These protests by the West Australian Gold mining industry have some alignment with an earlier period of Gold miner discontent.
When the details of federation were being discussed in 1900, West Australians were strongly opposed. It was only in 1890 that they had achieved independence, and they were unwilling to give it away after just ten years.
The problem was that the Gold miners, who had arrived from the East for the WA Gold boom, outnumbered the local population. The miner’s attachment was to the East. They made it clear that if WA refused to federate with Australia, then they would secede from WA. They controlled (by vote) large areas of the state.
So that was the end of West Australia as an independent entity and the beginning of the current borders of Australia.
There have been a few secession movements since. In 1933, a referendum to secede was carried two-to-one, but London refused to countenance it. It can be reasonably speculated that the strength of the vote to secede was influenced by the dire circumstances of the economic depression that was affecting WA, along with most of the western world.
There was another movement to secede in the early 1970s, but times were not as bad and it failed to gain enough popular support to go to a referendum.
In 2017, the subject has been again raised at the Liberal Party State Conference and the issue is now in the public arena with a new generation – one that is also struggling with an economy that is about to go from bad to very much worse.
WA is mineral rich; Gold deposits are far from its only bounty. It also has one of the world’s finest mints producing one of the premier quality Gold coins in the world. It is a rich state which receives far less from the East than the Commonwealth government raises in taxes in its territory. It resents that – it always has. The disappearance to the East of its tax dollars is one of the reasons that the state government is reduced to trying to gouge the Gold miners.
A wholly negative and hopelessly biased ABC article, raised the objections that to successfully secede WA would need its own money (see above re Gold and the Perth Mint), its own military (couldn’t help but be more effective than the warrior culture lite, girl’s brigade currently shopping in the East), its own health services (the infrastructure and personnel already exist), its own education system (ditto), embassies (dispense with them in favour of Skype and WhatsApp) and intelligence agencies (what for?). And – wait for it – that WA would have to form its own national cricket and football teams. Seriously?
I lived in WA, in 1966 and again in 1976, each time for almost exactly a year. I was struck on both occasions by the sense of separateness from “over east”. It is also geographically distant. The major cities ‘over east’ are closer to New Zealand than they are to Perth.
If WA seceded and returned to sensible government and honest money, it would be one of the richest countries in the world within one generation.
My family would move there in a shot – the road across the Nullarbor would be bumper-to-bumper.
Keep an eye on WA; my sense is that the secessionist movement is about to raise its pretty head again. This time, the combination of an ever-worsening economy (not only due to the end of the minerals boom), the unfair nature of the GST (WA receives 34.4c for every dollar raised) and resentment at Federal immigration policies, will tip the vote in favour of secession.
A unilateral declaration of independence would bring instant success. London no longer matters, and what is East Australia going to do, apart from wring its hands? Cancel shopping and invade?
Go West young man, go West.