Fact sheet

Fact Check: Did former prime minister Harold Holt abolish the White Australia policy?

Liberal Party of Australia Immigration
When Senator Fraser Anning of Katter's Australian Party said the end of the White Australia Policy had come about because of former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam, Liberal MP Tim Wilson responded by claiming it was former Liberal prime minister Harold Holt who had abolished the controversial Policy. So, did former prime minister Harold Holt end the White Australia policy? Mr Wilson's claim is simplistic. The White Australia policy was dismantled, piece by piece, over decades spanning governments both Liberal and Labor. Experts told RMIT ABC Fact Check the 1966-67 Holt government's reforms were critical steps in the process, constituting a significant break from past practice. Mr Holt's changes levelled the playing field between Europeans and non-Europeans applying for citizenship, setting a 5-year wait time for both groups, and eased the criteria for non-European migrants seeking permanent residence. But the process of relaxing Australia's discriminatory immigration policies quietly began before Mr Holt became prime minister ' and policies of racial discrimination persisted beyond his term. So it is a stretch to say the Holt government "abolished" the White Australia policy. Responsibility for officially ending it fell to Gough Whitlam's Labor government, which in 1973 declared the policy dead. The Whitlam government then took steps to strip race as a factor from visa assessments and to equalise the criteria by which all people ' whether British, European or otherwise ' could become Australian citizens.
Verdict: Simplistic
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