Australian constitutional referendums, 1898–1900

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A series of referendums on the proposed constitution of Australia were held between 2 June 1898 and 31 July 1900 in the six colonies that were to become the states of the Commonwealth of Australia.[1] The first four referendums were held in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria in June 1898.[1] Although all four saw a majority vote in favour, the majority in New South Wales was insufficient.[1] Knowledge of the result in New South Wales led to low voter turnout in South Australia.

Following a series of amendments made to the proposed constitution at the Secret Premiers meeting on 31 January and 1 February 1899, a second referendum was required in the four states, whilst on 2 September, Queensland held a referendum on the constitution for the first time. All five states saw a majority vote in favour.

Three weeks after the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act became law in 1900, Western Australia held a referendum on the constitution,[1] which was also approved. The constitution came into force on 1 January 1901.[2]

Background[edit]

South Australia[edit]

Residents of South Australian were staunchly opposed to federation in the mid-19th century due to the dominance of the colonies of Victoria and New South Wales in issues such as trade and tariffs, as well as a desire to keep unique elements of South Australia intact.[3] The mood had shifted by the 1890s, with what was seen as the looming inevitability of federation a motivator to negotiating a good deal for the smaller states, with the argument by the Yes campaign that they may never have such favourable terms again.[4] The No campaign however focused on the potential for increased costs for South Australians, as well as decreased land values.[5]

Results[edit]

1898 referendums[edit]

Australian constitutional referendums, 1898.svg
State Date For Against Total Turnout
Votes % Votes %
New South Wales 4 June 1898 71,595 51.95 66,228 48.05 137,823 43.5
South Australia 4 June 1898 35,800 67.39 17,320 20.54 53,120 30.9
Tasmania 3 June 1898 11,797 81.29 2,716 18.71 14,513 25.0
Victoria 4 June 1898 100,520 81.98 22,099 18.02 122,619 50.3
Source: Direct Democracy

1899 and 1900 referendums[edit]

Australian constitutional referendums, 1899-1900.svg
State Date For Against Total Turnout
Votes % Votes %
South Australia 29 April 1899 65,990 79.46 17,053 20.54 83,043 54.4
New South Wales 28 June 1899 107,420 56.49 82,741 43.51 190,161 63.4
Tasmania 27 July 1899 13,437 94.40 797 5.60 14,234 41.8
Victoria 27 July 1899 152,653 93.96 9,805 6.04 162,458 56.3
Queensland 28 September 1899 38,488 55.39 30,996 44.61 69,484 54.4
Western Australia 31 July 1900 44,616 69.42 19,651 30.58 64,267 67.1
Source: Direct Democracy

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) Museum of Australian Democracy
  2. ^ Australia, 31 July 1900: Constitution Direct Democracy (in German)
  3. ^ David Brooks, Dr Zoe Gill & Dr John Weste (eds). "South Australian Referenda, 1896-1991" (PDF). Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Commonwealth League Advertisement". Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "Anti-Commonwealth Bill League Advertisement". Retrieved 6 December 2011.