Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A concurring opinion about secession

Western Australia has sought independence from Australia since 1933, and has found the doors slammed in its face, in part because the mineral wealth of the West has helped fund government for the rest of the nation. Businessmen there are particularly unsettled by an Australian law imposing a carbon tax, scheduled to take effect this summer. This issue has been brought forward in a piece by Sukrit Subhlok in The National Forum. Like mainstream politicians here in America, the Australian establishment views secessionism as "the work of a lunatic, right-wing fringe in the Liberal Party".

As in America, the constitutionality of secession is debatable; however, Mr. Subhlok makes an important point, echoing my own from Nov. 3:
The legality or otherwise of secession is a moot point. If secession is to occur, it will never happen with the High Court's approval, simply because the court is appointed and funded by the federal government and will therefore tend to rule in favour of Canberra. Hence, in an important sense the legal arguments of Williams and Craven are irrelevant to the issue at hand. The debate over secession must occur primarily in the political rather than the legal arena.

For the sake of argument though, is the legal case against secession really as strong as Williams and Craven say it is? The answer is no. When Australia's colonies agreed to come together as a federation under the Constitution, they did so on the assumption that the federal government would be limited to the powers enumerated in section 51, and that the states would retain their reserved powers. Common-sense, not to mention elementary contractual principles, dictates that if the federal government oversteps its bounds and encroaches into areas of state responsibility then a state is justified in exiting the constitutional compact.

For Americans "section 51" is Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. A literal reading of Article I, Section 8, should make it clear that our federal government has far overstepped its bounds and encroached into areas of state responsibility.

I shall let Mr. Subhok make the closing point:
As more people become aware of the positive effects of secession, let it not be said that it is an idea only supported by the 'loony right'. Secession is an idea whose time has come. Everyone should seriously examine its merits.

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