Raising the flag, Port Moresby 1883: This action by Queensland set the initial framework for both Australian foreign policy and its espionage activities. This is the first in a new series on Australia's early intelligence activities.
In this new short series of columns I am going to take you into the world of
early spies, well before ASIO, ASIS and the alphabet soup of this country’s
multifarious intelligence agencies. Australia
In a way, Wednesday 4 April 1883 provides a useful entry point to our story. On that day, Henry Chester, the Police Magistrate on Thursday Island, raised the flag at
Port Moresby to formally annex New Guinea and adjacent islands in the name of
the British Empire.
The Australian colonies had been concerned for some time about the expansion of German power in the Pacific. They had asked the central Government to annex
, but also refused to pay any of the
costs. In 1876, New
Frustrated, McIlwraith. decide to act unilaterally.
The British government repudiated the action. However, after the Australian colonies agreed to provide financial support, the British Government made the territory a British protectorate the following year.
Agreement was also reached between the
defining a key dividing boundary. Britain
In 1902, authority over Papua was effectively transferred to the new Australian Federation. With the passage of the Papua Act of 1905, the area was officially renamed the
of Papua, with assuming
formal control in 1906. Australia
This simple tale provides the basis framework for understanding both Australian foreign policy and the emergence of
intelligence activities. Australia
To the Imperial Government in
London trying to balance
costs and. imperial economic and political interests at time of growing
competition between rising empires including that of the , the
acquisition of new, distant and potentially costly territories was a low
priority. United States
The self-governing Australian colonies and then the new Commonwealth of Australia were well aware of the imperial position, but took a different view.
While loyal to the Empire, they saw the South Pacific as their economic and political territory, wishing to establish a hegemony similar to that asserted by the Unites States over the Americas with the 1823 Munroe Doctrine. They were also concerned at the growing influence of other rival empires in the Pacific that threatened this dream.
The end result was the early emergence of a quite distinct if parochial Australian foreign policy.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 16 January 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017, here 2018, here 2019