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In The Lucky Country, Donald Horne wanted to capture ‘what the huge continent was like…before it was peopled from all over Asia’. Sixty years later, we need to ask what Australia is like today, as it is being ‘peopled from all over Asia’, and what a century of nation building in the image of White Australia has meant for our country.
John Howard was the unlikely reformer of contemporary Australia. He transformed the migration system, creating the first immigration boom since the White Australia policy ended and dramatically diversifying the population. Yet his divisive rhetoric about national identity has hamstrung discussion about what these changes mean. As a result, Australia is a successful multicultural society with monocultural institutions and symbols.
Tim Watts’ family personifies this contradiction. His children are descendants of Hong-Kong—Chinese migrants and of pre-Federation politicians who sought to build a nation that excluded anyone who wasn’t white. As the representative of a diverse federal electorate, Watts asks: why is Australia’s imagined community so far behind its lived community, and what can we do about it?
‘A superb evocation of how Australia needs to redefine its national story—and the public policy that goes with it—to catch up with the demographic reality that we are no longer a white but a “golden” country. Passionate, compassionate, and lucidly argued by one of the best and brightest of our new political generation, this is the book to ignite a long-overdue national debate.’
‘The Golden Country is a timely challenge for us to snap out of our cultural sleepwalking, and remake Australian nation building for the twenty-first century.’
‘One of the rare politicians who’s also a natural-born storyteller, Tim Watts deftly weaves the political with the personal as he lays out our shared realities and delusions over the Chinese-Australian story. What begins as a brilliant reframing of our history becomes something even more important: a hopeful call to what Australia could—and should—be as a country.’
‘A valuable contribution to the debate we have to have. I sincerely hope every politician reads this book.’
‘A really important book—Tim Watts interrogates the past Australian story of race and immigration, and shows how it is now pointing to an emerging, inclusive, creative Australia, where the interweaving of ethnicities and cultures gives it immense appeal as a place to live and the means for “soft power” influence in world affairs. It should be read by everyone who has ever thought about race in Australia, and by teachers, and by all who sit at the (mostly) white pinnacles of our powerful institutions.’
‘It’s not often we find engaging books by political figures starting out on their careers and offering tantalising visions of Australia’s future. In The Golden Country, Tim Watts makes a timely contribution to one of the big challenges facing the country today: reconciling who we are with who we think we are. It makes for a lively and informative read.’
‘There is much to recommend in the story he tells and his demonstration of the economic benefits of skilled migration.’