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What would have happened if Australia had been partitioned in 1933?


Active member
What if the British had elected to acknowledge the result of Western Australia's secessionist referendum in April 1933 (68% in favor), accepting Western Australia's request to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia and become a British Dominion in its own right? How different would things have been?


The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
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This is after my period, but I'd be inclined to think that if Britain wanted to acknowledge the result it would still do what it could to delay and discredit it.

The Colonial Office was very much in favor of consolidating the self-governing colonies- it was cheaper, administratively easier and strategically more viable for the empire. They did not want to have to deal with another Dominion, and certainly not in the thirties when budgets were tightening and the strategic situation becoming more uncertain.

Now, I don't want to just be the bloke who says 'no.' So let's assume that for whatever reason the referendum becomes more of a story in Britain. It never really became much of an event in the UK (or even to a surprising extent in Australia.)

Let's say that:

1. Australia appears to be more unstable than OTL in the thirties. Perhaps you have some sort of unrest following Jack Lang's removal in NSW. You're not going to get anything too bad, but perhaps the Australian Guard carries out their supposed plan to forcibly remove the premier if he was seen to resist the governor. The Guard were never that popular or competent, so it's unlikely, but you could say that in the process of their botched little putsch they manage to do some kind of violence to Lang. That leads to riots between the Labour movement and the 'fascist bosses.' I really doubt it would amount to much, but it could be dramatic. That might lead to a few stories in the UK about the 'dominion in chaos.'
2. Because of this, the secession referendum is picked up on both by the British press and by some enterprising backbenchers. Ramsay Mac's opponents could certainly do something about how a British dominion has been so mismanaged that half of it wants to leave, and look at the good Labour men being put down in the other half, something something. The Prime Minister has to move the conversation on by pledging to investigate the causes of Western Australian discontent.

The trouble is, I keep going to point three-

3. Britain and Australia keep kicking the can down the road, and the secession movement loses steam anyway just as it did in our timeline. Even if it does keep up momentum, I seriously doubt it can happen before war breaks out, at which point it'll be moot. Even leaving aside the unifying effects of the war, the fright of an Asian enemy and the clear path to British decolonisation in the region will spell the end for the comforting ideas that sustained the secessionist movement.

It's an odd little factoid, but I think the best bet for an independent Western Australia would be for them never to join the Commonwealth in the first place.