International Issues That Affected Australia

Australia as a penal colony in the Antipodeas seemed to be isolated from what was going on in the rest of the world. Gold discoveries were totally discouraged as the colony was a source of wheat and wool for mother England, and a dumping ground for her unwanted. In 1820, 9 out of 10 white people were convicts, emancipated convicts, or children of convicts.

By the late 1840s the International situation had changed. The English Government, was now concerned about the security of Australia, and was attempting to increase the population. It was worried that the French or Russians were capable of invading the colony as both those nations had large fleets in the area. The Crimean War was imminent, and a declaration of war between Russia and England would make Australia a legitimate target.

Efforts to populate, beyond the 1.5 million white people, were also being thwarted by the 1849 Californian gold rush, which was luring diggers to America. Edward Hargraves was one of the first diggers to return from America, disappointed at what he had seen there.

In 1850 Western Australia became a penal colony and the Australian Colonies Government Act granted representative constitutions to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. These colonies set about writing constitutions which produced democratically progressive parliaments and there was a growing opposition to the transportation of convicts.

By the middle of the 19th century, there was a wave of the ideas called "classical liberalism"  sweeping Europe, Britain and America. These encompassed ideas such as individual liberty, the free market and limited constitutional government. Serfdom and slavery were being abolished in Europe and its colonies. Britain introduced the Anti-Corn Law League and Free Trade. New South Wales was an outpost of the British Empire that rapidly absorbed many of these ideas. (One of the conditions of Federation was that NSW had to give up its ideas, in support of the more powerful Victorian rules).

Australia was now allowed to be part of the mad scramble for GOLD.

Further Reading