After Brexit, Can Western Australia Really Be Thinking of Seceding?

Why would Western Australia want to leave?

“Western Australia has a long history of discontent,” said Alan Fenna, a politics professor at Curtin University in Perth. “But it’s political and economic discontent. It’s not an identity issue as you’d see somewhere like Quebec.”

At the heart of the rancor is the share Western Australia receives of the goods and services tax collected by the federal government and redistributed to Australian states on the basis of need.

Mr. Fenna said that, since 1933, Western Australia’s increasing wealth, culminating in a mining boom in the early 2000s, meant it was judged to be less needy, and therefore received less federal tax revenue than it had previously.

Photo

Perth, the capital of Western Australia, would presumably be the capital of a seceded state.

Credit
David Dare Parker for The New York Times

The Liberal faction pushing for secession feels Western Australia isn’t getting its fair share of the so-called GST, and that it would do better keeping the state’s mineral riches to itself.

“The bottom line is the federation has started to treat WA like a golden goose, and they are all vampires, sucking at our jugular vein,” Rick Palmer, who drafted the motion, told Perth Now.

But Mr. Fenna said Western Australia was not suffering.

“For three-quarters of a century, Western Australia has had more than its fair share from the system of tax redistribution,” he said.

He said Western Australia was billions of dollars ahead since 1933, even accounting for drops in iron ore prices in recent years.

He said the tax distribution between the states was calculated on a rolling average over three-year periods, so any fluctuations would eventually be adjusted for and the state government should have been prepared for them.

Another reason…

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