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Federation and the Parliament of South Australia

The origins of Federation

In 1901, the six Australian colonies joined together in a Federation to become a single nation. This idea had been suggested a number of times, from the 1850s onwards, and by the 1890s the colonies began to discuss it seriously. They began to think about the need for some kind of national defence, whilst customs duties and other barriers between the individual colonies were a nuisance. The continent of Australia was now linked by the telegraph system and the trans-Australian railway. Australian cricket teams had played in England since 1878.

The colonies held two Constitutional Conventions in the 1890s to draft an Australian Constitution. The first draft was defeated in a referendum in 1898 - although it was passed in South Australia. The second draft Constitution was voted on in 1899, and this time was passed in all the colonies. In 1900, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act was passed by the British Parliament, and on January 1 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia came into existence.

South Australian politicians strongly supported the idea of Federation, and made significant contributions to it.


The impact of Federation on South Australia

After Federation, eleven of South Australia's political and party leaders went to the new Australian Parliament, including six former Premiers, a number of them into prominent positions.

Charles Kingston became the Minister of Customs and Trade
Frederick Holder became the Speaker
Thomas Playford
Sir John Downer
Vaiben Solomon
Sir Richard Baker became President of the Senate

South Australia therefore made a significant contribution to the new Parliament, but it was some years before the South Australian Parliament and politics recovered from the loss of so much experience and talent.


The birth of the State of South Australia

After Federation, the colonies became States in the Federation, so January 1 1901 is also the birth date of the State of South Australia. The Centenary of Federation on 1st January 2001 is also the Centenary of the State of South Australia.