory titles and descriptions for the post-war settlement of a multicultural immigrant population have gone through many stages from ‘New Australians’ to ‘Culturally and Linguistically Diverse’. Descriptions of desirable outcomes have gone from ‘assimilation’ to ‘cohesion’. All these formulations have been developed within a bureaucracy corresponding to political imperatives, rather than emerging from the ethnic or religious communities, expert opinion or the general public. None have much of a basis in community demands or in serious academic inquiry. As in the United States a century ago, many of the majority population have resented ‘hyphenated’ terms (even ‘Anglo-Australians’) but many of the newcomers have been happy to use them. Indigenous Australians (also a bureaucratic term) have preferred North American terminologies like First Nations, stressing prior occupation during many centuries. What has been lacking is in-depth analysis of public opinion about a multicultural society and the attitudes of the several million Australians whose ancestors were not derived from the British Isles. This lack has partly been due to the limited interest in such issues by the Commonwealth bureaucracy and its monopoly of official definitions and funding. The growth of a controversial Muslim population has revealed the importance of knowing whether this threatens ‘cohesion’, even when cohesion has not been effectively defined. Undue reliance on opinion polling has tended to blur the complexity of Australian society and its responses.
The Monash University and Scanlon Foundation research programme, ‘Mapping Social Cohesion’, tackles cohesion through opinion polls and focus groups (Markus 2013). The ongoing surveys suggest a high degree of satisfaction with immigration and multiculturalism. There is very little alternative study in Australia that might modify or endorse these regular findings. A Scanlon-Monash Index (SMI) of Social Cohesion explains and develops this. It brings into question the excited media treatment of relevant issues. It distinguishes the opinions of respondents by their ethnicity, which is normal in North America but very rare in Australia. It has been produced in a period when ethnic relations and immigration were apparently tense in response to the Islamic revival and the corresponding organization of racist and militant opposition.
Over the past 15 years there has been little to justify the high excitement of organizations like Pauline Hanson's One Nation or the recent and more militant Australian Liberty Alliance.
From the end of the war in 1945, communists and industrial militants were once again the main government targets (Horner 2014; Cain 2008; McKnight 1994; Ball and Horner 1998; Blaxland 2015; Blaxland and Crawley 2016; 2016). This continued for over forty years, until the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991 finally shattered the international and local cohesion of the communist parties. The unfamiliar objectives of Islamism required a complete reorientation of ASIO's often basic skills and practices (Blaxland 2015). However the ‘five hands’ (or ‘eyes’)’ collaboration among ASIO, the CIA, MI6 and the New Zealand and Canadian Security Intelligence Services, gave Australia access to a wealth of contacts and information (Richelson and Ball 1985; Ball and Horner 1998). One great asset, if highly secret, was ownership of the ‘Venona’ decoded Russian messages which, among many other items, revealed details of a Soviet spy circle within the Australian Department of External Affairs (West 1999; Haynes and Klehr 1999). US influence, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), ensured a major obsession with communism, which was not always justified in the Australian context. The FBI leadership of J. Edgar Hoover sustained this dedicated hostility for almost fifty years into the 1970s (Weiner 2012).
Unlike Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Britain and the United States have extensive experience of terrorism, as well as wide-ranging networks of informants. Australia's pre-war dependence on British intelligence was diminished by the discovery in 1963 that a leading officer of MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service), Kim Philby, had been a Soviet agent for many years (B. Macintyre 2014). He eventually retired to Moscow, where he received a medal from the Soviet government and lived out the rest of his life. Like Philby, the most effective spies were not publicly revealed communists.
Dissident political movements in democracies are normally distinguished as being either Right or Left. In Australia this implies a relative closeness either to the Liberals and conservatives or to the Labor and socialist political positions. Many activists have moved between Left and Right loyalties. A few have even moved back again. Nor can anti-Semitism be taken as a benchmark for ‘rightism’. Radical Labor leaders like Jack Lang were also anti-Semitic. Some Labor politicians were xenophobic towards all foreigners, which reflected the views of many of their supporters.
Successive Australian governments have adopted various devices for ‘solving’ their rather modest problems of unvisaed arrivals by boat. One problem was the limited number of Convention signatories in the immediate region. Australia and New Zealand were almost alone, until Australia started offering financial and aid inducements to sign, which appealed to small and impoverished states. The United States did not sign international conventions, which required Congressional approval. Their traditional view was that the 50 states were independent parties who should not be committed to international agreements. This did not prevent the United States from being very active in the acceptance of refugees. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Brunei, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Micronesia, Maldives, Bangladesh, Vanuatu and several minor Pacific states, were not signatories. The larger of these had considerable refugee populations already.
Most who are signatories, have only recently signed: Cambodia (1992), Fiji (1968), China (1982), Nauru (2011), Papua New Guinea (1986), Philippines (1981), Samoa (1988), Solomons (1995), Timor Leste (2003), Tuvalu (1986). The majority of these are very small and undeveloped. It is not surprising that Australia saw itself as limited to Timor, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia, all poor and unsuitable. Australia is the richest state in this corner of the world, and neighbours may feel that its ‘burden’ is rather slight compared with theirs. The High Court has blocked relocation of non-signatories like Malaysia on the grounds of their inability to meet the Convention requirements.
Moreover, some of these unsigned states produced refugees who sought asylum in Australia, creating a mutual obligation of sorts once peace was restored. These included Timor Leste, Fiji, China, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and, of course, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Few of these had any intention of being used by Australia for its unwanted arrivals. Some, like China or Vietnam might have considered the proposal insulting. Many regional states that are not Convention signatories have taken in very large numbers of refugees, especially India. Their refugee situation is not always secure or pleasant, but it is judged by them as safer than staying at home. The boats, trucks, buses and trains will still be moving refugees in Southeast Asia, whatever Australia does.
Years of crisis followed the attack in 2001 on the Twin Towers in New York and major terrorist activity in London, Bali, Paris, Moscow, Iraq and Syria. The powers of ASIO and Border Protection were steadily increased to detect and prevent any terrorist activity in Australia. Political instability in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka all affected areas with which many Australians were familiar, either as immigrants or tourists. The Bali tourist deaths of 2002 were the largest loss of Australian life through terrorism in 15 years. Nothing comparable has struck Australia itself. The Australian dilemma is living securely and comfortably among dangerous regional neighbours about whom they know little. Australian terror attacks have been very rare and committed by individuals, usually young, locally born and mentally deranged. Three were shot.
Australian troops were engaged in Afghanistan, a country that has never been conquered. Yugoslav immigrants watched the breakup of their Titoist state and the resulting chaos and ethnic cleansing. Arab and Egyptian Christians were conscious of the likely impact of the ‘Arab Spring’, unlike Western observers. However, the majority of Australians only slowly came to grips with the long-term prospects these disparate events might have on their secure, comfortable and prosperous lives. There was more concern, but limited progress, in Indigenous advance and wellbeing, which few knew much about.
A limited media, based mainly in the ABC, SBS and even the Australian, kept those informed who wanted to be. However, there was plenty of information, public and secret, for the élite who studied population and immigration policy as well as defence, security and foreign trade. Public servants, military officers, public intellectuals, business executives and even a few politicians were very interested in the rise of China, the nuclear aims of North Korea and Iran, the movement of manufacturing industry to Asia (causing local unemployment), and the need to protect the Australian economy from international crises. One of the benefits of multiculturalism was the growing number of educated and expert immigrants from Asia who understood these issues and had relevant overseas connections. These skilled international settlers were not usually consulted by locally born Australians, of whom few are familiar with Asian languages or cultures. Schools and universities moved rather slowly towards the changing world. Arabic, the fourth language of Australia, was hardly taught at all and most of those studying Chinese were Chinese.
The largest number of convicts in Australia were drawn from London and other cities. Rural rebels and minor criminals were also more numerous than is sometimes supposed (Griffin 2014). Many were employed in rural occupations in Australia. A study of ‘Captain Swing’ rebels going to New South Wales on the Eleanor in 1831 suggests that their life might have been rather similar to what they had left behind (Kent and Townsend 2002). Many came from farming villages in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire. They were separated from their families and unable to return to England or to bring their relatives out. Rural convicts were essential to Australian agriculture, as were the assisted migrants who followed them from similar counties. Many of these migrants were less conservative than in hierarchical England, or even radical, and eventually had much better access to their own land.
Serious unrest in Great Britain began to decline from the 1840s, with movement into towns and cities, emigration, trade unions of skilled workers and English patriotism. Politics settled down to parliamentary concentration on a developing two-party system, with many leading positions still in the hands of the landed aristocracy and their relatives. Some of this was copied in Australia into the 1890s, when the party labels were changed into Free Trade and Protection, a division that also influenced Britain. Discontent among the English and Irish rural populations helps to explain the radical liberalism that characterized many parts of rural Australia during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was not revolutionary, because land was often freely available, and former labourers could become farmers. But neither was it conservative and deferential.
Australian rural labourers had the vote between 30 and 50 years before those they had left behind in England and Scotland. While the landed classes and the Anglican Church had influence in the older settlements in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, many rural Australians were Methodists or Presbyterians, owned their own farms and ‘touched their hat to no man’ as Henry Lawson put it. Moreover, many rural settlers were Irish and had their own churches and radical traditions, as did many Scots (Partington 1994). The literary England of Jane Austen created a misleading picture of passive rural English – a picture that remains dominant to the present.
The start of the New Year in 2017 saw an unstable political system in Australia and more serious divisions in Europe and the United States, with the election of US President Donald Trump and the British departure from the European Union. Journalistic wisdom claimed a hypothetical revolution against the élites. Disruptions were caused by populist trends in voting and polling, which shattered the Democrats in the United States, drove the British Conservatives into disunion and Labour into oblivion. The underlying ideology was simple nationalism and the aim of making America or Britain ‘great again’. But below this was a thick layer of old-fashioned racism directed mainly against foreigners – Mexicans in the United States and Poles (unusually) in Britain. If this was a populist revolt through the ballot box, its inspiration came from the Right rather than the Left. The world order, which so much effort had gone into creating since 1945, was starting to crumble under nationalism and ethnic prejudice. This was reflected in the rise of reactionary and racist parties in Europe, Britain and Australia. Most of these kept links with each other and with Australians and Americans. European radicals had more electoral appeal than the English-speaking parties. Exceptions have been Pauline Hanson's One Nation and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the ‘Anglosphere’, well organized for electoral gains, but yet to make many. Even so the Australian party system was more volatile than for many years, as is the case in Britain..
The main impact of these changes on Australia is likely to be in trade with Europe and the United States. Tariffs may be raised or lowered, depending on how they benefit American companies. China is one of the world's major traders and is well established in Australia, with investments in agricultural estates, the port of Darwin, mining and banking, retail trade and property development. China's main dispute with the democracies is on access to the South China Sea, where disagreement is with the United States and Taiwan. The immediate political impact of this dispute on Australia was not as disturbing as in Europe or North America. China will remain a one-party state, despite internal struggles. It is unlikely to suffer the popular instabilities of the democracies or, at least, to reveal them. Australia has, in general, been a close friend of China for longer than has the United States.
In Australia's restricted and provincial interwar society there was considerable anxiety about threats from eccentric political activists and foreign immigrants. Party politics played out between a small number of parties: Free Trade or Protection before 1910 and Labor, conservative or Country Party since 1920. Individuals and groups with unconventional views took up extreme theories in what was essentially a democratic parliamentary system. Many took positions based on ideologies from overseas, such as communism and fascism. Others subscribed to religious views outside the conventional Protestant or Catholic churches. Some looked to foreign alternatives such as Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. Some who did may even have received moral or monetary support from these sources. If so they became of interest to the rather limited security services maintained by state police special branches or the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. In peacetime conditions no such rebel minorities were declared illegal, even if they were openly committed to the overthrow of existing institutions. Among them were ‘secret armies’ intriguing with conservative leaders (Cathcart 1988; A. Moore 1989) and the more open Australia First movement (Muirden 1968). The best-known reactionary group was the New Guard in the 1930s (Amos 1976).
The New Guard followed on the Old Guard, which was essentially an anti-communist and anti-Labor grouping of businessmen and former military officers from the more fashionable Sydney suburbs. It was opposed to the Labor State government of Jack Lang and worried about a potential communist rising. How this would eventuate, with the leading forces of conservative society mobilized against the tiny Communist Party, was never clear. It assumed trade union support for such a rebellion, which was opposed by the dominant Australian Workers Union. This element of fear and fantasy continued through conservative extremists well into the twenty-first century, when the threat was from Islam and their old opponents were irrelevant.
On the Left both the Old Guard and the New were regarded as fascist, which was not surprising, given the rise of real fascist movements all over Europe and even in England. However, it was all nonsense, leaving a small residue of extremism in some Sydney branches of the conservative party.
The established institutions did not collapse. Despite conservative sympathies neither the police nor the armed forces quit their constitutional duties.
The arrival in New South Wales and Tasmania of thousands of convicts – almost all of them men – accompanied by armed soldiers, presented many problems for the Indigenous peoples (Broome 1994). One was the spread of a variety of diseases prevalent among the European poor but hitherto quite unknown to the Indigenous. Smallpox was widespread, and venereal disease and pneumonia became so very quickly (J. Campbell 2002). The same diseases also struck Islanders further away as missionaries, traders and labour recruiters began to settle from the 1840s. The huge gender discrepancy of the convict settlers added to the problem. Indigenous men did not welcome the arrival of numerous rivals and many conflicts were traceable to fights over women. Many of the male settlers were former convicts, sealers and whalers and other unattached wanderers. Some set up relationships with Indigenous people, while others attacked, raped and killed them.
Official restraint was inoperable in parts of Tasmania for years and led to a rapid decline in the already small Indigenous population. A similar male preponderance existed elsewhere. Social and legal controls were limited, especially in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, not occupied until later. Attempts to ‘settle’ the Aborigines were made, but were ineffective until small towns and official camps were established in remote locations, to which some Aborigines attached themselves and their families, despite the hostility of the migrant newcomers.
The British governors adopted the principle of terra nullius or nobody's land, which allowed them to develop agriculture and settlements regardless of prior Indigenous usage (Maddock 1983). This was legally enforced by the principle that all land was vested in the Crown, which could hold it, lease it or sell it. The meaning of the Latin term became hotly debated during the ‘history wars’ of the 1990s (S. Macintyre and Clark 2003; Windschuttle 2004). The meaning was clear at least as early as the 1830s. Uncultivated land belonged to nobody, a principle also being applied in Britain to village commons and highland pastures. Unfamiliar with domestic animals other42 than dogs, the local Indigenous saw cattle and sheep as welcome sources of food. Their punishments echoed those by British landlords, who had enclosed commons for their own profitable use (Griffin 2014). These prohibited hunting their animals, birds and fish under the Game Laws, a frequent cause of transportation.
It was precisely at the peak of Chinese and Yugoslav immigration in 1991 that mandatory and irrevocable detention of asylum seekers arriving by boat without a visa was introduced. These significant numbers represented the only uncontrolled element in the immigration intake. Asylum seekers arriving by air without a valid visa were treated differently. Airline companies were liable to meet their return expenses, a penalty that goes back to the early steamship days. Arrivals by air with a refugee visa issued by Australian authorities overseas were allowed entry. Only refugees approved by the UNHCR were flown in at Australian expense, many of them from Africa. Other arrivals by air seeking asylum were normally given a bridging visa while they were being assessed as refugees.
The new policy, which was to become permanent in 1992, was a response to political events in Cambodia leading to the mass slaughter of civilians by the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge communists. This alerted Immigration Department officers to the possibility of yet another ‘flood gate’ being opened. They persuaded Labor minister Gerry Hand of the need for this serious restriction. In the light of anxiety among voters, the ALP endorsed the new policy and continued to do so for the next 25 years, with the active support of the Liberal/ National coalition and only brief modifications under prime ministers Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd. This policy of ‘irrevocable, mandatory detention’ for unvisaed arrivals by boat, opened up the system of prison-like camps in remote areas and eventually outside Australia altogether in Nauru and Manus Island. Apart from deportation, this was the most oppressive policy adopted since 1945 (O'Neill 2008; Pickering 2005).
This new approach was not consistent with the terms of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. One fundamental principle was ‘non-penalization’ and ‘being arbitrarily detained purely on the basis of seeking asylum’. Asylum seekers rights included ‘access to the courts (Article 16), to primary education and the provision for documentation’. There was also an expectation that ‘refugees lawfully in its territory’ have the right to choose their place of residence, to move freely in its territory, subject to any regulations applicable to aliens generally in the same circumstances’ (Article 26). This was clearly incompatible with detention in a remote centre from which there was no lawful escape.
When the war in Europe ended in 1945, and the United Nations was founded at San Francisco, it was faced with three major problems: the fate of the Jewish population that had survived mass extermination (Bartrop 1994; Blakeney 1985); the presence in Central Europe of several million displaced persons, forcibly removed or voluntarily escaping from the Nazi concentration and labour camp systems; and the need to de-Nazify or put on trial those responsible for this massive chaos. These issues were complicated by the occupation of the most devastated areas by the Soviet Red Army. By a miracle of organization these problems were roughly solved within four years, with Australia playing a major role through the influence of its foreign minister, Herbert Evatt, and its Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell (Calwell 1972). Calwell and his officials took an active part in recruiting 181,000 displaced persons to Australia through the International Refugee Organization (Martin 1989). The unavoidable origins of current refugee policy were established in this major crisis in the hope that peace would prevail. It did not, but current refugees are from a different world.
Jews were not included in this scheme, but had separate arrangements negotiated with Calwell and based initially on family reunion (Benjamin 1998; Neumann 2015). These were met with fierce criticism from Australia's incredibly biased print media. The public identification of refugees with Jews, while inaccurate, forced modifications, like the registration as Jews of intending passengers and a quota of 25 per cent maximum for Jewish passengers.
Germans were barred from Australia altogether, as they had been in 1918. Austrians and Volksdeutsche were not. No non-Europeans were allowed. Subsequent research shows that many collaborators with the Nazis, including war criminals, used the International Organization for Migration (IOM) system to slip through to Australia, Canada and the United States (Aarons 2001). Escape routes to Latin America had already been organized before the war ended (Aarons 1989; Cesarani 2001; Neumann 2015).
Refugee labour was essential in the rebuilding process and in Australian industrialization. Citizenship was taken up by the great majority selected. This provided security. Communist states did not recognize changes of nationality and often called for the repatriation of their subjects. The displaced persons were to become citizens, not guest workers or temporary residents. This objective was largely achieved and laid the foundations for official multiculturalism.
Australia has changed its character and its traditions of nation-building and asylum away from permanent refugee settlement. Its region was facing the possibility of escalating warfare and consequent increases in refugee numbers. Much of the Muslim world was disintegrating in internecine wars, with the exception of Indonesia and Malaysia, Australia's largest and closest neighbours. The creation of the long-awaited Islamic ‘caliphate’ (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq was built on nations in which Australia had intervened as an ally of the United States. Australia was also a participant in the inter-communal warfare of Afghanistan. These were futile attempts to create democracies by force in societies that had never accepted democracy, a system some Islamic teachers have described as haram or forbidden. ‘Crusading’ intervention was almost certain to fail and leave much bitterness behind. Military intervention to change an unpopular culture is too high a price to pay unless it directly challenges Australia.
In the view of Australian governments, which their Oppositions endorsed, the propaganda and recruiting power of the ‘caliphate’ was such that young Muslim Australians were being attracted and trained in terrorist tactics ultimately directed against Australia. This was undoubtedly true, although the numbers going to Syria were little more than a hundred and included converts and non-Arabs. This fear, which was publicly endorsed by ASIO and the Federal Police, created the dilemma of endorsing multicultural principles and practices, while greatly expanding supervision and control over half a million Australian Muslims. This approach has failed in France and Britain. It unleashed the dormant hostility that underlay much Australian and Muslim public opinion. To focus public antagonism on one small section of society is not conducive to social cohesion (Chulov 2006). ‘Deradicalization’ programs were developed and revised to appeal to the Muslim communities, but were failing to reach the locally born youth with their social media networks, which the ‘caliphate’ used with great skill. One problem was that rebellious youth had assimilated to Australian street life, with its long and violent traditions, which were scarcely ‘Islamic’ at all and mainly inspired from the United States. Terrorist attacks that focused on Australian and British targets in the Lindt Café, Sydney (2014) and Westminster, London (2017) were the work of single, mentally disturbed individuals, known to the police but not regarded as Islamic terrorists until after they had been shot dead during their damaging attacks.
Modern Australia was founded in 1788 as a prison in the Pacific, far enough away from Britain for its inmates to be unable to escape (although a few did). Its long-term planners in London had rejected previous disastrous sites in Africa but were anxious to secure Britain's existing interests against the French in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific (Christopher 2010; Atkinson 1997). This required a reserve of British settlers and defenders and a well-developed military base. The first-generation convicts were not normally locked away, as there were no custom-built prisons for them. Massive constructions such as Fremantle Gaol or Port Arthur came later. Prison stations outside Sydney, such as Port Macquarie, Moreton Bay, Macquarie Harbour, Norfolk Island and the Newcastle coalmines, were more stringent and feared than the relatively liberal arrangements in Cumberland County defended by historian John Hirst in Convict Society and Its Enemies (Hirst 1983, 1988). A much longer and quite different account of the system is that of Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore (Hughes 1987). A statistical analysis by Stephen Nicholas and Peter Shergold (Nicholas 1988) argues that convicts to New South Wales were relatively skilled and literate and were a useful workforce. Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania) was more rigorous than New South Wales and continued its convict system longer. Convicts were normally put to constructive work relevant to building a permanent society as part of the expanding British Empire. This followed a tradition of convict and indentured labour in other British colonies, but it did not use slavery as in the Caribbean or North America. Convicts and Aborigines were nominally British subjects, governed by British law. Australian origins lay in coercion but not formal conquest.
When necessary, convict discipline was maintained by floggings, transfer to stricter locations or chain gangs working on the roads and public works. Guarding and policing were often provided by other convicts. The British military saw their role as defence and preventing rebellion and (for its officers) making money. Convict numbers reached a peak of 27,831 in New South Wales in 1836, and 46.4 per cent of the recorded population in 1828. In Van Diemen's Land numbers peaked at 28,459 in 1848 and 47.1 per cent in 1819.
Convicts transported to Australia between 1788 and 1868 totalled 160,000 (Robson 1965).
As with its predecessors, after 1949 ASIO was primarily concerned with communism and espionage. Yet Australian society was changing rapidly, developing different crimes and criminals and extending their links internationally. Corruption had always existed but paled into insignificance with the rise of a drug culture that knew no international boundaries or restrictions. Some emerging criminals were connected to the developing multicultural populations, while others had roots in pre-existing Australian crime families and youth gangs. None were a major concern of ASIO unless they overlapped with security issues or espionage. One issue Australia had committed to in 1945 was detection and punishment of war criminals. Most suspects in Australia were from communist-controlled countries in Eastern Europe. Some had local political influence and protection in churches and parties.
Ethnic politics often involved disagreement on homeland issues, for example between Croats and Serbs, Russians and Ukrainians and Greeks and Macedonians. These were of only limited interest to the security services, apart from communist influences. Occasionally, they led to violence or even arson. The closing report of the Special Investigations Unit on war criminals complained that its work could not be completed. The report listed a large number of cases that had been drawn to its attention but rejected. These mostly concerned former enemy subjects from Croatia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Slovenia, all then under communist control. Australia, like other Western states, was reluctant to accept representations from any of them. Most suspects died peacefully in their beds as aged relics of horrors that most Australians wanted to forget, but a minority never could (Commonwealth of Australia 1993). As we saw in the last chapter, only one person was returned, Serbian general Dragan Vasiljkovic – remanded to Croatia in 2016 after years of delay. Nobody had ever been returned for war crimes in World War II. A concern with ‘migrant crime’ was widespread in the 1950s with the arrival of non-British immigrants in large numbers, especially those from Southern and Eastern Europe. This became an ASIO concern where communists were involved. Immigrant frustration at unemployment led to a threat to move the army up to Bonegilla migrant camp near Albury in 1952. Again in 1961, Italians and Yugoslavs held a riotous meeting about their isolation from the labour market in their remote location away from the large cities (Sluga 1988).
Much that concerns Australia is determined by the politics of the Asia– Pacific region. Control over migration, the economy and the composition of the society have been increasingly dictated by external influences and threats. Migration policy does not develop in peace. On the contrary, there have been more wars and revolutions than ever before and larger numbers fleeing from them and from persecution. As demand has grown, the Australian response has contracted. Permanent settlement has been modified by temporary visas for employment, education and family reunion. Racism no longer dictates policy, as it did for a century. But virtually all asylum seekers recently interned or returned have been from non-European societies.
Rather than individual persecution, international and civil wars became the major cause of seeking refuge, despite the official concentration on personal cases (Marrus 1985). This has escalated with the breakup of the French, British, Dutch, Belgian and Portuguese empires in Africa and Asia after 1945. The greatest numbers of those seeking refuge have often been created by persecution on an ethnic minority basis, rather than by international warfare, religious or ideological pressure. Little of this had directly affected Australia before the late 1930s, the rise of Nazi Germany and the persecution of the Jews from 1933. Today persecution is the dominant issue.
There are now more refugees in the world than ever before. They have a special status under the United Nations as deserving care and attention. That status is governed by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1967; and Resolution 2198 (xxi) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The Protocol covered the whole of the world and was ratified by Australia in 1967, despite the continuing operation of White Australia in its dying days. It was not ratified by most newly independent countries until recently nor, for different reasons, by the United States or the Soviet Union (Loescher 1993).
Previous mass movements caused by wars, revolutions and persecution had not normally received official refugee status before 1920. Nor were mass emigration movements in the nineteenth century, like the Jews from the Russian Empire or the Irish from the United Kingdom, been officially regarded as creating refugees. Recent civil wars and revolutions, however, do come within the responsibilities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Throughout the British Empire official policy aimed at ‘peace, order and good government’ – in theory. In practice British rulers and leaders occupied the social and political heights while others were regarded as inferior. During the convict period peace and good order could be maintained by force if necessary. That tradition was also maintained against the Aborigines as settlement moved further out into their lands. As part of the British Empire, Australia also tried to secure support from settlers as they developed into citizens and later became voters. (Davidson 1997). A normal process in colonial lands like India, Malaysia or West Africa, was to use local chieftains and aristocrats to supply their own forces as keepers of the peace in the system known as ‘indirect rule’. This was not possible in Australia. The Aboriginal peoples did not have such hierarchical social systems, unlike the New Zealand Maoris or many peoples elsewhere in the vast empire. Moreover, the settlers were overwhelmingly British subjects and claimed the real or traditional rights of subjects in Britain and many other parts of the empire. As such they had growing political claims on the ruling élite and expectations of sharing in the wealth already apparent for their rulers.
The explosion of settler numbers and wealth during the ‘golden age’ expedited the demands of the predominantly male settlers for political and social influence and benefits. The authorities wished to avoid the American experience of colonial revolt. Two major reforming movements were launched in the period starting with the 1840s and reached its height in the 1890s moving towards federation. These were the extension of the male franchise to a level comparable to that in the United Kingdom and the granting of available land to settlers as ‘free selections’. As the franchise was not extended to Aborigines or Asians this cemented the settler social ranks behind their rulers with considerable success. The Eureka interlude of 1854 was not repeated, and parliamentary politics became well established. Public policy developed on the basis of British loyalty to the queen and empire, access to land and the franchise for a wider public of small farmers. The wealthy settlers were kept in power, and some of their descendants are still among the largest landholders and influential classes. Many others endured years of hardship with the onset of economic depressions in the 1890s and the 1920s.
From 1945 until 1990 Australia gradually humanized its immigration and refugee programs. It was accepted that refugees had genuine problems in an unsafe world, that Asians could settle in as well as Europeans, and that organizations and policies should be developed to cater for the needs of new citizens, regardless of their origins. There were still older traditions: submerged historical prejudices against unfamiliar and unfortunate immigrants who might not fit into the dominant British-created society. Some of these prejudices originated in Britain even before 1788. A continuing strand of racism was inherited originally from the British Empire. Fear that Asian numbers might ‘open the floodgates’ and swamp the small Australian population was timehonoured. These attitudes sustained One Nation between 1997 and 2017 and some relatively minor racist and extremist groups recently. They were also latent in many Australian minds.
These traditions appealed to those within the Immigration Department who had operated the White Australia policy and regretted its ending, as well as hard-line staff within the Compliance Branch of the department who were responsible for ensuring that the ‘floodgates’ remained firmly locked against unauthorized entrants. These fulltime officials were able to influence their short-term ministers. In practice the ‘floodgates’ were open to temporary workers, working holidaymakers, students and investors, in larger numbers than for refugees. Those depositing investments of two million dollars or more could look forward to permanent residence and citizenship in due course. The great majority of these were prosperous Chinese.
Other favoured groups were seen as economically productive, but not as permanent residents. Hundreds of thousands of them were living and working in Australia without citizenship by 2010. Some were being exploited by their employers. Most were not and came from countries to which they could return as they thought fit. Others were originally asylum seekers, offered Safe Haven Enterprise Visas if they moved to provincial areas with labour shortages. This was an echo of the directed labour of displaced persons in the 1940s. It was introduced in 2014, but did not guarantee permanent residence to those who had arrived by boat.
Many in the Liberal Party still subscribed to the idea of Australia as a homogenous society dedicated to British traditions. These found their leadership in John Howard, prime minister between 1996 and 2007.
The establishment and expansion of security and intelligence agencies in Australia owed a great deal to the fear of communism and its influence in the trade union and labour movements (Horner 2014; Blaxland 2015; Toohey and Pinwill 1989; Hocking 1993). Previous threatening movements, such as Irish nationalism, were mainly dealt with by old-fashioned police forces using old-fashioned invigilation techniques and a special branch. Each colonial or state police force acted on its own, with limited rights of interstate extradition validated by a judge. With varying degrees of corruption or criminal influence from place to place and time to time, the chance of controlling professional criminals was limited, let alone the search for agents of a foreign power. Prior to World War II most foreign countries were only represented in Australia by consuls. The two major fascist powers, Italy and Germany, sought consciously to recruit support from their diasporas (Cresciani 1980; Gumpl and Kleinig 2007). Now there are over a hundred fully staffed embassies in Canberra. Some represent countries that are at war with each other, either formally or in effect, and who may be spying on each other.
The failed attempt to outlaw the Communist Party began the founding of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the main organization concerned with communist activities (Horner 2014). The abortive Victorian Royal Commission on the party reached few significant conclusions. Although the Communist Party was quite small in 1950 it had a complex web of organizations and influences well beyond that of most state police forces. None of its members attempted terrorist violence. Its support for the Soviet Union and its satellite states led to a consistent loss of support after 1945. Communists were among those passing information on to the Soviet Union, but they were not alone (McKnight 1994). ASIO was founded because of American concern that the Commonwealth was infiltrated by Soviet agents and sympathizers. This led to direct pressure from the United States for a remedy (Horner 2014; Cain 1983, 2008). A major American concern was with the communication systems in the South Pacific, based on Western Australia and the Northern Territory. US influence was persistent. However, the security problems faced by Australia were relatively modest. Protection of US communications was undoubtedly important.
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