2001 Oration

Australia in the 21st century: Living in peace and freedom?

Inaugural Henry Parkes Oration: The Hon. Gordon Samuels AC CVO QC
24 October 2001. Tenterfield School of Arts, Tenterfield NSW

The Hon. Gordon Samuels

The Hon. Gordon Samuels

Professor Fletcher, Mayor, Mr Unsworth, Mr Halliday, Official and Special Guests, High School Students, Ladies and Gentlemen: I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet.

It is a considerable honour, which I deeply appreciate, to have been asked to deliver the Inaugural Henry Parkes Oration. Our gathering here in Tenterfield commemorates not only the Grand Old Man himself, but also the speech he made here one hundred and twelve years ago to the day, which has been regarded ever since as the rallying call which set the cause of federation finally on its ultimate and successful path. I am very pleased to see that most appropriately on an occasion such as this, one third of the audience is made up of school students, many of whom come from the three federation high schools.

I need hardly say that I am delighted to have this opportunity to salute the most famous Premier of New South Wales, and to acknowledge his massive contribution to the federation of the Australian States. I feel something of a personal link with Parkes. As Governor, I had the privilege of being the first patron of the Henry Parkes Foundation, and the pleasure of occupying the office in which Parkes worked during most of his five premierships. It is a room redolent with Australian history, and still contains exactly the same furniture which was there in Parkes’ time. Every day I was in the office I had before me a portrait of Parkes. It hung above the fireplace in front of which there occurred the famous conversation between Parkes and the then Governor, Lord Carrington, in which the Governor urged Parkes to pursue his plan to federate the colonies.

I will not attempt to recall the details of Parkes’ long, turbulent and fruitful life. On 24 October 1999 the current Premier, Bob Carr, made a commemoration address here on the 110th anniversary of Parkes’ federation speech. He traversed Parkes’ political life, aspirations and achievements, and I will not repeat what the Premier said so eloquently then. Nor can I hope to reproduce Parkes’ oratorical style, with its wonderful rotundity and command of his audience, to say nothing of his capacity for sustained invective which would have made him an exceptional performer during question time in today’s Legislative Assembly. Parkes was not only a master of the more robust style of parliamentary debate, but, alike with his contemporaries Deakin and Griffith, had literary tastes and accomplishments which would be ground for intense suspicion if displayed by today’s politicians [1].

Having thus covered my flanks, as it were, by saying what I am not going to do, it might be as well if I confided in you what I do propose to say. This is our Centenary of Federation year. And that, of course, is the context for this gathering today. This year we have had the opportunity which many of our historians and public intellectuals, if I may use that term, have grasped, to look back over the history and events which have brought us to where we are now, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our present situation, and to look forward to consider how, as a nation, we wish to proceed. That is to say, to examine the kind of future which we desire – to identify our aspirations and to determine how best we can achieve them.

I thought that I would myself engage in a similar exercise. In order to maintain focus upon the man whose memory we honour, I will examine some aspects of the federation movement, and then consider in a general way what Parkes’ response might be to Australia in the 21st century – its institutions, attitudes and general social structure, and to the immense changes which have taken place in the Australian community since his day. In his collection of verses called Fragmentary Thoughts there is a poem called The Flag which has these lines:

“God girdled our majestic isle with seas far reaching east and west That man might live beneath this smile In peace and freedom ever blest.”

Hence my title “Australia in the 21st Century : Living in Peace and Freedom?” The question mark is there to enable me to inquire whether Parkes’ vision of Australia’s destiny has been realised; and whether Parkes would have greeted with sympathy and approval the Australia and the Australians whom we know today.

Parkes, of course, did not live to see the consummation of the cause to which he had devoted a great part of his later years. When therefore I speak of “Parkes’ Australia” I mean, in a proleptic way, the country and its inhabitants as they were in 1901, and the nation and its people which Parkes envisaged as the desired fruits of federation.

Parkes’ basic vision of Australia was of a loyal and devoted member of an empire upon which there appeared to be no prospect of the sun ever setting; and he yielded to none in his personal loyalty to the Queen [2]. Parkes saw Australians as almost wholly descended from the Anglo-Celtic heritage, and linked by that “crimson thread of kinship” to which he famously referred [3] — as indeed in his day they were. In 1901, of the non-aboriginal population, 95% were either Australian born or born in Great Britain or Ireland.

Parkes’ attachment to the Empire connection was not solely the product of sentiment oremotion. It was generated also by apprehensions concerning the possible incursions of Russian naval vessels in the Pacific, and, later, by fears of French adventurism. These anxieties about the colonies’ capacity to defend themselves against an external threat profoundly influenced Parkes’ support for federation. In the speech which we mark today, a central theme was the report by the British Major General Sir Bevan Edwards into the organisation and efficiency of the military forces of the colonies. General Edwards advised that the forces of the various colonies should be federated together for operation in unison in the event of war “so as to act as one great Federal army”.

Parkes dealt at some length with the desirability of what he called “a great Australian army”. Concluding that this would require the establishment of a central executive government, he passed on to ask the celebrated question “whether the time had not now arisen for the creation on this Australian continent of an Australian government, as distinct from a local government, and an Australian parliament”. His primary theme indeed was that it being essential to the preservation of the security and integrity “of these colonies that the whole of their forces should be amalgamated into one great Federal army, feeling this, and seeing no other means of attaining the end, it seemed to him that the time was close at hand when they ought to set about creating this great national government for all Australia”.

So Parkes’ vision for Australia was essentially of a nation of Britons, maintaining links of loyalty to the Sovereign and the Empire, and protected by the ships of the Royal Navy. One hundred years later this picture has been significantly altered. The Australian population is still predominantly British in origin, although significantly less so than it was at the time of federation or just before. The Queen of the United Kingdom remains Queen and Head of State of Australia. But the old Empire has faded into the Commonwealth of Nations and the great change has been the shift in Australia’s strategic alliance.

In December 1941, two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and, incidentally, more than a month before the fall of Singapore, John Curtin made the declaration which was to sever Australia’s strategic dependence upon the United Kingdom. He said: “Without inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom”. In 1951 the American alliance was sealed by the signing of the ANZUS Treaty, whose 50th anniversary we acknowledge this year. Indeed, we have celebrated it by being the first of the two allies to invoke it.

There is, I think, an interesting parallel here. In September 1939 Prime Minister Menzies simply proclaimed that as Britain was at war, Australia was also at war; a conclusion which Parkes would no doubt have applauded. In September 2001, following the terrorist attack on New York, Prime Minister John Howard invoked Article 4 of the Treaty which provides that an attack on one party is an attack on both. But, curiously, he did not do so to summon US aid to Australia, but to pledge, and perhaps to authorise, Australia’s support for the United States in any way within Australia’s capability.

But, of course, it would be wrong to assign undue significance to anxieties about the defence of the continent as an element in the move to federation.

Economic and fiscal considerations, and apprehensions about Australia’s defence against foreign invaders, were certainly influences upon the federation movement. But it seems to me that historians such as John Hirst [4] and Robert Birrell [5] are correct in arguing that the movement was essentially informed by a kind of idealistic nationalism, which is strikingly exemplified in much of the large quantity of verse – not all of it of memorable quality — which was produced by supporters of the movement, including Parkes himself. The poets hailed the coming federation and attempted to assign an ideological basis for its inevitability. In his Tenterfield Oration, Parkes quoted from a poem by James Brunton Stephens, written in 1877, in support of the argument that federation was inevitable and imminent:

“Not yet her day, How long ‘not yet’?
There comes a flush of violet!
And heavenward faces, all aflame
With sanguine imminence of morn
Wait but the sun-kiss to proclaim
The day of the Dominion born.”

It would be surprising these days to find verse introduced into a political speech.

Parkes himself regarded federation as inevitable, and in 1883 wrote to Lord Tennyson, with whom he had been staying in England, saying: “The future of Australia in which you take so deep an interest will in a few short years surprise the world. The federation in some form or other, of the now existing colonies will come by natural processes”. It will be remembered that at Tenterfield, Parkes, referring to the formation of the great commonwealth of the United States added: “… surely what the Americans have done by war, the Australians could bring about in peace”.

The poems written in the years approaching federation provide the best guide to the notions and ideals which inspired the movement [6]. The general theme was that Australia had been called by destiny to federation. The land had but one natural boundary (this rather conveniently overlooked Tasmania) and was a unit “girt by sea” as Peter McCormick wrote in 1878. The poem in which those words appear became our National Anthem almost exactly one hundred years later. The people who lived within these convenient national frontiers were, it was emphasised, of one race and spoke the same language.

I have already quoted Parkes’ poem ‘The Flag’, and there were many other such tributes, often equally dubious geographically, to an ideal land. The theme which runs through all these verses asserts Australia’s destiny, ordained by God, and therefore advances federation as a sacred task uncorrupted by ordinary considerations of power or ambition. The terms employed often portray Australia — the country and its flag — as unstained by blood or the other consequences of domestic conflict. This, of course, ignored the frontier wars between the European settlers and the indigenous people which, by 1890 or so, had cost a significant number of lives. The notion of federation was perceived as a Holy Grail in the quest for which the people of Australia were excellent candidates. The poets commonly depicted Australia as a young virgin awaiting her arousal to nationhood [7]. This imagery conjures up not only the Sleeping Princess, but, more aptly perhaps, Brunnhilde, lying on the Valkyrie Rock (girt by flames rather than girt by sea), awaiting the advent of her liberating hero.

For poets such as Farrell and Banjo Paterson, and for that matter for a number of Australian historians of the period or later, the indigenous people simply did not exist, and the conflicts with the European settlers were airbrushed out of history. But the theme of these verses is devout, high-minded, concerned with the moral values which should inform the new polity; and celebrating a movement which had never been born in blood and strife, and would achieve its purposes by the peaceful realisation of manifest destiny.

In the event, the new national identity was established by the orderly, democratic processes of conference, discussion, compromise and the ballot box. There were, of course, disagreements and strong divisions over policy in the shaping of the new constitution. But there was nothing which could be regarded as civil turmoil or unrest or anything likely to stain with blood the pristine country of Farrell and Paterson. No possibility of blood on the wattle.

Now, what sort of people were they, who, in 1901, became citizens of this new Commonwealth. I could really say what sort of men were they, because at that time women still played only a limited role in public life; and at public banquets were commonly confined to seats in the gallery, where they fluttered their handkerchiefs in support of the orators who performed prodigious feats at the end of the immense dinners which distinguished every major occasion.

But Parkes had declared for female suffrage in 1887 [8]; and in 1889 at the banquet here in Tenterfield, women sat down with men for the first time at a public banquet [9]. Thereafter, during the federation campaign places were regularly reserved for ladies at meetings [10].
Now, the citizens of the new Commonwealth, were overwhelmingly British. In 1901, 77.2% of the Australian population, excluding Aboriginal people, were native born, and 18% were born in Great Britain or Ireland. Of the remaining 5% or so only 1% had been born in countries which could be called Asian, these sources being India and China. In 1947, 90% of the population were Australian born and hence less than 10% were born overseas. Of those, 6% were from the British Isles, and only 3% from the rest of the world. The aboriginal population was only 87,000, having risen from a low point of 74,000 in 1933. The Asian-born or Asian descended population was even smaller [11]; so that Australia could claim immediately after the Second World War to be 99% white and 96% British [12], although public statements often put the latter percentage higher” [13]. The major cultural differentiation was not primarily ethnically determined but was between Catholics and Protestants, although reflecting Irish and British origins in most cases [14].

Hence, fifty years after his death, Parkes would have found the composition of the population of Australia recognisably familiar. This long period of demographic stasis was due to two primary factors. First, the comparatively low level of European immigration between the wars other than from the United Kingdom, and, secondly, to the White Australia Policy, to whose principles Parkes would have been entirely sympathetic, and which was formally established by one of the first legislative acts of the new Commonwealth Parliament [15] which incorporated the infamous dictation test designed, not as a measure of literacy, but as a means of excluding all non-Europeans from Australia.

It is argued by some that the White Australia Policy, with its exclusion of non-whites from Australia was, at least in its early days, primarily designed to protect white employment, and the wage levels of native born Australians and European immigrants. No doubt this was an element in the adoption of the policy. But, fundamentally, it was central to building a white British Australia from which all others would be excluded [16]; thus preserving the unity and egalitarianism which could not be achieved in the face of the racial problems which had beset the United States and South Africa [17]. Parkes expressed his own view about the entry of non-whites in these terms: “I contend that if this young nation is to maintain the fabric of its liberties unassailed and unimpaired, it cannot admit into its population any element that of necessity must be of an inferior nature and character” [18].

The commitment of Parkes and his political contemporaries to the exclusion of non-whites from Australia largely reflected the values of their time, and their conviction that the rise of the new nation could be achieved only by maintaining the purity of the priceless heritage of their British ancestry. The crimson thread of kinship must be preserved; and with federation Australia “would be admitted in the rank of nations, under the noble and glorious flag of the mother land [19]. White Australia was certainly racist; but it must be acknowledged that it was designed to protect the establishment of Australia as a world in which the dignity of labour and a decent standard of living would be preserved and social harmony maintained [20].

However, there is a fine distinction between out and out racism, that is the exclusion of those perceived to be inferior, and the purpose of constructing a society which will achieve harmony by the exclusion of those manifesting obvious ethnic and cultural differences. It is difficult to acquit White Australia of fundamental racism when one recalls that The Bulletin had “Australia for the white man” on its masthead until 1961, when it was removed by its new editor, Donald Horne. The civic disabilities of non-Europeans imposed in 1903 [21], which prevented them from acquiring British citizenship in Australia, were not lifted until 1957.

White Australia was removed from the platforms of the Liberal and Labor parties in 1965 and formally abolished by the Whitlam Government in 1975. It could not survive the need for Australia to develop and strengthen its relationship with its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region.

From the end of the Second World War there commenced to gather force a considerable change in the ethnic composition of the Australian people. There was a very marked increase in the volume of immigration to Australia. Significant numbers of displaced persons and other European immigrants commenced to flow into Australia, following the adoption of the immigration program of 1947. As James Jupp points out [22], the new immigration policy restated the objectives of the old in endeavouring to maintain the British character of Australia, by emphasising the necessity that newcomers assimilate into the dominant local culture. Of course, until 1948 [23] Australian citizenship did not exist; and Prime Minister Chifley became, on Australia Day 1949, the very first Australian citizen. The early immigration policy was to bring about as rapid as possible an assimilation of immigrants into one of the two contenders for the role of dominant culture; they would either become Australian or British.

However, assimilation simply did not work. The great majority of immigrants did not wish to relinquish their own distinctive ways of eating, dressing and looking at life, and those – at that stage the majority – who had no, or a very imperfect, knowledge of the English language could not successfully pass as locals. A rather droll and Orwellian acknowledgment that assimilation was no longer the policy of the Government came in 1964 when the Assimilation Branch of the Department of Immigration was renamed the Integration Branch [24].
As soon as Australia dismantled the White Australia Policy, and opened its doors to an increasing flow of immigrants from the most diverse cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds, and as soon as it was evident that the policy of assimilation had failed, it was obvious that it was necessary to establish a legal structure, and encourage a social response, which would ensure that immigrants were treated equally with other Australians and given a fair chance of realising their aspirations.

So, a year or two before the final demise of the White Australia policy, there came the express declaration by the then Minister for Immigration that Australia was a “multicultural” society. This statement, one of policy disguised as fact, formally embraced a social determination which was to have a profound effect upon the Australian community. It not only broadened the composition of its people, but sought to change the way in which the people regarded one another; and it inevitably eroded what had seemed to be until then an unassailably monocultural heritage. Its inevitable effect was to weaken Parkes’ “crimson thread of kinship.”

The concept of multiculturalism (a term, incidentally, which we borrowed from Canada) has not always been easy to grasp and define. At its simplest, it entails tolerance of difference, the right of migrants to maintain and pursue their own cultural identity, and an end to the automatic assumption of the superiority of a dominant host culture.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs on its home page defines the term “Australian multiculturalism” as one “which recognises and celebrates cultural diversity. It accepts and respects the right of all Australians to express and share their individual cultural heritage within an overriding commitment to Australia and the basic structures and values of Australian democracy” [25].

The policy of encouraging cultural diversity has produced great changes in the ethnic composition of Australia’s population. “Ethnic strength” is a concept which does more than count individuals from different genetic backgrounds. It takes account of intermixture of ethnic origins, by marriage for example, and represents the ‘strength’ of any particular ethnicity in the total population. In 1947 the ethnic strength of those of Anglo-Celtic origins was almost 90%. In 1999 it was just short of 70% – a considerable dilution [26].

The effect of multiculturalism in Australia, and the uncertainty it generates may be put in this way. “A new nation has been created : just under six million immigrants have arrived in Australia since 1945 and the percentage of foreign-born residents is ahead of any other immigrant receiving country. But the question mark still hangs over whether the social reality has been embraced, or accepted under sufferance.” [27]

Now, let me at this stage return to my title, to my text as it were, and ask whether in this new nation, quite unlike any that Parkes imagined, we do live in the peace and freedom which he regarded as Australia’s manifest destiny?

We live free of any external threat save that of international terrorism, (which is, of course, an internal threat as well) which recent events have so tragically emphasised. We share a head of state with the United Kingdom, but we have been fully independent at least since 1986, when the Australia Acts vested the powers of the Queen in the State Governors, abolished appeals to the Privy Council, and terminated any responsibility of the United Kingdom Government in relation to State matters [28].

Our individual freedoms are preserved by our adherence to parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and the right of free speech. We have a generally adequate system of social services and industrial regulation, and a standard and availability of public education which, although often the object of lively criticism would, I think, have satisfied Parkes. We may say that we have freedom to live unfettered lives, to make our own choices, and to pursue our individual aspirations as successfully as our talents and determination permit.

So I think that we can probably render a favourable account to Parkes on the score of freedom. What about peace? We live at peace with other nations, and it does not seem probable that such tensions as inevitably do exist are likely to be translated into active hostility in the foreseeable future.

What then of the internal or domestic peace of the Australian community? Here there must be a substantial negative, arising from a phenomenon which Parkes would almost certainly never have considered. We cannot conscientiously assert that our society is a peaceful one until we have a solution to the wholly unsatisfactory state of relations between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities. The need for reconciliation, that is to say, to bring into harmony their different, and sometimes conflicting, cultural norms and aspirations, is a pressing social imperative. It requires the urgent substitution of action for the rhetoric which relieves but does not build.

We must bring to the task a greater degree of mutual candour and objectivity than that employed so far. Non-indigenous people must look steadily and without bias at the violent encounters and the destruction of traditional indigenous culture which the historical background, however conservatively assessed, really reveals. And Aboriginal leaders must accept honest and constructive criticism of their own position and arguments. To my mind, we must establish a workable accord within the frame of contemporary Australian society before we can claim that we live together in peace.

It remains finally to consider one further threat to the peace of our community. This is one which Henry Parkes would certainly have identified as a likely consequence of cultural diversity. The question is whether we can continue to maintain a place for separate and diverse cultural identities while maintaining also that degree of social cohesion without which any community may face the risk of practical disintegration.

It has been said that there are three key concepts involved in the multicultural philosophy: maintenance of social cohesion, equality, and respect for cultural identity [29]. Equality speaks for itself; but “respect for cultural identity” is a concept which for my own part I would query. You must respect the right of other people to be different; but you need not respect the essence of their different behaviour. You are required however to tolerate it; provided, of course, that it is not illegal or socially disruptive. I think that tolerance rather than respect is the key word in this context. It is, after all, naïve to imagine that members of different cultural or religious groups are to love one another [30]; but if they tolerate one another first, respect, at least, may follow.

It seems to me that the concept of social cohesion is the one which is problematic. Cohesion – that is sticking together – is obviously essential for the survival of any society. Equally plainly, that cohesion will be affected by the presence within the community of different and perhaps incompatible, and even hostile, cultural identities and practices. But the criteria of multiculturalism entail that room must be made for all of them.

Social cohesion requires that newcomers must learn to speak the language, be aware of and obey the laws and abandon social practices which are plainly contrary to Australian cultural values. The requirement that minority cultural groups should comply with Australian cultural norms presents a conflict which is not easy to resolve. Certainly no racism or discrimination is involved in disagreement, even of the most vehement kind; or in seeking to persuade others to modify or abandon certain of their cultural practices. At the same time the goal of cohesion should not be used to justify the imposition on a minority of the values of a dominant group. The problem is to differentiate between those values which are necessary for cohesion, and those which may be adjusted to allow for the tolerance of diversity [31]. This raises the issue of unity and diversity which some of you have been discussing earlier today.

Social cohesion is commonly ensured by a sense of common identity or what has been called common belonging or self understanding [32]. This measure of self understanding defines the values which the members of the community hold in common, and which they wish to preserve; or, at least, those which they believe they hold in common and wish to preserve. As Donald Horne has suggested [33], what we hold in common in Australia is a civic faith, which, I think, may be said to be represented by adherence to the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, the right of free speech, the notions of tolerance and fairness, a preference for equality rather than privilege and a readiness to help one another. These are values which are capable of adoption by disparate ethnic or cultural groups; and these shared standards will go a long way towards holding together the elements of our multicultural society.

But adherence to these constitutional standards, which is essentially what they are, is to my mind insufficient to provide the whole of the social cement demanded. Cohesion needs some kind of perceived emotional kinship; “such emotional symbols of collective identification as the National Anthem, the flag, national ceremonies, rituals and monuments to dead heroes” [34].

Moreover, we need a common frame of reference, in which we can find the shared ideas, familiar values and responses which enable us to communicate with each other, and to care about and trust one another. The need for shared symbols, and the uneasiness which may be felt if they are lacking, has been well summed up by James Jupp in this way [35]:

Australia fifty years ago was predominantly a British country and said so with pride, and now it’s not, it’s something else. But we haven’t quite decided what else it is so we call it multicultural. The reason a lot of people are uncomfortable with it is because they are conservative — they want to conserve things as they were, and the thought there might be several million Australians who don’t give a stuff about Don Bradman, and don’t know who he was, will be shocking to them.

If one substitutes W G Grace or Darling for Don Bradman the thought would probably have shocked Parkes. I confess it rather shocks me.
But this is, I think, an atavistic and somewhat irrational response, and, in any case, the likelihood of this particular amnesia occurring is not overwhelming. The majority of those of our immigrants who come from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa are committed to cricket and have certainly heard of Don Bradman. A lot of Scots, Welsh and Irish who have never been known for their devotion to the game, probably have not.

Resistance to change, in the context of social or community affairs often takes the form of what I might call the “white picket fence” view of history, which is often accompanied by the “white blindfold” view, and harks back to some imagined earlier time of peace, order and security. But the truth is that in the affairs of nations there has rarely if ever been such a time. In Parkes’ day, for example, there was considerable sectarian animosity between Catholics and Protestants which reflected the deep divisions between the Irish and the English, convicts, settlers and native born. Parkes himself was largely responsible for promoting the Fenian conspiracy (which never in fact existed) in justification for the execution of the mad Irishman O’Farrell for the attempted murder of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868 [36]. Parkes spoke of Britons, but regarded himself as an Englishman [37].

In the middle of the Waverley Cemetery in Sydney there stands an impressive stone and marble structure, erected by the people of Ireland and sympathisers in Australia, originally built in 1898, but with more recent additions, in memory of the Irish patriots, who died in the struggle against England.

We hardly regard this as a provocation or call to schismatic disunity, despite its trenchant criticism of our English ancestors. We are accustomed in Australia to the idea that one can be both Scottish and Australian, or Irish and Australian, or Chinese or Macedonian and Australian. Such multiple identities and sympathies are acceptable, provided that they do not involve conflicting allegiance, or prejudice overriding loyalty to Australia. They must not promote or permit the active persistence in Australia of hatreds generated in other places.

To describe a society as multicultural is not to imagine a federation of distinct and separate cultural groups, each living within its own boundary. Cultures change and evolve, both in their pristine and imported identities. In Australia there is a constant process of integration. The ethnic composition of our population is fluid and its character changes. At present, at least 60% of the Australian people are ethnically mixed, while about 20% have at least four distinct ancestries. “In fact, the fastest growing ethnic group is not the Chinese, Lebanese, Filipino or any other rapidly growing immigrant group, but the category of people who are of mixed ethnic origins.” [38]

The fundamental rule of multiculturalism has been, and remains, to avoid discrimination against minority cultures. It is now firmly enshrined in our law. Multiculturalism, of course, may create another class of persons who feel the injustice of discrimination. Typical of this response is the criticism made by the poet, Les Murray, that multiculturalism denigrates the Anglo-Celts and the farming people, and “the majority of Australians who are born in this country, those that have mainly British ancestry … [39]”

It is said that this response stems from the resentment of the once dominant Anglo-Celtic group at the erosion of their privileged position. I think rather that those in that group see themselves, with justification, as having been primarily responsible for the creation of modern Australia, and regard the tolerance of other and different cultures as a rejection of that undoubted achievement. I do not myself believe that it is; but I imagine that Henry Parkes might have been inclined to think so. The Irish monument in Waverley Cemetery reminds us that years before Australia had heard of multiculturalism there were discords and frictions between the two major ethnic components of the European settlers. But the nation has survived, and grown stronger.

We have managed our new phase of multiculturalism with considerable success. Despite some Hansonian hiccups our new nation is settling very well into its more diverse, and richer, pattern. We have never had the race riots which have recently disfigured both England and Germany, and this is a tribute to the generally tolerant and fair atmosphere of Australian society.

It is clear, I think, that our immigration program must and will continue, and that, accordingly, we must continue to accept cultural diversity, and to cultivate and exploit its undoubted benefits. There is no other way open to us. Our nation will change, and there will be more people with hitherto unusual names playing cricket for Australia. Our new sporting idols may be basketballers or soccer players; or, indeed, rugby stars because that is surely the international winter game of the future.

We can allay any apprehension that Parkes might feel by assuring his benevolent presence, undoubtedly here today, that even in 2025, on present indications, the ethnic strength of the Anglo-Celts will be a solid 62%. I hope that, were he able to see it, Parkes would generally approve our Australia, and the standards and achievements of the nation he did so much to create.

I like to think that Sir Henry would have been as formidable on television as he was on the hustings. I feel sure that he would have warmly embraced any community which was able to deploy the means of beaming him into every home across the nation.
Parkes was one of our greatest men. I am proud that I have been able to share in this tribute to his memory.

[1] John McDonald in ‘Spectrum’, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 2000, p 5.
[2] See, for example, Parkes’ remarks in June 1849 at the massive demonstration at Circular Quay against the continued landing in New South Wales of transported convicts: Robert Travers, The Life and Times of Sir Henry Parkes, Kangaroo Press 2000, p 53 (hereafter Travers).
[3] At the dinner for the Federation Conference in Melbourne in 1890.
[4] In The Sentimental Nation, OUP Melbourne, 2000, (hereafter Hirst).
[5] In A Nation of Our Own, Longman, Melbourne, 1995 (hereafter Birrell).
[6] Hirst, p 15.
[7] John Farrell, and Banjo Paterson, ‘Song of the Future’.
[8] Hirst, p 83.
[9] Tenterfield Star, 26 October 1889.
[10] Hirst, p 148.
[11] James Jupp, Immigration, OUP, Melbourne, 2nd Ed. 1998 (hereafter Jupp) p 132 and Appendix IV, p 192.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Jupp, p 132.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Immigration Restriction Act, 1901; repealed by the Migration Act, 1958.
[16] Jupp, p 73. For a somewhat different view, see Birrell p 12.
[17] See, for example, Paul Kelly, ‘Pride of Race’ in The Australian, 12 March 2001.
[18] See Charles E Lyne, Life of Sir Henry Parkes, George Robertson & Co, Sydney 1896 (hereafter Lyne) pp 476-7.
[19] Lyne, p 494.
[20] Hirst, p 22.
[21] Commonwealth Naturalisation Act, 1903.
[22] Jupp, p 134.
[23] Nationality & Citizenship Act.
[24] Jupp, p 138.
[25] And see the Community Relations Commission & Principles of Multiculturalism Act, 2000 (NSW), s 3(b).
[26] Charles Price, ‘Australian Population: Ethnic Origins’ in People and Place, Vol.7, no.4, pp 12 et seq.
[27] Andrew Stevenson, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 September 2001, p 13.
[28] Australia Act, 1986 (Commonwealth) passim.
[29] By George Zubrzycki, the author of the pioneering report made by the Ethnic Affairs Council in 1977, Australia as a Multicultural Society.
[30] cf Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) AC 562 at 580 per Lord Atkin.
[31] Australian Law Reform Commission Report No 57, Multiculturalism & the Law, 1992, para 1.23.
[32] Bhikhu Parekh, ‘Defining National Identity in a Multicultural Society’ in People, Nation and State, Ed. Mortimer & Fine, I B Tauris, London, 1999 pp 66 et seq.
[33] ‘Something Fishy in the Mainstream?’, Barton Lecture No 1, 2001. [34] See footnote 32.
[35] By James Jupp, Director of the Australian National University Centre for Immigration & Multicultural Studies.
[36] Travers, pp 162-6.
[37] Travers, p 91.
[38] Charles Price, ‘Australian Population: Ethnic Origins’ in People and Place, Vol 7, No 4, p 12.
[39] Quoted by Ellie Vasta in The Teeth Are Smiling (The Persistence of Racism in Multicultural Australia), Ch 3, p 57.