Australia for Australians: Why “white” Australia is not white [22 March 1908]

[Editor: This article was published in The Sun (Kalgoorlie, WA), 22 March 1908.]

Australia for Australians

Why “white” Australia is not white.

Some reasons and an indictment.

By “Albino.”

Is the average native born Australian as white as he imagines himself to be? While declaiming over his pot about the shrieking transgressions of the unspeakable Asiatic or Dago, may it not happen that he himself is guilty of some offence which robs him there and then of his proud but empty boast of “being white?”

I knew a man in Cue not so very long ago who nearly died with anxiety while the Russo-Japanese war was in progress. He urged the workers from Day Dawn to the Dead Finish for Gorsake to get up and do something. The hated Asiatic was knocking spots off a White Race, and were White Australians to let that sort of thing go on? He had the “Worker” posted regularly to him, and kept his working mates from working by day and from sleeping by night by urging upon them to “be white!” He boarded with a negro and Japs washed his other shirt; and when in consequence of a victory in the war the hated Asiatics gave a glorious “Banzai” at which they distributed free beer by the barrelful, “Long Charlie,” as he was called, was into it up to the neck. So was I. And so were fifty other real good Unionists who quite believed that they were white!

* * *

To come nearer home. The Greek, the Italian, and others of the Latin races have perhaps a claim to be called White. We may not like their habits, or their customs, or their many other little failings which need not be further specified, yet still, so far as color is concerned, they are undoubtedly a sort of dirty white. But the principle of the Australian who wants Australia for himself is to discourage these interlopers. The law will not allow us to use the foot, and so kick them over the edge of the continent, and therefore we must be content with the means at our disposal, and that is gently but firmly to deny them our patronage and refuse to buy the tempting tomato or the succulent fried fish from them. Unfortunately we do nothing of the sort.

* * *

If there is anything in logic, the fact that the Dago thrives abundantly while our own race languishes in the same line of business is sufficient indication that we are not yet sufficiently “white” to resist the fascinations of his prettily trimmed up window, and his cheap wares.

* * *

There are British fruit sellers and fish sellers both in Boulder City and Hannan-street — watch for a while and see for yourself whether they or the Dagoes are the better patronised! Again there are white women honestly struggling to make a living out of washing and ironing. They will “do up” your shirt for you (when you have an extra one to put on) just as well, and just as cheaply, and far more gratefully, than the smirking little brown man — but count the Japanese shops, and enter, if you like, and try and count the parcels behind the counter. Then ask yourself if you are as white a man as you thought you were!

* * *

A few years ago a great crusade took place upon the Murchison against the right of Afghans to use camels for the carriage of firewood for the mines. Their licenses were stopped and Jumbo Mahomet, like a well-known gentleman of the same color mentioned in dramatic history, found his occupation gone. Still, camels don’t cost a great deal to keep, and some little bird whispered to him that in a month or so the licenses would be granted again, and so he put on cutters just the same, so that when the time came he should have a good supply on hand. The licenses did come back, and the cutters did go on — and they were white men! And go where you please, wherever the camel rageth and the Afghan carteth wood, you will find true-bred White Australians working for him! Something wrong about the principle here, but who will dare to controvert facts?

* * *

There is a well-known tuck shop in Hannan-street where a man can get a very decent blow-out for a bob. It is run by a Japanese who goes one better than his white customers in Australianism by employing only the whitest of nice little waitresses to serve out hash to them. But as this is not an advertisement for him may I ask right here what have the European people who run hash-foundries done that their places should lose the custom the Asiatic gets? Surely our patriotism is not bounded by the flavor of the soup, or the quantity of beef served out to us at one helping?

Something is out of joint in the national sentiment. If so much can be loaded upon the shoulders of the working man himself, what should be said about the so-called higher classes who offend in the same direction. In the north and west, Dagoes of every description are employed on mines often to the exclusion of native-born Australians who are anxious for toil. Hotel keepers prefer a foreigner any time to a Britisher, and one leading establishment of this class, in Hannan-street, not content with filling its kitchen and other offices with foreigners, has taken the first step towards local cosmopolitanism by appointing a pure-bred Dago as barman! Bakers’ dozens of honest Australian pot-wallopers are tramping Hannan-street pavements looking for a job, but that is nothing to the employer. But perhaps he is not a White Australian.

* * *

If the words often heard spoken by some hulking diorite-puncher have anything in them at all; if they come from the heart and not only from the front part of the head; let him then give effect to them by his actions towards the less fortunate of his own race as well as towards foreigners. If he is in constant work and his wife takes in washing while a widow somewhere handy is trying to make a living at the same thing — let him prove himself a white man by ceasing to take in washing. If he is even only a shift-boss who is running a boarding house (both these things occur at the mines) let him remember that some woman who isn’t a shift boss is doing the same thing, and send his boarders over to her little ranch. If he, in fact, is satisfied that Australia is good enough for him, and he means to keep her so, let him cease talking so much about her, and work more for her by proving to the foreigner and the alien that the “White Australian” is worthy of the name he is so proud to carry.

The Sun, (Kalgoorlie, WA), 22 March 1908, p. 9

Also published in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 22 March 1908, p. 7 (first section)

Editor’s notes:
Banzai = a Japanese celebration; the word “Banzai” means “ten thousand years”, regarded as a way of wishing someone a long life — it was especially used to wish a long life for the Japanese Emperor, being a shortened version of the phrase “Tennōheika Banzai!” (i.e. “Long live His Majesty the Emperor”) and was used as a battle cry by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War (especially known for infantry “Banzai charges”, which were virtually suicide attacks), although the word is used in modern times by Japanese people as a patriotic cry or a joyous shout

bob = a shilling (equivalent to twelve pence); after the decimalisation of the Australian currency in 1966, the monetary equivalent of a shilling was ten cents; the phrase “a couple of bob” could specifically refer to two shillings (and, later on, to twenty cents), but it was generally a common reference to a small amount of money, as in “can you lend me a couple of bob?”

blow-out = a big meal (also rendered as “blowout”); may also refer to a large increase in costs, especially re. a financial project

Dago = a person of Southern European or Mediterranean ethnic background, e.g. Greeks Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards (derived from the common Spanish name “Diego”, i.e. “James”); it is often considered to be a derogatory term, but it is not always so

diorite-puncher = (slang) a miner (diorite is a type of rock)

Gorsake = an oath, a contraction of “God’s sake” (also rendered as “Gor-sake”)

Hannan-street = the main street in Kalgoorlie (Western Australia)

Murchison = the second longest river in Western Australia, with a length of approximately 820 kilometres (510 miles)

pot = pint pot: a beer glass, mug, or drinking vessel that holds a pint (especially as used for beer or another alcoholic drink), commonly made of pewter

pot-walloper = a drinker of beer (such as is served in pint pots); may also refer to 1) workers who are paid to wash pots and perform other tasks of “drudgery”; 2) English male householders who were eligible to vote (prior to the Reform Act of 1832) by virtue of having walloped (i.e. boiled) their own pot in the constituency for six months

Old spelling in the original text:
carteth (carts)
rageth (rages)

[Editor: Changed “Why ‘White” Australia is not White” to “Why “White” Australia is not White”; “and they please, wherever the camel rageth and were white men ! And go where you” to “and they were white men! And go where you please, wherever the camel rageth and” (two lines were transposed); “favor of the soup” to “flavor of the soup”; keep her so, let him cease talking so, let him cease talking so much about her” to “keep her so, let him cease talking so much about her”.]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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