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Reasons for Australian Federation

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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.


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 need for free trade between the colonies was another reason in favour of federation. During the 1860s, the Victorian government realised that goods from overseas and from other colonies were being produced at a cost that their own industries could not equal. It responded with a policy of protectionism that involved imposing tariffs on incoming goods, which made them more expensive than local goods. The New South Wales government was particularly opposed to tariffs. A number of people were also concerned that import taxes may discourage overseas companies from trading with Australia altogether.


One of the most significant arguments against the idea of federation was that some colonies felt larger colonies would dominate the interests of smaller and distant colonies. In the 1890s, parliaments had already been established that promoted the interests of people in each colony and some argued that progress would be achieved more efficiently by different colonies. The trade union in particular believed that the interests of their workers would be better promoted by a colonial system as opposed to a federal system. In 1901, the six colonies of Australia federated as a nation after considering their necessities for national development, which included a stronger defence force, uniform rail system and free trade between colonies. A sense of nationalism had also brought them closer together as a nation. This was, however, an enormous decision as the interests of other colonies and the size of a new nation made several colonies reluctant to federate. Although federation had its inconveniences, it also had qualities that proved vital to Australia's development as a nation.

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