Phil Ackman, Australian Penthouse, August 1982, pp. 83-89.

huttriverprinceleonardFor the cockie who would be king, secession has become a lucrative business.

“Just imagine for one mad moment that Hutt River Province really does exist,” a usually well-informed, though murky, acquaintance told me recently. “That the bloody place really has seceded and that it’s actually a country.”

“You’re joking,” I said, though my acquaintance had only a scant sense of humour, and black at that.

“Joking,” he repeated, examining the word like an entomologist might examine a dead butterfly. Then he raised his huge hands from the table, as if altitude alone could underlie the words that followed. “Imagine that a wheat farmer called Leonard Casley really has pulled it off and that in law he’s got as much right to call himself Prince Leonard as Elizabeth Windsor has to call herself Queen.”

“It can’t be right,” I said. “It’s a joke. Prince Leonard’s nothing more than a cockie, a farmer with a sense of the ridiculous who caught the eye of the Sunday papers.”

“I’ll put it another way,” my acquaintance persisted. “It looks like a dog, it barks like a dog, it’s got fleas like a dog. What is it?”

The question hung in the air.

“Such a place,” he continued, after the silence had framed his mood, “such a place could have its uses.”

And as it turned out, his observations were perfectly correct. The only joke about Hutt River Province, according to prominent Melbourne barrister and solicitor Anthony Fisher, is that nobody has woken up that it’s for real.

“He really has seceded; it’s not a fraud and it never has been,” Fisher told Penthouse.

As the first lawyer ever to speak publicly about the legality of the province, Fisher pronounced that Prince Leonard had clearly established de facto recognition. But de jure recognition — the sort that might come from the United Nations — had still to be won.

“The Government has never seriously challenged the secession because the outcome might be difficult to predict. They have to either accept him or push it through the courts. As it is, they simply ignore him and hope the whole thing will go away.”

Mr Fisher said he understood that Prince Leonard paid Australian taxes only on income derived from outside his self-styled province. “I’m also told that Leonard is pressing forward vigorously to win recognition from the international community. And, I am led to believe, with considerable success …”

They are perhaps the most down-to-earth royal family ever to rule what they fondly refer to as the second-biggest country in Australia. Len Casley, a nuggety wheat farmer with a sense of humour as dry as the 29 square miles of his sovereign territory and eye for legal detail so acute that in the best Australian tradition he has survived 12 years of giving it a go. And Princess Shirley, as practical as the formica dining table that graces the royal residence and as familiar as the Royal Holden Belmont station wagon parked in the main — and only — street of Hutt River Province. Add Prince Ian, slim and blond, and Prince Richard, whose fondness for a purple singlet carrying the slogan: To all you virgins, thanks for nothing never wavers, and you have the basis for a rare family dynasty which the Casleys — if nobody else — are utterly convinced will last 1000 years.

If Hutt River Province is a joke, then it is one so elaborately constructed that it has every chance of ultimately fooling us all.

The province has its own post office, stamps, currency, passports, chapel, tea rooms, economy, diplomats, flag, titles and a radio station as well. The real irony is that it may be a joke and the real thing at the same time, a Disneyland where Daffy Duck has real feathers, Mickey Mouse a real tail and Uncle Scrooge a real bank account filled with loads of real money.

The immigration officer at Orly Airport in Paris may have been more alert or more curious than most. Perhaps he was young and knew no better. He took the proffered diplomatic passport from retired Melbourne private detective Tom Ericksen, checked the photograph against the huge, rawboned man standing before him, scratched his chin and then flipped back to the front cover.

“Hutt River Province?” he asked in heavily-accented English, his eyebrows rising to meet his cap. “Where is Hutt River Province?”

Ericksen recalls the conversation because he is fond of recalling it. “It’s 18 times bigger than Monaco,” he replied. “Second-biggest country in Australia.”

“One moment,” said the passport officer, not at all happy with the green and gold embossed document in his hand, nor apparently with the knighthood it proclaimed for its 20-stone owner.

Ericksen stood politely in the queue while the officer conferred with his superior. Presently the two men returned to the counter. “Yes, excuse me, Your Excellency,” said the more senior man, ushering Ericksen through the desk and slapping his underling at the same time. “Right this way, Your Excellency,” he said as he led Victoria’s ambassador to Hutt River Province into France, pausing only to stamp his passport on the way through.

Leonard Casley was the son of a railway fireman in Kalgoorlie, and although he first ran foul of the law when it crushed his wildflower-selling business on the docks of Fremantle Harbour before he had reached nine years of age, there was little to mark him out as a future bush lawyer who would one day confound constitutional experts with his unlikely grasp of international law, gleaned from the dog-eared pages of a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

As appears to be the fashion with self-appointed monarchs, Leonard Casley was moulded from suitably humble beginnings. His first legal victory came when, as a 16-year-old, two-pound-a-week shipping clerk, he discovered a way to save his employers well over his entire salary each week. Leonard checked the Stamp Duty Act of the time (no doubt for a bit of light reading) and discovered that his employer was being needlessly extravagant in attaching duty stamps to bills of lading that passed through their office. The onus, he decided, was on the shipping companies themselves, and since one contract often carried up to 50 shillings worth of stamps, the implications were clear. According to Leonard, the shipping companies ultimately agreed that his reading of the law was quite correct, though with a diplomacy some would say is now distinctly lacking from his current endeavours, he left the matter to rest there.

World War II saw the future blueblood in an Air Force uniform slogging it out, although unfortunately not with the enemy, in the steamy jungles of Borneo. There is a sense of style about a man who will admit that his only action in the bloodiest holocaust of the 20th Century centred around a latrine pit and two opposing camps of men, all on the same side.

The way Leonard remembers it, the brawl started with a dare to cross the pit at one’s own peril. Several hundred men, including the Prince, accepted the challenge and the result, though not one of the most glorious in Australian military history, certainly established Leonard as a promising king-hitter. Perhaps he should build a latrine pit around Hutt River and dare the Governor-General to step across.

In any event, Leonard’s wartime heroics were soon replaced by a further stint at a familiar desk back in the shipping trade. But like many men who have fought war and famine, he was somehow changed upon his return.

There was little evidence that his father’s estate would yield a king’s ransom and if Leonard was to have any chance of a monarch he would have to become filthy rich. A little moonlighting was clearly called for and with the despatch of his first private shipment of tractor parts to Singapore he was on his way to a fortune, even if fame seemed a little further down the wharf.

Gradually building momentum, Leonard turned his attention to bricks and mortar, acquiring and despatching blocks of flats in Perth with near-supersonic haste. He also acquired Shirley Joy Butler, soon to be Princess Shirley, whose arid wit would one day more than match his own.

Around the same time, he acquired a 12,000 ha property north of Perth and in his spare moments he and princess Shirley co-operated to produce the four sons and three daughters who would lay the foundation of the burgeoning Casley dynasty.

By the late Sixties he had decided against persevering with the Westonia property and in the words of his official biography, he began sending his children around Western Australia to find something more suitable.

This holy odyssey reached its end in an 8000 ha farm at Hutt River, a stretch of water which flowed like a torrent during the brief winter and hardly at all during the endless summer, which produced flies the size of Honda 50s, but which he hoped would one day produce an entire countryside of wheat.

The Hutt River property proved once and for all that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Though it is apparently lush by West Australian standards, it is the sort of country in which John Steinbeck and his refugees from the Oklahoma dustbowls would have felt comfortably at home.

Nevertheless, such geographical difficulties never impeded a true king. And nor did they impede Leonard Casley, whose activities in the Perth home unit market attained a climax of conveyancing rarely witnessed in the quiet, tree-laden streets of the western capital.

By 1969, stretched to their fiscal limit, the Casleys had sown thousands of acres of the golden grain and were laying plans to harvest around 40,000 bushels.

It is said that a true leader of men rises above adversity but the envelope awaiting collection at the Northampton Post Office in October that year must have sorely tempted Leonard Casley to go to war — which he actually did eight years later.

The envelope contained a wheat quota certificate for the current season and the computer printout showed that the Casleys would be allowed to sell just 1647 bushels of their crop. The other 38,000 bushels would wilt in the dessicated fields and the Casley family fortune would die along with it.

This was not a latrine trench that would have to be jumped. It was more like the Grand Canyon.

Leonard picked up a pen and paper and in the bizarre phraseology which forms the Royal vocabulary, he dashed off letters to the Wheat Quota Committee, the Premier and the Governor of Western Australia, Sir Douglas Kendrew. He popped the letters into the nearest post box, which happened to be 50 kms away, and settled back to wait for the replies.

It is impossible to say exactly what reaction his correspondence aroused in Perth. Suffice to note that he got no answer at all from the Wheat Quota people or from the Premier, and only a vague response from the Governor, who indicated he would confer with his ministers and reply in due course.

Maybe Leonard was unduly wise in these matters or maybe he just suspected the worst. While the Governor conferred with his ministers, Leonard Casley conferred with the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

By the time Sir Douglas wrote back saying he could do nothing, Leonard had made the fascinating discovery that the Wheat Quota Act which was being applied against him had not in fact passed through the Parliament. Of even greater interest was the clause of the proposed Bill which appeared to rule out any appeal.

If the not-yet-royal farmer was to do anything it would have to be done before the Bill was passed. He returned to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and brushed up his knowledge of the laws of tort. What it came down to, the way Leonard saw it, was this: The Queen was liable in tort as a master to her servant, which in this case happened to be Leonard. Additionally, under the “unjust enrichment principle” of international law (it was a good encyclopaedia), he was entitled to compensation.

He sharpened his pencil and set to figuring out a suitable sum. The bottom line, based on the amount of land he would have to own to sell his whole 40,000 bushels of wheat, came to $52 million. If he pulled this off, Leonard Casley was going to be the richest unwheat farmer in the whole of Western Australia.

Some would argue that the backblocks cockie was unduly paranoid, but he was a very distressed future Prince when he read in the papers a couple of days later that the Deputy Premier, Sir Charles Court, had decided to introduce yet another Bill into Parliament, a Bill giving the government power to resume any rural land. He figured his $52 million claim had gone the way of all flesh and that pretty soon, his Hutt River farm would be Crown land.

With sudden clarity he recalled a predicament which had befallen him during his youth. He had been climbing a picket fence when he had slipped and impaled his right hand in such a way that he could neither reach the ground with his feet nor the top of the fence with his other hand. The incident seemed to be starkly relevant as he sat around the dining table of his fibro homestead wondering what the hell he might do next.

He was still considering his plight — and awaiting a reply from his latest protest from the Governor — when he learned that the Rural Lands Resumption Act had been read in Parliament for the second time. If ever there was a time to reach for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, this was it. It had stood him in good stead so far, though even that was hotly contested by the soon-to-be-Princess Shirley, who had a nagging fear that her exuberant husband had gone too far already. This wasn’t just a game her husband was playing; it was the whole shooting match.

But his courage prevailed and Leonard Casley retreated once again to the ultimate do-it-yourself manual. Presently he lifted his head, called three of his sons — Ian, Wayne and Richard — to his side and told them what he had discovered. He didn’t quite believe it himself, but it was hard to argue with the words sitting right there in dog-eared black and white.

“We are going to have to make a heavy and drastic move,” he said as the kerosene light flickered across his tired face in the fibro homestead at Hutt River, 50kms north of Northampton and 550kms north of Perth. It was a strange place for a revolution, but there it was.

“I have discovered this,” he said, as his family pressed close. “We are entitled under international law to form a self-preservation government provided we can satisfy two points.

The boys said nothing.

Firstly,” he continued, “we must be at risk of having our economy taken away, and that is certainly our position. And secondly, there must be the threat of loss of our land, and that is our position too.”

And so, on April 21, 1970, Leonard Casley typed up a document headed Fait Accompli, though he misspelled it and typed “fate accompli” instead. At least in his own mind, he had formally seceded from Australia.

This was about the time the papers got hold of it, and it wasn’t long before there were more reporters and cameramen and TV dolly birds at Hutt River Province (as it became known) than there was wheat turning to dust in the parched paddocks.

Nor was it long before the startled West Australian and Federal Governments started their counter-offensive and turned a backblocks farmer and his nervous family into a cause that won attention throughout the world and made the pages of Time magazine in 1977.

Although the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, wrote to Leonard confirming that it was a State problem and that it would be unconstitutional for Canberra to intervene, there was plenty of evidence that Canberra and Perth danced to the same anti-Hutt River Province tune.

The Casleys wondered what might happen when the future Prince was finally summoned to Perth for a meeting with the Governor’s aide-de-camp, Lt-Colonel John K. Burt.

According to Leonard, the meeting lasted 90 minutes and Burt told him he could proceed and that they would do nothing to stop him — which also happened to be true as far as it went. No government has ever directly challenged the Hutt River secession documents, although Casley says he has been prodding them to do so for 12 years. And Colonel Burt, though he retains his Government House discretion, has become the Hutt River Province ambassador to Perth.

Well, there was a lull before the storm and Leonard realised he might be on to a good thing after all when there was a knock on the front door. It was the regional representative of the West Australian Government Railways, wanting to know if it’d be okay to start pumping air-conditioned busloads of florid tourists into the middle of Australia’s newest country.

Leonard nodded benevolently and immediately started planning the facilities he knew would soon be necessary in his Hutt River Province.

At the same time, he was starting to receive guest speaker invitations from clubs, charities and political groups all over Australia. He addressed the Subiaco Young Liberals in Perth, who applauded his stand “on this issue”.

Leonard Casley was calling himself “the administrator of Hutt River Province” at this time, and although he was pretty much a media joke — taking the piss out of him was almost irresistible — he was still there and had not been slapped in jail or, as seemed even more likely, into a close-fitting jacket in a lunatic asylum.

But although he was confident of his own position, he decided he needed to shore up the positions of those people who had helped him. He perceived the law as a bit murky on the subject, but there was a possibility the Commonwealth could move against his helpers by charging them with treason.

Out came the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Leonard found a fascinating law which held that anyone assisting a de facto Prince to attain his office could not be charged with treason. So if he became a Prince and his family helped him attain that office then they would be treason-proof.

And that’s how wheat farmer Leonard Casley became a blueblood along with his wife, Princess Shirley, and their seven children, one of whom is a housewife married to an industrial painter and another of whom is a spare parts manager for a trucking company in Perth. They even got a family motto — Death Before Dishonour — which some may say puts an intolerably high penalty on bending the rules.

This happy time was soon ruined, however, by the untimely arrival of Prince Wayne’s 20th birthday, which, if he was still living in Australia, would make him eligible for the dreaded national service.

If the newly-crowned Prince Leonard had walked a tightrope in the past, it was nothing compared to the little bit of wire he had to balance on now. And Prince Wayne was equally in a bind. If he sent back his registration form it would be an admission that Hutt River was a hoax and that not even the royal family were prepared to admit they no longer answered to Australian law. There would be other fights in the future, Prince Leonard realised. But to be in them meant he had to stay in the ring. And to stay in the ring meant not to budge a centimetre.

With his dad and the ever-present Encyclopaedia Britannica to back him up, Prince Wayne wrote to the Australia authorities and told them he was a citizen of Hutt River Province and was therefore not eligible to be called up. According to Prince Leonard, nothing further happened until Prince Wayne got a phone call only days before the deadline for his registration. Taking a leaf from Sir Paul Hasluck’s book, the young Prince referred the caller to his dad.

“I subsequently met an officer in Perth,” Prince Leonard told Penthouse. “He asked me if I would give permission for Wayne to register and I said I would sanction it provided the request was put to me in writing.”

Such a request, as the Australian Government apparently took less than an hour to decide, would see Prince Wayne in the army all right, but it would also allow his father to cling to the sovereignty of his cursed Hutt River Province. How many other dads are asked for permission to obey Australia law?

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that no formal request was ever drafted. There was another face-to-face meeting and Prince Leonard says he was told that Prince Wayne would have to be called up but could immediately elect to be deported to his own country.

The young royal, meanwhile, was summonsed to the Geraldton Court where he paid a small fine — under protest — for refusing to register. Then he was drafted and taken to Perth. Nobody could have been more surprised than Prince Leonard when his son turned up at home a few days later. “They no sooner drafted me,” Wayne told his father, “than they called me in and told me I was discharged.”

It is perhaps a moot point whether Prince Wayne was actually deported, as his father had been told in Perth. But one thing was certain: he had gone to Australia to join the army and now he was back home.

But contrast, the Commonwealth Department of Social Services proved a lot more amenable to negotiation. Shortly after seceding, the Hutt River Royals wrote to the department pointing out that as they were no longer citizens of Australia, it would be unreasonable for Princess Anne (Prince Ian’s wife) to continue to claim child endowment for one of the royal grandchildren.

The amount in dispute was just 50 cents a week but in the legal precedent game — a game Prince Leonard was becoming unusually good at — 50 cents was every bit as important as $52 million.

In November 1970 and in a letter duly addressed to “Hutt River Province”, the department said it had not been advised to cease child endowment to the residents of the province and that the entitlement would therefore continue.

But the following year the department apparently changed its mind. In a letter dated December 8, it advised that action had now been taken “to cancel your child endowment … as requested by you”, although the Casleys were surprised by this since they maintained they had never done more than merely point out they were no longer Australian citizens.

In any event, Prince Leonard says he has received no endowment cheques since that time. Nor, he claims, does he pay tax on any income derived from within the borders of his hotly-disputed nation, though there have been a number of legal battles over this point.

Unfortunately, there are no court transcripts available to confirm his version of what took place. The Justice Department in Perth has told him the records have all been accidentally destroyed. But certainly he has suffered the royal ignominy of a night in the slammer over a matter involving a $4 tax fine.

Prince Leonard says he has never faced a court case where the authorities have actually wanted money. Rather, they have pursued him virulently with repeated requests for information. They are requests that have apparently fallen on deaf ears. Prince Leonard says he no longer declares income derived from the province. But he claims he does pay non-resident’s tax on income generated within Australia. One thing is clear about his fiscal position, however. If it is a joke, it is one in which the Bank of New South Wales plays an important role.

Hutt River cheques are drawn on the bank’s Geraldton branch and are headed THE NATIONAL TREASURY OF HUTT RIVER PROVINCE. The cheques also carry the Province’s seal, together with the words Independent Sovereign State. A cheque in Penthouse’s possession is signed Prince Leonard and is made out to “Sir” Thomas Ericksen — a title afforded Mr Ericksen by Prince Leonard himself. Though this cheque is uncashed, Ericksen maintains he has cashed a number of others with singular ease.

Bank statements, also in the possession of Penthouse, are addressed to: THE ADMINISTRATOR, HUTT RIVER PROVINCE VIA WESTERN AUSTRALIA and the account name is identified as: THE NATIONAL TREASURY, HUTT RIVER PROVINCE.

Another point is equally clear: that is, the trenchant duplicity of the Federal Government and its agencies and commissions.

On April 2, 1979, while the Prince and his cohorts were involved in the usual round of inter-governmental squabbles, TAA saw fit to issue him, free of charge, two first class return tickets from Perth to Townsville so that he might attract some badly-needed publicity for their Magnetic Island tourist resort off the coast of Queensland. The tickets were issued to HRH Prince Leonard and HRH Princess Shirley. Their Royal Highnesses asked Penthouse if they could take this opportunity to thank the government for the trip.

While they were away, Prince Leonard met Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen on what Leonard described as a State visit, and the happy occasion was duly recorded in official photographs. On their way back to Perth they also met Gold Coast mayor Sir Bruce Small, and reportedly many matters of mutual interest were raised and discussed. As Alice in Wonderland once remarked: things were getting curiouser and curiouser.

But while there was the occasional government bouquet there was also a never-ending procession of brickbats. Not least among these was the fascinating brawl with the West Australian State Electricity Commission, which came to Prince Leonard with a proposal to run power lines to a number of farms in the district. The Prince gave royal assent to the proposal, provided the arrangement was made between the electricity authorities and the Province itself.

In due course, the SEC returned to explain that under West Australian legislation they were not allowed to sell current internationally. If Hutt River Province wanted to be in the scheme the bills would have to be directed to an individual rather than a nation.

The bogey of legal precedent raised its head and Prince Leonard was forced to decline. The SEC tore up their plans — and routed their cable around, instead of through, Hutt River Province. To this day, the Casleys have their own generators and in the days leading up to Easter and their annual off-road racing carnival, they were subjected to a series of crippling blackouts of the sort which have recently affected those two other well-known States — New South Wales and Victoria.

On the lighter side, 30 coach companies (including Ansett) commenced tourist operations to the beleaguered Province and that meant up to 60,000 tourists a year. The Hutt River treasury dashed off a cheque approaching $200,000 and before long — all without approval from the Shire of Northampton — tearooms, a three-unit motel, souvenir shops and a chapel were erected.

The chapel is a workmanlike brick structure adorned with paintings by Pert artist Frank Pash, which one journalist described, with an accuracy hard to fault, as “awful”. The paintings feature such well-known religious scenes as Jesus-talking to the fisherman, except that somehow the faces of Princes Wayne and Ian are included in the throng. Another features Prince Richard as a Biblical blind man, and in the background stand several other figures said to have been inspired by two Melbourne television technicians.

They are an interesting contribution to religious art and the chapel is used, what’s more — four times a year by the local Church of England. A country without a chapel is like a man without a soul.

It is not surprising that the shire took exception to all this frantic unauthorised building. They dragged Prince Leonard before the court and fined him $20 for overlooking the relevant permits. He pays his rates each year, though, on a specific “without prejudice” basis and more as a goodwill gesture to the local community than anything else.

Nevertheless, he claims to have developed an excellent relationship with the Shire and they certainly accommodate by promoting the hell out of their aberrant ratepayer with truckloads of tourist brochures and roadsigns. But for a small shire, one gets the feeling that Hutt River Province and its self-appointed royal family are just a bit much to handle.

Standing next to the chapel, duly signposted in large script, stands the most controversial building Prince Leonard has ever erected. What, after all, would a nation be without a post office? And what would a postal service be without its own stamps?

The post office opened in November 1973, although Prince Leonard had to get his stamps printed elsewhere. The Australians just wouldn’t play ball. For three years the inward mail cascaded through the nearby Northampton Post Office, which duly delivered letters from people such as the Commonwealth of Australia News and Information Bureau addressed, quite correctly as Prince Leonard held it, to “Prince Leonard Casley, Hutt River Province via Western Australia”.

Mail also came from such luminaries as Federal Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser, although once he got a better job Mr Fraser stopped writing altogether.

Outward mail posed a different problem. Prince Leonard insisted on using his own Hutt River stamps which Australia Post steadily ignored, studiously avoided postmarking and contemptuously referred to as “stickers”. In November, 1973 Australia Post floated a memo, which unfortunately fell into Prince Leonard’s hands, outlining their considerable alarm at this new rebel service. The memo pointed out that neither the Federal nor State authorities recognised “a self-styled province of this kind” and contained an opinion from the assistant crown solicitor that mail addressed to “fictitious persons” like Prince Leonard was simply undeliverable. The memo pointed out that under international postal agreements “stickers” of the sort used by Prince Leonard must not be fixed to the address side of the envelope.

But the Prince wasn’t to be outfoxed. If Australia Post wouldn’t accept his stamps on the front of the envelope, he would put them on the back. Not only that, he would send his mail in bulk to the Cocos Islands and affix their stamps to the front. Actually it worked out cheaper than using Australian stamps in the first place.

This uneasy arrangement worked for some time until one day the mail simply dried up. Australia Post pulled down the shutters and like small children in a kindergarten disagreement, they refused to talk to him at all, either by mail or any other way. For four letterless months the embargo continued. It was impossible to write to Prince Leonard or to hear from him because officially he had ceased to exist.

Clearly the situation had become intolerable. Prince Leonard dashed off a couple of telegrams to the Prime Minister, pointing out that the government was committing an offence. Four days later, he found that a full bag of diverted mail had been suddenly delivered to his Perth home, a six-hour drive away. The address on every envelope had been crossed out and replaced with a government stamp proclaiming: “ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. TRY L CASLEY, 10 LOCKHARD STREET, COMO, PERTH.”

Nobody, not even Australia Post, could keep up this backbreaking task for long and in due course the old Prince Leonard letters began turning up again. In fact, the Post Office themselves forgot about the dispute and began issuing official receipts in Prince Leonard’s name. The only difficulty was that they steadfastly refused to deliver the mail to Hutt River or even to their own post office at Northampton. It was rather like living in Sydney and having to pick up your mail in Bourke.

Eventually, according to Prince Leonard, he worked out a deal with the post office where he would despatch mail with his own stamps and then pay Australia Post with Hutt River cheques for using their service. This, he says, is in accordance with international postal protocol.

But if Australia Post didn’t want much to do with Australia’s own royal family, the same could not be said for the Vatican. In 1978 Prince Leonard was granted official permission to commemorate his visit to the Vatican by issuing a stamp featuring his Beatitude Patriarch, Cardinal Archbishop Major Josyf Slipyj, Patriarch of Kiev, Holych and all of the Ukraine — by all accounts the only Archbishop Major in the whole Catholic Church and a close associate of the Pope.

More recently, on February 12, 1980, the Perth Magistrate’s Court hearing a sales tax action against Prince Leonard (he lost) ruled that it proposed to call Prince Leonard’s “stickers” “postage stamps issued by the Hutt River Province, backing or indicating or backed (sic) by a postal service.”

Even more galling for the Australian authorities was the pat on the back Mr Rasmussen SM gave Prince Leonard. “Mr Casley is engaged in a very commendable operation. He is creating material and goods of very real worth,” the magistrate said.

Last year, Prince Leonard’s ambassador to Austria, Dr Emil Quadri, was invited to represent Hutt River Province on the honorary committee of the Internationale Postwertzeichenausstellung (International Philatelic Association) in Vienna. Also on the committee was the Federal President of Austria.

But while the postage stamp debacle was winding its way to a promising conclusion, Prince Leonard was deeply worried about other moves he saw the Commonwealth making against him. It had not been used for some time, but in 1977, Prince Leonard dusted off his encyclopaedia, turned to the appropriate section and in a direct take-off of The Mouse That Roared, he declared war on Australia.

Sir John Kerr, in those dying days of his Governor-Generalship, must have been relieved indeed when three days later he received a second telegram, notifying him that the war was now over and that the government should show the full respect now due, according to international law, to a nation undefeated from a state of war.

The way Prince Leonard saw it — and no Australian troops had appeared in Hutt River Province to change his mind — his right to govern had now been shored up by the Geneva Conventions which obliged a duty to govern on any occupying power. In Hutt River Province, of course, the occupying power was him.

Closing even more loopholes which he feared could potentially challenge his sovereignty, Prince Leonard concluded that under British law the legality of the government seeking recognition — in this case himself — was not the question to be considered. What was of sole relevance, the law told him, was the right of that government to speak for the people it represented.

As he looked over the desiccated pastures of Hutt River, he heard not a murmur of protest that he should speak for his country’s inhabitants which, to be fair, consisted solely of members of his own family.

Prince Leonard was at last satisfied. If the Australians wanted to test his authority they would be obliged to do so in an impartial international court and the convoluted arguments involved would be enough to tie up the whole Attorney-General’s Department for years to come.

He relaxed, reached for another Winfield (he smokes them constantly) and began to plan his first international State visit. What would set the visit apart was the fact that the entire royal party would be travelling on Hutt River passports. Here, surely, was his boldest venture.

The Prince had been planning this excursion for many years. He had been appointing diplomatic representatives all over the world since 1973 and some of them had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. In 1976, Professor E. Altmann, his consul-general to Macao, reported that he had been fully accredited for the local authorities and now held official documentation confirming his status as a diplomat representing surely the most bizarre dream any Australian wheat farmer had ever brought off. Penthouse holds a copy of the document. Not only that — the Tasmanian Almanac had taken to listing Prince Leonard’s ambassador to the State in its consular listings under Other Consular Representation.

Other less spectacular victories had been won from the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia, which had taken to showing Hutt River Province on its official road maps together with the bald statement that the province had seceded from the Commonwealth of Australia in 1970; from the giant German Volksbank, which had been kind enough to issue posters showing some of the world’s more unusual currencies, including, of course, Prince Leonard’s own banknotes, and from the Standard Catalogue of World Coins, which did likewise.

Now it was time to enter the lion’s mouth. Leonard despatched the Victorian ambassador to the Lebanese Consulate in Melbourne to secure the necessary visas to enter that country. The consular official had accepted the passports, Tom Ericksen reported. He had examined them carefully, noting the particulars. Then he had adjourned to another room where he’d apparently made a telephone call. On his return, the official told Ericksen the Australian Government had requested him not to stamp visas into the rebel passports. “Who’s running your country?” the vast Mr Ericksen demanded to know. “You or the Australian Government?” The diplomat shrugged his shoulders and issued the visas. The trip, by all accounts, as a grand success. There was a brief delay entering France — a minor difficulty in the vernacular of diplomacy — but no problems at all in India, Greece, the Vatican, Syria, Lebanon and a string of other countries.

And from time to time, Leonard bounces back into the limelight by claiming another “victory”. Late last April he announced that the RAAF had staged two fly-overs of Hutt River to mark the 12 anniversary of the Province — a claim denied by the Wing Commander who had supposedly organised the tribute. On Anzac Day he made a regal entrance to Pearce Air Force Base to inspect for possible purchase some Mirage Jet Fighters, which he would need to establish his “Air Peace Force”.

Certainly the Australian Federal Police were just as helpful as they could be, Prince Leonard told Penthouse. The gumshoe brigade wanted to know whether they could be of assistance in security vetting arrangements for persons applying for the province’s passports. Just a helping hand, he was told, in case the Prince got the wrong sort of people wanting to get on to the bandwagon. Though Prince Leonard says the offer was declined, he does admit a warm and friendly relationship with his nearest neighbour’s most important law enforcement agency. And he also admits to providing Hutt River passports on a “no questions” basis to persons whom he claimed the authorities had sent to him.

Being a monarch, he sees no need to say more than that.

About future plans, he is more open. There are negotiations, he says, with international banks, airlines … all the paraphernalia of State.

In the meantime, there is a farm to run, grandchildren to educate, an economy to control and a dream to chase; a dream so bold, so crazy and yet so irresistibly plausible that in the end it may turn out not to have been a dream at all.

(in order of appearance on
  1. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  2. The Second Biggest Country In Australia: Hutt River Province
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