Courtesy Reuters

Australia and Southeast Asia

Australia, the sixth continent, lay outside world affairs until settled by Europeans. The 300,000 aborigines, who were its only inhabitants until the end of the eighteenth century, were untouched by the outside world except for infrequent visits by Malays and possibly Chinese to a few points on the northern coastline, and these had no knowledge of or interest in world affairs. But modern Australia is neither isolated nor isolationist. Australians have fought overseas in five wars in the last century, have known hostile bombs on their own soil and at present have a substantial proportion of their armed services on duty in other lands. By its origin in six British colonies, modern Australia was linked to world power contests; by its growth it has become part of them, and today we cannot read our national future except in the language of world politics.

Luckily the six colonies grew up at a time when British naval power in all oceans of the world was unchallenged. Nevertheless, one of the earliest expressions of Australian foreign policy was a movement in the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria in the 1850s to create a colonial navy because of a Russian scare following the appearance of the Russians in the Pacific. In the 188os the colony of Queensland led a movement, in which all the other Australian colonies shared, to persuade the British to annex part of the island of New Guinea, largely because of the fear engendered by a German appearance in the Pacific. At that period Asia, yet unawakened, did not appear so definite a danger to Australians as did European power intruding into the Pacific. As in other countries of the Pacific, toward the end of the century Australian publicists took up the phrase "the yellow peril" and found meaning in it not so much as a military danger as a threat of coolie labor to the industrial conditions and standards of living which had been made an Australian ideal. After federation

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