We all know that immigration is a highly political topic. However, did you know that it always has been? Legislation dealing with immigration was amongst one of the first acts passed by the new federal parliament in 1901.  Section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act (no 17 of 1901) prohibited the immigration into the Commonwealth of the following:

(a) Any person who when asked to do so by an officer fails to write out at dictation and sign in the presence of the officer a passage of fifty words in length in an European language directed by the officer; [the foundation of the white Australia policy, now replaced with an english proficiency requirement for many visas]

(b) any person likely in the opinion of the Minister or of an officer to become a charge upon the public or upon any public or charitable institution; [still a consideration in some circumstances]

(c) any idiot or insane person ;
(d) any person suffering from an infectious or contagious disease of a loathsome or dangerous character ; [there is still a health requirement on all permanent visas]

(e) any person who has within three years been convicted of an offence, not being a mere political offence, and has been sentenced to imprisonment for one year or longer therefor and has not received a pardon; [there is still a character requirement on most visas]

(f) any prostitute or person living on the prostitution of others;

(g) any persons under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth: Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to workmen exempted by the Minister for special skill required in Australia or to persons under contract or agreement to serve as part of the crew of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade in Australian waters if the rates of wages specified therein are not lower than the rates ruling in the Commonwealth [protection of the labour market is still government policy].

I am honestly surprised how little policy has changed in 112 years – more of the same old….

Creative commons acknowledgement for the photograph.

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