Economics and Foreign Policy, 1942-1957
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.
3 “Australia Looks to America,” 1942–43
“Australia Looks to America,” 1942–43
“Australian life is like the Australian penny. It has the King’s head on the one side, and the kangaroo on the other … it has been our fortune that these two elements should be complementary … Our fate now is that they should appear opposed.”1
While Chapter 2 analysed the results of the economic changes wrought by the war, the next two chapters consider the political impact. This chapter shows that, although the Japanese attacks brought Australia and America together, their relationship was based upon this mutual expedience rather than any longer-term alignment of interests. As a consequence, when the immediate alarm receded, American-Australian relations once again deteriorated and Australia sought a counter-balancing role for Britain in the Pacific War.
Initially, Australia needed America as a military saviour; America needed Australia as a base to fight Japan. Once the war moved away from the immediate surrounds of Australia by late 1942, both requirements waned. Other than winning the war together, there was little U.S.-Australian affinity. The Curtin government feared American regional economic influence; institutional ties were absent and, when U.S. troops started to leave Australia for Pacific campaigns, American interest in Australia declined. The revival of the Anglo-Australian relationship needs to be seen in this light. Australia sought to use the British Commonwealth to pursue its political and economic interests, especially against America.
The prism of Lend-Lease illustrates the cooling of...
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