What were the results of the referendums on Federation?
In 1898, the people of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania voted in the first referendum on Federation. For Federation to proceed, the referendums had to achieve a majority of ‘yes’ votes. The New South Wales Parliament had increased the required level of ‘yes’ votes to 80,000, which was more than a majority. Due to this special quota, the first referendum failed in New South Wales.
The colonies’ Premiers met in Melbourne from 29 January to 3 February 1899 in an attempt to find common ground and agree to amendments to the draft Australian Constitution. The conference was called the Premiers’ ‘secret’ conference, as neither the media nor the public were allowed to attend. This conference finally did resolve differences so that plans for Federation could move forward. The New South Wales Parliament also removed the quota for the 1899 referendum.
Referendums were held in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland in 1899. Western Australia held its referendum in 1900. The results of these referendums determined which colonies would become States in a federal system.
Examine the results of the referendums in South Australia.
- As a class, examine the referendum results in city and country South Australia for both referendums. Then, in pairs, complete the following tasks.
- Compare the number of people who voted in the first referendum with the number who voted in the second. Why do you think there was such an increase?
- Compare the results of city voters and country voters at the first referendum in South Australia. Make a list of the most significant differences in the results.
- Compare the results of city voters and country voters at the second referendum in South Australia. Make a list of the most significant differences in the results.
- Write three questions about the results for other students in the class to answer. Your questions could, for example, focus on comparing the results for two referendums. A possible question could be: ‘What percentage increase was achieved for ‘yes’ votes in South Australia at the 1898 and 1899 referendums?’ Or, your questions could focus on comparing one part of South Australia to another. A possible question could be: ‘What percentage difference was there between ‘no’ votes in East Adelaide and West Adelaide at the 1899 referendum?’
- Swap your questions with another pair of students. Answer their questions. When you and the other pair of students have finished answering the questions, correct one another’s responses.