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A study of administrative policy and practice : immigration issues in Tasmania, 1919-36

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Ellison, Marie (1992) A study of administrative policy and practice : immigration issues in Tasmania, 1919-36. Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The Tasmanian immigration story is best understood within
the context of Britain's postwar conditions and Imperial ambitions.
The experience of World War I strengthened British Imperialism.
More than ever the Dominions were seen as an integral part of the
British Empire. Common origins and destinies were intertwined.
Andrew Bona Law spoke of the Empire being "one in Spirit and in
action" and W.H. Long of the Empire ''still one and
indivisible.'' Defence concerns sharpened the focus on Empire.
Sparsely populated Dominions sporting empty, fertile land were a
liability. In a united Empire resources needed to be evenly
distributed and the empty spaces filled with 'the largest possible
British population at the earliest possible moment.' Settlement
of British people on agricultural land throughout the Dominions
would provide yeomen—farmer defenders of the Empire. Tasmanian
Agent—General Sir John McCall was in tune with Imperialist
thinking. In his 1918 report to Tasmanian Parliament he wrote of
the unique opportunity to 'settle Tasmania properly' with British
and Tasmanian ex—servicemen. He regretted the sale of
first—class land in Tasmania. He was anxious to people the State
and suggested the Government resume any good quality land not being
properly used. There was urgency and challenge in his report.

The sense of urgency was a response to postwar conditions
in Britain. Turmoil and turbulence prevailed. Demobilisation
procedures were a source of extreme discontent amongst ex—servicemen
and women. Economic difficulties reflected in high unemployment,
and many were dissatisfied with postwar employment options. Many
found it impossible to settle to routine jobs after prolonged war

service. McCall claimed that up to sixty percent of British
ex—servicemen wanted to try outdoor work for the first time. An
important postwar challenge concerned the role of women formerly
engaged in war work. Appropriate employment had to be found. A
reassessment of attitudes and long—term goals was imperative. Over
population and a shortage of housing added to the general turbulence
of the period. The Russian Revolution was a salient reminder that
satisfactory solutions were urgently needed.

Migration to the Dominions had been for some years an
attractive notion in the minds of some British politicians. It was
the obvious expression of Imperialist philosophy and ambitions. As
well, migration appeared to be a convenient and appropriate solution
to apparently insuperable social and economic problems, post—War.
The peopling of the Dominions would shore up the defence of the
Empire. As primary producers, the yeomen farmers would supply the
British market, thereby boosting the flagging British economy. The
urgent social questions concerning ex—servicemen and women would be
shared with or transferred to the Dominions. A migration scheme for
ex—servicemen and women would also serve as due reward for those who
had fought for the Empire. Thus Britain set the agenda for postwar
immigration. Imperialist designs and ambitions sparked discussion
in the Dominions. In Australia, nationalist sentiment was in
evidence but the Empire notion was strong. The Dominions would
serve the needs of Mother England. Britain's campaign to woo the
Dominions lacked subtlety and abounded in rhetoric, the real issues
of migration were often obscured. British politicians

promoted the view that Britain was sacrificing 'the strongest and
the best' to the Dominions. Migration was promulgated as a
gesture of maternal largesse. More to the point, the policy was
aggressive and vigorous, well serving Britain's needs.

Tasmania's response indicated awareness of the Imperial
agenda. However, that awareness did not result necessarily in
policies or outcomes expected by Britain, or the Tasmanian
Agent-General or, indeed, by the Commonwealth Government. In
general, British and Commonwealth Schemes were remote from
Tasmania's needs. Reluctant and minimal responses to migration
initiatives became the set pattern. Local public and Press
complaints throughout the 1920's that Tasmania had no immigration
policy were well founded. Nevertheless, the Tasmanian migration
story unfolded within the context of the Imperial agenda and an
interpretation within that context is appropriate.

Just as Britain's migration policy was a direct response
to postwar issues and conditions, so the Dominions responded to
British policy in accordance with their own issues and priorities.
Tasmanian and British priorities were in direct competition.
Tasmania experienced difficulties in repatriating its
ex-servicemen. There was a shortage of land and housing.
Unemployment was high. Prolonged postwar depression reflected in
extreme poverty, especially in country areas. There was
acknowledgement of the need to build up the industrial base of the
economy. While effectively addressing Britain's problems,
ex-service migration served to highlight and exacerbate economic

difficulties in Tasmania. The experiences of unsuccessful British
migrants attested to the reality of unemployment and prolonged
depression. Many migrants were very much worse off than in
Britain. Some considered they'd been seriously misled about
Tasmanian conditions. The lucky few were repatriated.

Conducted as it was at a time of high unemployment, the
Immigration programme attracted public criticism and social conflict
as Tasmanians and British competed for jobs. Reversion to a policy
of nomination where nominators were responsible for finding local
employment for their nominees was a sensible Government decision.
However, the Tasmanian Agent—General and British officials found the
decision regrettable and hoped it was temporary. While
Nomination relieved the Government of responsibility, jobs had still
to be found. Britain held the view that Tasmanian and British job
seekers should be considered equally. Tasmanian Immigration
Officials and Trade Unionists disagreed, maintaining that where ever
possible local labour should be used in preference to British. In
practice, this caused discontent.

Press comment and public debate reflected the wider social
issues of immigration. Lively debate highlighted social divisions
which were first in evidence during the First World War. The
Conscription campaign and Referendum gave expression to both
Imperial loyalty and growing Nationalist sentiment. While the
British Government and migrants themselves were aware of criticism,
there was no evidence to suggest they understood it in terms of a
strongly held anti—loyalist bias. The critical stance adapted by
the Trade Union Movement had its origins here, as well.

In broad terms this was the context of the Immigration
story in the twenties and early thirties. With Commonwealth
involvement the issues became more complex as Commonwealth policies
overlaid the Imperial agenda. In general, the Commonwealth espoused
Imperial views, attempting to maximise opportunities to attract
capital through British migration. Study of the development of
Tasmanian Immigration policy and practice reflects the importance of
Imperial and Commonwealth priorities and issues relative to
Tasmanian concerns during the twenties and early thirties.
Bureaucratic response to migration issues is a measure of that
importance.

Item Type: Thesis (Unspecified)
Copyright Holders: The Author
Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 119-121). Thesis (M. Hum)--University of Tasmania, 1993

Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2014 23:59
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:55
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