Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2011
In 1901, the parliament of the new Commonwealth of Australia passed a series of laws designed, in the words of the Prime Minister Edmund Barton, “to make a legislative declaration of our racial identity”. An Act to expel the large Pacific Islander community in North Queensland was followed by a law restricting further immigration to applicants who could pass a literacy test in a European language. In 1902, under the Commonwealth Franchise Act, “all natives of Asia and Africa” as well as Aboriginal people were explicitly denied the right to vote in federal elections. The “White Australia policy”, enshrined in these laws, was almost universally supported by Australian politicians, with only two members of parliament speaking against the restriction of immigration on racial grounds.