Some Australians may not have heard the news that this month saw the end of the Hutt River Principality in Western Australia.

The official announcement that the ‘principality’ had again become part of Australia was made on August 3 by Prince Graeme, the son of the late founder of the 75 square km ‘micronation’, Prince Leonard, who died in February, 2019.

It seems that the little principality was in financial difficulties and it appears that, after 50 years. the Australian Taxation Office may begin to harvest its dues.

The principality arose in the 1970s when Leonard Casley became involved in an intractable dispute over wheat industry policy.

He declared that his principality had seceded from Australia.

At no stage did any government agency agree with the so-called secession but the ‘prince’ and his family set about exploiting the tourism
opportunities that subsequently emerged.

This involved the production of tourism nick-nacks and the issuing of coins and stamps.

That the ‘micronation-that-never-was’ has gone may seem like a passing quirky footnote in Australia’s story but it comes at a time when more serious things may be happening in this country.

The 1970s was a time which saw a flowering of political and personal views relating to rights and responsibilities – including serious themes such as racial and sex discrimination.

It was also the time that anarchism, nihilism, and conspiracy theories attracted the bored and the ignorant.

One of the fertile seeds was the concept of ‘Sovereign Citizens’.

Although many varieties of this particular weed were to proliferate the basic idea was this: that because governments are dishonest and corrupt ordinary individuals had the ability to set themselves outside the shared national conventions that everyone else apparently agreed with.

That includes the system of government, the societal laws, procedures and regulations that enabled the national community to function as an entity, including the provision of health, welfare, education, national defence and the provision of such things as traffic and roads laws, public safety, and freedom of expression.

The view of the sovereign rights individual is that they can get by simply by having agreed contracts with other entities or parties.

It follows that such a person can declare that they have no written contract with government or authority and therefore are pretty much free do do whatever they want.

Certainly, they need not pay taxes, obtain licences, get immunised, wear masks or obey police enforcement measures set by government and health authorities.

Such individuals are ‘free humans’ not answerable to authority but free to challenge and defend their rights against store supervisors, ticket inspectors or police.

Clearly such a philosophy is bound to appeal to ordinary ratbags but NSW Police suspect that the rationale could find a home in domestic terrorism.

The ‘Sovereign Citizen’ theme has already been explored by numerous State and Federal courts in the United States with the result that knowledgeable but irritated judges have, time and time again, tossed out long-winded but pointless claims by hopeful litigants.

The Australia Constitution, much less the patience of the judiciary, creates even fewer openings than the US Constitution for tin-pot anarchy.

Most Australians believe that all citizens have mutual obligations and responsibilities when it comes to ordering and running our nation.

We elect people to do their best to ensure that a measure of wisdom and good governance applies to the conduct of our affairs.

If the elected representatives fail to adequately perform we elect a new, and hopefully better, bunch.

The current COVID-19 crisis in Australia and around the world is a most serious issue. Wisely, our governments are making decisions informed by the best scientific advice. The advice necessitates some individual, family and community hardships.

Meanwhile, at the frontline, our best medical professionals, nurses and paramedics, cleaners, drivers, and police and defence force personnel are endeavouring to do their utmost to curtail the spread of the virus.

Those who try to circumvent the lockdown and quarantine obligations may not all be Sovereign Citizen crackpots, but even trying to evade the civic responsibility that most of us accept simply because you think you can get away with it puts you in the same boat as the sad cases who believe they can ignore the law because they don’t recognise it.

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