Would the proposed representation for the new Federal Parliament be fair for South Australia?
The Federal Parliament proposed in the draft Australian Constitution had two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. To make laws, a majority of votes in both chambers would be needed.
In the House of Representatives, the number of representatives would be proportional to the number of people living in each colony. Colonies with larger populations, such as New South Wales, would have more representatives than colonies with smaller populations, such as South Australia.
In the Senate, each colony was to have an equal number of representatives. This meant that colonies with small populations, such as South Australia, would have the same number of votes as colonies with large populations, such as New South Wales. In the Senate, each colony would have the same power to influence the laws of the new nation. This idea bothered a number of politicians in larger colonies.
Investigate whether or not the proposed representation for the new Federal Parliament was fair for South Australians.
- As a class, read through the items on the issue of State rights.
- In small groups, consider the following questions.
- Which States would benefit from a one-chamber parliament? Why?
- Which would benefit from a two-chamber parliament? Why?
- What do you think was meant by the phrase, ‘Democracy is partly a matter of longitude and latitude’?
- In small groups, look at the population data in 1899 and the number of representatives for the House of Representatives and the Senate. Use these figures to consider the following questions.
- Would the proposed Federal Parliament be fair to the people of South Australia? Take a vote.
- Why might smaller colonies have been concerned about the number of representatives in the House of Representatives being proportional to the number of people living in each colony? Could this issue have affected progress towards Federation?
- Vote again on whether you think the proposed representation for the new Federal Parliament would be fair. Has the result changed?
- Design a graphic to represent how the two parliamentary chambers create a fair system. Share your designs with your classmates.