When pondering what the most important portfolios were for our first federal governments, I would have guessed Treasurer or Attorney General. History has it that it was External Affairs
. Or was it?
As the history in hyperlink above displays, the fact that the role resided with the Prime Minister at first meant that, in some respects, was less independent and had less resources allocated to it.
Then it was abolished!
Coming back as Foreign Affairs made the department sound no less clandestine (not to mention sexy)
Sir Edmund Barton
traveled to England in 1902, the second year of parliament. We know that by his knighthood but, co-founder of federation/historical great he may have been, but his access to the rest of the world must have been curtailed, especially while governing Australia. There again, there wasn't some fellow in a balloon or yacht that you could despatch, knowing you'd get telegrams.
The Prime Minister would still have traveled and perhaps that's why the ministerial responsibility also staid with Alfred Deakin
, Billy Hughes
, and George Reid
. It can't have been the thinking of Andrew Fisher
, who, in 1908-09 had as his External Affairs minister Lee Batchelor
. Whether he was just following lead, or thought it amusing to follow Batchelor with Littleton Groom
, but Alfred Deakin also devolved the responsibility in his third term in office. Perhaps it had lost its sheen by this time.
followed a second tenure for Batchelor. Paddy Glynn
was Joseph Cook
's representative overseas. Fisher's third term as Labor PM saw John Arthur
and Hugh Mahon
in the role, Mahon staying on in Hughes' first term as Prime Minister before the position was abolished; there effectively being no affairs outside the country between 1917 and 1920. Hughes himself then took on a familiar role from 1921 to 23, with Stanley Bruce
doing the same when he was in power 1923 to 29, and James Scullin
during his leadership 1929 to 32.
authorised your passport.
Sir George Pearce
helped you when you were in trouble abroad.
Sir Henry Somer Gullett
managed the embassies.
appointed his ambassadors.
Dr Herbert Vere Evatt
helped to intrigue.
forged an alliance.
talked about mutual respect.
saw how we could do business.
Sir Garfield Barwick
and the Commonwealth and UN
arranged work visas for jobbing actors to make it to Hollywood. Possibly.
on a whistle stop tour.
on the tarmac.
what happens next.
in one respect outdid all the others in terms of foreign affairs.
was soaking up customs
engaged in trade
went to other parties rather than other countries to form affairs or firm affairs.
at every diplomatic circle; a groan purpose pun for the occasion
forms the first line of Defence
practicing Mandarin and possibly at his peak, despite having been PM.
drives foreign policy today