The Author

William Coleman is a Reader at the Research School of Economics of the Australian National University. He is the prize-winning author, or co-author, of eight books; and his scholarly output spans biography, oral history, economic history, political economy, political theory, demography, evolution,  the history of ideas, the history of medicine, religious prejudice, technological change, and protectionism. In 2016 he edited Only in Australia: The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism (Oxford University Press).

He writes:

‘I was well into middle age before I thought to dissent from the universally favourable judgement of the Commonwealth’s creation. I could see the well-known dysfunctions of Australia’s system of government : a de facto unitary state harnessed to a legal-ritual federation. But I traced these dysfunctions to the deformation during the twentieth century of the political organism born in 1901. And I trusted in the galvanizing of that organism’s lifeless limbs as a remedy. It was only around 2010 that I encountered, in a colleague, a frank repudiation of the entire ‘project of 1901’: a blunt spurning of the constitutional knitting together into a single Commonwealth of the six, distinct, self-governing colonies which had comprised 19th century Australia. This total rejection shocked; but the thought had been planted. And it grew, and flourished, to the point that I could compare the creation of the Commonwealth in 1901 to a piece of surgery gone wrong. I have written “Their Fiery Cross of Union” to explain that contention’