PRECAFE TO SECOND EDITION
This book was first published in 1946, virtually thirty years ago. It is only human to be pleased that it should join that small list of works by Australian historians which have been republished after a significant lapse of time. It is a formidable list of names and works, which includes Myra Willard's History of the white Australia policy to 1920, Keith Hancock's Australia, E. O. G. Shann's Economic history of Australia, A. C. V. Melbourne's Early constitutional development in Australia, Stephen Roberts's Squatting age in Australia, Brian Fitzpatrick's British empire in Australia: an economic history, 1834—1939, and S.J. Butlin's Foundations of the Australian monetary system 1788—1851, all books which were published in the interwar period, with the exception of Fitzpatrick (1941) and Butlin (1953). Broadly speaking, there would appear to be a near standard passage of time before republication of about thirty years, though in Butlin's case it was considerably shorter and in Willard's considerably longer.
Almost all these authors have taken the view, a view in which I certainly concur, that there would be little point in attempting to revise work of some thirty years before. I feel that it should stand as it is, and indeed that it has become as it were a document of the times. It played its part in stimulating one of the few major and continuing controversies in Australian political life. Though essentially an historical and analytical work, it was a young man's book with something of the idealism and the reformist zeel that properly belongs to youth. Subsequent experience suggests that mountains are not so easily moved. Looking back, I would feel that there was some degree of under-estimation of the extent to which federadism was entrenched, and perhaps especially of the federal character of the principal political parties and of the interests which had grown up about the federal structure and were involved in its preservation.
Yet allowing for all these things, the central argument of the book has not been damaged but has indeed been strengthened by time. That argument was fundamentally in line with Deakin's famous prediction of 1902, that the Commonwealth would increase in stature, in financial dominance, and in the determination of national priorities. All this has come to pass. The Australian community has acquiesced in the trend, despite the fact that it regularly refuses to support formal constitutional amendments which would further consolidate Commonwealth power.
The postwar period has confirmed the tendencies emphasized in the book of 1946, but equally it has shown, especially if the Commonwealth behaves intemperately or inflexibly in its dealings with the states, that there are strong latent forces which can be aroused in support of regional identity, local initiative, and state powers.
In a personal sense I feel it is fitting that this book should be republished in the text's original form by the University of Queensland Press because of my long association with Queensland University. It was first produced, with support from the Commonwealth Literary Fund, by the Melbourne University Press which, despite the difficulties of the immediate postwar years, decided to proceed with publication.
While I believe that this book should appear in the form in which it was originally written, it is my hope to publish an analysis of the operation of federalism in the postwar period.