(Cairns... Far North Queensland)
AUSTRALIAN REPUBLIC REFERENDUM
Referendum Voting Day: ???
Still being debated by republican proponents... AGAIN!!!
At the February 1998 Constitutional Convention in Old Parliament House Canberra, the 'almost unanimous' support of the 152 delegates resolved that all Australians will vote at a national referendum to be held on Saturday November 6th 1999.
Prior to the referendum, there were as many proposed republican models as there were republicans themselves. By the end of the first week of the Convention, the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), spearheaded by merchant banker Mr Malcolm Turnbull, realised its "enemy" was not the strong contingent of anti-republicans who remained unequivocally opposed to all republican models, but rather the one third of delegates absolutely opposed to the ARMs model.
In particular, prominent delegates, such as Pat OShane, Ted Mack, Moira Rayner, Phil Cleary and Clem Jones, strongly argued for the popularly elected model of a republic. All polling consistently shows that 80% of Australians wanting a republic wish to elect the President directly. There was also much support for former Victorian Governor McGarvies model for a President chosen by a Council of Elder Statesmen, support coming particularly from some more conservative politicians.
In the final vote, the ARM model did not get a majority of support at the Convention with 73 votes for it and 79 either voting against or abstaining. This No vote was likewise reflected in all polling since the Convention, indicating a majority of Australians and a majority of States will vote No in the referendum.
Since the Convention, prominent Australian republicans, such as Sir Anthony Mason, Professor George Winterton, Professor Greg Craven, Ms Cheryl Saunders, and Linda Kirk as well as leading anti-republicans, such as Sir Harry Gibbs, have all pointed out the flaws in the ARM proposal, which could lead to unstable government.
For example, The UNSW Law Journal Forum, Vol. 4 No 2 June 1998, is witness to many of the aforementioned republicans attacking the bipartisan model. George Winterton says " the model is flawed ", a Cheryl Saunders state that it is " unworkable " and Greg Craven admits that it is " a weak model with serious deficiencies ".
The thought of Federal Australian politicians all amicably sinking their differences and agreeing to vote for a single candidate conjures up pictures of "wheels, deals and bribes"! However, it is the dismissal compromise, which would see the Australian Prime Minister alone responsible for removing the president, which has attracted the most concern and criticism.
In a crisis, such as 1975 where the Governor-General dismissed the Prime Minister, it would no longer be clear who would be the more powerful! We would be sacrificing our non-political Australian Head of State, the Governor-General, as an umpire above politics for an apparently very powerful political President in formal terms, but with no security of tenure.
The problem of each of our Australian States, being separate Constitutional Monarchies with their own non-political Governors as Heads of State, was not addressed by the Convention. At the worst, States not wanting to become a republic could secede from the Federation. At best, each would have to rewrite its own Constitution, have its own President, and establish its own rules.
To run a No case successfully in the media who have always shown bias towards the republican cause as a "good story", a minimum of $10 million would be needed, most of which will be absorbed in television advertising.
In addition, the 'NO' Republic Campaign will continue to develop many educational tools and resources in the hope that every voter entering the polling booths in next years referendum will be able to cast an educated vote based on the best and safest system of government for the future of Australia as we move into the new millennium.
THE FLAW'S IN THE KEATING/TURNBULL MODEL MARK 11
The Convention named the amended APIM model as the "Bipartisan Appointment of the President Model". It is this model which will be tested against the current system in the 1999 Referendum.
Increasing numbers of Australians, many of them republicans, now realise the Republic model does not measure up to the safeguards of our current system.
However, as Constitutional Centenary Foundation Deputy Chair Cheryl Saunders has said " ...the Parliament must complete matters left incomplete by the Convention, although it should do so in a way which preserves the essential characteristics of the Convention model " (UNSW Law Journal Forum. Vol. 4 No 2, June 1998).
1. NOMINATIONS PROCESS
To try and pacify the republicans for popular election who were at the Convention, Malcolm Turnbull compromised and changed the ARM platform to include a cosmetic nomination process. It is suggested this would involve a consultation of the whole community, including State/Territory Parliaments, Local Government, community organisations and individuals from all considerations of federalism, gender, cultural or religious diversity all of whom could nominate and be represented on a nominations committee that would report to the Prime Minister.
As with US Senate Confirmation Hearings this process would immediately ensure that Australians of high standing would not want to apply. This nomination process would, however, not be enshrined in the Constitution, thus anything could happen at any time, and i.e. any part of a republic could change without going to a referendum. As quoted by Frank Devine in 'The Australian' 16.12.98.
"...he (Turnbull) urged him (Costello) to vote for the ARM position because it would be easy to lop off the nomination clause after the convention. But this is no way to begin the move to a republic, Costello said virtuously. "
2. APPOINTMENT MODEL BY TWO THIRDS OF THE PARLIAMENT
The appointment process involves the Prime Minister presenting a single nomination for the Presidency, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, to a joint sitting of both houses of Federal Parliament. He could if he wishes completely disregard the recommendations of the nomination committee. A two-thirds majority will be necessary.
This part of the process will not involve any public consultation or input making it undemocratic. Thus a President could ultimately wield power for his/her own political agenda instead of serving the people. The whole appointment process could in itself lead to a power vacuum, as witnessed recently in Slovakia, which has not had a President since 2 March.
What happens to the vacuum created if the two-thirds majority can not be reached? How many worthwhile candidates will be eliminated to achieve a result? In addition it is not clear whether it is two thirds of the votes of those actually sitting or whether all members of Parliament must vote and be counted. This led former Governor General Mr Bill Hayden to comment at the Convention that the model had obviously been designed by people with no experience on how politicians operate.
3. DISMISSAL OF THE PRESIDENT
For over five years the ARM has scoffed at criticism that a president under their first model would be irremovable and therefore extremely powerful. The ARM changed this at the convention without any explanation, this caused Sir Harry Gibbs to announce that " the Australian Republican Movement has displayed remarkable pliability UNSW Law Journal Forum, Vol. 4 No 2, June 1998).
Unlike the present constitution, the president now could be removed at any time for any reason or none by notice in writing signed by the PM. This is to be ratified by the House of Representatives alone with the Senate sidelined: obvious pay back for the Senate role in 1975.
The smaller states of QLD, SA, WA, TAS are disenfranchised with the numbers held for dismissal controlled by NSW and VIC, "...as it stands (the model) remains a hollow attempt to appease the electoral demands in States other than NSW and Victoria " (Williams: UNSW Law Journal Forum, Vol. 4 No 2, June 1998).
However, if it is not ratified, the President is not restored to office yet he/she can stand for re-election, hence bringing a no confidence vote for the Prime Minister.
Once again the rules for dismissal will not be codified, so basically the dismissal process is where the Prime Minister can sack the President or the President could bring down the Prime Minister.
This has caused Professor David Flint to use the analogy that both the president and the Prime Minister will permanently carry dismissal notices in their pockets. NSW barrister, Mr Jeff Phillips, uses the word picture from the wild west, as the two gunmen take their places, guns poised we watch in horror as to who will shoot first and from Professor George Winterton, the "...mutual disposability of the President and the PM facilitates the playing of a Constitutional Chicken " (UNSW Law Journal Forum, Vol. 4 No 2, June 1998).
This exercise of the ARM since 1991 demonstrates that it is
impossible to change the constitution to a republic and still preserve and protect the
freedoms of Australians from excesses and abuses by politicians. This model represents a
power grab to increase the domination of politicians and concentrate more of this power
and authority in Canberra.
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If the Crown goes... who controls the Military?
All government ministers, judges and police; all members of the armed forces are required to take an Oath of Allegiance (a pledge with a sacred dimension) not to the State, but to the Queen, the spiritual head of the nation. This is not an oversight, an aberration. It is a deliberate safeguard for both the citizens of the nation and for the individuals taking the oath.
Because these officials are in positions of power they need to be constrained from abusing that power, from wielding it in a manner that is unlawful. By deriving their authority from the Crown, from a Queen, who by convention cannot authorise an illegal or wrongful act, they, as servants of that Crown, cannot commit an illegal or wrongful act. If they do, they do so without authority. They are therefore personally liable for the consequences of that act. They cannot plead executive orders as in the case of the Watergate burglars, of national security as in the case of the CIA or any other secret agenda.
Conversely they themselves are protected from being placed in the untenable position of being required to obey illegal or wrongful orders from a higher authority or be convicted for treason if they refuse to obey those orders - an assertion made by Nazi war criminals in their defence at Nuremberg. As servants of the government they have an obligation to carry out all lawful orders. As servants of the Crown, their ultimate authority, they have an equal obligation to disobey unlawful ones.
By exercising restraint on its servants, the Crown guarantees the laws of the land and acts as the ultimate protector of the rights of its citizens - a promise made in the Coronation oath.
The emblem of the Crown on insignia, buttons, uniforms serves as a reminder of all this. A reminder of the source of authority - the Crown. A reminder of the oath made to that Crown - a pledge of lawful conduct. A reminder of personal responsibility if that oath is broken - if lawful orders are not upheld, if unlawful orders (from whatever source) are not disobeyed.
A reminder of the ultimate role of the Crown - the protector of all its citizens.
A reminder, a warning, a promise, the Crown and the oath of allegiance to it, are the ultimate safeguards for its servants as for its citizens.
WOULD WE BE EQUALLY SECURE UNDER A PRESIDENT?
Australian "republicans" want to "get rid of the Queen". But if in "getting rid of the Queen, we also "get rid of a democratic system of governance" - The Westminster System - proven over 98 years to have given us the best form of government and lifestyle in the world, undisputedly the envy of the world, why should we vote to remove it?
Before answering, please ask yourself:
"What do we replace it with?"
Well, the February 1998 Convention answered that, "Sort of", because the model it produced:
HERE'S THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: -
Examples: - 'FLAWED. 'UNWORKABLE", 'FUTILE", "INCOMPLETE", "VITAL STRUCTURAL WEAKNESS". There are over 50 such criticisms, mainly by reputable republicans criticising the minority Keating/Turnbull compromise model we must vote on.
This catalogue of criticisms comes from the ONLY competent commentary on the Convention, and the Model it produced The UNSW Law Journal Forum Vol 4 No 2 June 1998. To obtain a copy, phone 02 9385 7237 - fax 02 9385 1175 or E-mail: Law.Journal@unsw.edu.au and a copy will be sent with an invoice for $10. A must for anyone seeking to make an INFORMED and responsible vote at the referendum.
There are two essentials in considering this
The following notable quotes must also be considered:
Separately, UNANIMOUS CONDEMNATION from REPUBLICANS:
Do Australians want to replace our proven system with one not even tried anywhere else in he world?
Some questions MUST be asked of our Republican fellow Australians:
Republicans cry "We want an Australian Head of State", but do we want a POLITICIAN as head of a proposed republican State now publicly, vehemently and unanimously criticised by responsible republican leaders of integrity?
Some (irresponsible) republicans say "Let's vote for it and change it later" - an immediate admission that it is flawed.
Would YOU buy a faulty car after having been told "we'll fix it later"?
NO! of course not.
A change must be at least equal to if not better than our present system. Surely the GOOD present Westminster system is better than a BAD republic, especially when it's even BAD in the opinion of republican experts.
If you share a love of this wonderful country and want to protect it from these MINORITY groups' attempts to downgrade our system of governance, so that your children and their children's children can enjoy in future what we have enjoyed for 98 years.
Remember, we are not voting for "republicanism" - we are voting on a specific republican MODEL denigrated UNANIMOUSLY by Australia's Constitutional experts on BOTH SIDES.
PLEASE CONSIDER CAREFULLY - EVER S0 CAREFULLY
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Second Reading Speech
(Establishment of Republic) 1999
10 June, 1999Introduction
I place before the House today a Bill to provide the basis for a referendum on whether Australia should become a republic.
The Prime Minister made a commitment to the Australian people at the close of the 1998 Constitutional Convention that the Government would put the Conventions model for an Australian republic to a referendum in 1999.
The Government aims to meet that commitment by putting before the Australian people on 6 November the proposal for constitutional change that I have introduced today.
As a Government, we recognise that the Australian Constitution has served Australia well.
It binds our nation together.
It has established a stable federal framework of government and endures as the foundation for our democratic institutions.
It is precisely because the Constitution has served us so well, and proven so durable, that constitutional change must not be undertaken lightly.
However, as a Government, we recognise that the Constitution is not immutable, and was never intended to be.
As Sir Robert Menzies recognised, the Constitution is not a social or political straitjacket inhibiting consideration of change in a changing world.
In providing for its own alteration in section 128, the Constitution looks to the future and acknowledges the possibility of change.
It gives the Australian people the right, and the responsibility, to decide whether there shall be change. In the referendum procedure, it provides what is arguably the most rigorously democratic mechanism for constitutional change to be found in any national constitution. A majority of electors must vote in favour of change. In addition, there must be a majority vote in a majority of States.
It might once have been thought that the preamble to the Imperial Act which originally set out our Constitution, in referring to a federation under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, could preclude a decision by Australians that Australia should become a republic. However, this is no longer credible.
Similarly, the idea that a republic might be established by legislation of the United Kingdom Parliament is no longer credible. It ignores the reality of Australia as an independent nation.
At the end of the twentieth century, the question whether Australia should become a republic is one for Australia and Australians.The republic debate and the Constitutional Convention
Whether or not Australia should become a republic has been the subject of discussion over a number of years.
The Prime Minister recognised this when, in March 1997, he announced the Governments plan for a Constitutional Convention.
The Prime Minister said that the Convention would provide an opportunity to involve the Australian people in discussing whether or not Australia should become a republic.
It would be a forum for all voices in the debate.
One hundred and fifty two delegates attended the Convention, which met for ten days here in Canberra, in Old Parliament House.
Half of the delegates were elected and half were appointed.
The reason for the Convention was quite clear. It was to provide a forum for discussion about whether or not our Constitution should be changed to establish an Australian republic. Three questions were identified for the Convention:
The Government recognised that there are sincerely held views in the Parliament and across the broader community on both sides of the debate.
The Governments objective was to allow the Convention to explore these views constructively, in full public view, and to consider which republic model could be put against the existing constitutional arrangements at a referendum.
The Prime Minister announced at the time that if clear support for a particular republic model emerged, that model would be put to a referendum in 1999. He proposed that, if the republic model were supported at a referendum, the new arrangements be in place for the centenary of Federation on 1 January 2001.
The model which clearly attracted the greatest support at the Convention involves a president appointed by a two-thirds majority of the Commonwealth Parliament. At the close of the Convention, the Prime Minister made a commitment to put that model to the people. That commitment was re-stated in last years election campaign.Developing the referendum legislation
In March this year the Government released exposure drafts of the referendum legislation relating to the republic model: the Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999, which I shall refer to as the Republic Bill; and the Presidential Nominations Committee Bill 1999, which I shall refer to as the Nominations Committee Bill.
In developing the drafts of these Bills, the Government has been concerned to flesh out the republic model endorsed by the Convention, but not to go beyond what is necessary to implement that model.
The Governments aim has been to develop a workable proposal, which has broad support as an appropriate legislative expression of the Convention model.
It was therefore important to provide the States and Territories, the Opposition and other political parties, and interested groups and individuals with an opportunity to have a say in relation to the development of the proposal.
It is for that reason that the Government decided to release its legislation as exposure drafts for public comment.
And the Government has been very pleased to receive careful and considered submissions on the exposure drafts.
One hundred and eleven submissions were received on the legislation relating to the republic model.
On behalf of the Government, I would like to thank all of those who contributed their ideas and opinions. Those contributions have been of real assistance in the process of refining the referendum proposal and have borne out the importance of public involvement and consultation.
The Republic Bill and the Nominations Committee Bill have been revised in light of the submissions received, and the revised Bills are introduced today.
In developing this legislation, the Governments aim has been to ensure as far as possible that the Australian people are presented with a safe, workable proposal for a republic that continues our traditions of stable, parliamentary democracy.
The object of the Republic Bill is to give Australia an Australian head of state who can fit in to our current arrangements in place of the Queen and her representative in Australia, the Governor-General.
The Nominations Committee Bill is not a constitutional amendment but a Bill for an ordinary Commonwealth Act. It provides in more detail for the establishment and role of the nominations committee, filling in the very broad outline provided by the Constitutional Convention.
The Convention resolved that the process for community consultation and evaluation of nominations is likely to evolve with experience and is best-dealt with by ordinary legislation or parliamentary resolution.
As this Bill would not alter the Constitution it would not have to be approved at a referendum.
Nonetheless, it is likely to be of great interest because, in the event that change to a republic is approved at the referendum, it would provide the means by which the Australian people could be involved in selecting a President.
I shall return to the Nominations Committee Bill in my second reading speech for that Bill.Public information activities
The Government proposes to give the Australian people every chance to understand the proposal on which they will be asked to vote.
A public education programme scheduled for September will alert people to the approaching referendum, remind them of the issues and provide them with balanced information in an accessible form.
Educational material will be distributed which explains the republic model, the existing constitutional arrangements, the implications for State constitutions and the referendum process.
The Government has established an expert panel, chaired by Sir Ninian Stephen, to provide advice on the educational material to ensure that it is fair, balanced and accurate.
The Government has also established Yes and No advertising campaign committees, drawn from delegates to the Constitutional Convention, to plan and manage robust national advertising campaigns for and against the republic proposal in the final weeks leading up to the vote.
In addition, the Australian Electoral Commission will distribute to all electors Yes and No cases prepared by Parliamentarians, in accordance with the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984.The Republic Bill
I shall now briefly turn to the specific provisions of the Republic Bill.
The Bill comprises 3 technical clauses and 3 schedules, which follow closely the Convention model.
The Bill would establish Australia as a republic from 1 January 2001, with an Australian citizen as head of state. The head of state would be called the President.
Schedule 1 would establish the office of President and entrench elements of a mechanism for choosing the President.
Under this mechanism, a committee would be established to invite and consider public nominations for President. The Prime Minister would consider a report from the committee before putting forward a single nomination to a joint sitting of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. The nomination would take effect if seconded by the leader of the Opposition and approved by a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
The Constitution would require the nominations committee to be established and operate as provided by the Parliament.
Only Australian citizens qualified to be elected as members of the Commonwealth Parliament could be President. A person could not be President if he or she were currently a member of the Commonwealth Parliament or a State or Territory legislature, or a member of a political party.
Before taking office, a person chosen as President would be required to make an oath or affirmation of office.
The President would have the powers, including the reserve powers that the Governor-General has now. And the Constitutional conventions that now apply to the exercise of the reserve powers by the Governor-General would apply to the exercise of those powers by the President.
The Presidents term of office would be five years.
The Prime Minister could remove the President by issuing a written instrument of removal. The grounds for removal are not specified. The Prime Minister would be required to seek the approval of the House of Representatives for that action within 30 days, unless an election were called and the matter taken directly to the people.
Schedule 2 sets out consequential amendments of the Constitution that would be required to alter Australias system of national government from a constitutional monarchy to a republic.
Many consequential and transitional issues can be addressed by ordinary legislation or administrative action. Those that must be dealt with in the Constitution are set out in Schedule 2. Most of these are concerned with the removal of monarchical references from the Constitution. Almost all references to the Queen, the Governor-General and the Crown would be removed.
The Government does not regard the Bill as an opportunity to generally tidy up the Constitution. Spent provisions of the Constitution would be altered or removed only where they refer specifically to the monarchical system of government.
Schedule 3 would add a schedule to the Constitution setting out provisions aimed at facilitating the transition from constitutional monarchy to republic with minimum disruption to existing institutions and arrangements.
The new schedule to the Constitution would make provision to ensure the continuity of existing institutions; and the continuity of legislative, executive and judicial action undertaken before the transition to a republic.
It would make provision for choosing the first President before the commencement of any republic on 1 January 2001; and for enacting legislation in the transitional period, so that the first President could take office immediately on the commencement of the republic.
It would also make provision to put beyond doubt that transition to a republic would not jeopardise the continuity of the Federation or the co-ordinated operation of the Australian system of law. Provision has also been included to ensure that the constitutional conventions relating to the exercise of the reserve powers are not stopped from evolving in the way that has been possible since Federation.Commonwealth/State co-ordination
A significant practical issue in any change will be co-ordination between change at the Commonwealth and State levels.
Change to a republican form of government would involve State constitutional arrangements, and in some cases a State referendum would be required. In others, the State government may decide that a referendum should be held, even though it is not required.
The Constitutional Convention resolved that, while it would be desirable for any republican arrangements to commence simultaneously in the Commonwealth and all the States, not all States may wish or be able to move to a republic within the Commonwealths timeframe.
On that basis, the Convention resolved that the Government should consider whether specific provision would be required to enable States to retain their current constitutional arrangements following any change at the Commonwealth level.
The Convention was of the view that the Commonwealth should not dictate State Constitutional arrangements in the event that the Australian people voted for a republic. It recommended that a referendum be held first on whether the Commonwealth should adopt a republican form of government, and that the States then make any necessary arrangements for change at State level.
The Republic Bill would not force the States to change.
But the Government is firmly of the view that, if change is endorsed at the referendum, it would be best for change to occur simultaneously in the Commonwealth and all States. The Prime Minister has written to all Premiers seeking their firm agreement that, should the Australian people vote for change to a republican form of government, their governments will do everything within their power to facilitate simultaneous change at Commonwealth and State levels.
Provisions in Schedule 3 of the Bill which were settled only after considering closely State comments and concerns would ensure that no State would be confronted by technical barriers if and when it sought to change in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
In particular, these provisions would give the Commonwealth Parliament a fall back power to amend the Australia Acts to rule out any argument that those Acts entrench Crown links at the State level.
This is not intended to allow Commonwealth legislation to directly affect the State links or change the processes a State would follow to amend its constitution. Instead, it would merely ensure that the States could proceed with confidence in their own processes for considering change.
The Commonwealth would not need to rely on this power if all the States were to pass legislation under the Australia Acts requesting the necessary amendment.
The States have indicated that the latter is their preferred approach and that they aim to enact request legislation by the end of July. Consideration will be given to removing the fall back power altogether if all the States are able to pass that legislation by the time the Republic Bill is finally debated.
But unless all States have enacted suitable request legislation by that time, the fall back provision must be retained. Without it, the risk is that if one State fails to secure passage of its request legislation the Commonwealth would be unable to amend the
Australia Acts for the benefit of any State.Conclusion
The Governments aim is, as far as possible, to present the Australian people with a republic model of government which is consistent with the outcomes of the Constitutional Convention and is a workable proposal that continues our tradition of stable parliamentary democracy.
It is already a matter of public record that sitting Liberal Party members will be allowed a conscience vote in the referendum.
Some members of the Government are likely to vote against change at the referendum and others are likely to vote for it.
The Government is united, however, in its commitment to let the Australian people vote on the issue.
We are confident that the proposed legislation is a fair and effective expression of the Conventions model, and an appropriate basis for the question that will go to the Australian people.
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Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870