D.I.Y. Nation31 October 2013
So we have a new PM, and maybe you have your sights set on a new nationality. Have you ever thought, fuck it, I’d do a much better job of running the show? In other words, have you ever considered utilising the law of secession? No? Let me introduce you to the individuals who hated the government BEFORE it was cool. So much, in fact, that they broke off and formed their own independent nation-states. During a particularly whimsical bout of nation-rage this reporter attempted to track down some of Australia’s most famous ‘expatriates’. The goal: figuring out how and why they defected from our great and benevolent government.
But the murky history of Australia’s micro-kings and/or queens suggests that micronations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Exploring the credentials of the micronation is similar to reading an imaginative fifteen-year-old’s curriculum vitae. My hopes of reinvigorating democracy through the establishment of a new country-within-a-country (‘Melalia’ to you plebs) were dashed when I discovered the ‘howevers’ in fine print, such as: The Principality of Hutt River’s navy has declared war! However, its defence force identifies as non-standing. The State of Sherwood has its own bank! However, it is nothing but a big fat Ponzi scheme. The romantic image of the rebellious, self-appointed governor is really just an old guy in South Australia with some dead strawberry plants. So, whilst the self-proclaimed legitimacy of the micronation leader can and has been convincing, certain micronations leave one with the impression that their leaders might be teetering on the brink of madness. In this article: a brief history of some of our great nation’s wackiest… nations.
The inspiration of gun-toting libertarians and anarchists across the world, Australia’s first and best-known micronation is the Principality of Hutt River. The micronation is outspoken about its claims that it is the only one to have truly pulled off the feat of secession. Like many potentially-narcotics-influenced bureaucratic achievements, this one occurred in the 1970s after an increase in taxes threatened to drastically impede Leonard Cassley’s income. Taking his cue from the Montevideo Convention of 1933—a treaty which loosely identifies criteria for statehood—Cassley declared the property on which his wheat farm was situated to be independent from Australia, drawing up a Bill of Rights to legitimise the action. However, if sovereignty only exists insofar as it is recognised by surrounding states, The Principality of Hutt River falls flat on its face. Cassley’s claim to secession was outright denied by the government. Nevertheless, Hutt River reigns supreme over all others in the micronation category.
According to a spokesperson contacted by Farrago through the nation’s website, “other” micronations are “for those who wake one morning and think they can declare independence or who declare their bedrooms as independent nations or even worse, try to make profit by making up a non existent country and government that exists only in cyberspace [sic]”. Why? Well, a framed letter from the Australian Tax Office in the Principality Monument (a corrugated-iron gazebo) deeming the reigning monarch of the principality “a non-resident for tax purposes” stands as the nation’s big middle-finger salute to constitutional bureaucracy, and gives it some authority over its counterparts. However, the reigning monarch, Prince Leonard, mysteriously “refuse[s] to give advice on how to secede”, despite claiming to have given a lecture at Melbourne University on the topic of secession. Farrago’s email request to access transcripts or recordings of the lecture were firmly turned down, with the Prince’s aide-du-camp stating that Principality records are “seen as being of little interest” and “a waste of time”.
Nevertheless, Prince Leonard’s bold move to secede has inspired others. A decade later, former circus-monkey trainer Alex Brackstone felt that Australia was drifting uncomfortably close to republicanism. He subsequently declared his four-hectare property in SA an independent nation in the 1980s. The Province of Bumbunga’s primary export was to be tourism. Using thousands of strawberry plants, Brackstone constructed a to-scale map of Britain on the property to draw visitors. But foresight was not Brackstone’s forté, and when the weather became dry the plants all shrivelled and died. To add insult to injury, the Australian government disregarded the sovereignty of Bumbunga’s government last March. Brackstone was charged with the illegal possession of firearms, which he has referred to as “a ridiculous charge” and “hoo ha” respectively. This didn’t stop him from being issued a court summons and being detained pending police investigation for gunshot residue.
In a similar micronational venture, Dr David Siminton and his associate Mr. David Icke unified under the the Principality of Camside in 2001. Described in one academic paper as “whacko”, this reporter could not delve much further into the history of Siminton, who has not been heard from since being sentenced to a twelve-month prison term for contempt of court after funds from his self-created ‘Terra Nova Cache’ bank were frozen. As for Icke, he is a conspiracy theorist par excellence. His Twitter feed warns people of the risks of chemtrails (the idea that the fumes from planes are brainwashing us). His personal website purports that we are all descended from reptilian space aliens. And speaking of space aliens, a 1967 treaty by the United Nations, which states, “Outer Space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means,” has been completely turned on its head by a group of Australians who have narrowly defined the statute to encompass only claims of sovereignty by existing nation-states. By their logic, private claims to appropriate asteroids are thereby perfectly valid. Enter the United Federation of Koronis, whose land mass consists of a group of asteroids floating around somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, and whose citizenship criteria is accepting of all “life forms”, unless, inexplicably, they are “seeking asylum”.
I am forced to conclude that forming a micronation isn’t difficult—it just requires some creative interpretation of constitutional laws, and a lot of spare time.