Does Australia Need to Choose Between It's History and Geography?

Topics: Australia, United States, Cold War Pages: 8 (2519 words) Published: March 5, 2011
As a nation in the Asia Pacific region Australia consistently finds itself making choices between it‘s history and geography. Having been founded in the 18th century by a colonial power the question of where Australia should place itself as it grows is one that has been pored over since Federation in 1901.

The reconciliation of Australia’s history as firstly a group of independent colonies and then as a single nation in an isolated area of the world removed from it’s colonial source has been one that Australia has struggled with but has viewed differently over time. However the choice between Australia’s history and geography is not mutually exclusive. While an extreme commitment to either could create difficulty and during the post federation period Australia has at times sought to distance itself from the Asia Pacific region as the below extract from the Immigration restriction Act 1901 indicates:

The immigration into the Commonwealth of the persons described in any of the following paragraphs of this section (hereinafter called “prohibited immigrants” is prohibited namely:-
(a) Any person who when asked to do so by an officer fails to write out at dictation and sign in the presence of the officer a passage of fifty words in length in an European language directed by the officer. This Act, being one of the first passed by the new Australian Parliament also formed the basis for what became known as the White Australia Policy as Australia sought to control “prohibited immigrants“. While Australia has since moved away from seeking to maintain a predominantly European population and influence to one that is multi faceted this has been done pragmatically since Federation, through two World Wars, the Cold War, the post Cold War and now the beginning of the 21st century. This pragmatic move towards an acceptance of Australia’s geographic location is not something that has occurred quickly, and significant external factors have influenced the Australian move from a post federation nation strongly aligned with it’s former colonial master to a nation looking to position itself as a regional leader. The strongest influence in Australia’s move to viewing itself as a nation in the Asia Pacific and not an island off the coast of Europe is the Australian experience during World War two. As a member of the Commonwealth Australia followed the United Kingdom into what was at first a primarily European conflict as detailed below in Prime Minister Menzies speech on September 3 1939:

My fellow Australians it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. Following on from the above two years later on December 8 1941, a day after the Japanese attack on Pearl harbour which opened the Pacific theatre of World War two Prime Minister John Curtin declared war on Japan, an act that was done independent of the United Kingdom. Curtin followed this less than three weeks later with an article in The Melbourne Herald titled ‘The task ahead’ which said:

I make it clear that Australia looks to America free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom. Faced with pressing needs Australia moved away from it’s traditional source of support, the United Kingdom and looked towards the United States of America. A nation which itself had an interest in the Asia Pacific region due to it being located directly in it as opposed to the United Kingdom which had colonies in the region but was geographically removed. With this Australia entered into a relationship with the United States that has continued to the present day and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, in the words of the Department of Foreign Affairs:

A strong and close relationship with the United States serves Australia's national interests and brings us significant...
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