Two covers addressed to Mr R.D. Craig, Secretary, Nth New South Wales Conference, c/o Seventh Day Adventists, Box 129 Post Office, Hamilton, NSW were sent from Murwillumbah on the 6th and 13th July, 1964, both with the green 5d booklet stamp of QE II (Figure 1).
The reverse showed a map of New South Wales, with a shaded insert occupying the north-east portion of the State up to the Queensland border, and it was inscribed “The 7th State” as well as “WE WANT A NEW STATE” (Figure 2).
The region of N.S.W. known as New England was dissatisfied with rule of far-off Sydney, and discontent can be traced almost to the beginning of the European settlement. The possibility of a separate State existence first arose with the mooted creation of a new colony to the north (which became Queensland) in the 1850’s. Issues related to separation-agitation flared across the area for the next fifty years but it was usually bought-off with provision of a new rail link here, or a district courthouse there.
Post-federation calls for a new separate State re-emerged at a public meeting in Grafton N.S.W. in 1915, which was ostensibly called to protest a Sydney decision to cancel a local ferry service. Led by the surgeon/politician Earl Page (later a Prime Minister who was knighted), the concept of a new State was revived and consolidated after WW1. Even during the war, Page launched what was to become the Northern New South Wales Separation League in Grafton, and he used his car and his network of patients to form twenty-two branches of the League. He argued in speeches, pamphlets and the press that metropolitan Sydney interests had stunted northern growth. He cited the failures to link the north coast of N.S.W. to Queensland by rail or by bridging the Clarence River, or by clearing the river’s mouth for navigation. The war led to a postponement of his plans. A picture of Page, who was a prime mover for separation, is shown in Figure 3.
Page became one of 10 co-founders of the Australian Country Party as members of the N.S.W. parliament in 1920. The separation movement was halted in 1925 when the N.S.W. government’s Cohen commission reported that the proposed northern State was not financially viable. In 1932, Page announced in Armidale that New England was prepared to declare itself an independent State, and that it would loyally pay its share of debt. He went as far as supporting similar moves in the Riverina and mid-west areas of N.S.W. In 1935, the H.S. Nicholas commission pronounced the new State a possibility. The proposed shape for the new State in 1915, 1920, 1923, and that proposed by the Nicholas commission’s report is shown in Figure 4.
Fast forward to 1967, nearly six years after Page’s death. Fulfilling an election promise on 29 April 1967, the incoming Askin government held the first of two proposed referenda for a Northern N.S.W. State based on modified Nicholas boundaries. The question was defeated 193,812 to 169,103 votes, with a strong bipolar North-South vote. A comfortable majority voted ‘YES’ in the north, with a strong ‘NO’ vote from Newcastle and the lower Hunter region. The overall failure to pass the motion was due to a combination of the exclusion of many voters west of the Nicholas line, and a scare campaign over the loss of the Sydney milk quota in the Oxley and Gloucester area. The distribution of the vote is shown in Figure 5.
Even to-day, there is still a movement to divide up N.S.W. as well as Queensland as shown by a map on the internet, and the same applies to the development of an Aboriginal State in the Northern Territory. The proposed boundaries in Queensland and N.S.W. are shown in Figure 6.
An advertisement entitled ‘The Story of New England’ gave supporting information to justify its separation from New South Wales:
New England comprises an area of 68,000 square miles extending from (and including) Newcastle to the Queensland border. The Movement seeks establishment of this area as a new State of the Federation.
New England, with a population of 650,000, is equivalent to S.A., and has a far larger population than existing States of W.A. and Tasmania.
With an annual production income of £109,000,000, New England would be the fourth State in a Federation of seven States, and a strong contender with Queensland for third place.
The new State’s production is £7,000,000 more than the production of S.A., £38,000,000 [note the striking out of an error] more than W.A. and £74,000,000 more than Tasmania.
Effective defence, increased food production , and National development depend on decentralisation. The discomfort and inconvenience of overcrowded metropolitan centres – plagued by continual breakdowns in transport, electricity supply, and waterside chaos – can only be remedied by new centres of population and industry in our fertile and sparsely country-side.
New England people ask for local control of their own affairs so that these tasks can be pursued with new inspiration and vigor (Figure 7).
Although there are several websites labeled as ‘North New South Wales Conference of Seventh Day Adventist’ none of them give information concerning the question of the Seventh State. Moreover, a Seventh Day Adventist Pastor R.D. Craig is mentioned in the header to one site dated 1988, but examination of the site gave no information about him.
The information on Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page (1880-1961) was found on the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.