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The Asians are already here

By Mark S. Lawson - posted Tuesday, 29 April 2014

One of my favourite topics, that there is a sinister plot afoot to turn Australia into an Asian country in a few generations, is a difficult one to broach at the Lawson family dinner table.

If I start talking about how Asians are everywhere and driving up real estate prices, my Korean-born wife who owns our house just looks at me, and my two half-Korean children will simply say "yes Apa" (Apa is Korean for dad). They are clearly thinking that if they agree, then their Apa will move onto a less idiotic topic. End of conversation.

Surprisingly, my two Korean sisters-in-law agree with me, but then they agree far too quickly and pat me on the back.


"There, there, the Asians are coming," they say. "Have some more Korean beef barbeque." They may translate my remarks for my mother in law who laughs.

As for the Korean food, give me Chinese any day. What could be more Australian than that? Perhaps pizza?

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was sufficiently concerned about Australia becoming engaged with Asia, that her government took the dramatic step of producing a report with a list of recommendations, including feel good nonsense about encouraging Australians to learn Asian languages.

For it was public service nonsense. Asians are coming here to learn English much faster than Australians are going overseas to other countries (predominantly Europe), so if Australians want to go to the trouble of learning Cantonese or Mandarin, instead of Latin which is a more popular subject in high schools, they do not have to go to China for conversation practice.

This immigrant stream is very far from the oppressed poor that flood into other countries. Leaving aside the boat people and those who come from refugees camps, who are a small proportion of the overall mix, they are mostly skilled, educated migrants whose children excel in the Australian education system.

New South Wales has a system of selective high schools, one of which my daughter attended. Her graduation dinner was a sea of Asian and Indian faces. I asked one of the few blondes there, who happened to be one of my daughter's friends, whether she ever felt discriminated against. Now all those high schools graduates have moved onto university including the University of NSW, the initials of which, I am told, actually stand for Never See Whites.


At school the students freely spoke of "white" subjects (English, history) and "asian" subjects (mathematics, economics and the sciences).

Before the politically correct police get upset at this use of certain loaded terms I should point out that all this is fairly well known - the kids are just commenting on what is in front of their noses every day - and not the result of any discrimination; quite the reverse in fact.

But just how far along the Asian-Indian path has Australia gone? The Australian Bureau of Statistics collects figures on "ancestry groups" and those figures suggest (a lot of people have mixed ancestry so its not exact) that about 4.3 per cent of the population can boost Chinese ancestry, with another 2 per cent citing Indian ancestry. The total of 6.3 per cent would still seem small to anyone walking around Melbourne or Sydney, but the ABS only gives percentages for the top 10 ancestry groups. A check of the 2011 data indicates that another 2 per cent or so have Vietnamese, Philipino or Korean ancestry and the three million Australians in the "other" or "not stated" categories, may include a lot of exotic ancestries.

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About the Author

Mark Lawson is a senior journalist at the Australian Financial Review. He has written The Zen of Being Grumpy (Connor Court).

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