Article Index

The States in a Politicians’ Republic

It is not generally understood that each of the States is an independent sovereign constitutional monarchy in its own right. Prior to Federation they were distinct and separate colonies.


It will not be all that difficult for the States to fit in with a republic


Owing to the nature of Australia's constitutional framework, it is theoretically possible for one or more States to become republics even if a national referendum were passed to retain our current Constitution and system of government.

The Commonwealth government cannot compel the States to give up their own constitutions and the role of the Crown in them. The fact is that Australia consists of seven constitutional monarchies not just one. That some States, even most, will probably not want to become republics means that the Australia we know as a Federation could be divided before the Olympic Games. Gone would be our celebration in the year 2001 of 100 years as a united Federation.


'There is a strong argument that a referendum supported in a majority of States, but not in all States, would not be enough to affect the position of State governors as representatives of Her Majesty. The position of State Governors is entrenched by the Australia Act, and that Act can be amended only by an Act passed at the request or with the concurrence of the Parliaments of all the States, or by an Act passed pursuant to powers conferred on the Commonwealth parliament by an alteration of the Constitution made in future through a referendum. However, it is doubtful whether an alteration to the Constitution which affected the Governors of all of the States could be made unless a majority of electors in all States voted in favour of the alteration. There is a further argument that the monarchical character of the Constitution is established by the Constitution Act (not merely by the Constitution itself), and that no amendments to the Constitution could validly give the Commonwealth parliament power to amend that Act.'
Rt. Hon Sir Harry Gibbs (Chief Justice of the High Court 1981-1987) 'The framework of the Australian Monarchy' "The Australian Constitutional
Monarchy" Ed. Grainger & Jones p23

'The Clerk of the Senate, Mr Harry Evans, warned that the change foreshadowed by Mr Keating would have to be far more dramatic, with State constitutions having to be rewritten from `scratch'. And he predicted public debate on the change would see interest groups pushing their own agendas, making it difficult to reach a consensus. ... ... Mr Evans said that even if the public voted to replace the governor-general with a president retaining the same powers, the States would still be forced to start with a 'clean slate' and [each] draw up a [new] constitution.'
Maria Ceresa (Journalist) Article: 'PM republican plan opponent warns on State constitutions' "The Australian' 25 July 1995 p2

'Republicans have from time to time argued that the Canadian scenario couldn't take place in Australia for, here, there is no single group like the French in Canada to act as a focus of division. But I am not sure. For one thing, were, say, Queensland and Western Australia – or both – to vote NO in a referendum, it seems to me that the damage to the Australian federation could be nearly as great as that which resulted from the exclusion of Quebec from the constitutional agreement in 1982. Moreover, in post-`Mabo' Australia, one could imagine that a failure to secure formal aboriginal support for whatever constitutional change is attempted could in symbolic terms actually surpass the damage caused by the perceived slight to Quebec.'
Ian Holloway (Lecturer in Law, ANU) Address to ACM 1996 National Conference, Sydney 7 September 1996

Definitions of the word 'inevitable' include 'unavoidable' and in Roget's Thesaurus 'inescapable, foredoomed, that must be suffered, applies to things we would rather avoid'.

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