- Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942
Infobox AU Legislation
short_title=Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942
parliament=Parliament of Australia
long_title=An Act to remove Doubts as to the Validity of certain Commonwealth Legislation, to obviate Delays occurring in its Passage, and to effect certain related purposes, by adopting certain Sections of the
Statute of Westminster 1931, as from the Commencement of the War between his Majesty the King and Germany
9 October 1942
3 September 1939
Australia Act 1986
The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 is an Act of the Australian Parliament that formally adopted the
Statute of Westminster 1931, an Act of the British Imperial Parliamentenabling the legislative independence of the various self-governing Dominions of the British Empire. The Statute of Westminster allowed the Dominion parliaments and governments to act independently of the British Parliament and Government.
The Act is more important for its symbolic value than for the legal effect of its provisions. While Australia's growing independence from the
United Kingdomwas well accepted, the adoption of the Statute of Westminster formally demonstrated Australia's independence to the world. It also symbolised the shift in Australia's foreign policy from a focus on the United Kingdom to the United States.
Australia's progression to effective independence has been gradual and unemotional.
Australia commenced as a British colony in Sydney in
1788. Other colonies were gradually established covering the continent. The colonies became self-governing during the second half of the 19th century, starting with Victoria in 1852, although New South Waleshad an unelected Legislative Council since 1825.
Commonwealth of Australiawas formed with federation of the six colonies in 1901, it became classified as a Dominionof the British Empire. This accorded Australia somewhat greater independence. After the end of World War I, each of the Dominions (including Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealandand South Africa) independently signed the Treaty of Versailles, but under the collective umbrella of the British Empire, and each became a founding member of the League of Nationsin their own right. This was an important international demonstration of the independence of the Dominions.
The Statute of Westminster
1926Imperial Conference, the governments of the Dominions and of the United Kingdomendorsed the Balfour Declaration of 1926, which declared that the Dominions were autonomous members of the British Empire, equal to each other and to the United Kingdom. The Statute of Westminster 1931gave legal effect to the Balfour Declaration and other decisions made at the Imperial Conferences. Most importantly, it declared that the Parliament of the United Kingdomno longer had any legislative authority over the Dominions. The Statute took effect immediately over Canada, South Africa and the Irish Free State. However, Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland had to ratify the Statute through legislation before it would apply to them. Canada also requested certain exemptions from the Statute in regard to the Canadian Constitution.
Australian politicians initially resisted ratification of the Statute. John Latham, the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs under Prime Minister
Joseph Lyons, was particularly opposed to ratifying the Statute, because he thought it would weaken military and political ties with the United Kingdom. Latham had attended both the 1926 Imperial Conference and the 1919Paris Peace Conference, and he had much experience in international affairs. He preferred that the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Dominions not be codified in legislation.
However, other politicians supported the Statute, and the new independence it gave to Australia.
1930, shortly before the Statute was enacted, the Labor Prime Minister James Scullinrecommended Sir Isaac Isaacs(then the Chief Justice of Australia) as the Governor-General of Australia, to replace Lord Stonehaven. This was a departure from previous practice whereby the British monarch, acting on the advice of the British Prime Minister, would offer the Australian Prime Minister a number of choices for the position. However, the Australian Prime Minister, acting in line with the principles of the Balfour Declaration permitting Dominion governments to look after their own affairs, insisted on the appointment of Isaacs. Although King George V disapproved of Isaacs, the 1930 Imperial Conference upheld the procedure under the declaration, and so the King appointed Isaacs. The other Dominions supported this demonstration of political independence.
Four successive Prime Ministers—
James Scullin, Joseph Lyons, Robert Menziesand Arthur Fadden—did not adopt the Statute. John Curtin, who became Prime Minister eight weeks before the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor, was finally prompted to adopt the Statute in 1942after the disastrous Battle of Singaporeand the sinking of the HMS "Prince of Wales" and HMS "Repulse". Prior conservative governments had asserted that British military forces would be able to protect Australia, but Curtin, along with External Affairs Minister Dr H.V. Evatt, thought that focusing on an alliance with the United Stateswould be more valuable. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchillhad promised to send forces to defend Australia in return for Australia's contribution to the war in the Middle East Campaignand the North African Campaign. However, relatively few forces arrived, because Churchill was focused on first defeating the Axis Powersin Europe before turning to Japan. Curtin made the decision in December 1941to recall the 6th Division and the 7th Division to defend Australia, although the 9th Division remained in North Africa until Axis forces there were defeated. Curtin openly stated that Australia was turning to America rather than the United Kingdom.
1940s, the United Kingdom had managed Australia's foreign relations as a matter of course. Curtin's decision to formally adopt the Statute of Westminster in late 1942 was a demonstration to the international community that Australia was an independent nation.
Provisions of the Act
The act had just three sections, one setting out the
short title, one declaring that the Act was to come into operation as soon as it received Royal Assent, and one declaring that the Statute of Westminster had been adopted, and was considered to have had effect since 3 September 1939, the beginning of World War II. [cite web|url=http://www.aph.gov.au/library/handbook/constitution/westminster-act.htm|title=Parliamentary Handbook: Constitution - Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942|publisher= Parliament of Australia|accessdate=2008-05-06] For a simple Act, it had a significant effect.
Section 2 of the Statute of Westminster abrogated the effect of the
Colonial Laws Validity Actof 1865, and adopting it meant that laws made by the Parliament of Australiawhich were repugnant to British laws were no longer invalid. Section 4 of the Statute provided that laws made by the Parliament of the United Kingdomwould only have effect on a Dominionat the request of the government of that Dominion.
Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890, the British monarch had the ability to reserve certain legislation for his or her own consideration, rather than simply allowing the Governor-General to give the Royal Assent on the monarch's behalf. Section 6 of the Statute removed this power. The Statute also removed British control over merchant shippingin Australian waters.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947 — The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947 was a constitutional Act of the New Zealand Parliament that formally accepted the full external autonomy offered by the British Parliament. By passing the Act on November 25 1947, New Zealand ratified… … Wikipedia
Statute of Westminster Adoption Act — There are several Acts named Statute of Westminster Adoption Act:* Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942, an Act of the Parliament of Australia * Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947, a constitutional Act of the Parliament of New Zealand … Wikipedia
Statute of Westminster 1931 — The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (22 23 Geo. V c. 4, December 11, 1931) which established a status of legislative equality between the self governing dominions of the British Empire and the United… … Wikipedia
1942 — This article is about the year 1942. For other uses, see 1942 (disambiguation). Millennium: 2nd millennium Centuries: 19th century – 20th century – 21st century Decades: 1910s 1920s 1930s – 1 … Wikipedia
Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 — Parliament of the United Kingdom Long title An Act to remove Doubts as to the Validity of Colonial Laws. Statute book chapter … Wikipedia
List of sovereign states by date of formation — Below is a list of sovereign states by formation dates, sorted by continent. This list includes only the 194 sovereign states currently in existence; it does not include former sovereign states. For proposed states or various indigenous nations… … Wikipedia
Dominion — This article is about the Dominions of the British Empire and of the Commonwealth of Nations. For other uses, see Dominion (disambiguation) A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under… … Wikipedia
Constitution of Australia — Australia This article is part of a series about the Politics and government of Australia … Wikipedia
Australia — This article is about the country. For other uses, see Australia (disambiguation). Commonwealth of Australia … Wikipedia
Monarchy of Australia — This article is about the monarchy of Australia. For information on the other countries which share the same monarchy, see Commonwealth realm. Queen of Australia Monarchy … Wikipedia