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Federation of Australia Essay--

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Submitted By sparkles98
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Federation was when the colonies of Australia united on the 1st of January 1901, to form what is now called ‘The Commonwealth of Australia’. This federation didn’t happen overnight but through a period of 50 years of discussion by the people of Australia. This idea was achieved for many reasons including to unite the defense forces of Australia, a sense of nationalism and to have a ‘White Australia’. While there were many reasons supporting federation, there were also arguments that hindered the idea such as loss of worker rights, loss of cheap labour and also the thoughts of isolation by the smaller colonies.

One of the key reasons for federation was to unite the defense forces of Australia. During a trip to the Australian defense units by Major General J.B, he deeply criticized about the wastage of the separate colonial defense units. As Major General J.B stated ‘the defense forces should at once be placed on a proper footing but this however quite impossible without a federation of the forces of the different colonies’. During the late 1800s, Australia became very concerned about the ‘threat’ from Asia and it soon became very clear when Queensland feared Germany’s intentions on taking Papa New Guinea. Supporters such as Sir Henry Parkes argued and supported for the idea of federation as it is clearly necessary for Australia’s defense forces to come together and protect Australia against foreign powers.

Another obvious reason supporting the idea of federation was due to a sense of nationalism. By the late 1800s, more than 70% of the population were born in Australia and began to feel more attached to their colony or Australia rather than Britain. Some felt very inferior to Britain especially when they were referred as ‘colonists’. The people felt they were all one, one language and one culture, so they also should be one country rather than British colonies. A national pride was also growing when the current national anthem ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was first performed in 1878 which was more than 2 decades before federation. A sense of Nationalism was also referred in newspapers, art, poetry and songs. “One people with one destiny..when we shall be bound together by that crimson thread of kinship..” an extract from the Tenterfield Oration by Sir Henry Parkes was very evident in supporting the idea of federation due to the sense of nationalism made by the people.

Furthermore, people believed a federated Australia would help to create a ‘White Australia’. Australians feared of the non-white people such as the Chinese, Japanese and the pacific islanders or kanakas who came to work in the sugarcane industries in Queensland. Each colony at the time had its own immigration policies and these were often different for example: NSW and VIC had banned the Chinese but SA had not. The federation of Australia would allow the federal government to have a policy on immigration controlling the entry of non-white people, resulting in a ‘White Australia’.

One reason that hindered the idea of federation was the thought of losing the worker rights that the trade unions had earned for the workers. The trade unions believed that improving the working conditions and achieving social legislation was more likely to be effective at a colonial level. Some of the worker rights that the trade unions gained were for better wages, lesser working hours instead of 12 hour days 6 days a week, insurance benefits for their health and also for better working conditions.

Another reason against the idea of federation was about losing cheap labour. Queensland in particular opposed to federation as the whole of the sugarcane industry was completely reliant on the labour of the kanakas or the pacific islanders who were paid very little as 6 pounds per head during the time. One of the reasons to federate was to have a ‘White Australia’ which would result in losing the cheap labour for Queensland’s sugarcane industry. The government of Queensland also realized that if the sugarcane industry was go down, it would destroy their economic independence.

Moreover, people argued against federation due to the thoughts of isolation by the smaller colonies. Western Australia and Tasmania in particular feared that as they were the smallest colonies their needs and desires would be ignored by the federal parliament as the larger colonies such as New South Wales and Victoria would dominate. During the 1890s the colonies already had a colonial parliament which looked after their interests so the people thought there was no need to have a federal government.

In conclusion, federation was not an easy process during the time due to reasons such as losing the worker rights made by the trade unions, losing cheap labour in Queensland which results in the sugarcane industry to sink and also the thoughts of isolation by the smaller colonies such as WA and TAS. However Australia did achieve federation which was on the 1st of January due to strong supporting reasons such as uniting the defense forces for a better protection of the country, a sense of nationalism as the majority of the population were born in Australia and also to create a ‘White Australia’.…...

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