BARNABY Joyce has a dream that one day the people of New England will rise up and break free from their oppressors in Sydney.
The outspoken federal MP is calling on locals to jump on board and advocate for the formation of a new state in NSW’s north. The notion revives the failed New England New State movement from the 1960s when a referendum on the matter was narrowly defeated.
But Mr Joyce said the Coalition’s Reform of the Federation white paper announced last week provided the perfect opportunity for another look.
“I don’t believe, in their wildest dreams, that in 1901 the people who set up the federation intended we’d still have the same states with the same state lines,” he said.
“Pilliga State Forest would not be a problem if the place we had to go to, to argue the case for the 60 timber workers, was Armidale, not Sydney. Shenhua and BHP would not be a problem if the mining licences were issued from Armidale, rather than Sydney. We wouldn’t be dealing with Hunter New England Health, we’d be dealing with New England Health. The resources that come out of this area – billions of dollars – would actually be spent on our roads, not somebody else’s roads.”
Ulrich Ellis, the father of Tamworth Country Music Festival founder Max Ellis, was a driving force behind a popular campaign for New England’s secession in the 1960s.
But the separatist movement, which led to two royal commissions and ultimately a 1967 referendum in which 54 per cent of people voted no – driven primarily by staunch opposition in Newcastle and Lower Hunter – gradually faded away.
Mr Joyce said the sole motivation for him reviving the idea of forming new states, not just in NSW but across the country, was “to get government closer to the people”.
“We’ve got to try and link up with north Queensland because they want their own state and central Queensland wants their own state ... we can make this a joint submission between a whole range of places in Australia.”