Table of facts about government in Australia:

1901 Federation


By the 1930s

By 1945

Birth of a Nation

The Federal Government in 1916

The Role of the Federal Government in the 1930s

Look Ever Forward

Federation was a compromise between the various colonies.

A strong relationship with Britain was part of federation.

White Australia was our immigration policy.

Colonies were reluctant to give up powers to the Commonwealth.

Suffrage - women given the vote, Aborigines disenfranchised, Chinese denied citizenship rights.

Government ran a campaign to educate the population to see themselves as Australians.

Continued strong relationship with Britain but evidence of a growing independence eg. anti-conscription campaign.

Workers' compensation introduced.

The war allowed the establishment of a Federal police force, control over light houses, the press and the national economy.

Federal Government became involved in major building projects eg. the national railway line.

New government departments established eg. repatriation, foreign affairs.

States became subject to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.

Passing of the Federal Roads Act

Financial relations between Commonwealth and states resolved by
setting up the Commonwealth Grants
Commission with power to redistribute revenue to poorer States.

First permanent trade commissioner sent to Canada.

New departments set up eg. Health and Social Services.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) set up.

White Australia policy persisted.

1942 Uniform Tax Act.

Department of Post War Reconstruction established - included:
- Housing Commission
- Rural Reconstruction
- Secondary Industry Commission
- Reconstruction Training scheme.

Widows' pensions introduced.

Unemployment and Sickness Benefits introduced.

Department of Immigation set up.

More independent stance was taken in foreign policy.


1. Outline the changes that took place in the role of the Federal Government between 1901 and the 1940s.

Between 1901 and 1945 the Federal Government broadened its powers over the economy, re-organised the Commonwealth-State financial relationship, introduced a variety of social services, took a more important role in trade and pursued a more independent foreign policy.

2. Why do you think these changes took place?

Some of the growth in Commonwealth power took place as result of two world wars but Commonwealth power also grew because of a perceived need for more federal control, particularly in matters such as trade.

The growth of various social services reflected society's and government's changing attitudes to the poor and an acceptance of welfare as a legitimate role of government in the federal sphere.

Back to Government in Australia 1901 to 1945

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