Resource Sheet 1

About immigration

A Cartoon of Victoria urging the Federation to get rid of the 'Chinese pest', from the Melbourne Punch, 10 May 1888
Victoria. — ‘Girls, there’s but one way to rid ourselves of this unsightly thing, and that’s by all taking hold together. A strong unanimous heave with this lever and the job is done.’
Chorus. — ‘Yes and if John should be the means of bringing us together, we’d have something to thank the Chinese question for after all.’
(‘John’ is an abbreviated version of ‘John Chinaman’ – a racist term commonly used by white colonists at the time.)
Students, please note: today, a cartoon such as ‘the Chinese pest’ would be considered racist.

Cartoon of Victoria urging the Federation to get rid of the ‘Chinese pest’, Melbourne Punch, 10 May 1888, National Library of Australia.

Comment on limiting immigration

Our allegiance is to our own population first, and we cannot be bound by any consideration to abstain from legislation which the moral welfare of that population demands. We are not bound to receive criminals or to admit leprosy or small-pox, and by the same argument we may exclude any persons whose habits of life and social customs are not only alien to our own, but are incompatible with the public welfare.

The Age, 2 May 1888.

About trade

Maintaining the stock tax

The abolition of the Stock Tax—a necessary sequence of Federation—will destroy the only protection beneficial to farmers. The farmers of this district are absolutely dependent on stock-raising. It is their salvation. Destroy it, and their prosperity is blighted… Blinded by the glamour of a federated Australia some may affirm that the removal of the Stock Tax won’t affect the price of stock, and herein they tacitly admit that if it does, heaven help the farmers.

Daniel Toland, Letter to the editor, Omeo Standard, 20 May 1898.

Abolishing border duties

The abolition of the border duties would be the releasing of the farmers from the fetters with which they had for so long been bound. The duties had done more harm than good in the past… for in good seasons they had compelled them to take ruinous prices for their produce. What had the farmers of this colony to fear from the competition of the farmers in the neighbouring colonies?… So long as the border duties remained these other markets were practically closed to them… The people of Australia had a great chance to build up a mighty nation.

Councillor Noske, Letter to the editor, The Argus, 20 May 1898.

Smugglers and their dodgers

A Cartoon from The Australasian in 1890 about smugglers and their methods
1. A waistcoat with up to 170 hidden inside pockets for smuggling watches.
2. A dummy umbrella used for sneaking jewellery, such as rings, across the border.
3. A false-bottomed box.
4. Cigars and drugs could be smuggled across the border in a belt worn around the chest.
5. Smuggled goods could be held in place with braces that were used to hold up men’s pants.
6. When in fashion, women could use their fur muffs (hand warmers) to smuggle goods across the border.
12. Hats could be used for smuggling small items.

The Australasian, 7 June 1890, National Library of Australia.

About rivers and railways

Murray River as a river for trade

The points of arrival and departure of the river traffic are very rarely in the same colony. The traffic of the Murray and its tributaries is therefore in its essence inter-colonial, and one would, therefore, suppose that it was properly open to, and required, federal control.

Alfred Deakin, Australasian Federal Convention, Melbourne, 21 January 1898.

Murray River as a source for irrigation

This great river system has its rise in other colonies; but it flows through Victoria and South Australia, and Victoria and South Australia for that reason have a moral co-equal claim to the use of the water, and that use should be controlled in the interest of all the riparian co-proprietors.

John Gordon, Australasian Federal Convention, Melbourne, 21 January 1898.

Railways as defence

The break of gauge which exists between the colonies would be fatal to [speed] of movement; it would practically prevent Victoria and South Australia coming to the assistance of New South Wales or Queensland, nor for the same reason could the two latter colonies render assistance to Victoria or South Australia… a uniform gauge must be established…

British Major General’s Report on the Military Forces of the Australian Colonies, 1889.

Railways as trade

I consider that there should be an Inter-State Commission, which must have control of railways which go from state to state, and be able to interfere where railways are so managed as to influence the natural flow of trade between colonies.

William Arthur Trenwith, Australasian Federal Convention, Melbourne, 23 February 1898.

About defence: a plain case

A Cartoon from Australian Tit-Bits about federation
SERVICE (able seaman) — “Well mates, you wouldn’t federate when I wanted you to; but if yonder craft comes this way, Federation or no Federation, you’ll have to work together.” (‘SERVICE’ is a reference to Victorian Premier James Service [8 March 1883 – 18 February 1886])

Australian Tit-Bits, Vol 1, No 42, 26 March 1885, National Library of Australia.

Extract from speech by Henry Parkes at Tenterfield, 24 October 1889

General Edwards had also advised that the forces of the various colonies should be federated for operation in unison in the event of war so as to act as one great federal army. If an attack were made upon any of the colonies, it might be necessary for us to bring all our power to bear on one spot of the coast.

The great question which they had to consider was, whether the time had not now arisen for the creation on this Australian continent of an Australian Government… to preserve the security and integrity of these colonies that the whole of their forces should be amalgamated into one great federal army… They had now, from South Australia to Queensland, a stretch of about 2,000 miles of railway, and if the four colonies could only combine to adopt a uniform gauge, it would be an immense advantage to the movement of troops.

Surely, what the Americans have done by war, the Australians could bring about in peace. It is essential to preserve the security of these colonies that there should be one great federal army… We must appoint a convention of leading men from all the colonies who would… devise the constitution (for) a federal government with a federal parliament…

The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 October 1889.

About voting rights for women

The ‘monster petition’ (below), signed by 30,000 Victorian women, was presented to the Parliament of Victoria by Jane Munro, wife of then Victorian Premier, James Munro

Women's Suffrage petition from 1891

Women’s Suffrage League petition, 1891, PROV, VPRS 3253/P0, Unit 851. Reproduced with permission of the Keeper of the Public Records, Public Record Office, Victoria, Australia, © State of Victoria.

1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Victoria, in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of the undersigned

Women of Victoria respectfully sheweth:

That your Petitioners believe:

That Government of the People by the People, and for the People, should mean all the People, and not one-half.

That Taxation and Representation should go together without regard to the sex of the Taxed.

That all Adult Persons should have a voice in Making the Laws which they are required to obey.

That, in short, Women should Vote on Equal Terms with Men.

Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray your Honourable House to pass a Measure for conferring the Parliamentary Franchise upon Women, regarding this as a right which they most humbly desire.

And your Petitioners will ever Pray.

Anti-suffrage petition, 1900

The petition of the undersigned women, resident of Victoria, humbly sheweth: – That there is a bill before your honourable House to confer the parliamentary franchise on women. That your petitioners are convinced that this measure will not be for the good of the State for the following reasons: It will be the cause of dissension in families… it will force women from the peacefulness and quiet of their homes into the arena of politics and impose a burden upon them… The women of Victoria have never yet expressed their opinion upon the subject of women’s suffrage… and we believe if they had the opportunity of so doing they would be against its adoption.

Anti-Suffrage Petition, 1900, Public Records Office of Victoria, PROV, VPRS 02599/P0, Unit 193, cited from Office of Women’s Policy, Victorian Government.

Choices and consequences chart

Record the issue contained in your primary source. List the positive (pluses) and negative (minuses) consequences for taking action and for taking no action on the issue. What would your position on the issue have been if you had lived in Victoria at the time: to take action or take no action? Justify your answer.

What is this issue?

If the people of Victoria had chosen to do something about the issue, then…

Or, If the people of Victoria had chosen to do nothing about the issue, then…


…what might the positive and negative consequences have been?

Base your answers on what you know and the primary source material you have read.

Your position

If you were living in Victoria at the time, what would your position on the issue have been and why?