Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand

During the 1880s there were many attempts to establish a "federation" by which the six British colonies of Australia—New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia—would be able to come together under a single government. In 1890 it was finally agreed to call a convention in the following year and draft a federal constitution.

Because of the depression of the 1890s, the constitution was not drawn up until 1898, and agreement from all the states was reached with Western Australia holding a referendum to agree to joining the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900. New Zealand decided not to join with Australia.

As a result, on July 14, 1900, the first governor-general of Australia, being the representative of the British sovereign, was appointed, and on January 1, 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed in Centennial Park in Sydney, New South Wales.

Part of the reason why the federation had taken so long to negotiate was the intense rivalry between the states, which had to agree to hand over powers for defense, foreign relations, and foreign trade and which also had to agree to dismantle tariffs and restrictions on the sale of goods within the commonwealth.

There were disagreements over where the new capital was to be, and initially it was in Melbourne. The first opening of the federal parliament took place there on May 9, 1901, with Edmund Barton as the first prime minister.

Fittingly, some of the Australian contingents to China, sent in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion, had returned to Sydney a few days before the first parliament was opened. They were rushed down by train to take part in the ceremony.

At the time, Australian soldiers, as well as New Zealanders, were also involved in supporting the British in the Boer War. The early soldiers had left as part of state units—after federation Australian Commonwealth units were dispatched.

After federation it was obvious that Melbourne could not remain Australia's capital, and in 1902 a Capital Sites Enquiry Board started inspecting prospective sites, which had to be within 100 miles of Sydney.

Eventually a site was agreed on, and in 1913 Lady Denman, wife of the governor-general, announced "I name the capital of Australia Canberra, with the accent on the Can"—Canberra being the Aboriginal name for the area.

The region around it then became the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), designed with a conscious attempt not to make the mistakes that had taken place in the building of Washington, D.C. The ACT was 100 times larger than the District of Columbia, and all land in it was declared under leasehold to prevent property speculators' taking it over.

The U.S. architect Walter Burley Griffin drew up plans for the city after he won first place in a worldwide competition for the appointment. It was not until 1927 that a temporary parliament building was established there.

Over the same period, in New Zealand, which was also a self-governing "dominion," Richard "King Dick" Seddon was prime minister of a liberal administration from 1893 until 1906. One of the major issues he faced was the need to encourage the expansion of agriculture by the establishment of more small farms.

Both New Zealand and Australia during this period relied heavily on primary industries: farming and mining. Although the Australian economy was diversifying slightly, New Zealand's main products were sheep/lamb/mutton, wool, and butter, most of which was exported to Britain. By 1913 New Zealand had become the largest exporter of dairy products in the world.

While the Liberals were in power in New Zealand, the trade union movement was growing in strength in both New Zealand and Australia. In 1889 a state Labour government was formed in Queensland, in northern Australia, and in 1891 the Australian Labour Party was formed.

Seven years later, in 1898, the Trades and Labour Confederation decided to establish a New Zealand Labour Party, although it was not until 1935 that they were able to form a government.

In Australia, in contrast, from 1904 to 1907 Chris Watson formed a minority administration and presided over the first national Labour Party government anywhere in the world, and in 1910 Labour achieved an absolute majority in the Australian parliament.

Australia and New Zealand were affected in the early 1910s by a small economic depression. This was followed by the outbreak of World War I, and both countries were keen to support Britain, the "mother country" of many Australians and New Zealanders.

Australian and New Zealand soldiers were immediately sent to Egypt, where, as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, they became known as Anzac. In 1915 they were deployed to Gallipoli in a failed attempt to capture the Turkish capital, Constantinople. In Australia and New Zealand this became an important symbolic occasion for both countries, and many still visit Gallipoli each year on April 25.

After Gallipoli both Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought in France, with the Australian general Sir John Monash leading his men to victory in November 1918. During the war two attempts to introduce conscription in Australia failed; New Zealand maintained conscription throughout the conflict.

At the Versailles Peace Conference after the end of the war, Australia and New Zealand were represented by their respective prime ministers, William Morris "Billy" Hughes and William Ferguson Massey. Both were keen to ensure that the war had achieved something, and Australia was given charge of German New Guinea (which was merged with Papua to form Papua & New Guinea, later Papua New Guinea) and the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand was given Western Samoa.

The formation of the League of Nations after the war was treated differently by Australia and New Zealand. The former decided to play a more active role, but in New Zealand Massey felt that the organization was useless and that New Zealand should rely not on multilateral diplomacy but on the might of the Royal Navy.

As a result, in the first 10 years of the League of Nations, New Zealand only sent three delegations to its annual conferences of the International Labour Organisation and did not ratify any of the league's conventions until 1938. This was in spite of New Zealand's election in 1936 to the League Council and a gradual move to support collective security.

The Depression

During the 1930s in Australia and New Zealand the worldwide Great Depression saw widespread unemployment, which hit many families very hard. Others, fearing they might become unemployed, stopped spending money, further deflating the economy, and both countries were struggling to pay their war debts. Many of those badly hit were former soldiers who had fought in World War I and were now angry about a government that had "let them down."

Soup kitchens appeared, beggars were regularly seen in the streets, and children came to school malnourished. Some people turned to extreme political movements, and with the increase in strength of the trade union movement came the formation of pseudo-fascist organizations in Australia—the New Guard—and in New Zealand— the New Zealand Legion.

In 1935 a Labour government came to power in New Zealand with Michael Savage as prime minister. When he died in 1940 he was succeeded by Peter Fraser, who remained in office until 1949. In contrast, in Australia for most of the depression Joseph Lyons of the United Australia Party was prime minister, having defeated the Labour Party under James Scullin in 1932.

Pointing to the desire of both countries to connect with the wider world, Australian and New Zealand aviators began a series of remarkable pioneer flights. On September 10–11, 1928, the Australian aviator Charles Kingsford Smith made the first Australia–New Zealand flight.

During that trip he met the teenage Jean Batten, who was to become a New Zealand flying legend. She moved to Sydney in the following year to train for a commercial pilot's license.

Kingsford Smith was to achieve numerous records for his flying across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Tasman Sea, as well as his October 1933 solo flight from England to Australia, and Jean Batten was to be the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia and back (1934–35), the first woman to fly the South Atlantic solo, and in 1936 the first person to fly from England to New Zealand.

In the arts Australian painters Hans Heysen, Arthur Streeton, William Dobell, and in the 1940s Sidney Nolan and Russell Drysdale were to gain international prominence, as were New Zealand artists Charles Goldie and Frances Hodgkins. Prominent artistic families the Lindsays and the Boyds flourished in Australia.

Writers like Frank Clune and Ion Idriess wrote many books describing Australia and Australians—perhaps the most famous book by Idriess was about the quintessential Australian hero Harold Lasseter and the search for gold in central Australia. Other writers such as Miles Franklin, Ernestine Hill, Eleanor Dark, and Henry Handel Richardson dealt with Australia in fiction.

Poets such as Dame Mary Gilmore, Banjo Paterson, and Judith Wright are representative of that genre of Australian literature. New Zealand literature is widely known by way of Katherine Mansfield and crime fiction writer Ngaio Marsh. Australian actor Oscar Asche and singer Nellie Melba achieved as much fame overseas as they did in Australia.

In the realms of medicine and science, respectively, Australian pathologist Howard Florey and atomic scientist Ernest Rutherford (from Nelson, New Zealand) were to make major contributions to the world.

In Britain New Zealander Sir Arthur Porritt became surgeon to King George VI, and on the day of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 news was received of the scaling of Mount Everest by another New Zealander, Edmund Hillary, earlier that day, the first known ascent of the mountain.

In Australia and New Zealand the indigenous populations, the Aboriginals and the Maoris, remained marginalized economically and socially. Gradually, the Maoris in New Zealand began, through their numbers and the fact that they all spoke a common language, to exert some political influence.

Maori started to be taught in some schools and by the 21st century was widely taught throughout the country. By contrast, the Aboriginal people in Australia remained geographically on the fringes of cities and towns and were discriminated against in work and housing.

Children were taken away from parents when they were young to be brought up in foster homes or children's homes, where they were alienated from their own culture. They became known as "The Stolen Generation." Although Maoris were always recognized as citizens of New Zealand, it was not until 1967 that Aboriginal Australians had the right to vote.

In 1931 the British parliament enacted the Statute of Westminster, by which Britain relinquished powers over self-governing dominions. However, it was not adopted in Australia until 1942 and was finally adopted in New Zealand in 1947. In 1940 Australia established its own diplomatic posts in foreign countries: in Washington, D.C.; Tokyo; and Ottawa.

New Zealand followed in the following year with a minister in Washington, D.C. Representation in commonwealth countries was still by a high commissioner and in other countries by an ambassador.

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Australia and New Zealand both immediately declared their support for the United Kingdom, and soldiers from both countries were sent to the Mediterranean, serving in North Africa and in Greece. In December 1941, when the Pacific War began, there was panic in both Australia and New Zealand over a possible Japanese invasion.

Australian soldiers were immediately recalled from the Middle East, and some were sent into action in Malaya and Singapore, both of which quickly fell to the Japanese. On February 19, 1942, the Japanese bombed Darwin, causing significant physical damage and showing Australia's vulnerability to attack.

Australian soldiers returning from North Africa were reinforced by large numbers of U.S. soldiers. Australian soldiers were then sent into action against the Japanese in New Guinea, where at Kokoda they managed to halt the Japanese advance and gradually drive them back.

In contrast, in New Zealand soldiers were not recalled and continued to play an important part in the campaigns in the Western Desert and in Italy but a minimal role in the Pacific. U.S. soldiers also came to New Zealand, which at that point was largely defended by World War I veterans and teenagers who were hastily armed by the frightened government.

Australia and New Zealand, seeing their joint vulnerability, decided to conclude the Canberra Pact of 1944, which was to determine that after the war Australia and New Zealand would dominate the South Pacific, and the United States would be excluded. As the Pacific War gradually saw the Japanese pushed back, New Zealand soldiers were recalled from Italy.

Some were posted to the Pacific, but the war ended soon after. After the war both Australia and New Zealand became founding members of the United Nations, and both were led by governments that supported a multilateral approach to political problems.