The Hon Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE
former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
Conference Committee:
Suri Ratnapala, Professor of Public Law, UQ
Thomas John, Chair, European Focus Group, LCA
Nicholas Aroney, Reader in Law, UQ
Hendryk Flaegel, International Law Section, LCA

Imperial Federation

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Imperial Federation was a late-19th early-20th century proposal to create a federated union in place of the existing British Empire. At the time, the British Empire consisted of many colonies, some of which were largely self-governing dominions (Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) and others not (India, West Indies, Fiji). The future of the empire remained uncertain, as it was unclear what the end result would be if all colonies eventually became self-governing. Among other concerns, it would be very difficult for British interests to be maintained if every colony was essentially already sovereign. Creating an Imperial Federation thus became a popular alternative proposal to colonial imperialism. The plan was never firm, but the general proposal was to create a single federal state among all colonies of the British Empire.

he federation would have a common parliament and would be governed as a superstate. Thus, Imperial unity could be maintained while still allowing for democratic government. The colonies would increase their influence while Britain would be able to share the costs of imperial defence. The best features of large states could be combined with the best features of small states. It was seen as a method of solving the Home Rule problem in Ireland, as England, Scotland, and Ireland (along with the other members of the Old Commonwealth) would have their own Parliaments. Westminster would become a purely Imperial body.[1] Supporters of Imperial Federation regarded the United Kingdom as having two possible futures; imperial union and continued long-term importance or imperial dissolution and the reduction of the status of the UK to a second-class nation.

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