"What were the arguments for and against federation?"
Thanks for your question. Before 1901 Australia was not a nation, but a collection of six British colonies. The colonies were almost like separate countries; for example, each had its own government and laws, its own defence force, issued its own stamps and collected tariffs (taxes) on goods that crossed its borders. In the late 1800s, popular debate in Australia about the idea of federating revealed there were many different opinions. Some of the areas where people felt strongly for or against federation were:
- The capacity of a strong federated government to manage issues such as trade, the economy, defence and immigration
- The cost of setting up and running a federal parliament
- Concerns we would lose our cultural ties to England and concerns the emerging cultural identities of the six colonies would be lost.
- The benefits that would come from centralising services such as railways and post.
- The benefits that would come from removing the taxes and duties on goods moving between the colonies/states.
This is just the tip of the iceberg! Check out this Closer Look paper to find out more about federation, or look at our video or factsheet.