Colony and Empire
DEFENCE AND INDEPENDENCE
Britain put Australia's defence interests as a far second to her own. It was this attitude which fuelled Australian moves towards independence. As E.M. Andrews explained:
"This desire for independence was reinforced by defence matters, in which Australia and Britain had divergent interests. British leaders' eyes were on Britain, Europe and India; while Australians were vitally concerned with the Pacific.
These defence concerns were felt in earlier decades; for instance, "the establishment of a French convict settlement in the New Hebrides (1864) caused temporary alarm".(89)
"This had been seen as early as the 1880s when Gladstone ignored the colonists' wishes over German and French moves in New Guinea and the Pacific."(88)
In 1883, it was rumoured that Germany was contemplating the annexation of New Guinea. The colony of Queensland sent a magistrate to formally take possession of the territory (and the adjacent islands) in April 1883; but this action was disallowed by the British Prime Minister, Gladstone, who had been "officially assured that Germany had no designs in the neighbourhood". The incompetence of the British action was shown when Germany annexed Papua and Samoa in the following year.(90)
As E.M. Andrews stated:
"At a public meeting in Sydney in 1885 Sir Henry Parkes, ex-premier of New South Wales, had moved a resolution of loyalty to Britain, but protested against the 'apathy and unconcern evinced by the Imperial Government in respect to the interests of these colonies'. The British attitude, on the other hand, was expressed by the prime minister, Lord Salisbury, two years later when he remarked that the Australians were
At the onset of World War One, on 10 August 1914, the Australian government, abiding by its prior arrangement, placed the Australian Navy under the control of the British Admiralty. "From that date, all ships, officers and seamen of the Commonwealth Naval Forces became an integral part of the Imperial Navy", a situation which lasted "for the duration of the war". This was an act of national subservience, rather than an act of national sovereignty.(97)
'the most unreasonable people I have ever heard or dreamt of. They want us to incur all the bloodshed and the danger, and the stupendous cost of a war with France... for a group of islands which to us are as valueless as the South Pole.'
"The fact was that 'neither the Pacific, the New Hebrides nor Australia were that important' to Britain. It is not surprising therefore that Chamberlain's suggestion at the 1897 conference for imperial federation and a coordinated army met with a blank response in Australia.
"...The Australian response in the years before the war [World War One] was to support Britain for emotional and security reasons, but at the same time to try to influence imperial policy to suit Australia's own needs.
"...The British government was preoccupied with the strategic situation in Europe, so when it spoke about 'imperial' foreign and defence policy, it really meant 'British'".(91)
"...The Colonial Defence Committee also believed in a centrally planned army for the Empire, and viewed Australian problems from a British perspective. Like Winston Churchill in 1942, it was prepared to sacrifice temporarily what were to it peripheral areas - such as Australia - to protect the centre.(92)
"...In Britain, the review of imperial defence for the House of Commons by A.J. Balfour, Prime Minister in 1905, made concentration 'at the centre of the Empire' the basis of general strategy.(93)
"...A special Imperial Defence Conference was held during July and August 1909. Here, it was finally agreed that the Australian government would create a naval unit, controlling the ships, while the discipline would be that of the Royal Navy. In time of war or emergency they would come under the Admiralty.(94)
"Meanwhile, the Naval Defence Act of 1910 brought the Australian Navy completely under British naval discipline."(95)
"In 1911 the Admiralty renegotiated its naval agreement, allowing the Dominions to have their own navies. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was to be regarded as a 'sister member' of the King's navy, with which its training and discipline were to be 'generally' uniform, as officers and men were to be largely interchangeable. It was to be under the control of the Australian government, except in time of war, when it came under the Admiralty, and was liable for service anywhere in the world... Moreover, as a result of the agreement the RAN became closely tied to the Royal Navy, while the purchase of equipment from Britain and the recruiting of British officers 'contributed... subtly to Australian dependence upon the Mother Country'."(96)
OUR JAPANESE PROTECTORS?
The British dismissal of Australia's interests was such that, after providing naval protection for Australia for quite some years, Britain passed the responsibility for Australia's forward naval defence into the hands of the Japanese!!! This was arranged under the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1904.
Of these arrangements - organised on Australia's behalf by our "Mother Country" - one poet at the time aptly wrote:(98)
The war drums beat! The scene is changed!
E.M. Andrews has explained the British government's attitude:
The brown man is a brother.
Alas for dear Australia White!
The Japs are pals of Mother!
"The British, however, were worried by their declining world position after the unification of Germany. Britain wanted a greater contribution from the white colonies towards their own defence; to withdraw from 'unnecessary' commitments overseas - including what they called 'the Far East' - and to make a series of agreements with foreign nations to protect her colonies. These policies presented problems for Australia. While the British were negotiating the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in the second half of 1901, the Australians were formulating their Immigration Restriction Act - against Japanese as well as other Asian nationalities. G.F. Pearce, later Australian Minister for Defence, remarked at the time that the British government might 'not always have the best interests of this part of the Empire at heart'. It could hardly have been expected to, for the interests of Britain and Australia simply did not coincide."(99)
In 1908, Australia's Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, in view of the British concentrating their naval forces in Europe, "then engineered, before informing the British, the visit of the American 'Great White Fleet' in August-September that year - to a rapturous reception in Australia".(102)
...[When Britain's] "General Sir Ian Hamilton was insensitive enough to suggest in December 1903 that the Australians contribute 3000-4000 mounted troops to help the Japanese (then preparing for the Russo-Japanese War) against Cossacks, the response was predictable."(100)
"The Round Table demanded that Britain maintain greater naval power in the Pacific, in face of 'Japan's rapidly increasing industrial, naval and military strength' - a Japan which it 'identified as the real menace to Australia'."(101)
This move was designed to show Australia's potential enemies the military might of our "American friends"; however, this move towards the USA was not popular with the British government (who believed that Australia should remain within Britain's sphere of influence, not America's).(103)
Following the Japanese defeat of Russia in 1905, and Britain's 1909 hysteria regarding being out-gunned by the German's new naval strength,
"Australians... were not comforted when British officials and politicians, such as Winston Churchill, pointed to the Anglo-Japanese alliance as the protector of British interests in the Pacific. The alliance was with Australia's main perceived potential enemy."(104)
It has been remarked that "This formidable indictment of Admiralty policy was perhaps the most significant in the history of the emergence of the dominions from imperial tutelage". E.M. Andrews says that such a comment "probably exaggerates", but adds that "It would have been significant, if World War I had not turned attention to Europe and obscured the lessons of the crisis, which had to be learnt all over again in the 1940s."(106)
"In his long career Churchill never understood, let alone sympathised with, Australasian needs or fears. In his naval estimates on 17 March 1914 he criticised the idea of separate Dominion navies and reverted to his concept of an 'imperial' naval squadron, to which the Dominions would contribute their heavy ships. He had apparently sidestepped the naval agreement by putting obsolescent ships on the China station, and restressing the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. He insisted on the orthodox doctrine, that 'The situation in the Pacific will be absolutely regulated by the decision in European waters.'
"Not surprisingly, the Australian press was up in arms, while its government sought British assurance that the naval agreement was still in force. It was so incensed that the Minister for Defence, Senator E.D. Millen, tabled in federal parliament a memorandum which included 'the sharpest criticism of the British made by any Australian politician, in public or private, since Federation'. It accused the Admiralty of abandoning the 1909 agreement, sabotaging the basis for the RAN, ignoring Australian needs and views (especially over the treaty with Japan), and totally failing to consult, or even notify, the Dominions. As in the 1940s, Australians doubted Churchill's assurances of a speedy despatch of a British battle fleet. The Australian government therefore pressed on with the development of its own fleet.
"...Churchill's unilateral abandonment of the 1909 naval agreement revealed his Anglocentric attitude to the Empire".(105)
AUSTRALIAN WAR DEAD
Another aspect of the "downside" to Australia's adherence to the British Empire was that this imperial relationship committed Australia to numerous wars, in which we should've had no part.
- The Boer war.
The result: 588 Australians dead, and 573 casualties.(107)
- The First World War.
The result: 60,284 Australians dead, and 586,581 casualties; also, this war directly cost Australia the massive amount of £376,993,052 (including indirect costs, by the mid-1930s this figure rose to £831,280,947). British bungling in the Dardanelles campaign (which included Gallipoli) cost us 8,418 dead, and 83,480 casualties.(108)
- The Second World War (European theatre).
The result: 9,572 Australians dead, and 9,480 casualties; and still more foreign debt.(109)
Note: Boer War and World War One figures are combined battle and non-battle casualties, World War Two figures are battle casualties only.
Note: In the war against Japan (1941-1945) Australia suffered 17,501 dead, and 13,997 wounded/injured (these figures are battle casualties only); while 21,467 were made Prisoners Of War (POWs).(110)
British bungling over Singapore cost us some 17,000 Australians being made Prisoners Of War by the Japanese, of which massive numbers were to die in captivity: Of the 7,289 Australian men and women made POWs by the Germans and Italians, 234 (3%) did not survive to be repatriated; however, of the 21,467 Australians made POWs by the Japanese, some 7,602 (35%) were to die as POWs.(111)
Note: The war against Germany and Italy is commonly referred to as the "European theatre", however, reference to this war against Germany and Italy (and other nations) also includes actions in North Africa and the Middle East.
WAR CASUALTIES (112)
Battle Non-Battle Total
Dead 274 314 588
Other casualties 538 35 573
Total 812 349 1163
World War One
Dead 53,884 6,400 60,284
Other casualties 155,133 431,448 586,581
Prisoners Of War 4,044 n/a 4,044
Total 213,061 437,819 650,909
World War Two
(against Germany and Italy)
Other casualties 9,480
Prisoners Of War 7,289
The ramifications of these useless wars are enormous.
World War One saw the loss of the cream of a young generation of Australians. In general, it was the strong, brave, worthy, and patriotic men who "joined up" to fight in this country's military forces; and - while there were many who were not allowed to join up (such as those deemed medically unfit), or who objected to the war for nationalist reasons - the cowards and unpatriotic formed a sizeable proportion of those who stayed behind. It should make us wonder if it is the offspring of the latter group that now rule Australia.
As David McNicoll once said: "Gallipoli and France in World War I, Malaya and the islands in World War II, plus navy and airforce, saw the flower of our manhood lost. Who knows? If those tens of thousands of Australians had returned, they would have bred more of their kind to retain traditions in which they believed and prevent their country ending up the multicultural shambles it has become".(113)
WORLD WAR ONE
Under international law, Australia had no option but to enter the First World War, as E.M. Andrews has explained:
"...legally Australia had no option. Internally, under the Commonwealth Act of 1901 she was a 'self-governing colonial federation', but externally she was part of the British Empire, and ruled by the King of England, George V. When her king was at war, under international law Australia was also at war - and legally part of the prize if British forces were defeated."(114)
The fact is, the First World War should have been irrelevant to Australia. As an independent nation, Australia would've had no business in entering a war of European politics (and losing 60,284 Australians, as well as incurring 586,581 other casualties). That Australia was tied to Britain legally, politically, and by social culture ensured our entry into this needless war, and the ensuing loss of "the cream of Australia's youth". Australia's development was set back by uncountable years by the killing and maiming of some of the best of our nation's upcoming new generation.
"Australia as a British colony would have suffered serious consequences if Britain had been defeated. At the very least she could expect that Britain, from whom she gained the bulk of her investment, would have been financially drained, and Germany would gain all of New Guinea and the British islands in the Pacific. At the worst she might have been obliged to accept German settlers and financial domination as well. For, as a New Zealand historian has noted,
'colonies had a nasty habit of changing hands as part of peace settlements. Racial disaffinity was no barrier to incorporation in another empire, as the French-speaking parts of Canada attested.'"(115)
WORLD WAR TWO
During the Second World War, Britain developed a "Beat Hitler first" policy, whereby the fight against the Japanese became a secondary consideration. However, Australia's Prime Minister, John Curtain, put our national interests first, and recalled our troops back from North Africa - despite the attempts of Winston Churchill (Britain's wartime Prime Minister) to stop him. Those troops were badly needed to defend Australia against the expected Japanese invasion (while other allied troops were available to take their place in North Africa).(116)
DECLARATIONS OF WAR
When Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 (the First World War) and in 1939 (the Second World War), it was taken for granted that this meant that Australia was automatically at war too.(117)
It has been pointed out by W.G McMinn that, in regards to the First World War,
"whatever the constitutional theory of the Empire might be, the fact remained that in international law Australians - and Canadians, South Africans and New Zealanders - were British subjects, and therefore as much at war on 4 August 1914 as British subjects domiciled in Yorkshire".(118)
K.H. Bailey says, regarding the Second World War,
"when war broke out between Germany and Great Britain, the view taken by the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, was that by virtue of His Majesty's declaration of war at Westminster all his subjects in the Dominions were automatically at war".(119)
Later, under the following Labor Government, the Prime Minister, John Curtain, and the Minister for External Affairs, Dr. H.V. Evatt, arranged for "Royal instruments" to confer upon the Governor-General the power to declare "a state of war with Japan, Finland, Hungary and Romania" (the proclamation of which was to be countersigned by the Australian Prime Minister). So, Australia declared war upon Japan by itself, but only - in effect - following Royal (i.e. British Government) permission to do so.(120)
Colony and Empire
Australian Nationalism Information Database - www.ausnatinfo.angelfire.com