Australian Events

Posted in 1901

  • Federation of Australian States at the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Painting by Tom RobertsJanuary 1: Lord Hopetoun, the first Governor General, proclaims the Commonwealth of Australia at a ceremony in Centennial Park, Sydney. It is ...

... the first liberal democracy in the world to result from a democratic vote of the people, unpressured by external threat or internal coercion. ... The legislative agenda outlined in the first speech by the Governor-General concentrated on practical tasks: setting up a High Court, adopting adult suffrage, creating a national industrial relations system and planning for the old-age pension.
M Gordon, The Age, 9 May 2001.

  • Edmund Barton named the first Australian Prime MinisterBarton Government, January 1. The interim Federal Ministry is sworn in, with Sir Edmund Barton as Australia's first Prime Minister.
  • Population is 3.82 million.
  • Federation of Australian states: before 1901 the Australian colonies are responsible for their domestic affairs, with Britain controlling foreign relations and defence. What changes in 1901 is that the colonies transfer some of their powers to the Federal Government. Britain retains control of foreign relations and defence, although in practice the new Australian government is in a stronger position to make its case to the mother country, and the British government also prefers to deal directly with the one Australian government rather than with several colonial (now state) governments.
    D McDougall, The Age, 26 March 2001.
  • Customs houses along interstate borders are abolished and free trade begins.
  • Duke of York opens the first Commonwealth Parliament in the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne May 9: The Duke (later King George V) and Duchess of Cornwall and York open the first Commonwealth Parliament in the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Most men and women present dress sombrely out of respect for the late Queen Victoria who had died in January.
  • September: the Australian national flag is chosen.
  • White Australia Policy: To ensure Australia remains essentially a country of British settlement, the first major piece of legislation to pass in the new parliament is the Immigration Restriction Act, enshrining the White Australia Policy. However, the non-white population is high - many Chinese came to Australia during the gold rushes and Pacific islanders had been imported to work in Queensland's sugar plantations. Aborigines are barely mentioned in the new constitution.