Something had to give between East and west.
Ever since 1901, Western Australia had been a member of the Commonwealth of Australia. relationships between Perth and Canberra had varied from warm to outright hostile. Indeed, as long as the West was in the federation there was a desire amongst the populace to leave. In the first 60 years of Federation, WA was an agriculture-based economy. However, its businesses were unable to compete with those from the East - A result of interstate free-trade as mandated in the National Constitution.
A Referendum had been held in the midst of the Great Depression in 1933, asking Britain to remove WA from Federation. 68% voted for Secession, but Britain refused to consider it. As Australia itself had been handed dominion status, Westminster believed that it was a decision for Canberra. Secession died down and despite occasionally reappearing, never reached the heights of '33.
The paradigm changed in the second half of the 20th century. Once a backwater dependent on Commonwealth Aid, Western Australia became the wealthiest state of all - The Cinderella State.It was all based on massive mineral deposits in the states north. Almost instantly, everything changed. What was once a state powered by farmers was now one powered by miners. It didn't take long, however, for this to also influence State-Federal relations. Attitudes toward the east no regarded Canberra as thieves, carting money away from a state it had previously neglected.
GST was supposed to be a tax in which the profits would be fairly distributed between states. However, its distribution skewed in favour of the big two - Victoria and New South Wales. The loss of revenue was startling - 38 cents per dollar in 2014, down from 75 cents in 2010. It began to effect the economy. The treasury began running deficits. the AAA+ rating had been slashed and after a while was A-. Although a Liberal Government won the 2013 election, and began removing what was perceived as Anti-WA taxes (the mining and Carbon taxes) from the previous Labour government, it failed to budge on GST. Although State and Federal government negotiations resulted in deadlock, the Premier appealed to the people not to demand secession over GST when in the context of human events, it was only a minor squabble.
So Secession arguments cooled down after a while. Yet, what was under the surface was a growing resentment, one that was mirroring that of 1933. It only needed a spark..........
2020 will forever be remembered as the beginning of Western Australian Nationalism. federally, the Labor Party led by Stephen Tolmi won an early election held in January. At the State Level, the liberal party had returned to power. It had lost the 2017 General election to Mike McManus' labour. However, a mixture of a Liberal/National controlled Legislative Council and several severe economic blunders and corruption scandals that make WA Inc. look like stealing from the Salvos forced a Constitutional Crisis. The liberals, Infuriated by labors incompetence, refused to back the 2020 budget. Refusing to call an election and fearing he would himself be dismissed, McManus dismissed the Governor and attempted to install Greg Dwyer as Governor. However, it soon emerged that PM Tolmi had himself ordered this, to keep the state in Labor control and to avoid an embarrassing turn of events for the recently victorious Labor.
it was here that secessionist sentiments began to re-emerge. The largest protests in the States history took to St georges Terrace as 300,000 men, women and children marched to Government house in anger. Opinion polls mirrored anger. Consistent results around 97% decried this as both undemocratic and a severe breach of State rights. However, labor wouldn't budge. it seemed the only hope was the Monarch. A petition of nearly a million signatures of electors was presented to Buckingham Palace requesting McManus' Dismissal.
In what would prove to be Queen Elizabeth II's last major act, the Queen dismissed McManus and his Caucus on August 11, 2020 for 'A severe breach of the Constitution'. Although the third head of government of any Australian entity to be sacked, he was the first to be dismissed by the reigning monarch. Chief justice Reginald D'Olivera was appointed temporary Administrator until after the election. Opposition leader Phillip Quinlan was appointed caretaker premier, with direct instructions to call an election 'As soon as is naturally possible'. To further entrench State rights in Constitutional Convention, The Queen formally warned Albanese from interfering with state politics again.
In what was the most devastating elections ever held in Australia, The Liberals won all 59 seats of the Legislative Assembly and all 36 in the Legislative Council on the October 1st 2020. Following precedent from the 1987 New Brunswick wipe out Election, 20 Liberal members, led by Michael Ellis, formed the opposition. In a move to repair the office of Governor and defend it from political interference, an amendment to the state constitution delegated the powers of Governor General selection solely to the Queen - The Customary tradition of the Premier 'advising' the Queen was completely forbidden. For several days, the Western Australian people partied in the street - it seemed what had been a trying and testing few years was ending....
It was anything but. To the ruling federal labor party, it was an embarrassment of gigantic proportions. Long reknowned for its republican stance, labor saw it as foreign interference. To add to it, there had long been a wing of Labor supportive of abolishing the federal system and making Australia a centralised unitary state to push the Labor ideal forward - Something that Tolmi wasn't at all supportive. In the face of growing support, Tolmi made a temporary compromise. He would hold discussions in Perth with Premier Quinaln, in order to address issues, restore some integrity to the nation and, most importantly, make the party seem willing to work. However, recent cabinet documents released under Freedom of Information revealed that he was planning to 'Remind them who is in charge', in which he hoped 'that the Quinlan Administration will in future remember that it is a member of a federation with Five other states'.
By 2021, Quinlan began losing support. Although Labor was all but finished in the West, there was anger at how easy Quinlan seemed to accept Tolmi's position. Not for the first time, A Western Australian premier had been accused of being all talk and no action. The official opposition Led by Mr Ellis began infuriated as what it believed was selling out to the west. With the re-implementation of the mining taxes and other federal acts of retribution designed to stymie the West, the opposition began to vociferously demand the government do more. However, Quinlan would not budge. Within two weeks, a Liberal/National caucus was held, the sole purpose a leadership challenge. Mr Ellis challenged Quinlan for the role as Premier, in whom he believed to be 'A weak spine in front of a Canberra Bulldozer!' Such passionate rhetoric was, however, un-influential in the result. QUINLAN 60 - ELLIS 35. Within 20 minutes, a meeting of the 35 members who voted for Ellis held a meeting in the Parliamentary Quadrangle. What was said has unfortunately not been recorded, but the resolution - All 35 would leave the Coalition parties and form a new one - The New Holland Party.
the name New Holland had been specifically chosen for a reason. It was the original name for the whole continent, and until 1829 was the name of the remainder of the West (the other two thirds was at that time New South Wales territory). It also was in direct defiance to Canberra, signalling that the Party no longer recognised the west as a part of the Federation. Unsurprisingly, Ellis was named unanimously as its leader, with a young firebrand from Bunbury, 27 year old Jacob Ellison as his deputy. Mr Ellis' first speech on behalf of the party, as recorded by Hansard, declared that the party "Had its back turned to Canberra, while we face toward Britain and the World!" In Canberra, Tolmi took these words as an alarm. With many in Australia knowing the Queen's life was nearly over, He believed that the time would soon come to make Australia a Republic. The words of Ellis dented his optimism. The whole constitutional crisis in Western Australia had influenced opinion in the East in favour of maintaining the Monarchy, and now Tolmi was in a rut. His deputy, Senator Catherine Peterson, told him 'it's just a splinter group, they have no support. theyll be gone at the next election!'
Somehow, Labor won the 2023 federal election - Although it didn't run a single Candidate in WA. Labor had managed two surpluses in 2021 and 2022, with a third in 2023 expected. However, the New Holland Party secured 9 of the 15 WA Lower House seats, and 5 of the six senate seats. Senator Peterson herself resigned within days of the result, writing a letter of sincere apology to PM Tolmi, stating 'I had made one of the biggest miscalculations in Australian History, one that may ultimately change the nations history forever'. Tolmi was beginning to panic, as he realised that the NHP was likely to win a majority at the next State election. A caucus meeting however reminded him of the compromise between himself and the Unitarists. They told him that they should begin to make plans to implement changes. An MP said 'We would have to tear up the current constitution and replace it'. 'I concur' said another one 'It would be an absolute mess trying to edit the current one. Besides, we can get rid of the monarchy as well!' Tolmi sat back in his chair, twiddling his fingers as a slight grin appeared on his face 'Y'know what?' he said. 'Lets do it!'
The NHP were disgusted to hear of the new constitution. Now they wanted retribution, and to them there was no better scapegoat than Quinlan. In a parliamentary debate recorded by Hansard, NHP Deputy Leader Ellison was quoted as calling Quinlan 'A bloody Traitor, who ought to hang his head in disgrace!' An NHP MP was soon after named and expelled from the house for a month after remarking 'More like in a noose, you bastard! I'll put you in one, that's for sure!' Once again, people began protesting, driving the state to a standstill. Quinlan called an election for November 30.
More to Come................