Everyone in this life should do what they’re good at. And what Australia is good at is raw resources: food and minerals. So naturally, what our governments have us do instead is concentrate on what we are lousy at — labour intensive industries like making cars and trousers. This lunacy can only be maintained through the coercive actions of governments working in cahoots with big business in much the same way as the Mafia protects its gambling interest from honest competition.
This situation goes on year after year because the government buys votes with its protectionist policies in the areas where most voters live: Sydney and Melbourne. But gradually the residents of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia are beginning to realise that without the lead weight of the dying States around their neck, they would become, together or singularly, one of the richest nations on earth.
Australian mining magnate Lang Hancock is probably the only businessman in Australia who is not prepared to bow down to any government under any circumstances. His views for the secession of Western Australia put the case succinctly. And his argument is equally valid for the Northern Territory and Queensland, and even more valid if all three were to secede together from the ancient history cities.
Geographically, Western Australia occupies one third of the Australian continent, separated from the rest of Australia by vast deserts, by Federation, and by a totally different economy from that which exists on the “boomerang” coast of Australia, where the cities of Sydney and Melbourne are located. Before a single vote was counted from Western Australia, the last two Australian Governments had already been elected to Canberra. Perth is the most isolated capital in the world.
According to an American professor on a radio talk recently:
Australia could become one of the most powerful nations on earth, with the centres of power in Perth and Brisbane instead of the south-east corner of the country.
Australia’s position in the world could be similar to that now held by the oil-rich Arabs in the Middle East. The two States would be the richest places on earth within twenty or thirty years.
The greatest leap forward that Western Australia has known was when the State was separate from the Commonwealth. The decade from 1890 to 1900 comprised the ten greatest years in the history of the development of Western Australia. Therefore, Western Australia should obviously sever economic connection with the eastern States and set up under a separate constitution which limits the power of government, and has full right of appeal to an independent arbitrator, such as the Privy Council. Remaining within the Australian Federation means that the State remains on the treadmill of ruin.
The gulf between the hopeful theory of Federation and the practice as it has developed over the years can never be closed from Canberra, no matter how well intentioned Malcolm Fraser may be in his efforts to reduce centralism. No Australian Prime Minister has ever assumed office with a greater majority and a greater opportunity, nor a firmer resolve to put things right, than Malcolm Fraser. No Prime Minister looks less likely to succeed — not because of shortcomings on Fraser’s part, but because the forces working against him have been able to build up to too great a strength. They are too entrenched and motivated, not by healthy competitive profits, but by a lust for power.
Australia’s destiny is not decided by the number of people who vote Labor or conservative at elections. It is decided by pressure groups, chief of which are the bureaucracy, the communist trade union movement, the manufacturing lobby and the Press — or in the jargon of the day “the news media” — which is used by the first three groups to brainwash the public into believing in the socialist kingdom of “heaven on earth”.
We know it is sacrilege for most Liberal/N.C.P. supporters even to consider that their Parties are practising socialism. It may be due to forces in Canberra beyond their political control — nevertheless it is a fact: a sad fact indeed. Instead of sweeping away the A.I.D.C., and other implements of nationalisation, on day one of his administration, as Mr Fraser would have liked to have done, and in fact his Party pledged to do, he finds himself in the throes of implementing even more controls and departments. So we are face to face with the stark reality of being, in fact, without a choice in Federal Government.
If a man as dedicated to the reduction of centralism as Malcolm Fraser, with the overwhelming parliamentary majority that he enjoys, is powerless to prevent the expanding size and power of the central bureaucracy, who can do so? Clearly it is obviously not possible for a State to do so under Federation, so the only answer is to secede from the Federation under a constitution which limits the power of bureaucracy.
There could be no point, however, in seceding simply to run into the old traps that have plagued Australia and brought things to such a sorry pass that if a State now wants to remedy them it has to secede. It is therefore of paramount importance to understand that, before any steps are taken, a constitution needs to be formulated which will guarantee the forward march of that State. What are the safeguards that should be incorporated in forming such a constitution for Western Australia? Perhaps some of them could be defined as follows.
First, the power of government to buy votes must be limited. As things stand at the moment, political parties who want office have first of all to win a “Dutch auction” using the taxpayers’ money to buy votes on the handout trail. This must be prevented at all costs.
Second, governments consume wealth, they do not create it. Therefore, the bigger the government, the greater consumption of your wealth and the greater damage to the well-being of individual Australians. Therefore, there must be an inbuilt counter to Parkinson’s Law of chain-reaction civil service growth (under which building up of various departments becomes the number one aim of pressure groups, and the fountain-head of inflation). This year, Australia will spend $4000 million placating the civil service and its grabs for power.
Third, there must be watertight provisions to ensure that the seceding State or States do not build up a tariff wall, for this would give birth to a manufacturing pressure group which would again stimulate cost-push inflation. It would be suicide for a primary producing State, comprising the farmer, the beef-grower, the orchardist, the pastoralist and the mining man, who are today in Western Australia producing something like 25 per cent of Australia’s much needed income from only 7.5 per cent of its population, to rebuild a tariff wall. As long as Western Australia remains within the Federation it will be tied to those twin agents of self-destruction, namely high taxation and rapid inflation. Whereas, with strict limitations set on government spending and departmental expansion by constitutional embargoes, taxation would be immediately lowered and kept within bounds for ever more.
However, one of Western Australia’s biggest weapons in the fight against inflation would be its ability to have a multi-currency system. In other words, its economy would not be tied to the inflationary Australian dollar, which is rapidly becoming worthless and must eventually do so, if the Fraser Government’s commitment to wage indexation is continued. The way out for Western Australia is to make several of the world’s major currencies (that is, those ones least affected by inflation) such as the German mark, legal tender in that State. It would then be possible to tie the State’s internal cost (that is, wages and salaries) and external contracts to those low inflationary currencies. So the cost of producing exports would be in line with currencies of the markets paying for them: whereas in Australia today we are rapidly being priced out of world markets on which Western Australia’s very existence depends, because of our inflationary price structure.
Nothing typifies the weakness of the “case” against secession more than the centralists’ oft-reiterated parrot cry of “but Western Australia would have no defence if it departed from the mantle of safety provided by the Australian Government”. Could any responsible, thinking person seriously imagine that Australia can be protected by our present Army (good as all the men undoubtedly are) which is rapidly and criminally being reduced to some 20,000 men with a simultaneous increase of 10,000 in the ballpoint brigade in Canberra? We are told our defence capability is such that Australia could defend only nineteen kilometres of coastline — Western Australia alone has over 6400 kilometres of coastline.
However if Western Australia’s raw materials can be developed as a safe and reliable source of supply to the massive industries of the industrialised and nuclear-armed major nations, that is, to the point where several of the super powers became dependent upon it for the sustenance of their commercial might, their standard of living and their way of life, surely it is reasonable to think that they will see that Western Australia is not subjugated by some even small predator nation, let alone one of the major powers.
And of the idea of the eastern States invading Western Australia at Canberra’s direction — it is probable that the only army that will invade Western Australia will be an army of eastern State migrants, wishing to enter the promised land.
[John Singleton with Bob Howard, Rip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 228-31, under the heading “Secession”. Republished with permission from economics.org.au]