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When Australia’s Founding Fathers came together in the 1890s to draw up a constitution to enable the colonies to federate, what did they think they were doing? Looking at the debates and the Constitution itself, one thing is certain. They were not drawing up a document that defined what it means to be an Australian.
They were engaged in creating a document that would be acceptable to all parties and enshrined the political and legal principles which they had inherited from Great Britain. They looked to their British inheritance because they believed, quite correctly, that the (unwritten) British Constitution worked. They wanted a system of government that would be durable.
What they produced is not an exciting document embodying abstruse political principles, but one that has been very successful in setting out how Australian federalism will work.