As Australia prospers as a nation the debate to change from its current status of a constitutional monarchy to a Republic increasingly gains momentum. However, the 1993 referendum showed the majority of Australians don’t support this change and as John Howard an avowed monarchist colloquially argues “If it it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. Australia should stop arguing this issue and move forward as we have done so well in the past.
In 1901 Australia’s separate colonies united under a constitutional monarchy embracing our independence while still respecting the cultural ties with Britain. The evolution of Australia from British colony to independent nation has seen many amendments to the constitution including The Australian Act 1986, Statute of Westminster and oath of citizenship. The Australian Republic Movement (ARM) established in 1993 by Labour Prime Minister Paul Keating argues Australia should accelerate towards a Republic despite the process is with far reaching ramifications and without substantial gains. Since the early 1900’s the pro- republic stance after 102 years advocates Australians to adopt an unclarified alternative and as Kerry Jones states, “accept an unstable system that is complex and deeply flawed”. (Article) Therefore, it can be seen that Australia’s constitutional monarchy that has matured to be a unique and effectively Australia’s system of government be continued to serve us in the future as it has in the past.
In 1998 a $35 million constitutional Convention comprising of 152 delegates agreed on a sole preposition (Appendix 1) being of minimal constitutional change in order for Australia to proclaim Republic. As a consequence of John Howard’s ultimatum various Republican models were not explored. In I999 a constitutional referendum costing $55 million, 54.87% of Australians voted against replacing the Queen and Governor General with a President who would be appointed by a two third majority of the members of the Commonwealth and, 60.60% of Australian voted against an insertion of a preamble into the constitution. (Appendix 2) The defeated referendum result contradicted the opinion shown in polls earlier (Appendix 1) that the majority of Australians supported a Republic. It seems in theory Australians want a Republic, albeit in practise active republicans have always been a minority.
The path to a Republic debate now has little chance of being successful without John Howard’s support and when only 8 referendums out of 42 to change the constitution have succeeded. Australian’s are sceptical. Les Murray a Republican, has said Australians won’t vote for a republic unless they trust it and ‘they sure can’t trust the one they are being offered at the moment (Australian 20 September 1993) Not only has the Republic debate divided Australia, it has divided republican’s themselves. (Appendix 5) “ Put any two Republicans together and they will disagree on what a republic entails” (The Defender Issue 1 May 1999 page 2) Considering, a clarified and vague republican model has been the sole proposition it is better to protect what Australia knows has already worked. To introduce an undefined Republican model Australians may possibly condemn future generations to live under an inferior system of government. A republican model must be analysed before being implemented and not after. Considering, this republican model is a blueprint it in Australia’s best interests to stay a constitutional monarchy.
The ARM aimed to make minimum constitutional changes necessary to achieve a viable Federal Republic of Australia. Therefore, it’s as if Australia need sacrifice nothing in terms of the integrity of our present political institutions and the idea that a Republic is just a change in tittle. At the same time the Republicans argue, ‘Australia needs to become a republic to demonstrate its independence, identity, and maturity.’(Mark Mc Kenna http://www.republic.org.au) Australia has by far demonstrated to have cut the umbilical cord from the motherland and formed a mature independent identity while still respecting out traditional means. “Under our system of government Australia long ago achieved complete independence symbolised by the Queen’s title being changed, by her own consent and by Act of the Australian Parliament, to Queen of Australia.” (http://www.norepublic.com.au/) Appropriate amendments to the constitution have reflected the shift in Australian society and kept up to date with the times. In 1994 the oath of allegiance was amended to remove reference to the Crown (Appendix 3) to reflect core values in Australia. The Australian Act 1986, condensed the Queens power in Australia and proclaimed that “the United Kingdom parliament now has no legislative authority whatsoever in respect of Australia” (www.alphalink.com.au) Furthermore, the role of the Governor General a rather ceremonial position has changed from being formally a Queens’s representative appointed by the British government, into an Australian appointed by the PM who takes advice from Australian Ministers. Australia’s governor general, Guy Green from Tasmania was only recently nominated by the Prime Minister. By becoming a Republic would not be an affirmation of our nationhood as we already play an independent role. The fact Australia held the Olympic games, raises their own army and diplomatic corps, engages in their own foreign affairs, treaties, determines alone their future and makes decisions eg going to Vietnam War without Britain, proves Australian’s independence from Britain. The Commonwealth is part of our history and constitutional development that serves proudly as out own. The Republicans major argument that Australia is not independence does not exist.
The Republicans have failed to consider the intricate ramifications of an Australian Republic and even what shape the new constitution should take. At the constitutional convention in 1999 no assessment of such developments were proposed and central answers are overlooked. While Republicans want to replace the Queen the enormous implication of doing so are not manufactured and new institutional foundations and restrictions of the new office established. By removing the Queen new offices must be devised and complicated mechanisms implemented. Becoming a Republic raises issues that are still not answered such as; what will become of Crown land, a resolution to the position of the states, who will be the new president, method of appointment, length of tenure, power restrictions and importantly how will be president be appointed. “ A president selected by the Prime Minister would lack democratic legitimacy; a president elected by the people would have more authority than a Prime minister elected by MP’s”. (Quote) This de position power inturn can cause struggles for power, feasible political deadlock and mean enormous alterations to the constitution. Additionally, the Australian states individually have their own monarchist constitution and in the event of become a Republic it is unclear if monarchies remain and, if not what is required to bring them into conformity with a republican Commonwealth. It can be seen that the Republican movement is far from an improvement from a constitutional monarchy. A major flaw is that the model ignores to even recognise reconciliation, an essential component of any future republic. “To declare a republic that failed to embrace reconciliation as one of it’s founding principles would not be a republic at all- nor would it be a Republic would having” (Mark Mc Kenna) Australia should vote No to Republic that does not answer Australia’s needs and will be extremely costly financially, and emotionally. If we became a Republic the Republican advisory Committee estimated in 1994 the election for a president would cost $45 million minimum each time. The constitutional monarchy should be accepted to incur no further financial costs to taxpayers on the Republican issue. The Federal Parliament’s time without doubt could be better spent debating more relevant and crucial issues.
In practise Australia is a Republic in every sense worth worrying about, the constitution derives from the people, the government is democratically elected and the PM answers to parliament. In an Advisory Committee’s report stated Australia is a ‘crowned’ Republic.
The Queen, Elizabeth II is a leading figurehead as her political responsibilities and power is very limited. In Australian she is evident on Australia’s money and far from foreign as she’s in the papers and television. There is a generation of Australian’s that take great pride in the constitution and respectably admire the Queen. (Appendix _) The Queens is an educated faithful monarch who republican admit is more appropriate for the job. “quote”. Economically a Governor General would cost far more than a Queens who only has her security paid for when in Australia. The Queens still has a place in our democratic society and to replace the Queens would create enormous upheaval with no advantage.
It is the Governor- General, and not the Queen, who exercise the powers of the Head of State, so that becoming a republic means money, time lost on a constitutional re-write that will give us what we already have. “If the republicans are right and nothing will really change, why bother? If, on the other hand, they’re playing down the extent of flow-on changes, why take the risk’? (Quote) Republican base their argument on the need to being independent and have an Australian as head of state but when we already have both there is no reason to risk changing.
The republican movement may be an inevitable event in Australia’s with a welcoming future generation. It is important to maintain an open mind to different Republican models. It is not out of the question undertake radical amendments to their constitutions it must be remembered in the 1890’s the dramatically changes turned out to be a successful constitution. It seems in theory Australians want a republic but not in practise, until terms offered are clarified and understood. There is a low level of public understanding on the matter and a number of hurdles to jump before Australia can even comp template implementing a Republican model. It’s only when political division is ironed out and society gains the real Republican agenda a referendum would be of no success.