Sir William John Lyne

Sir William John Lyne (1844-1913), a farmer and grazier, entered NSW parliament in 1880. Protectionist and anti-Federationist, as Premier (1899-1901) he achieved an astonishing volume of progressive legislation. In federal parliament (1901-13) he was unable to implement Lord Hopetounís invitation to form the first government but was an able minister. He sat as a pro-Labor Independent from 1910. Courtesy Australian Dictionary of Biography


25 June 1900

Commonwealth Bill presented in Britain

On 25 June Edmund Barton communicates to Sir William Lyne that Commonwealth of Australia bill read thrice House of Commons. Cheers. Please inform other governments. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 is passed by the British Parliament on 5 July and Queen Victoria gives her Royal Assent to the Act on 9 July, proclaiming that the Commonwealth of Australia comprising all six colonies will come into existence on 1 January 1901. The choice of the name ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ isinfluenced by James Bryce’s The American Commonwealth, the ‘bible’ of the founding fathers. However, Queen Victoria is uneasy with the term Commonwealth, mindful of its association with Oliver Cromwell’s republican government established after the English Civil Wars in the 17th century and the execution of her ancestor King Charles I in 1649. A copy of the Act and the pen, inkstand and table used are presented to the delegates. An original copy of the Act, returned to Australia in 1988, is displayed at the National Archives of Australia.


Queen Victoria's Royal Assent to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900.
1 January 1901

Commonwealth of Australia proclaimed

On 1 January the Commonwealth of Australia is proclaimed in Centennial Park, Sydney. The Proclamation and Letters Patent of the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, are read out and the nine members of the interim federal Ministry are sworn in. The Ministry includes Edmund Barton (Prime Minister, Department of External Affairs), Alfred Deakin (Attorney-General’s Department), Sir William Lyne (Department of Home Affairs), Charles Cameron Kingston (Department of Trade and Customs), Sir James Robert Dickson (Department of Defence), Sir John Forrest (Postmaster-General’s Department), Sir George Turner (Department of the Treasury), Sir Neil Elliot Lewis and Richard O’Connor. Edmund Barton is Prime Minister from 1901 to 1903. Sir Robert Randolph Garran is appointed as the first, and briefly, the only Commonwealth public servant on 1 January 1901 as Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department and parliamentary draftsman. Their roles in the first Commonwealth government are commemorated in the names of Canberra’s early suburbs.


Opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 1901.