It’s very interesting to read the above posts and not be struck by the question “Why???” As in , how could it end up like this ? .We are one country yet we ended up with different road rules , at Federation in 1901 three different railway gauges . Think of the opportunity we had as a new country to standardise a transport system yet we , as they say in the modern vernacular , blew it big time . Everything has a genesis , a beginning , a birth . Here is my take on it ./
In 1885 men of power met to discuss Federation of the Colonies of Australia ,also New Zealand and Fiji were included. Henry Parkes the premier of New South Wales ( NSW ) the other members present . , being Barton , Deakin , Clark and Griffiths . There was a representative from NZ present , I think it was General Steere . Parkes put forward that we would adopt the "Constitution of Amalgamation " as used successfully by Canada , tempered with inclusions from the British Westminster System . They agreed to meet again in 1991 ./
The meeting of 1991 saw a change of attitude .
Parkes decides he wants the Senate in the Governments of the States and the new Federal Government to have power over the House of Representatives . Parkes was an anti Catholic militant activist who blamed Catholics for the loss of the land south of the Murray River in 1851 that became the state of Victoria . Catholics at the time supported the Labour movement and according to Parkes would dominate the House of Reps . Strangely enough though Catholics in general did not support federation in the initial stages .
Barton wanted the new governments of the states and the federal Government to have all the power of decision with the House of Reps and the Senate to be there as advisers only . He was a man of vision and was a worthy first Prime Minister . It put him on a collision coarse with Parkes but he won out . Well sort of.
3 ) Clarke and Griffiths had studied the American or Massachusetts Constitution as they called it and decided we should scrap the Canadian " Constitution of Amalgamation " Their idea was adopted . This is where it all went wrong . There were other variables of coarse but it is beyond this piece to go into them .We adopted a bastardised version of the American constitution with inclusions of the British Westminster system added as we saw fit. Under the Canadian Constitution it outlined a firm and well established Central Government with very well defined powers .The provinces , territories or states were part of the whole but only existed under the auspices of the Federal Government .
4 ) Because the Australian states feared loosing power to a Central government the US constitution with its emphasis on the " rights of the States " suited the power brokers of the time . mainly Barton , Deakin and Clarke., ideally . It was adopted with modifications to suit Australia by 1901 .
Just by the by .Queensland if you check the 3 referendums for federation only voted in the 1901 referendum . The reason was the " White Australia Policy " Queensland used Kanakas ( Melanesians , Micronesians ) taken from the islands to the North of Australia to cut their sugar cane . It was a form of "indentured servitude " and they would have to abandon it it if they supported Federation as the "White Australia Policy " precluded all coloureds and Asians . Western Australia wanted to stay with Britain but a mineral strike there and the migration of population to the mineral fields carried the Federation Vote there .
Lastly we became a country in 1901 but had no capital . The construction of Canberra did not begin till 1913 and the Federal Government had to wait till 1927 to take residency there . In the meantime our capital was shared between Melbourne and Sydney ./
We had men that could not agree on a capitals location . , railway gauges as mentioned ., gun laws , road laws . I’m a fifth generation Australian or should I say Victorian because something that is born out of confusion , our Commonwealth , can only breed more confusion . We adopted the wrong constitution and are still paying the price of that indecision .