Expensive Australia

So you want to visit Western Australia?  Bring a fat bankroll – its not cheap!  Especially in the Outback; the further you get from Perth, the more expensive it gets.  Perth is expensive enough on its own but when you get out to some of the small towns, things get downright expensive.  Here are some of the prices we paid for things on the Perth to Exmouth and back tour.  Above, you can see that the price for a candy bar is over $3.  At the time of writing, an Australian Dollar is on par with an American Dollar.  Below, you can see the price for a case of beer – and that was beer on sale!  I paid as much as $75 for a case of beer.  It seemed to me that beers were $4 for a single, $2 each for a six pack and a buck fifty if you got a case or more.

Ever paid $2 for a coke (outside of a restaurant)?  It seemed that EVERYTHING in the Outback cost two to four times what it costs elsewhere.  Some of the other prices I paid were $21 for a 750 gram bag of pistachios (1 1/2 pound bag), $18 for cashews (1 pound bag), $6 for a small can of peanuts and $1.10 for an apple.  Yes, ONE APPLE!

Add a lime slice to your beer?  Limes were selling for $1.80 a piece and lemons were just under a dollar.  Expect European prices for a tank of petrol.  The great equalizer on this trip was home cooked meals and camping (versus hotels).  I spent twice as much money in 2 months on this trip in Australia than I spent traveling 4 months on my Trans-Siberian tour in 2009.  You can get by on the cheap in Australia, but it isn’t easy.


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Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park

Our last designated stop on our Western Exposure Perth-Exmouth- Perth bus tour was at the Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park.  This unique wildlife park is completely non-profit and is supported solely by donations and visitor’s fees.  Entrance to the park is free but is supplemented by a donation/purchase of feed pellets that can be hand fed to designated animals.  The park is run by two wonderful women who have given up life in the corporate world to help animals.  All of the animals at this park are rescues; this isn’t just a petting zoo, its a place where injured and abandoned animals are cared for with love.

One of the most popular characters at the park is a little piggie whose animated character attracted our attention for quite a long time.  This little pig acted just like a puppy dog, wagging its tail as it reacted positively to ear scratches and attention.  Of course it wanted some food pellets but it was such an animated little creature that we spent a lot of time petting and talking to it.

The park is spread out with plenty of room and had a wide variety of animals including a huge salt water crocodile, cockatoos, peacocks, ducks and other birds and parrots, deer, dingo dogs, emus and of course, kangaroos.

The most popular exhibit at the park is the kangaroo petting area.  All of the different types of kangaroos are on exhibit here and our park guide explained the differences in size and color.  I noticed that the kangaroos looked a bit lethargic and it was explained to me that they are nocturnal animals, they prefer to sleep during the day and only were awake because we had some feed pellets.  In other words, they were “tolerating” our presence when really, they would prefer to be sleeping.  The roos were quite mellow and pleasant and nibbled the pellets from our hands gently.  We got to pet and touch them and it was quite a nice experience – especially after going for near a month having only seen one (live) kangaroo.

I made my way around all of the exhibits and I was impressed with the crocodile.  This guy was HUGE!  He must have measured 4 or 5 meters long.  He was sunning next to his pond with his eyes closed and as I approached he opened them and looked at me as if I was to be his next lunch.  I could see that, in the water, no human could stand a chance next to this croc.

Standing next to an Emu, I realized how tall they really are.  In one exhibit I saw a cockatoo that looked (to me at least) like a a regular cockatoo.  I read the description next to his cage and saw that he was born in 1945.  When I realized that he was 56 years old I couldn’t believe it.  He didn’t look older than a few years.  Incredible the longevity of these beautiful birds.

The second most popular exhibit at the park is the dingo pen.  For a fee of $5 you can go inside and play with and pose for photos with the dingo dogs.  A few in our party went into the pen to pose for a photo.  At the time, I didn’t want to get dirty as I’d just put on a new change of clothes but in hindsight, I wish I had gone into the dingo pen.  They were really good looking dogs and were surprisingly domesticated.

I really had a super time at the wildlife park.  The ladies that run the park are truly doing noble work by rescuing and caring for these animals.  If you are in Western Australia, try to stop by for a visit; not only is the park a wonderful place to see wildlife up close, it is also the last refuge for injured and abandoned animals.


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Hutt River Province

I rejoined my Western Exposure bus tour that I had taken previously from Perth to Exmouth.  Two weeks earlier Andrea and I departed the tour at Exmouth to visit Karijini National Park.  Now I was my “two day return” to Perth that had a lot fewer stops and a lot more driving.  Each day was long with allowing me to catch up on some long needed sleep.  After passing through Coral Bay the tour made an overnight at a farm home-stay before we made our way south to Hutt River, a little known principality and micro-nation.

I had never even heard of Hutt River before this trip and as we drove south towards Perth our tour guide Kim explained about Prince Leonard and his little fiefdom inside of Australia proper.  She explained that in the early 1970′s he declared independence and is now a “legitimate” sovereign government.  I rolled my eyes thinking that this is just another micro nation that exists only in fantasy.  The real measure of a government is its ability to tax.  “If this guy is paying Australian taxes,” I thought to myself, “then his province is bogus.”

We arrived at the border and got out to take photos (above).  Hutt River Province is about the size of Hong Kong covering about 75 square kilometers (45 square miles).  Most of the province is rolling farmland; you can see some of the flat farmland behind me at the border photo.  Our bus pulled into “downtown” Hutt River and it resembled the center of a huge farm except that there was a church, a post office and government buildings.  I’d never seen a mix of farm and small government before, but then again, I’d never been to a self-proclaimed republic either.

Prince Leonard Casley came out and greeted us and took us for a tour of the Province and we learned a little about him, his family and the history of this little country.  The history of the province began with a dispute in wheat quotas in 1969.  The Casley family had consistently grown 13,000 acres of wheat but that year, the Western Australian Legislation decided to give them a quota of only 100 acres.  Leonard protested the quota without success and subsequently, the legislature filed a law in the national government that would cede the Casley land grant back to the government.  It was a land grab that was to be sanctioned by law.

Leonard filed a protest citing a law that prevented the government from reclaiming more than 1/20th of any land that was previously given by grant.  After a month had passed with no reply, Leonard filed articles of secession declaring Hutt River to be an independent nation.

Leonard met with the Western Australian government in Perth and after an impasse could not be resolved, the meeting ended when Leonard walked out.  Later, the Commonwealth government (Australian Government) offered its federal powers to Western Australia to resolve the matter of the Hutt River secession.  An old and relatively unused law remains in Great Britain and its commonwealth countries wherein the rights of sovereign principalities are protected.  Leonard called the new citizens of Hutt River together and proposed that the tiny republic be transformed into a principality and that Leonard be names as Prince.  This would prevent Australian government officials from interfering with Leonard’s activities by penalty of treason.

The law was passed, Hutt River became a principality and this abruptly ended the interference from the Western Australian and federal Commonwealth governments.  Under law, the government has (had) a two year statute of limitations to challenge the secession which has long since passed allowing Hutt River de facto legitimacy on that ground alone.

How Prince Leonard came to secede is an interesting twist of events that result from a legal loophole that exists in the state of Western Australia.  When Australia was made a commonwealth of Great Britain, all recognized land holdings of the Crown were recognized.  In a legal twist, the patent filed for Western Australia by Captain Stirling only included the Swan Settlement (Perth).  By accident, the rest of Western Australia was “left out” when Australia was made a commonwealth.  Since Prince Leonard declared independence, the Australian government has been reluctant to act against him as they might likely lose the case in Australian court.  This would be disastrous as it would likely usher in thousands of other claims for independence.  I speculate that the Australian Government decided to just leave well enough alone so as not to cause too much controversy.

I thought back to my original thoughts on the province, that if it wasn’t taxed, it is an independent state:

If the government of Western Australia considers Prince Leonard and his subjects “non residents” of Australia and he pays no state or federal taxes, that is proof that Hutt River is a legitimate sovereign country.

Regarding my speculation that the Australian Government doesn’t want controversy because they believe that Prince Leonard would win in a court, inside of his museum he displays a copy of a letter that was leaked to him by a sympathetic officer in the Australian government:

DEPARTMENT OF TERRITORIES CANBERRA
hrpmq/89
Qt/122

AUSTEO SECRET
Minister,

As requested, we have spoken with the Taxation Department.  It is their considered opinion that the facts as they are currently available to all parties would suggest the statement issued by one Mr. Leonard James CASLEY known as H.R.H. Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province is correct.

The fact that the Commonwealth has not formally recognized the Principality is a muta point, as the residents of the area do, and there has been now, and in the past a legal uncertainty as to the constitutional aspects of the case.

It is therefore our considered opinion, that subject to guidelines we have had to adopt, the following points are in fact the situation currently

1. Principality is a legal entity.

2.Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province is a person exempted in the Australian Law from Taxation under the current guidelines.

3.The Passport as used by the persons claiming to be Principality Citizens are valid. However, the Act can be used to isolate them by requirement of visa’s.

4. Nothing, in any legislation currently, would preclude recognition of these facts ever saw the light of day.

It is therefore our suggestion that you at all costs contain this situation. The Department would at your request therefore institute the required action..

B.M.W.

AUSTEO SECRET

As summarized a bit brutally by the Australian Lawyer Anthony FISHER “This damned place had really seceded and we are talking about a true independent country “

To be a recognized “country” by international standards, a nation must have its own government, post office, currency and have control of its own borders.  Hutt River even has its own Army (defense force) and armed residents train in small arms and tactics.  Prince Leonard first took us to the immigration office where he stamped our passports with an entry stamp to the Principality.  He took great pride in stamping right next to the Australian visa stamp in sort of an “in your face” move to Canberra.  He also took us for a tour of his post office where we were able to buy some post cards and Hutt River stamps and then we went over to the museum to see some of the gifts he had received from other foreign heads of state.

We went to the Hutt River Cathedral, where of course, Prince Leonard is the head of church.  We were invited to sit in the Royal thrones for a photo opportunity and we conversed with the Prince at length.  Perhaps a bit eccentric, Prince Leonard was very warm and charming with a quick wit that had us laughing a few times.  The visit was very agreeable and everyone in my tour group was smiling throughout the visit.

I had a chance to pose with Prince Leonard for a photo inside of the cathedral.  It isn’t every day you get to rub elbows with royalty LOL!

Of course, every monarch needs royal transportation.  This is the official limousine of the Hutt River Monarch, a classic Rolls Royce that he drives in during local parades and other special events.

I’ll have to say that my opinion of the Hutt River Principality changed completely after my visit.  Before, I thought it was a bit of a gimmick but, but after looking at the laws and the Principalities legal paperwork and representations, it looks like it is in fact a bonafide sovereign nation.  I learned later that you can become a citizen of Hutt River and they will even issue you a passport.  I’m sure that would be quite a conversation piece in my social travel circles!


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