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Abstract

The year 2001 marked the centenary of the Australian nation state. In the national elections of that year, which returned the incumbent Liberal/National coalition government to power at the federal national level, three persistent historical themes were revisited. Firstly, the bogey of immigration by Asians recurred as a potent force during the elections, in the guise of the ‘boat people’, illegal immigrants from Indonesia and other near neighbours. The potential for Asian immigration to Australia had been seen as a consistent threat for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This bipartisan policy was only replaced in the 1970s with a more liberal approach to immigration, again on a bipartisan basis. However, since 2001 this liberal bipartisan non-racial immigration policy has been threatened, indirectly at least, by fears of being swamped by boat people, and more recently by fears of Islamic extremists and terrorism. This has major implications for the labour movement in Australia.

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