1933 Western Australian secession referendum

Last updated

Secessionist How-to-vote card, 1933 Westraliasecession3.jpg
Secessionist How-to-vote card, 1933

A secession referendum was held on 8 April 1933 in the Australian state of Western Australia, on the proposal that the state withdraw from the Australian Federation. [1] The proposal won a majority of the votes and a petition to give effect to the decision was subsequently sent to the British Parliament, where a parliamentary joint select committee ruled it invalid.



Two questions were voted on at the referendum:

Question 1: Are you in favour of the State of Western Australia withdrawing from the Federal Commonwealth established under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (Imperial)?
Question 2: Are you in favour of a Convention of Representatives of equal number from each of the Australian states being summoned for the purpose of proposing such alterations in the Constitution of the Commonwealth as may appear to such Convention to be necessary?

There were 237,198 registered voters. The result on the first question was 138,653 in favour and 70,706 against. Question Two was rejected by a vote of 119,031 to 88,275. [2] Only six of the fifty electoral districts recorded a No vote on the first question, five of them being in the Goldfields and Kimberley regions. [3] [lower-alpha 1]

Result [4]
Votes %Votes %
1. Western Australia withdrawal from Commonwealth of Australia138,65366.23%70,70633.77%
Metropolitan [lower-alpha 2] 72,03764.85%39,04335.15%
Agricultural [lower-alpha 3] 57,31672.89%21,31927.11%
Mining and Pastoral [lower-alpha 4] 7,76345.55%9,27954.45%
Northern [lower-alpha 5] 1,53759.07%1,06540.93%
2. Australian states' constitutional convention88,27542.58%119,03157.42%
Metropolitan [lower-alpha 2] 48,06643.75%61,82156.26%
Agricultural [lower-alpha 3] 29,50937.90%48,34862.10%
Mining and Pastoral [lower-alpha 4] 9,27154.70%7,67745.30%
Northern [lower-alpha 5] 1,32951.04%1,27548.96%


A souvenir envelope of the victory celebration Western Australia Secession Cover 1933.jpg
A souvenir envelope of the victory celebration

The Constitution of Australia, which established the Australian federation in 1901, had originally been an act of the British Parliament, and a petition was sent to it from Western Australia, asking that the Australian Constitution be changed to give effect to the separation vote. A joint select committee was set up by the British Parliament to consider the petition, and it decided that the request could not be acted upon because it did not have the support of the Australian federal government, as required by the 1931 Statute of Westminster. [5]

Pressure for any further action was reduced by the victory of the anti-secession Labor Party in the Western Australia state election which was held on the same day as the referendum. The establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in May 1933 helped alleviate some of the grievances that had motivated the secessionist movement. [6]


In the many decades after the 1933 referendum, it is invoked when Western Australian industry groups publicly complain about issues with the federal government in Canberra. [7]

See also


Related Research Articles

Hal Colebatch

Sir Harry Pateshall Colebatch CMG was a long-serving and occasionally controversial figure in Western Australian politics. He was a member of the Western Australian Legislative Council for nearly 20 years, the twelfth Premier of Western Australia for a month in 1919, agent-general in London for five years, and a federal senator for four years.

History of Western Australia

The human history of Western Australia commenced between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago with the arrival of Indigenous Australians on the northwest coast. The first inhabitants expanded across the east and south of the continent.

Referendums in Australia Referendums to approve changes to the Constitution of Australia or its states or territories

Referendums in Australia are polls held in Australia to approve parliament-proposed changes to the Constitution of Australia or to the constitutions of states and territories.

John Scaddan

John Scaddan, CMG, popularly known as "Happy Jack", was Premier of Western Australia from 7 October 1911 until 27 July 1916.

John Lutey

John Thomas Lutey was the Labor Party member for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly seat of Brownhill-Ivanhoe from 1917 to 1932.

The Western Australian Legislative Assembly is elected from 59 single-member electoral districts. These districts are often referred to as electorates or seats.

The Electoral district of Brown Hill-Ivanhoe was a Legislative Assembly electorate in the state of Western Australia. It covered part of the Goldfields city of Boulder, near Kalgoorlie, and neighbouring mining areas. It was created at the 1911 redistribution out of the former seats of Brown Hill and Ivanhoe, and was first contested at the 1911 election. It was abolished in the 1948 redistribution, with its area split between the neighbouring electorates of Boulder and Hannans, taking effect from the 1950 election. The seat was a very safe one for the Labor Party.

The Electoral district of Ivanhoe was a Legislative Assembly electorate in the state of Western Australia. It was named for a local settlement, and covered part of the Goldfields city of Boulder, near Kalgoorlie. It was created at the 1904 redistribution and was merged in 1911 with the neighbouring seat of Brown Hill to form the Electoral district of Brown Hill-Ivanhoe. The only Member for Ivanhoe was John Scaddan of the Labor Party.

Electoral district of Pilbara

The Electoral district of Pilbara is a Legislative Assembly electorate in the state of Western Australia. Pilbara is named for the region of Western Australia in which it is located. It is one of the oldest electorates in Western Australia, with its first member having been elected to the Second Parliament of the Legislative Assembly at the 1894 elections.

Philip Collier

Philip Collier was an Australian politician who served as the 14th Premier of Western Australia from 1924 to 1930 and from 1933 to 1936. He was leader of the Labor Party from 1917 to 1936, and is Western Australia's longest-serving premier from that party.

Keith Watson (politician)

Sir (Henry) Keith Watson was a Western Australian politician who was the driving force behind the 1930s secession movement in the State.

Secessionism in Western Australia Pro-independence sentiment and movement in Western Australia

Secessionism has been a recurring feature of Western Australia's political landscape since shortly after Federation in 1901. The idea of self-governance or secession has often been discussed through local newspaper articles and editorials. On a number of occasions secession has been a serious political issue for the State, including in a successful but unimplemented 1933 State referendum.

Kalgoorlie railway station

Kalgoorlie railway station is the most eastern attended station in Western Australia, located at the eastern terminus of the Eastern Goldfields Railway. It serves the city of Kalgoorlie. Beyond Kalgoorlie, the line continues east as the Trans-Australian Railway.

This is a list of members of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly between the 1901 election and the 1904 election, together known as the Fourth Parliament.

Elections were held in the state of Western Australia on 24 April 1901 to elect 50 members to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. It was the first election to take place since responsible government without the towering presence of Premier Sir John Forrest, who had left state politics two months earlier to enter the first Federal parliament representing the Division of Swan, and the first state parliamentary election to follow the enactment of women's suffrage in 1899.

Matthew Moss

Matthew Lewis Moss KC was a lawyer and politician who served in the Parliament of Western Australia on three separate occasions – in the Legislative Assembly from 1895 to 1897, and in the Legislative Council from 1900 to 1901 and again from 1902 to 1914. He was a minister in the governments of Alf Morgans (1901), Walter James (1902–1904), and Hector Rason (1905–1906). Moss was born in New Zealand and arrived in Western Australia in 1891. He left for England in 1914 and spent the rest of his life there, although he maintained connections with Australia, on two occasions acting as Agent-General for Western Australia.

Norbert Keenan Australian lawyer and politician

Sir Norbert Michael Keenan QC was an Australian lawyer and politician who was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia from 1905 to 1911 and again from 1930 to 1950. He was the leader of the Nationalist Party from 1933 to 1938, during the time when it was the junior partner in the coalition with the Country Party. Keenan had earlier served as a minister in the government of Newton Moore and the second government of Sir James Mitchell.

George James Lambert was an Australian politician who was a Labor Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia from 1916 to 1930 and again from 1933 until his death. He worked as a metallurgist before entering politics.

1890 Western Australian colonial election

Elections were held in the Colony of Western Australia in December 1890 to elect 30 members to the Legislative Assembly. They were the first elections to be held for the Legislative Assembly, which had been created earlier in the year by a new constitution that granted Western Australia responsible self-government.

1894 Western Australian colonial election

Elections were held in the Colony of Western Australia in June and July 1894 to elect 33 members to the Legislative Assembly. Less than half of the seats were contested and virtually all campaigns were fought on local issues, although a few candidates were endorsed by extraparliamentary organisations. The election presented no threat to the government of Sir John Forrest, but its aftermath saw the establishment of a credible opposition for the first time, led by George Randell.


  1. "1933—Secession Referendum". Western Australian Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015.
  2. Musgrave, Thomas. "The Western Australian Secessionist Movement".Cite journal requires |journal= (help) (2003) 3 Macquarie Law Journal 95. Retrieved 12 October 2009
  3. Stannage, C.T., ed. (1981). A New History of Western Australia. University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands. p. 422. ISBN   0-85564-181-9.
  4. "The Referendum". The West Australian . 3 May 1933. p. 14 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "W. A. Secession". The Mercury . Hobart, Tas. 25 May 1935. p. 14. Retrieved 9 April 2012.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. "Giblin's Platoon". ANU EPress. 2006. Retrieved 23 September 2014.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. "Miners talk secession, recalling the heady times of 1933". theAge.com.au. 30 June 2011.