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How did World War 2 affect the Australian homefront?

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βˆ™ 2008-11-18 08:43:54

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The Home Front - World War 2 Initial reactions When war broke out in September 1939 the Australian Government was much better prepared for it than in 1914. As in 1914 most Australians seemed to support the decision to be involved in the war. All major political parties, churches and newspapers supported involvement. The only groups not to support the decision were and hard core socialists who opposed involvement because the Soviet Union opposed it. Nor was there the same rush to enlist. The government deliberately moved more slowly and in a more organised way -- they had learned from 1914 when many men in essential occupations had been allowed to enlist, to the detriment of the home front effort. Government Controls As in World War 1, the Commonwealth Government imposed a large number of new controls over people's lives. They did this through the authority of the National Security Act of 1939. This Act did two major things: it effectively overrode the Constitution for the duration of the war - giving the Commonwealth power to make laws in areas where it did not have that power under the Constitution; and it effectively overrode the power of parliament by giving the government power to make regulations, that is, laws that required only the signatures of some ministers and the Governor-General. The government used its powers to make a huge number of laws and regulations affecting all areas of people's lives. Among these were: · the reduction of the Christmas - New Year holiday period to three days; · the restriction of weekday sporting events; · blackouts and brownouts in cities and coastal areas; · daylight saving; · increased call-ups of the Militia; · the issue of personal identity cards; · increased enlistment of women into the auxiliary forces; · regulations allowing strikers to be drafted into the Army or into the Army Labour Corps; · the fixing of profit margins in industry; · restrictions on the costs allowed for building or renovations; · the setting of some women's pay rates at near-male levels; · internment of members of the Australia First organisation; · controls on the cost of dresses; · the rationing of clothing, footwear, tea, butter and sugar; · the banning of the Communist Party, and the Australia First Movement for opposition to the war;

Women Did the war change the role and place of women in Australian society? Propaganda at the time stressed that for the first time women were being asked to do 'a man's job', either in the Services or in industry. Certainly more women entered the workforce than had been there before, and many took on jobs that had previously been available to men only. These women gained all, or nearly all, the male rate for these 'men's jobs'. However, most of the new women workers went into traditionally female areas, where the wage was typically 54 per cent of the male rate - though by the end of the war was closer to 70 per cent. Economy The war was a huge boon to the Australian economy. As many Australian primary products were purchased as could be produced, and secondary industries manufactured many new items for the Services. Rationing and restrictions meant that there were few consumer goods available, so personal savings rose. Man powering and essential industries also meant that there was near-full employment. Conscription In 1943 the issue of conscription arose. As in 1916 and 1917, the government had the power to conscript men for home service, but not for overseas combat. 'Home', however, included New Guinea, where Australia had a protectorate, and therefore conscripted troops could be and were sent to the war front where they were needed most. But as the Allies began to defeat the Japanese, the war front spread north, and there was a demand that Australian troops be able to go to the new areas which were outside the definition of home. American conscripts were fighting in these areas so it seemed unfair that Australian conscripts should not also be compelled to fight there.

As in 1916 and 1917, all the government had to do was to change the Defence Act and it could achieve this - unlike the situation in 1916, Prime Minister Curtin knew he had the majority in both Houses to make this change. Legacies and Impacts One of the main effects of the war was to start the 'migration revolution' of postwar Australia. The Australian Government had fears of an invasion, and believed that we had to 'populate or perish'. Migrants from traditional sources were not available in large enough numbers so Australia started accepting refugees and displaced persons from the northern and eastern European countries. This was the beginning of the end for 'White Australia' and the start of modern multiculturalism.

2008-11-18 08:43:54
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