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London

Secession delegation The Western Australian Secession Delegation arrived in London in 1934 with high hopes. The Agent-General, Sir Hal Colebatch, a former conservative Premier of Western Australia and one of the government-appointed representatives, used his offices in London to promote the delegation's cause. He gave numerous speeches to meetings and dinners in which he summarised the Delegation's case for secession for the British public, press and politicians.

The essence of the delegation's mission, and therefore its fundamental weakness, was to persuade the British Parliament to overturn the Act of Parliament with which they had formed the Commonwealth of Australia and given to the Australian people their Constitution. Colebatch argued that
"Our opponents lay great stress on the words contained in the preamble to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act:

'Have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and under the Constitution hereby established'.

They emphasise the word 'indissoluble'. We insist on the equal importance of the rest of the section: 'Under the Crown' and 'under this Constitution'. Will it be contended that if - a highly improbable suggestion - the always loyal Commonwealth of Australia decided to break away from the British Crown and establish a republic, we in Western Australia should still be bound in the 'indissoluble Federal Commonwealth?'.

Presenting the petitionOur contention is that the words 'under the Constitution hereby established' are of equal significance, and if we can demonstrate - as we are prepared to do - that in a number of essentials, the Constitution has been violated to our detriment, we are entitled to be relieved from our bargain. The federation is a partnership between six States in which certain guarantees were given and certain safeguards were provided. We can show that these guarantees have been violated - that these safeguards have been swept aside - and so we ask for the annulment of the partnership.

After all, what does the word 'indissoluble' mean? Remember that it occurs only in the preamble and not in the Act itself. Is any arrangement made in this world indissoluble? Can the rulers of any country 'dressed in a little brief authority', bind the people of that country not merely to the third and fourth generation, but for all time? Is there either justice or common sense in continuing an agreement that is working badly? Is a party to that agreement - after giving it a trial for 35 years and having proved it to be hampering to its industries, destructive to its prosperity and a grave bar to its development - prohibited from seeking relief?"
[Battye Library, Acc 240A]

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