Lee Tate’s opinion column published in #310 January 2018 edition addressed WA seceding from Australia and generated much feedback from readers.
See below for their comments.
I agree with the proposal to secede from Australia.
As part of discussion and investigation,
- what was the actual referendum question and how was it related to in the constitution? This could be argued before the High Court.
- Was there anything in the referendum negotiations for federation/constitution that related to any state’s right to self-determination leave the federation? If so, why wasn’t it included? Did WA have a say in that?
- Is there anything in that the rest of the states did not wait for Premier Forrest (when he was delayed) to sign the constitution?
- How much was WA involved in negotiating the constitution? Was it markedly less than other states?
- Is it possible to relate to any UN agreements that Australia has signed if we have a referendum to leave?
- Consideration to a federal WA party with the priority for a fair distribution of the GST? If that party gets all or most of the senate and House of Representatives seats in WA, wouldn’t both major parties have to deal with that party for a coalition government? Given the way people are voting for parties lately, could that guarantee a fairer GST distribution?
Luke B. (via email)
My only concern would be how citizenship would work. Who is able to vote. Anyone born in WA. Working or living in WA. Dual citizenship with the rest of Australia.
Anyway I’m all for it. Start new political parties with the country at heart and not their own pockets or stupid decisions for the sake of votes. Own immigration laws.
Constitution and so forth.
Carlos dos Santos (via email)
While most of us West Australians cringe at the east coast centred running of Australia the option of secession and independence for WA needs careful consideration for a number of reasons which are not obvious but lurk below all that was in your article.
I am a part pensioner part self-funded retire whose pension fund is in the eastern states, as an ex-service man I also have a small disability pension from DVA along with access to medical treatment through DVA, all situated, funded and run by Canberra.
I, like many, have had or still have a Defence Services Home Loan, along with a DSH insurance policy, Canberra funded and based.
In a couple of weeks, we are off on a holiday to Singapore using our Australian Passports as I suspect half of the 2.6 Million West Australians have, how long would it take to replace more than a million passports?
Just who would be entitled to a WA Passport, my wife and I were born in WA as were our children and many of my Navy mates, however many of them had their children while serving in the Eastern States so they are not native West Australians. Is it simply a case of if you live here you are a citizen of the new country or duel citizens, then could you run for WA parliament and or the senate?
I use a doctor’s surgery that does not charge me any excess over Medicare, and purchase each and every month four prescriptions from the Chemist that cost about $25 in total, where I know that just one of these would normally cost over the counter $96 funded by Canberra.
On top of all that the new country of Westoz would be responsible for a vast number of Commonwealth employees, such as customs, immigration, navy, army, airforce and the list goes on…
On top of those there are a multitude of Ambassadors, Consulates, UN Delegates to staff and run overseas, and a multitude of agencies currently run and funded by Canberra that would require our taking responsibility for.
Unfortunately, despite all the good and valid reasons behind the proposal for secession it is important that we look at what the underlining costs would be and just how we would pay for them!
While on the surface the argument put forward is unquestionably valid unfortunately we also have to look at the behind the scenes costs that could very well make secession impossible.
Bruce J Crane
The secession of WA from the Australian federation is again on the political agenda, this time energized by supporters in the WA Liberal party.
Secession has remained a desire by West Australians since federation, the issue coming into vogue, shelved and returning repeatedly. Wherever there arises a perceived autocratic power overriding a body of people, there is a reaction to the desire for freedom and the urge to be in control of their own destiny.
The previous arousal for secession was the WA Secession Association which was inaugurated in 1993 and closed in May 2011. Mr Michael Jardine held the position of president for most part and Mr Wally Morris was secretary for a number of years.
Its creation was to coincide with the proposed Republic Referendum of November 1999, arguing that removing the Monarchy was not an amendment to the constitution but its abrogation requiring a new constitution, in which case each of the states would need to vote whether they would join a remodeled federation. This presented an opportunity for WA to say NO.
The Republic Referendum was held revealing how little people understood constitutions. They are the granting from a sovereign authority to give a body membership the power to make their own rules limited by what is allowed. In Australia’s situation sovereignty is in the Monarch. The Queen is as much the Monarch of WA as she is for the Commonwealth. In American sovereignty is in the people, they fought a war to get it. If anyone wants to put sovereignty in the Australian people which I’m sure the Queen would no doubt be happy to do, then such people would need to be very careful indeed. A majority of Australians don’t want to risk it, yet.
Suggested constitutional changes were littered with clauses from groups lobbying for their own divisive special issues. Conflict would have been institutionalized – look at the wars of South American republics or look at the American republic whose constitution failed to put in sufficient safeguards – particularly with immigration, and where amendments were made, some made things worse which is now America’s big internal problem.
The WA Secession Association continued after the Republic Referendum. Its experience was that because the Federal constitution doesn’t provide for a state to secede, there can be no purposed in seeking a national referendum for all the states to approve secession; each state is independent of that authority. Each joined separately with their own vote. Section 128 of the constitution is for amending the constitution, not for a state to leave. Secessionist are not amending the constitution they are resigning the state from the federation to return to former independence with its own existing constitution.
In 1933, a referendum was held in WA asking whether the people of the state wanted to secede, it was an overwhelming YES. That referendum has not been retired. It remains shelved waiting to flag its return by being honoured by a state government, making a ‘declaration of independence’.
Comments from Facebook
Phillip Rivers – Eastern stater’s are nothing more than a thorn in our ass
Neil Purser – Yes I agree with the 1930 referendum lets break the shackles of the federation when they cancel the constitution to become a republic, WA can institute its own constitution and become independent.
Margot Perry – I really hope we will never have 10 million people in the West. I have always thought that the best thing about the west is that we are not crowded and one shouldn’t forget that a lot of our land is pretty hard to settle.
Jim Thomson – How about we go the other direction and do away with the states, then countries and just be earthlings? And put the time effort and $ into all getting along better…
David Ritchie – A population of 2.5 million cannot support a military capable of policing Western Australian waters against people, drug smugglers etc. Missiles to defend Garden Island and Perth hmm lets see 10 billion to buy the radars and launchersWhat about defending the North West where all the resources that you claim will finance a independent Western Australia. Australia has a population of 25 million and its current military capabilities would probably be the minimum required to defend WA and yet you propose to recruit, fund , equip a force to do that from a population base of 2.5 million.
Paul Stevenson – A population of 25 million can’t defend Australia, in fact 100 million couldn’t , that’s why you have allies . Funding our military from the GST that at the moment is hobbled up by the eastern states would be easy.
David Ritchie – Paul Stevenson and who would be our Allies. India, China, Indonesia perhaps. All offering to safeguard our resources. Perhaps basing military forces here to ensure those resources are secured. Funding a military from the GST might be easy only problem is you still only have a population of 2.5 million to draw upon so most of the GST is going to be used buying big ticket military hardware like missile batteries as proposed by the Opinion Piece. It’s just not feasible.
Marhsall Bacon – David Ritchie New Zealand manage ok? Why can’t WA?
David Ritchie – Marshall Bacon New Zealand has a population of almost 5 million twice that of WA. New Zealand military capability is not capable of stopping any kind of serious incursion. New Zealand has two frigates. No fast jet capability and an army of brigade size at best. Yet somehow the Opinion Piece seems to believe we can recruit, equip and fund a viable defence force from a population half the size of New Zealand. It’s not feasible.
Paul Stevenson – David Ritchie, the rest of Australia, UK, America, same ones we have now. It’s a secession not a war…
David Ritchie – Paul Stevenson Secession is never popular particularly when you remove a large slice of territory and resources. All you need is a pretext a casus belli and you have a war. The Opinion Piece talks about financing a fleet of patrol boats and missile batteries from the GST revenue to protect WA. It’s not feasible from a financial or staffing level.
Marshall Bacon – David Ritchie but the GDP of WA is $193 billion were as New Zealand is $186 billion simple math really would you not think?
David Ritchie – If WA seceded from the rest of Australia. It must 1- secure the agreement of the rest of Australia to respect its independence and territory. 2 – Secure diplomatic recognition from other nations like the USA, China, India , Britain, France, Indonesia. 3 – Forge alliances both trade and military to ensure WA economic viability and security. If it cannot do these things first, then secession is not feasible.
Marshall Bacon. Two frigates will cost you 300 to 400 million. That is just to buy them not crew or operate them. Missile defence batteries 200 million per battery with four launchers each with eight missiles per launcher with one radar. Each battery can cover an area of 200 km. So, to cover WA major towns from Perth to Exmouth you will need at least 12 to 15 batteries. Two to three billion just to get a basic anti-aircraft defence capability. You want Anti surface missiles to take out ships add another two to three billion to again give you a basic capability covering the major ports, towns etc. Now you have to recruit, train people to crew, maintain these systems. Plus, a bunch of patrol boats minimum 20 to have 12 to 16 available 24 /7 to patrol from Exmouth to Perth. Never mind long range maritime patrol aircraft or drones to support those patrol and interception capabilities. You are looking at 20 billion a year to operate and maintain. 20 billion is two thirds the current defence budget of Australia. That’s 10 per cent of the GDP of WA. New Zealand spends just over one percent of its GDP on defence. It’s just not economically viable or realistic. Plus, you still have to maintain the state’s economy its services, infrastructure to maintain its economic standing.
Paul Stevenson – David Ritchie, we cannot be defended but it certainly can’t be defeated, end of. Yes, we know but rather than waste billions on Canberra the saving would go to infrastructure. The rest of OZ isn’t gonna attack WA so get off that.
David Ritchie – Paul Stevenson glad you think the rest of Australia would cheerfully let WA secede and remove almost 200 billion a year in GDP from its economy. As far as WA can’t be defended well that depends upon the level of incursion.
Clive Brown – How many boats currently patrol WA? No big deal really, as far as invasion goes, the. Other states would have to come to WA aid as there would be nothing to stop an invasion force crossing borders.