22 January 1899 – Leaders of six Australian colonies meet to discuss confederation

Eight true facts about the founding of Australia and the Australian Constitution

1) In the Australian Constitution, New Zealand is mentioned as a potential state in the Federation. For reasons only known to themselves –  perhaps the striking similarities combined with the subtly disturbing differences between the two countries’ accents, or Australia’s relatively low sheep-to-human ratio, or possibly the urgent need to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom and deal with New Zealand’s orc infestation – New Zealand refused the honour of becoming one of the states of Australia, which has resulted in confusion between the two nations’ flags ever since.

2) Western Australia, on the other hand, is only grudgingly acknowledged as a potential state in the Federation, and then only on the proviso that “Her Majesty is satisfied that the people of Western Australia have agreed thereto.” Ah, Western Australia, you are such a tease.

3) There are more mentions of alcoholic beverages in the Australian Constitution than there are of human rights. True fact.

4) Anyone “attained of treason” is incapable of being chosen or sitting as a senator or member of the House of Representatives. Imagine. Also, what other things can you be attained of? The Constitution doesn’t say.

5) Australia celebrates the Queen’s Birthday on two separate occasions: most of the country in June, and Western Australia in September. Despite Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II having been born on only occasion, to the best of our knowledge, in Commonwealth countries around the world the Queen’s Birthday is celebrated on six different dates. And none of these are her actual birthday! As a staunch monarchist, I am careful to observe all of these occasions. Also because I like holidays.

6) The Federal Commonwealth of Australia is constitutionally “indissoluble”. The likelihood of Australia being ground up into powder and dissolved into a liquid – possibly for medicinal purposes – seems a remote one. But it is reassuring to know that Australia’s founders considered, and guarded against, such an eventuality.

7) The Constitution requires Australia’s capital city and seat of Government, Canberra, to be located in the State of New South Wales and “distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney.” The inevitable consequence of population growth and urban sprawl in both Sydney and Canberra is that one or the other city will be forced to move before too long in order to maintain the constitutionally-required distance.

8) The farmer on whose land the new city of Canberra, home to Australia’s federal politicians, was established is reported to have said, “My land – once home to cattle and sheep – will soon be home to another group of dumb beasts entirely.” Not true. There was no such farmer, who – consequently – never said any such thing.

File under: that’s not a constitution, this is a constitution | we really do wish peter jackson was australian

(Image source: deviant art)


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“Attained of treason”: The only other thing I know that you can be attained of is misprision of treason.
One eminent philologist surmises that this rather odd usage arose during the regicide trials following the Reformation. The verb “convict” is not usually over-picky in the company it keeps, but even this rather indelicate word shrank from being associated with such a shocking crime when called on to perform its regular service in the matter. To replace it, “attain” was press-ganged into the role after an evening of carousing with other verbs at the Red Lion in Portsmouth.

Imagine being attained of misprision of treason – that really is the trifecta! I like that even “convict” wasn’t up to the job.

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