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If we are going to have an Australian as head of state, then the position must be meaningful

Some people sincerely believe that we don’t need the position of president and that the Prime Minister fills the role anyway. As one who worked tirelessly for the Australian Republic Movement during the debate in 1999, I do not concur with that thought.

If we are to become a republic with a ceremonial head of state, the position must fulfil some real purpose or none.

It must be an influential position promoting our country both here and abroad. It is a position that works in tandem with the Prime Minister, full of dignity and purpose, making major speeches and working in partnership with the Prime Minister when necessary and independently when required (and not opening flower shows in outback Queensland).

I was also not persuaded by the view that the people should elect our President. I also believed to do so would only degrade the position and turn it into a popularity contest. I have since changed my mind, given a new model put forward by the Australian Republic Movement (ARM).

In saying this, I presuppose an Albanese government will hold a referendum in 2024. By then, I will be 83. Even as a young boy, I refused to stand for “God save the Queen” at the beginning of a movie when I went to the flicks. Yes, in those days, we were saturated with the trappings of royalty.

One couldn’t attend an event or function without standing and paying homage to royalty. It may have been discourteous of me, but I always questioned why I should do it for the head of state of another country. I was, after all, a true-blue Aussie kid of rebellious thought.

I began articulating the case for the Australian Republic at around 16. I followed the thoughts of Barry Jones and other notable persons on the subject. As I matured, my thinking became more refined.

Now that the Queen has left us, the opportunity presents itself to ask my fellow Australians if they want an Australian as their head of state or if they would rather stick with King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla.

The proposition is simple until one comes up against the process of getting there. That is the methodology by which our head of state is elected. The referendum of November 1999 was defeated partly because those wanting a republic needed to devise a satisfactory method of inducting a President and couldn’t do so.

The Australian people rejected the model of the Australian Republican Movement because it gave more power (real or imagined) to politicians. I supported it mainly because it was better than a popular election process which would have been a disaster. A popular election would mean that many unsuitable people would and could win based on popularity. Eventually, making it political.

Since that time, the ARM has developed a new model that gives all of us a more significant say in the election of a President. But for reasons of brevity, it works like this:

“So, how does it work? The Australian Choice Model will allow every State and Territory Parliament to nominate one candidate for election to be our Head of State. The Federal Parliament will be able to nominate up to three. We will then hold a national election for Australians to decide which candidate should be Head of State – a vote for all of us.”

Above all, the person chosen to be President should have undoubted integrity, truthfulness, and ethics with an astute clarity of expression.

To find out more, visit the Australian Republican Movement website where you will find a complete explanation of their proposal.

The reader should note other reasons for the referendum’s defeat in 1999 because they are essential to understanding why it was John Howard who defeated it.

Malcolm Turnbull summed it up in his book “The Reluctant Republic“, where he accused John Howard (the ‘lying rodent’ – thanks, George) of breaking the hearts of Australians. He was, in fact, correct.

Writing in The Financial Review at the time, James Chessel said that:

“The Member for Wentworth may have ran the Australian Republican Movement from 1993 to 2000 – and accused former prime minister John Howard of “breaking the nation’s heart” for skilfully backing the status quo during the 1999 referendum – but “political realities” could not be ignored.”

Tony Abbott, as leader of the “No” case, was also complicit in this betrayal of the Australian people. They told lies, and Howard used his position as Prime Minister to promote the “No” case. He duded us, and this Australian shed a tear.

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

My thought for the day

Character is a combination of traits that etch the outlines of a life, governing moral choices and infusing personal and professional conduct. It’s an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of politics. But unexpected moments can sometimes reveal the fibres from which it is woven.

 

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20 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    More mature uncommon sense as the Albanese LABOR government recovers Australia from the travails of nine (9) too long years of COALition mismanagement, corruption and disheartenment.

    In 18th century Australia (OK, Sydney only then) ”a true-blue Aussie kid of rebellious thought” was known as a ”Cabbage Tree Kid” identifying the cheap ”hats” made from local Cabbage Tree Palms. These kids were known for their complete contempt of the English class system and the rigors it imposed on their otherwise uncontrolled lives.

    Perhaps the Albanese LABOR government will take a leaf from our history and create ”a progressive egalitarian Australia” with an Australia borne Head of State selected from suitable candidates thought to represent these necessary values.

  2. Lurline

    Personally, I feel the President of Australia should be a First Nations person at all times. They don’t need more power than the current GG, but surely our Head of State should be of the people who have been here for 60,000 years.

  3. Keitha Granville

    One look at the USA, Russia and China screams NO PRESIDENT to me.
    Why do we want to invent another person with all the trappings of royalty? We don’t need one.
    We don;t need another salary being paid for nothing. We could do without the GG as well now.

    Let’s just be different and have an elected parliament and nobody else.

  4. jonathan Lee

    @ Keitha the US is a completley different system where they have a President WITH political power – in Ireland they elect a President with no political power – there are many different types of Republic – we are simply changing the identity of the Head of State and nothing more – in other words the GG will become our OFFICIAL head of state .

  5. Stephengb

    Disagree JL.

    My stance is exactly what Lurline said, it provides two things it includes the First Nations for ever and the most important element of soverignty.
    I might add that any Head of State must be a ‘titular’ head, merely giving soverign assent to Bill’s passed by parliament and any other purely ceremonial functions

    After all the GG is only a person authorised by our Head of State to give Royal assent (soverign assent) to Bills passed by parliament plus ceremony.
    Yes I know our GG has other powers, which should be removed.

    Any Head of State given more power than a titular head would in effect be a President (no matter his /her official title) and we all know what happens when the Head of State becomes a power in their own right.

    Meanwhile I can also live with KG’s idea of No Head of State, a PM is enough for me, as long as he / she has no powers other than the current position of PM.
    I note though that this causes some issues with the separation of powers.

    I am an Englishman brought up under the reign of Elizebeth II, but I too, would preference an elected Head of State, but the model proposed is already flawed, why should Canberra get 3 attempts.
    What would happen if the States and Territories were all of one political leaning, would you not just politicise the position.

    Sorry John but NO not for me.

    The Westminster system is not perfect but has worked well for both the UK and Australia, we should be a Republic but we should not break the principles of governance and separation of powers that the Westminster system has developed over time.

  6. jonathan Lee

    @ Stephengb we are not changing the Westminster system – which simply requires a Head of State a Legislature and a Judicature . NONE OF THAT WILL CHANGE . what will change is the IDENTITY of the head of state . ONLY .

  7. leefe

    “The Australian people rejected the model of the Australian Republican Movement because it gave more power (real or imagined) to politicians. ”

    I have never understood this argument.
    Proposed model was that the Big Bunyip would be selected and ratified by Parliament, correct?
    Current model has a monarch chosen by the arbitrary method of primogeniture within a small foreign family, being represented by a person chosen exclusively by the Prime Minister.

    I do not for the life of me see how our current method is better than the option proposed during the referendum campaign. At least with the whole of parliament involved there is an element of bipartisanship.

    Agree that the current proposal by ARM has merit but … more public expense on elections … and would there be campaigning by the candidates and/or those who propose them?

  8. Clakka

    I certainly do not like the notion of ‘popular vote’, as many are so ill-informed and increasingly prone to the wiles of bling and celebrity. I have no objection to the ‘nominated by politicians’ scenario (after all they’ve already been elected to do the hard yards), provided it is (bipartisan) by the entirety of all the parliaments (a bit iffy about the 3 nominees for the feds), followed by a peoples vote from the successful nominees. It seems it will substantially eliminate most of the huge cost of lobbying and such blah blah and electoral admin.

    The big issue for me is minimising the time/cost of any requisite reconstruction of laws, rights, writs and titles relating to property (of the ‘crown’ or otherwise), chains of legal precedent, treaties, judicial oaths, and the general operation of the law and separation of powers. And for goodness sake, getting all/any reference to any god or religious hierarchy out of it. (look at the dysfunctional mess the USA has got itself into).

    And yeah, ‘titular’ head seems OK to me, remove some of the extraneous powers – we don’t want another Kerr/Gough situation or another 5 ministries for a boy’s club bargain.

  9. andy56

    I’m with Keitha, lets save some money and delete one more mouth with absolutely no difference, after all the GG just signs stuff. we had to live through abbott and morison with not a word spoken from the GG about their competence. Who will miss the GG? not I. Checks and balances? a big fat lie.

  10. Canguro

    Now that George Pell’s kicked the bucket, may God have mercy on his conflicted soul, and without being unduly ungracious about the man, albeit that he was a lightning rod for controversy and that it remains a matter of deep contention as to what he actually got up to in his earlier days, with equally passionate advocates both for and against him, nevertherless, tried, convicted, jailed, appealed, acquitted, the only comment I’ll make on the matter is now that he’s dead and with the papers full of the stories of this once-living anachronism, to see such a person clad in the ridiculous garb of the high office of the Catholic Church deeply reinforces the sense of the outlandish and absurd preservation of tradition that seems to be that mob’s lot, including of course their idiotic insistence on the maintenance of celibacy amongst the priesthood and their denial that such an unnatural statute is front & centre as a causal factor which has historically and possibly still is the main cause of the toxic phenomenon of the existence of paedophilic priests within that archaic institution. The sooner they wise up, modernise, permit priests to marry and get their rocks off in a socially acceptable manner, or otherwise, if not, keep the poor bastards locked away in monasteries and disallow them any contact with the wider public, the better for all of us.

  11. Terence Mills

    I see Tony Abbott is calling for Pell to be made a Saint !

    Whilst Pell successfully appealed his conviction for child molestation he was never brought to task for the cover up of child abuse allegations against paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale where he had conspicuously taken no action as far back as the 1970’s. Ridsdale was eventually charged and jailed for a total of 39 years in the 1990s. The RC report said Cardinal Pell was specifically told about Ridsdale’s behaviour at a crucial meeting in 1982 – rejecting Pell’s claim he was kept in the dark.

    Ridsdale was convicted of molesting seventy one (71) boys over a period of some forty years,during which time he had at times shared accommodation and been friendly with Pell. When Ridsdale was being sentenced, Pell accompanied him to court as a “priestly act of solidarity”, something he later regretted.

    Ridsdale was constantly moved on from on parish to another, something that Pell was complicit with : Ridsdale held 16 different appointments over a period of 29 years as a priest, with an average of 1.8 years per appointment.

    Sainthood, tell him he’s dreaming !

  12. Harry Lime

    Georgie Porgie,pudding and pie,put his head between his legs and kissed his arse goodbye.Vatican embarrassments tend to mysteriously exit, stage left,much like current Russian oligarchs who have fallen out of favour with Vlad the Doomed.

  13. wam

    Keep strong, lord. At school, I got quite a few slaps on the back of my head for my slovenly renditions of ‘I am an Australian…’ and for not singing the anthem. My dad wouldn’t take mum to the pictures, so that was my job. She was always embarrassed by my refusal to stand for the Australian Anthem. I guess am older than you because when I was a boy it was ‘god save the king’ that I was protesting. ps My protest continues to this day because I attribute racism to the reference of ‘fair’.
    pps
    I was born in Sept 1941 and my dad was a rat.
    The fact that he loved me was the measure of a wonderful man. I have bneen such a lucky son.

  14. New England Cocky

    @ Canguro: An excellent thought provoking piece, but modernising an anachronism is a slow and often difficult task. Consider the Sydney Anglican Diocese where women are not counted as equally Christian.

    @ Terence Mills: When has RAbbott ever said anything sensible?

    @ wam: Your father was a Rat?? Oh dear, I find myself becoming more sympathetic with each posting. The Americans lost Tobruk after the Rats were withdrawn to defend Australia.

  15. John Lord

    Wam, l was born in February of the same year. Making me the elder.

  16. GL

    If DoPe described it, “… “terrible mistake” which had “personally anguished” him for most of his life.” then why didn’t he say something ages ago?

    “Although he insisted the decision to reveal the information had not been made due to any threat to release the photo, rumours of a photo damaging to the premier had been circulating in recent days.” He was hoping that it would stay hidden but it leaked out and so three months before the election he gets the ahold the Tony Abbott Memorial Liberal Party Special Onion and starts blubbering.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jan/12/ashamed-nsw-premier-dominic-perrottet-reveals-he-wore-a-nazi-uniform-at-his-21st-birthday

  17. leefe

    NEC:
    “Consider the Sydney Anglican Diocese where women are not counted as equally Christian.”

    Consider almost every extant religion, where women (and all others who are not straight cis blokes) are not counted as equally human.

  18. Stephengb

    Johnathan lea

    Please take time to read the Australian Constitution 1901 as amended

  19. GL

    I expect a head of state will really only have meaning to the party that chooses the person to fill the role. A powerless figurehead.

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