Colony and Empire
In the late 1800s there were, in the United Kingdom and in the colonies, small and sometimes influential groups of imperial federationists who wanted "a genuinely imperial parliament, with the United Kingdom and the colonies as its electorate, and limiting Westminster [i.e. the British Government] to a domestic role". Such an Imperial Federation, with its Imperial Parliament, would've smothered Australia's interests - as we would have been only a very small minority in such a arrangement.(139)
As E.M. Andrews wrote,
"Indeed, one section of British opinion wanted to... formally bind the Dominions in 'imperial federation'. This roused the hostility of Canada and South Africa, but all planning broke down anyway over the extent of representation to be given to each component part of the Empire. Chamberlain [Prime Minister of Britain] was an avid supporter of the idea, and at the 1897 Colonial Conference had looked forward to a time when the colonies would share in the management of the Empire 'which we like to think is as much theirs as it is ours', but was unwise enough to add that that would involve responsibility and 'some form of contribution towards the expense' and talked of the interchangeability of British and colonial armies. Few remarks could have been more injudicious, especially as he also suggested that the white settlement colonies and Britain be given representation in proportion to their population - which meant that Britain would dominate the organisation. He flatly rejected an Australian proposal for equal representation for each part of the Empire - which would have given the various colonies the ability to outvote Britain.
Fortunately, despite the establishment of the Imperial Federation League in 1884, "there was never any serious likelihood that this body would succeed in turning the Empire into a federal Super-State". The movement collapsed in the 1890s. However, it is apparent that the movement had some success, in that its activities apparently led many politicians to the conclusion that there was a need for Imperial conferences.(141)
"In Australia, there were fears that the country would be dragged into Britain's innumerable wars, which led even the Sydney Morning Herald in 1900, when Australia was supporting Britain in the Boer War, to oppose joining an imperial federation. The Australian Defence Act of 1903 therefore did not change colonial legislation, but - against the wishes of the British government which wanted Australian troops in imperial wars - allowed conscription only for the defence of Australia itself. Service overseas was only on the basis of specific volunteering. Even so, support for imperial federation by British and Australian conservatives still made the movement suspect in the eyes of Australian nationalists and the left wing.
"Yet the idea dragged on. For a time the Imperial Federation League had some influence, especially under the presidency of Alfred Deakin, three times prime minister of Australia. Then in 1909 Lord Milner and members of his 'Kindergarten' in London formed the Round Table group, to organise influential citizens in Britain and the self-governing colonies to discuss the future of the Empire. Its journal, the Round Table, published anonymous reports and commentaries on matters of imperial importance. But even in this, the most imperialist of journals, the Australian commentators were keenly aware of Australia's special security needs; and ready to criticise Britain and the organisation itself if they were ignored. They also noted a reluctance on the part of their fellow Australians to accept any diminution in their powers of self-government. The Sydney Daily Telegraph spoke for them when it chided Tennyson, on the eve of his departure from Australia in 1904, for hoping for closer union with Britain, and described representation in an imperial parliament as 'a backward step on the road of British destiny'.
"Among the Australian public there was a deep apathy towards the dull and intricate task of creating some form of imperial constitution. Most Australians assumed that they were in a flexible empire, where their needs would be met. There was no need to rush into formal - and dangerously novel - agreements. They might consider the idea eventually, but in the meantime they were happy with their measure of self-government, and did not want to lose it."(140)
Imperial Federation was opposed by Australian Nationalists, who saw it as a regressive step that would pull the Australian nation further away from the goal of independence.
The scheme was also seen as a threat against White Australia as, due to the Empire's trading interests and diplomatic ties with various non-European colonies and countries, massive non-European immigration into Australia could have been authorised by an Imperial Parliament which was dominated by Britain and which would have had no reason to put Australia's interests first.
As Arthur Calwell stated,
"The Labor Party saw in the Campaign for Imperial federation, inaugurated by Joseph Chamberlain, an attempt to break down the White Australia Policy, and a threat to our infant secondary industries."(142)
The Australian Workers' Union pointed out that:
"A scheme of Imperial Federation under existing circumstances would mean good-bye forever to our system of responsible government, and an attack on the principles of a White Australia".(143)
THE "REPUBLICAN RIOTS"
As part of the celebrations in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria's 50 years on the throne, a Town Hall meeting "to declare loyalty to the Queen was scheduled for 10 June". But at this meeting the growing republican and radical sentiment was "expressed in cries of 'three cheers for liberty' which rang out louder than the 'loyal cheers'." The conservative press described the radical demonstration as the "republican riots".(144)
A subsequent meeting was held five days later to declare loyalty to the Queen. The Empire Loyalists (the "British mind-set") ensured that this meeting was held without any similar trouble: the meeting was held "under the protection of several conservative groups including the undergraduates of the University of Sydney, the Loyal Orange Institution, the Naval Brigade and several rugby clubs"; as well as which "dissidents were banned" from this second meeting.(145)
EXPULSIONS FROM PARLIAMENT
In 1901, an article criticising King Edward VII was published in the Toscin magazine (the article had earlier been produced in an Irish publication). Edward Findley (the Labor member for Melbourne) although unaware of the article before its printing, was the Toscin's nominal publisher. Peacock, the Victorian premier, moved Findley's expulsion from State parliament. The motion was passed.(146)
In 1920 when Hugh Mahon, Labor's Member for Kalgoorlie in the House of Representatives, addressed a meeting of Irish patriots in Melbourne, he "spoke of the death in British custody of the Lord Mayor of Cork... (and) was reported to have expressed the hope that 'the sob of the widow on the coffin would one day shake the foundations of this accursed Empire'" and made other statements about Britain's "bloody and accursed Empire". The National Party's prime minister Billy Hughes organised Mahon's expulsion from the Commonwealth Parliament for having made "seditious utterances inconsistent with a parliamentarian's oath of office".(147)
Legally, "there was no such thing as Australian citizenship before 26 January 1949". Prior to this, all Australians were British Subjects, and Australia was regarded as part of the British Empire.(148)
It was the Labor Government of Ben Chifley which made the change, via the Nationality and Citizenship Act, which came into force on Australia Day 1949 (26 January 1949) and created the new category of Australian citizen. The Act also enabled the creation of the Australian passport (prior to this, Australians travelled by using "British" passports), but this new passport creation was revoked by the incoming Menzies Government - so that Australians then continued to travel overseas until 1973 with the words "British Passport" emblazoned on the front of their passports".(149)
Colony and Empire
Australian Nationalism Information Database - www.ausnatinfo.angelfire.com