Federation was the beginning of Australias history as one united nation. The notion of Federation first surfaced in the 1840s and 60s.
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Federation was the beginning of Australia's history as one united nation. The notion of Federation first surfaced in the 1840s and 60s. Federation can be defined as the unification of six colonies under a common national Parliament and thereby creating one national state1. Federation officially occurred on January 1st 1901, with six colonies joining together and creating a commonwealth which symbolised the powerful unity of shared wealth and defence system. In 1891, the federation convention first drafted the constitution of the Australian Commonwealth2. As with many other ideas throughout history Federation gave way to both opposition and support. This idea is said to have derived from a number of different reasons. These reasons include; Australia's defence and foreign policy; the issue of immigration; and economic unity to include transport, trade and tax. One of the first key reasons put forward for federation was Australia's defence policy. During the late 1800s, Australia became especially concerned with its close position to neighbouring foreign powers; the 'threat' from Asia and imperial forces.
This policy was particularly emphasised after the gold rush period which brought in large numbers of Chinese immigrants that were seen to be taking over jobs which were meant for white Australians. The Immigration Restriction Act was one of the first acts passed by the federated Parliament which abolished nearly all non-European immigration10. Through this immigration policy did not extend to the indigenous community in Australia, they were stripped of their claim to their land and were excluded from the nation consensus. This was part of the Commonwealth Franchise Act of 1902 in which "no aboriginal native of Australia, Asia, Africa or the Islands of the Pacific, except New Zealand, shall be entitled to have his name placed on the electoral roll."11 These issues of immigration were used by various supporters of Federation to increase support through fear of being taken over by a foreign populations. It was made to be essential that the states have one immigration policy to stop migrants from moving from state to state and to allow British settlers to move around states more freely.
Those that supported the notion of Federation put forward several reasons to why Federation would benefit the states. Some of the reasons discussed in this paper included; defence and the inability of each independent state to suitable protect their interests. It was concluded that Australia needed a single federated defence force in order to protect itself. Among other reasons was the issue of immigration and the different migration laws set up by each individual state which allowed for the free movement of migrant and restricted British settlers. The idea behind this was to create one Immigration Restriction Act to be implemented in all states and restrict the 'unsuitable' migrants from entering Australia. The third, but by far not the last, reason discussed is economy. This looks at transport, trade and tax which is being affected by the different policies implemented in each independent state. The notion of a unified economy looks at the advantaged of having one single tax and trade system that would come to benefit all the states as one whole nation. The notion of Federation is an important aspect of Australian history that helped shape Australia into one nation.
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