Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.Former Prime Minister John Howard, 28 October 2001, Liberal Party election launch
It is not possible to understand the ongoing immigration debate and current immigration policy in Australia without some understanding of its genesis and development, particularly since white settlers first arrived in the late 18th century. Until late into the 20th century, issues that are fundamental to human diversity, particularly race and colour, were overt policy considerations that found their way, one way or another, into Australian legislation. Innate factors of birth and others of conscience, such as religion or political opinion, continue to figure in debate about who is entitled to live in Australia. In recent times, the debate has centred on ‘boat people’, and in the wake of the 11 September 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, the issue of religion has been an undercurrent in the focus on terrorism.