The Demise of the White Australia Policy - section three

Churches and Trade Unions

As David Johanson explained of those who sought a modification of the White Australia Policy: "In 1945, the Australian Communist Party, Archbishop Mannix and the Presbyterian General Assembly called alike for a quota system of Asian immigration. The churches were particularly active in this movement. As early as 1943, the President of the Methodist Conference had said that 'the White Australia Policy is coming up for judgement'. In the following year, the Methodist Spectator urged that the church dissociate itself from the policy, and the Methodist Conference objected to the term 'white' as being racially offensive. In 1945, the Foreign Missions Committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church expressed similar misgivings"(14). Gordon Greenwood also saw the churches as a main player in the push for immigration reform in the 1960s, "especially the Protestant churches acting at times through the Australian Council of Churches; a number of Roman Catholic bodies have also appeared to be sympathetic to reform"(15).

Johanson also described how the White Australia Policy had become an issue of struggle "between the right and left wings of the Labor movement" in the 1920s: "The newly-formed, left-wing Australasian Council of Trade Unions was affiliated with international working-class organizations such as the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Movement, and strongly influenced by the activist doctrines of the Australian Communist Party. These emphasised the common struggle of the working-class against the capitalist-class - "the unity of workers of all lands, irrespective of nationality, colour or creed, for a United Struggle against capitalism and imperialist war". The Pan-Pacific Trade Union secretariat rejected the White Australia policy as "viciously anti-working class", and the office-bearers of the A.C.T.U. pledged themselves "to tear down the barriers that heretofore separated the toiling masses of the East from the Labour movement of the West, and all the racial and national prejudice artificially created by Imperialists and their hirelings"."(16)

Socialists and Communists were often involved with trade union moves against Australia's traditional immigration policies. However, it should be noted that these Socialists and Communists were of the "brotherhood of man" variety, and should not be confused with such types as Jack Lang, William Lane, W.G. Spence, or the White Australia supporters of the early Victorian Socialist Party.

The Demise of the White Australia Policy

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