Reasons for Australian Federation

Essay by salez22Junior High, 9th gradeB+, August 2004

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Question: Outline the main reasons for Federation. What was the main reason?

Federation happened in 1901 when the six separate Australian colonies came together to form what is now the Commonwealth of Australia. It occurred for many reasons including: to unite the defence of Australia; to make uniform bank laws; taxes and tariffs resulting in better trade and communication between states; and to put the "White Australia Policy" into practise. Federation came about with the aid of many political leaders, federation lobby groups, many drafts of the constitution and the people of Australia, through a series of conventions held in different colonies.

One of the key reasons for Federation was to unite Australia's defence. Each individual state's defence force was not strong enough to protect Australia's vast coastline from attack. It therefore made good sense to unite the defence under one command.

As well as aiding in Australia's defence, Federation would make uniform the different bank laws, taxes and tariffs, making it easier to trade, travel and communicate between states.

It would also change railway-track sizes so they were identical everywhere, allowing people to stay on the same train instead of changing at each states border. In addition, Federation would also improve Australia's economy by forming better trade laws, such as free trade between states.

Furthermore, many people believed a Federated Australia would help to make a "White Australia Policy" possible, by toughening immigration laws. Some colonies were opposed to this policy as they used foreign labour, which was often much cheaper than local labour. An example of this is Queensland, which employed Kanakas. Under the new constitution, not only the Kanakas, but also the much-feared Chinese, who came to Australia during the gold rush, would not be allowed into Australia. Thus Federation would eliminate unwanted foreigners, providing more employment for Australians.

The first recorded suggestion that Australia should become a Federation was in 1846. In 1863, the first of 83 Intercolonial conferences was held in Melbourne. These conferences consisted of elected delegates from each colony coming together to discuss various issues concerning Federation. They were to be the biggest contributing factor to Australia becoming a Federation.

Federation Lobby groups also supported the idea of Federation. In 1871, one of the most significant Federation groups "The Australian Native's Association" was formed. It was made up of white, Australian-born men. It later changed its name to "The Australasian Federation League". It can be seen that these groups had a major influence in creating a Federated Australia.

Not only did conferences and lobby groups support federation, but political also played a large role. Eighteen years after the ANA was formed, in 1889, the premier of NSW, Sir Henry Parkes, called for a convention on Federation. This speech, "The Tenterfield Oration", sparked more conventions. Soon afterwards, "The National Australasian Convention" was held in Sydney. Here, parliamentary delegates agreed on the name "The Commonwealth of Australia" and a draft constitution was drawn up. So, political leaders greatly aided the process of Federation.

A series of "peoples' conventions" followed the Tenterfield Oration. They took into account the thoughts and ideas of everyday Australians, and increased the popularity of Federation amongst Australians. The first of the "peoples' conventions" was held in 1893 in Corowa, NSW. Its purpose was to elect representatives to write the new constitution. Since these conventions involved everyday Australians, it is apparent that regular people helped Australia become a Federation as well.

Throughout the process of Federation, many drafts of the constitution were made, until 1900, when Australian delegates travelled to London to be present when the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act was passed by the British Parliament. Finally, on January 1st 1901, The Commonwealth of Australia came into existence. Hence the six colonies became six states. Without drafts of the constitution, a good final constitution would not have been made and it would not have been passed by the British Parliament.

The colonies joined together in order to put the "White Australia Policy" into practise, to unite their defence and to make uniform bank laws, taxes and tariffs, providing better trade and communication between colonies. Australia became federated with the help of political leaders, federation lobby groups, many drafts of the constitution and every day people. The process took place through many conventions involving elected delegates from each state.