Investigation 4

What were the arguments for and against Federation that were put to South Australians?

Together with many leading politicians, the South Australian branches of the Australian Natives Association and Australasian Federal League actively campaigned for Federation by participating in the Commonwealth League. The Anti-Commonwealth Bill League was established relatively late by people who opposed Federation and the draft Australian Constitution. The Anti- Commonwealth Bill League had the support of some leading politicians, such as Tom Price, who would later become the first Labor Premier of South Australia.

Your Task

Explore the arguments for and against Federation put to the voters of South Australia.


  1. As a class, read the promotional material from The Commonwealth League and The Anti-Commonwealth Bill League.
  2. In small groups, complete the following tasks.
    • Make a list of the reasons for and against Federation outlined in the promotional material.
    • Add any other reasons you can think of to the list. You can refer to the primary sources in Resource sheets 1 and 3.
  3. Share your responses with the class and have a ‘question and answer’ session. Ask any questions you may have about the reasons for or against Federation, or anything else that may be unclear to you.
  4. Based on what you know about Federation, if you had the right to vote in South Australia at the time, would you have voted for or against Federation? Write the reasons for your thinking.
  5. Find three or four classmates who share your views about Federation. Your small group will develop a political campaign to convince others to join you.
    • Decide who the target audience for your campaign for or against Federation will be. Remember, different groups in the community had a range of concerns and/or priorities.
    • Record a short number of reasons why people should support your point of view. You might like to include catchy slogans with your reasons.
    • Design a series of campaign posters. Each poster could have a different reason represented by a graphic or cartoon and slogan.
    • Display your posters around the classroom.