Australia stands alone [26 April 1930]

[Editor: An editorial regarding the defence of Australia, British and American allies, and White Australia; with its solution being a larger population. Published in The Newcastle Sun (Newcastle, NSW), 26 April 1930.]

Australia stands alone

It appears difficult for many Australians to realise our isolation in a cold, unfeeling world which, throughout all history, has had respect only for armed might.

Because, as a group of Crown colonies, and, later, as an aggregation of States in the palmy days of British Imperialism, when Britain’s position was that of unchallenged mistress of the seas, the young Commonwealth-to-be was allowed to grow up untouched by foreign aggression, almost unnoticed, as she had herself issued no challenge to the world, it is assumed that things will go on unchanged.

Let us examine conditions to-day and try to realise how they have altered since the golden and secure days of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

In the first place, from being the greatest naval nation, whose fleet was maintained on a three-Power standard against the world, Britain has declined in sea power to a mere parity with the United States. Moreover, of particular interest to Australia is the ratio of British and Japanese sea power. The Washington Conference whittled it down until it stood at 5 to 3 in capital ships. This recent Conference has further cut it down in the ratios of the cruisers and other classes.

While our protection from Britain has thus declined, we can hardly estimate that the general British public has as warm a regard for us as was held, say, 10 years ago. Our recent tariff increases, our somewhat reluctant response to her desire to find room in the Dominions for her surplus population, our continual exploitation of her loan markets up to a point where we can no longer approach her, these things do not go unregarded in Britain, and it is no kindness or patriotism to Australia to conceal the fact.

In addition to this development in Imperial relations there are British troubles far more intimate than the needs of Australian defence.

Britain keeps herself from revolution by a dole to her numerous unemployed. Owing to weak Government where once she was strong she finds in India a scene of much unrest. The new doctrine of the “self-determination” of nations has weakened her grip on the vital communication line to the East through Suez. At home and abroad her embarrassments are many and severe. No doubt, in time, such is the enormous courage and energy of the British people, she will emerge from those embarrassments into another era of prosperity, but that time may not be as near as the optimists who refuse to face facts believe.

If war broke out to-day on a scale involving the safety of England’s Eastern communications and possessions, could she resist the demands of an Asiatic Power stronger in the Eastern oceans than Britain could hope to be, without denuding herself of naval defence at the very heart of the Empire?

Australia’s challenge to the world is the challenge of a white nation just born, a nation of a little over 6,000,000 people holding 3,000,000 square miles of land. Close to her is Java, with a land surface of 50,000 square miles and a population of nearly 40,000,000. Japan, an energetic and powerful country, which has adopted the ideas of Western Imperialism, and has the third navy in the world, is within three weeks’ steam of Sydney. Its land area is 148,000 square miles, its population over 60,000,000 in Japan proper, or 90,000,000 in the Empire. Alongside is China, with her 400,000,000, and to the west of China, India, with 250,000,000. For the moment these vast aggregations may be neglected. India is, temporarily, ruled by Britain, China is distracted by lack of strong central Government. Java’s people are industrially primitive, and are, moreover, controlled by the Dutch. But Japan, with her 90,000,000 patriotic people, knowing their power, and plainly determined to achieve the lordship of the Western Pacific! Against such a Power, were Australia’s artificial barrier of an Exclusion Act challenged in a time when Britain was engaged elsewhere, we might be faced with the choice between a peaceful abandonment and a fight, in which Australia could lose more than by peaceful treaty.

That America would come to the aid of Australia is a delusion of many. The statement of Professor Warren S. Thompson, that Australians are “failing to realise actualities if they have even a remote hope of succor from the United States in the event of Japanese expansion in the Western Pacific,” is based upon knowledge of his own country’s policies and sentiment which must be taken seriously.

The same authority declares that the United States could do very little, even to protect the Philippines, if Japan should decide to include thorn. Why, then, without any naval base in the Pacific west of Honolulu, should America risk disaster to save our White Australia policy?

Let us put out of our heads this idea of American aid, together with the idea that Britain could defend us in the event of widespread Asiatic trouble. We hold this land on the sufferance of Asia, and our only safeguard is to do what the United States herself did; build up a huge population by immigration as quickly as possible. That process may bring its own evils, but it appears to be the only one by which the White Australia policy will be able to survive.

The Newcastle Sun (Newcastle, NSW), 26 April 1930, p. 4

Also published in:
The Sun (Sydney, NSW), 26 April 1930, p. 4 (with the title of “Australia’s lone hand”)

Editor’s notes:
palmy = flourishing, luxurious, prosperous

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