Wednesday, September 17, 2014

remember Australia too has been rocked by the hot and cold air of secessionist movements.

As the Scots get whatever they wear under their kilts in a knot about leaving the United Kingdom, it is salient to remember Australia too has been rocked by the hot and cold air of secessionist movements. 

From time to time, but mainly when resource and commodity prices were high, Queensland and Western Australia wanted to rule their own destinies.

The two outrider states have long loathed us Easterners with our big city arrogance, employed workforces and total disinterest in them. Clearly, some Scots feel much the same about the English, so has there ever been a better time for the Australian states to ride the zeitgeist and secede?

After all, the Deep North, the Shallow North and the Far West have been threatening secession since England kindly allowed Queensland to leave the colony of NSW's sheltering warmth.


Curiously, that act of munificence came just 100 or so years after the Brits thrashed Highlanders and other Jacobites at the battle of Culloden, a  1746 victory that stopped the restoration of the House of Stuart to the British throne, turned Scotland into a branch office and is the white noise behind Thursday's vote.

Sydney was  pretty tough on its breakaway.

When the colony of Queensland opened for business in 1859, NSW left just 7 1/2 pence  in the new Treasury. Though a newly minted Queenslander set the state's white shoe tone to come, by breaking into the government resident's official residence and purloining the cash box containing the seven copper pennies.

Thereafter Queensland was regularly  beset by secessionist movements.

Part of it was distance: Brisbane is closer to Cairns than Melbourne by 84 kilometres. Slavery was another factor: sugar growers wanted a state of North Queensland because abolitionists "down south" wished to end the Kanaka trade. And rural populists such as Bob Katter and Clive Palmer have happily banged the North Queensland drum ever since.

Over in the west, new found wealth quickly made them of an independent mind. Just three years after after self-government arrived in 1889, the diggers wanted to set the continent adrift and live in a new colony, Auralia.

Instead, it helped West Australians vote in favour of federation but the experience developed a sandgroper penchant for home rule.

In a 1933 referendum, two in every three West Australians voted in favour of the state's secession from the Commonwealth. But the Mother of All Parliaments (England) washed its hands on the matter and World War II distracted British legal minds from pursuing the matter. Fast forward to 1974 and the mining magnate Lang Hancock was pushing the Westralian Secession Movement, until his push ran out of puff when the economy went east.

Over the years a  thousand legal opinions gathered to suggest the constitution contain a reference to the indissolubility of the federation, but few bush secessionists took any notice. NSW was not immune either: New England and the Riverina have threatened to leave home.

Clearly independence in Australia is a form of regional whinging.  It goes deeper in Scotland.

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