reprinted with permission
Subject: Fwd: Rape of the Australian Republic
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 10:38:15 +1100
I recently came across your web page with the above article and while I agree with much of what you had to say there were a number of points I queried.
For the sake of background I might mention that I was a Queensland Rep. of the Republican Party of Australia to their first conference they held in Canberra in 1973. Although I have had Republican leanings for quite a while, and I did read all of the "Yes-No" booklet, I still voted No in the Referendum.
I did so, not on the basis of the Head of State issue but entirely on the question of who owns the Constitution of Australia.
To me it matters not one whit whether we are a Republic or a Monarchy if, we, the people of Australia, can truly claim ownership of the Constitution.
This was an issue that was never canvassed throughout the Referendum campaign - instead there was a defacto acceptance that the Government had the sole right to redraft the Constitution in any manner they wished.
It is this usurped monopoly on the part of every Government since Federation to assume that they are the sole body with the right to propose changes to the Constitution that I argue against.
There is nothing in the Constitution that gives them this right - it is based on their own unwritten, and unauthorised, convention, which, of course they jealously guard.
To counter this and try to restore some integrity into the Constitutional process I have developed a Proposal for a formal, periodic, Constitutional Review Process.
If you are interested this is published on the net as my third submission to the Queensland Constitutional Review Commission and can be viewed at http://www.constitution.qld.gov.au/subs.
As you know the question of a Republic has been around for quite a while but the current push for a Republic really began on the 11th. Nov. 1975. The motivation then ,and now, is based on two primary objectives ( and I have this from what I consider reliable sources) (a) to remove or reduce the reserve powers of the Governor General and (b) to emasculate the Senate.
The first objective was explicidly achieved with Section 70a of the Republican Constitution while the second objective was possibly achievable through Section 60. The deviousness of Section 60 is incredible otherwise it has absolutely no application in fact and shoulod never have been included.
Apart from these issues I could not accept the inclusion of the position of Prime Minister in the redrafted Constiution without one single attempt to define, let alone limit. his/her powers - in fact by giving him/her the the power to dismiss the President places the Prime Minister above the Constitution. There is no justification for this provision, and to argue that a Prime Minister would not use it is ludicrous.
I also disagree with your position that we should have accepted whatever Republic proposal was on offer on the assumption that "we" could amend it later.
Until "we" first lay claim to ownership of the Constitution and demand the right to propose the changes that "we" want along the lines contained in my Constitutional Review Process the "we" would never get the type of Republic we want (whatever it might be)
As long as the politicians retain the monopoly on proposing changes we will remain passive observers with the single option to accept, or reject, what the politicians offer.
Finally, on the question of direct election of a President, to me this really is a question as to whether we want to retain the Westminster system of Government. While there are all manner of connotations involved with this, in the Australian context, an elected President must end up as a Politician and inevitably a rival to the PM.
The one question that was never asked, and never answered, was on what basis do "we" the public, decide our vote for whatever number of candidates that are put before "us" to stand as President?
Do we vote on looks, or will it be on gender or race, heaven forbid that it is on popularity as an entertainer, will sexual preference or family values play a part and what knowledge must the candidates have on the Constitution and the political processes.
If all the candidates must be non-political than they must rigidly refrain from expressing any views on the political scene and certainly from indicating any sort of platform to clarify their ideas, perception of responsibilities and anticipated Presidential role in the political arena.
Ian Purdie's comments inserted here:
I find the following few paragraphs particularly thought provoking and I must admit to my chagrin they are concepts I had never previously considered.
end Ian Purdie's inserted comments
Another idea that was never allowed to be aired in any way was the concept of forming an Australian Council to effectively replace the Crown. This Council would be made up of 7 or so members whom would choose one to act as President. One idea for this was to form this Council from the existing State Governors and thereby remove the Presidential appointment and removal process completely from the Commonwealth Government.
As the Commonwealth of Australia is still, first and foremost, a Federation of States, this concept has some merit. It would, in fact, be immesurable strengthened if the people were to demand that each of the State Governors were appointed by 2/3 of their respective State Parliaments, along the lines proposed in the Republican Constitution.
There must also be a clearly defined role for any legally appointed President (and absolutely none for any illegally appointed President) and this must include the discretion to assent, or deny, approval of legislation without being forced to comply with the PM's advice.
Any President must be a protector of the peoples rights and ensure that the Constitutional integrity is upheld in all Legislation that comes out of Parliament.
If these responsibilities are not part of the President's role them we are wasting our time in pushing for a republic.
As a bit of insight to my Constitutional Review Process I am attaching a copy of the letter I recently sent to the PM, Kim Beasley and Meg Lees.
To me reclaiming ownership of our Constitution has to be our next goal before we tackle the Republican question again.
I enjoyed reading your article and will keep in touch with your web page for future updates.
I hope you find this note of interest as I believe we have much in common and people of like mind need to work together if we are to ever achieve our goals.
With best regards