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In early 1877, there were no immigration restrictions in any of the Australian colonies. Queensland's Chinese Immigrants Regulation Act of 1877 was the first of many laws that restricted Chinese immigration, in a movement that ultimately led to the White Australia legislation of 1901–2. This article finds that, contrary to the hegemonic understanding of White Australia, there was no significant working class or popular pressure behind the passage of the Act. Instead, it reflected the agendas of Queensland's elite, and in particular their concern that the large influx of Chinese people to the Palmer River goldfield could threaten their strategic control of Far North Queensland. In support of anti-Chinese laws, Queensland's conservative newspapers whipped up fears of a Chinese “invasion”, a theme that would continue for nearly a century.