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The Development of Australia's International Legal Personality

Australian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 34, pp. 149-189, 2017

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 17/73

35 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2017  

Alison Pert

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: September 10, 2017

Abstract

This article considers the concepts of statehood, sovereignty, independence and international legal personality as they applied to Australia in the early years after federation in 1901. It outlines the reasons for, and the process of, federation, and charts the subsequent uneven growth in autonomy in matters of foreign relations granted by the United Kingdom. One of the clearest manifestations of such autonomy is the power to enter into treaties, and the development of this power is therefore described in some detail. The precise international legal status of Australia and the other British Dominions in the early part of the 20th century was a mystery to most legal commentators, both within and outside the British Empire. This uncertainty was compounded by the rapidity of constitutional change within the Empire, particularly in the 1920s, and by Australia’s apparent diffidence to independence. For these reasons, few writers have suggested a specific date on or by which Australia acquired international legal personality. This article argues that regardless of when Australia might have gained full international legal personality, tantamount to independence, it had acquired “almost full” international personality by 1923, sufficient to enable it to act autonomously on the international plane.

Keywords: Australia, statehood, sovereignty, independence, international legal personality, federation, treaty-making, British Empire, British Dominions, Imperial Conference, Colonial Conference, Balfour Declaration, Statute of Westminster

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Pert, Alison, The Development of Australia's International Legal Personality (September 10, 2017). Australian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 34, pp. 149-189, 2017; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 17/73. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3035089

Alison Pert (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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