Article Index

What are the Benefits of a Politicians’ Republic?

Republicans have yet to prove that Australia would be better off under a republic. When the constitutional risks are coupled with the potential for unstable government and the practical and emotional costs, we are clearly better off to remain as we are.

Some hundreds of thousands of people have migrated to Australia, attracted by the security and stability of our government. Our Australian Constitutional Monarchy provides an excellent balance between politicians representing the wishes of the majority and the non-political role of the Head of State protecting the interests of all Australians by upholding the Constitution. We support a Head of State who can act without fear of intimidation and without having to win the transient favour of voters or politicians. A republic will not improve our trade, economy, unemployment, poverty levels or national deficit. In 2001 we should be celebrating as one united nation the achievement of a century of our democratic Commonwealth, not tearing up a working constitution.

Republicans need to proclaim and justify the practical cost/benefits of moving to a republic. The government's Republic Advisory Committee estimated the cost of the referendum as $3 million if it co-incided with a general election, and $50 million if held separately. Of course, this would just be the start; if we became a republic there would be changes to currency, crests, uniforms, title of Defence Forces and organisations, oaths of office, etc., etc., not forgetting, as republican exponents conveniently do, the cost of separate presidential elections (say, every five years) at an estimated cost of $50 million each at today's values. Political party spending on such elections would also be huge.

REPUBLICANS ASSERT

Fiji was a constitutional monarchy that disintegrated into civil war and became a republic.

ACM'S RESPONSE

Unfortunately, in time of extreme civil unrest, not even a constitutional monarchy will be able to resolve the crisis. The 'Despite all the rhetoric of our developing and essentially regional focus in external economic strategies, the reality is that Britain remains the 2nd largest overseas investor in Australia, with an almost 100% increase in scale of investment (to $25 billion) over the period 1986-93 which places Australia as 3rd on the range of British investment destinations. Fascinatingly, if not even more dramatically, in reverse it is to Britain that we, as an increasingly international exporting country, send the largest share in such overseas investments. We trade significantly in our region — some of that to the Commonwealth as well as non-Commonwealth states such as Japan — but there appears to remain an important set of economic and cultural familiarities which drive our international outreach, a view strongly supported by a perceptive 1994 analysis by the Allen Consulting Group.'
Professor D.M. Schreuder (Vice-Chancellor, University of Western Sydney)

Commonwealth Day Council (Sydney) address 'Why y we care about theCommonwealth of Nations in the late 20th century - new paradigm for an old organisation' 16 October 1996

'A modern governor could help define a State's identity, further its economic interests and be actively involved in promoting business investment, South Australia's new representative of the Queen, Sir Eric Neal, said yesterday. ... ...
Sir Eric said the role of governor had changed significantly over 160 years.
Because the change has been gradual, almost imperceptible and certainly peaceful, many people are unaware it has happened,' he said.
`Like other public institutions which have evolved over time, the Office of governor is now, in every respect, a South Australian one.
J suggested, on taking up my post, that a modern governor can help to define our State's identity and further its interests, contribute to the processes of good government and provide a non-political focus for our sense of community. "
HE Sir Eric Neal (Governor of South Australia) Reported in "The Australian" 7 August 1996 p6

Fijian situation was unique in that the country was divided by power struggles between indigenous Fijian people and Indian citizens. However, in such crises, history has shown that non-political heads of state are more likely to be able to resolve situations on behalf of all the people of a nation than a powerful dictator or political president.

Constitutional monarchies provide some of the most secure and free societies in the world, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Canada and half of the OECD's advanced democratic economies. Our Australian Constitution is now the sixth oldest working democracy in the world behind Britain, USA, Canada, Switzerland and Sweden. Out of these six, four are of British origin and four are constitutional monarchies. Out of 116 republics, only USA and Switzerland have provided the record of stability and unity we are so proud of in the Australian constitutional monarchy.

Many republics are notoriously insecure and have usually been established through civil wars. Yugoslavia has disintegrated into a disastrous civil war. In Brazil between 1928-1993 only one president completed his term of office. The others either died in office, committed suicide, or simply disappeared. France has seen five different republican constitutions in two centuries. The President is now more powerful than the parliament and the prime minister. Italy has seen fifty different governments in 50 years, with continual arguments between the president and prime minister over who has more power. In India in 1975 the Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Ghandi, assisted by a feeble president threw hundreds of political prisoners into gaol.

Some recently-created former USSR republics like Belarus are already in crisis. In the USA, the scandal known as Watergate convulsed the nation as President Nixon was forced from office. As both head of government and head of state, far too much power is concentrated in the hands of one person. Ireland owes its existence to a hideous civil war in the 1920s, and Pakistani politics is one long struggle between a powerful president and a series of corrupt governments where prime ministerial power has often rested with the Bhutto family.

Re-writing the Australian Constitution to create a republic is a highly complex matter. There is no such thing as minimalism. Any proposal would involve at least 100 changes to our present Australian Constitution and major changes to the constitutions of each of the States. As well it would be very costly in terms of both the constitutional risks and the financial outlay involved.

QUOTES FOR THE DAY!

'But on the evidence so far, becoming a republic won't take one person off the unemployment queue, won't take $1 off the national debt, won't add one iota to the security of the country and is unlikely to enhance reconciliation between black and white Australians.'
The Hon A.J. Abbott (former ACM Executive Director)
Article: 'The greatest solution to a non-problem'
"The Daily Telegraph" (Sydney) 6 December 1996 p1l
'The USA, along with Switzerland, is the only republic out of 116 in the world which has a record of stability of government that can be said to approach that of Australia. The Americans, unfortunately however, have a political assassination quite frequently — we have never had them, nor has Great Britain whose system we substantially copied. Nor have Canada or New Zealand who have our system of constitutional monarchy. Why does the Australian Republican Movement want to take the Queen out of our constitution ... when we have all the merits a republic can claim, but none of the drawbacks?'
The Hon J.A. Lee. (Chairman, ACM Legal Committee) 'The uncertainties of a president — appointed or elected' ACM seminar, Sydney 27 August 1996

'Under the constitutional monarchy, Australia has become one of the most diverse countries on earth. Our country attracts people from all over the world because of its democracy... many migrants have come to Australia to escape a form of republican government'.
The Hon Helen Sham-Ho (First Chinese-born Australian to be elected to an Australian [NSW] Parliament)
"The Australian Constitutional Monarchy" Ed. Grainger & Jones. p125

'As an Aborigine, I ask: why should my race, who through immense suffering adapted to constitutional monarchy, be yet expected to adapt to change once more? No, no. That is not on. Especially since not one iota of change will occur to benefit the indigenous race, under a republican government in 'whatever form. ... ... have yet to find a style of government superior to ours'.
Neville T. Bonner (Former Queensland Senator) "The Australian Constitutional Monarchy" p18

'We do well to recall Sir Winston Churchill's statement: 'it is not so much the powers endowed [to the Head of State, Sovereign, Governor-General] but the powers it denies to others [politicians and governments]'.
It is well to remember that in the twentieth century it has always been republics which have produced brutal and violent changes in government – not constitutional monarchies. For example: Chile, Argentina, Indonesia and Romania.'
Mr D. Sutherland Former Labor Lord Mayor of Sydney) ACM/ARM forum, Killara, NSW 14 November 1996

'Republicans often tell you that in a republic anyone can become president and, by Jove, when you look around it is not hard to believe it. Saddam Hussein runs a republic. So do the Chinese but you've got to toe the line if you want to get in the parliament there. The Indonesians have a republic with a rotten human rights record, a fetish for locking zip newspaper journalists and a habit of murdering Timorese every time they remind Indonesians they have no right at all to be in East Timor.
Mrs Ghandi in the Indian Republic which followed it being a Dominion under Great Britain, got into cahoots with the President and locked up the Opposition because life had become too ]lard for the government. Adolf Hitler rose to power on a republican constitution and became the world's most powerful dictator and he did it without breaking a single clause in the constitution. Bangladesh's republic has had two presidents murdered, two successful military take-overs and 19 attempted military take-overs. The French are in their fifth republic and don't let its talk of the Italian republic which has all election every second week. Pakistan is one long struggle between a powerful president and a series of corrupt governments where power has often rested with a single family.
Most republics are not free. I could go on. There are 116 republics in the world and only two are a level of stability of government approaching that of Australia's 100 years.'
The Hon J.A. Lee (Chairman, ACM Legal Committee) ACM/ARM forum, Killara, NSW 14 November 1996

'Dr Hirst and his friends are terribly hard put to agree about either the forms or the substance of their brave new polity. Promising a born-again Australia, they seek to destroy the monarchy. But they are frustrated by not knowing what should replace it, how to organise that replacement, how and whether to amend the Constitution, how to make it work. They are at a loss to know how to make whatever it may be acceptable to the public – especially as to producing a president.'
Bruce Knox (Senior Lecturer in History, Monash University and Member ACM Victorian Council) Reported in "The Age" 5 August 1994 p14
'As an expatriate living in Canada, I am deeply concerned about the Promotion of republicanism as a substitute for the present Constitution which has served Australia so well over the past 100 years.
Loving next door to a republic, I can see the glorification of the presidency and its entourage, its size and the expense of maintaining it.
The Queen, to both Australia and Canada, is nothing more than a figurehead, but represents ri group of nations attempting to work together.
In this system the Governor-General has the power to correct a Political problem. In contrast, to watch the impeachment of a President is a sad and prolonged experience.
To blindly change without counting both the monetary and Psychological costs, could be very damaging in the short and long term
Letter to the Editor from Patricia House, Victoria, BC, Canada in the "The Herald Sun" 6 August 1994

In the debate about Australia's constitutional failure, any air-minded person night ask themselves, what is 'broke' in our constitutional arrangements that requires republicanism to fix it? The predominant objective OJ-the republican movement is to eliminate reference to the Gown in the Constitution and with that to change the title of the head of State from Governor-General to President. In this, it seems to me as if we are being asked to hand over our old car so that it can be taken away and given a fresh coat Of Duco and a new brand n4me – all preliminary to having it sold back to us as if somehow improved. For my part I call see no point in embarking on a spirited, time-consuming, resource-hungry hard-sell campaign to enable a bit of taming up of a vehicle which not only do we already own but performs quite effectively. This country is not in the thrall for some foreign potentate because of provision for the Crown in the Constitution ... ... Australia has as much independence as any other country in the world; indeed, it is a rear, more open, tolerant, liberal democracy than just about any other country in the world.'
The Hon. W.G. Hayden (former Governor-General) From autobiography "Hayden" (Angus & Robertson, Australia) 1996

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