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by the Westralian Secession Movement, Nedlands, W.A., March, 1976
(with thanks to David Curtis)

Election ’75 demonstrated to the people of Western Australia far more vividly than any previous contest, the utter futility of going to the polling stations during Federal elections.

By 8.00 p.m. Perth time on election day, the two major contestants had acknowledged on both radio and television outlets that victory had gone to the Lib/NCP coalition. At that time voting had not even commenced in W.A., which is one third of the Commonwealth.

Even had the Western Australian election results shown a complete swing to the left — a Lib/NCP government would still have been voted into office. Western Australia within the region of only 1.1 million people cannot under the present constitution demonstrate what form of government it requires in Canberra.

Within the State boundaries of New South Wales and Victoria some 6 million people live, the greatest density of population in Australia and it is from within these conurbations that the government-making votes are obtained. Thus Western Australia will be for ever dominated by a government, voted into office by electors who live nearly two thousand miles away — further away, in fact, than the capital of Indonesia.

Small wonder that the Western Australian feels some resentment against most Federal governments — resentment developed over the 75 years of Federation — resentment born of mismanagement and indifference to her unique position far to the West of the nation’s industrial and commercial heart.

Secession and Western Australia are not surprisingly therefore quite synonymous.

The remoteness of the Western Australian and his well-founded grievance against his Federal mentors have developed him into an independent and insular person, the characteristics of the island dweller — and let’s face it, Western Australia is an island with oceans on three sides and a sea of sand on the other.

Secession is a household word in this State and is quite a topical subject for discussion in the other Australian states.

Many Western Australians are eager to point out that their State was colonised quite separately from the remainder of Australia and that their own Family has its origins in the first ship loads of settlers from the British Isles.

There was no vast westward migration from the Eastern States of Australia as had occurred during the American expansion — at least not until the discovery of gold in the Coolgardie area and as we will see later, that migration was to prove a disaster to Western Australia in later years.

Topography and distance created what were virtually insurmountable barriers to intercourse and travel between the rapidly developing Eastern States and slower moving Western Australian settlement.

State Growth

Opportunities in the Eastern State cities such as Sydney or Melbourne were far greater for the industrial refugees of Europe due to the development of factories and industrial empires. It was therefore not unreasonable to note the quicker population growth in New South Wales and Victoria. In the course of time the growth of these two States became closely interwoven and one could refer to them collectively as “The Industrial Club of Australia.”

In Western Australia, however, it was primary industry which was the basis of her growth and the settlers clearing land for cultivation faced immense hardships and frustrations before they could become established. The State could naturally never develop until these courageous and hardy pioneers had brought their properties into production.

Productive and prosperous farmers attracted all the comforts and necessities of community life such as blacksmiths, doctors, merchants, dressmakers, and so on, thus establishing the business life of the colony. Thus then did Western Australia slowly develop until such time that she became a self-governing colony in 1890.

The granting of responsible self-government in the late eighties did not decrease the efforts of the people to work hard and it has been said that the ten years of self-government in this State were the most productive it has known.


During this time, the more closely grouped States in the East were holding meetings and discussions to work out a Union between them. In 1899 these States held a referendum with the results showing clearly that the people wanted to form a Union.

So with this direction from the people, the State governments straight away commenced forming the Federation which, of course, included the preparation of the Constitution.

It is important to note that the States produced this Constitution, it was really a specification for Federal governments to work by. Western Australia was not included in those States which wrote this document as she was not at that time involved with the original States’ federal movement.

Now that the Constitution was launched and five States were in federation, New Zealand and Western Australia were invited to join.

The former studied and considered the implications of what membership would involve and then realised that there were 1200 good reasons why this invitations should be declined — 1200 miles of sea.

In Western Australia, a cool reception was given to the invitation — distance being again, one of the reasons. In addition to this, however, the Premier, Sir John Forrest was rather alarmed of the consequences possible by the amalgamation between his primary producing State and labour intensive industrial States. He fought the invitation, and he was supported by the farming communities, politicians and local businessmen.

It was at this time that the influence was felt, of the migratory gold prospectors who left the Eastern States to search for their fortunes in the goldfields of W.A. When they left their home states, Federation was being actively pursued by the various state governments. Thus when the question of Federating was raised in Western Australia, these prospectors enthusiastically supported the move. One can imagine their concern when they realised that the local Western Australians were quite unmoved by the prospect of entering this Federation.

Eventually, this became the problem of the Secretary for the Colonies Mr Joseph Chamberlain, who pressurised the Western Australian Government to make a decision in favour of Federating.

The Premier would not submit to this pressure, but did agree to hold a referendum to establish the wishes of the Western Australian people and the results of this test are shown below:

Perth Electorates — Yes-7,008___No-4,380

Fremantle Electorates — Yes-4,687___No-3,141

Country Electorates — Yes-6,775___No-10,357

Goldfield Electorates — Yes-26,330___No-1,813

Total — Yes-44,800___No-19,691

These figures indicate the overwhelming influence the Eastern States populated goldfields had in the State submerging itself in the morass of Federation.

Thus in 1901, Western Australia became a colony of the Commonwealth of Australia, which is geared to the interests of the more densely populated States situated on the eastern side of this vast continent, and shows scant regard for the peculiar situation and differing economy of Western Australia.


It was only one year after Federation when the fears of Sir John Forrest were realised, and this was the introduction in 1902 of the Australian Tariff. The Federal government smoothed the way for the advent of this protection by assuring all that the tariff was for the good of Australia as a whole. Quickly it became evident that it was good for Sydney and Melbourne — full stop.

It did not, and indeed never has, explained how the imposition of a tariff benefits the primary producer who sells in the competitive world markets.

Furthermore, the application of Tariffs in the purchases by Western Australia from the Eastern States, could be a direct contravention of Article 92 of the Constitution (Trade within the Commonwealth to be free).

What the Australian tariff has done for Western Australia is to enmesh it as a “captive market” for New South Wales and Victoria, so well-protected by the Federal Government under the tariff umbrella.

In the event of Seceding, Western Australia would be able to obtain its requirements from overseas markets and thus enjoy the benefits of competition in its purchases. It would no longer be penalised by buying from the tariff protected industries in the Eastern States. If, however, our present source of supplies could meet the competition vying with it for our markets, then there is no doubt that we would continue to trade with it.

The scale of tariffs currently in operation is staggering, virtually everything we buy has the weight of duty placed on it. This weight is a heavy one too in most instances, particularly in the consumer durables such as washing machines, fridges, radios, motor cars, and so on.

Our annual shopping list in the Eastern State markets is currently worth about $1,134 millions but if this shopping could be done on the world markets, the cost would reduce by at least 30%.

As a contrast to this high cost of purchases, Western Australia sells to the Eastern State buyers, a mere $217 millions. The greater bulk of her products being sold in the export field. So successful is she in this activity that her contributions to the Commonwealth;s overseas earnings amount to 20% of the total — yet Western Australians represent only 8% of the Commonwealth’s population.

The position is that this State buys from an expensive source to produce goods sold in a very competitive outlet. No Federal Government has ever recognised this hardship and made some offer of compensation, say along the lines of a sliding rebate on the value of purchases made in the tariff protected industries of the Eastern States.


One of the thoughts behind the Union of Australian States was that of mutual defence. In other words, if one State was threatened, the others would combine to offer it military aid.

Such a noble motive was completely forgotten during World War 2 when the northern and western areas of the Commonwealth were sliding under the shadow of invasion. Some “wise man” in the East decided that Western Australia and its people were not worth defending and prepared a defence line known as the Brisbane Line. This “line” straggled across the south east corner of Australia giving no doubt some feeling of security to those sheltering behind its thin veneer.

What future dependence can the people of Western Australia have on the arrangements — if any — made for its protection by Federal governments? Indeed, at this time they have none anyway. The much vaunted F1-11 is based in the East and with an operational range of 1900 miles cannot be relied on to give air cover to this State.

The only maritime squadron of RAAF is based in Edinburgh, South Australia, a State with a coastline of a mere 1540 miles, whereas Western Australia has a coastline of 4350 miles facing the vastness of the Indian Ocean.

True, the previous Prime Minister promised that two of the proposed Orion aircraft will be based at Pearce but three years will elapse before their debut over the blue skies of this State.

Commonwealth Taxation

In previous paragraphs reference has been made the Federal elections and what little influence the Western Australian vote has on the outcome.

Each year, this State contributes to the Federal coffers by way of Commonwealth taxation, something in the region of $1,000 millions. $720 millions is collected from the Perth taxation office, whilst the balance is derived from the 4,771 companies earning profits in The State, but whose registered offices are elsewhere in the Commonwealth, or overseas.

No Federal Government has revealed what exact value of taxation is obtained from this source — or indeed that such a source even exists!

However, it could be said that this massive injection of funds from W.A. into the Commonwealth purse is, “aid to a foreign power,” for the people of Western Australia have no more influence in establishing this government than they do over installing the governments of France, Italy or any other country.


Here then, we have three major factors which are evidence of the inadequacies of Federation, in the case of this, the largest and most isolated of the Australian States.

It is not feasible for these disabilities to be overcome in the current concept of Federation, without drastic surgery on the very heart of the Constitution.

Without the protection of the tariff many industries would fail utterly, and the economy of the Commonwealth would just collapse. Thus it is that Western Australia, so long as it remains a member of the Union, must bear the full brunt of hardships inflicted by this protective duty.

With the Federal government’s interpretation of defence requirements, it would be quite impossible to provide Western Australia with any effective defence measures. The country is just too vast for the small defence force to be piecemealed. This State must accustom itself to being a defenceless member of the Commonwealth so long as she remains within it.

Turning to the issue of election, to alleviate this anomaly would require a drastic amendment to the Constitution, an amendment which is never likely to be implemented.


The melancholy conclusion is that Western Australia will never be able to prosper and develop in her role as a member of the Australian Commonwealth. This, of course, leavers her with no other alternative than to officially and democratically withdraw by an Act of Secession proclaimed by the State Parliament, from this Eastern State orientated Federation.