Resource Sheet 4

Meeting at the exhibition hall

The hall was crowded to the doors…A special gallery was reserved for ladies…

The galleries were draped with flags, the aisles decorated with handsome pot plants, and the thousands of well-dressed persons, earnest and anxious to hear and learn, made up a scene which has perhaps not been equalled in the political history of Queensland…

Just on 8 o’clock Messrs. Barton and Deakin, who were accompanied by the Chief Justice (Sir S. W. Griffith, the chairman of the meeting), entered the hall. The visitors had an enthusiastic reception, the audience standing up and giving cheer after cheer.

The Chairman’s speech

Portrait of Sir Samuel Walker Griffith

Portrait of Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, State Library of Queensland, 68165.

The Chairman, Sir S. W. Griffith:

…The time, if not arrived, is now very fast approaching when it will be necessary for every citizen of Australia to make up his mind whether he desires that the colony to which he belongs shall or shall not be a member of the great Australian Federation which undoubtedly is about to be formed…

The Queensland Federation League, of which I have the honour to be president…desire to assist the electors of Queensland to come to a right conclusion upon the matter, and they believe that the best way to help to a right conclusion is to throw as much light as possible upon the subject.

Mr. Barton’s speech

Sir Edmund Barton, 1901

Sir Edmund Barton, 1901, National Archives of Australia, A5954, 1299/2 PHOTO PL 375/1.

…Much as we should like to have the assistance of Queensland in a complete federation, while it has been felt that it would be not so great and not so powerful a federation as it would be without the assistance of this great and rich colony, it is not, and has not been, the opinion of the other colonies that they could not federate without Queensland…It is one thing to be able to federate without you; it is another thing to confess that federation can never be perfect without you. (Cheers.)

A common state

The day will come when Australia, having federated for purposes of defence, they will lament their mistake if any of the colonies remain isolated. We cannot fight for any one of us unless we all fight for every one.

Intercolonial fair-trade

…under intercolonial free-trade there will be an opportunity for every industry to live that has life worth living in it. Industries that cannot progress without a tariff must take a back seat in favour of progressive ones…

I have said enough to justify me in this request with which I will wind up: That you will be true to your Australian countrymen of the other colonies. (Cheers.) If you are true to them as countrymen, you must be true to them, as fellow-citizens and brothers. (Cheers.) If you are true to them, you must believe that: when they enter into a solemn compact with you they will be as true to you as you are to them.

Mr Deakin's speech

Portrait of Alfred Deakin

Portrait of Alfred Deakin, National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23309831.

Parliament will be elective in both the Chambers by the will of the people. From these Chambers will come the Government of the day. The Government of the day can retain office only by adopting a policy in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the people and thus you will find your case a more absolute power of control than any of you in this colony at present enjoy.

Cost of Union

Union will cost us something, but what of the distribution, for which we are paying every day? Did it not cost something to keep six Custom- houses and six Post Offices instead of one? Did it not cost much more for those six tiny Defence Forces, each with its own little General and its little band—(cheers)—than for one well-organised and efficient force?


We did not meet for business. We were there for a far greater and a far higher work than that. We were there…to lay some stones in the foundation of a Commonwealth. (Cheers) We are not ashamed to be governed by a political ideal. We are proud to see it, and prouder to be inspired by it; but it will one day be said that this ideal knit together the people to the motherland, and made them one. “One people one destiny”, and until we are one people that destiny will be narrow and confined.

The Brisbane Courier, 13 May 1899.