In retrospect, the split in the Progressive Party marked the start of a period that would bring Drummond to public prominence. But to Drummond, the future in the middle of December 1921 was very uncertain. The Central Council vote had shown that the Party organisation was as divided as the Parliamentary Party on the coalition issue. To survive, the True Blues had to be backed by the organisation, if indeed the organisation itself could survive the split. In particular, the Grazier's Association, whose delegates had voted solidly for coalition, was an unknown quantity.
The FSA declared first for the True Blues. On 23 December its official journal, the Land, supported them, while individual FSA branches sent in protests 'denouncing the coalition as calculated to break up the party and keep the Dooley Government in office.' On 5 January the FSA Executive accepted Wearne's resignation as Vice-President and censured the coalitionists. On the same day, the Progressive Central Council backed the True Blues by deciding that the Progressives should contest all seats in the election 'as a separate identity'. Later in January the Graziers' Association Council finally declared against the coalitionists. But the Association extracted a price for this support, for it put forward a series of general principles that the Progressive Party Central Council was obliged to accept at its meeting on 16 January. These declared that the main objective was the defeat of Labor, and that although coalition would preclude true party independence the Progressives would support an incoming Nationalist Government which acted in accordance with the Progressive platform. The general principles also provided that Council would not endorse coalition candidates, that Labor candidates would receive last preference and that the Progressives should refrain from attacking Nationalist or coalition candidates.
On 24 January at a joint meeting of the Council and the Parliamentary Party, the True Blues chose Bruxner as campaign director. The choice was an important one. At the time of the split Drummond had turned to Buttenshaw as de-facto leader, possibly because of Buttenshaw's previous parliamentary experience. Buttenshaw had been unwilling to accept the role, and so the parliamentarians turned to Bruxner. Bruxner was less experienced, but his commitment to the cause and his self-assurance were to make him an effective campaigner.
Following the meeting, Bruxner assured the press that the Progressives would not indulge in 'further cross-firing and bickering' with the coalitionists. The Progressives generally observed this requirement during the election campaign, while still defending their position. In some ways this relative restraint was not surprising, since the Nationalist - Coalitionist and Progressive policies were very similar. Bruxner, in his policy speech delivered at Grafton in February, advocated new states as a means of achieving decentralisation, closer settlement supported by water conservation and irrigation, a five-year averaging scheme for primary producer taxation, development railways and financial reform. Fuller's speech later that month clearly reflected the influence of the Progressives for it too advocated decentralisation, closer settlement, improved transport and taxation averaging. Even new states were heavily emphasized. In addition to common policies there were other unifying factors. The Labor Government had amended the Electoral Act to introduce an optional preference scheme, which forced the Progressives and Nationalists to cooperate to ensure that their exchange of preferences was efficient. In addition, the financial dependence of the Progressive Party on the Graziers' Association severely limited the Party's freedom.
It must have been a tense campaign for Drummond. In the previous election he had received only 10 per cent of the vote, while this time coalitionist candidates were standing against him, including his old rival G.B. Ring, now Mayor of Inverell. However, Drummond did have some advantages. He had assiduously tended his electorate, while the electoral arrangements worked out between the three members for the Northern Tablelands seat also assisted him. Under this arrangement Bruxner took the northern, Drummond the central and Alfred McClelland, the Labor member, the southern section of the electorate. As McClelland later described the compact:
We gave press publicity to what we had done in all newspapers in the Electorate and the arrangement worked smoothly ... On the many occasions we spoke at openings of shows and other public functions we refrained from criticisms of a party nature.
Of the three, the relatively serious and stiff Drummond benefited most, for the arrangement freed him from party politics at a local level. It had another useful side effect: the three members were able to reach agreement limiting their donations to public appeals to hospitals and similar institutions. This was a considerable help to both Drummond and McClelland, whose only income was their parliamentary salaries.
These were not Drummond's only advantages. His support for the temperance movement had gained him temperance backing, which probably continued throughout the twenties. The new state campaign also assisted him. Drummond's close identification with the Movement certainly gained him some support, while the Progressives' support for the cause was also important in the firm backing given the True Blues by the Northern press. 'If countrymen are going to demand political power between elections, and join the city forces a few weeks before polling day because - as they are invariably told - disunity will give the common enemy his chance they will never get anywhere', declared the Northern Daily Leader.
The Progressives nominated three candidates for the Northern Tableland seat, Bruxner, Drummond and James McIlveen. Drummond's campaign was restrained because Bruxner was campaigning elsewhere in the state: 'As Colonel Bruxner could only spend a few days in his huge electorate I felt it right that no unfair advantage should be taken in his absence and campaigned on that basis,' he later wrote. In the end this did him no harm, for the result was a triumph for the True Blues and particularly for Bruxner. The Labor vote was down 5 per cent, the Nationalist (Coalitionist) vote fell 2 per cent, while the Progressive vote rose by 7 per cent to 57 per cent. Bruxner's vote rose from 23 to 39 per cent, Drummond's from 10 to 15 per cent. This was sufficient, and Drummond was elected for his second term.
The elections reduced Labor to thirty-six members compared to forty-one Nationalist - Coalitionist, three independents and one Democratic (Catholic) Party. The Progressives, whose strength had increased from seven to nine, therefore held the balance of power. Bruxner quickly stated the general terms on which his party would support a Nationalist minority Government: 'We do not wish to dictate, but being returned on a definite country policy, we hope to assist in its reasonable recognition.' Unfortunately for the Progressives, the Nationalist Leader, Sir George Fuller, could afford to ignore such statements since he was well aware that the anti-Labor feelings of many Progressive supporters (and particularly of the Graziers' Association) meant that in practice the Party had no choice but to support him. Consequently, when Bruxner suggested that the two parties should agree upon a joint program of legislation 'He was told', in Drummond's words, 'that Sir George and his colleagues could manage without our help.'
This refusal created a major dilemma for the Progressives. To justify their existence, they now had to demonstrate to their supporters that they were achieving results in the face of a Government which was ignoring them, yet which they could not remove. The dilemma was intensified by the continued presence of their former colleagues within the Government. Since the Progressives had split over questions of tactics as much as over principles, the continued existence of the Coalitionist Progressives was a dangerous public reminder of the True Blues' impotence. In these circumstances there was really only one course open to them. As Drummond later put it:
The political war was on ... Our position was a parlous one. Both the older parties ...regarded us as a blot & blight on the body politic. We were the political Ishmaels to be politically exterminated, or failing that disgraced as incompetent and unworthy of electoral support... The Labor Party constantly tried to trap us into defeat of the Government. Our aim was to keep the Govt in power, but to use tactics designed to shown them that they had better play ball with us.
This strategy may have, as Drummond suggested, 'made life hideous for the Govt', but the strain on the Progressives was just as great. The bigger parties could afford to send batches of members off to rest during the long night sittings, whereas the Progressives could not:
Only that we were young and in the prime of life were we able to survive. In those days I could go 2 days and nights without sleep. After that I could stretch out on the benches after the galleries emptied and sleep like a log. We always had someone wake the sleepers in case of a Division.
Despite the strains, the Party's strategy had one enduring result. Coming on top of the events of the split, which had demonstrated the need for unity and cohesion and had also created strong personal bonds between the True Blues, it formed the Parliamentary Party into a cohesive fighting unit marked by strong private and public loyalties.
While the parliamentarians were devising their tactics, arrangements had to be made for the government of the Party. The split had destroyed the original central party structure. It had been temporarily reformed for the election, but it was now necessary to reorganise it on a more formal basis, and to ease the tensions that had developed within Central Council and between Central Council and the Parliamentary Party. The True Blues therefore met Central Council on 20 April 1922 to discuss organisational arrangements.
Bruxner, speaking for the Parliamentary Party, put forward two main proposals. An important part of the developing mythology of the split was that the Wearne parliamentarians had misused their representation on Central Council to push the coalition proposal. Bruxner therefore suggested that no parliamentarian should be a member of Central Council. Instead, the Parliamentary Party and the Council should hold regular joint meetings to discuss common issues. At the same time, Bruxner asserted his and the Parliamentary Party's independence from Central Council direction; he would 'receive advice at any time - he did not say he would always act upon it'. This was an important assertion, for it established another general principle of New South Wales Country Party government, the independence of the Parliamentary Party from outside direction. Bruxner's second proposal also had longer term implications: he proposed that the Progressives should alter their name to the Country Party. In putting his suggestions forward Bruxner emphasized that the Party must change its image. 'They wished to get rid of the impression that this party was a "squatter-run Party"', he told the meeting. 'There was no doubt that the increased vote in some of the electorates was due to the support of the country working man.'
In the following discussion, the Council rejected the proposed name-change but accepted Bruxner's proposal regarding Parliamentary representation on the Council. This decision did reduce tension, but left the Party dependent, as before, on the FSA and the Graziers' Association. Their continued dominance, while helpful in the short term, severely retarded the growth of the Party's own organisation.
The organisational problems had been relatively easy to solve; the problem of developing an effective presence in the House continued. In addition, the Party was now coming under pressure from its supporters, and particularly the separatists, to deliver.
The Northern Movement had greeted the State elections as a major success. No less than thirty northern candidates had publicly supported the Movement, and of these twelve had been elected. Moreover, the successful twelve included representatives from all parties.
Note to readers: There is a break in the text here because of text corruption. I have to rewrite the material, but this requires checking sources. In essence, the Movement found itself with a problem in keeping support from the twelve, while popular enthusiasm declined as local problems contributing to that enthusiasm, such as drought and low prices for rural products, eased. The story continues.
Even before the end of 1921, internal bickering had reduced the effectiveness of the Armidale and Glen Innes leagues. During 1922 attendances at league meetings declined, while many leagues ceased to exist. By July Thompson had to report to a meeting of the Central Executive at Scone that the 'early wave of enthusiasm has passed'. While there was still strong support for the cause, the Movement's leaders recognised that the declining enthusiasm threatened their chances of success. They responded by trying to increase the pressure. In early May public meetings were held in Martin Place in Sydney. Then later in the month the Central Executive, meeting at Moree, passed a motion urging supporters in State Parliament 'to bring immediate pressure to bear upon the Government.... to bring about the fulfilment of the aims of the movement.' This created political problems for the parliamentary separatists, and Bruxner was forced to warn the Executive that 'it would be a fatal mistake for about fifteen New Staters to try and bludgeon the rest of Parliament on this issue'. However, he also advised that Drummond was preparing a motion that would be presented to the House in due course.
Early in July 1922 Drummond attended the first national new state conference, held at Albury, as part of a seven man Northern delegation. Convened jointly by the Riverina and Northern Movements, the conference was intended to coordinate the activities of the various separation movements that had sprung up as a result of the Northerners' campaign. In all, it was attended by representatives (including seven parliamentarians) from twelve organisations covering New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. Many of these organisations were very small and had a short life, but they did give the conference something approaching national coverage.
As with the 1921 Armidale Convention, the delegates were primarily concerned to lay down a broad framework for the movement throughout Australia. The key constitutional motion, moved by Drummond, was identical to that which he had moved at Armidale. It affirmed the desirability of holding a federal constitutional convention to 'secure a new and definite apportionment of the powers of the State and Commonwealth' which would enable the Commonwealth to effectively discharge national functions, but would also safeguard and define state powers, and facilitate subdivision. The conference also decided that each state should, subject to the provisions of the Federal Constitution, formulate its own constitution which should not be altered 'except by the consent of the electors of the State taken by referendum.' This principle, which reflected the separatists' distrust of the existing political system, became an important part of the Northern Movement's platform.
In addition to these constitutional motions, the conference made a number of organisational decisions. It was agreed that meetings should be held with all political parties to try to develop an agreed amendment that all new state organisations should be asked to bring the subdivision question before their respective state parliaments to test all possibilities of success under the existing Constitution. Finally, it was decided to form an All-Australian New States Movement; Page was elected President of the new organisation and Thompson Secretary.
During the conference debates Drummond did suffer one defeat. He moved, on behalf of the Northern Movement, a motion suggesting that in any new state scheme, provision should be made for the creation of Federal territories in areas not suitable for immediate statehood. This motion was opposed by Page and overwhelmingly rejected by delegates, in Drummond's view largely because of the Commonwealth's very poor record in the administration of the Northern Territory. Despite this, Drummond was probably satisfied with the conference results. Not only had his main motion been accepted, thus aligning the national movement with the position already adopted by the Northerners, but the other decisions were also in accord with his developing constitutional views. In this regard, the real importance of the Albury conference lay not in its practical results - which proved to be few - but in something rather more intangible: it marked the emergence of a fully developed separatist ideology.
The Northern Movement had drawn its original strength from the problems associated with day-to-day life in the country. However, to justify their proposals the Northerners had been forced to develop arguments for general subdivision which would hold regardless of conditions in particular areas. In doing this they drew from the long tradition of country and separatist agitation, expressing traditional ideas in new and coherent ways. Government existed, Page told the delegates, 'to promote the satisfaction of all members as individuals and the welfare of the Community as a whole.' Judged by this standard, the Australian system had failed because of its ignorance of local needs. The new states movement wanted to remedy this by dividing Australia 'into compact homogenous States, that would lend themselves to rapid development, economic handling and efficient government. It was essentially a people's movement.'
Page's emphasis on the people marked another continuing new state theme. It was both a recognition that subdivision could only be achieved with strong popular support, and a key point in the movement's developing ideology. Good government was that which was close to the people and therefore responsive to local needs. In similar vein, the Anglican Bishop of Goulburn, Dr. Radford, suggested that the new states movement 'was an upwelling of the sense of a starved country citizenship. There could be no outlet for its functioning under the present system of administration'.
Radford was a particularly good example of the way in which separatism had now developed its own ideology. He supported subdivision because he believed in it on general grounds, not because of problems in his own local area. By contrast Page, who had played such a major role in the development of subdivision ideas, always saw issues in terms of his beloved Clarence Valley. Drummond, too, had his feet solidly embedded in the soil of Northern New South Wales. Both men saw separation as the answer to the specific problems faced by the North. Yet despite this, Drummond was already emerging as the central propagandist for the general view. While Page's active mind continually developed new ideas, and while his talents as an agitator were unparalleled among the separatists, it was Drummond who codified and then spread the separatist beliefs.
Following the Albury Conference, the separatists took action at state and federal levels. The federal attempts proved unsuccessful, for Parliament recessed for the elections (to be held in December 1922) without action being taken on any of the outstanding constitutional issues. However, they had somewhat more success at the state level.
In July 1922 F.M. Forde, the Labor M.L.A. for Rockhampton, successfully moved a motion in the Queensland Parliament calling for constitutional change to allow the formation of new states. Then in August Bruxner moved in the Assembly the motion drafted by Drummond:
That, in the opinion of this House, the State of New South Wales being too large in area for effective government and administration, it is desirable that a separate State be created in Northern New South Wales, and that the Government should take immediate steps ... to achieve that result.
The debate revealed clearly the basic positions of the three parties. P.C. Scully, the Labor Member for Namoi, had told the Tamworth New State League that his party was wholly behind Bruxner. Now Labor opposed the motion, arguing that any subdivision should take place only in the context of an overall revision of the Federal Constitution that would strengthen federal powers and replace the states with provinces.
The coalitionist position was more complex. The Government was not prepared to accept the motion as worded by Drummond since it required immediate action. Although the Premier conceded that new states were inevitable in the long run, he also felt that 'it would be unreasonable to expect hon. members to agree to a Motion which would mean separating a portion of the territory of New South Wales.' At the same time, the delicate position in the House meant that the Government was reluctant to reject the motion outright. Frank Chaffey (Namoi), one of the original signatories of Australia Subdivided but also Nationalist Minister for Agriculture and one of those who had qualified their new state support in the run-up to the 1922 election, therefore moved an amendment that 'the creation of a separate State in northern New South Wales should be taken into early consideration by a Federal Convention' and 'that this resolution be communicated to the Federal Government and the Government of the States' with a view to securing their concurrence. The amendment neatly shelved the whole question, but given the positions of the other parties Bruxner had no choice but to accept it, and it was duly carried.
While it was an unsatisfactory result from a separatist viewpoint, the debates had benefited the Progressives by strengthening the links between the Party and the new staters. In the Federal elections in December the Northern Movement's President (P.P. Abbott) and General Secretary (Victor Thompson) stood for the Senate and the division of New England respectively as Country Party candidates. Abbott, Thompson and Page campaigned in part as a new state team, with Thompson declaring that 'he was supporting the Country Party because it was the only party that was bold enough to come straight out in favour of New States', a position publicly supported by his own Tamworth New State League.
The new state debates of August and September 1922 coincided with the Sydney Harbour Bridge Bill. At the State elections in March this Bill, introduced by the previous Labor Government but not proceeded with, had been a major issue. Now the Fuller Government reintroduced it but, probably because of country criticism, made it a non-party measure. Labor adopted a similar position, notwithstanding its previous support for the legislation. The House promptly divided into metropolitan members versus the rest. Country member after country member attacked the Bill on the grounds that necessary country public works had been deferred for years because of lack of funds yet now 5.5 to 6 millions pounds could be found for a work that would benefit the city alone. Drummond spoke fourteen times in all. Those supporting the Bill always had the numbers, but it was a fierce battle. At one point, after a session lasting more than seventeen hours, a tired Premier was forced to complain that 'it seems that the House has determined that this bill is not to pass.'
Underlying this strong country opposition was that continuing change in the structure of the New South Wales and Australian economies which had already led to the formation of the country parties and the new state movements. In essence, as Schedvin has pointed out, this involved a shift within the Australian economy from the primary sector and the creation of rural assets to the industrial sector and the creation of urban assets. Although the country population was not yet aware of the full extent of the shift, they were certainly conscious of aspects of it. They could see the growth in the metropolitan cities at a time when the country population in general was relatively stagnant and the rural and small town population actually declining, they were aware in a general sense of the costs imposed on them by tariff protection and they, too, wanted better roads, sewerage, water supplies and education. The Sydney Bridge therefore became a symbol of the prevailing weaknesses within the system, weaknesses that were preventing proper development and country growth. 'We were not so concerned with blocking what was an urgent Metropolitan work', Drummond later wrote, 'as in focusing attention on the necessity for balanced development.'
While the anti-Bridge feeling was widespread among country members, it was the Progressives who were best able to capture it. This was politically useful, but it did nothing to alter the basic weakness of the Progressives' position within the Assembly. Their difficulties increased in February 1923 when their federal colleagues joined a composite ministry with the Nationalists. This move attacked the very basis of the True Blues' actions in the 1921 split, and forced them to redefine their position so as to support coalition in the federal sphere while arguing against it at a state level. Then in June the Second Armidale New State Convention further increased the pressure on the Party.
The formation of the Bruce-Page Government in February 1923 had been greeted with high hopes by the new staters. Hughes' negative attitude towards new states, and his failure to introduce constitutional reform proposals, had probably been one of the causes of the clash between Hughes and Page that had culminated in Hughes' fall from power. Although Hughes now became an even more persistent critic of the New State Movement, the Northerners had every reason to be pleased with the result, for the press reported confidently that one of the terms of coalition had been the holding of a federal convention at an early date to consider constitutional amendments, especially with regard to new states. While these reports gave reason for optimism, the Northern Movement, now very aware of the opposition that had to be overcome, decided to hold a second convention in Armidale to reinforce its case.
The Convention, attended by some 250 delegates including twelve parliamentarians, opened on 5 June 1923 in cold and rainy weather. In opening the Convention Page told delegates that the Commonwealth had determined that the next step was for the State Parliament to pass an Act agreeing to the formation of a new state, providing for its constitution and self-government and arranging its finance. The Commonwealth Government would then introduce a Bill to admit the new unit to the Federation. Page was supported by the Nationalist Minister for Trade and Customs, Austin Chapman. 'Make the State Parliament move and you will find the Federal Parliament will do its share', Chapman told them. As we shall see later, this choice of words were ominous.
The Armidale Convention took the hint in Page's speech and decided to follow up the Assembly resolution of the previous year by seeking the appointment of a Royal Commission to determine the boundaries of a new state and to allocate the property and liabilities to be taken over by such a state. In preparation for this, tentative boundaries were defined to specify the area within which the Commission should work: the area selected included the coastal strip down to, and including Port Stephens, the Northern Tablelands, the Western Slopes and part of the Western Plains, and part of the Hunter Valley including Singleton, Scone and Maitland. However, this selection did not mean that the previous dissension over boundaries had been overcome; the boundaries simply defined the area over which the Northern Movement was active.
While the Convention did decide to take further action at state level, the need for federal action was not ignored. The Movement's objectives were formally redefined by the adoption of a seven plank platform, which incorporated and extended the decisions made at the previous Albury and Armidale conferences. However, while the platform was consistent with past decisions, a fight 'between the giants of the Convention' - to use Ellis' phrase - suggested that the Northern Movement was becoming more cautious if not more conservative.
During the debate Drummond, consistent with his belief that the Australian Constitution should be remodelled on Canadian lines, moved that the Movement affirm that its ultimate objective was the amendment of the Constitution 'to provide that State Parliaments be the legislatures with powers delegates by the Constitution and that the Federal Parliament possess the residual powers not specially allocated to the States.' Bruxner promptly moved an amendment almost identical to the motions that Drummond himself had moved at the previous Albury and Armidale conferences which affirmed the need for a redistribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the states but did not specify the form of the redistribution. Page also urged delegates to reject Drummond's motion: 'Scores of thousands of supporters of the movement', he asserted, 'were still deeply attached to the Constitution in its present form.' Page's plea was successful, and Bruxner's amendment was carried. Drummond's loss was important, for it opened a gap between the constitutional positions of the Northern and Riverina Movements; the Riverina Movement had affirmed its support for the Canadian model at its earlier Narrandera Conference.
In another move of longer-term significance the Convention rejected county councils as a substitute for new states. Drummond had attacked the councils the previous July, suggesting that their popularity was a sign of the failure of the existing state to adequately manage its territory. Now the Convention declared that an extension of local government powers through the formation of county councils could not give that 'complete machinery for the development of the area that the New State Movement desires.' There was a certain irony in this debate, for Colin Sinclair, the main speaker against the councils, would later turn against the Movement on just this point. In the meantime, the Movement took his words seriously enough to have them published in pamphlet form.
To support its general proposals, the Convention made another attempt to attract Labor support. Thompson, in a motion supported by Forde, gained the Convention's authorisation for the Central Executive to invite representatives of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party and of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to meet delegates representing the New States Movement 'in order to see whether the advocates of the Labor Party's Constitutional proposals are prepared to accept any of the essential points of the New States scheme, or vice-versa.'
The Convention had been a definite success. It had demonstrated that there was still considerable public support for the Movement and had given it new impetus. However, it was clear from the debates that many delegates felt frustrated by lack of progress. Bruxner told the Convention that the Movement must 'take drastic action'. He went on:
I am prepared to do my bit if you get tired of waiting, and you have been patient and long-suffering for many years. If you get properly tired, and you find you cannot get what you want from the Commonwealth Constitution, and if you think it necessary to take strong action like open a bank account in Armidale or Tenterfield or Lismore, and say, 'Well, we will pay the whole of our taxes into that account and start a show of our own' - if you are prepared to do that, and you want a man to stand up to it, I will be the first to go to gaol. And I can safely say if that does come about my colleagues in the North will nearly beat me to the door.
A similar mood was revealed later in the debate by a motion calling on new staters in the State House to throw the Government out if no action was taken. This motion was finally withdrawn, but its importance can be gauged from the prominence of those involved: it was moved by J.P. Abbott, a member of a prominent Upper Hunter grazing family long active in country politics, and seconded by Colonel H.F. White, a member of an equally prominent Tablelands grazing family and first Chairman of the Progressives' Northern Tableland Electorate Council.
Less than a week after the Armidale Convention, the Movement suffered another setback. On 12 June 1923, Bruce signed a letter to the acting Premier of New South Wales responding to the new state resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly the previous September. This said in part that since the Constitution already provided a mechanism for creating new states, there did not 'appear to be any necessity at this stage for submitting the matter to a Federal Convention.' Instead, the State should formulate a specific proposal and submit it to the Commonwealth Government which would, subject to the concurrence of the Commonwealth Parliament, 'be prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to give effect to the wishes of the Parliament and people New South Wales.' A similar if curter reply was sent to the Premier of Queensland.
As Deputy Prime Minister, Page must have been aware of Bruce's intention, so the letter represented a major volte-face on Page's part. The reasons for this can only be surmised. The Bruce-Page coalition had not met with universal approval within his own party, and Page may have been unwilling to force an issue that could have threatened the coalition's stability. Equally, he may have thought that a federal move would have little chance of success since party attitudes appear to have hardened on the issue. Whatever the reasons, Bruce's letter was further set-back to the subdivision movement. It also exposed Page to personal attack; the Treasurer 'has now reached the height of his ambitions and there is not the same necessity for New States' declared Senator Gardner (Labor, N.S.W.) in August.
Despite the set-back, the Convention was followed by further action at federal and state levels. The proposed talks between the Movement and the Labor Party do not seem to have taken place, but it would appear that Forde tried to take some action within his Party, while Thompson and the other new staters pressed for action within the Parliament itself.
At the state level, the Convention increased the pressure on the Progressive Party to take a firm stand against the Fuller Government. Late in June Bruxner told Central Council that his position as leader of the Parliamentary Party had become intolerable. The 'only way to defeat the present Government was to swing behind Labor', Bruxner said. However, that 'attitude would court the criticism of the daily press, and damage the Progressive Party. It was no use being in the position of the man with a gun and afraid to pull the trigger because of lack of ammunition.' He went on to deliver a stinging attack on certain segments of the Graziers' Association for the support they gave the Nationalists: 'He had to consider whether as Leader of the Party it was worthwhile to bring about reforms... in favour of men who when it came to a political fight were against you and their money also.' However, although the Party not did move against the Government, it was an industrial issue involving wheat pools rather than new states that provided the trigger.
The issue had a long and complicated history. During the war a system of pools had been introduced supervised by a newly established Wheat Board. Considerable quantities of wheat in the 1916-17 pool were then lost through mouse plagues, weevils, rot and sheer carelessness. Since payments to growers were based on the quantity of wheat sold, the losses became an important issue in the wheat growing areas. After a series of inquiries, it was decided that growers had indeed lost wheat but that, because of poor administration, they had also been overpaid for the remaining wheat delivered to the pool. The Government therefore decided that no individual compensation would be paid.
The Progressives had been promised that the growers would be compensated, and they reacted strongly: Bruxner told a reporter, 'If we consider that it would be in the public interest that there should be a dissolution... then we are not afraid of it.' The opposition took immediate advantage of the situation. On 8 August 1923 Lang moved a carefully worded censure motion against the Government which included a protest at payment of compensation to the Wheat Board. The following day Bruxner stated that unless the Government could give adequate reasons for the non-payment of compensation to growers he would have one of the Progressive members move an amendment to the censure motion to test the feeling of the House. Cabinet, however, refused to budge.
The Progressives were now in a difficult position. their stand was popular with wheat-growers and with the FSA, but was too sectional to draw wide support from sheep or dairy areas or from among the wealthier graziers. The Graziers' Association reaction was swift and negative. In Drummond's words:
In the midst of the struggle, Col. Bruxner told me that one of the Ministers had warned him "That a letter was coming from one of our main supporters, the Graziers' Association of N.S.W., which would put us in our place." We were both very incensed at what we regarded as a stab in the back from those we regarded as a pillar of our Party. That we should be told this by one of our opponents, roused us to fight.
The letter, received the next day, was indeed strongly worded. The issue was 'purely a legal one', wrote the Association's Secretary J.W. Allen. As such, 'it is not only unseemly but is a waste of public time to debate it on the floor of the House.' Bruxner and Drummond sat down and drafted a stiff reply: 'In it we made it clear that this deliberate attempt to dictate to us ... simply made us more determined to see the matter through. If the Government was defeated they would have themselves to blame.'
Drummond suspected that the contents of this letter were 'speedily conveyed to the Government', for the next day the Premier sent for Bruxner and proposed a compromise, the appointment of the Auditor-General to carry out an inquiry. Although Drummond later claimed this as a victory for the Progressives, it was a poor result for it seemed almost certain that the Auditor-General would recommend against compensation. Nevertheless, the suggestion was accepted: a Party meeting felt that it would be inadvisable to force an election on the compensation issue alone.
The Progressives had lost that round, but they had given Sir George Fuller a forcible reminder that his Government survived on Progressive sufferance. In November they drove this lesson home by combining with Labor, independent and dissident coalitionists to defeat the Government during the Estimates debate. The defeat forced the Premier to adjourn the House to consider his position. Sir George had had enough: he quickly consulted Bruxner to see if firm working arrangements could not be entered into between the two parties. This olive branch was accepted, in return for undertakings that there would be a Royal Commission on New States and a Main Roads Bill.
While Nationalist/Progressive conflict was a key element in the Parliamentary debates from August to November, there were at least two other important issues during the period. The first, a debate on the royal honours system, was largely of symbolic importance. In September George Cann (Labor, St George) moved successfully 'That, in the opinion of this House, the granting of titles is contrary to the sentiment of the citizens of New South Wales.' Drummond and Bruxner, angry at the way the honours system had been misused during the Holman period, voted for the motion as 'our way of expressing a protest against what we rightly believed to be a gross misuse of Royal patronage'. While Drummond's vote was a protest one, rejection of royal honours was to become a continuing part of Labor's platform.
The second important issue was a resurgence of trouble over the North's long held desire for an east-west rail link and associated deep sea port. Although the Government had still not decided where the proposed port should be, it had referred all the proposed rail links yet again to the Parliamentary Public Works Committee for a report. In November 1923 the Committee reported, rejecting all the various proposals as uneconomic because of high construction costs, low prospective revenue and likely adverse effects on revenue from existing lines. This conclusion was unexpected, and was greeting with public outrage. Northern members, regardless of party, combined to attack it and the Government hastily sent the matter back to the Committee for reconsideration on the grounds that new evidence had emerged. One of the members of the Committee, and one who had submitted a minority report in favour of the Guyra-Dorrigo railway, was David Drummond.
Drummond had been appointed a member of the Parliamentary Public Works Committee in 1922, and continued to be a member throughout his second term. It was no sinecure, for it involved 'strenuous work on top of sessions of Parliament... it usually meant... travelling on Thursday or Friday night to some distant part of the State to inspect and take evidence, returning on Tuesday morning.' Since the weekends were the only time Drummond could see his family during parliamentary sessions, his Committee work further disrupted family life. Nevertheless Drummond enjoyed it. 'To me it was a liberal education in the resources of the State and an excellent training in my judicial faculties.'
The photo from the James Vickers collection shows the Public Works Committee, Moss Vale - Port Kembla enquiry, at Macquarie Pass in 1924. Drummond is on the right.
In the beginning the other Committee members tended to ignore Drummond. He was only thirty-two, whereas their ages averaged more than sixty. In Drummond's view they
.. belonged to an era that the state was leaving behind. I belonged to a newer generation with new ideas and with little sympathy for those who would keep the State in a Stage Coach age or lose sight of the hard fact that we were no longer separate colonies but states in... the Commonwealth ... there was a tendency for the older members to regard me as a young upstart to be kept in his place.
However, Drummond's knowledge of the country quickly gave him an opportunity to establish himself with the other members.
The Committee had been asked to examine a proposed railway from Killarney on the South Queensland border to Grafton. Drummond, who knew the country well, was horrified to learn that the Chairman proposed to hire a big Cadillac bus to take the Committee and staff up the Clarence Valley. 'Knowing that the alleged road was only a bush track I bluntly told them that if they wished to commit suicide this was the way to achieve it. I was promptly snubbed.' Drummond therefore made his own plans. Upon the Committee's arrival in Grafton he sought out Norman Johnston, a successful pioneer in the Upper Clarence who was to act as pilot, and arranged to go in his car. With his future safety thus secure, Drummond settled with an easy mind to the four day examination of witnesses. By now the other Committee members had also become aware of the real state of the roads.
Just before the Committee left Grafton Norman said to me 'You must have known something.' 'Why?' 'Practically every member of the Committee has been after that spare seat in my car!'
The Committee left Grafton and had morning tea at Ramiaille Station some thirty miles up the valley. From there the road deteriorated. Shortly after leaving the homestead the bus got stuck in a creek and was only moved with great difficulty. Then the party came to a steep hill with a nasty bend in it.
Our pilot car went on about 150 yards and we opened the gate. We could hear the bus struggling up the hill and with one idea raced across to the dangerous bend arriving in the nick of time as the driver missed his clutch and the brakes began to give way. We just managed to throw small logs behind the back wheels. The brakes held and a very white faced Committee poured out of the bus...
Going cautiously, the bus managed to reach the Tabulum Hotel on the Casino-Tenterfield road. Unfortunately the road ahead to the border was far worse, following narrow contour ridges which fell away to deep valleys on either side. In dry periods deep in dirt, in wet seasons sticky clay bogs, such roads 'needed sturdy cars and skilful drivers.' Realising their mistake, the Committee discarded the driver and his bus and thereafter travelled in cars provided by Johnston and his friends. 'With the bonnet stripped from Dodge and Buick cars and with 4 gallon cans of water on each running board... the drivers fixed very heavy chains on the rear wheels and churned through the sticky mud.'
Following their narrow escape the Committee's attitude towards Drummond changed: they became 'more cordial and my advice was respectfully heard.' Nevertheless, a basic difference in outlook remained. When the Moree to Boggabilla railway was built, it was finished a short distance from the Goondiwindi railhead in Queensland. Drummond had tried to prevent this by moving that the Committee recommend 'to Parliament that the Govt be asked to enter into negotiations with the Queensland Govt for building a railway bridge across the River and a closing of the gap.' The Chairman immediately ruled that the Committee had no power to make such recommendations. Foreseeing this, Drummond 'had burnt the midnight oil finding a useful precedent in former proceedings of the Committee', and he challenged the Chairman's ruling. 'When it became obvious that on precedent and fact I could win my point someone moved I be no further heard and I was an unrepentant minority of one.' In Drummond's view the Committee's attitude, and the subsequent rail gap, was a deliberate attempt to stop fodder, wool and grain being shipped out via Brisbane.
This approach - and it was not the only such case during Drummond's term on the Committee - made him very angry. To Drummond, 'policies such as these had made of Sydney a giant octopus, where little consideration was given to the people of the land, and local businesses dependant upon them.' He believed that they 'were a reflection of interstate jealousies which heavily loaded the dice against the rapid growth of an Australian National outlook.' As a result, 'sections of our Federal Constitution like the provision of an Inter State Commission ...became a dead letter.... it has taken two great wars to force us as a nation along the path to saner and constructive policies.'
While these words were written many years later, Drummond's anger at the Committee's behaviour still comes through strongly. In the long term, the experience strengthened his commitment to new states and constitutional reform. In the short term, the Committee's rejection of the northern railways proposals strengthened the hand of those who were trying to force some immediate action from the State Government on new states. As a result, in December 1923 Drummond was able to move successfully in the Assembly
That in the opinion of the House a Royal Commission should be appointed to enquire into and report upon the proposed creation of New States to be formed in whole or in part from the territory of New South Wales, and matters incidental thereto.
On the surface, the Fuller Government's acceptance of this motion marked a major step forward for the separatists. Unfortunately, Drummond's wording gave the Government considerable freedom of action in drawing up terms of reference for the Commission. The results were not encouraging.
Under its terms, announced in April 1924, the Commission was to inquire and report on whether any of the proposed new states were 'practicable and desirable', on their probable financial and economic results, and as to whether new states were necessary or whether similar ends could be 'adequately secured by the creation of some form of local governing authority.' The Northerners, who had wanted a Commission just to lay down boundaries for the state, now had to pass three main tests: whether new states were practicable; if so, whether they were desirable; and whether the same ends could not be achieved in another way.
These tests made the membership of the Commission vitally important, for unsympathetic appointees had three different if related grounds for recommending rejection. The omens were not encouraging here either. The Chairman, Justice John Jacob Cohen, although born in Grafton, was a former university colleague of Fuller, had been a Liberal and then Nationalist member of the Legislative Assembly, and had been Speaker in the Holman Government from 1917 to 1919 before resigning to take up a judgeship. F.N. Yarwood, the second Government nominee, was a Sydney accountant prominent in Nationalist circles. The third Government nominee, L.J. Astley, was president of the Dubbo Nationalist Association and a member of the State Council of the Party. In addition there were two new state appointees, Colin Sinclair representing the Northern Movement and J.A. Lorimer representing the Riverina. Perhaps the most important appointment was that of counsel to assist the inquiry, W.A. Holman, who was to be assisted by H.S. Nicholas. Holman's appointment raised the biggest question mark, for as Premier he had clashed with the new staters while his political career had been destroyed by those same Progressives who were now the chief protagonists of the new state cause.
Despite the omens, the Northerners organised thoroughly for the task ahead, It was agreed that Thompson would organise the general evidence while Page, as Commonwealth Treasurer, would prepare the necessary financial data. A thorough-going effort was also made to assist individual witnesses in the preparation of their evidence. A special booklet was prepared and circulated for use by witnesses who were also invited to write for material. Work by the central organisation was supplemented at a league level. The Upper Hunter District Council, for example, allocated thirty-nine prospective witnesses to cover twelve topics.
The Commission began its substantive hearings in Sydney on 19 May 1924. It was immediately clear that the Movement was on public trial. On 29 May the Grafton solicitor Alf Pollack wrote to Page to say that Holman's method was to 'cross-examine one witness for the purpose of getting facts to use against other witnesses.' Drummond, who gave his evidence at Glen Innes in June, also wrote to Page of the 'cross-examination I was subjected to by Mr Holman.' Like Pollack he believed that the evidence must be coordinated: 'The whole of the salient points of the evidence will have to be co-ordinated in terms of the reference, so that the position can be finally argued seriatim with those terms.'
The Commission became a duel between Thompson, leading for the Movement, and Holman. Thompson felt sure that he was winning: 'I am doing my part ... and there is no half measures about it', he wrote to Page in June. 'I understand exactly what he [Holman] is trying to do, and I am not the least alarmed by it.' This assessment was not shared by others. On 6 June, an alarmed Pollack wrote twice to Page, stressing the need for expert cross-examinations and arguing that Thompson could not provide it. 'I'm afraid that he has neither the experience, nor the training, not the temperament necessary'. Drummond, while not criticising Thompson, also considered that the best counsel would be essential at the important Sydney hearings. It is clear even from Thompson's own words that the constant Thompson/Holman battle was seriously affecting the Commission's operations: 'My own opinion is that the Commission has got into a hopeless fog over the whole thing. The remarks of Yarwood and the Judge are utterly foolish at times,' he told Page.
Victor Thompson was in trouble. He emerges from his letters as a sincere, fussy and hardworking man, with a distinctly proprietorial air toward the Movement he had played such a major role in founding. Now tired and under continuous strain, he was unable to both lead the fight within the Commission and provide the leadership necessary to unify the Northern Movement in the face of the significant problems that were beginning to emerge.
There had always been some limited opposition to the new state ideal within the North. With the Commission's hearings under way, this increased, with some opposing witnesses and a few sporadic anti-new state meetings, including one at Maclean attended by eighty people. Of more significance, however, were the divergent views inside the Movement itself, particularly over the vexed boundaries question. This was really a dispute over detail rather than principle: the coastal new staters were committed to separation first, and would accept wider boundaries if these were necessary to achieve that goal. But the dispute plus the opposition, however weak, provided good copy for the metropolitan press. 'The Sydney press are conducting a most disgraceful campaign', Thompson wrote in June. 'The "Herald", "Telegraph", and "Sun" have each a man with the Commission and all are picking out trivialities designed to discredit the whole thing.' To the tired Thompson it was too much. 'Of course we have reached the stage at which the Sydney press is trying to smash the whole thing', he complained.
Thompson may well have had grounds for his complaints, but there was at least one issue on which the press could justifiably comment. Page, given responsibility for the preparation of a financial report on the Northern proposal, had submitted a statement to the Commission suggesting that a Northern new state would have an annual surplus of 416,064 pounds. This statement was crucial, for its acceptance by the Commission would have provided official confirmation of the basic Northern belief that Sydney was being subsidised; this would have given the Northern Movement an almost overwhelming impetus. Bertram Stevens, the Director of Finance in the State Treasury, was therefore given the task of preparing a detailed official statement of the estimated income and expenditure figures for all the proposed states for the 1922-1923 financial year. This proved disastrous, for Stevens' revenue estimates were 25 per cent lower than Page's, and his expenditure estimates 40 per cent higher, leaving a deficit of 1,286,072 pounds. A thoroughly agitated Thompson wrote to Page in September: 'This financial stunt has to be straightened out so as to make it look more favourable for us. No doubt you will realise the seriousness of it.'
The Movement responded to these various pressures as best it could. Thompson felt early on that their chances were slim, but also thought that Cohen might agree to a referendum to test public opinion. To try to achieve this, Thompson maintained the attack within the Commission, marshalling witness after witness to demonstrate not only the arguments but also the depth of new state support. Further, in a effort to minimise coastal/inland disputes, and to assist in the handling of the Maclean opposition, Pollack joined Thompson as his deputy during the coastal hearings. Finally, the Movement attempted to improve its evidence.
As early as May, Page had cabled the State Statistician and Drummond to try to get certain material in Australia Subdivided updated. This was a wise move, for Holman attacked the booklet heavily. As the case progressed and the problems became clearer, it was agreed that Page should prepare and present revised budget estimates taking into account the new material that had become available. In doing so, Page drew on the services of his own Department. A Treasury official analysed Stevens' evidence while the Department also collected comparative material on costs in other states. Thus the Commission was presented with the then unusual spectacle of the Commonwealth Treasurer, assisted by his officials, versus the State Treasury.
In the end it had all been in vain. Holman had been able to persuade the Commission to accept the State Treasury figures in preference to those supplied by Page, and the Commission's Report, finally released in April 1925, was a devasting attack on the separatists and their claims.
The Report's objectives were quickly made clear: 'we hope not only to show that new States are not necessary, but to suggest improvements which may help to remedy some of the defects in the existing machinery of government brought to our attention.' In often scathing language, presumably reflecting Holman's drafting, the Report tried to show that Australia Subdivided and similar Movement publicity was simply propaganda without adequate basis in fact, to demonstrate that certain separatist arguments, (particularly those by analogy with American and Canadian experience) were invalid, and that Page's budget analysis was fallacious. The language used demonstrates just how important the Commission considered this last point to be. 'Unfortunately for those responsible for the New State agitation', the Report stated, 'imagination rather than actual facts have been allowed to predominate.' By contrast, the Treasury figures 'distinctly show the fallacies of the figures previously given by the advocates of the Northern New State.' The Report concluded that the creation of new states was neither desirable or practicable; even Sinclair, the Northerners' own representative, agreed that new states were not desirable, although he still felt that a Northern state was practicable. It recommended instead that district councils should be formed with certain specified powers over functions such as public works, education, lands, public health, and local government.
With the benefit of hindsight, the Report was far less damning than appeared at first sight. In rejecting new states it accepted that country people had justified grievances. Many of these, the Report suggested, would be overcome by actions already promised by the State Government such as the construction of new railway lines. Others could be overcome by the proposed district councils. Unfortunately, the Government promises were never implemented while the district councils foundered on the same rock that had upset the new state cause, the unwillingness of the State Government to give power to the regions. Even at the time, many of the Report's arguments, while providing a fascinating display of the nature of official thinking, were open to attack.
There is not room here to analyse the Report in detail; only the main points can be noted. Perhaps most important, the financial analysis accepted by the Commission was subject to a number of crucial weaknesses. Leaving aside the question of using a single year's budget figures as a base, the state officials themselves admitted that there was no way of making accurate estimates. Further, both sides used different assumptions in the preparation of revenue and expenditure estimates, assumptions the validity of which the Commission (at least in its Report) made little attempt to assess. In addition, both the Commission and the new state representatives ignored the dynamic aspects of the proposal. Based on the official Treasury figures, it would appear that separation would have resulted in the transfer of at least 500,000 pounds in government spending - a large figure in those days - from Sydney to Northern New South Wales.
The Report's financial analysis was thus not only open to attack but even contained material that could be used by the separatists. The same was true of other sections of the Report. For example, while the Commission rejected suggestions that the rail system was now weighted against country interests (it accepted that it had been in the past) the evidence contained in the Report suggested not only that it still was, but also demonstrated the strength of the States' right position that Drummond had earlier complained about. To take just one example, while the Commission was in favour of a uniform gauge, it rejected a proposal made in a Commonwealth report that the States should contribute on a per capita basis. In doing so the Commission recognised that the proposal would benefit producers midway between the capital cities, but considered that:
.. to ask the people, more especially those located within the radius of Sydney and Newcastle, to pay a per capita contribution towards the standardization of other States' railways ... which ... would only in course of time tend to divert both trade and traffic from those ports, would be unfair and not likely to be acceptable to the greater portion of the population of New South Wales.
The Report's own bias was recognised at the time. The Melbourne Age, in an obviously sympathetic editorial, suggested the unfavourable report was not a cause for surprise, nor was it a reason for slackening effort: 'The commission represented the interests of one State, or part of a State, and while its members must be credited with a sincere desire to form a sound judgement, the absence of unconscious State bias would have been remarkable. The case for new States is undeniably strong.' The Movement's capacity to follow this advice was limited. The enormous effort mounted during the hearings had drained money and enthusiasm. In addition, Labor's victory at the State elections held in May 1925 immediately after the Report's release meant that the scope for immediate political action at the State level was reduced. The movements elsewhere in New South Wales collapsed, while even the stronger Northern Movement was reduced to a shadow of its former strength. Yet despite this, the Northern activists managed to keep a campaign going. Within the Federal Parliament the new staters, led by Victor Thompson, continued to press for action although without immediate success. Their efforts were supported by David Drummond, now using his pen as his principal weapon.
During the first half of 1926 Drummond, who had held his seat in May albeit with a slightly reduced vote, wrote a series of articles for Country Life on constitutional reform. Later in 1926 these were gathered together and, with a foreword by Bruxner, published under the title Constitutional Changes in Australia. Current Problems & Contributing Factors. A Non-Party Examination of the Position. The result could hardly be classified as literature: Drummond's lack of formal education was still apparent in his sometimes clumsy construction, while the articles were repetitive and written in a popular style. Nevertheless, they were important. Not only were they the most detailed statement of separatist views to that date, but the arguments used would remain relatively constant over coming decades. Drummond would develop them further, his emphasis would change and new issues would be introduced, but the framework remained constant. For that reason, it is worth examining the booklet in some detail.
Drummond's basic argument reflected his recent political experiences. He began by dividing constitutional thought into three schools, the states' righters, the new staters and the unificationists. The states' righters were those who believed in the Federation as then constituted, including the existing structure and the existing distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the states. By contrast, the unificationists wanted to abolish the states and replace them by counties with delegated powers operating under central control in a fashion similar to that in Britain. The new staters occupied the middle ground: they wanted to retain the Federal system but replace the larger states with smaller states while redistributing powers between the Commonwealth and states.
Not surprisingly, Drummond rejected the states' rights position out of hand. He had previously argued that Commonwealth and state powers should be redistributed, and now regarded it as self-evident that the present division of powers could not be right and proper for all time. He was prepared to accept that, given the existing constitution, the states should predominate in Commonwealth-state disputes in order to prevent duplication of activities. He pointed out, however, that the High Court's decision in the Amalgamated Engineers' Case had already destroyed this position beyond recall by establishing the principle that, subject to certain qualifications, a wide construction could be placed on Commonwealth powers through the interpretation of the wording of the Constitution in a literal sense, regardless of the consequent overlap with, and impact on, existing state activities. Drummond ended by dismissing the states' rights school as lacing in any 'understanding of the new national spirit abroad in Australia which is demanding a settlement of the anomalies which this very school succeeded in fastening on to the Federal Constitution.'
Drummond's attitude towards the second constitutional school, the unificationists, was very different. Many of the arguments put forward to support the unification school were similar to those used by the separatists to justify their own position. Probably for this reason, Drummond devoted a number of articles to first defining and then rebutting this school. Unification, he suggested, was expected to bring many benefits: one parliament would mean reduced costs of legislation, one government would mean reduced costs of administration and greater efficiency in handling Australia's problems, while uniform laws would reduce friction. However, in practice it could not deliver such benefits.
Dealing first with the cost of government, Drummond distinguished between the cost of government programs and politics, the general cost of the civil service and the administration, and the cost of parliamentary government, that is the parliaments, ministers, politicians, electoral arrangements, royal commissions and select committees. On the cost of politics and programs, Drummond suggested that the cost of most programs, defence for example, were independent of the system of government and should not be blamed on it. On the costs of administration, he attacked the popular idea that Australia had too many government employees, suggesting that in some cases such as that of teachers, it had too few. In any event, the creation of a unified civil service was likely to increase not reduce the size and cost of the civil service since it would require the creation of a new hierarchy of public servants over and above the existing state services.
So far as the cost of parliamentary government was concerned, Drummond suggested that there seemed to be an assumption that every citizen carried the cost of seven governments. This was a fallacy: each citizen supported only two, the Commonwealth and one state, plus of course whatever system of local government was in vogue in that state. He also pointed out that while the average cost per head of parliamentary government (Commonwealth plus the relevant state) varied from state to state, the national average at three shillings and five pence was in fact very low, 'little more than the cost of registering a dog'. There was no reason to believe, he suggested, that the cost of a union government plus provincial or county council would work out less than three shillings and five pence per head.
Drummond then turned to the likely impact of unification on the legislative process. He started by suggesting that laws were 'merely the means of regulating forces by directing them into proper channels.' Should those channels not exist, or become blocked, then the result was grave unrest among the people affected. By its very nature, legislation tended 'to standardize the conditions under 'practically every law inflicts some hardship on someone or other.' as a result, 'practically every law inflicts some hardship on someone or other.' This outcome, which was usually justified on the grounds that you can only legislate for the great majority, was not acceptable in Australia because of its size and geographical diversity.
The contention here is that no one legislature can hope to satisfactorily legislate for Australia as a whole, and the reasonable inference is that the best system for Australia would be one that would entrust to separate legislatures those areas which contain, as nearly as possible, that community of interest which would make the laws framed generally applicable to all parts of the area, without undue hardship to any.
To support his point, Drummond pointed out that Australia's growth had led to a growth in the volume and complexity of legislation. Since much of this legislation related to specifically local issues, its transfer to a union parliament would overload that parliament with relatively trivial matters. In this regard, the war had involved Australia in international relationships 'which must and should absorb a great deal of the attention of our statesmen.' However, this job could not be done efficiently 'if our statesmen are submerged in a mass of local legislation and detail, or harassed by friction as at present, with States over-conscious of their dignity and importance.' Already the Commonwealth Parliament had failed to use to the full its exclusive powers in important fields such as marriage and divorce legislation: 'Nothing is more embarrassing than the artificial restrictions caused by the State boundaries, and nothing more desirable than uniform legislation in regard to these matters.'
The obvious answer to any overload problem was to leave all minor legislation to the county councils. To Drummond the key issue here was the powers to be given to such councils. Should they be given legislative powers free from outside interference then they would, to that extent, become new states in their own right. 'It is necessary that this should be clearly understood', Drummond wrote, 'as it is very evident that many people who call themselves Unificationists are really New Staters, or at least they believe in a large number of States with reduced powers and paraphernalia of State.' To those who wanted the new councils to have delegated powers only, leaving the central government with right of veto, Drummond had a simple answer: he pointed to the experience of local government in New South Wales. There the central government had drawn all power to itself, 'leaving but the shadow to the local governing authorities.' This result, Drummond suggested, was inevitable in a unitary system; 'whenever a political party sees the opportunity of strengthening its position at the expense of something or someone else, it will not be deterred by purely academic consideration.'
In the last sections of Constitutional Changes in Australia Drummond developed the new state position. The arguments he put forward, such as the need for a constitutional convention if constitutional change of any significance was to be achieved, were not new. What was new was the way in which he simplified and codified them, thus providing a coherent framework for new state beliefs.
Constitutional change must be determined, he suggested, by certain broad principles. The first of these could be summarised as 'geographical considerations affect Government.' Because Australia's vast size and geographical variation made central control difficult, the country needed a system of government that could keep in effective touch with every part of the Commonwealth in the most direct manner; that is 'it must provide real Local Government.' To ensure this, the local units must control everything not purely national in operation, while their constitutional rights must be safeguarded from undue interference by the central government. Further, within the ambit of their powers, they must be given the right to amend their own constitutions subject to reasonable safeguards against temporary majorities. The areas of these local units should be determined at their own request, but must be of sufficient size to prevent too great an aggregation of legislative and administrative work being thrown onto the central government. 'In other words it must be clear that if the reduction of areas is carried to extremes it will inevitably mean an increase in central government control and a corresponding diminution of Local Government.' Finally, any constitutional change must also be determined with due regard to the Commonwealth's ability to fulfil its international obligations.
To meet these principles, Drummond suggested that the Australian Constitution needed to be restructured. Firstly, Australia should adopt the Canadian principle under which the central government exercised power over all subjects not exclusively passed to the provinces. Secondly, areas such as northern and southern New South Wales or northern and central Queensland which were already considerably developed should be given immediate local government, while undeveloped areas of the existing states should, as Drummond had suggested at the Albury Conference in 1922, be turned into federal territories. Again Drummond had Canada in mind: following the Canadian precedent, the new territories should be controlled by a commission of four, with conditional legislative powers 'until such times as their progress justified, first, the inclusion of an elected consultative Council, and later a grant of full local governing powers.'
Drummond's proposals would have involved radical changes in the Australian political system and their chances of acceptance were therefore slim. Nevertheless, a large number of copies - 5000 - were printed, and the booklet was given wide circulation. Since there was no way that Drummond could afford this, Bruxner - as with Australia Subdivided - played a key role in underwriting the project while donations were sought. Initially these were slow in coming - 'I am rather disappointed with some of my own friends who I thought might come down very handsomely', Drummond wrote to Bruxner in September 1926, - but gradually the total mounted, helped by ten pounds from Harold White with a promise of more if required. On the distribution side, Drummond sent copies to everybody he thought might be interested or influenced, while his friends and colleagues did likewise.
It is clear that Drummond took the project very seriously, perhaps hoping that it would meet with the same popular success as Australia Subdivided. When Ern Sommerlad, the Glen Innes Examiner's Managing Director, told him in September 1926 that he wanted to break up the type used for the booklet, Drummond wrote him a very stiff and formal letter indeed. Sommerlad, knowing Drummond well, responded in a friendly but firm fashion: 'Your terribly fearsome letter arrived today, representing much wasted effort on your part', he wrote. Explaining why they needed the type, he asked Drummond to let him know immediately what his plans were, concluding with a P.S.: 'There's not going to be any booklet argument as far as this chicken's concerned.' If Drummond did expect the booklet to have an immediate popular impact he was being unrealistic. However, it did have a significant and continuing influence on Northern and country political thought.
Apart from putting the new stater's case, Constitutional Changes in Australia was significant for several more reasons. Its heavy emphasis on the Commonwealth's international role was a clear sign of Drummond's broadening outlook, an outlook that was in advance of popular (and government) opinion at the time. This emphasis may well have reflected the influence of The Round Table, for by the time the booklet was written he was probably a member of its Sydney group.
The Round Table had its genesis in South Africa, in the reconstruction period following the Boer War: there a group of able young men, (the oldest was thirty-one) had come together to serve under the then British High Commissioner to South Africa, Sir Alfred Milner. Known as 'Milner's Kindergarten', the men formed a close-knit group with common views:
They were imperial idealists, having deep faith in the value of the British Empire to all mankind, besides its own peoples, and in the civilizing mission of Britain and her daughter nations... The Kindergarten believed, too, in the positive role of the state and the moral duty of social reform.
Upon their return to Britain the group, joined by others, formed a unique institution: a discussion group with its own magazine, Round Table, and with its own general vision, but without any formal constitution, organisation or platform. Related groups were formed in others parts of the Empire, including one in Sydney in 1910. It was an influential group: at the time Drummond joined, the members of the Sydney group included Bavin, Armand Bland, Henry Braddon, W.H. Moore and Mungo MacCallum.
There was do doubt that Drummond shared many of the Round Table views. Strongly nationalistic, he yet saw no conflict between this and the Round Table version of a Commonwealth and Empire united by ties of blood and loyalty. 'Australia is the land of opportunity. Above all, of opportunity to establish firmly a worthy branch of the British race', he wrote. He also believed in the League of Nations as a way of achieving peace, becoming one of the early Vice-Presidents of the League of Nations Union. Finally, although he had still to discover the novels of John Buchan, himself a member of the Round Table and who was to become one of his favourite authors, he would certainly have agreed with the words of Archie Roylance in Buchan's novel, John Macnab:
He preached the doctrine of Challenge; of no privilege without responsibility, of only one right of man - the right to do his duty; of all power and property held on sufferance... He had no patience with the timorous and whining rich. No law could protect them unless they made themselves worth protecting.
If Constitutional Changes in Australia was significant for its emphasis on foreign policy, it was also significant for its attacks on the Lang Government over its plans to reshape the New South Wales Upper House. By the time Constitutional Changes was published, Drummond was already developing his own proposals for reconstruction of the Upper House, proposals that would form the basis of the changes finally introduced in 1933.
The unreformed Upper House dated from the establishment of responsible government in 1856. The New South Wales Constitution Act of 1855, an Imperial Act, gave the colony a bicameral parliament, an elected Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council of at least twenty-one members nominated by the Crown, that is by the Governor acting on the advice of the Executive Council. The new Council was intended to be a house of review, acting as a check on the more extreme democratic elements within the Assembly.
The differing roles of Assembly and Council, and the differing methods of appointment of members, meant that clashes between them were inevitable. In such cases, the only solution open to a government was to persuade the Governor to appoint additional members to the Council in an attempt to swamp the opposition. Since appointments to the Council were made for life, the number of members rose from the original twenty-one to seventy-give by the turn of the century, before stabilising at about this number.
By the first decades of this century, the view that the Council needed reform was widely held. The issue came to a head during the first Lang administration. Between August 1925 and March 1926 the Lang Government brought down the bulk of its more radical legislative program. The Bills roused considerable opposition, and a number were amended by the Council. As a result, the Governor reluctantly agreed in December 1925 to appoint twenty-five Labor members to the Council to strengthen the Government's position. With its position thus strengthened, the Ministry brought a Bill into the Council in January providing for its abolition. The Bill sparked a major crisis, and was ultimately blocked by the Council itself.
This political turmoil led to dramatic hardening of political attitudes. It was not just Lang's legislative program but the man himself that upset his opponents. Drummond thought him 'a remarkable man by any reckoning. Over 6' with a face like a football he had grown up during the tough struggles on the industrial front & carried into Parliamentary leadership the bitter sense of wrong & rough & tumble fighting of the unions of the day.' Drummond's words make it clear that it was Lang's approach as much as his policies that created the tensions.
He brought our Parliament a degree of bitterness that was a new experience to me. It had been the custom @ the end of the year just prior to adjourning for Christmas to hold a social gathering of members of all Parties where the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and the CP proposed toasts & a political truce was declared for a time. Lang refused to attend in the first year of his Premiership but permitted his deputy John Baddely to represent him. That was the beginning of the end & the custom ceased in what was a bitter season.
It was apparent that Drummond always had some respect for Lang, but Bruxner, with his reverence for parliamentary customs and traditions, loathed him.
Attitudes towards the role of the Legislative Council reflected rising political tensions. The Government's supporters correctly saw the Council as an obstacle to their legislative program, while those on the other side of the political divide came to see it, again correctly, as their main defence against Lang. There was now widespread recognition, even amongst the Council's strongest supporters, that some form of change was necessary if the Council's role was to be preserved; it became apparent to the National and Country Party leaders and organisations, Drummond later wrote, that the Legislative Council 'as a nominated House of life members had ceased to be a bulwark against hasty legislation. By sheer logic of facts they were driven to find an alternative... and one more in accord with modern trends'.
Drummond had felt for a number of years that the nominee chamber was doomed, and had therefore read extensively among the standard constitutional works on the subject by jurists such as Lord Bryce:
The one thing that shadowed all their theories of reform of nominee Houses, which were intended to be non-Party Chambers of Review, was to find a substitute that would be flexible enough to enable legislation of the Lower House to give effect to the will of the people as expressed in Election Policy Speeches without being a rubber stamp for the Lower House.
He set his mind to solve this problem, always with the knowledge that the proposal must ultimately find 'enough Legislative Councillors willing to risk political extinction to pass the amending Act'. This was not an easy task, for Council membership was highly valued.
In the first months of 1926 Drummond presented reform proposals first to Buttenshaw, who had taken over from Bruxner as Party leader the previous December, and then to the Country Party's Central Council. Drummond's central point was that reform was inevitable. Should the anti-socialist parties again get the opportunity to reform the Council and fail to act, then sooner or later a system would be planted on the State that would leave the government of the State 'absolutely in the hands of an unscrupulous majority, untrammelled by any of the safeguards that exist here or elsewhere'. He went on to point out that the thirteen country electorates in New South Wales had only thirty-nine out of ninety members, while the North, with a population equal to that of Western Australia, had only fifteen. This distribution of seats would worsen as the balance of population shifted further in the direction of Sydney. In these circumstances, the only way in which the rural areas might get better representation was by way of Upper House reform: 'It cannot be seriously argued that even under present system of nominee members for the Council that the country gets a fair spin'.
Having made these general points, which were designed to gain acceptance for reform within the Party, Drummond suggested that any scheme must meet certain tests. It was essential that any incoming government have at least fair representation in the Upper House, but that House should not become a mere replica of the Lower House; if it did, it would soon prove itself an expensive nuisance. However, membership could not be limited by restricting the franchise, since any attempts to introduce voting qualifications (especially property qualifications) such as existed elsewhere 'would be tantamount to political suicide for the Party making the attempt'. To meet these tests, Drummond proposed that Council members be elected in two ways. Half the Councillors should be elected by popular vote, but on an electoral system skewed to give rural areas twelve of the proposed twenty-one popular seats. The second half of the Council would be elected by the Legislative Assembly immediately on assembling after the election; voting should be by proportional representation.
Drummond did not consider his scheme perfect, but he did think that it might be politically acceptable. 'Unless you can get constitutional questions politically acceptable you can't get them at all', he later said. Nevertheless, even as he explained it to the Party, Drummond 'saw the fallacy & weaknesses' of considerable portions of what he was expounding. The Party thought it a very helpful solution to the problem, and Drummond then had to inform them that it would be necessary to recast the whole document. It must have been an amazing about-face, but the Party accepted it and he went off to redraft his scheme.
Drummond finally presented his new scheme some twelve months later. It was a much more sophisticated proposal, which drew heavily from the 1918 Bryce Report into reform of the House of Lords, and on the newly published The Unreformed Senate of Canada by Professor MacKay of Toronto University. Drummond started by suggesting that any proposal must take into account two main considerations: it had to be radical enough to commend it to the electors, and yet it had also to obtain the consent of the existing Council before becoming law. Given these two constraints, Drummond went on to consider and reject a number of possibilities including direct election, election by local government bodies, election on a restricted franchise, and election of representatives from various community groups in similar fashion to the system adopted in the Irish Free State.
Having rejected these various alternatives, Drummond proposed that there should be a Council of sixty-four members elected for twelve year terms by the Assembly by proportional representation. He also proposed transition provisions under which existing members would retire progressively, so that the last of the nominated Councillors would have retired by the end of nine years. To ensure adequate country representation, Drummond suggested that the Assembly should be divided into two electoral colleges, with members from Sydney and Newcastle and the remainder of the state each electing equal groups of Councillors.
In conclusion, Drummond pointed out that his new proposals offered a number of advantages. They guaranteed a fairly popular basis for Council membership while providing better representation for the country and also providing an opportunity for men of standing in the community to enter the Council without having to go onto the hustings. They would also provide a regular succession of new members into the Council in due proportion to party membership in the Assembly, thus providing 'the government of the day with a reasonable following without swamping'. Finally, the proposals should gain the support of existing Council members.
Drummond's plan was accepted by the Party. Even as they were discussing it, a message was received from Bavin, who had taken over from Sir George Fuller as Nationalist Leader, suggesting that representatives from the two parties should meet to discuss Council reform. Buttenshaw and Drummond therefore met with Bavin, Fuller and Levy. Bavin opened by putting forward a plan almost identical to that which Drummond had put forward twelve months earlier. Drummond explained his objection to Bavin's plan and put forward his own, which was well received. Bavin turned to his colleagues saying, 'I feel this is the right thing', and the Nationalists adjourned to report to their Party.
Following the meeting Drummond sent copies of his notes to Bavin, pointing out that his first plan had 'sufficient similarity to your own to indicate a remarkable coincidence.' He also told him: 'You will note that the Party has made no pronounciation on this matter and there is no question of Party kudos but a general desire to give the State something that will prove of real value to it...'. This attitude probably made it easier for the Nationalists to accept Drummond's plan in principle. Once they had done so, Drummond and Bavin took the plan to the hustings with a view to forcing the issue at the election the Government had called for October 1927.
The political events that had triggered the moves towards Legislative Council reform also pushed the Country Party (the Progressives had finally changed their name in August 1925) and Nationalists closer. From the first session of the 1925 Parliament the two parties had worked closely together, with the two leaders conferring on joint action in the House and on policies towards Government legislation. In October 1925 the pressure on the parties to form an electoral (as opposed to a parliamentary) alliance increased sharply with the introduction of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections (Amendment) Bill: this provided for the abolition of multi-member electorates and their replacement by single electorates with simple-majority voting. The Bill was strongly opposed by the Country Party because it threatened the Party's independent existence. It was finally passed, but only after the Government had been forced to amend it to replace simple-majority voting with optional preference.
Although proportional representation had been cumbersome, Drummond was sad to see it go. In his view, it had broken through the 'isolationism which enabled members and Parties to set one section of a rural electorate against another', reducing 'to an absurdity the old political stock in trade of sectarianism and rival public works.' It had also dealt a blow to the detested pre-selection system: 'It demonstrated that it was possible for a Party to have multiple endorsements of candidates and yet win the maximum number of seats because and not in spite of allowing free endorsements.' Drummond felt strongly that multiple endorsements had given 'a virility to our Party and saved us from the inevitable scandals that blackened the Partys that used pre-selection for a single candidate.' For this reason he and Bruxner would later fight within the annual conferences of the Party for retention of the practice, watching with regret its gradual disappearance over the last years of their political careers.
Anti-Government feeling in country districts probably peaked during the March to September 1926 parliamentary recess, that is during the period in which Drummond was writing and publishing his articles. Protest meetings were held, while both the Graziers' Association and the FSA conferences protested against the Government's record in the strongest terms. Pressure for some form of electoral arrangement mounted, assisted by the leadership changes that had taken place in both the Country and Nationalist Parties. In December 1925 Bruxner, who had wished to give up the leadership for some time, finally resigned. Bruxner had always been a strong supporter of Country Party independence and would have resisted electoral agreements. By contrast, his successor, Buttenshaw, was less committed to independence. On the Nationalist side, Fuller had been replaced by Bavin who understood the Country Party members and had maintained rapport with them, despite the strains of 1921. Even Drummond, who fully shared Bruxner's general views about the role of the Party, had remained good friends with Bavin.
Despite the strength of feeling in favour of coalition, the Parliamentary Party did make a declaration of independence early in November 1926, by announcing its intention to contest all country seats, but the tide was running against it. A few days later the President of the Graziers' Association called for an electoral arrangement between the Nationalist and Country Parties, while on 8 November the Council of the New South Wales National Party proposed that an electoral arrangement should be entered into and appointed Bavin to carry out negotiations. The Graziers' Association General Council met within a fortnight and supported these moves, advising their Special Purposes Committee, which controlled the Association's financial aid to the Country Party, to use its discretion in strenuously supporting this policy. Under this pressure the Country Party gave in: an agreement was reached which provided for a joint committee of four from each party to allocate the different country seats to the party with the best chance of winning them. The committee completed its allocation in June 1927, giving the Country Party fifteen electorates: these arrangements were to be strictly enforced.
The electoral changes complicated David Drummond's life. Bruxner was the logical candidate for the new Tenterfield electorate, even though it included Drummond's home town, Glen Innes. There were rumours that Drummond would contest the new seat centred on Inverell but then, late in November 1926, it was announced that he planned to submit his name for endorsement for Armidale. This move was contested. When the Armidale Electorate Council called for nominations two were received, those of Drummond, and of a local schoolteacher, D.W.H. Lewis, who had also been a candidate in 1925. The Council refused, however, to accept Lewis's nomination, officially on the grounds that it had not been submitted through a recognised branch of the Country Party, but more probably because he had threatened the previous December to contest the seat whether or not he received endorsement.
Neither Drummond nor the Party took for granted his success at these elections, to be held in October 1927. Although Drummond was relatively well-known, and had gained in prestige from his election two months before as President of the FSA, his Labor opponent, Alfred McClelland, was also well known. The Party spent considerable sums on advertisements and paid organisers and canvassers, while Drummond was also given a grant from Central Council of 100 pounds to cover travelling expenses. For his part, Drummond made an extensive tour of the electorate before the campaign began, then concentrated on the larger centres and Labor strongholds during the campaign. During his speeches he stressed two themes, the danger of Lang and his 'Red Extremists', and his old favourites, decentralisation, new states, and the need for a separate Country Party. His efforts were well rewarded, for Drummond won the seat easily with more than 62 per cent of the first preference vote.
This post continues my story of the life of the New England Leader David Henry Drummond. You will find a full list of posts here.
Unless otherwise cited, the general political background in this chapter is drawn from: U.R. Ellis, The Country Party: A Political and Social History of the Party in New South Wales, F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1958; B.D. Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties from their origin until 1929', PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1958; B.D. Graham, The Formation of the Australian Country Parties, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1966; G. Harman, 'Politics of the Electoral Level - A study in Armidale and New England, 1899-1929, MA (Hons) thesis, University of New England, 1964; and D.A. Aitkin, The Colonel: A Political Biography of Sir Michael Bruxner, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1969. Supplementary material on the new state movement is drawn from: U.R. Ellis, New Australian States, The Endeavour Press, Sydney, 1933; R.W. Birch, 'The New State Movement in Northern New South Wales', BA (Hons) thesis, Sydney University (New England University College), 1947; E. Moore, 'The Causes of the Agitation, after 1901, for the establishment of a New State in Northern New South Wales', MA thesis, Sydney University (New England University College), 1953; and G. Harman, 'New State Agitation in Northern New South Wales 1920-1929', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol.63, Pt.1, June 1977, pp.26-39.
Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1921. Cited Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties', p.330.
Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties', p.330.
Sydney Morning Herald, 6 January 1922. Cited ibid.
Aitkin, The Colonel, p.60.
Ellis, The New South Wales Country Party, p.64.
Cited Ibid, p.61.
Daily Examiner, 15 February 1922. Cited Ellis, The New South Wales Country Party, pp.65-66.
Ellis, The New South Wales Country Party, pp.65-66.
See, for example, the Sydney Morning Herald of 23 March 1922 in which the Progressives and Nationalist advertisements advise an exchange of preferences. Cited Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties', p.337.
Apart from his general speeches on rural themes, he had spoken, or asked questions, about schools in the electorate, (NSWPD Vol.81, 23 November 1920, pp.2685-2687); police stations, (Vol.81, 24 November 1920, p.2779); orphanages, (Vol.81, 23 November 1920, p.2687), and had quoted electors in the Assembly by name. (Ibid).
Drummond described the arrangement in NSWPD, Vol.81, 8 December 1920, p.3366.
Cited Aitkin, The Colonel., p.95.
The material on the Temperance Movement is drawn from Harman, 'Politics at the Electoral Level', pp.182-183.
The Tamworth Daily Observer had changed its name to Northern Daily Leader to reflect its new role as Northern spokesman. Cited Aitkin, The Colonel, p.61.
Voting figures are taken from C.A. Hughes and B.D. Graham, Voting for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly 1890-1964, Department of Political Science, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, 1975, p.181 and p.192.
Cited in Aitkin, The Colonel, p.64.
Material on this meeting is taken from Aitkin, The Colonel, pp.65-67, and Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties', particularly pp.349-350.
Minutes of Joint Meetings of PPCC and the Parliamentary Progressive Party 1922-1923, 20 April 1922, p.26. Cited Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties', p.26.
Cited Aitkin, The Colonel, p.67.
Material in this paragraph is drawn from E. Moore, 'The Causes of the Agitation', p.56. Moore's material is drawn from New State Magazine, May 1922.
Armidale Chronicle, 13 August and 14 September 1921. Cited in G.S. Harman, 'Politics At The Electoral Level', p.217.
Cited Moore, 'The Cause of the Agitation', p.59.
For example, it seems from the Armidale Express, during this period that, whatever the decline in apparent enthusiasm may have been, there was not only general public acceptance of new states but even a wide belief in their inevitability. It should be noted that while the rise and fall of branches does reflect changes in public support: the growth and collapse of branches is associated with intensity of feeling and immediacy of objective. D.A. Aitkin (The Country Party in New South Wales. A Study of Organisation and Survival, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1972) brings this point out particularly clearly in his discussion of Country Party organisation.
New State Magazine, July 1922.
Minutes of the Central Executive, 16 May 1922. Cited Harman, 'Politics at the Electoral Level', p.208.
Cited Aitkin, The Colonel, p.77.
Unless otherwise cited, material on the Conference is taken from: Australian New States Conference. Official Report. Proceedings of Conference of Delegates held in the Town Hall, Albury, N.S.W., on July 3rd and 4th 1922, Leader Print, Copy in Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/2146/17. The Conference is also mentioned in: V.C. Thompson. Brief History of Movement in North and Elsewhere, Northern Central Executive, April 1929. (Date and authorship given by supporting papers). Copy in Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/2146/9; and Ellis, New Australian States, pp.164-165.
In addition to the Northern and Riverina delegations, representatives came from South Queensland Separation Movement, Central Queensland, West Australian Great Southern Movement, Eastern Goldfields (West Australia), Southern Tablelands, South Coast and Monaro League, Central West (the last three all from New South Wales), the New States of Australia League (Sydney), Australian League (Melbourne), and the Decentralisation League (Clunes, Victoria).
By November 1922 Thompson was reporting to Central Executive that the only tangible movement in Western Australia was on the goldfields, which suggests that the Great Southern Movement had already expired, while the movements in the Central West (at Parkes) and that in the South (headquartered at Goulburn) were small (from an enclosure in the New State Magazine, November 1922. Cited Moore, 'The Causes of the Agitation', p.55). Nothing is known of the South Queensland Separation Movement, other than it was probably formed following Drummond's and Perdriau's visit to Bundaberg since one of its delegates was Steve Walker, nor of the Australia League or the Decentralisation League. The Western Australian goldfields' movement appears to have expired late in 1922 or in 1923.
Others appointed to the Executive were Dr. Radford (Goulburn), Macartney Abbott (Sydney), E.J. Gorman (Riverina), W. Buzacott (Rockhampton), Steve Walker (Bundaberg), W.E. Taylor (Parkes), J.H. Prowse M.H.R. (Country Party) and J.W. Cole (both Western Australia).
D.H. Drummond, Constitutional Changes in Australia. Current Problems & Contributing Factors. A Non-Party Examination of the Position, Glen Innes Examiner Print, Glen Innes, 1926, p.40. Page in fact seconded the motion but made it clear that he thought it should be withdrawn. It went to the vote however, presumably because Drummond wanted to press it forward.
See Radford's evidence to the Cohen Commission: Report of the Royal Commission Of Inquiry into Proposals for the Establishment of a New State or New States, formed wholly or in part out of the present territory of the State of New South Wales, Government Printer, Sydney, 1925, p.3.
U.R. Ellis, A History of the Australian Country Party., Melbourne University Press, Parkville, 1963, pp.322-323.
The text of the resolution is given in Ellis, New Australian States, p.171. It is also set out in E.G. Theodore's letter to the Prime Minister of 4 October 1922. (Copy in Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022).
NSWPD, Vol.88, 22 August 1922, p.1194. The debate is contained in Vol.88, 22 August, pp.1194-1211; 5 September, p.1595-1613; 19 September, pp.1943-1973.
Quoted in debate, NSWPD, Vol.88, 19 September, p.1944.
NSWPD., Vol.88, 5 September, p.1596.
NSWPD, Vol.88, 19 September, p.1962.
This material is taken from an election broadsheet headed 'NEW STATERS IN THE FEDERAL FIGHT.' Copy in the W.T. Seaward Papers, Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society Archives, Scone.
Material on the Bill is taken from: NSWPD, Vol.88, pp.1697-1701; Vol.89, pp.2421-2452, 2987-3031; Vol.90, pp.3140-3188, 3201-3224.
Although the exact votes varied from Division to Division, the vote on the Bill's third reading was typical of the general pattern. Of the thirty-nine members who voted for the Bill, thirty-two were from Sydney and only seven (including five ministers) came from the remainder of the State. By contrast, of the thirty votes against, twenty-seven were from non-metropolitan areas as compared with only three (including J.T. Lang) from Sydney. Of the Northern members, thirteen (including all three Newcastle members) voted against and two, both ministers, voted for. In party terms, the Coalitionists voted twenty-nine for to six against whereas Labor voted ten for and sixteen against and the Progressives none for and five against.
NSWPD, Vol.89, 25 October 1922, p.3026.
G.B. Schedvin, Australia and the Great Depression. A Study of Economic Development and Policy in the 1920s, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1970, pp.4-5.
See, for example, Buttenshaw's presidential address to the August 1923 FSA Conference. Cited Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties', p.354.
Harman, 'Politics at the Electoral Level', pp.209-210. L.F. Fitzhardinge, The Little Digger 1914-1952, Vol.11 of William Morris Hughes: A Political Biography, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1979, does not mention this point.
See, for example, his articles in the leading city dailies in June, July and October 1923. Cited Harman, 'Politics at the Electoral Level', p.210.
Ibid, pp.210-212. See also Moore, 'The Cause of the Agitation', pp.57-58.
Northern New State Movement, Official Report of proceedings of the Second Convention held in the Town Hall, Armidale on June 5, 6 & 7, 1923, Leader Print, Tamworth. Unless otherwise cited, all material on the Convention is taken from the Report. Copy in the W.T. Seaward Papers, Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society Archives.
V. Thompson, Brief History of Movement in North and Elsewhere New States, issued by Northern Central Executive, April 1929 (Date and authorship given by supporting papers), Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/2146/9. The influence of weather should not be underestimated given human inclinations and the state of the roads. As Norman Johnston of Bonalbo wrote to Page on 1 December 1920: 'The weather has been so uncertain for months past that I have not arranged for any of the State members to address meetings here as our Roads are such that a Storm would absolutely frustrate our plans." Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1621/121-2.
Daily Examiner, 2 July 1924.
Ellis, New Australian States, p.180.
NSWPD, Vol.87, 6 July, pp.162-163.
Northern New State Executive, New States or County Councils? Address delivered at Second New State Convention Held at Armidale on June 5, 6 and 7, 1923 by Colin Sinclair, Vice-President of the Northern New State Central Executive, Leader Print, Tamworth. Copy in Dr. Barton's Papers, Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society Archives, Scone.
Copies of both letters are in the Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1026.
The Labor Party remained committed to its constitutional proposals which, although some Labor members such as Fenton denied that they were unificationist (CPD, Vol.103, 14 June 1923, p.86), were still unacceptable to the new staters given that they involved subordinate provinces on South African lines with very limited delegated powers. In addition, there was considerable Labor suspicion if not opposition towards any likely constitutional proposals emanating from the Government. Scullin declared that any such proposals were likely to involve 'retrograde steps' (CPD, Vol.102, 1 March 1923, p.169) while Coleman declared that the 'intention to add to the expenses of government is indicated by the desire of a minority in this House for the establishment of new States' adding that the New Staters were 'a lot of visionaries.' (CPD, Vol.102, 1 March 1923, p.169ff). Since there was considerable opposition among the Nationalists to any significant constitutional change, the Labor attitudes meant that there was no real chance of any constitutional consensus emerging in the House. Given that a Convention, which might have overcome some of the problems by taking debate outside the Parliamentary context, was still opposed by both the Labor Party and some members of the National and Country Parties, Page may have had no choice but to drop the matter. Noticeably, the Governor-General's speech in June contained no reference to constitutional reform. (CPD, Vol.103, 13 June 1923, p.5ff).
CPD, Vol.104, 8 August 1923, p.2292.
There is no reference to such talks, nor to any correspondence concerned with them, in the minutes of either the Federal Executive or the Labor Party Caucus. In September Victor Thompson told delegates to the Rockhampton Convention of the Central Queensland Movement that the Armidale resolution had never been put into effect and successfully moved a motion urging Forde to bring to matter under the immediate notice of the Federal Labor Party. (Ellis, New Australian States, p.148).
See P. Weller, assisted by B. Lloyd, Caucus Minutes 1901-1949. Minutes of the Meetings of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, Vol.2, pp.190-191, 222, 234 and 275.
Broad details of the Federal campaign can be found in Ellis, A History of the Australian Country Party, pp.107-112.
Cited in Aitkin, The Colonel, p.70.
Cited ibid, p.70-71.
Unless otherwise cited, material on the wheat pools dispute is drawn from: Ellis, The New South Wales Country Party, pp.74-77; Aitkin, The Colonel, pp.71-72; Graham, The Formation of the Australian Country Parties, pp.207-208.
Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 1923.
NSWPD, Vol.91, 8 August 1923, p.93.
NSWPD, Vol.91, 9 August 1923, p.131.
Cited Aitkin, The Colonel, p.72.
According to Drummond, Fuller 'proposed... that the N.S.W. Auditor-General should conduct the Inquiry. As the Auditor-General in N.S.W. is an officer responsible to Parliament, and has his independence guaranteed, we agreed to accept the compromise.'ibid.
Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties' p.359, quoting Hugh Main.
NSWPD, Vol.93, pp.2518-2587.
Ellis The New South Wales Country Party, p.78; Aitkin, The Colonel, p.76.
NSWPD, Vol.92, 25 September 1923, pp.1068-1078.
Material here is taken from DM, pp.82-85.
Material in this paragraph is drawn from NSWPD, Vol.94, pp.2809-2859. Harman ('Politics at the Electoral Level', pp.151-166) gives some general background to the dispute. The columns of the Armidale Express during the period demonstrate the level of popular feeling.
Material (including the quotations) on Drummond's experiences on the Committee is drawn from DM, pp.107-126.
NSWPD, Vol.94, p.3668.
Report of the Royal Commission into...New States, p.V.
Material on the background of the Commissioners is drawn from: Ellis, The New South Wales Country Party, p.89; and from Radi, Spearritt and Hinton, Biographical Register.
Moore, 'The Cause of the Agitation', p.64.
Papers relating to this meeting are in the J.P. Abbott papers in folder marked 'New State Movement in 1920s.' Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society Archives, Scone.
Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
17 June 1924. Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1031.
7 June 1924. Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
Drummond to Page, 17 June 1924. Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
Thompson to Page, 7 June. Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
Reported in Daily Examiner, 6 June 1924. It is clear that there had been previous trouble with Maclean associated with the development of the Gorge scheme, for on 26 June Page wrote to Pollack: 'I think it is imperative that a man with local knowledge should put the Maclean chaps through their paces and especially a man who knows something about the Country Council, and their previous public history, and their wild sayings.' Page Papers, National Library MS 1633/1022.
See Daily Examiner, July 2, 1924.
Thompson to Page, 7 June. Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
The Report of the Royal Commission into ... New States, p.13ff, discusses the financial aspects of the various proposals.
13 September, Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
Thompson to Page, 7 June. Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1022.
Copies in Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1031.
Thus in Sydney in May Holman 'adopted the procedure in Macartney Abbott's case of taking him practically through the statements in "Australia Subdivided", and asking him if the statements were true, and whether it was a proper thing to put them before the Public as facts.' Pollack to Page, 29 May. Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1031.
Bagot, Page's Private Secretary, cabled the Commission in October asking for 'another set of evidence so Treasury officer can work on one set while Dr. has set with him.' Copy in Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1031.
Bagot to Commonwealth Treasury, 23 October 1924. Copy in Page Papers, National Library, MS 1633/1031.
H.V. Evatt, William Holman: Australian Labour Leader, Famous Australian Lives edition (abridged), Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1979, p.391. Evatt thoroughly approved of Holman's stand. 'It was Holman's services to the State at this Commission and the convincing findings thereof which practically killed the agitations to split the Mother Colony of Australia'.
Report of the Royal Commission into ... New States, p.3.
The analysis in this and subsequent paragraphs summarises a number of very complex issues which deserve more detailed consideration. The length of the Commission's deliberations, and the range of issues covered during the hearings, mean that the Report and associated newspaper reports and transcripts are an unworked treasure trove on country attitudes and problems at the time.
To take only one example here, this method assumes that the year in question is a typical one in terms of levels of economic activity.
This figure is a rough calculation based on: (1) the cost of new departments such as the Premier's Department which clearly represent new expenditure; (2) where head office costs known, the total of such expenditure; and (3) where head office costs are not known, an approximate pro-rata breakdown of the expenditure totals. The detailed financial material in the transcripts should allow more precise figures to be calculated and should also allow estimates to be made of the income effects of separation. Thus additional expenditure within the region would have generated additional flow-on incomes via the multiplier. At the same time, to the degree the new state needed to increase taxation to fund this expenditure then incomes would be reduced with consequent negative multiplier effects.
Material on railways is set out in the Report, p. 69ff.
22 May 1925.
Ellis, New Australian States, p.197.
Ellis's A History of the Australian Country Party, pp.152-153, contains a summary of Federal new state action.
The material on the articles, and on their subsequent publication in booklet form, is taken from letters in FP.
Glen Innes Examiner Office, 1926.
For a later version of Drummond's views, still bearing the unmistakable stamp of Constitutional Changes in Australia, see Australia's Changing Constitution: No States or New States, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1943.
Constitutional material in this section is drawn from: R. Else-Mitchell (ed.), Essays on the Australian Constitution, The Law Book Company of Australasia Pty. Ltd., Sydney, 1952; G. Sawer, Australian Federal Politics and Law 1901-1929, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1956; R. Menzies, Central Power in the Australian Commonwealth, Cassell Australia, 1967. (First published Cassell & Co. London 1967), p.26ff; J.E. Richardson, Patterns of Australian Federalism, Research Monograph No.1, Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations, Australian National University, Canberra, 1973, pp.17-18.
Constitutional Changes, p.6.
Material in this and the next paragraph is drawn from letters in FP.
7 September. Copy in FP.
Sommerlad to Drummond, 18 September. Original in FP.
J. Quick and R.R. Garran, The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1901, pp.631-640, gives a clear picture of the Commonwealth's foreign policy power at the time of Federation. Development of the power (particularly from a constitutional viewpoint) is covered in: J.G. Starke, 'The Commonwealth in International Affairs'; R. Else‑Mitchell, Essays, pp.287-313; and Menzies, Central Power, p.115ff. Development of foreign policy from the historian's perspective is covered in: T.B. Millar, Australia in Peace and War. External Relations 1788-1977, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1978.
In April 1927 he was billed for his annual subscription. The letter suggests that he had been a member for at least a year. In FP. The historical background on Round Table is drawn from: H.V. Hodson, 'The Round Table 1910‑1981', The Round Table. The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, Issue 284, October 1981, pp.308‑333. This was in fact the last issue of the journal. For an analysis of Round Table's influence in Australia see: L. Foster, 'The Round Table - Influential or Not?', Postgraduate Seminar Paper, La Trobe University, 1980.
Hodson, 'The Round Table', p.309.
Constitutional Changes in Australia. p.48.
R. Darlington, 'Political Socialisation in New South Wales Government Schools from 1914-1939', MA thesis, Macquarie University, 1981, p.183.
His eldest daughter, who had read all his books, does not remember any books by Buchan. She first discovered Buchan about 1929 when lent a copy of The Thirty-Nine Steps by Harold Wyndham, who was at that stage the Drummonds' next door neighbour.
First published July 1925. Hodder and Stroughton edition, no date, p.198.
General material on Legislative Council Reform is drawn from: P. Harvey, 'The Reform of the Legislative Council in New South Wales with a consideration of its implications for the effective resolution of dead locks in bicameral parliaments', Litt B thesis, University of New England, 1981, pp.1-27; and K. Turner, House of Review? The New South Wales Legislative Council 1934‑1968, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1969, Chapter 1. Neither Harvey nor Turner - Turner's book is the standard work on the New South Wales Legislative Council - mentions Drummond's role in the reformation of the Council. Evidence on Drummond's role is drawn from: Interview Transcript; DM, pp.134-138; and from a folder of notes and correspondence on Council reform in the Drummond Papers, University of New England Archives, A248/3009.
This and the next quotation are drawn from DM, p.134.
See Buttenshaw's letter to Drummond of 13 May 1926 and the typescript pages entitled 'Upper House Reform', which sets out Drummond's first reform proposals. Unless otherwise cited, the material in the immediately following paragraphs is drawn from the typescript. Drummond Papers, University of New England Archives, A248/3009. There is an inconsistency between the scheme Drummond describes later in his manuscript autobiography and that set out in his papers. I have followed the earlier account.
Copy in Drummond Papers, University of New England Archives, A248/3009.
R.A. MacKay, The Unreformed Senate of Canada, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1926.
Drummond to Bavin, 13 August 1927. Drummond Papers, University of New England Archives, A248/3009.
General political material in this next section is drawn from: Aitkin, The Colonel; Graham, 'The Political Strategies of the Australian Country Parties' and The Formation of the Australian Country Parties; and Ellis, The New South Wales Country Party.
Material in this paragraph is taken from DM, pp.129-132.
Material on Drummond's election campaign is drawn from Harman, 'Politics at the Electoral level', pp.381-383.