[Editor: This review of A Constitution for a Continent (1919) was published in The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 6 November 1919.]
The call for a melting pot
A Constitution for a Continent, by O. D. Zieman, is a painstaking book, with some deep thinking in it. The writer is solid on the fact that the Commonwealth was miserably weakened at the beginning by the State Frights party which reduced its powers to a minimum, the last straw being the insane proviso — inserted along with the Federal capital folly, at the instance of George Reid — denying to the Federal authority the power to subdivide unwieldy provinces. As the Imperial Government was also deprived of the power, the result is that the offender can’t be beheaded, except by himself.
Mr. Zieman holds, among other things, that the desert country, which constitutes more than half non-tropical Australia, should be made a Federal territory without any pretence of statehood, and something of the kind is inevitable unless some States are to be handicapped almost, perhaps quite, beyond endurance. Australia was mapped out into States long before it was explored, and it was only when people began to go inland from Sydney and Perth and Adelaide that they learned what they had struck in the lottery. South Australia found that it had 14,875 square miles of country with 20in. or more of rain per annum to carry the load of administering 317,600 square miles of territory with less. Westralia came next for bad luck, though it wasn’t nearly so bad as this. S. Australia can’t fairly be asked to support so much desolation.
The writer believes, as The Bulletin has done ever since it was a Bulletin, in Ministers being elected by Parliament for a fixed term; and he advocates the Referendum, which is a good instrument when the people have some sort of right, by the Initiative or otherwise, to decide what they will referend about. When dishonest politicians adjust the arrangements, as they did in N. S. Wales over the first Federal Constitution affair, so that one vote may override 79,999, it is a different business. Also he supports the Recall, which is a good thing if not carried to excess. In the last days of New Australia-in-Paraguay the bell rang every half-hour for a vote on the Recall of elected Foreman Smith who, maddened by 10 minutes’ brief authority, had requested Free Citizen Jones to hoe a turnip instead of delivering speeches, and somehow things went wrong. — (Tyrrell’s, Limited, Sydney.)
The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 6 November 1919, p. 24 (columns 2-3)
The details of the book under review are: O. D. [Oscar David] Zieman, A Constitution for a Continent: The Meaning of Unification, Sydney: Tyrrell’s, 
It seems unclear why this review has been entitled “The Call for a Melting Pot”, unless it is a reference to a melting pot of states in an Australian federation.
George Reid = Sir George Reid (1845-1918), leader of the Free Traders in New South Wales, NSW parliamentarian (1880-1901), federal parliamentarian (1901-1909), and the fourth Prime Minister of Australia (1904-1905); he was often referred to as “Yes-No Reid” as he had been a supporter of the movement pushing for the federation of the Australian colonies, but when it came to the first referendum for federation he took an equivocal stance, neither supporting or opposing the vote, although he later campaigned for a “Yes” vote at the second referendum for federation
See: W. G. McMinn, “Reid, Sir George Houstoun (1845–1918)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
hold = to believe in (or to have, or to hold) an idea or opinion
in. = an abbreviation of “inch” or “inches”; an inch is a unit of length in the British imperial system of measurement (an inch is equal to 2.54 centimetres)
Initiative = the ability for voters to bring about, or initiate, a referendum or vote (usually based upon a petition signed by a number of verified voters, with the details set out in law)
New Australia-in-Paraguay = a settlement of Socialists and Communists in Paraguay, established by William Lane and his supporters in 1893
N. S. Wales = an abbreviation of New South Wales (a colony in Australia from 1788, then a state in 1901)
per annum = (Latin) per year; in each year, for each year (in financial terms, an amount that is earned, paid, received, sold, spent, or used each year)
Recall = the ability for voters to recall elected officials or politicians from office (usually based upon a petition signed by a number of verified voters, with the details set out in law; following which a new election is held)
S. Australia = an abbreviation of South Australia (a colony in Australia from 1836, then a state in 1901)
State Frights = a humorous and disparaging reference to “State Rights”
Westralia = Western Australia (a contraction used to denote the state of Western Australia)
[Editor: “Bulletin” and “The Bulletin” (referring to a periodical) have been put in italics, to distinguish it from the rest of the text.]