Friday, February 02, 2007

Constitutional Change in Australia - the view from 1926: Introduction

Note to Readers: This is the introductory post in a short series looking at the 1926 constitutional views of the Australian politician and writer David Drummond. My aim is use past thought to inform current debate on the Australian Federation. Because it is a series I will add a full list of posts at the end once the series is complete.

In my post on Australian Constitution & the High Court Decision on Work Choices I commented on the remarkable intellectual poverty in current debates about Australia's Federal structure, an assertion I repeated in my post Australian Federalism in an International Context.

These were assertions. I thought, therefore, that I might illustrate my point by taking a 1926 example.

In 1926 David Drummond, the Country Party member for Armidale and a New England new state leader, wrote a series of articles on constitutional reform for Country Life, a farmer newspaper. Later in 1926, these were gathered together and, with a forward by fellow NSW Country Party parliamentarian Mick Bruxner, published under the title Constitutional Changes in Australia. Current Problems & Contributing Factors. A Non-Party examination of the Position (Glen Innes Examiner Office).

Drummond was then 36 and had been a member of the NSW Parliament for six years. He would go on to be a member of the NSW and Federal Parliaments until 1963, including twelve years as Minster for Education in NSW. Partly because his Party had no constitutional expert, Drummond saw this as important, he set himself to learn about constitutional issues and was active in constitutional debates over his political career.

Constitutional Change in Australia can hardly be classified as literature: Drummond's lack of formal education (he left school at 12) was still apparent in his sometimes clumsy phrasing, while the articles were repetitive and written in a popular style. Nevertheless, the results present a developed framework, one that was to provide an evolving framework for one stream of Australian constitutional debate over the next forty years.

It is also a framework that affected my own views since Drummond was my grandfather and I used to debate the issues with him. I have added or changed things because of my own experience in politics and public administration, but the core frame remains.

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