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Is Australia Independent? Essay

1976 words - 8 pages

IntroductionThere is no doubt that Australia did not gain independence after the proclamation of the Constitution in 1901. Some may argue that it has been obvious since following Britain into both World Wars. However Australia, through a gradual process, and after almost 100 years, has gained legal but not political independence. As long as there is a monarch of the UK, and of Australia and its states, there will always be connections. This paper will recognise the five most prominent constitutional steps in the process towards independence in five main discussions by firstly realising the absence of independence after Federation in 1901 and the factors that tie Australia and Britain ...view middle of the document...

A few months later, Queen Victoria proclaimed that the people of the colonies should 'from 1st January, 1901, be united in a Federal Commonwealth under the name of Commonwealth of Australia' (Baalman, 1973, p. 20). These colonies included New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Province of South Australia. Federation was the formation of these six independent nation-states, all self-governing, into one nation of Australia. Even after the commonwealth of Australia was established, the United Kingdom still maintained the power to make laws for Australia and to engage in foreign affairs on behalf of Australia. The Constitution also established a Governor-General to act as the Monarch's representative. Section 2 of The Constitution specifies that 'A Governor-General appointed by the queen shall be Her Majesty's representative in the Commonwealth' and all executive power 'is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General', giving this position enormous amount of power. According to Baalman (1973), the Federation of Australia did 'nothing to alter the constitutional relations which had hitherto existed between the United Kingdom and Australia' (p. 22). The information above proves Australia did not become legally or politically independent on 1 January 1901, Britain still had sufficient control over Australia and while this may have been the first step of independence, Australia had a long way to go before achieving legal and political independence.Treaty of VersaillesThe links between Britain and Australia meant that when Britain declared war, Australia was by Britain's side. Fighting alongside Britain increased Australia's international status. The Treaty of Versailles was the peace treaty after World War I between the Allies and Germany, signed in June 1919. Whilst the Treaty of Versailles isn't necessarily a piece of legislation Australia passed to increase independence upon itself, it was recognised as an important constitutional milestone. The Treaty of Versailles was a 'major step in the recognition of Australia as an independent entity in international law' (DAD, 2000, ¶ 1). The reason why this treaty was considered so important by Australia was because it was the first treaty signed by Australia as an independent nation. Great Britain permitted Australia to sign the treaty separately along with the other Dominions of Britain whom also signed the treaty independently (Cook et al 2001). Prior to 1919, Britain had taken responsibility for all political treaties that came forth upon the British Monarchy. So it began, the road to independence.Balfour Declaration 1926 and Statute of Westminster 1931The Balfour Declaration 1926 recognised the autonomy of the dominions of the United Kingdom (Twomey, 1993). This result came from an Imperial conference held in London in 1926. These principles were then enacted in the Statute of Westminster 1931. This statute also established the Commonwealth of...

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