Article Index


From the definition of the word “republic,” it will be seen that without some qualification, the word is so imprecise as to be almost meaningless. 

Opinion polls which ask peoples' opinion as to whether or not Australia should become  “ a republic” are of little use.  Australia was created as an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown - a crowned republic.  The question should define precisley which sort of  republic is being proposed.

On this site we distinguish between the two major forms of republics.

One group are “crowned republics” ( also known as constitutional monarchies).  At the centre of these is an institution above politics, the Crown.

The other category consists of  “politicians’ republics”.  In these there is no similar institution which provides leadership beyond politics.

In such politicians' republic the head of state ( and any state governor) is an elected politician, or  one appointed by and controlled by the politicians.  

These categories are not exhaustive.

Falling outside of these are, for example, absolute monarchies, which have existed historically in say, France under Louis XIV and exist today in Saudi Arabia.

Crowned republics, or constitutional monarchies, are ones where the monarch or Sovereign retains some of the formal executive and legislative powers of the state and provides leadership beyond politics.

The Sovereign, exercising the powers of the Crown, is an important check and balance to the political arms of the state. In a Commonwealth Realm, such as Australia, most of the powers of the Crown are normally execised by governors - general and  governors  who are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the prime minister or the premier.  ( In Canada the provincial lieutenant governors are appointed by the governor-general. )

This role of the Crown provides a check and balance on the exercise of power by the elected politicians. Power is of course essential to government, but as Lord Acton famously  warned, power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

In Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other  constitutional monarchies,  the Crown is important not for the powers which it wields, but rather, the power it denies others. 

Under the Westminster system, the Crown constitutes the government advised by ministers  who  are responsible to the lower house of Parliament. This house is variously called  the House of Commons, House of Representatives or Legislative Assembly.

The Westminster system has been singularly successful in assuring both  stable and limited, democratic government.

But with such a concentration of political power, checks and balances are necessary. One is the Crown.

Another  is an upper house, called the House of Lords or the Senate. Yet another is a separate judicial power exercised by the courts

In the United States, checks and balances come by dividing the three powers, executive,  legislative and judicial. . 

This means that unlike the Westminster sytem, the President as the combined head of state and head of government is  more separate from the Congress..

Although this works, it is rigid. This is particularly so if the Congress tries to impeach the President for some offence.

This is a lengthy process, and can lead to a long  period when the government is distracted , if not paralysed.

But if you disregard her civil war, the American system works and unlike most politicans' republics, has worked for a long time. 

There is however little support for importing the US model into Australia.

Instead, proposals in Australia involve the removal of the Australian Crown from our  crowned republic.

The Crown is an important check and balance. The powers of the Crown are exercised by a Sovereign (The Queen) or  her viceroy. In a number of Commonwealth countries, a viceroy is or viceroys are appointed to exercise most of the powers of, for example, the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand or other Crown.

As a constitutional institution each Crown is separate. But each country shares the same Sovereign in what is known as a Personal Union. In Australia, the viceroys are known as the Governor- General and the Governors. In Canada they are known as the Governor-General and the Lieutenant Governors.

In New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, not being federations, the Governor-General is the only viceroy.
There are presently fifteen such countries, known as Realms. They were once known as Dominions, although Canada still keeps this name in its formal title.

(For convenience, when we use the word Sovereign in the following paragraphs , we are also referring to Governors-General,  Governors and indeed Lieutenant Governors.)

The Sovereign normally acts on the advice of the ministers. But that advice must be lawful, the Sovereign needing to be assured that he or she has the power to act as advised. If there are any conditions on the exercise of that power – as there usually is – the Sovereign will need to be assured that all conditions have been fulfilled. In this process, the Sovereign can play an important counselling role and sounding board to his or her ministers.

In playing this role, Bagehot said the Sovereign has the right to be consulted, the right to advise and the right to warn. In addition the Sovereign will usually enjoy certain ” reserve” powers where he or she may act without, or even against ministerial advice. This is done so as to maintain important constitutional principles, a matter we discuss in more detail under Constitutional Guardian.

These usually relate to the calling of elections, and the appointment and dismissal of governments.

But most countries today would the greater part would be either crowned republics or politicians’ republics.

Politicians’ republics can be classified in various ways. In Australia the republican movement proposed a republic where the politicians would choose, and closely control, the president. This was rejected nationally and in all states in the 1999 Referendum.

Although they will not today reveal what sort of politicians’ republic they want, the two most talked about are either some variation of that rejected in 1999, the Referendum Model.

The other form of republic which is under consideration is one where the president, and presumably the vice president, the six governors, the six lieutenant governors and the administrator of a territory are all politicians.

Politicians and others who want to remove the Australian Crown from the Constitution are divided , in many instances irreconcilably, between these two models.

Often the supporters of one particular model will  prefer the present crowned republic to the alternative model.

Proudly Supported by Australians for Constitutional Monarchy
Web Development by J.K Managed Solutions