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Tails between their legs

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 The Secession Delegation left for London in 1935 with a mission to convince the British Government to accept the State’s Secession Petition.

 However, they were doomed to fail and within two years had returned home, dispirited and empty-handed.  After months of lobbying the governments of the day to have their petition received by the British Parliament, the delegation only managed to get the issue referred to a joint committee of the Houses of Commons and Lords.

 The high-powered committee rejected to petition on the grounds that the British Parliament could not act without the Australian Federal Parliament’s approval. It said that if Western Australians were allowed to secede then events would happen in the Commonwealth of Australia that would ‘shake the empire to its very foundations’. There was, though not widely understood, the fact that that Tasmania and South Australia had been watching from the sidelines and had WA been successful, may have followed suit, posing a threat to the Federation.

 Delegate Keith Watson expressed his bitterness at the decision when he attacked Prime Minister Lyons, saying the matter had been discussed in the Federal Parliament ‘ad nauseam’. He went on: “Let it be clearly understood that, if the Imperial Parliament adopts the committee’s report, it will mean that, in their determined desire for secession, the people of Western Australia will be denied any further recourse to argument.

 ‘The argument of force will be the only means left to them. I shall not hesitate so to inform my fellow citizens in Western Australia and to play my full part in whatever course may be decided on, no matter how “unorthodox” that course may be’ [27 May 1935 Daily Herald]

 Watson proposed a ‘kind of volunteer force’ to protect the landing of cargoes at Fremantle and stopping, by force if necessary, the Commonwealth Customs officials from collecting duty. But he received little support from his secession colleagues. It meant the demise of the Dominion League. The British Government and its Parliament were clearly not going to support the secession moves.