Western Australian independence debate

Apologies if this should be elsewhere or consolidated into an existing thread but feel that it’s significant enough a subject to justify it’s own topic.

What are people’s thoughts on the idea of Western Australia becoming an independent state one day? Keen to know the thoughts of both people within WA and also from other parts of Australia/overseas.
Certainly, with the Covid pandemic, the debate around this subject has been reignited and with Mark McGowan’s consistent stance on a hard border and keeping Covid out, it has set the state apart from not only the rest of the country but the rest of the world apart from perhaps New Zealand and China. This is not about Covid though so don’t want the discussion to devolve down that particular rabbit hole, there’s already a thread for that.

Personally, I’ve shifted my view in recent weeks/months and would actually now consider myself in favour of Western Australia becoming independent. It is quite clear that Western Australia feels taken for granted by the rest of the country and doesn’t like being ‘dictated to’ by the ‘eastern states’. It really comes across to me as an unhappy marriage, people from WA don’t like the direction the eastern states have gone in and the reverse is also true. This is not just from Covid, McGowan is a big fan of China and is keen to develop closer ties (as he feels that the economic benefit overrides any human rights concerns he might have), while in the rest of the country the reverse feeling is true. I do feel as though Covid is the one issue though that has increasingly made differences between WA and the rest of the country reach the point where they unreconcilable. Ultimately, if they are unhappy with the rest of the country and it’s direction, and don’t want to participate, then they should have the right to go their own way.

Also have to bear in mind that WA did vote for independence back in 1933, but was refused by Britain, I feel there is an element of redressing a past injustice if this were to one day occur. An interesting article here looks at the history of the secessionist movement.

I know I’ve been critical at times of McGowan and some of the things he says and does but I will acknowledge he is definitely very popular and resonates with the WA public in a way rarely seen in any modern politician.

Finally, I do wonder how it would play out in the long term for both WA and the rest of the country and am keen to know peoples thoughts on this.

For mine- I would expect WA to develop an NZ-esque foreign policy, balancing the traditional alliances with a strong respect and deference to China (and not participating in US-led measures such as the Quad). Economically, WA would experience more benefit from mining booms, however would be more exposed and vulnerable to the other side of the cycle when the market is low. The rest of the country would experience a bit of a hit from the loss of GST money but with the economy being more service-based I can see the impact being absorbed fairly quickly with the main loss being of additional riches during mining booms.


1 Like

Must admit I’m a bit confused by this response.

At a guess I’m going to say you don’t think this was worth a topic.

If that’s so I’ll happily own up and admit to misreading the room on how much interest there was in this subject.

Based on the Covid thread and current situation (and how intense the debate gets when it comes to anything WA related) I thought it might be worth discussing but I’ll take it I’m quite possibly wrong in this instance.

Mods- if you don’t think this is going to go anywhere I am OK with this being deleted.

I think the idea of secession is just ridiculous. It’s an insult to every Australian who fought and died to protect our country. It’s an insult to every Australian citizen who loves their country and upholds its values. I hate it when group discussions about WA decision making derails into secession territory. It’s a ticket that people play who aren’t too bright and don’t have the depth to argue any details about whatever disagreement they have (not aimed at you, aimed at West Aussies that genuinely use it as an get out of jail card for every argument)


Wonderful to see such strong passion and support for Australia from someone in WA. I must admit to being genuinely pleasantly surprised as I honestly have been increasingly of the perception that most people in WA increasingly didn’t love being part of Australia but I might be wrong.

Can very much understand that- from a non-WA point of view it does feel like the actions of the WA government sometimes reflect not wanting to be a part of Australia anymore (not just Covid, I’d also look at McGowan’s support for China) when the rest of the country has reached a consensus on something.
Can appreciate that secession is another dramatic step again way above the current politicking and bickering

Really appreciate your thoughts on this, I feel like I’ve definitely learned something and happy to admit I might have been wrong in some of my initial perceptions.


From the little I can remember.
After the Hut River Provence debacle where a farmer near Geraldton attempted to secede from Australia (he managed to become an independent state which was never officially recognised within Australia).
Laws were changed so that no state (or area within a state) is able to secede from the rest of the country without each state government and the commonwealth government agreeing to it.
Absolutely no chance of that ever happening, so I’m afraid the subject of secession is always mute.

1 Like

It’s an impractical proposition that would be a serious detriment to the average West Australian who would lose access to federal government services.

It would cause massive additional overheads and expenditure for the WA government although this would presumably be offset somewhat by not having to pay federal income tax and other federal taxes which would stay in WA instead.

Without free trade and freedom of movement between WA and the Commonwealth it would not work practically (although one would assume both parties would be agreeable to such arrangement)

It also raises questions about future-born WA children not having Australian citizenship and whether that is worth something to them.

You’d think potentially losing the Australian dollar as currency would also make it very unpopular


All very valid, although WA is probably in a better place than most to successfully secede if were to happen.
And I certainly hope it never does !!!

1 Like

I can see where you’re coming from. I think international economical decisions with mineral exports are part and parcel with the position we are in. We have to make and maintain relationships with other countries/companies which are kind of on a diplomatic level. They definitely can lead into the discussion of secession though.

1 Like

There’s a tremendous difference between WA state premiers complaining about the Commonwealth and the political parties, let alone the general population in WA actually treating secession as anything more than a joke.

The 2 secessionist minor parties in the 2021 WA State Election got barely 2% of the vote between them, just edging out competitors such as the No Mandatory Vaccination Party.

It’s not just you - The Guardian did a feature on it last year during the WA state election campaign, written by their Melbourne based chief of staff - this is despite the fact they don’t have anyone at all but freelancers on the payroll based out of WA, and it was such a misread of the reality that it looked ridiculous from the point of view of someone living within WA.


Thanks guys, some great thoughts.

I would envisage in this hypothetical scenario that something similar to the Trans-Tasman agreement would be put in place during normal non-Covid times.

Given there’s no freedom of movement though at the moment (and for the forseeable future now), it just shows how nothing is sacred and many things that seemed unthinkable 2 years ago are now reality.

Yep, and in the case of China there’s a very delicate balance between the economic interest (which benefits WA in particular moreso than anywhere), and the general national interest in being an advocate for human rights (even when our own record is dubious in some areas) and key ally of the US.

1 Like

One would expect something like the trans tasman arrangement to happen in a hypothetical scenario, with the difference being that on the day of secession the vast majority of people in the state would have Australian citizenship with all the benefits that come with that.

This comes with it another hypothetical question - would a secession see a mass exodus of people from WA to other states?

1 Like

I think we’d see in that scenario a population transfer both ways (probably in the tens of thousands, maybe low hundreds at most) based on the respective Covid policies which would be about equal each way.

Those that feel the eastern states Covid policy was irresponsible and support a stronger border would gravitate towards WA, while those that feel that WA’s border policies were too harsh and were separated from loved ones interstate would in some cases gravitate back towards the east.

The reality is that an independent WA would be unlikely to survive financially without either making significant cuts to Government-run services or significantly increasing taxes - 40-odd percent of every state’s budget is made up of Commonwealth-derived distributions (including GST) that they’d need to be able to cover.

It’s easy to say at the moment it’s possible with the WA budget looking so healthy - but it’s thanks to the heavy lifting of a single industry that goes through boom/bust cycles.

It’s not hard to see how it ends up there though - especially the way some of our “leaders” carry on about relations between WA and the rest of the Country (not just during the pandemic either, some of the rhetoric around the GST distributions has been just as bad)

1 Like

All I can say is good luck defending it! This is the type of overhead that the successionists conveniently forget. The reality is it’s a giant area with a tiny population surrounded by exposed coastlines. People need to get a grip. The same can also be said for NZ - basically defenceless.

I’m sure @OnAir can handle a gun.


Is that you Mark? :rofl:
Seriously though, I think it’s just plain wrong to suggest that the actions of a single Government accurately reflect the views of the people. Do the actions of the Federal Government accurately reflect the views of all Australians?

There’s basically no possible way this could ever happen though.

As @TonyCTC pointed out, the overheads of replacing federal services would be huge. And not just financially - they would need to find the skills and resources to replace them too. Currency, passports, health, education, foreign affairs, defence - just to name a few. Even those that are currently state run, often take federally create knowledge. Think about COVID for instance, we have various federal health advisories, registration boards etc. We have the best and brightest in Australia working on some of these. Even if money wasn’t an issue, how could somewhere like WA get sufficient people of such caliber to fill these positions - without which the services provided would frankly be nearing third-world level.

The restrictions on trade and movement of people would be prohibitive for many. Even with arrangements similar to what we have with New Zealand, every business wanting to do business in WA and the rest of Australian would need to have tax registrations in both juristictions, meaning increased compliance costs. That might be fine for big business, but small businesses would larely decide it wasn’t worthwhile. All persons and goods crossing the border would need customs and immigration clearances.

It’s almost like rehashing the situation that almost occured when the Australian Securities Commission (which is now known as ASIC) was formed in 1991. Prior to that each state managed the registrations of companies, and any company wanting to do business in multiple states needed a separate registration in each state they wanted to do business with. So all the states decided to band together, form a national body to provide one national registration for each company, so that all companies could trade anywhere in Australia. All except WA. WA didn’t like the plan, they thought they would lose too much control and thought they could go it alone - basically until the 11th hour WA was not joining the ASC. But it became very apparent that this was bad for business in WA. It would deter Eastern States business from investing in WA, and moreso, hinder the businesses based in WA from trading with the Eastern States - including some very large mining companies based in Perth (such as Rio Tinto, Woodside). There was talk that these companies would move their headquarters to the eastern states to avoid the whole kerfuffle. So eventually WA decided that they HAD to join.


:joy: That gave me a good chuckle, I’ve been a pretty vociferous critic of his at times so no, I definitely am not him. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yep, I’ll admit I fell into this trap a bit when I wrote the OP and happy to put my hand up and say I got that very wrong.

Where I got it wrong the most was that I conflated the continued support for the strong border policies, along with the popularity of the McGowan government (which is by far the highest of any state government in Australia, as evidenced by the election wipeout and also the cult of personality that exists in some parts, which results in weirdness like that ‘state daddy’ thing, as an indication that secession was a very popular idea. I’ve been corrected since then and I really appreciate that people have taken the time to discuss this and (especially from the WA based posters) explain where I had got the wrong impression on this matter as an outsider looking in.

You’re definitely right in that setting up replacements for federal services would by far be the biggest challenge, along with coordination on agreements with the remainder of Australia.
I don’t think the cost would be totally prohibitive especially as WA is very profitable at the moment, but there would be a definite risk of a skills shortage certainly at first that would complicate matters.

That’s some great insight with the ASC situation in the early 1990s, I didn’t know that but it is very interesting to read. Probably also shows to me that even where there are matters where WA would in an ideal world prefer to go it alone, there’s still a strong benefit to working together with the other states/territories.

I’m not :wink:

You’ve not seen the All Blacks? They’ve got defence


Seriously though. How do you plan to defend the Republic of WA? With 2.7 million people! You must see that this alone is a showstopper. Particularly in the current Indo-Pacific environment.