Bundaberg voted ‘yes’ to Federation in 1899

Queensland Federation vote
How the The Bundaberg Mail and Burnett Advertiser reported the Federation vote in September 1899. Source: Trove

Did you know that Brisbane voted against Queensland joining the Australian Federation 120 years ago while Bundaberg voted in favour?

The Queensland referendum was held in September 1899.

The final yes vote was 55.39 per cent, the lowest of any in the six colonies. NSW voted 56.49 yes while Tasmania and Victoria were 94 per cent.

In Queensland, preliminary figures showed the “No” vote prevailed in the metropolitan area with 9532 votes against 5447 in favour of Federation.

In Bundaberg it was 725 yes and 288 no.

For several weeks leading up to the vote there was spirited debate across Queensland, with many public meetings where speakers argued for and against.

The Maryborough Chronicle reported on 5 August 1899:

Mr Thomas Glassey, Member for Bundaberg, and ex-leader of the Labour Party, has been slow in making his Federal speech to the electors, but has made ample amends in the quality of the deliverance. The speech was made in Bundaberg on Wednesday night before a monster crowd of people, and proved to be a very able statement of principles and facts, and personal conclusions deduced therefrom. Mr Glassey presented himself as a Federalist, with the soundest reasons for being so, and his declaration should ensure an overwhelming Federal majority in Bundaberg beyond the shadow of doubt.

Mr Glassey addressed the question of who Queensland was being asked to federate with — people of their own race, their own colour, speaking the same language and living on the same continent, similar in religion and springing from the same stock.

The MP's speech drew applause with loud and prolonged cheering.