Passport

Decline Watch: Vietnamese businessmen buy Wyoming town

The "town" -- which is really more of a "gas station" -- of Buford, Wyoming, has a new owner:

The population of the least populous town in the United States appeared to at least double Thursday when two mysterious businessmen from Vietnam won the tiny hamlet with a bid of $900,000 at auction.

About a dozen bidders gathered around the town's one business to bid on Buford, Wyoming, which consists of a gas station, a three-bedroom house and a few small outbuildings on 10 acres along Interstate 80.

The bidding began at $100,000 and quickly escalated. The winning bidders were immediately whisked away by auction officials, who would not let them speak to the media.

The town's only resident, Don Sammons, said he'll miss the town but not the billboard of his face that currently adorns the highway. "I can always rent one somewhere if I need to see my face," he told CNN.

The intentions of the town's new owners have not yet been revealed. 

Passport

If Scotland goes, will the Queen lose Australia too?

In a three-part series this week, Tim Judah assesses the very real chance that Scotland could vote for independence from the United Kingdom in a planned 2014 referendum -- or at least a kind of semi-separation called "devo max" under which the government in Edinburgh would take over almost all domestic political responsibilities but leave national defence to London.

But, I know you are all anxiously wondering, what would this mean for Australia? Writing in the Herald-Sun, Victoria University Law Professor David Denton suggests that "An independent Scotland may yet create an Australian Republic." His argument, essentially, is that a United Kingdom without Scotland is no longer the same United Kingdom:

If the Parliament in Westminster wishes to pass legislation to facilitate a matter touching on the succession to the Crown of a new fashioned United Kingdom (as it must inevitably become) then the Parliament of Australia must give its consent to this as it will affect the law of Australia, not the least of which is our Constitution and our States.

The "United Kingdom" Australians agreed to federate under will no longer exist. A United Kingdom which is de jure separated is not the United Kingdom for Australian Constitutional purposes. It is possible to envisage an Australian constitutional vacuum existing if ‘our' United Kingdom ceases to exist.

Whatever is to happen it seems that it is no longer a matter for Australians to simply await a re-agitation of the republic debate after the passing of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

I'm not going to pretend to have any expertise here, but this smacks of wishful thinking to me, particularly if Scotland retains the queen as head of state. Suffice to say though, it's been a rough couple of months for the Empire.