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Australia and the British Empire, a history lesson.

During the First World War over 10% of the Australian population enlisted to defend the British Empire. More than 60,000 Australians were killed and another 137,000 were wounded, one of the worst casualty rates of any of the British Empire forces. The war cost Australia £188,480,000, about $20 billion in today's money.

These costs were paid for with British loans. Repayment of these loans, with considerable interest, crippled the Australian economy and worsened the impact of the Great Depression. The Australian economy suffered more than just about anyone else during the Depression, unemployment reached 30% and the economy shrunk by more than 10%. Despite these circumstances, and the fact that Australia produced most of Britain's food, the British government insisted on loan and interest repayments being met and even intervened in the affairs of Australian governments to ensure this happened.

During the Second World War Australia again committed soldiers to defend the British Empire. Most were sent to fight for Britain in North Africa, the rest were sent to defend the British colonies of Singapore and Malaya. Britain decided these colonies were not a priority and surrendered to the Japanese shortly after the last batch of Australian troops arrived. As a result 15,000 Australian soldiers, about a quarter of our total forces, were taken prisoner by the Japanese, most died from disease, torture and starvation in POW camps.

With the Japanese overrunning New Guinea and Australia virtually undefended the government decided to bring back the troops from North Africa. Churchill objected to this and refused to provide naval and air support. The Australian government was forced to decide between remaining undefended and risking the loss of their remaining soldiers by bringing them back on a week long voyage through hostile waters without protection.

After the war Britain's economy was in tatters and its population close to starvation. Australian donations (not loans) of food and money were instrumental in helping Britain recover after the war. Once Britain was finally able to stand on its own they promptly joined the Common Market, tore up past trade agreements with Commonwealth countries and placed high tariffs on Australian exports to the UK. These tariffs and the loss of its major training partner once again devastated the Australian economy.

The villains of this story are not the British, who put the interests of their country ahead of all others, but the Australians who did not. The conservative politicians and businessmen who lined up for their knighthoods, and are about to do so again; Prime Ministers like Robert Menzies, who spent more of his 20 odd years as PM in Britain than in Australia; the so-called leaders who use patriotism and the deaths of Australian soldiers to perpetuate having a British Monarch as head of state and the Union Jack on our flag.

Britain moved on from the Empire more that 50 years ago, today Australia is being dragged back to it. Stuff you knighthoods, your oaths of allegiance to the Queen and your sycophantic obsession with the past. If politicians aren't prepared to put this country ahead of a defunct empire then I suggest they emulate their hero Sir Robert, by pulling on a pair of tights and buggering off to Buckingham Palace where they belong.

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