Essay: The Federation in Australia’s history

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  • Published on: November 16, 2017
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  • The Federation in Australia's history
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In the years before 1901 Australia split into six different colonies which had their own laws and systems. They operated apart from each other and were not considered to be one country. They did not share the same defence force or railway system. At this time many Australians felt there was a need for a more united nation. This lead to people like Henry Parkes and Alfred Deakin pushing for the federation of Australia. However not everyone was satisfied with the idea of federation. Federation has had its effects on how we operate. Imagine what it would be like if we weren’t federated. Different one would think.
Prior the the federation of Australia in 1901 Australia was split into six separate colonies. These separate colonies had their own railway systems which were differing in widths, this meant in order to travel from one colony to another you would have to swap trains, as well as giving immigration papers. The colonies also had different laws to one another for example in 1855 Tasmania had its own constitution which was uniquely different to Victoria’s. They each had their own defence forces to protect their borders. Tasmania went to the boer war as its own colony and fought under the name the Tasmanian flag. The colonies operated independently and traded like separate countries do today. Australia was basically split into six different countries and without federation it would still be that way.

Some people were pushing hard for a federation, Henry Parkes made a famous speech in Tenterfield, New South Wales pushing for federation however a lot of people back then were British born and felt patriotic toward the Queen. Others also felt the economy was not strong enough and it would cost too much. Smaller colonies were worried that the bigger colonies would have too much control. On the other hand the big states were worried the Little states would drag them down. New South Wales and Victoria also couldn’t settle an argument over who should have the capital city. People were also worried that a United country would lead to relaxed immigration, however some believed it would help tighten immigration laws. This would have been helped by the better defence, people thought that they would be better protected if they were federated. People were also keen on getting a better rail system so they didn’t have to swap train, this would also mean quicker postage. Many farmers and businessmen also wanted federation so they could get rid of trade taxes, which would lead to better trade. On the other side of the economic argument many felt that the economic state would be improved. Toward the 20th century people began to feel patriotic to this new land they had been born in. This meant when Alfred Deakin, made his speech there was a bigger push for federation.

Federation became in 1901 when the people agreed that there were more

reasons to federate than to not. Federation lead to the creation of the constitution. This is where all of Australia’s laws and rules to follow are written. It meant that Australia was a country now and they could be their own people with their own identity and their own culture. We still use the constitution today and will most likely continue to unless we become a republic and it is thrown away. The constitution can only be changed if Australians agree on it through a referendum. Australian votes actually decided on the original referendum. The constitution fathers tried to create it so it would remain relevant in 100 years time. An example of this is the parliament we still use today was designed by the constitution. It only had to by slightly altered due to the territories being introduced. All Australians must abide by the constitution and if you don’t abide by it you will end up with jail time. The constitution divided certain responsibilities between commonwealth government and the state governments. The commonwealth deals with some big things relevant to the whole nation whereas the states provide services that are relevant to their individual needs. One of the biggest things that came out of the constitution was the rights section. This is what gave people their rights. This part of the constitution has had to be changed over time. For example in 1967 Aboriginals were officially recognised by the constitution. Without Federation all these changes of what we know today may not have happened.

Without federation Tasmania would not be a part of a wider nation and it would still be under the lead of the queen. We would not have our own prime minister. In fact you could go as far as saying federation lead to many Australian sporting triumphs as well as other National achievements. It also gave Australians the power to vote in referendums, this gave Australians the power to pass the laws they felt relevant to themselves. Without federation what we know today as Canberra would just be farmland that belonged to residents of the British colony of New South Wales. We would not have our own culture. These are just a few reasons why federation was a major turning point in our history.

To summarise, Federation was a big turning point in Australia’s History as it saw us become a nation instead of British Colonies. It also lead to the creation of the constitution, which as covered is a huge part of Australia’s history and identity. Though there were many fears about what could happen if the colonies join together. Would money be lost? Would immigrants be relaxed? Eventually the reasons for proved stronger than those against. Over time the effects of Federation have been obvious. This ranges from Australian Sporting Triumphs, to happy farmers, to the formation of the Capital Canberra. We can safely say that without federation things just wouldn’t be the same.

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