There is a pressing need for a re-write of the political landscape of Western Australia.
For too long Western Australia has been the Cinderella State, taken advantage of by the three ugly sisters and the wicked stepmother of the eastern seaboard.
Federation has resulted in the State being bled dry of assets that are sold at lowest-value prices, principally for the benefit of governments, businesses, and residents of other jurisdictions.
Western Australia comprises about one third (2.5 million square kilometers) of the total geographical area of Australia, yet is represented by only 16 (and soon to be reduced to 15) members in the Federal House of Representatives – less than 10% of the total number of 151 lower house seats. The largest part of the country has little power to influence the democratic process under the current arrangements. Its people are severely disadvantaged by this, despite being the economic powerhouse of Australia.
Western Australia must leave the Federation, stand on its own feet as an independent state free from the shackles of the Federation. Western Australians need to become masters of their own destiny and set their own course to a better future.
History of Federation
In the late 19th Century proposals arose for all of the separate Australian colonies and New Zealand to join in one national federation to form the Commonwealth of Australia. At that time, the capital city of Perth was isolated from the other colonies by thousands of miles of desert terrain and the only practicable method of transport was by sea.
Western Australia was initially reluctant to join the Federation. This was because the leaders of the day could see significant potential for the State to be disadvantaged under the arrangement. The state had a small population and was isolated by distance. New Zealand was smart enough to stay out of the Federation for this reason, despite the fact of being much closer geographically.
One of the inducements held out to Western Australians to join the new Federation was the promise of a federally funded railway line linking Western Australia with the other colonies. However, legislation was not passed until 1907, construction did not commence until 1909, and the project was not completed until 1917 and then only to Kalgoorlie and only from Port Pirie, South Australia. It was not until 1970 the standard gauge rail link was completed to Perth. This is but one example to demonstrate that the benefits to WA of Federation have been over-promised and under-delivered in every respect ever since.
Since Federation, the economic development of Western Australia has been constrained by political decisions intended to support the interests of industry, banks, and big finance and workers in the Eastern States.
It was always well known that WA had huge reserves of iron ore in the north of the State. However, we were prevented by the Commonwealth from developing this resource in order to protect the iron and steel industries of Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW and Whyalla in SA. It was not until the late 1960’s that the Brand Government was able to bypass federal control by inviting overseas capital to open up our own mining industry and supply iron ore to new markets in Japan.
Unfortunately, Western Australia has since developed a “boom or bust” economy based mostly around mining. Finance and investment markets centered in the major eastern state capitals see the mining industry in Western Australia as a plaything for investors and speculators. Western Australia needs to expand the basis of its economy.
The benefits of the mining industry to the Western Australian economy are limited. The mining workforce is based on a fly-in/fly-out roster with many of the workers coming from other states or even overseas. Employment generated by Western Australian resources is mainly benefitting the economies of other States. Surely it is reasonable to expect that the exploitation of Western Australian resources should primarily involve a Western Australian workforce. This should include providing training and skills development for Western Australian workers.
Western Australia’s offshore oil and gas reserves are providing almost no benefit to Western Australia as they are in waters offshore exclusively controlled by the Federal Government. The State gets almost nothing – not even royalty. All the gas will be extracted and sold overseas. There is no amount of gas set aside for Western Australian industry and households to use in the future.
The manufacturing industry is concentrated in the rust-belt states of south-eastern Australia and is mostly in decline because successive Federal Governments have allowed this to happen. Australia no longer has the capacity to manufacture consumer goods and items essential to the quality of life Australians deserve and expect. Western Australians suffer from a higher cost-of-living because most of the goods we consume are imported and/or supplied from the eastern states.
Western Australia needs greater freedom to develop business and industry to encourage a broader-based economy. Typically the Federal Government is determined to keep large and innovative industry within the large voting population centres of the east coast.
The “Brisbane Line” appears to still be the key defensive strategy in Australia. In World War II, the military strategy against the Japanese invasion was to defend the area of Australia south-east of a line from Brisbane to Adelaide. Most of the defensive capability of Australia is still concentrated in this area, making us all safe from potential invasion by Kiwis and Antarctic Penguins.
Western Australia’s coastline length of around 13,000 km is more than a third of Australia’s total coastline of 36,000 km. It is the part of Australia most exposed to the threat of invasion from potentially unfriendly forces to our north, but least protected.
The defense establishment in Western Australia comprises a relatively small army reserve; the SAS base at Swanbourne (for covert operatives mostly deployed on overseas operations); the HMAS Stirling naval base at Garden Island (for Collins Class submarines and some Anzac frigates); the flying training facility at RAAF Pearce with no defensive aircraft; and two of the RAAF’s three bare bases: at Learmonth near Exmouth and Curtin near Derby.
Taxation and state funding for Western Australia
It is estimated that the Commonwealth derives about $56.8bn in revenue from WA. This money would be retained by WA after secession. WA also collects state taxes of approximately $21bn. Significant revenue from WA’s offshore oil and gas royalties that currently goes to Canberra should flow into WA coffers once these waters become “ours”.
Keeping all taxation and expenditure in WA would trigger enormous multiplier effects to the internal economy, and vitally kick-start and create social capital in new and diverse career opportunities for WA job seekers - halting the brain-drain we have experienced for decades.
What about welfare payments and pensions?
The national spend on welfare and transfer payments is approximately $160bn. WA would continue to fund and care for our pensioners, unemployed and disabled at a cost of $16bn (i.e. about 10% based on population).
What about paying for health?
It is hard to find in the Federal Budget exactly how much Commonwealth Health Funding is allocated to Western Australia, but Western Australia’s share of the $89bn estimated for 2022/23 is about $8.9bn (based on the 10% population rule). This would come from the $56.8bn that we will no longer be paying to Canberra.
Keeping control of our own health system will mean that Western Australia no longer has to compete with other States for Commonwealth grants for health funding, hospitals, etc.
How will we defend ourselves?
The current federal defense budget of around $38bn would indicate a WA defense budget of $3.8bn (i.e. about 10% based on population). Today, the actual current local spend would be well below this amount, as the defense presence in Western Australia is very small.
By example, New Zealand, with the twice the population of WA, has a very good defence force, costing $3.9bn with 9,000 personnel! The ADF presence in Western Australia is nothing like that. For those wanting stronger defence in WA, a standalone WADF would be far more capable than what we have at present.