Reasons For Australian Federation Question: Discuss The Reasons For And Against Federation That Were Considered During The Late Nineteenth Century.

958 words - 4 pages

One of the key reasons for Federation was to achieve a united defence force which could better protect Australia

Reasons for Australian Federation

In 1901, the six colonies of Australia federated as a nation. It was, however, a long process, as there were arguments against this idea including the self-interests of different colonies and the size of a new nation if it occurred. Several reasons for federation were considered, such as the need for a united defence force, the development of a uniform rail system, free trade between colonies and the growth of nationalism in each colony.

One of the key reasons for federation was to achieve a united defence force, which could protect Australia. In 1883, Sir Henry Parkes quoted, "If Australia could have spoken with one voice, New Guinea would have belonged to Australia" Around the 1880s, the Australian colonies had become increasingly concerned over the close proximity of foreign powers. A Russian presence in the Pacific, Germany occupying parts of New Guinea and France having colonised New Caledonia, left the colonies in fear that attempts may be made to invade Australia. At this time, each of the colonies had their own separate defence forces. Despite having employed the British Navy and each army having a military unit in nearly every town, a report made in 1889 by the British Army's major-general Sir J. Bevan Edwards indicated that the colonies did not possess enough men, arms or ammunition to provide adequate defence. The colonies evidently needed to federate to form an army strong enough to protect Australia.

A significant argument in favour of federation was the need for a uniform rail system. In 1889, Mark Twain quoted, "Paralysis of intellect gave birth to that idea!" Despite developments in the railway system that allowed even remote areas to be reached by rail by the late 1800s, progress was ultimately restricted by each colony having a different rail gauge. Before each rail system was built, colonies operated independently of one another and connecting the tracks between them was never considered. As a result, the rail gauges of each colony varied. Without a uniform gauge, trains could not cross colonial borders. When trains were the main means of long-distance transport, having to change trains at the border of each colony was a great inconvenience for travellers. If the colonies federated, a uniform gauge would be developed, allowing trains to cross colonial borders.

The growth of nationalism towards the end of the nineteenth century was a considerable factor in securing a federated Australia. In 1891, Sir Henry Parkes said, "Aren't we not one people…one destiny?" In the 1870s, the percentage of...

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