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Rethinking the Australian Dilemma

Economics and Foreign Policy, 1942-1957


Bill Apter

This book explains how and why, Australian governments shifted from their historical relationship with Britain to the beginning of a primary reliance on the United States between 1942 and 1957. It shows that, while the Curtin and Chifley ALP governments sought to maintain and strengthen Australia’s links with Britain, the Menzies administration took decisive steps towards this realignment.

There is broad acceptance that the end of British Australia only occurred in the 1960s and that the initiative for change came from Britain rather than Australia. This book rejects this consensus, which fundamentally rests on the idea of Australia remaining part of a British World until the UK attempts to join the European Community in the 1960s. Instead, it demonstrates that critical steps ending British Australia occurred in the 1950s and were initiated by Australia. These Australian actions were especially pronounced in the economic sphere, which has been largely overlooked in the current consensus. Australia’s understanding of its national self-interest outweighed its sense of Britishness. 

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List of Abbreviations and Acronyms Used


ADB Australian Dictionary of Biography.

AIF Australian Imperial Force.

ALPAustralian Labor Party.

ANZAM Agreement between Australia, New Zealand and Britain for the defence of British-ruled Malaya.

ANZSANA Australia New Zealand Studies Association of North America.

ANZUS The Australia, New Zealand and U.S. (ANZUS) Treaty is a multilateral military alliance signed in 1951. It binds members to cooperate on Asia-Pacific security.

CRO Commonwealth Relations Office (UK).

DAFPDocuments on Australian Foreign Policy.

DFAT Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia).

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