The story of Australia’s Hutt River Province is interesting, and has had numerous twists since its origin in 1970. I first became aware of the Principality of Hutt River, initially called Hutt River Province, when I researched coins from the region. A plethora of Hutt River coins were appearing for sale, and I wanted to determine if my small online coin site should handle them.
Hutt River Province Independence
Hutt River Province has had a strange history beginning in 1970. The twists used in an attempt to break with Australia were ingenious.
The Origins of Hutt River Province
Now the Principality of Hutt River
In 1970, after a feud with the Australian government after the government imposed a quota on wheat led Leonard Casley to declare independence from Australia. He had, it might appear, a good reason since the quota was declared after he had grown a crop but before it could be harvested. If he declared independence he would not be subject to the quota imposed by Australia.
The Governor-General of Australia, Sir Paul Hasluck, wrote an opinion that it was unconstitutional to act against Casley, and in a letter addressed Casley as Administrator of the Hutt River Province. Casley began using the title Prince, and claimed protection citing the Treason Act of 1495, which would make anyone acting against his independent state guilty of treason. The basis was that the Administrator was acting for the Queen.
The Treason Act of 1495
The Treason Act of 1495 was issued after Parliament was able to address the issue, and was a result of Henry VII backdating his reign to one day before defeating Richard III and executing those who fought with Richard, the rightful king, for treason. The reasoning was they had fought against him during his reign.
One way Australia responded was to withhold mail service to Hutt River Province. It was too little of a response and had less effect than desired. Hutt River mail simply went through Canada. In 1978 Prince Leonard declared war on Australia, then issued a cessation of hostilities letter just days later. He then used the Geneva Convention to support his independence since he claimed to be a country not defeated in a war. In 1980 a court in Perth Australia ruled both currency and postage stamps of the Principality of Hutt River are legal within its borders.
Other Microstates Tried
Others tried to duplicate Prince Leonard’s success, but the Australian government quickly closed the loopholes used by Leonard Casley. As is often the case, the person who finds the loophole gets through it, then it goes away. And, I doubt others were as well versed in legal matters.
The Coins and Paper Currency
The Principality of Hutt River now enjoys new sources of income. Hutt River coins are minted on the behalf of the government, and sold well above face value as commemorative coins. Subjects are plentiful and include wars, movie stars, and even kangaroos. Some are made of precious metal, but many are base metal.
Hutt River dollars are exchanged for tourists on a one for one basis with Australian dollars, and exchanged back when tourists leave. Of course many people hold onto Hutt River dollars as novelties. This means the Australian dollars often are exchanged for paper that can be printed at will, and many are not exchanged back. In effect, Hutt River paper money simply turns into Australian paper money.
At one time there was a court case in the United States over Hutt River coins being sold on television. Are they real coins? One story is that Hutt River’s authority to mint money is not internationally recognized, so they were declared counterfeit. Another way this story goes, and is the more recent version, is someone was counterfeiting Hutt River coins, and Prince Leonard did not stop them promptly.
I found the facts above in Wikipedia, but believe them to all be within the sum of what one might consider well known facts.