The outward difference between the Australian (and NZ, US and Canadian) class system and the British is the lack of a titled aristocracy, despite the efforts of the father of freedom of our press, William Charles Wentworth. …
Returning to Wentworth’s attempts to establish a peerage, we should note that this was in response to the British decision, a mere six decades from the foundation, to grant the Australian colonies self-government. …
Wentworth’s proposal for a colonial peerage, ridiculed as a ‘bunyip aristocracy’, was in this context. Just as Alexander Hamilton at Philadelphia tried to copy the British constitution, so did Wentworth, probably the most capable colonial politician then.
His plan was to control the legislature by making the upper house a local House of Lords forever under the control of the squattocracy. The opposition was too great for even Wentworth, but he did succeed in making the upper house nominated.
As a boy, I remember the descendants of the squattocracy, still an upper class, coming down to Sydney en masse for the Royal Easter Show. The richest and most powerful, owners also of department stores and newspapers, were in Sydney for much of their time with new money being gradually added to their ranks. But most came from their sheep stations, shopping at the ‘universal provider’, Anthony Hordern’s, the men drinking in the famous Long Bar of the Hotel Australia, and also in the nearby Carlton, Ushers and Pfahlert’s Hotels. Looking far healthier than city folk, they wore broad-brimmed Akubra hats, woollen ties, moleskin trousers and boots. Egalitarian by nature, they mixed easily with everyone else.
Often church-going, their beliefs and their ethics were fundamentally sound. Any racism in those years centred on a unionist and Labor obsession to defend living standards from undercutting by Asians. This was expressed in the startling front-page banner of that great journal, the Bulletin: ‘Australia for The White Man’. Kerry Packer took that down as soon as he bought it.
The old ruling class never thought of taking away the rights of other Australians or pushing their views onto them. How different the new secretive ruling class is.