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The 1878 Seamen Strike, supported by other trade unions, reform groups, and radical politicians, was explicitly initiated in response to the Australasian Steam Navigation Company’s use of Chinese workers.
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Furthermore, choices were made regarding one or more of the Australian colonies without respecting the preferences of the others, and sometimes without even informing them.
It is no wonder, then, that moves to federation and independence were born out of and furthered by foreign policy issues like immigration and defense.
Britain, on the other hand, being a mature global empire, had to maintain a policy of accommodation when dealing with other foreign powers.
This policy was particularly necessary with regards to Japan, whose unexpected rise posed a uniquely complex situation for British officials to tackle, especially considering its proximity to the increasingly vociferous nation of Australia.
Australia was a grouping of six remote colonies, the international affairs of which were completely under the purview of Britain’s Foreign Office.
The foreign policy of the island-continent as a whole may have been informed by prominent figures from the various colonies, but the ultimate decisions were always made in London.
To accomplish this, this paper analyzes discussions between Australia’s most outspoken political leaders and compares them to concurrent Foreign Office communications regarding the British handling of the fast-growing Japanese Empire.
Through this analysis, this paper finds that the defensive policy of Australian leaders at the dawn of the twentieth century was a direct result of the nascent federation’s heritage as a far-flung group of settler colonies, the foremost concern of which was the preservation of its white population through exclusionary immigration policies.