Abstract: Although secession strikes at the heart of many debates surrounding Australian federalism, it is not often raised as an option by reformers of intergovernmental relations. Most proposals from experts focus on tinkering with the federal system by changing elements of the tax and grant distribution systems or creating Special Economic Zones that provide targeted relief from central government intervention. In rare instances when separation is raised, numerous legal, political and economic obstacles are placed in its way. George Williams writes that ‘The constitution simply does not contemplate any part of the nation breaking away, with no state having the right to unilaterally leave the federation’. Others have opined that departure would leave a seceding state exposed and defenceless against foreign enemies, or that a unified system is essential for minimising inter-jurisdictional conflicts in the Oceanic region. Some have questioned whether secession will yield economic benefits for the breakaway region, as there is no guarantee state governments will be less oppressive than the national one.
Our task in this paper is to analyse the arguments pertaining to the exit of a minority from a majority, i.e. to inquire into whether secession is justifiable. The case study of Western Australia will take centre-stage, because in 1933 nearly 70 per cent of West Australians voted in favour of leaving the Australian federation.