The Australian government has been charged with having adopted the most ''anti-British'' immigration policy in the nation's history. Geoffrey Blainey, a professor of history at the University of Melbourne who is also a respected author, launched the attack as the government was planning to clamp down on racist groups in universities and schools opposing the enrollment of Asian students.
Pointing out that there had been a very large influx of Asian migrants to Australia in recent years, Professor Blainey claimed the government's migration policy was biased against European migration. His criticisms came after publication of statistics showing that British and European migrants provided only half the total of some 93,000 immigrants who arrived in Australia last year.
Prime Minister Bob Hawke said, however, that Australia's immigration policy was firmly based on nondiscrimination and was applied evenly regardless of nationality, race, or creed. He said no racial group or geographical area was being favored.
The recent figures demonstrate an enormous change in the composition of Australia's immigrants in the 17 years since the government officially ended the ''white Australia'' policy that had been in effect for almost 100 years.
At first the changes were so gradual that critics said the policy had changed in name only. But their criticisms ended after 1976, when Australia began to accept large numbers of ''boat people'' from Vietnam and other refugees from Asia.
Refugees from Asia, the Middle East, and South America now make up 20 percent of Australia's immigrants. But the main type of migration comes under the heading of ''family reunion'' - a system that accommodates the families of newcomers more readily than those of long-established immigrants.
The official figures for migration last year show that just under 30 percent came from Britain and Ireland, 21 percent from Europe, 26 percent from Asia, 5 percent from Africa, 10 percent from Oceania, 4 percent from North America, 2 percent from South and Central America, and 2 percent from the Middle East.
Some critics of the current immigration policy say that if it is continued, Asians will grow from 2 percent to 4 percent of the total Australian population by the end of the century.
Blainey asserted, ''There are massive requests from Britain, from West Germany, and from other countries to come to Australia, but the great majority of those requests are refused because of the special guidelines now set up by the government.
''This government is the most anti-British government in its migration policy of any government in Australian history.''
But Prime Minister Hawke rejected Blainey's charges.
''The recent increase in the Asian percentage of the total migration program is a result of factors such as lessening interest in sponsorships from migrants in more traditional source countries, the prevailing pattern in the government's refugee program, and the strong priority given by this and previous governments to the reunion of families, particularly those caught in tragic circumstances of war and civil strife,'' he said.
Mr. Hawke announced that the government would fund a small news media campaign ''to promote racial and ethnic tolerance.''
At the same time, the chairman of Australia's human rights commission has called for special federal legislation to outlaw racial defamation, saying that anyone who promoted racial violence should be liable to prosecution.
To date, campaigns in universities to reduce the intake of Asian students - based on fears that Asian students are taking the places of Australian students - have produced no violence.