The Guardian May 16, 2001


Editorial:
Federation

The Federation of the Australian states in 1901 was the first step away 
from British colonial control. However, imperialist interests continue to 
dominate Australian politics to this day.

At the time of Federation, Australia was overwhelmingly populated with 
British kith and kin, who did not have to campaign and fight for freedom as 
did many other British colonies. The British certainly did not wish to push 
the call of Australia's Anglo-Saxon communities for independence to a 
military conflict as it had with the American War of Independence.

The rights of the Indigenous peoples, whose population had been decimated 
by deliberate campaigns of genocide and introduced diseases, were 
completely overlooked. Their prior occupation and ownership of Australia's 
land was wiped away in the Federation Constitution with just two words: 
"terra nullius".

Australia was built up with a capitalist economic system from the very 
beginning, the people did not struggle to progress through feudalism or 
slavery. (Although the original convicts, the Aboriginal people and the 
"black-bird" indentured labourers from the Pacific islands suffered under 
slave-like conditions for many years.)

Furthermore, the Australian political system was created at a time when 
democratic rights struggles had already achieved much in Britain and on the 
continent of Europe. The French revolutions of 1789 and 1849 had a 
considerable influence in shaping Australia's political system. The British 
Chartists, many of whom were transported to Australia as political 
prisoners, contributed to the establishment of the representative 
parliamentary system.

The Eureka rebellion of 1853 led to the establishment of adult male 
franchise. The struggle of the British suffragists was reflected in the 
extension of female franchise  in State parliaments towards the end of 
the 1800s, and then by an Act of the Federal Parliament in 1902.

So the scene was set for the establishment of a parliamentary capitalist 
system, which has persisted for 100 years. But the present celebration of 
Federation pays little or no attention to this background.

Giving his keynote address to the commemorative parliament last week, 
Howard could do no better than mention some past Prime Ministers and those 
who put Australia's Commonwealth constitution together. He also mentioned 
those who died in war so that those in Melbourne could "meet in peace and 
freedom".

However, he could not bring himself to mention the Aboriginal people, let 
alone acknowledge the tremendous injustices they suffered during our first 
100 years of nationhood, and which still continue. Also ignored was the 
fact that Australia's economic achievements were built out of the sweat of 
the workers, farmers, engineers and scientists.

John Howard instead spoke proudly of our allegedly "egalitarian" society, 
although in reality the divide between rich and poor Australians has never 
been greater.

Australia's leaders still see themselves as a white, Anglo-Saxon, 
imperialist bastion in Asia with the responsibility of guarding imperialist 
interests in the region. Their distorted view of Australia's past history 
and their opinion that the capitalist class is "born to rule" is a barrier 
to Australia's present leaders being able to fulfil their often high 
sounding words.

Throughout the last 100 years Australian Governments have, with the 
exception of some Whitlam Government decisions, implemented foreign 
policies which bow to the needs of the major imperialist powers  first to 
those of Britain and now to those of the United States. Now, the 
contradiction between our British cultural and American military ties on 
the one hand, and economic interests in the Asia Pacific region on the 
other, is creating some difficult situations.

Being an American deputy sheriff runs counter to Australia's long-term 
economic and political interests. A major issue now confronts them in the 
form of National Missile Defence (NMD) plans  the US is lining up for war 
with our Asian trading partners.

Are the Liberal or Labor Party leaders prepared to back up their 
reservations and their critical words with the demand that the Pine Gap spy 
and communications centre be closed down? To do any less means to 
capitulate once again to American imperialist demands.

Australia has yet to win its true independence and to fulfil the claim of 
some of its leaders that Australia is today's "promised land."
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