In February 1899, a “secret” Premiers’ conference was convened at the Old Treasury Building in Spring Street. The 1898 referendum on federation had been defeated because one of the voting colonies, New South Wales, failed to secure the required number of votes to pass the Commonwealth Bill. During the conference it was agreed to amend the constitution to meet concerns of New South Wales and Queensland, particularly with regard to the power of the senate. The NSW Premier George Reid was also eager to establish the federal capital in his state, in Sydney if possible, but here he was less successful. The site of the federal capital would be situated in NSW, but not within 100 miles of Sydney. Victoria’s Premier, George Turner, managed however to secure for his city the seat of federal government until the new national capital could be established.
Although this honour required some sacrifices on the part of State Parliamentarians, they retained the Treasury Building, despite its convenient location to Federal Parliament House. JJ Clark’s elegant Renaissance Revival palazzo had served the State since 1862 and it continued to provide office accommodation for the State Government during the Federal Government’s stay in Melbourne.
Treasury Building, c. 1900