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(17) ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION, 1899.

The Position in New South WALES.—A welcome piece of news to federalists was Mr. Reid's prompt announcement that he had done with doubt and indecision, and would support the amended Bill with all his powers. It soon became evident, however, that the opposition in New South Wales would be strong. The Sydney Daily Telegraph, on second thoughts, took up as uncompromising an attitude as ever, and the opposing forces began to consolidate themselves. Their cry was that the “demands” of New South Wales had been trifled with, and that the Bill was in substance “the same old Bill." The absolute majority at the joint sitting was denounced as being little if any better than the three-fifths majority, and elaborate calculations were made to show how New South Wales would invariably be defeated if most of her representatives absented themselves. The “ Braddon Blot” was the subject of renewed attack, and its limitation in point of time was made light of. The 100 mile limit for the federal capital was complained of as a gross insult to Sydney-the corresponding “insult" to the rest of Australia, implied in the demand made by New South Wales, being ignored. The provision was in fact a most unfortunate one, because it aroused fierce opposition in the metropolitan and suburban area—the very district which it was most important to conciliate. In particular the provision for the temporary meeting of Parliament in Melbourne was attacked as hiding a deep conspiracy to establish the seat of Government there permanently, and it was roundly stated that Mr. Reid had been “outwitted” by the cunning of the other colonies. The real fight, however, centred round the financial clauses, against which all the old arguments were reiterated, but with greater wealth of detail.

THE ENABLING BILL.-- The New South Wales Parliament met on 21st February, and the new Enabling Bill was at once intro 1се in the Assembly. It provided for the submission of the amended Constitution to a Referendum, at which a simple majority was to decide; and it allowed any holder of an elector's right to vote at any pollingbooth in the colony, whether or not he was qualified as a Parliamentary voter for any electorate. In the Assembly no difficulties were met; even the malcontents admitting that the Constitution must be submitted to the people, and reserving their hostility for the present. In Committee, amendments were moved to make acceptance by an “absolute majority” of all the electors necessary; to make the inclusion of Queensland a condition of New South Wales entering the Federation; and to take an alternative referendum on the Bill as amended by the Premiers, and on the Bill “ as amended by the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.” The object of all these amendments, however, was too apparent, and they were all defeated by overwhelming majorities. An amendment was also moved to defer the referendum for three months after the passing of the Bill; but this was withdrawn on the Premier undertaking to allow an interval of six weeks.

The Bill passed the Assembly without amendment, and went to the Council, where it met with a very different reception. A large

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petition was presented against the Bill, and the opposition was led by Dr. McLaurin with a powerful attack on the financial clauses, which he claimed to be unworkable. In Committee, three vital amendments were passed by large majorities; one to defer the referendum for three months; another to make acceptance by one-third of all the electors necessary; and a third making the inclusion of Queensland a condition of Federation. To these amendments the Assembly refused to agree; the Council insisted, and a free Conference was held, but both sides were unyielding, and on 30th March Parliament was prorogued.

The Council was at this time much below its normal strength, owing to deaths and resignations, and a few days after the prorogation the Governor, on the advice of his Ministers, appointed twelve new members. On 11th April Parliament was again called together, and the Enabling Bill was again passed by the Assembly and sent up to the Council. The hint was sufficient. Only one amendment was proposed, to require an interval of eight weeks before the referendum should be taken. This was agreed to by the Assembly, and on 22nd April the Bill was assented to.

THE SECOND REFERENDUM.—The 20th June, 1899, was the day fixed for the Referendum, and the last great fight began at once. The federal campaign was organized by the United Federal Executive, formed of representatives from the non-party Australasian Federation League, from the New South Wales Federal Association, which had fought the last battle for the Bill, and from the Ministerial and Opposition parties in Parliament. On the other side, the Anti-Convention Bill League took up its old attitude. Of the Sydney daily press, the Telegraph was alone in its opposition ; the Sydney Morning Herald, the Evening News, and the Australian Star all worked zealously for Federation. The Sydney Bulletin, which—when it has a positive policy~is a great power throughout Australia, concentrated its unrivalled wealth of ridicule against the opponents of the Bill, and the suburban and provincial press were almost unanimous on the same side. Of the 125 members of the Legislative Assembly, some 86 supported the Bill with varying degrees of zeal; and nine of the New South Wales representatives at the Convention worked earnestly for it-Mr. Lyne alone expressing himself still dissatisfied.

With all these odds against them, the Anti-Bill party made a gallant fight. Their virtual leader was Dr. MacLaurin, whose criticism of the financial clauses undoubtedly made a deep impression; whilst the rank and file of the party made onslaughts upon every joint in their opponents' armour, and devoted themselves especially to stir up jealousy in the metropolitan area. The great bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party still yearned for the national referendum, and opposed the Bill consistently; though at the polls the labour vote was fairly evenly divided. The heart of the controversy, however, was the financial argument, and the whole country seemed plunged into a bewildering maze of figures, devoted to proving-and disproving —that the Bill would involve oppressive and unfair taxation in New South Wales. Eight days before the vote a fillip was given to the cause by the passing, at last, of a Federal Enabling Bili in Queens

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land-the colony of which federalists and anti-federalists alike had always spoken as the “natural ally” of New South Wales.

The result of the polling was a decisive victory for Federation by a majority of 24,679 votes, the figures in the city, suburban, and country electorates being as follows :

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Taken by electorates, the vote shows 79 electorates for the Bill, and 46 against-or a majority of 33 for union.

THE SOUTHERN COLONIES.-South Australia had passed the new Enabling Act in March, and seizing the opportunity afforded by a general election, had taken the vote upon the amended Bill on 29th April, when the verdict of the previous year was, without much excitement, reaffirmed by an even larger majority than before--the voting being 65,990 for Federation, and 17,053 against.

Victoria and Tasmania, as soon as the verdict of New South Wales was known, passed Enabling Acts on the same lines, and fixed 27th July, 1899, as Referendum Day. In Victoria, despite the weakness of the opposition, federalists determined to exhibit their strength, and aroused enthusiasm to such a pitch that a great muster of 152,653 votes were recorded for the Bill, and only 9,805 against it. In Tasmania also the majority was increased, and the minority reduced, the figures being 13,437 for and only 791 against the Bill.

QUEENSLAND.—The real interest now centred in Queensland. The Premier, Mr. Dickson, ably supported by his colleague, Mr. R. Philp, took up the cause with enthusiasm. The Enabling Bill, providing for the submission of the amended Constitution to a referendum, and for its subsequent transmission, by address of both Houses, to the Home Government, was introduced in May. It was nearly wrecked at the outset by a proposition from the democratic party to adopt the principle of “ one man one vote,” without restriction, at the referendum. There was in Queensland a "plural vote”-electors being entitled to vote in every electorate in which they possessed property of an annual value of £10—and there was also a considerable nomad population not registered as voters. It was urged that every man over the age of twenty-one should be allowed to vote whether registered as a voter or not. This the Government were unable to accept, but they only gained their point, and saved the Bill, by one vote. They afterwards conciliated opposition by affording facilities for a revision of the rolls before referendum day.

One difficulty to be faced was that Queensland—though it had been ably represented at the 1891 Convention, whose work was the basis of the draft Constitution now presented—had, through the fault of its politicians, taken no part (except through its Premier, Mr. Dickson, at the Premiers' Conference) in the actual framing of the Constitution. A natural though belated desire was felt to have a voice in the details; and as the Constitution was appended as a schedule to the Enabling Bill they could, technically, make amendments in it. An attempt to do so was, however, thwarted by the leaders of all parties, who pointed out the futility of taking a vote on anything but the identical Constitution agreed to by the other colonies; and the Bill and the schedule were passed through both Houses without amendment, and became law on 19th June-the eve of the referendum in New South Wales. The vote was fixed for 2nd September, and the campaign began.

But the friends of Federation had to face great difficulties. The question in Queensland was comparatively new, and the Constitution came definitely before the people for the first time. The forces of prejudice, ignorance, and suspicion, which in the other colonies had gradually given way as a result of repeated federal campaigns, had to be met and beaten down at a single blow; the principles of the Constitution, which in the other colonies had been expounded, analyzed, attacked and defended, discussed in public and in private, for two or three years, had to be brought home to the people in the space of a few weeks. The friends of the Bill worked zealously, and achieved wonders. It soon became clear that the North and the Centre were the federal strongholds-federal sentiment being there aided by the hope that the separation of those districts into distinct provinces, so long unsuccessfully contended for, would be easier after Federation. The one clause of the draft Constitution which aroused the fears of the Separatist federalists was clause 124, providing that a new State might be formed by separation of territory from a State, “but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof." The Separatists were in a minority in the Queensland Parliament, and objected to the desires of an overwhelming majority in the North and Centre being thwarted by a majority in the South.

In Brisbane and throughout the southern district the opposition to the Bill was very strong. Farmers, merchants, and manufacturers feared the competition of their New South Wales neighbours under a system of intercolonial freetrade; and-while the anti-federalists in New South Wales hailed Queensland as their “natural ally” against the southern colonies—the extreme anti-federalists of Queensland turned against New South Wales the epithets which their brethren in New South Wales had hurled against Victoria. Brisbane feared the competition of Sydney, just as Sydney had feared the competition of Melbourne; and federalists had a hard task in convincing their opponents that the benefits of free intercourse would vastly outweigh any sacrifice of intercolonial protection.

In Queensland, therefore, the opposition was directed against a vital principle of Federation, and was undeniably anti-federal. The objection was not to this Constitution merely, but to any Federation worthy of the name. It was a war of vested interests and intercolonial protection against commercial unity. Minor issues were, of course, raised, and the “Anti-Bill" catchwords of the other colonies-however inapplicable—were caught up and scattered broadcast. The cry of “increased taxation through the customs,” and even the exact figures of “22s. 6d. per head increased taxation,” were copied from New South Wales manifestoes with calm indifference to the fact that these forecasts were based upon the existing tariff of New South Waleswhich produced about 30s. per head less than that of Queensland. Equal representation in the Senate was, from the Queensland point of view, a merit; but it was largely discounted by the Money-Bill and deadlock clauses, which it was feared would lead to the undue supremacy of the larger colonies.

The result of the vote was a victory for Federation by a substantial majority of 7,492—the figures being 38,488 for the Bill, and 30,996 against. In the Northern district there was an overwhelming federalist majority of 8,993, every electorate showing a majority for the Bill. In the Centre, there was a majority of 2,156, eight electorates being favourable, and three unfavourable. Rockhampton, the capital of the centre, polled against the Bill—a result due, not to antagonism to Federation, but to a Separatist fear of clause 124. The Centre and North thus gave a combined federal majority of 11,149; but this was unfortunately reduced by an anti-federal majority of 3,657 in the South-the metropolitan electorates being all against the Bill, and the rest of the Southern district polling slightly in its favour.

THE TOTAL RESULTS.—The voting in the five colonies whose electors had accepted the draft Constitution was as follows:

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These figures are a striking proof of the extent and sincerity of the national sentiment throughout the whole of Eastern Australia; and they are also a unique testimony to the high political capacity of the Australian people. Never before have a group of self-governing, practically independent communities, without external pressure or foreign complications of any kind, deliberately chosen of their own free will to put aside their provincial jealousies and come together as one people, from a simple intellectual and sentimental conviction of the folly of disunion and the advantages of nationhood. The States of America, of Switzerland, of Germany, were drawn together under the shadow of war. Even the Canadian provinces were forced to unite by the neighbourhood of a great foreign power. But the Australian Commonwealth, the fifth great Federation of the world, came into voluntary being through a deep conviction of national unity. We may well be proud of the statesmen who constructed a Constitution

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