Nationalism in Australia [20 October 1888]

[Editor: An article on Australian nationalism, the British imperial connection, and Chinese immigration. Published in The Brisbane Courier, 20 October 1888.]

Nationalism in Australia

The Pall Mall Gazette of 6th September, writing of the action of the Chinese Government in refusing to ratify the American Exclusion Treaty, says it is sincerely to be hoped that Lord Salisbury will succeed in securing some kind of treaty regarding the restriction of Chinese immigration to Australia.

The Australians are convinced that the future of their continent is involved in this question. And the intensity of their conviction causes another thing to be involved, which is no less than the future relation between the Australian Continent and Great Britain. The “independent” school is much stronger in Australia than has yet been realised. We are all apt to pay too much attention to Anglo-Australian opinion, and too little to purely Australian opinion.

English travellers who see the colonies only from the windows of Government House do not always put us right; but even Lord Brassey was struck, it will be remembered, with the anti-Imperial movement. It was not as yet very formidable, he said, but it existed. And, he might have added, it will grow, for to a large extent it is a movement fostered by young and able men.

The attitude of Queensland in rejecting the Defence Bill has done something to remind people here that opinion in Australia is not all in one direction. The recent formation of a National League in New South Wales is another sign of the times.

And the importance of the Chinese immigration negotiations is that they will infallibly form in Australia a crucial test whereby to try the two opinions. Is the Imperial connection really best for us, young Australia is asking – best for us and best for the English race at large? We are all of us agreed that Australia must be kept for the white man. Can the Imperial Government do anything to help us to that end? or will its multifarious interests only hinder us? Such are the questions which will be canvassed in every Australian colony, and Lord Salisbury in his negotiations with China, has therefore, in a double sense, the future of Australia in his hands.

The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld.), Saturday 20 October 1888, page 9

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

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