Nearly 30 percent of people living in Western Australia want the state to become its own country, according to a new survey—a figure that a local MP has called “deeply concerning”.
Market research group Utting Research asked 3,500 Western Australians what their feelings were towards a hypothetical WAxit—that is, the prospect of the state seceding and becoming an autonomous territory, effectively dividing Australia into two distinct nations—and 28 percent of respondents said that they thought it was a good idea.
About 55 percent said they wanted the state to remain part of the Federation, while 17 percent were undecided. Those in support of the idea were predominantly between the ages of 40 and 59, and were not voters of any of the major political parties.
The concept of WA’s secession has been a recurring theme throughout the state’s political history, and in 1933 even reached the stage of a referendum. In that case, the proposal won a convincing majority of the votes—with about two thirds of respondents agreeing that WA should withdraw from the Federal Commonwealth—but was ultimately ruled invalid by the British Parliament.
In the decades since a number of politicians and parties have similarly agitated for a split from the country’s other state and territories—most notably, the Australian Capital Territory—with varying degrees of success. The prevailing sentiment among secessionists is that WA, which constitutes a third of Australia’s landmass, is a “Cinderella state” in the sense that contributes more to the nation in terms of mineral wealth than it gets back in terms of recognition and its share of federal resources.
Patrick Gorman, a Labor MP for the WA capital of Perth, expressed concern over the results of the Utting survey.
“This poll shows those in the eastern States need to understand the secessionist undertones which have always existed in WA,” he told The West Australian. “The tyranny of distance between Perth and Canberra often leaves West Australians feeling isolated and ignored by our east coast allies, fuelling the discussion.”
The survey results come amid WA’s hard border closure, which prohibits anyone from Australia’s seven other states and territories from entering without a specific reason, based on COVID-19 public health advice. This week the Federal Government suggested that WA would be the only state or territory to not reopen its domestic borders before the end of the year.
But WA Premier Mark McGowan rejected the idea that the divisive border closure had fuelled pro-secession sentiment, and refused to entertain the prospect of holding a referendum.
"We're not having a referendum on secession,” he told The West Australian. “That won't be happening.”
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