'Our wayward and backward sister colony': Queensland and the Australian federation movement, 1859-1901

McConnel, Katherine (2006). 'Our wayward and backward sister colony': Queensland and the Australian federation movement, 1859-1901 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, University of Queensland.

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Author McConnel, Katherine
Thesis Title 'Our wayward and backward sister colony': Queensland and the Australian federation movement, 1859-1901
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2006
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Geoffrey Ginn
Total pages 402
Collection year 2006
Language eng
Subjects 430101 History - Australian
Formatted abstract The historical account of Queensland’s record in the Australian federation movement constitutes one of the unresolved ‘dark spots’ of the movement’s historiography. The Queensland pattern of participation in the federal process was contemporarily described as being ‘somewhat different to the other colonies’. This departure from the conventional emphasis on the movement’s ‘progress’ towards the inevitable attainment of nationhood has resulted in most accounts ‘gloss[ing] over the Queensland chapter.’ The principal objective of this thesis is to construct a more complete understanding of Queensland’s involvement in the movement towards the political federation of the Australian colonies.

The catalyst for the analytical approach adopted by this thesis was Brian de Garis’1972 assertion that there were ‘six federation movements rather than one, and the march of each colony towards the inauguration of the Commonwealth needs to be ‘placed’ in the context of its own history.’ Building on this premise it is argued that the federal movement was a distinct yet peripheral movement that intersected with the internal political and social dynamics of each colony. The discrete nature of these colonial contexts therefore shaped the course of the movement in each colony rather than the movement itself being an overarching and altering force. This thesis is not a detailed account of the negotiations between the colonies but a contextual analysis of the Queensland matrix of social, political and economic factors that the broader movement for political federation negotiated.

As the idiosyncratic quality of Queensland’s involvement originated in the political culture that developed consequent to the colony’s late settlement and attainment of self-government, this thesis has taken the colony’s 1859 separation from New South Wales as its start date. The particular features that emerged from the colony’s developmental process and assumed wide-ranging significance were the colony’s decentralised pattern of settlement, the influence of regionalism and the importation of Pacific Island labour. The notable derivatives of these factors were the enduring coloured labour question, the advent of separatist demands in Central and North Queensland and the politicisation of white labour. These domestic issues had both a local and intercolonial impact on the consideration of the federal question and therefore are a focal point of this thesis’ examination.

Broadly stated this thesis’ fundamental argument is that Queensland’s in difference to and inconsistency in the federal movement was a consequential result of the colony’s political and populist fixation on the rapid development of its vast resources, which prompted a series of volatile political and social issues. In essence Queensland was too preoccupied with its own internal matters to consider the development of a peripheral movement. Yet, alternatively these domestic Queensland issues galvanised the federal movement in the other Australian colonies by presenting a concrete practical issue that required federal action. The final convolution in the Queensland account was that the principal domestic impediments to the colony’s consideration of the federal question in thelate 1890s, the separation and labour movements, emerged as decisive factors in Queensland’s narrow affirmative vote to enter into the federal compact.

This thesis does not promote a ‘Queensland is different’ or more important or instrumental argument, but rather portrays the complexity of the federal story within the dynamics of one colony. In reinstating the individualism of the Queensland account it presents a more workable understanding of Queensland’s‘ paradoxical’ performance.
Keyword Queensland -- History -- 1851-1901
Queensland -- Politics and government -- 1851-1901
Australia -- History -- 1851-1901.
Australia -- Politics and government -- 1851-1901
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Variant title: Queensland & the Australian federation movement, 1859-1901

 
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