Boothy’s chance [9 September 1916]

[Editor: An article opposing the immigration of Germans into Australia and the election of naturalised Germans into public office, as their primary loyalty may be to their race rather than to Australia (the references to “race” in this article refer to the European races, or nationalities). It also includes an early call for an Australian consciousness and an early use of the political slogan “Australia first”, although these were both made in the context of a demand for a British Australia. Published in The Mail (Adelaide, SA), 9 September 1916.]

Boothy’s chance.

The electors of Boothby have a splendid opportunity next Friday night to make probably the brightest page in Australian history. It is not often given to small communities to influence a nation’s destiny, nor is the opportunity to do so always recognised, but the electors of Boothby are not trammelled by disabilities of this kind. Their hour has arrived, and it only remains to be seen whether they will boldy lay the foundation stone of a new Australian policy or be content to drift along with the rest of the community who are too tired to fight for the ideal of a race-conscious Commonwealth.

We have no quarrel with Mr. Dankel personally or with any other politician of foreign extraction. Our quarrel is with the law that permits their unlimited accession to public office. The ground for such disagreement with Federal and State enactments which welcome the naturalised foreigner into our councils is not the minor one that plenty of Australians could fill those positions just as well. It is rather a conviction that we cannot hope to preserve the nation otherwise. Political economists must take the scales from their eyes and realise that wealth and progress have wrought a tremendous change in all communities daring the last 50 years. The annihilation of time and distance, the growth of populations, and. the necessity for more territory for them to expand in have produced a national homogeneity. Never before has the Briton clung so tenaciously to England, the Frenchman to France, the Russian to Russia, and the German to the land across the Rhine. To live thousands of miles from their homeland makes no difference, for magnificent cable cervices and swift means of transit place them all in touch with the land of their birth. These facilities are really the long arm of nationality, which spreads all over the world and calls the people to their racial homes. And that call is strong and insistent upon the wanderer who sees his father’s people rise steadily to greatness or omnipotence in the international political realm.

Recognising this growing force, the Federal authority declined to go on naturalising people of enemy birth, and perceived the danger to be great enough to require also a limitation of the privileges of those naturalised long before the present conflict. In other words, they admit that nationalism as at present growing is a call to the blood that it is difficult to resist. Fifty years ago, before this growth began, it was safe to try and absorb foreigners into the nation. To-day to bring that about would need the swallowing of a whole people. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the nations are too big and conscious of their own greatness to be so absorbed. It is only Australia that is recklessly persisting in the experiment. No sane Australian would ever think a colony of Australians numbering, say, 100,000 strong could be successfully planted in the suburbs of Berlin, yet there are apparently thousands who think the contra experiment of planting Germans in Australia is the easiest thing imaginable. It might have been had Germany remained a collection of warring States, but to-day she is an Empire.

Australia’s position is aggravated, by the fact that our German colonists were largely political refugees; but time heals many wounds, and much can be forgotten where the call to national homogeneity is strong. Assuming that such a call exists, then naturalisation of foreigners has outlived its usefulness in Australia. We need now a call to Australian homogeneity, a call to build up a vibrant race capable of managing its own affairs without foreign assistance. That cannot be done without an Australian consciousness and the motto of “Australia first” every time. Boothby can, if it likes, give the lead to this movement next Friday night. It can initiate the policy of Australia for the Empire by requesting that natural-born Australians or Britishers shall fill all Government positions, thus sowing the seed of a reform that is at present, we believe, desired by every man and woman in this Commonwealth.

The Mail (Adelaide, SA), 9 September 1916, p. 10

[Editor: Corrected “insisttnt” to “insistent”.]

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