IT has become a platitude to say that in the future the Pacific will be a principal arena of international politics. Nevertheless, there is a disposition among political writers to assume that the political jousters will be the United States, Japan, Russia and China, as legitimate participants because of the fact that they face the Pacific, and the various European powers as intruders. The potential parts to be played by New Zealand, Canada and particularly Australia seem forgotten. New Zealand follows much the same lines of policy as Australia, and Canada has more or less the same interests as the United States, but Australia, a power controlling a continent, is beginning to project a policy of her own. True, Australia's foreign policy has never been clearly formulated, but it would be inaccurate to say that it does not as yet exist. Today its two fundamental points are, one, control of the contiguous islands as a measure of security, and, two, defense against any forcible contravention of Australia's racial policy -- the "White Australia" policy -- which excludes all yellow, brown and black peoples. A subsidiary matter that deserves some consideration is Australia's economic policy in the South Seas.


When Captain Arthur Phillips was sent out to Australia in 1788 with his civil and military officials and convicts to establish Botany Bay his commission gave him authority over "the islands adjacent to the eastern coast of New Holland," as Australia was then known. At various times his successors asserted their right to rule over Tahiti, Fiji and New Zealand. Subsequently the right over all these places was disclaimed. Tahiti has never been reclaimed; sovereignty over New Zealand was later formally established; Fiji became a part of the British Empire in 1875, as anyone unfortunate enough to visit Suva may read on a small monument. The point is, however, that the sweeping authority of the original commission was whittled down until the only islands claimed were Tasmania and Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island, these last two lying roughly between Australia and New Zealand. It is interesting to trace Australia's expansion from this beginning.

Since its founding, Australia has never been really menaced by a foreign power, though there have been a number of "scares" over the activities first of France and then of Germany. Two French vessels under Laperouse, then on an exploring expedition, had visited Australia before Phillips had landed his convicts. Another French expedition under Baudin engaged in exploration on the Australian coast in 1802. Neither of these expeditions implied designs upon the country, but the English feared that they did and consequently established precautionary settlements (some short-lived) in Tasmania, at Port Phillip and elsewhere. During the Napoleonic Wars the possibility of a French expedition to destroy Sydney was discussed, and indeed actually ordered by Napoleon, but it could not be carried out because of the strength of the British Navy in the South Seas. The victory of Nelson at Trafalgar destroyed even the remotest possibility of French aggression, yet in 1824 when the French Government sent another scientific expedition into the South Seas precautionary settlements were again established by the alarmed English. It was not until 1829, however, that England laid formal claim to the whole of Australia. She made good her claim through her sea power.

The French next entered the Australian horizon in connection with New Caledonia. France took possession of the island in 1853 and established a penal settlement there in 1863. Later on, at Australia's suggestion, the Imperial Government pointed out that Australia considered "the transportation system vexing and its continuance in New Caledonia rather unneighborly." Convictism in New Caledonia was discontinued in 1898. Even more important has been the relation of Australia to the French administration of the New Hebrides. The French economic penetration of the islands started in 1882 and it shortly became obvious that annexation would inevitably follow. The Presbyterian missions from Australia recognized this fact and brought pressure to bear on the governments of the Australian colonies, and they in turn appealed to the Foreign Office, which, in the words of Professor Ernest Scott, "intimated to the French Government that the annexation of the New Hebrides . . . would certainly give offense to Australia." The result was the joint administration of the islands by France and England, established in 1887 and continuing to the present day. This summary of relations with France illustrates the evolution of Australian policy, which at first aimed merely to protect the mainland from falling into foreign hands and later was extended to gaining some control over the destiny of outlying islands.

Relations with Germany did not develop until the Australian policy had reached the second of these stages, but they proved very important. The point of conflict was New Guinea, the largest island in the world. Being so near to Australia, it naturally fell within the range of Australian policy; but it is also illustrative of the slow growth of that policy that no positive action with regard to the island was taken until the 'eighties. In 1874 Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, sent a memorandum to the Imperial Government urging the annexation of New Guinea to secure the safety of Australia. About that time there was a persistent rumor in Australia that Germany intended to take possession of all of New Guinea not claimed by the Dutch, or at least the major portion. These rumors were not believed in England. But so thoroughly did the colonies believe in the necessity of precluding any menacing foreign annexation that the Premier of Queensland, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, despatched an expedition to take formal possession of the territory (April 4, 1883), the cost of administration to be borne by his colony. This act was repudiated by Lord Derby with the statement that: "The apprehension entertained in Australia that some foreign power was about to establish itself on the shores of New Guinea appears to have been altogether indefinite and unfounded, and the inquiries which have been made by Her Majesty's Government have given them the strongest reasons for believing that no such step has been contemplated." The other colonies immediately joined Queensland in urging that Britain nevertheless carry out the annexation. Germany disclaimed any interest in New Guinea. In 1884, however, she cautiously began to indicate that New Guinea might be a suitable field for German enterprise. Even while negotiations with Britain about the matter were in progress, Germany annexed the northern part of the unclaimed region. Britain proclaimed a protectorate over the southern portion in October, 1884, and this was changed to a possession of the Empire in 1888. Finally the administration was placed under the Commonwealth in 1906.

The next phase in Australian expansion came during and after the World War. At the outbreak of the war the 300,000 square miles of New Guinea were divided as follows: in Dutch possession, 150,000 square miles; in German possession, 90,000 square miles, including in this figure certain adjacent small islands; in possession of Great Britain, as an Australian dependency, 90,000 square miles, including adjacent small islands. Australian troops occupied German New Guinea on September 17, 1914, and the territory remained under military rule until May, 1921. The only other German possession occupied by Australia was Nauru.[i] In 1919 it was decided at Paris that New Guinea should be entrusted to Australia under a mandate from the League of Nations, and this is its status today. Nauru is governed by an Australian Administrator, but the mandate is held directly by the King. Australia's process of extending control over outlying islands has again reached the end of a definite phase.


The second fundamental in Australian foreign policy -- defense against any forcible contravention of her racial policy -- has its roots in a purely domestic issue. Curiously enough, Australia's first experience with the international aspects of racial troubles did not result from prohibiting the entry of those she does not now desire, but from their deliberate introduction into the country. The Kanakas, or Pacific Islanders, were introduced into Australia, following 1842, to labor at tropical agriculture, particularly sugar-cane cultivation. They were recruited in the islands by professional labor getters, and the system led to such abuses as to appall the world. Public opinion was revolted and, beginning in 1885, determined efforts were made to bring about the abolition of the system. They remained unsuccessful until the formation of the Commonwealth in 1901, when, in putting the policy of "White Australia" into effect, arrangements were made to repatriate all Kanakas remaining in the country after December, 1906. This was carried out.

Sentiment for a "White Australia" had begun growing up as early as 1850. It arose chiefly out of the conflicts between the white and Chinese miners which took place in the gold fields during the 'fifties and 'sixties, and which served to direct attention to an unusual influx of Chinese. Legislation aiming to stem it was passed in Victoria and New South Wales first, and in the other colonies later. This legislation varied as between colonies, and the severity of the acts also varied from time to time in response to the public state of mind with regard to the Chinese. Attempts were made to achieve uniformity in the legislation of the Intercolonial Conferences (1880-88-96), but to no avail. The "White Australia" policy got its name in the 'nineties and its final formulation in 1901 in the Commonwealth Immigration Act.

Of course the discriminatory legislation provoked Chinese protests, but they availed the Chinese nothing. The protests, made in 1886 and 1887, by the Chinese Minister in London, Lew Ta Jen, are thus summarized by Myra Willard, historian of the "White Australia" policy: "The Minister said that the legislation against the Chinese was opposed to international usage, it was incompatible with Britain's obligations under the treaties with China, and it was repugnant to the general spirit of British legislation. He pointed out that there was no such discrimination in the Crown Colonies. Why, then, should it exist in self-governing Colonies? he asked. The Governors in the Australian Colonies had repeatedly borne testimony to the general good conduct of the resident Chinese population, and of their value in developing colonial resources. 'There does not appear, therefore, to be any sufficient reason for their being deprived of the immunities accorded to them by the treaties and the law of nations, or of their being treated differently from the subjects of other Powers residing in the same parts of Her Britannic Majesty's Dominions,' he concluded. Accordingly, he asked Britain to enquire into the subject with a view to the removal of the disability complained of." These protests came to nothing, even though the Imperial Government did try to induce the Australian colonial governments to be more circumspect in phrasing their laws.

Up to 1896 the discriminatory legislation had been applied to the Chinese only, but the Intercolonial Conference of that year recommended its extension to all Asiatics, a course which would bring Australia into conflict with Japan. At the same time the Conference unanimously recommended that the colonies exercise their privilege under Article 19 of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1894 and exempt themselves from the stipulations of the treaty.[ii] All the colonies did so except Queensland. She adhered to the treaty in 1897, with special provisions for the regulation of Japanese immigration. The restrictions agreed upon were carefully carried out by Japan herself and hence were not objectionable to her. In 1899 Queensland attempted to prohibit Japanese immigration, but Japan protested, and an arrangement was made whereby only enough Japanese were allowed to enter Queensland to keep the number at status quo. In 1897 Japan protested to no avail against having her people directly classed with Kanakas, Negroes, Indians and other Eastern peoples. When the Commonwealth Immigration Act was passed in 1901 with the same direct exclusions (the educational test prescribed "50 words in a European language"), Japan protested again and at great length. She even carried her case to London, but the Imperial Government refused to interfere. It was not until 1905 that Australia modified the act to read "50 words in any prescribed language." With this ambiguity Japan must pretend to be satisfied.

It is much easier to point out the specific collisions brought about by Australia's racial policy than it is to arrive at an estimate of its total significance. Statements about the matter made by Australians and Japanese, or even such Americans as know that Australia is a factor in Pacific politics, are usually rhetorical and vague. As a rule Japanese politicians disclaim any hostile feeling toward Australia, but somehow their utterances are unconvincing. Japan is on the verge of a severe population crisis. China, particularly Manchuria, though it serves as a field for commercial enterprise, does no offer an opening for any considerable immigration, nor does any material part of Japanese emigration naturally flow to South America. Australia is Japan's logical outlet.

Australia's present population is something more than 6,000,000. Setting aside all considerations about geographical and climatic difficulties, we may note that the maximum population which she can support is estimated to be 60,000,000. In other words, 60,000,000 white people, at the present range of white adaptability, can live in Australia. How many more of other races it can accommodate no one has yet bothered to figure with any exactitude, but a rough estimate would perhaps say 20,000,000 Asiatics in regions unadapted to the white race. This gives us the enormous figure of 74,000,000 for the possible increase of the Australian population. It is generally conceded that Australia's present rate of increase is not fast enough for economic necessities, however "normal" it may be to biometricians, and however much any acceleration may be hampered by lack of capital. Australia's "White" policy demands, then, that she be allowed to take her time about bringing her white population up to 60,000,000 and that she be allowed permanently to keep idle such lands as are not adapted to the uses of white men. Such a policy, André Siegfried has remarked, is "local and one-sided . . . and therefore neither international nor stable." And the maintenance of the policy is, in the last analysis, "a question of force, diplomatic force if there is sufficient prestige, or military force if necessary."

Australia, we see, is doing on a larger scale what the United States and Canada are doing on their Pacific coasts. All three countries appear to have a "white consciousness" in common. Of all the countries on the Pacific littoral, they alone are exclusive. Since Australia has perhaps the greatest stake in any breaking down of the precariously maintained racial balance on the Pacific, she is a major factor in the politics of the region.


Australia has not taken any great part in the economic development of the Pacific Islands, and shows little interest in developing trade with them. The former may be due in part to the fact that the bulk of her capital is required at home and in part to indifference; the latter we may put down to shortsightedness and indifference.

One would naturally expect that Australians would take a particular interest in developing their holdings in New Guinea, but such is not the case. F. W. Eggleston, chairman of the Australian delegation at the conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations, has written: "The mandate involves heavy obligations. We are not supplying either Papua (as the Australians call their part of New Guinea) or New Guinea with adequate capital. They are obviously undercapitalized, even so far as the Government is concerned, while the capital for development cannot be supplied by Australia." Seeking to bring about a rational consideration of the problems, he asks two questions: "(1) Are we going to assist our own territories in the Pacific with adequate capital for development, or, if we cannot supply it ourselves, allow other capitalists to do so? (2) Is it right or beneficial to protect our own Australian industry from island products? For the benefit of banana-growers in Queensland we have destroyed our trade with Fiji, and, no doubt, have impaired the development for the islands. The Queensland sugar industry has been so tied up with artificial legislation that it is difficult to see how it can be extricated without destroying the industry, but if a few men start growing peanuts and other tropical crops in Australia, are we going to give them protection against the Islands? If so, we have no claim to handle the Islands. I have no hesitation in saying also that we are short-sighted, because the economic development of the Islands will be of the greatest value to Australia."

This, in essence, presents the economic aspect of Australia's Pacific relations. It appears that she cannot supply capital to develop such territory as she directly controls, and that she prefers to develop her mainland tropics at the expense of natural and normal trade with the islands.


Pleading in the House of Commons in March, 1924, for the continuation of the Singapore project, Viscount Curzon asked how the Australians, if they do not want Japanese immigrants, are to keep them out, and added: "There is only one way--to show them that you are a country able to close the door and to say, No!"

Here is the motive behind Australia's defense program. But it is a very chaotic program. There is little disposition to spend any large sums on defense measures, the feeling being that all available money should be put into productive works. Though Australians take a very considerable pride in the exploits of their forces during the World War, both on land and sea, they are not tremendously interested in peace time armies and navies of their own. Consequently, Australia's standing army is of no particular importance, nor is her navy. Commercial aviation is making rapid strides, but little attention is paid to dire prophecies that Sydney and Melbourne could easily be bombed from enemy bases established in the uninhabited Northern Territory. Australia seems to rely on the statement of Stanley Baldwin: "The major responsibility for matters of foreign affairs and defense still rests with the Government of Britain." The key to Australian defense is Singapore and the defensive weapon is the British Navy. Australia contributes more per person to imperial defense than any dominion in the Empire. In that way she satisfies the need she feels for defense.

If Britain has a vital interest in the issues at stake in the Pacific, so does America, for her territory abuts upon it. But Britain realizes much more than does the United States the part Australia is to play. Americans are too apt to envisage the Pacific as including only the nations bordering on the North Pacific. A writer in a recent number of The Annals chose as his subject "The United States as a Power on the Pacific Coast." His sole reference to Australia was this: "America today is the largest white power on the Pacific Coast. Except Australasia, Canada and Russia, no others have Pacific littorals." The rest of the article concerned Japan, Russia, the United States and China.

There are 800,000,000 people in Eastern Asia, Western America and the Islands. Of these, 600,000,000 are Asiatics. Australia feels that her existence depends on the maintenance of the present balance between white and Asiatic peoples. Certain aspects of American public policy indicate that many persons in the United States have similar feelings. It is strange that they have so universally failed to take account of Australia in their calculations.

[i] Samoa was occupied by New Zealand; the German islands north of the equator by Japan.

[ii] This is a pertinent place to note that Australia and Canada in 1921 successfully insisted that the Anglo-Japanese alliance, in the form it had then assumed, be abandoned.

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