Can any state or territory secede from the commonwealth?

Front page of Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900.

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900: Original Public Record Copy (1900).

Parliament House Art Collection, Art Services Parliament House

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900: Original Public Record Copy (1900).

Front page of Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900.

Parliament House Art Collection, Art Services Parliament House

Description

This image shows the front page of the original public record copy of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900. There is a a red ribbon tied in a bow on the left hand side of the document. The paper looks faded from age.

The Commonwealth of Australia was established on 1 January 1901 when 6 self-governing British colonies united to form one nation. This event is known as Federation and the basic rules for the new nation are set out in the Australian Constitution.

Sections 121-124 of the Constitution allow for an increase in the number of states and territories. However, there is no mention of how an existing state or territory could secede – leave or exit – from Australia. The Preamble to the Constitution states that the Australian federation is 'indissoluble' – not able to be broken.

There has only been one major attempt to test the indissolubility of the Commonwealth. In 1933 Western Australia held a referendum to secede from Australia. The vote was in favour of secession and the Western Australian Government petitioned the British Parliament to be allowed to leave the Commonwealth of Australia. After 18 months of consideration, the British Parliament determined it had no authority to grant secession. As a result, Western Australia remained part of Australia.