WA has always entertained a fantasy of secession. If it goes against the Commonwealth plan and stays shut after we reach 80 per cent vaccinations, that dream may come true.
At the beginning of 2021, in a distant time I think of as the ‘Pandemic Pause’, when lockdowns were off and most of the country was able to move around freely, I was fortunate enough to visit every single Australian state and territory as part of my work as a travel writer.
Every single one.
Except Western Australia.
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WA, Australia’s proud and defiant wild west, and the state that has been more hardline about its zero-tolerance approach to Covid than any other, still had a border up with NSW even as every other had dropped theirs. And so my planned detour into The Kimberley during a trip to the Northern Territory had to be cancelled.
Over the weekend, WA’s premier Mark McGowan announced that he has every intention of keeping his state just as isolated as they were back then, even when it reaches the magic ’80 per cent fully vaccinated’ number that other states and territories say will end lockdowns and hard borders, under the Commonwealth’s agreed four-phase plan. “It’s better not to have Covid than to have Covid,” he told reporters, which is obviously true but also a magical fairytale dreamland as a long-term strategy. Over 90 per cent of scientists predict that Covid, in some form or another, is here to stay.
And at some point, unless WA plans to remain an isolated island, banning tourists from coming in and forbidding its own citizens from going out forever, it’s going to have to accept this truth.
But maybe ice-cold isolation is exactly what WA wants. The state has always harboured a fond fantasy of leaving the rest of the country and striking out on its own. In 1933, it held a referendum to decide whether or not to secede from the rest of Australia. Alarmingly, its citizens voted to do exactly that, although the plan ultimately failed. Secession talk has rumbled ever since, including a spike since the pandemic which led to the formation of the pro-secession WAxit Party.
“I love living my best life in our safe bubble!” wrote one West Australian on social media in response to Premier McGowan’s ‘we’re never coming out from under the covers’ declaration. “We need a tough guy now more than ever; we have to stand up and be counted!” cried another.
From a travel and tourism perspective, it’s disheartening that WA seems to delight in the idea of blocking out its Eastern cousins, let alone the rest of the world, indefinitely. We love your Coral Coast whale sharks, WA, and your Goldfields wildflowers. We adore the magnificent Margaret River wineries and Rottnest’s quirky quokkas. And we reckon you’re going to feel a bit left out once we start mingling with each other again, and even booking trips to Europe, Asia or the US to see loved ones.
None of us wants to spread our Eastern Epidemic into your state but neither do we want to say goodbye to you forever. And it would seem that eventually, it’s going to have to be one or the other.
For now, it seems, there’s nothing more to say except goodbye and good luck, Western Australian friends. Enjoy every inch of your state, I guess. We’ll miss you. It remains to be seen how much, if at all, you’ll miss us.
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This article originally appeared on Escape and was reproduced