A case against a White Australia

Cairns, October 1929

Colin Ross calls the isolationist White Australia policy a faulty dogma, not out of indignation about its racism, but because it leaves much of the continent’s soil uncultivated.

As is often the case in Ross’s travel books, a series of rather open-ended reports and observations is bookended in Der unvollendete Kontinent (1930) by chapters that dig into the geopolitical implications of what has been witnessed. In this penultimate chapter of his Australia book, Ross first recounts some key moments of the White Australia policy: the mid-19th century gold rush, the Immigration Restriction Act, the Pacific Island Labourers Act. While he expresses sympathy for the ideal of white racial purity, he argues that sparsely populated, but fertile Northern Australia would be ideally suited for an inexpensive, “colored” workforce [p. 270]. Keeping that vast expanse facing South Asia virtually uninhabited makes Australia vulnerable to the possibility of illegal immigration or military invasion. In the latter case, Ross is not sure whether it would be a priority for Great Britain to step in to protect its dominion.

As usual, Ross mixes pragmatic suggestions (Australia needs to find export markets in nearby Asia, [p. 271]) with erratic asides, such as an unprompted defense of German colonial competence in the South Seas [p. 264]. His stance on Australia as Raum ohne Volk (space without people) is concisely encapsulated here: “Australia is empty, the remaining world is full, at least to a large extent. The potential causes of friction and conflict that follow from this are apparent.” [p. 268]

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. “Weiß-Australien”. In: Der unvollendete Kontinent. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1930; 263–72.

Topic: Volk ohne Raum
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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