In 2001, the unauthorised boat arrival of people seeking asylum in Australia generated considerable political and public debate concerning Australia's responsibilities towards asylum seekers. In particular, debate was focused on the validity of the Australian government's response and the implications for understandings of Australian national identity. Following from Hage's (1998) conceptualisation of tolerance as a nationalist practice of inclusion or exclusion, a discursive approach was adopted in this paper to analyse arguments for or against allowing asylum seekers to be processed in Australia in 'Letters to the Editor' in the Sydney Morning Herald. Limits were constructed around 'how many' and expectations of asylum seekers' behaviour. Typically, arguments for exclusion represented asylum seekers as a threat to an 'Australian way of life' and Australian national rights. The discursive resources and rhetorical strategies employed to support different limits for inclusion or exclusion were illustrated and discussed. It was concluded that tolerance as an anti-racist practice fails to interrogate the role of whiteness in legitimating and reproducing racist practice.