West Australia, officially the Dominion of West Australia, and occasionally referred to as Westralia, is a nation located in Oceania that occupies roughly 1/3 of the Australian continent. West Australia shares its only land border with Australasia to the east.
Gaining independence as the Dominion of West Australia in 1903, the nation underwent an initial period of prosperity until the so-called 'Great Recession' of 1933-39 drew it into a nearly sixty-year period of ruin that began in 1934 when the national government underwent radical changes as the West Australian Communist Party (WACP) took hold and created a heavily militaristic and socialist state under Prime Minister Fred Paterson. It faced numerous international reprisals and sanctions throughout the Cold War for its' status as an essentially rogue nation in a constant state of belligerency with neighboring Australasia. During the Sumatra War, West Australia provided refuge for thousands of former Javanese Communists and served as a base for Communist guerrilla and pirate activities in and around Java, Timor, and Portuguese Timor.
Rising discontent among the populace eventually culminated in the March Riots of 1990, and the subsequent collapse of PM Peter Symon's Communist government, which lead to the appointment of Acting Prime Minster Francis Burt in that year's unofficial August elections. The Governor-General position (and West Australia's status as a Dominion) was thereafter re-established in the elections of October 1992 when Richard Court was chosen for the position and was re-elected in a landslide in 1996. Court has done much to heal the nation's wounds both at home and abroad, initiating major construction projects across the nation and signing a half-dozen major international treaties and agreements.
Colonial years (1890-1901)
After Britain granted self-rule to the Colony of Western Australia in 1890, the famous explorer and surveyor John Forrest became the first Premier. Though initially a strong supporter of Australian federation (and indeed, seeing it as an inevitable process), Forrest became concerned that the West's comparatively small and tariff-dependent economy would suffer heavy losses in a federal Australia with with freer trade. In 1895, the Premiers of each colony attended a Federation Convention, during Forrest got into an argument with New South Wales Premier George Dibbs over protectionism. From then on, Forrest openly declared his opposition to federation. This stance earned him much support from the Western Australian Legislative Council and coastal districts, but led to anger and resentment from residents of the Goldfields region, many of whom were new arrivals from the eastern colonies. A movement in Kalgoorlie petitioned Queen Victoria to create a separate colony, which would seek federation with the eastern colonies on its own terms.
In response, Forrest used his growing credibility with the Legislative Council to gain generous funding for infrastructure projects such as the Kalgoorlie-Esperance Railway and Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, both of which were completed over a year ahead of schedule. Forrest pointed to these successes as evidence that Western Australia would be capable of standing on its own feet, and did not need federation to survive.
Concerned that Western Australian voters would not agree to federation, the eastern colonies made a last-ditch effort to bring Forrest around to the idea of federation, but they refused his demand to fund a railway line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, South Australia. Subsequently, the 1899 referendum on federation was met with a landslide No vote, and Western Australia remained a colony when the Commonwealth of Australasia was proclaimed in 1901.
Early years as a nation (1903-1907)
In 1903, Edward VII granted Western Australia its independence as West Australia, and Perth's main hospital was renamed in his honor. Forrest became the first Prime Minister, and spent much of his term cutting spending in order to pay off the large debt accumulated to finance the Goldfields infrastructure projects.
"Years of Peace" (1905-1930)
The Goldfields Water Scheme had allowed the population of Kalgoorlie to swell to over 40,000 by early 1912. Beginning in 1910 and buoyed by the success of the 1890s infrastructure investments, the Labor government of John 'Happy Jack' Scaddan extended the irrigation and railway networks throughout the south-west, leading to large crop yields in districts east of Perth, which quickly became known as the 'Wheatbelt'. Scaddan capitalized on the Wheatbelt boom by introducing a monopoly on foreign shipping and lobbying to gain contracts to supply wheat in the United Kingdom, while ensuring the benefits flowed to all corners by introducing an income tax and supporting trade unions. High wheat prices ensured that the Scaddan years were viewed as a great success. However, an agreement was still not reached on the funding of a trans-Australian railway, so the West remained insulated from the rest of the Australian continent by the end of Scaddan's second term in 1918.
The success of the agricultural industry led to many Wheatbelt landowners becoming rich. Eager to consolidate their gains, the landowners poured resources into the anti-union Nationalist party, whose candidate James Mitchell swept into power in 1918. The very next year, a crisis broke out on the Fremantle wharves when unionized workers violently objected to certain ships using non-union workers to unload goods. Mitchell immediately sent in the police force and granted them special powers to deal with the dockers by any means necessary. The brutal crackdown that followed ended with many union members in hospital with serious injuries and most of the union leadership being arrested. Mitchell had won the first round, but his actions only delayed the rise of the unions and fostered mistrust of the police force amongst the public.
Meanwhile the Labor Party was in a crisis. The crackdown on unions had eroded much of their monetary base, and the party was slowly being torn in two by the rivalry between two potential leaders: Reginald Burchell, who had the support of many trade unions, and Edward Heitmann, who had a broader appeal. The undercurrent in the leadership competition was geographical; Burchell was from Fremantle and Heitmann from Kalgoorlie, creating both an east-west and city-country divide. Despite the pressure that the Mitchell government was exerting on the trade unions, Burchell's influence with them was still significant enough to give him the leadership. Unsatisfied, Heitmann and his supporters took the bold step of resigning from the Labor Party and starting a splinter group known (paradoxically) as United Labor. This only had the effect of splitting the left vote and handing Mitchell even more power, thus marginalizing the unions to an even greater extent.
In this political environment, the fledgling communist party began to take shape. Their leader, a young man named Fred Paterson, became well-known among the Fremantle working class for his fiery speeches denouncing the huge wealth made by the Wheatbelt landowners at the expense of the proletariat.
Socialism takes hold (1934)
Militarism era (1934-1990)
World War II (1938-1945)
Main Article: World War II (1938-1945)
Breakup of the Dutch East Indies/Alliance with South Sumatra (1947-49)
Sumatra War (1949-1970)
Main Article: Sumatra War (1949-1970)
Christmas Island Incident (1961)
Australia War (1983-1985)
Main Article: Australia War (1983-1985)