IF AT first you don’t secede, try and try again.
That is the message from some of the men intimately involved with the New England New State Movement after federal MP Barnaby Joyce breathed new life into the issue last week.
Mr Joyce is adamant the Abbott government’s white paper on federation reform is the perfect opportunity to debate the merits of New England becoming Australia’s seventh state.
And he has plenty of support.
New England historian and writer Jim Belshaw runs a Facebook page with more than 300 members dedicated to the movement, which appeared to reach its zenith with a narrow defeat at the 1967 referendum.
Mr Belshaw said many of the inequalities emerging from the great city-country divide in NSW that drove past campaigns were still present and could be addressed if New England was to become the master of its own destiny.
“We don’t have anybody with a proper focus on northern development and northern promotion, and the revenues that are generated in the north, such as coal royalties, are not generally spent in the north,” he said.
“Most importantly, there aren’t any jobs for someone from northern NSW who wants to stay in northern NSW and become involved with development of the north because there are no government positions or private-
sector positions that are really headquartered in northern NSW.”
Mr Belshaw said separation would be “administratively easy” and the New England region’s economic clout would be more than capable of sustaining a state within the federation.
“Professor (James) Macdonald Holmes from the University of Sydney said essentially that government is most effective when the activities in question are directly related to geographic common interest,” he said.
Tamworth Country Music Festival founder Max Ellis took three months off work in 1967 to help the New England New State Movement campaign, in which his father, Ulrich, played a pivotal role.
He said he was pleased Mr Joyce had put the issue of a new state firmly back on the political agenda and encouraged New England residents to consider it carefully.
“The closer government is to people, the more democratic it is,” Mr Ellis said. “We’re a big country and cutting it into smaller areas is a much more efficient way of governing an area.
“Since the referendum, there’s been a continual increase in the size of country electorates. The electorates have been getting bigger and bigger.
“One of the most important aspects of all this is that it would bring responsibility for what happens in a specific area back to the people that live in that area and have a vested interest in that area.”