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In 1898 popular referenda on the proposed federation were held in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.All votes resulted in a majority in favour, but the New South Wales government under Premier George Reid (popularly known as "yes–no Reid" because of his constant changes of opinion on the issue) had set a requirement for a higher "yes" vote than just a simple majority which was not met.Conventions and forums involving colony leaders were held on a regular basis.Proponents of New South Wales as a free trade state were in dispute with the other leading colony Victoria, which had a protectionist economy.

At the end of the 19th century, the movement toward federation between the Australian colonies gathered momentum.

At this time customs posts were common on borders, even on the Murray River.

Travelling from New South Wales to Victoria in those days was very difficult.

Supporters of federation included the New South Wales premier Sir Henry Parkes whose 1889 Tenterfield Speech (given in Tenterfield) was pivotal in gathering support for New South Wales involvement.

Edmund Barton, later to become Australia's first Prime Minister, was another strong advocate for federation and a meeting held in Corowa in 1893 drafted an initial constitution.

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