The postwar immigration programme in Australia was a bold and visionary nationbuilding exercise, one that promised rapid assimilation of aliens. Some historians note deficiencies in the metanarrative of postwar immigration, but then fail to explain the contradictions which have become apparent. This article attempts to resolve those contradictions, by arguing that a distinction needs to be made between the rhetoric employed in selling the benefits of immigration to the Australian public and the implementation of policy. Assimilation policy was poorly conceived, illdefined and without financial or human resources for meaningful implementation. Government concern was with public opinion and with overseas recruitment of workers and labour control in Australia. (c) 2015 (c) 2015 Taylor Francis.