1891 saw Governor Algernon Keith-Falconer ( The 9th Earl of Kintore ) of South Australia submit a strong plea for the introduction of cheap Asiatic labour in order to develop the Northern Territory. He contended that Asians can work continuously and satisfactorily and at a lower wage. He also stated that all the British settlements in Northern Australia had failed because of the lack of Chinese labour. He recommended in a personal report to the British Home Authorities that South Australia should relinquish control of the Northern Territory and that it be established as an English ‘Crown Colony’ governed from England.
Kintore further stated that it would give him great satisfaction to know that his government was prepared to suspend by proclamation the operation of the Chinese Immigration Restriction Act. He made an extremely hurried trip to the Northern Territory and received a wonderful reception from the Chinese in that place.
The Australian Natives Association practically alone and despite its small membership and limited financial resources, fearlessly and vigorously attacked the noble Lord’s manoeuvre to secede the Northern Territory and its 520,280 square miles of territory to an outside power. To have done so would have been a death blow to the aims of Federation and would have involved the Australian colonies in a huge defence expenditure to maintain a rigid defensive frontier line.
The proposal was typical of all such proposals, before and since, where Australian groups fearful of the future are prepared to sacrifice their beneficent heritage to gain some personal relief from care.
The A.N.A was satisfied that whatever failings existed in the South Australian administration 2,000 miles away; they were preferable to those of the Colonial Office some 12,000 miles away. The A.N.A was adamant that Australia should remain one united continent for one people, there could be no equivocation on this matter.