The Australian High Commissioner's Office : politics and Anglo-Australian relations, 1901-1939
The thesis is a history of the office of Australian High Commissioner in London from its creation in 1909 to the eve of the Second World War. It tests the validity of the conventional view that the office was invariably used as a political reward and, prior to the 1930s, marginal to the conduct of Anglo-Australian relations. It sets the office in the context of colonial representation in London since the 1850s, and notes the limits to the position of the High Commissioner created by the Agents- General of the Australian States and the institutions established by the Imperial government for the conduct of Anglo-Dominion relations. The careers of the first five High Commissioners are examined with reference to the principal issues in Anglo- Australian relations during their High Commissionerships, and their roles are analysed in terms of their relations with the Commonwealth government, the British authorities and, to a lesser extent, the Agents-General. The thesis argues that there was always scope for a High Commissioner to play a diplomatic role within Anglo- Australian relations, and that the post also gradually acquired functions in a more general system of inter-imperial consultation which mirrored the wider political development of the Dominions. The Australian government, however, was also hampered by a limited choice of candidates and invariably appointed senior politicians, as exercises in patronage, but also because they were the most eligible representatives. Yet, reflecting underlying values in Australian political culture, legislators were determined to create a non-political High Commissionership. The combination of political appointments and a non-political office, however, meant that High Commissioners often found it difficult to adapt to the demands of their new position and did not enjoy the full confidence of the government.