Mr Anton Wankbean Essay

Submitted By antonwayne
Words: 1000
Pages: 4

In 1984 Professor Geoffrey Blainey, then Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Melbourne University and renowned Australian historian gave an infamous speech at a Rotary club in Victoria that was to cause massive debate in Australian society on many fronts. What Blainey really started was much more complex than the issue of Asian immigration. Questions were raised in many arenas, but what appeared to have arisen was the opportunity for many individuals and groups in power to manipulate and promote personal agendas. What insured, seemed to be a battle between these “powerful elites”, namely politicians, the media (individual journalists and tabloid media) and other social commentators who all assumed they had the knowledge of the public’s opinion and the right to voice it. What also resulted from this time of debate was a questioning and search for the real nature of the attitude of the Australian public to the changing context of their world, and an Australian identity in general. Was the reaction to Blainey’s comments a sign that Australians were blatant racists? Or perhaps it was the genuine fears of many, regarding aspects of change that the media and politicians utilised for their own personal agendas? The “Blainey Debate” as it is often referred indeed much broader than the issue of Asian Immigration.
Blainey’s own agenda was clearly an attack against the Whitlam / Frazer multicultural lobby, his attempt to shift the national political agenda to the right. Many others supported Blainey in this stance, such as socialist Katharine Bettsas she criticised “political elites” in power for having their own agendas, often to prove themselves less “provincial”. Michael Hodgman, Liberal MP for Tasmanian, Bruce Ruxton, President of Victorian RSL also used Baliney’s anti stance to voice their own, while members of the media used sensationalism with the stance to sell stories. Ironically Blainey’s opponents also used this debate on Asian Immigration for their own purposes. Twenty four staff members of the Department of History at the University of Melbourne denounced and criticised in such a united way, he eventually, in 1988, resigned from his post at the University.
Another broader aspect of the debate was the questioning surrounding the changing attitudes of the Australian public and the very nature of Australian Identity, had it, was it changing? Here again, these groups in power (politicians, social commentators, the media etc.) all made assumptions and declarations on behalf of the public, claiming the right and authority to do so. One such popular avenue was through opinion polls. Not only did the compilers of these opinion polls claim to reveal the true nature of the Australian attitude, they were incredibly influential in manipulating society’s attitude. Yet closer examination of any opinion poll shows they are incredible selective in nature. Indeed, after Blaineys intervention, approval for Asian immigration was shown to have significantly dropped in polls but Murray Goot argued that 80% of those opposed to Asian immigration according to the polls were opposed to any kind immigration at all. Thus these polls were not an accurate representation of the people’s opinions on Asian immigration at the time. They were the work of individuals and groups either claiming to have the public’s opinion or manipulated for their own purpose.
One final aspect that needs to be addressed is whether ‘fear’ (a natural human condition) played a contributing factor. Where Australians fearful of change, both economic and social? Events such as the Vietnam War and its aftermath were still lingering, while economic downturns in the eighties could also helped manifest the fear of ‘change’ coming into play. Blainey had claimed that the rate of Asian immigration being too great and too fast was a threat to not only job security but also to social, political and economic cohesion within Australian society. Lastly this fear also encompassed a fear of