Global Migration Stories
Dr Charles Fahey
The demise of the White Australia Policy (WAP) was brought about by a combination of external and internal push-pull factors. The strongest influence that realized the downfall of the policy was war. The event of war on a global scale began a cascading effect of interwoven causes outside and within Australia which would ensure the eventual destruction of the WAP. In this sense there are four main points that can be focused on when looking at the issue. These are; Australia’s transformation during World War II (WWII) to an industrialised economy driven by the war effort; massive numbers of refugees from war torn Europe looking to resettle; a paranoid fear of invasion from the communist threat and the humanitarian crisis at the conclusion of the Vietnam war. During WWII Australia’s economy had undergone a transition to an industrialised economy which required more labour than Australia possessed. Australia’s preferred source of immigration, the United Kingdom, having just suffered over four-hundred-thousand casualties during the war was in no position to meet the numbers required either. If Australia was to sustain a continued rate of growth they were going to have to source additional immigrants from places other than the UK. The argument put forward by the head of the newly formed Immigration Department, Arthur Calwell, was to “populate or perish”. Furthermore the opinion at the time was that another war with Japan or another Asian nation such as Communist China was inevitable. In order to meet this threat Australia would need to increase its population at a faster rate to be able to effectively defend itself. This situation in Australia can be classed as internal or in terms of immigration, a pull factor which was the first step in the ultimate failure of the WAP. These events forced Australia to turn to the non English speaking nations of Europe as a source of immigrants. At the...
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