Refugee crisis a ‘threat to unity’, say 1979 cabinet papers

Cameron Stewart & Mike Steketee; 1/1/10; (3 Items)

The Fraser government in 1979 secretly feared that the arrival of refugee boats would divide Australian politics and society for decades, posing a continuing threat to national unity, according to newly declassified cabinet documents. In an echo of the challenges now facing the Rudd government, the Fraser cabinet admitted it was caught between its moral obligation to accept genuine refugees and the political danger of a public backlash against taking large numbers of boatpeople. But the Fraser government was substantially more generous towards the mostly Vietnamese refugees seeking asylum at that time than the Rudd government has been, with cabinet accepting 20,000 refugees in 1978-79 compared with the 12,000-13,000 Australia has taken in recent years. Both Mr Fraser and his foreign affairs minister, Andrew Peacock, said yesterday Australia had benefited as a nation as a consequence of a sympathetic approach to refugees during the Fraser years, and whatever concerns might have been raised in 1979 turned out to be unfounded.

See:; Tamils set down in Australia; Yko Narushima; 1/1/10;

Memories of kindness from a time of upheaval
Jodie Minus; 1/1/10
CHI Vu was six years old when she and her family arrived in Australia as refugees from Vietnam in 1979, and her enduring memories of the time are not of politics but of the kindness of strangers in her new homeland. “People were really generous,” Vu says. “My experience of it was overall very positive, and even when I went to uni and read about what was happening in politics at the time, I think we were very lucky.” The Melbourne-based writer and performance artist and her family fled Saigon in the night, unable to say goodbye to their family and friends, as the communist government clamped down on people’s freedoms in 1978.”We drove away from the family home to a coastal town and then we were on a very crowded boat for about four or five days,” she says.
See:; Tony Abbott boat plan ‘miserable’; Paul Maley & Stuart Rintoul; 1/1/10;; Thatcher proposed island for refugees; Yuko Narushima; 31/1/209;

Big White Lies – Chinese Australians in White Australia
John Fitzgerald; UNSW; 2007; pp74-76
A year or so after the funeral, Fitzgerald recalls coming across a party of mourners conducting a ceremony in the Chinese section of the cemetery. One of the gold buyers in Loong’s store, a man named King Song, invited the young Fitzgerald to inspect Loong’s grave. In the midst of the ordinary graves headed with rough wooden memorials with strange Chinese characters, was raised a stone vault, beautifully and strangely carved with Chinese emblems — dragons, birds and animals — and an inscription in English graven on the side of the vault: ” Sacred to the Memory of LOONG HUNG PUNG, A Friend of the Human Race, Erected by the Chinese Community of NSW.”
Evidently, the gentleman referred to as Koong Loong in the Sydney Morning Herald report was known within the Chinese community of New South Wales as Loong Hung Pung.
Fitzgerald’s childhood reminiscences and the Herald story each describe the death and burial of a prominent Chinese Australian named Loong Hung Pung in July 1874 in Bathurst. This is confirmed by the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, which records the death of a man surnamed ‘Kong Loong’ and the given name and initial of ‘Hung P’ who died in Bathurst in 1874.
Handwritten local records preserved in Bathurst confirm the death of ‘Kong Loong Hun Pun’ on 30 July,1874.
The year of death does not match that recorded in Vivian Chow’s Shanghai essays, which place his death 12 years later, In 1886, but the details listed on the Bathurst death register concerning Loong’s age, arrival, marriage and children, and listing the names of his father (‘Chou CHONG, Occupation Merchant’) and mother (surnamed Wang) inspire confidence that the man who provided the details of his life and death knew Loong reasonably well.
The informant is listed as  ‘Brother, Sam Yung, who lived at Lower Turon’. The details provided by Loong’s contemporary, and possibly close relative, Sam Yung, appear more reliable than those supplied by Chow more than 50 years after the event in Shanghai.
Local registry and newspaper records from Bathurst also supply grounds for querying Chow’s estimate of 1800 as Loong Hung Pung’s year of birth. Loong’s age at death was initially entered on the Bathurst register in 1874 as 37 years. This was subsequently amended in the margins of the register to record his age of death as 43.
The death certificate records that Koong Loong was born in Canton, that he married at the age of 20 and that his wife bore two daughters. It notes that Loong spent a total of 16 years in New South Wales.
Assuming that Loong was 43 at the time of his death in 1874 he would have been born around 1831. His first daughter Cum Ling seems to have been born around 1855 and his second, Cho Sam, in 1858, making them aged 19 and 16 respectively at the time of his death.
Assuming he entered New South Wales  16 years before his death, as noted in the local register, the year of his entry would have been 1858, not 1848 as Vivian Chow claimed. This corresponds closely to later newspaper accounts of the foundation of the NSW Yee Hing in the year 1858, to which we shall return it the following chapter.
Once the dates of Loong Hung Pung’s arrival (1858) and death (1874) have been established we can speculate further on the significance of his life and times for the wider history of the Yee Hing fraternity in New South Wales.
The founding of the brotherhood in Australia is commonly ascribed to the year 1858 even by those who prefer an alternative leadership genealogy favouring See Yap men rather than natives of Doong Goong County. Loong’s place at the head of the Yee Hing fraternity in western New South Wales is nevertheless indicated in the historical sources by the elaborate gown and golden cap in which he was laid to rest, by the respect that his fellow countrymen paid to him in life and in death, and by the Yee Hing emblems of fantastic animalia that adorned his tomb.
Vivian Chow may have been incorrect in dating the birth and death of Loong Hung Pung but he was largely accurate in presenting the story of a man who occupied a position at the centre of Chinese-Australian communities on the NSW goldfields from the late 1850s to the early 1870s.
Loong Hung Pung was not just a figure of legend but a Yee Hing leader of note who oversaw the local operation of the credit-ticket system on the western goldfields of New South Wales.
The legend of headman Loong Hung Pung was important in its own right but more important still in providing an indigenous Chinese-Australian heritage that could be faithfully woven into Anzac lore by patriotic Chinese Australians.