Prince of the Outback

Meet the wheat farmer who led a successful secession from Western Australia.

(Page 2 of 2)

Yet the principality is not without certain legal nuances. A placard in Nain, its capital, proudly notes that Casley is a “non-resident of Australia” for income tax purposes. All of Hutt River’s resident subjects have likewise received these notices. Citizens of Hutt River pay taxes on income earned there, but only to Hutt River’s Tax Department—not to Australia.

In 1980 a Perth court ruled that, at least within Hutt River, its currency and postage stamps are valid and legal. Australia resumed delivering mail to the principality shortly thereafter. Hutt River also issues license tags for cars, and even its own passports, though their international recognition is limited. And since September 2004, Hutt River has accepted foreign company registrations, though their status on Hong Kong’s registry of places to incorporate is now under review following an outcry in the Australian media.

The prospects of becoming an Australian tax haven are tantalizing. According to Hutt River’s official history, “Prince Leonard…would doubtless wish to see his country benefiting from a status equivalent to Monaco or the Bahamas Islands.” Were Hutt River to flex its muscles and flaunt lower tax rates for international corporations, it would be all but certain to experience belligerent interference from the Australian government. Meanwhile, the principality is tentatively expanding into realms other than business incorporation. Hutt River is now a host to several online colleges, and Prince Leonard envisions Nain as home one day to a medical research center and its own university.

According to Casley’s Aide-de-Camp, Lord Steve Baikie, it is in the best interest of both Hutt River and Australia to formally recognize the principality’s de facto independence. “They’d make a huge amount of money by assisting us to develop rather than arguing against it,” Baikie says.

The yields from tourism are already apparent. While Hutt River’s early notoriety led to an estimated 60,000 visitors a year, almost all from within Australia, the curiosity-seekers now (at an estimated 30,000 per annum) are predominantly foreigners in their teens, twenties, and thirties. Prince Leonard has effectively created a tourist magnet in a part of Australia few Australians would ever visit, let alone Asians or Europeans. International recognition would enhance its appeal as a destination and potentially bring in more visitors to both countries.

Casley notes that there are investors lined up to incorporate in Hutt River, but the prince refrains from encouraging large-scale development, knowing that “waving red in front of the bull” could bring down the Australian government’s wrath. “We could have a Hong Kong here, or a Switzerland here,” he says, referring to potential investors. “Company after company want to do just that.”

The Price of Princedom

Hutt River’s independence has brought costs as well. Australia does not just withhold its acknowledgment from Hutt River, or the development such recognition would bring. It has deprived Prince Leonard of rights guaranteed to an Australian citizen even while staunchly maintaining that he never ceased being one. All social security benefits were withdrawn by the Australian Government from Hutt River’s resident subjects at the time of secession, as well as pensions receivable, educational allowances, and child endowments. Leonard’s wife, Princess Shirley, is not eligible to draw the medical benefits she is entitled to as the spouse of a war veteran. (Casley served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.)

In the past large amounts of letters en route to Hutt River have been confiscated and destroyed, without due process or judicial review—necessary legalities if Leonard Casley is indeed an Australian citizen.

The royal couple contend that they and the rest of Hutt River’s subjects have been removed from the Australian electoral roll. In recent elections Australian voters have received ID cards to take with them to the polling booths, but subjects of Hutt River have received no such documents. An odd development, given that in Australia voting is not just a right of citizens but an enforceable requirement.

Last year the Australian Tax Office wrote to Casley demanding tax payments and he responded with a meticulous legal document asserting his status as a foreign national and non-resident of Australia. Were Hutt River to again face legal action in an Australian court, Prince Leonard is confident his country would be vindicated as a sovereign state.

Independent of potential legal battles, agents of Hutt River are busy combing through recently declassified memoranda from the Australian government about the principality. According to Baikie, the contents indicate that Australia’s officials were much more concerned about Hutt River than they initially indicated. “We’re blown away by what we’re seeing in those archives.…Prime ministers and state premiers asking for Prince Leonard to be charged…a lot more opposed than we thought,” he says. Additional investigation may yield further grounds for international recognition.

Despite the irritating impediments and legal hurdles which Hutt River regularly faces, Leonard and his subjects are proud of all they have accomplished. Leonard’s son, Prince Ian, is ready to assume the crown when the time comes, and the prospect of investment and development loom on the horizon.

Hutt River is no Australian golden goose, à la China’s “special economic zones,” nor is it an explicit libertarian experiment, like the charter city movement or New Hampshire’s Free State Project. Yet it is much more than an eccentric’s flight of fancy. The project began as a righteous fight for survival against a foolhardy law, and stands as a rare recent example of a peaceful secession. Though it lacks international recognition, the principality has won key battles, carving out small but meaningful rights for itself from the behemoth country surrounding it. The onerous wheat quota which originally galvanized Leonard Casley into action is no longer in effect—perhaps due to the precocious efforts of its most prominent critic.

Prince Leonard can claim the distinction of reigning over his country longer than most presidents or prime ministers in modern history. He even sports a certain amusement about his country’s finances as compared to America’s: “I’m thinking our treasury is in a better way than your treasury, because our treasury doesn’t owe anything.”

Detractors contest the legitimacy of Hutt River and its sovereign; enthusiasts err towards infatuation with the heraldry and titles of nobility that have sprung from the homegrown monarchy. Leonard remains wry but clear minded. He points out that he never intended to become a prince, or to start his own country. He only meant to save his farm from ruinous wheat quotas. In that he has been entirely successful.  

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    The South will rise again! (Way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay south!)

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    +1 confederate hat.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    In gray, if you will. Butternut reminds me too much of that Recent Unpleasantness.

  • ||

  • Live Free or Diet||

    You have to love the creativity of "taking your star off the US flag."

    I fly historical flags from time to time. Once, when flying a Bonnie Blue, a driver stopped and asked me if I was an admiral.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    I had no idea that song would be so long!

  • gloriajean468||

    uptil I looked at the receipt ov $6160, I be certain that my neighbour woz really taking home money part time at their laptop.. there sisters neighbour had bean doing this for only about nineteen months and just repaid the depts on there cottage and got a great GMC. read more at.... WWW.DAZ7.COM

  • mokdon06||

    Evan. I just agree... Patrick`s report is impressive... last tuesday I bought a great Volkswagen Golf GTI after I been earnin $8978 this-last/5 weeks an would you believe $10,000 last-munth. it's realy the easiest-job Ive ever done. I began this 3 months ago and immediately got me over $73 per-hr. I went to this website
    (Go to site and open "Home" for details)

  • ||

    The bloodless hostilities garnered popular support for Hutt River from the press, but the declaration of war had more to do with legal maneuvering than publicity. “I do trust that you will enforce the Laws of War,” Casley subsequently wrote to the Governor-General. “Sovereignty is automatic to a country undefeated in a state of war.…and if the state of war is not recognized by the other party, once the notice is given then these conventions apply to their relations.” In short, Leonard set a precedent for international recognition of Hutt River under the Geneva Convention.

    "Real men of geniuuuuuus..."

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Oh look! Here comes a woolly mammoth in a rubber band!

  • ||

    But I'll bet they'll want some Big Government when the outlaw biker gangs start tear-assing through the wasteland.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Is that some sort of slander of Lord Humungus?!

  • John Galt||

    Sounds like Mad Max will rise again.

  • John Galt||

    There's a video on YouTube titled "Fighting Tyranny - Hutt River Province Inside Western Australia."

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    It's controlled by the Hutts. It must be a hive of scum and villiany.

  • John Galt||

    In the YouTube video it appears to be more of a small farm house.

  • ||

    So, smoking skeletons?

  • John Galt||

    All I saw was a big pile of home-made pickles. No skeletons.

  • Brandon||

    I've seen more wretched ones.

  • Rasilio||

    You know I am mildly surprised no one from hollywood has attempted to make a movie based on this yet

  • John Galt||

    Write a book on the province and you'll probably be knighted Sir Rasilio.

  • Brandybuck||

    That's a funny definition of "successful secession". The Army of the North hasn't scorched a swath of death through our territory, so this must be a success! I'm sure David Koresh was saying the same thing just before Janet Reno gave his childen their schooling.

    It sort of reminds me of the tax cranks who think their sovrun scheme must have worked because they aren't in jail yet...

  • waltercollin||

    If you think Clarence`s story is flabbergasting..., last month my brothers father in law actually earned 9315 just sitting there a eighteen hour week an their house and the're neighbor's step-sister`s neighbour has been doing this for 4 months and earned over 9315 in their spare time online. follow the steps at this site... ............

  • John C. Randolph||

    I recognize the principality of Hutt River, and as far as I'm concerned, their prince is a legitimate head of state, unlike any king, queen or prince whose people never got to choose them.


  • felicia755||

    til I saw the draft that said $9902, I be certain that my mother in law woz actually erning money in their spare time at their computer.. there neighbor had bean doing this for only about six months and a short time ago cleard the mortgage on their appartment and purchased a great new Lotus Esprit. I went here,

  • lukescott610||

    up to I looked at the draft that said $9303, I didn't believe that my sister really bringing in money part-time from there new laptop.. there neighbour has been doing this 4 only 16 months and just now paid for the depts on there place and bought a brand new Mitsubishi Evo. I went here,

  • Curtisls87||

    The obvious reference, their potentate should change King to "Jabba."


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties