There is, it seems, no limit to the damage being done by the coronavirus. The latest is the sad news that an entire independent nation of 50 years standing has been killed off by the ravages of the pandemic.
The Principality of Hutt River, one of the world’s proud micro-nations, has decided that it can no longer survive economically and will reintegrate itself with Australia.
Diplomatic ties with Liberland and others
The fact that Hutt River has never been recognised as a nation by Australia, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund or, indeed, any other country you’ve ever heard of, is neither here nor there.
It has, however, enjoyed fruitful diplomatic relations with the likes of Liberland, Akhzivland, Conch Republic, Forvik and others.
All of which were undoubtedly shocked by the announcement this week that Prince Graeme Casley had decided to dissolve the Principality.
Hutt River located 500km north of Perth
In case you weren’t paying attention during geography and history lessons, Hutt River is located in outback Western Australia just over 500km north of Perth. It covers an area roughly the size of Hong Kong and has a population of 27.
It seceded from Australia in April 1970 over a dispute with the state government over wheat production quotas and proclaimed its independence.
Part of the legal reasoning put forward by the self-proclaimed Prince Leonard Casley for the breakaway was that Captain Stirling, later Governor Sterling, actually never proclaimed Western Australia as British Territory in 1829, as he was required to do. Instead, he merely proclaimed it the Swan Settlement.
Given that Hutt River was never British Proclaimed Territory, it was also never part of the Commonwealth of Australia and therefore free to go its own way. Or something like that.
Principality survived as a tourist attraction
Since 1970, the micro-nation led by the late Prince Leonard Casley has survived mainly as an idiosyncratic tourist attraction that printed its own currency, stamped the passports of visitors, sold its own ‘passports’ and postage stamps, and provided various other memorabilia.
But, as with much of the world, the principality was forced to close its borders due to the pandemic in January and revenue has dried up due to the dearth of visitors.
Graeme Casley, the son of Leonard who succeeded to the ‘throne’ in 2017, confirmed to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the property would be sold to pay a mounting debt to the Australian Tax Office.
The tax authorities, it seems, have for some reason declined to recognise Hutt River’s status as in independent nation free of taxation obligations.