Explain the benefit of Australia becoming a federation in 1901?

Benefits of Federation in Australia included:

  • Trade: There were steep tariffs imposed on the transport of goods across the borders of the states. Federation would remove these tariffs and allow for free trade between the states.
  • Unions and labour laws: It was hoped that labour laws would be standardised across the states with Federation. The great Shearers' Strike of the 1890s had resulted in the formation of workers' unions, and the newly-formed Australian Labor Party saw that unification would allow this standardisation.
  • Transport: There was no standard railway gauge across the country and railway lines changed at the colonial borders. It was believed Federation would see the introduction of uniform railway gauges across the states, but in reality this did not occur for another eighty years or so.
  • Some Australians wanted a "White Australia" policy. They believed Federation would enable the development and maintenance of a "White Australia", by toughening immigration laws. There was lingering resentment over the Chinese who had come during the gold rush, made their fortune (as they were far more industrious than Australians) and then returned to their own country, taking their fortune with them. Some stayed and set up businesses in towns, but they were always looked down upon. It was hoped by some (not all) that a White Australia policy would ensure employment for Australians. Some colonies were opposed to this policy as they used foreign labour, which was often much cheaper than local labour. An example of this is Queensland, which employed Kanakas (people from the Cook Islands). Under the new constitution, not only the Kanakas, but also the much-feared Chinese, who came to Australia during the gold rush, would not be allowed into Australia. Thus Federation would eliminate unwanted foreigners, providing more employment for Australians.
  • Independence from England: Federation was but a small step in the overall independence of Australia, allowing it to move away from the influence of Mother England and become a self-governing nation in its own right. Again, this was a process which took many decades, but Federation certainly enabled that first step.
  • Other important laws were expected to be made uniform, such as taxes and banking. This was particularly important in the light of the recent (1892) depression, which was a time of economic instability. Many saw that Federation, in bringing unity, could only bring more stability to the country.
  • Defence: Each of the states had its own defence force. Each individual state's defence force was not strong enough to protect Australia's vast coastline from attack. There were distinct advantages in uniting the defence under one command.