Pember Reeves, William: State experiments in Australia and New Zealand

William Pember Reeves

State Experiments in Australia & New Zealand, Two volumes, Macmillan, South Melbourne, Vic., 1969; first published 1902

Detailed study of initiatives before 1900 in the colonies regarding votes for women, federation, preferential voting, land reform, old age pensions, liquor laws and immigration measures based on race. As the blurb says, ‘There was a time towards the end of the nineteenth century when New Zealand and Australia were generally regarded as leading the world towards state socialism…’.  Sets the scene with a long early chapter, ‘The progressive movement’, which describes the early reliance in both countries on state action. Reeves’s  characterisation of political types is worth noting also:

The Labour leaders are often short men with the nervous build of the skilled mechanic who reads and argues, and frets at the bars of “low birth” and “iron fortune.” The boisterous, thirsty demagogue, with brazen front and leathern lungs, who bulks so largely in certain unflattering descriptions of colonial parliaments, belongs more often to the lower middle-class than to the selected representatives of Labour. (Vol. 1, p. 55)

Read online here.

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