Australian consciousness [26 August 1908]

[Editor: This article contends that the Australian consciousness was increased with the visit of the American fleet to Australian shores (a naval visit that was a mammoth task in those days) and that Australia needed to join in common interest with the USA to prevent “the flooding” of European countries in the Pacific by people from Asia. Published in The Brisbane Courier, 26 August 1908.]

Australian consciousness.

Where so much is bizarre and fatuitous in the comments of English and American newspapers on the visit of the American fleet to Australian waters, it is like leaching an oasis with shading palm trees and refreshing wells to come upon the sane criticism of the London “Times” as expressed in a leading article which is summarised in this morning’s cable messages.

The greatest newspaper in the world recognises that the enthusiastic reception accorded to Admiral Sperry and his sailors may be expected to represent the beginning of a lasting friendship between Australians and Americans from the standpoint of mutual interest. It is further observed that the efficiency of the American navy has been put to a severe test by the long voyage from New York through the Straits of Magellan, and across the Pacific, although the conditions were those of peace. No modem navy has been put to such a test, voluntarily or otherwise; and, if no other considerations were involved, it would be safe to assume that the voyage of the American fleet was not merely for practice purposes. The advantage of the training and manoeuvring is undeniable; and Sir Harry Rawson, the Governor of New South Wales and a British Admiral, expressed delight when he witnessed last week the wonderful seamanship displayed by the American fleet in circling to and fro until the time had arrived for the official entrance into Sydney Harbour.

Speaking on this question prior to the crossing of the Pacific by Admiral Sperry’s fleet an English writer said: “It must be obvious that sixteen battleships cannot make a voyage of thirteen thousand miles without a certain amount of technical benefit; without testing, for instance, the foresight and capacities of the Navy Department; without revealing defects that might otherwise have remained undiscovered until it was too late to remedy them; without adding to the knowledge of their ships as units and as parts of a moving whole; without promoting a more thorough understanding between officers and men; and without learning much that is worth knowing of the innumerable factors of coal, water, and food supply that go to the making of an effective and self-dependent fleet in being.”

The most important fact, however, noted by the “Times” was the awakening of the Australian consciousness as a direct result of the visit of the American fleet. The national self-consciousness of Australians had been quickened by their recognition that on the other side of the Pacific there were people like themselves interested in the solution of the same problems, and with identical interests.

The “Times” adds that it may be expected that an increased devotion of public attention to the question of national defence will remain as one of the lasting effects of this notable visit of the American fleet. This is hardly a counsel of perfection. Australia will perish as the home of white men unless the national consciousness is awakened to impending dangers, the need for compulsory military and naval training, and the opportunity for joining hands with America if need be in preventing the flooding of the territories now belonging to white races in the Pacific with teeming millions from the Asiatic mainland.

The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld.), Wednesday 26 August 1908, page 4

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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