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within imaginable time, some anthropologists believe, the slight, thin-boned Peking Man sailed down to Australia in well-built rafts, mixed with Indonesian people who were already here and engendered the Aborigine. In the time of written history, once it was accepted that the world was round, Australia first existed as an assumption; something more solid than water had to counterbalance the unknown pole. But even before that, people from somewhere had visited Australia and returned many times. They took dogs picked up species of biting louse found on kangaroos in Australia and transferred them to dogs throughout Asia. For hundreds of years there were rumours of a great land in the south where the inhabitants jumped instead of walking and spirits howled in trees. Some said it was a land of giant birds. Even the Chinese themselves do not know the extent of their association with Australia. It began hundreds of years before European settlement with the trade in Trepang and continues to the present day, with many Chinese at the head of substantial businesses and professions, especially medicine and science. In 1889 Chinese technicians worked the cable-laying equipment of SS Sherard Osborn, the ship that renewed the unsatisfactory line between Victoria and Tasmania. Without the Chinese, Australia would be a lesser country. For one thing, it is unlikely that we would now hold the Northern Territory. Until Chinese diggers made gold mining pay, there were suggestions that this wondrous stretch of country (the Northern Territory) should be sold to relieve the insupportable costs of upkeep. The grandfather of my best friend at university, Harry Fong, served on the Darwin City Council when the Chinese population of the Northern Territory was over twenty per cent. The beautiful North Queensland city of Cairns owes its existence to the Chinese storekeepers who stayed there after Europeans abandoned it for Port Douglas. Chinese vegetable growers saved the gold fields from a disaster of scurvy, and later, by producing three quarters of the vegetables eaten in Australia for the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, they probably saved the whole country. For years Chinese cooks and gardeners improved life on stations all over Australia, even in the most remote areas. Chinese fishermen introduced the first fresh fish to towns and the remotest areas. Chinese fisherman introduced the first fresh fish to towns and cities both on the coast and inland. In Queensland Chinese farmers grew the first rice, maize, peanuts, pineapples and bananas and demonstrated what could be done with these crops. They received no thanks while they were doing it, and they have received no recognition since. In Brisbane, two brothers named Wong set up a large market garden six miles from the CBD and in 1895, on a Sunday, most of the city would ride their horse and buggy out to the two Wong’s that was the two Wong’s brothers. “We’re off to see the two Wongs,” was the cry. Today the suburb bears their name and is known as Toowong. It’s not Aboriginal at all! Just before the 1900s trade unions had been testing their growing powers, even considering the formation of a new political party to promote ‘white Australia’ and guarantee jobs for European workers only. As miners, laundrymen and furniture makers, as vegetable growers, shearers and general labourers, Chinese nationals and Australian born Chinese (ABCs) were formidable competitors. By 1888, the dissident voices were forceful enough to influence governments. Sir Henry Parkes in New South Wales and Duncan Gillies in Victoria suddenly refused entry to hundreds of Chinese on several ships. Sympathetic courts got some of them ashore, but many were sent home to the almost impossible job of trying to pay back the money they had borrowed for fares. Parkes announced that he was obeying ‘the law of the Preservation of Society in New South Wales’. Thereafter it The Last Sentry at the Gate: Clive Palmer & the 44th Parliament of Australia 193


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