Initiated by J.A.C. Mackie and Kenneth Rivett in 1960, this small 'opinion-forming think tank' of University of Melbourne intellectuals, professionals and churchmen sought to end racially based immigration. Its landmark critique of the White Australia Policy Control or colour bar? (1960) sold 8000 copies, and was expanded and republished as Immigration: control or colour bar? in 1962. 'Idealistic but pragmatic', the Immigration Reform Group eschewed military or economic arguments, and argued that discrimination on grounds of race was morally wrong and damaged Australia's international reputation. Group members rejected emphatically a quota system and, aware of fears of social tensions, also rejected an entirely non-discriminatory policy, proposing instead controlled admission of non-Europeans by bilateral agreements with their governments, modest initial intakes, and an occupational balance in selection to avoid creating an ethnic underclass.
The Group appears to have had a significant impact, offering a timely and well-reasoned case for change and proposing to progressives and policy-makers a credible and defensible reform program. Their ideas took hold across university campuses, churches, leading community groups, and Associations for Immigration Reform. Active lobbyists, they had standing and credibility with key decision-makers in the bureaucracy and in the governing Liberal Party.