I can understand why some delegates at the NQLGA meeting suggested that more detail was required to give the idea (of self government) credibility. It's not that the information and arguments are not there. It's just that all the detail of past arguments has been lost in historical terms.Then in a comment on Belshaw's World - scoping New England’s environmental wars Mark wrote:
I think back when I was a young apprentice and I once heard an old toolmaker speak about the failed referendum over the proposed "New State".It is now 47 years since the loss of the New England New State plebiscite and the effective collapse of the New England New State Movement in the sometimes bitter in-fighting that followed. By the time that Mark was born, that loss was 12 years in the past. By the time that my eldest daughter was born, that loss was 20 years in the past. You can see why I say that the detail of past arguments has been lost in historical terms.
I'm glad that I stumbled across your blog Mr Belshaw. The more that do read, the more I'm sure will see that there can be an alternative to what we have now.
I have begun outlining some of the history of the Movement to help bring this part of our history alive.
However, there is a broader issue.
Creation of new states involves a mix of constitutional, technical, political and public policy issues. It also involves imagination, the act of imagining what might be done and done in new ways in a new constitutional arrangement freed from the trammels of the past.
In 1915 in Grafton, a public meeting was called to protest the decision by the Holman Government to remove the free steam ferry Helen that had linked Grafton and South Grafton. Attended by around 250 people, the meeting unanimously carried a motion suggesting that the time had now come for the North to consider separation, either alone or in connection with the southern portion of Queensland. While it would be still be a little while before sustained new state agitation emerged, that meeting marked the effective start of twentieth century new state agitation.
Over the 52 years between the Helen incident and the plebiscite, the arguments for and against new states were fought out.
While often dismissed by the metropolitan press, we sometimes forget that papers like the Sydney Morning Herald are just as parochial as their country cousins, the new state supporters had sufficient firepower to challenge opponents on an intellectual as well as political level. Their support came not just from local or regional activists, but also from city based academics, professionals and writers, as well as staff from the newly created New England University College and then University of New England.
Wearing my historian's hat, I am not a great believer in the lessons of history as such. However, I do believe that those who forget the past are inclined to repeat the mistakes of the past. In this context, I can't help noticing how discussions on issues such as constitutional change or regional development over the last thirty years have consistently ignored previous discussions.
Since 1967 economic and demographic change, together with changes in the balance of power between Commonwealth and States, means that some of the things that a New England State might have done in 1967 are no longer possible. The power is no longer there, while the barriers to effective regional development have grown.
To my mind, this does not invalidate the idea of new states in general nor of self-government for New England in particular. However, it does mean that past arguments have to be tempered in light of the changes since.
Taking all this into account, I thought that it might be interesting and helpful if I explored past discussions on the constitutional, technical, political and public policy issues associated with new states. Some of it's pretty dry stuff, but it will go some way towards answering the concerns of some delegates at the NQLGA meeting that more detail was required to give the idea of separation credibility. The detail is there. We have just forgotten!
Other posts in this series:
- New State arguments 2 - no states or new states
- New State arguments 3 - geographic basis of government
- New State arguments 4 - party politics
- New State arguments 5 - the power of imagination
- New State arguments 6 -sharing the benefits
- New State arguments 7 - the constitutional position
- New State arguments 8 - why Sydney needs out from NSW
- New State arguments 9 - benefits of self-government
- New State arguments 10 - technical issues 1
- New State arguments 11 - the importance of a dedicated public service
- New State arguments 12 - the importance of history