Let me start by saying that some of my best friends are Sandgropers. There is Michael who lives in Williamstown, and Jeff who lives in Niddrie, and Bill who lives in Hong Kong.
What do they all have in common? They were mostly born and raised in Western Australia, but decided to make their lives elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
Indeed, most of my friends from WA have spent a large part of their lives outside WA.
This does say something about Australia as a Federation. People from each state, especially from the peripheral states, gain greatly from the existence of the Commonwealth of Australia, It broadens their horizons, whether they like it or not, and gives them greater opportunities.
My friend Jeff even still supports Carlton, the VFL team he adopted before the AFL (and West Coast) came into existence. Supporting your team is a seriously emotionally intense matter, and it does transcend state boundaries. [Happily two of his kids support the Bulldogs – even though he warned them in the 1990s that they would not see any success – haha!]
So the issue of the extension of the hard border closure between WA and the rest of Australia by the expatriate Queenslander who is now WA premier, McGowan, is something which we do need to look at more closely.
Does this create a crisis in Federation? Why are the rest of us forcibly separated from our Sandgroper (and all Western Australians are Sandgropers, if you look back a couple of generations, even the truly rich ones) friends?
I like to think that whilst Sandgropers (as we like to call Western Australians, and it is a shorter term) like to express a chip on their shoulder about their separateness, it is mostly rhetoric. They gain much from being united with the eastern part of the continent, which has, for many years, subsidised them whilst their mineral wealth was unrealised.
There have been many tax subsidies, as well as the benefit to them from the unified defence of the entire continent.
The existence of a unified nation has also enabled them to both benefit from and contribute to greater leadership in Australia.
John Curtin, who was originally a Victorian, is revered (probably excessively) as a great wartime prime minister, and who lived in and represented WA in the federal parliament for many years.
Bob Hawke, who definitely was one of the three best peacetime prime ministers of Australia, was born in South Australia, grew up in Western Australia, spent most of his working life in Canberra, and represented (without actually living there) a Victorian seat, before retiring to a happy dotage in Sydney. Whilst he belongs, across his entire life, to most of Australia, he has more claim to being a Sandgroper than most do.
We have a hard border with WA now – a COVID proof fence if you will – but the reality is that over the long term for the past 121 years of Federation, both Western Australia and the eastern states in general have benefited greatly from the unity of the nation which has existed over most of that period, both in terms of the movement of people, and the shared values. That benefit is much greater than would have occurred, to the detriment of both sides of the continent, if there had been a permanent hard border.
Having said that, I am not going to drink any Western Australian wines (even the ones I love like Peel Estate) until the border is open again. McGowan makes Dictator Dan look like a democrat.