Here is an exchange in parliament that shows what many people thought at the time:
Senator Matheson: We all admit that the black people have to live. What we say is that the black people should live in their own country.
Senator Walker: This was a blackfellows country before it was a white man’s country.
Senator Matheson: The honourable gentleman said that to me privately yesterday, and he seemed to think that that settled the question. He fails to recognise that we have taken this country from the blacks, and made it a white man’s country, so that there is no earthly use in the honourable gentleman saying that 100 years ago this was a black man’s country.
Senator Walker: There are still 100,000 aborigines in Australia.
Senator Matheson: We are aware of that fact, and it is very regrettable, and the only consolation we have is that they are gradually dying out.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, May 22, 1901, vol. 1, p152