The inevitable question arises: Should we have an Australian as head of state and become a republic?
The question is; should Australia become a republic with its own head of state? It’s a question that could have and should have waited until the burial of Queen Elizabeth was over and a time of mourning had passed. Although I had hoped it wouldn’t happen until an appropriate time after her death, it has.
Notably, Prime Minister Albanese had rightly announced that the question of a republic would come after a voice for our First Nations People had been established or at least a referendum voted on.
But the media being what they are, has raised the matter anyway.
Her Majesty was highly accomplished at consistently avoiding controversy in the political sense of the word, with a lovely ability to open garden shows and attend the races. She liked spending the summer at Balmoral in Scotland or flying around the world, saying hello to countries still in the commonwealth of nations.
As the matriarch of the world’s most dysfunctional Royal Family, she had attributes most mothers don’t. Until her final days, Prince Andrew was still begging to be reinstated in his previous privileged royal roles.
If you think I am being rather flippant in my description of her royal duties, then I suppose I am. Like many republicans, I recognise those ineffable qualities established in her leadership, despite unspoken qualifications yet found in a commitment to service and belief in the common good.
Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating in as statement in a statement upon her death implied that:
“… the Queen rejected the right-wing politics of the UK in the 1980s and 90s under then-PM Margaret Thatcher.
When asked about those times, he answered:
“In the 20th century, the self-became privatised, while the public realm, the realm of the public good, was broadly neglected.”
“Queen Elizabeth understood this and instinctively attached herself to the public good against what she recognised as a tidal wave of private interest and private reward. And she did this for a lifetime. Never deviating.
“She was an exemplar of public leadership, married for a lifetime to political restraint, remaining always, the constitutional monarch.”
“In the 20th century, the self-became privatised, while the public realm, the realm of the public good, was broadly neglected.
Queen Elizabeth understood this and instinctively attached herself to the public good against what she recognised as a tidal wave of private interest and private reward. And she did this for a lifetime. Never deviating.
She was an exemplar of public leadership, married for a lifetime to political restraint, remaining always, the constitutional Monarch.
To the extent that an hereditary monarch can ever reflect the will or conscience of a people, in the case of Britain, Queen Elizabeth assimilated a national consciousness reflecting every good instinct and custom the British people possessed and held to their heart.
In a seventy-year reign, she was required to meet literally hundreds of thousands of officials – presidents, prime ministers, ministers, premiers, mayors and municipal personalities.
It was more than one person should ever have been asked to do.
But Elizabeth the Second’s stoicism and moralism welded her to the task and with it, the idea of monarchy.
Her exceptionally long, dedicated reign is unlikely to be repeated; not only in Britain, but in the world generally.
With her passing her example of public service remains with us as a lesson in dedication to a lifelong mission in what she saw as the value of what is both enduringly good and right.”
As we mourn the death of #QueenElizabethII, our thoughts will turn to Australian identity in her wake. My favourite old quote on this is from Paul Keating: "Australia should be like a wok, lightly stir-frying the ingredients of our population into a harmonious Australian whole."
— Pradeep Taneja (谭雷笳) (@PradeepKTaneja) September 9, 2022
Her qualities lay in her leadership and steadfastness, which set an example for leaders worldwide to follow. Alas, they have not.
WORDS THAT MAKE YOU THINK
"If we were drafting our Constitution today, does anyone seriously dispute that we would require our head of state to be an Australian. Surely the Monarchy belongs to our past and not our future."
— john lord (@saint13333) September 13, 2022
A portion of a piece I wrote for The AIMN in 2018:
“So, the country lost interest in the matter, and it is generally accepted that our apathy shall continue until the current Monarch retires or dies.
Malcolm Turnbull believes this will be the catalyst for action and is, in all probability, correct. The way forward is through a non-binding plebiscite with a simple question. For example.” Do you think Australia should become a republic with its own head of state?” A majority of us would support this, and it would pave the way for the exploration and development of various models.
And with the consensus, the final model would evolve, as I said earlier. I found nothing wrong with the original model. That being that from a shortlist, the Prime Minister puts forward a person who is approved with a two-thirds majority by a joint sitting of both houses.
I would argue that the people elect the parliament and then entrust their representatives to appoint a President on their behalf. After all, they entrust them to run the country.
Suitable candidates may not be willing to stand in an election and would decline. They would not be interested in a popular contest. I would simply warn those open to a direct election that this method would politicise the appointment.
Conversely, many unsuitable people would and could win based on popularity.
To my way of thinking, the British Monarchy is undemocratic and inequitable in so much as it goes against commonly accepted Australian values such as fairness and egalitarianism. Currently, our head of state is selected not on merit but by the principle of hereditary male primogeniture (although that has since changed) and, of course, Catholics being specifically ineligible. This is discriminatory and unfair and wouldn’t be allowed under the anti-discrimination provisions of Australian law. Yet, it is still the method of selection for the Australian head of state.
Given that the people were fully informed and educated on the proposals for the Australian Republic with an Aussie as head of state and a consensus agreed upon, we could proceed to a referendum.
If successful, we would then be able to move forward into the new millennium as a fully free, united and confident nation. After 110 years of federation, we have grown up, and if we are to take our place in the world, we must break our last constitutional links with England.
It is utterly preposterous that we don’t have an Australian head of state. Imagine if, during a hung parliament, we had a President of the calibre of Sir William Deane. Although a ceremonial head of state, his quiet calm would have reduced the toxicity of public debate that has insinuated itself on the Australian public during the Luddite period of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.
I recall after the referendum reading Malcolm Turnbull’s 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. He duded us, and this Australian shed a tear.”
My thought for the day
Our lives have become controlled by the noise of the mass media. The sad thing is that we listen.
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I could not stomach the iadea of a Politicians’ President as presented by John Howard per Malcolm Turnbull. An Australian President should be the People’s Choice, warts and all, and should be required on oath to forswear all Party affiliations while in office, governing in the People’s interest.
It therefore follows that the President’s administrative powers will have to be very carefully defined in the necessary constituional amendments that will arise. We NEVER want a Trumpian President!
There are three words that provide a good argument against an elective or chosen President of a Republic: Donald John Trump. He is, without a doubt, the single biggest failing of the American system of government, and the fact that seventy-four million Americans voted to give him a second term (and he may well run again in 2024) reinforces this. One could say that this is quite similar to Winston Churchill’s observation that the strongest argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter.
I am not a monarchist, but there is not one example of a republic that I know of that has the political stability that prevails under the Westminster System.
As we all saw only to well the worlds biggest republic come dangerously close to a facist state under the man baby trump (lower case intended). The USA is not safe even now, there is great pressure by the so called republicans to get trump back and their Supreme Court seems to be doing everything to ensure that the people especially women are subject to authoritarian rules.
Right now there a large number of so called democratic republics that are intensely authoritarian some are straight out dictatorships.
Your article has three of Paul Keating quotes repeated.
Your flipancy is noted but it does not give your article much credibility.
Sorry but I think your question about a Head of State being an Australian is, in my view, unnecessary. Surely if a person is appointed Head of State then clearly that person must automatically become a citizen of that State.
Indeed, the Australian Constitution appointed QEII aa Head of State ergomshe must have been a citizen of Australia, an ‘Australian’.
All the bulldust about QEII, being ‘Head of State’ as somehow being a person of power is absolute nonsense, she was and Charles will also be a ‘titular’ Head of State.
That fact alone means that we are not really a monarchy, but a democracy who has chosen to appoint a hierarchical person as a Head of State, who happens to be directly related to a family who has managed to be annointed royalty.
We, Australia that is, are a democracy that follows closely the Westminster System, a political system that has demonstrated to be a very stable political system of governance. A system of governance that in my view has served Australians well.
The last time the republicans got to present a referendumon for us to become a republic, I voted against it, simply because the the models put up were, in my view, pathetically simplistic and would have exposed Australia to the kind of system that the USA has so brilliantly shown to be little better than a Corporatocracy, liberally infiltrated by religious nutters.
I personally abhor the idea that an accident of birth means that you become the Head of State and thus superior to another, but fortunately history and some astute political leaders have negated all pretense that the royals are anything but a mere hierarchical figure head, and thus all power is now through the people at the ballot box.
No it is not perfect but so far I can see, no other system has successfully endured the tests that the Westminster System has had to endure.
Lastly John, please do not take offence at this little diatribe, I normally have great respect for your ramblings, but this time I just had to differ.
I like the suggestion that we don’t have a head of state. Why invent a new position ? The very idea of having to work out how a President might be selected is enough to give us a headache.
Let’s just be a republic with a parliament and PM. The Chief Justice could be the official stamp of approval according to the Constitution.
Think of the savings !
(Geoffrey Robertson’s idea)
Keitha, I agree totally and everyone should read Geoffrey Robertson’s article in the Melbourne Age yesterday – 13th Sept. It made perfect sense to me. Why do we need a so called ‘Head of State, it makes no sense?
I vote that we make Scummo Head on a Stake.
There are plenty of possible arrangements for choosing and appointing a head of state.
One that has tickled my fancy is the appointment without term limit of the chosen candidate. It enables democratic control (whether direct or indirect) of appointment with subsequent immunity from populist pressures. As most AIMN readers would appreciate, this latter criterion is routinely advanced as the major advantage of having a hereditary head of state. Lifetime appointments of their highest office holders seems to have worked well for such institutions as the Roman Catholic church and the Tibetan Buddhists.
The basic idea being to motivate those tasked with choosing the candidate to choose very carefully indeed, and to make it more likely that only candidates with a requisite degree of gravitas and decorum (and a certain age) will offer to serve the remainder of their lives in high office.
Then again, here’s yet another model drive by exactly obverse dynamics, but not therefore less plausible:
This model, however, does not strike me as sustainable in infinity:
And if Australians do insist on maintaining this model, at least learn how to spell “Hannover” correctly! It’s two (2) “n”. Okay?
Here we are, deck of the Titanic, just hit the iceberg, terror and mayhem, captain busy on tomorrow’s menu, band plays on, ship sinking, but, hey, chicken Kiev or duck l’orange. Do you see where I’m going with this? Not clear?
Life on planet earth in the balance, looks like we meet and exceed our kpi sooner than predicted, well done us. Out of control global warming accelerating, tipping points being reached, nice feedback loop to accelerate our journey to destruction. But, sure, let’s add another layer of bullshit on this bullshit construct we live. Yep, really important, a new Governor General, let’s, once more, pretend all is well, that this is really really important, go back to our slumbers.
Why did you double up on keating’s comment? Slack proof reading or?
@ Keitha Granville: here is the Geoffrey Robertson article form the SMH:
RKC, there was a certain man, an American from Georgia, Atlanta, with whom I used to correspond, up to the point of his death. I wouldn’t say he was singularly unique, although we all are, in our own way, but there’s unique in one sense – as we all are – and unique in another way of using that, well, unique word. Unique in the sense of being uncommonly developed, a standout from the herd as it were, in the way one might think of Indian gurus or Sufi dervishes or the advanced masters of Zen as standouts compared to, say, your average pundit, to caricature, a beer-drinking patriotic flag- waving one-eyed political animal for whom the epitome of a good day is to to throw a leg over his partner at the crack of dawn, follow up with a hearty breakfast of coffee, bacon & eggs, then off for the afternoon’s entertainment, be it a ball game of whatever type, in the boat for a spot of fishing, or just to drive around aimlessly in the V8 which only gets driven on weekends.
After the 9/11 debacle, I asked him for his views on ‘what now’; and was somewhat surprised, and somewhat not, by his response. He said, in essence, ‘nothing to see here, move on.’
In a certain way, the same applies to what we are facing as a species on this planet. Everything you’ve written is correct, in its allusive sense. There ain’t no turning back the clock to a pre-carbon era. And there can’t be, according to the laws of physics, thermodynamics in particular, an unwinding of the imminence of tipping point disasters. It is what it is, for better or for worse.
Eugen Herrigel, in his book The Method of Zen, describes an experience in the early 1920s on his arrival in Tokyo to take up a teaching position in philosophy at one of the universities. An earthquake. He was on the fifth floor of a hotel, in a restaurant with Japanese colleagues. Crashing & creaking, objects falling. Chaos. People scrambling for their lives, Europeans mostly. One man though, a local, sat there unmoved, hands folded, eyes nearly closed, as if the earthquake was of no concern. He was, as you’ve already probably guessed, a Zen Buddhist.
There’s little to recommend fighting against the inevitable. That’s not to say that passive acquiescence is the only alternative, but to flail against far larger forces is only going to end up in exhaustion without victory.
This same man, the Georgian, when I again challenged him as to why we (as in ‘humanity’ at large) weren’t more alarmed at the state of affairs globally – this being in the early 2000s – said it was simply that 99.999% of people were uninterested; their focus was on the mundane, not to use that word in a pejorative sense, but just in the ordinary everyday things, the morning leg over, the good breakfast, the afternoon’s entertainment, the evening on the couch in front of the telly passively absorbing the day’s events or the latest movie or ‘reality’ show. Mundane existence, the common lot of mankind. We’re the ultimate paradox, extraordinarily complex creatures but inclined to be utterly simple in so many ways. I suppose it’s the principle of entropy at work.
So, if the planet’s in meltdown, and it is, and if ecosystems are failing, and they are, and if we’re in the sixth extinction phase, and we are, and if these massive phenomena are now entrained, as they are, with an unstoppable inertia and force unparalleled in human history, which I think is the reality, then be like that Japanese Buddhist… take pleasure and pay attention to the things that matter, be grateful for the privilege of being born in human form, love those close to you and those afar, and life in general, and as dumb as it sounds, remind yourself now and again of the Monty Python song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!
Ah yes, Canguro, a beautiful reply, as always. Thank you. I practise a form of martial arts which follows the Taoist way. Be in no doubt, I do not give up, I will fight for this planet, this beautiful existence, I will hope, I will attempt to converse with universe, the source of all. I may even pray, in my own way. This place is far too extraordinary to give up on. Yes, my missives drip cynicism and occasional disgust. Though, even now, I don’t throw in the towel, I will not give up. My purpose is to see a future for those that are yet to be.
Canguro, I get tremendous satisfaction from your perceptions, your comments, I think a man I would like to know.
Thank you, Mr Road Kill Cafe. It’s appreciated. FWIW, my postcode is 2114. A little bit of internet magic, venn-diagramming… who knows? Stranger things have happened. The most extraordinary & remarkable man I’ve ever met happened ‘circumstantially’, on account of my sitting idly on a bench in Rundle Mall, Adelaide; he arriving and striking up a conversation that ultimately changed my life & outlook irrevocably.
Yes, Canguro, who knows. Eckhart Tolle maintains you get what you need when you need it, not before, not after. Perhaps our paths will cross, 4567, easily found, the large hairy man and the large hairy hound. Go well, Canguro, great respect for your communications. Though it can be hard to find, love to all, we need it.
Thanks for all your comments. They are most welcome. I make one point. Under this model, former or practising politicians wouldn’t be eligible.
Whilst I agree with the comments that oppose having a President of Australia, using the Trump template to support that argument, equally the argument not to have a President could be supported by one name : Morrison (or perhaps two names : Abbott !).
If ultimate authority was vested in a prime minister of the day you have the very real possibility of a feral Morrison becoming a despotic autocrat divinely guided by an unaccountable deity of their own construction, with all that entails.
I tend to lean towards maintaining the role of GG but known, in our future republic, as president and probably seeking out a former Chief Justice of the High Court to fill that role.
A good warming, after the pool this morning, lord.
I remember pig iron bob won elections with the votes of people he wouldn’t have in his cabinet. Certainly a republic will come and, I hope, in time for us to join.
In the absence of a new constitution, the optimum for me, to keep the federal pollies at bay, is the status quo in powers, including dismissal. with the GG elected, at the federal election, by the people of one of the 6 states, in rotation, for the length of the federal government.
ps well said blanche, Your septic understood thatcher’s ‘no such thing as society’.
Surely, Terence, we cannot have a GG, like trump or anyone, who appoints the administration??
I can see merit in both the minimalist head of state model and a radical overhaul of the whole parliamentary system.
What I can’t see merit in, is the proposal from the Australian Republican Movement.
It is a dog’s breakfast, which requires an election and the only allowed contestants represent the status quo
It is just plain stupid
if the queen excludes catholics, do you exclude pollies in consonance??
Anyone who will allow the appointment by pollies risks status quo or worse. Any changes to the powers decided by the pollies and added to the constitution requires a referendum. So surely an election when there is already an election is sensible? As is the gg tenure tied to the government?
ps I have spent all my life assuming the GG was derived from the general in charge of the state governors ie The state Governor’s General.
But I had forgotten 1987 when sir cambell said no to joh and 1989 when sir bennett said nay to gray So the GG has no power over the queen’s rep in the states.
I agree with GL.
Lets behead Scummo and put his head on a stake out the front of parliament house as an example of how corruption doesn’t pay in Australia.
Then we behead King Charles III to show once and for all that we are an Independent Republic.
The money we raise by making it an all ticket affair, will more than pay off Scummo’s Trillion Dollar Debt and King Charles’ lavish funeral..
All in favour say “Aye”.
The numbers have it.
Morrison’s deceitfulness, smug arrogance and lack of transparency border on fascism! The fact that yet another undemocratic, underhanded governor general (David Hurley) decided to collude with a notorious, ultra-conservative, power-obsessed autocrat in the LNP should provide egalitarian Australians with yet ANOTHER reason to want our nation to become a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC as a matter or urgency! David Hurley, like the appalling, disgraced and totally discredited serial drunk, John Kerr, maintained a shocking bias towards the disreputable, born-to-rule LNP and was prepared to break every rule of democracy in order to conspire with the political psychopaths in the LNP to attain, maintain or extend their autocratic power! The appalling, illegal and fascist dismissal of a democratically-elected PM, Gough Whitlam, who was – without any doubt – the best, highest achieving PM in our history – should have been reason enough to become a Republic back in 1975. THAT fascist act is STILL viewed with a sense of justifiable rage and is STILL managing to divide our nation!
ENOUGH! Not only does the supercilious role of governor general – and his/her enormous entourage – an UNELECTED parasitic role that costs Australian taxpayers millions of dollars every year (whilst the Queen’s representative in our nation, like the royal family themselves, live in grotesque luxury at OUR expense), the position provides tyrannical dictators in the LNP with a complicit accomplice they can use in order to usurp power using any underhanded, secretive measure they can muster!
Yes, Queen Elizabeth II was a good, hard-working monarch – FOR ENGLAND AND THE UK – but she did precious little to serve Australia! The Queen lived a long life serving England and the UK and, at 96 years of age, her death is not altogether surprising or unexpected, however, it is now OVERTIME for us to cut the apron strings from England which is, after all, a nation where insufferable snobbery not only thrives, it is an inherent component of their elitist culture. As such, it is now OVERTIME for our egalitarian nation of Australia to finally grow up, stand on our own feet and become a Democratic Republic for once and for all! England has always been a nation that is steeped in regressive elitist traditions, stifling classism and sanctimonious hypocrisy where people considered a “lower caste” find it difficult to move beyond their perceived “station” in life. It is for THESE reasons that the rather abhorrent “institution” of the “Royal Family” prospers and thrives whereby, for no other reason that being born into the “right” family, whole generations of the self-promoting elitists in the Windsor family (and their pretentious hangers-on) can live in the type of obscene luxury that most hard-working taxpayers (who go on and on supporting them) will NEVER see! It is for THESE reasons that so many people from the UK are desperate to emigrate to fair-minded, egalitarian Australia! However, history has proven that the ONLY time Australia is NOT egalitarian is when we are mismanaged by the condescending elitists and power-obsessed political psychopaths in the LNP!
The fact is that there are even millions of taxpayers WITHIN the UK who have had enough of the royal family and also want to become a Republic! Sadly, the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the prolonged never-ending mourning process – which is going on and on ad nauseum to the point of becoming nauseatingly maudlin – has probably put back the Republican debate another decade! This is extremely unfortunate because the fact is that England – as a nation – has always maintained a long-held contempt for Australia and Australians (and other colonial nations). The stranglehold the current system has over our country impedes our growth, as a nation! For as long as we allow this system to continue, Australia can NEVER really evolve until we take the BIG step into becoming a Democratic Republic where we maintain autonomy over our OWN destiny and do not have to rely on the pretentious whims of an UNELECTED representative (the governor general) of a foreign power! It is important to point out that Australia can STILL be a member of the Commonwealth even if we become a Democratic Republic – the best part about this “dual” role is that we, at last, get RID of the tenacious, elitist and undemocratic role of the governor general! Wake up, Australia and MOVE ON!
” … there is not one example of a republic that I know of that has the political stability that prevails under the Westminster System.”
Any supposed stability is due not to the system but to the goodwill of the people. The politicisation of the Public Service shows how the lack of that goodwill amongst the political class corrupts the system.