January 21, 2012
Australia is part of the global economy. Quarry Australia, for instance, is dependent on Chinese demand for raw materials for its economic growth and it has to live with Chinese forms investing in Australia's digital economy. Though Australians are happy to invest in property overseas--the cottage in southern France--they are uneasy about Asians buying property in Australia--despite the existence of Chinatown in most state capitols.
If we dig a little deeper we uncover the bedrock of racism: it's okay for Americans to buy the farm but not the Chinese embodied in the Spooner cartoon. This refers back to the colonial past before Federation in 1901 with Frederick McCubbin's Down on His Luck (1889), which depicts an unlucky gold prospector contemplating his future as he sits by a small campfire in the Australian bush. The gold prospector stands for the national character.
This was at a time when most miners worked for the big companies that increasingly controlled the mining industry, rather than for themselves, and secondly Chinese miners were not welcome in the Australian goldfields.
Many Chinese miners had initially landed in Robe, in South Australia and then made the long trek on foot to the goldfields of Victoria or New South Wales. Unlike the majority of immigrants who came seeking their fortune on the goldfields, the Chinese were greeted with fear and suspicion from the white miners.
Chinese miners were frequently harassed and attacked, but this violent resentment came to a head in the Lambing Flat Riots of 1861 and the Clunes Riot of 1873. Just after we in 1901 we have the 'White Australia' policy.
The white underpinnings of Australian nationalism runs deep like an underground river. Until the 1970s, Australian immigration policy ensured that non-white ‘undesirables’ would be prevented from migrating to Australia. It basically constructs a white fortress in an Anglo-American empire.; a construct that surfaces with the conservative's hostility to asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.
The emergence of multiculturalism in the 1970s meant the construction of a different kind of Australian nationalism that was more open to the world. This openness was reinforced by the emergence of the internet and broadband, which allowed Australians to surf the world and their favourite overseas newspapers online.