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Ideas for a better democracy

Our Constitution is the:

“Commonwealth of Australia founding document. After many years of debate and drafting, it was passed by the British Parliament and given royal assent (approval by the Queen) in July 1900. Australia’s 6 British colonies became one nation on 1 January 1901.”

Australians are sticklers for tradition when it comes to our Constitution. Despite 44 proposed changes, only eight have ever been successful.

Change has been an aversion to Australians for a long time, with dozens of proposed changes meeting with a very public flogging. Two proposals to change the Constitution will soon be placed before the Australian people. This year Labor plans a bid to give a Voice to Parliament for our First Nations people and will be placed before the people. At face value, it would seem harsh not to give our First Nation’s folk a voice in their destiny.

Our Constitution is “silent on the histories of the people who inhabited this continent before European settlement.” Therefore, it is incumbent on the Government to correct this ascetic anomaly. It may, however, be the voice of the Opposition leader Peter Dutton that determines the outcome. If he decides his party will vote against it, it would only be for political reasons, and his party would be a national disgrace – an assassination of the referendum.

The second referendum being considered will be a bid to change the Constitution so that we can have an Australian as our head of State.

Both are worthwhile propositions of long-standing and deserve to be supported by a majority of citizens in a majority of states. The time is ripe for change. Sure, this would be a symbolic change. It will not improve our exports or our world standing on many things, but it will provide us with a new maturity commensurate with our standing in the world.

We have too many cultural concepts that speak of our past and not our future.

But are they the only proposals worthy of our earnestness consideration? Here is my list. You may have others, so please note yours in the comments section. Some might only require legislation; others may need referenda:

1 Change the Constitution to make change easier.

2 Create new ways of purposeful participation in the body politic for Australians wanting to be involved and enshrine the positions in the Constitution.

3 A two-year constitutional review ending with the appointment of a full-time sitting committee. They would review, make recommendations and advise the Government of the day.

4 Outline the standards required to become an MP or Senator in the Constitution. A suitability test for prospective MPs.

5 Appointment of an independent Speaker heading an Independent Speaker’s Office with a broader range of responsibilities.

6 An independent review of Australia’s voting system to eliminate any anomalies and to teach politics in year 12 and the possibility of allowing 16-year-olds to vote if registered at high school and completing the politics course.

7 A review to redefine free speech and what it means in an enlightened society.

8 Find a place in our Constitution that guarantees a Department of the Future in the cabinet.

9 A guarantee of affordable health care for all citizens.

10 A 10-point “common good” caveat for all proposed legislation.

11 Describe in our Constitution the place or purpose of the government, the judicial system, business, religion, the law and the media.

12 Major appointments to government agencies be considered by a joint parliamentary committee to discourage stacking agencies with partisans.

13 A bill of rights be looked into by a group of retired judges appointed by the government.

14 Consider some form of yearly citizen-initiated referenda.

15 Reinforce secularity concerning religion.

16 One item I feel is missing, and I am not sure how to phrase it, is to restore science to its proper place.

17 Lock in fixed four-year terms in the Constitution with a specified date.

18 A guarantee of affordable health care for all be enshrined in the Constitution.

19 Re-instate our public broadcasters’ autonomy, financial, programming and management independence with a charter that explicitly requires no government, corporate or religious interference.

As I said at the start, I am asking for general comments on my piece and any new ideas that could be included in our Constitution.

Now allow me to quote from an essay by Dr Venturini written around the same time as my original piece. His 5-part essay is informative in underlining the intent of the Constitution as, basically, enshrining the rights of the states as sovereign entities within a sovereign commonwealth. They were never about ‘we, the people’. So much is left to conventions, and we know how much those have been shunned over the last decade.

“A quick look of the Australian Constitution reveals that it is technically an act of the British Parliament passed in 1900, the last vestiges of British legislative influence in Australia to be eliminated with the passage of the Australia Act in 1986.

The Constitution is interpreted and operates in two ways: literally – some sections of the Constitution are taken literally and followed to the letter; conventionally – other sections operate through a series of ‘constitutional conventions’ which vest real power in the hands of elected politicians.

Alongside the text of the Constitution, and Letters of Patent issued by the Crown, such Conventions are an important aspect of the Constitution; they have evolved over the decades and define how various constitutional mechanisms operate in practice.

Conventions are unwritten rules, not laws. They express an accepted way of doing something. The ‘Westminster parliamentary system’ is built around these kinds of unwritten rules. They presume that people of good reputation and character behave in an honourable way. By and large Australian ‘conservatives’ do not respect ‘Labor people’ as persons of honour. This is one of the reasons why ‘conservatives’ have been preferred to ‘Labor people’ = rabble on a three/fourth basis since federation.”

So, there you have it. What else would you like to see written into our Constitution, or how might we improve it?

My thought for the day

If we were drafting our Constitution today, does anyone seriously dispute that we would require our head of State to be an Australian? Indeed, the Monarchy belongs to our past and not our future.


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  1. Terence Mills

    Much of our Constitution is spent, the passage of time has made it obsolete. I won’t go through everything that needs updating or amending but consider, for instance section 59 :

    Disallowance by the Queen.

    Section 59. The Queen [monarch] may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General’s assent, and such disallowance on being made known by the Governor-General by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, shall annul the law from the day when the disallowance is so made known.

    We need a constitutional to rewrite this instrument and, among other things, incorporate a Bill of Rights !

  2. Fred

    The Commonwealth Electoral Act was amended in 1962 to give all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults the right to vote in federal elections. Similarly, the Commonwealth Franchise Act gives women the right to vote.

    I’d argue that the right to vote is a fundamental right of both cohorts and should be part of the constitution not simply enabled by acts of parliament, which in theory could be repealed.

  3. Clakka

    Repeal and / or rationalisation of the taxation provisions, such as for example:

    Feds introduce GST, on premise that States eliminate stamp duty of property transactions.
    States have never eliminated Stamp Duty on property transactions,

    and so forth and so on, and on, and on ……..

    And possibly consideration on the hows, whys and wherefores pertaining to secrecy provisions of government, parliament and their instrumentalities.

  4. Douglas Pritchard

    I rather fancy the concept of a planet without borders.
    But, i have to accept that life will throw up a superior group who administer an inferior group.
    Like the highway man he demands our money, and offers safe passage through this life.
    He sets the agenda for how that money is spent and, if more of the population benefit from conflict, than those who choose peace, then our agenda is constructed to reflect this.
    Nature is rebelling and making life just a little more uncomfortable than it used to be(when less homo sapiens), but our constitution stiil bangs on about National Security against other nation waving different colour flags.
    How about recognising that we co-operate with nature by decree, for the good of us all?

  5. GL

    I rather fancy a planet without us on it.

  6. wam

    selamat pagi, lord.
    Hard to argue with you today?
    Cannot accept the migration act which allows the deportation of Australian born?
    Australian born cannot be elected to parliament if daddy was born overseas?
    Simplify to ‘born here gives automatic citizenship?
    the senate, which has lost any relevance to the ‘states house’ purpose.
    compulsory preferential voting
    parliamentary prayers and bible ‘swearing’.
    Make the pollies publish who with where and how long of their meetings.
    It is feasible to write a new constitution to replace the pomie tripe and rid ourselves of Australia the six colonies and become a country.

  7. Andy56

    I would like to see some king of triage where the down right stupid and narcissitic can be eliminated from holding office. I realise even the stupid need to be represented but damned if a nut case like the red head is ever elected again, please explain. A fish n chips worker demanding a say in our legal system, our approach to climate change and many others. We ascribe people to jobs way way way beyond their abilities and then wonder why it turns to shit.
    Narcissists are no good for us. Ie one tony abbott. Here is a man who has qualifications that are plainly absurd. An intellectual fraud and a “pell” like zeal to undermine the country. He came to power in a cyclone of destruction and left the same way.

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