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What is federation

Federation: the establishment of a federal system of government that being the Commonwealth of Australia is one of the main reasons as to why Australia thrives today


When did federation begin

1840s, during the depression


When did federation take effect

1st of the 1st, 1901.


Why did the idea take so long to come about

Geographical Diversity, Colonial Pride and Inter-Colonial Rivalry.


Geographical diversity

Geography of Australia was so diverse that inter-colonial communication was slow, unreliable and expensive.
This constraint began to dissolve upon the invention of faster mechanical transport, particularly rail and steamships.


Colonial pride

Most colonies gained responsible government in the 1850s
Proud of their constitutional achievement but were not willing to surrender any more power than necessary to create federation.


Inter-Colonial Rivalry

The colonies converted their developments in trade and commerce and they often imposed irrational trade barriers to protect their self-interest.
Smaller colonies feared that larger colonies would dominate the federation process and new federal system.


Reasons for federation

free trade, national defence, immigration, nationhood, national communication and industrial relations


Free trade

due to tariffs and trading barriers trade was ineffective and inefficient. There were delays and shortages and it aggravated colonial rivalry


Free trade section 92

Because of federation, S92 was placed in the constitution, called the ‘free trade’ provision which is a prohibited power preventing federal partners from placing arbitrary trade barriers against free interstate trade. This is process is relevant today as it has created led to globalisation, our successful market economy and economic growth


Free trade today

The world is moving towards globalisation.
Free trade agreements with Japan, China, etc.


National Defence

Prior to federation there were concerns over being invaded both by Indonesian forces and Russian forces (Hence fort Glanville)

Each colony had their own 'straw man' defence force but would not be able to defend their land
In fact, in the event of a broader battle, their weapons and ammunition were incompatible


National Defence S114

Because of federation our defence force is now uniform, and we are well protected. This is displayed in the Constitution in S114, defence, as an exclusive power of the Commonwealth.



Concerns were rising about the importance of cheap labour from the South Pacific islands and this fuelled unfounded fear of Asian invasion.

Workers and trade unions were concerned that imported labour would force down wage rates and lead to lower living standards for the British Colonists.

Federation allowed Australia to impose restrictive immigration policies.


Immigration s51

An exclusive power of the commonwealth. Australia has become more multicultural although it took quite a few years after federation
the issue today is our treatment of refugees.


Industrial relations

Federation offered the potential of a powerful central government which could set national standards in working people’s wages and conditions, whilst imposing strict restrictions on the importation of cheap labour.


Industrial relations today

Unions! Fair work Australia!


National Communication

The issues concerning uniform telegraphic and postal service had generally been settled between colonies early, prior to the Australasian conventions in the 1890s.



Australian’s obsessively loyal to Britain kept their national anthem, and the Union Jack on the flags.

a national identity



The Process of federation

Initation period (1840s)
Australasian Convestions (1890s)
Corowa Conference (1993)
Colonial approval by ref (1900)
Negotiation with Brit
Assented (1900)
Proclaimed (1900)
Inaugurated (1901)


Initiation Period 1840s

pre-federation colonial conferences and agreements identifying the need to federate. The series of meetings, debates and influential pressure groups ended with Henry Parks calling for Constitutional Conventions in 1890.


Australasian Conventions 1890s

Held to discuss federation and draft the Constitution Bill.
The founding fathers proposed to give the Commonwealth specific legislative powers, which would be exercised concurrently with the states.


Corowa Conference 1993

Disappointed by the pace of the federation movement, Federation Leagues were established near the end of 1892.
They were non-government organizations whose memberships were often limited to native-born Australians. That is, colonists born in Australia.
Meetings were conducted in local hotels and halls and speakers were strongly supportive of federation.


Colonial approval by ref

Each of the colonial parliaments ratified the Commonwealth Constitution draft by passing legislation to conduct a colonial referendum.
In 1898, SA, NSW, VIC and TAS conducted referenda. This was unsuccessful as NSW fell short of votes required by the colony’s enabling Act.
QLD and WA did not conduct referenda because they had concerns over parts of the Constitution Bill.
Finally, after many amendments to made by the Premiers’ Conference QLD joined in 1899 and WA in 1900.


Negotiation with Brit Gov

Asked to sponsor the Constitution Bill through Imperial Parliament. The British Government were supportive of federation and approved the Constitution draft, with some amendments stating that federal parliament cannot enact a law that is contrary to British law, a provision that was already bound by the colonies and that final appeals must go to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain.


Assented July 1900

ASSENTED by Queen Victoria on the address of Imperial Parliament on the 9th of July 1900


Proclaimed September 1900

PROCLAIMED by Queen Victoria on the advice of colonial secretary on the 17th of September 1900


Inaugurated Jan 1901

INAUGURATED on 1st of January 1901


How is it important today

the reasons that brought about federation informed our constitution, which still effects us today

the referendum that voted federation in is now our means on changing the con

Negotiations to get states to join ensured them their residual powers (DOP), protecting state sovereignty

Separation of Powers that created the three arms of government

Introduced the Con Mon and the GG who still plays an important role

United us as a country and gave us a national identity in the international community.


what constitutional rights did it afford us

s80 right to trial by jury
s52 acquisition of property on just terms
s116 freedom of religion