The Neville Bonner Memorial Prize will be held from the comfort of your computer screen.

You have until August 31 2023, to submit your school's entry.

Register by phoning (02) 9251 2500, place your entry on YouTube as 'Unlisted' and then submit the link to [email protected].

The best entry from each state will be allowed to participate in our national final, which will be held from NSW Parliament House on October 10, via live streaming, in front of a learned, three-judge panel.


Australian Capital Territory

Location Status
Online Accepting entries

New South Wales

Location Status
Online Accepting entries

Northern Territory

Location Status
Online Proposed for 2013 Competition


Location Status
Online Accepting entries

South Australia

Location Status
Online Accepting entries


Location Status
Online Accepting entries


Location Status
Online Accepting entries

Western Australia

Location Status
Online Accepting entries


The Neville Bonner Memorial Prize is an Australian speaking competition for students in years 9 and 10 from both private and public schools.
The competition aims to encourage these students to take an interest in civics, particularly our system of government and constitutional arrangements.
In 2009, the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) held its inaugural competition. Some of Sydney's leading schools received it well and are now integral to an incorporated civics educational programme, which has since expanded rapidly.
In 2010, The Crowned Republic saw competitions in Sydney and the Central Coast. And in 2011, the competition was expanded nationally, with regional competitions held in each capital city and several other regional areas.
Due to the increasing demand for places in the competition, we have decided to facilitate the online competition this year. As always, cash prizes and the prestigious Neville Bonner Memorial Prize shield are at stake. Further, each national finalist will receive a medallion to celebrate their achievement.
Check the complete listing to see if your local branch or state is participating, then get you and your school involved in 2012.

English Language

The English language is the second pillar of the Australian nation. English is the third most widely spoken language in the world. It's also the predominant language in many developed countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. English belongs to the West Germanic language family within the Indo-European language group, with its earliest forms spoken by the people of early medieval England.

Since the first settlers arrived in Australia in 1788, English has been essential to the country's heritage. It served not only as a means of communication but also as a medium for some of the world's most significant literary works, including the Book of Common Prayer, the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible, and the works of Shakespeare. Today, English is the official language of Australia, and the country has an open attitude towards other languages. This decision has brought numerous benefits, as English has an extensive vocabulary and is widely used in education, business, and research as an international language. It's genuinely fortunate for Australia to have English as its national language.

New South Wales was never envisaged to be, and never was, as Robert Hughes (The Fatal Shore, 1986) claims, a dictatorship or a gulag. It was to be a colony, admittedly a penal colony, but one nonetheless subject to the law. This meant that from the very beginning, we were subject not to the rule of men but to the rule of law. Now by the rule of men, we mean a system of governance in which the government enjoys near absolute discretion in governing, as in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. From 1788, no Australian governor or government has ever enjoyed anything even close to such powers.

What, then, is the rule of law? Sir Guy Green (Governors, Democracy and the Rule of Law - Robert Menzies Oration, 1999), former Chief Justice and then Governor of Tasmania, concludes that it has two core elements. First, everyone, particularly the executive arm of government, is subject to the law. Secondly, while citizens may do anything which is not prohibited by law and which does not infringe on the rights of others, the executive government may only do what is authorised by law. This, in fact, accurately describes every system of government known to Australia since 1788.

How did the rule of law come to Australia in 1788? At that time, and for many years after, the Aboriginal tribes on the mainland were essentially nomadic. The people on the islands in Torres Strait were apparently settled separately, and those were encouraged by the British, but they could never have constituted the sort of treaties seen in, say, India, or the Persian Gulf, where the local authority placed itself under the protection of the British. To the Europeans, Australia had nothing, even vaguely resembling a government. There was no authority to deal with. Australia was, therefore, legally terra nullius.

Under international law, terra nullius falls into two categories. First, land with no people whatsoever. Secondly, an inhabited land with nothing recognisable to Europeans as a government. The British founded governments in the Middle East, in North Africa, India, Malaysia, China and Japan. But as they assessed the facts, there was no recognisable governing authority in Australia. So Australia was not acquired by treaty, nor was it conquered. It was settled as terra nullius.

Some think the High Court in the Mabo [Mabo v Queensland (No 2) ("Mabo case") [1992] HCA 23; (1992) 175 CLR 1 (3 June 1992) High Court of Australia] case changed all that. The Court did not because the Court could not. After all, its authority comes ultimately from the British acquisition in 1788! All the High Court ruled in Mabo was that native land title survived the British ac¬quisition. They did this not only with respect to the case before them concerning the settled agriculturists in Torres Strait but also with respect to the mainland, then inhabited by nomadic tribes. On this, they had heard no evidence and had listened to no argument. That is, the Court determined the actual case before them, but then legislated for the mainland, where circumstances had been entirely different.

Clearly, the customs of a nomadic people, highly appropriate for their way of life, could not form the basis on which the settled colony would be governed. This had to be the common law of England. Could it have been another legal system? Only if the colonial power had been, say, France or the Netherlands. After American independence, some toyed with the idea of substituting European codified Roman law for the common law. This was soon abandoned as unworkable and unsuitable.

The extraordinary freedoms that the American colonists enjoyed, even before the War of Independence, and which inspired them to claim their full freedom as they saw it, sprang from the common law. The French codified version of the Roman law owes much to Napoleon Bonaparte himself. But this fact demonstrates the very weakness of the Code Napoleon. This was a private law system developed and imposed by a dictator. Unlike the common law, the executive government in Napoleon Bonaparte's empire was not under the general law. Sir Guy Green refers approvingly to Professor Geoffrey Walker's (1989) observation in his monumental work on the rule of law about this very point. The rule of law "is the unifying concept of our whole system of judicial review and government under the law. Without some theoretical foundation of this nature, our constitutional doctrine would lack an organising principle and basis for action." That unifying concept was absent from the Code Napoleon.

In a way unknown in most other European countries, the common law in 1788 contained both an advanced private law system with an advanced constitutional and public law system. So we received the common law, then clearly the most advanced system of law, as it still is today. (But the common law always suffered from one particular disadvantage in any such reception. Its vast corpus is found in case law, which seems difficult to manage. It was so much easier for countries searching for a modern legal system to adopt a civil law code in one book, which is easy to import, to teach, and to memorise.

Thus those countries not formally colonised (examples: Japan, Thailand and China) would voluntarily incorporate the Roman Law codes, often the later German version, the BGB. So almost without exception, only British colonies, conquered or settled, took the common law.


The United States

It is curious that the Australian Republican movement does not consider the United States constitutional system as a possible model for Australia. At the time our Founding Fathers were moving towards the federation of our nation, the American constitutional system had some attractions, particularly in the upper house of Congress, the Senate. There was, however, no interest in becoming a republic. The Westminster system, increasingly Australianised, was working too well.  Could we now go the way of the United States? There are significant differences between us, as there are between Canada and the USA.

The crown founded Australia. Development was led by the crown. The USA was founded not so much by the crown but by dissident groups of people wishing to escape the religious rigours of the established church. They settled and developed their territories with a minimum role for government. Nevertheless, the American colonies still had the benefit of the laws, government and defence forces of the mother country. All of this was done under an imperial umbrella. But even in their beginnings, they demonstrated a distance from the British crown that is in contrast to the Australian experience.

The thirteen American colonies were, before independence, the freest and most democratically governed colonies the world had ever seen. So why did the Americans revolt? As British intellectual Paul Johnson argues, for once, the characteristic British virtues of caution, pragmatism, practical common sense and moderation seemed to be absent in the ranks of those who governed in London. This, Johnson points out, would not have mattered much had the men who led America been men of ordinary stature. Unfortunately for Britain, and fortunately for America, the generation that emerged to lead the colonies into independence was "one of the most remarkable group of men in history, sensible, broad-minded, courageous, unusually well educated, gifted in a variety of ways, mature and long-sighted, sometimes lit by flashes of genius". They were Enlightenment men "shorn of its vitiating French intellectual weaknesses of dogmatism, anti-clericalism, moral chaos and excessive trust in logic", and motivated by the English virtues of "pragmatism, fair mindedness, and honourable loyalty to each other".

The principal reason for the revolt was taxation. Yet the American colonies were among the least taxed territories in recorded history. George Washington himself was an extremely rich man who paid little tax. The British had doubled their national debt to pay for the Seven Years' War, and the principal beneficiaries were the American colonies. These had low public debt and paid, on average, one-fiftieth of the tax paid in the mother country. It seemed fair that the Americans contribute more.

The introduction of the Grevilles Stamp Act to rectify this was the beginning of the end. The cry: "No taxation without representation" rallied opposition to London. But while taxation was at the forefront, some of the other reasons for the revolt are less attractive. The British, having defeated the French, proposed to hand much of the land over to the traditional owners, the Native Americans, and the settlers.

The Great Proclamation of 7 October 1773 by the British created a vast interior reserved for the Native Americans. Those settlers who had already crossed the boundary were ordered back. This gave justice to the indigenous people but was a great error. The British wanted to keep the white settlers on their side. How many Australians, sympathising with the injustices borne by the Australian Aboriginal people, are aware of this skeleton in the American cupboard? The Native Americans were among the great losers of independence. And how many Australians are aware that once we received self-government, the moderating influence of the crown in protecting the Aborigines was lessened?

The other skeleton in the American closet was slavery. Although he was an abolitionist, John Adams had to omit any reference to abolition in the Declaration of Independence. In 1771, Lord Mansfield held slavery to be unlawful in England under the common law. If a slave escaped to England, he was free: "The air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe." Without independence, could slavery have lasted long in the colonies? With independence, the number of slaves in the United States increased substantially.

The War of Independence was unpopular in Britain. Nor was there unanimity among the Americans. Perhaps only one-third of Americans actually supported it. But British mismanagement, and an inability on their part to demonstrate traditional good sense, led to independence. And what of American republicanism? Professor Graham Maddox argues that Machiavelli's influence on American republicanism was substantial. He says it was embraced by the American elite, its American lawyers and statesmen who, if not actually an "aristocracy", were certainly men of property, substance and learning, a true elite. And they owned slaves.

The founders were deeply conscious of their own talent and virtue. As Maddox says: "They had the opportunity to seize the American polity at the high point of their virtuous triumph over the corrupt forces of British imperialism. They tried to protect it against those future degenerations which, Machiavelli had taught, were in the end inevitable." In taking Machiavelli's advice, they adopted a "mixed" constitution. While genuinely giving the people a say through the voting procedure, this was done in such a way that the influence of the people was neutralised. In the meantime, the real government would be conducted by an "aristocratic" element of elite elected representatives with a "monarchic", or rather consular, president. They entrenched their invention in a written instrument that could not be altered except by the most cumbersome process, and they established a Supreme Court to invalidate any "unconstitutional" acts of government.

There is no evidence that America is more democratic than Australia or better in protecting human rights. It is a more litigious, more violent and less caring society. Perhaps the most obvious difficulty with the US Constitution is that the impeachment of the president is such a process that the government is paralysed and diverted for too long a time. During a recent crisis in supply in the United States, when the American embassy in Canberra closed down many of its functions, an exasperated American commented: "What we need is a governor-general!"

Would the separation of the legislature and the executive suite Australia? In the US, the president is extremely difficult to remove and doesn't go when he should. The case of President Nixon is the best-known example. Another incident just after President Kennedy's failed invasion of Cuba – the Bay of Pigs fiasco – is not so well known. The president explained to the Deputy Director of the CIA: "If this were the British government, I would resign and you, being a civil servant, would remain ... But it isn't. In our government, you ... have to go, and I have to remain." (Spectator, 24 June 1998)


Judeo Christian Values

Judeo Christian principles
The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition flows from the Christian theology of supersession, whereby the Christian covenant (or Testament) with God supersedes the Jewish one. Christianity, according to this belief, reforms and replaces Judaism.

Our Judeo Christian values came with the settlement of Australia. They permeate our law, our language, our institutions and our Federation. (To say this is not to argue against the notion that Australia should not only tolerate but welcome migrants of other religions or of no religion— it is merely to state irrefutable facts.)

The Success Story of the Twentieth Century: The Australian Federation

The core of our Judaeo-Christian culture is the Holy Bible. It sets the context of, and it permeates and enriches, all the other pillars of our society. The common law is based on Christian ethics. The canon of our language is found in the Bible and in the Book of Common Prayer. And our Sovereign, anointed and set apart at the Coronation, regards herself accountable to the Almighty. As the Queen said in her Christmas Broadcast on 25 December 2000:

"For me the teachings of Christ, and my own personal accountability before God, provide a framework in which I try to lead my life."

It will be noted that Her Majesty affirmed this without ministerial advice. That is,  it was a clear personal statement.

The first Christian clergyman in Australia, Richard Johnson, in the very first Christian sermon given on this land, saluted the colonists in an ecumenical spirit of love and tolerance. He said:

"I do not address you as Churchmen or Dissenters, Roman Catholics or Protestants, as Jews or Gentiles ... But I speak to you as mortals and yet immortal ...
"The gospel ... proposes a free and gracious pardon to the guilty, cleansing to the polluted, healing to the sick, happiness to the miserable and even life for the dead." (Ian H. Murray 1988)

As Edmund Burke once said: "We know, and what is better, we feel inwardly that religion is the basis of civil society."

During the drafting of our Constitution, at the Federal Convention in Adelaide, in 1897, a delegate, Mr P. M. Glynn, proposed that the Preamble to the Constitution Act recognise the "invisible hand of Providence" in the Federation of our nation. (Convention Debates, Adelaide, 1897, p. 1185-6.) More petitions were received supporting this proposal than any other aspect of the Constitution.

So we find that provision in the Preamble which summarises briefly and succinctly the pith and substance of that great act of unity, that the people of each of the State ...
"humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown ... and under the Constitution hereby established."

In order to balance this, section 116 was inserted to provide:

116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

Thus Australians are free to worship or not to worship as they wish. This does not change the fact that our society was founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Now the proposition that our society is based on Judaeo-Christian culture comes as an affront to the elites who today preside over our cultural institutions, the media, the universities and the arts.

After all, this proposition goes against the cultural relativism of this age, the elite theory that all cultures are of equal value. But facts are facts. The core of Western society remains Christian, even if the elite humanist avalanche desperately tries to retain our civilisation while removing its heart. The various surrogates for faith. as M.A. Casey (2001) says, including reason, history and nature. have each, in their turn, become unbelievable. The consequence is a crisis of meaninglessness, in which Nietzsche revelled. The banishment of religion is a dangerous exercise, for without it the whole cultural and moral edifice of the nation and, indeed, mankind inevitably collapses.

Those regimes which, since the French Revolution, have sought to remove and destroy the beliefs of the people and substitute a State atheistic ideology were all intrinsically evil. Remember first the Jacobins in France, who instituted a cult of religion and enthroned a woman. Some said a prostitute, as the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame. And who then imposed a frightful Reign of Terror. Remember, also. The Marxist experiments in Soviet Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, and Nazism in Germany eventually destroyed themselves — but only after they had slaughtered millions and millions of innocents.


The Australian Flag

If a republic is about symbols, what of our chief national symbol, the Australian National Flag?

The origins of Australia's National Flag go back to just before the Federation in 1900 when the Melbourne newspaper, the Evening Herald and then the Review of Reviews for Australasia sponsored national flag competitions. On 29 April 1901, the new commonwealth government announced its competition for the design of a national flag.

It then was agreed to combine the Review of Reviews competition with the commonwealth government's, with a total prize of two hundred pounds, a substantial sum in those days. Designs submitted to the Herald's competition were also considered. The judges were to have been the six premiers, but they were replaced by seven men with appropriate qualifications. By the closing date, 32,823 entries had been received. The prize was divided between five contestants who submitted similar designs. Two were teenagers. One, Ivor Evans, was only 14.

The government accepted the judges' advice. The Commonwealth Government Gazette of 20 February 1903 noted that the King had approved the Flag of the Commonwealth of Australia, a blue ensign, as the Blue Ensign of the Commonwealth, and a red ensign as the merchant flag.

"1903, Australian Flag Adopted."

It is often claimed by those who want to impose some new flag on Australians that one condition of the competition was that all designs be "based on the British Ensign" and thus incorporate the British union flag, the "Union Jack". Mr E.J. Eggins, the Honorary Secretary of the Australian National Flag Association a voluntary community service organisation, has laboured long to inform Australians about the importance and significance of Australians' chief national symbol. (Much of the historical information in this chapter comes from the Association.) He has exposed this claim to be baseless. (Sydney Morning Herald. 3 February 1999) The conditions were set out in the Commonwealth Government Gazette 29 April 1901. There were in fact no conditions limiting the design.

In 1908, the government announced a minor change to the flag. A seven-pointed star, symbolic of the six states and territories, would replace the original large six-pointed star. (Commonwealth Government Gazette, 19 December 1908) The Southern Cross of course, relates to our geographic location, and the crosses on the Union flag represent the principles on which our nation is based parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and freedom of speech. In 1957, King George VI approved a recommendation that the Commonwealth blue ensign be adopted as the Australian Flag. By the Flag Act 1953, which had the strong support of both sides of the parliament, the commonwealth blue ensign was declared to be the Australian National Flag, and the red ensign the Australian Red Ensign.

"New Flag Campaigns"

In more recent years, the organisation Ausflag has campaigned vigorously for a new flag, or rather to get rid of the Australian National Flag. This movement was given considerable exposure when Paul Keating was prime minister in the years 1993-96.

Ausflag ran a national flag design competition in 1997-98. Among its sponsors were two multinational corporations, one Japanese and one American. This reliance on foreign support attracted considerable criticism. But as with the republic, getting rid of our existing symbols and institutions is seen as more important than any resulting division in the community. One hundred flags, described as the finalists, were featured in colour on a full page of the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 January 1998.

That this was Australia Day, and would be seen as highly provocative, apparently disturbed neither the organisers nor the editor. Readers were invited to vote by telephone. And in the bottom right-hand corner was the present Australian National Flag. An editorial the next day talked of the inevitability of change. It said Ausflag had "compelling evidence" that Prime Minister Menzies had changed the Australian Flag in 1953 from red to blue because red had con¬notations of communism! “The Leader of the Opposition, and Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Dr HV Evatt,  told the House of Representatives in 1953 that  our flag is not only  “a very beautiful flag.” He continued: “It is probably the most beautiful flag in the world.”

The president of the Australian National Flag Association, John Vaughan, replied that while the editor might believe Ausflag's evidence to be compelling but ... in fact, approval of the blue Australian flag and the Australian Red Ensign as our mer¬chant flag was officially proclaimed in the Commonwealth Government Gazette of 20 February 1903. "It is noted with regret that the Herald has become an active promoter of the anti-Australian flag agenda of Ausflag Ltd." (Sydney Morning Herald, letters, 6 February 1998)

Notwithstanding this evidence, it is sometimes claimed by prominent Republicans that the first time Australians served under the blue ensign was in Vietnam. The result of the competition must have been disappointing for Ausflag. The Australian National Flag received 8253 votes, for the second choice only 1581.

In the following year, 1999, the Sydney Morning Herald pub¬licised another competition featuring three flags and the Australian National Flag. One of the three was the separate winner of what was described as the Ausflag "People's Choice" competition. And still, the Australian National Flag won the poll. In the meantime, various emblems were being changed or removed throughout the country, a form of republicanism by stealth. Because it was feared a subsequent government might change the flag without consulting the people, some argued that the flag should be entrenched in the constitution. When Ausflag said this could not or should not be done, as a matter of principle, a letter from the author was published in the Sydney Morning Herald pointing out the tri-colour was, in fact, entrenched in the French constitution. In any event, a new government led by John Howard introduced a bill to amend the Flag Act. This became law in 1998. It provides that the Australian National Flag can only be changed after a majority of electors, voting at a plebiscite in which the Australian National Flag is included, choose a new flag.

Although the act could presumably by repeated or even challenged, only a foolhardy government would try to change the Australian National Flag without the consent of the people. The ARM argues that the 1999 referendum on the republic has nothing to do with changing the flag. But as former governor-general Bill Hayden argues, if the Keating–Turnbull republic is adopted, the same "small group of activists" will then target the flag. Paul Keating chose not to fly the Australian flag on his car when he was prime minister. And Kim Beazley indicated the Keating government was working towards changing the flag around 2001 for the Centenary of Federation. (Daily Telegraph Mirror, 6 June 1994) notwithstanding ARM's protestations that the referendum has nothing to do with changing the flag, it seems to be ready to lend support for change. Perhaps the most startling occasion was the exhibition "Flagging the Republic" at Sydney's Sherman Galleries Goodhope, in association with the New England Regional Art Museum. According to the catalogue, the exhibition was sup¬ported by the Australian Republican Movement. The following appeared in a large endorsement under its logo and name:

The Australian Republican Movement is dedicated to the achievement of a republic in Australia, with an Australian as our head of state, by 1 January 2001. In promoting images of Australia, the artists in this exhi¬bition are demonstrating a commitment to Australia. It is that commit¬ment we share in supporting this exhibition.

The program also states that the exhibition is "sponsored" by. among others, Turnbull & Partners Limited, Investment Bankers ARM leader Malcolm Turnbull's company. Ausflag's role is also acknowledged. The seven flags in the exhibition did not of course include the Australian National Flag. There is one with a cockatoo's head occupying half the flag and stripes on the remainder. Appropriate, perhaps, for a beach towel. Hardly one for the national symbol. But the most surprising was a flag with a white background, on which is printed in Urge letters - F*** OFF BACK TO FAGLAND". "Fagland" presumably is derived from the word "fag", a pejorative term from the United States for a homosexual. "Fagland" is apparently intended to mean the United Kingdom.

Had any organisation on the other side of this debate been involved in this, it would have been the object of a vast and continuing expose in the media- and complaints to the authorities. There would have been denunciations in parliament and in the press. Some very careful, discreet reporting ensured that the ARM and the sponsors were saved from embarrassment and outrage. The fact is that neither this "flag", nor any of the others has commanded any significant support as a replacement. It is apparent that, with some individual exceptions, the same broad coalition of elite interests who wish to impose the as-yet-unknown form of the republic also want to get rid of our national flag. It will be the next target. Obviously, success in this refer¬endum will give a platform to change the Australian National Flag, the symbol of Australia most Australians cherish.


CANZUK flags
CANZUK flags

Crowned Republics Compared.

The HDI measures well-being through three major dimensions:

There are many reasons to remain a crowned republic.


Sir David Iser Smith KCVO AO was an Australian public servant.
Sir David Iser Smith KCVO AO was an Australian public servant.

The Republic Will Stop the Brain Drain, Arthritis Etc

Sir David Smith has assembled the more bizarre reasons advanced for a republic in a paper to the Samuel Griffiths Society in 1998. Among those he listed are:

There are other examples. Former Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney Henry Tsang claimed: "People in Asia are confused. They want to invest here or start a new business in Australia but are confused and puzzled." He finds it embarrassing explaining to Asian business people "why Australia clings to the Queen" and then "England is a small nation on its way down . . " (City of Sydney Times, 27 January 1999).

Simon Young, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra conductor, said: "I feel very strongly about it because I'm indentified as belonging to the English cultural scene, and I'm very, very adamantly Australian." She said many "ex-pat" Australian artists who have settled in the UK are often mistakenly considered British in other countries. But Canadians in the US or in France have similar problems. The solution perhaps relates to changing their accent and their address. Or just not worrying about such an insignificant matter. (Australian, 15 March 1999).

Robert Hughes, expatriate art critic and author, said:”Anyone who votes No is stupid .”

Professor Alan Gilbert, then Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, said that if we did not vote Yes, we would be a ”laughing stock” in Asia.

What will be next? "Republicanism, the miracle cure for arthritis"?


[Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney PC (24 February 1733 – 30 June 1800) was a British politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1754 to 1783 when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Sydney. He held several important Cabinet posts in the second half of the 18th century. The cities of Sydney in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, were named in his honour in 1785 and 1788, respectively.]

Australian Settlement

When the British came to Australia, they did not find a country in which there was anything recognisable as a government. They had in other parts of the non-European world, but not in Australia.

To say that is to denigrate neither the Aboriginal history of this continent nor the Aboriginal people. But modern Australia began with the settlement, which had both harsh and good consequences for the indigenous people. Some form of European settlement was inevitable, and the fact that the acquisition was British was, on all historical evidence and comparisons with other places, preferable.

...the rule of law...

Australia has been fortunate in the calibre of so many of those involved in the government of the early colonial establishments. It is worth mentioning Lord Sydney, whom too many glibly dismiss as being of no consequence. He had taken a decision which would have a fundamental effect on the colony. Instead of just establishing it as a military prison, he provided for a civil administration with courts of law.

The rule of law came to Australia from the founding of the colony in 1788.

Lord Sydney’s decision reflected very much the views of the first Governor, Captain, later Admiral Arthur Phillip, who wrote before leaving England: "In a new country, there will be no slavery and hence no slaves.”

Phillip also ordered that Aborigines be treated well and indicated that the murder of an Aborigine would be punished by hanging.

It is good that there seems to be some attempt to recognise the contribution of our first Australian Governor.

A recent example was an important lecture, enhanced by a video presentation, given by a former UK High Commissioner, Sir Roger Carrick, at a function at the American American Club organised by Mr Richard Nott, the President of the NSW Branch of the Australia-Britain Society on 6 March 2007.

The vote of thanks was appropriately moved by Her Excellency, the 37th Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir.  Her Excellency offered the professional opinion, based on an assessment of his life, that Admiral Phillip’s death was consistent with a stroke and certainly not suicide.

...not a gulag...

The noted historian, Keith Windschuttle, has played a leading role in reminding historians of their need to observe certain elementary standards in their research.

Above all, he has demonstrated the need for painstaking attention to the best evidence before conclusions can be drawn, rather than assuming some conclusion because it is consistent with some fashionable ideology.

In an  essay on the subject of our early leaders published in the April 2007 edition of Quadrant, he  says that many of Australia's early colonial leaders were human rights activists “ahead of their time.”

An extract was published in The Australian on 24 March 2007. And in a featured column on the same page, which is not on the web but which may be in the Quadrant essay, Dr Windschuttle wrote:

“The idea that slavery was an affront to humanity that had no place in a free land was part of the original definition of what it meant to be an Australian.
“Unfortunately, in today's academic climate…very few academic historians discuss these issues…
“Moreover, although NSW founder Arthur Phillip's original anti-slavery declaration was once well known to earlier generations of students, historians today rarely mention it.”

According to a report in the West Australian of 1 August 2007, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, the then Environment and Water Resources Minister,  said:
“It is hard to believe ... in our prosperous country, that we were once a gulag, a gulag of the southern seas, a hell on earth."

Mr Turnbull was announcing that eight convict sites on the National Heritage List would form part of a bid for world heritage recognition of Australia’s convict past. It is possible that Mr Turnbull has come to the entirely mistaken conclusion that the colony was a gulag from his Republican uncle, Robert Hughes.

To speak then of the colony as a gulag, as Republican Robert Hughes does, is completely wrong. The Soviet Gulags were the most brutal, lawless concentration camps for political prisoners.

Even under the broadest definition, few convicts sent to Australia could be called political prisoners. More importantly, the British brought the rule of law to Australia from the very foundation of the colony in 1788.

The Governor, Captain Phillip, came with a Charter of Justice, which, unlike the provisions of the Soviet Constitution, was actually applied.

To say Australia was a gulag is wrong, unfair to both Sydney and Phillip and misleading to students of our history. Just consider one example.  A civil action very early in the life of the colony was brought by convicts against a ship captain for theft. The captain was defended on the ground that at common law, felons could not sue.

The court required the captain to prove that the complainants were indeed felons. This he could not do because the records were in England. The action was allowed to proceed.

Can Mr Hughes or Mr Turnbull give us a similar example of litigation by prisoners in a Soviet or Nazi gulag, particularly one where the Soviet or Nazi judges upheld the prisoners’ assertions? Of course, they can’t. The penal colony of New South Wales was one of the most successful experiments in criminal rehabilitation the world has ever seen.

The rate of recidivism, or return to crime, was extraordinarily low, as far as we can tell. The slander on Phillip and the British that New South Wales can be equated with a Soviet or Nazi gulag should be withdrawn before it is taught in the schools -  if it is not already presented as the truth.

...the pillars of our nation...

The British brought with them four of the six pillars of our nation. These were our national language, English, the rule of law, our Judeo-Christian values and our oldest institution, which provides leadership beyond politics, the Crown.

All were Australianised and made ours. To them were added the other pillars of our nation.

One was a gift of the British, self-government under the Westminster system.

The final pillar, while given legal effect by the British, was our own. This was our indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown and under the Constitution.

This was designed by Australians in Australia and approved by the Australian people.

It is right and proper that we not hide our failings and our weaknesses. Perhaps our greatest failings were in racial matters, White Australia, and especially with the Aboriginal people. Let us look briefly at the White Australia Policy.

The most virulent Australian opponent of Asian immigration has surely been the staunchly Republican-journal The Bulletin. On 22 June 1901, it attacked Joseph Chamberlain, who, as Colonial Secretary, had The Twilight of the Elites blocked certain Queensland legislation banning coloured labour:

"If Judas Chamberlain can find a black, or brown or yellow race ... that has as high a standard of civilisation and intelligence as the white, that is progressive ... as brave, sturdy, as a good nation building material, and that can intermarry with the whites without the mixed progeny
showing signs of deterioration, that race is welcome.

"One of the first laws passed after the Federation instituted the White Australia Policy. Its strongest supporters were the unions and Labor Party. They feared, with some justification then, that the relatively good working conditions achieved behind the tariff wall would be weakened by competitively priced immigrant Asian labour. But the White Australia Policy was not enacted to expel existing Asian immigrants, although this was to be the fate of many of the indentured Kanaka workers from the Pacific. The policy allowed Asian immigrants established here to stay but was intended to stop further immigration. To allay strong British objections, a dictation test in any European language could be administered on entry at the discretion of a customs official.

Yet immigrants still came through. My own maternal grandparents, and their children, arrived in Sydney from Batavia, now Jakarta, in 1917. A dictation test was administered on this occasion in English, fortunately, one of the several languages in which they were fluent. They passed, including my mother, who was still a child.

While the White Australian Policy seems outrageous by our standards today, it was a little different from the barriers to Asian immigration erected in other countries, including the United States and Canada. It is not so different from the immigration policies which are still applied by many countries today, including some of our neighbours, but which are rarely criticised. In any event, it was gradually relaxed after the Second World War and no longer applied in any real sense by the mid-1960s.

Australians can be least proud of the policy concerning the Abo¬riginal people. And with the advent of self-government, the restraining influence of more liberal colonial secretaries and governors was removed.

There is a widespread belief, reported in the media, that the 1967 referendum gave the Aboriginal people, for the first time, Australian citizenship and the right to vote. But they were already citizens. Moreover the right to vote had been granted in a piecemeal way, in four States, at least in law, if not in practice, before Federation.

A secondary purpose of the 1967 referendum was to remove pro¬visions from the Constitution against counting Aboriginal people (then considered mainly nomadic) in reckoning the number of people for electoral purposes. The principal purpose was to give the Federal Parliament the power, with the States, to legislate with respect to Aboriginal people. This referendum was a bipartisan measure and was approved by a record affirmative vote of 90.77%.

This vote was the clearest indication of an overwhelming view among Australians that the Aboriginal people were entitled to be treated as equals to other Australians. The extent to which the Aborigines have today been accorded this status is the subject of considerable debate. The noted French historian and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd (1994), argues that the leading indicator of the degree of acceptance of minorities within a society is the degree of female exogamy. That is, the extent to which female members of the minority marry out of their group.

In Australia, according to John Taylor (1997), the 1996 census demonstrated that 64% of "indigenous couple families" were unions between non-indigenous and indigenous partners. These families were almost evenly divided between those where the mother was indigenous and those where the father was indigenous. This indicates a rate of female exogamy among the Aboriginal people of about 32%.

This is far higher than those minorities which Todd evaluates, including black Americans in the United States (1.3%), Turks in Germany (7%), or Algerians in France (perhaps 23%: that last statistic is probably inflated because French citizens of Algerian descent are treated as French.) This is not an unreasonable test, even if it may encourage a charge that those who rely on it are reviving the assimilationist policies of the past. These statistics must constitute a balance against others which compare adversely to such matters as the health, and the life expect¬ancy, of Aboriginal people with other Australians.

In any event, it is clear that there is hardly any support for a policy which would be intended to differentiate adversely against the Aboriginal people.
The question remains about the proper assessment of past policies. The final judgement on that, if a final judgement can ever be made in this world, will be made by Australian historians in an objective search for the truth.

Assessments of our past treatment of the Aboriginal people range across a broad spectrum. Expatriate Australians Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes and Phillip Knightley are among the harshest critics.

Robert Hughes says that no country colonised by Europeans has treated its indigenous minority more inhumanely than Australia. This was inserted not into a journal of opinion but into the Official Souvenir Program for the Sydney Olympics, 2000! While it says little about the rigour of Mr Hughes' survey of centuries of European colonialism, it says much about Australia's liberal attitudes to freedom of speech.

In a recent critique of the views of those who assent a genocidal intent in and the effect of Australia's indigenous policies, Keith Windschuttle (2000) cites Phillip Knightley's conclusion that Australia was able to get away with a racist policy that bordered on slavery and genocide, practices unknown in the civilised world in the twentieth, century until the Nazis turned on the Jews. Of course, there were bloody disputes brought on by the occupation of land by white settlers, which impinged on the traditional wanderings of the Aboriginal people, some of whom may have regarded the white men's flocks as legitimate prey.

Certainly, there were individuals and even officials who committed terrible crimes against Aboriginal people. But there is no evidence that the Australian treatment of the Aboriginal people ever approached the barbarity of the Nazi's treatment of Jews, Gypsies and others, including homosexuals and the mentally ill. In the case of these unfortunates, the Nazi policy was for a "final solution", a term which in itself strikes at everything that is good in man and in his institutions.

The Nazi policy was for the liquidation, the physical destruction, of all people of a proscribed race or group by agents of the state, aided by the police and the public service in accordance with the decisions and directions of the highest state authorities.

There is no evidence that the crimes committed against the Aboriginal people were ever committed as government policy. And there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Indeed from the beginning of the penal colony, the authorities were to insist on the application of the rule of law, at least the criminal law, to all men and women of all races and colours. That this was to be imperfectly applied and that there were to be legal restrictions on Aboriginal people, often for pa¬ternalistic reasons, is a matter of great regret. But it does not equate to some form of Nazism at the heart of white Australia.

The application of the rule of law was demonstrated cogently in the final grave words of the judge when sentencing the white perpetrators of the massacre of aboriginal people at Myall Creek in 1838, over 160 years ago. These words demonstrate that even then, the principle that the rule of law must in Australian society prevail, whatever the race or colour of the victim or offender.

Mr Justice Burton pronounced these words:

"Prisoners at the bar ... you have been found guilty of the murder of men, women and children. The circumstances of the murders of which you have been found guilty are of such singular atrocity that I am persuaded that you long ago must have expected what the result would be.

"This is not the case where a single individual has met his death by violent means; this is not the case, as has too often stained indelibly the annals of this Colony, where death has ensued from a drunken quarrel; this is not the case, when, as this session the Court has been pained to hear, the blood of a human being and intoxicating liquor were mingled on the same floor, this is not the case where the life or property of an individual has been attacked, ever so weakly, and arms have been re¬sorted to. No such extenuating circumstances as these, if any consider them extenuating, have taken place.

"This is not the case of the murder of one individual, but of many men, women, and children, old men and babes hanging at their mothers' breasts, to the number in all, according to the evidence, probably of thirty individuals, whose bodies on one occasion were murdered — poor defenceless human beings ...

"I cannot expect that any words of mine can reach your hearts, but I hope that the grace of God may reach them, for nothing else can reach those hardened hearts which could surround that fatal pile and slay the fathers, mothers, and the infants ...

"I cannot but look at you with commiseration; you were all transported to this Colony, although some of you have since become free; you were removed from a Christian country and placed in a dangerous and tempting situation; you were entirely removed from the benefit of the ordinances of religion; you were one hundred and fifty miles from the nearest Police station on which you could rely for protection — by which you could have been controlled. I cannot but deplore that you should have been placed in such a situation — that such circumstances should have existed, and above all, that you should have committed such a crime.

"But this commiseration must not interfere with the stern duty, which, as a Judge, the law enforces on me, which is to order that you, and each of you, be removed to the place whence you came and thence to a place of public execution and that at such time as His Excellency, the Governor, shall appoint, you be hanged by the neck un¬til your bodies be dead, and may the Lord have mercy on your souls."

Recall that this is a judge, in 1838, sentencing white men to death for the murder of Aborigines. What greater evidence can there be of a society under the rule of law for all, and for all races and colours, than these words? And this was in the early part of the nineteenth century. These words are more than sufficient not only to deny but to unmask the unjustified attempt by some to paint our country as a genocidal hell. While our nation is not perfect, Australians have much to be proud of in the history of our Federation.

The Evolving Constitution

There are two distinct approaches to constitutional reform, observes Professor Kenneth Minogue of the London School of Economics. One is evolutionary and minimalist. The other is theoretical, abstract, and often revolutionary.

The first recognises that when an evident evil arises in government, it needs to be corrected with as little disturbance as possible. This is the traditional Australian approach, as demonstrated not only in the way we have made our constitutions but also in the way we change them. It could be summed up by the maxim, Si fractures non sit noli id refinery, which could be translated as, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This is not a desire to cling to the past but to preserve a system that has exhibited enough inner dynamism to survive the twentieth century. Minogue says that it is precisely the capacity of constitutional monarchy not just to change but to respond continuously to changes in society itself, which is important.

But it is the theoretical and abstract approach that has domi¬nated schools of political theory. It attempts to graft onto political reality some abstract concept. This is usually claimed to offer a supposedly logical solution to the problem of what ought to be done in the name of justice, democracy or equality.

In this process, history is forgotten as the rationalist gets to work sharpening and applying his criteria. As Minogue observes, "Kant famously said that of mankind's crooked timber, nothing.

Straight would ever be made. The rationalist gets out his incline plane and tries to straighten knots and smooth away rough patches, and if he is not careful, nothing authentic will be left." This approach permeates radical political thought. The revolutionary French and Russian regimes are extreme examples of the use of the abstract precepts of democracy and equity. Regrettably, some say inevitably, they were translated in practice into awful regimes.

The Australian republicanism of Paul Keating, Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian Republican Movement is a softer version of this approach. An abstract concept – the republic – has become an obsession. When the republic, as an abstract notion, was turned into an actual model in 1998, and even supporters concluded that the model was worse than the "problem", we were told to ignore this. We are told to concentrate on the republic and avert our eyes from this republic. So Leader of the Opposition Kim Beazley told us that he would become "terribly depressed" if the referendum debate becomes one about the details of the model.


Republicanism Since The Referendum

The Republican movement said that whatever the result in 1999, it would close down. However, it has mounted the present and fourth major campaign for an Australian republic.

The movement's theme today could well be "We demand a republic...but we haven't the foggiest idea what sort of republic we want..."

Within the current Republican movement, there are really two movements. One favours a republic in which the federal politicians choose the president. How the governors are to be chosen will be either left to the federal politicians or the state politicians.

The other movement wants to have regular elections to elect the president, vice presidents, governors, lieutenant governors and administrators. The significant differences now from the earlier movement, which led to the "Yes" case in 1999, are first, the movement is unwilling or unable to specify the model or any details of the change it wants. Secondly, the movement is calling for the holding of a plebiscite or plebiscite.

But even on this, the Republican movement is irreconcilably divided, with one faction wanting only one general plebiscite while the other faction wanting a second plebiscite to choose a preferred model. Those who want to have a general election for the president want a second plebiscite. Conservative Republicans want the politicians to choose the president and only want one plebiscite. They fear the people might vote for an election.

This fourth movement to remove the Crown relies on the same argument used up to 1999 about the Head of State.

But unlike the last attempt, the Republicans are now unable, or more likely, unwilling to specify what sort of republic they propose. The state of the movement has been described by Lenore Taylor in The Queen's Birthday issue of The Australian Financial Review, 9-10 June 2007, as "on life support" and by Republican David Marr in the Sydney Morning Herald of 21-22 January 2006 as near comatose ("A whiff of snags and a republic") The movement no longer enjoys the dynamic leadership and generous funding which Malcolm Turnbull once provided.

....the taxpayer must pay... 

A distinct feature of the Republican movements both of the 1990s and today is that the taxpayer is expected to pay not only for change but to work out what the change should be.

Since 1993, there have been six major exercises funded by the taxpayer to work out and achieve the ultimate aim of the republican movement – to remove the Australian Crown from our constitutional system and thus replace our crowned republic with a politicians' republic.

Millions and millions of dollars have been spent on this endeavour rather than, say, schools, universities, hospitals, pensions, defence and water.


The Australian Republic Movement’s latest republican model, released on 13 January 2022, is the third in as many decades.

It is even more confusing and contradictory than the others. This includes the one defeated nationally, in every state and 72 per cent of electorates, by a campaign run on the smell of an oily rag against most politicians, the media and the vast wealth of the ARM.

The ARM offers only one reason for removing the one part of our constitutional system that works and works well and is economical. This is the untruth that only under a politicians’ republic can we have an Australian as head of state.
As long ago as 1907, a unanimous High Court of Founders declared the governor-general is the “constitutional head of state”.
Reflecting a 1926 Imperial Conference decision, whenever officially overseas, every government, Coalition or Labor holds out to the world that the governor-general is head of state.
Just as a camel is supposedly a horse designed by committee, this quintessential politicians’ republic is frankly unworkable.
While stripping the head of state of the crucial Westminster roles of constitutional guardian and of providing leadership beyond politics, it taints any president with preference deals, slick campaigning and a massive mandate for the winner. The election itself would be more appropriate to a guided democracy where the same cabal of powerbrokers that have captured our two-party system will determine the 11 candidates, with the smaller states, more often than not, subsequently outvoted.
In addition, the complications and confusion about dual citizenship are inexplicably added to the process. Woe betide any candidate of foreign, even New Zealand, parentage.
And if that is not enough, the ARM has given effect to its lately acquired obsession of revenging the lawful dismissal of Gough Whitlam and Jack Lang. The governor-general’s crucial role of ensuring supply before an election is granted, the last required of the Turnbull government by Sir Peter Cosgrove, is out the window.
To top that off, the model elevates the prime minister from being no more than first among equals to being something no Westminster PM should ever be: the constitutionally endowed head of government. This reverses the overwhelming decision at the 1891 Constitutional Convention against empowering an individual as an American-style executive. Nor is it explained how this can be resolved with the existing – to be unamended – provision that the executive power of the commonwealth, vested in the Crown, remains exercisable by the head of state.
To persuade conservative Republicans to support an elected presidency, the draft purports to move real power even more to the politicians but takes away the present sanction for misbehaviour.
This is that the incumbent holds office at the pleasure of the Queen of Australia.
It is inevitable the elected president will, at some stage, be unable to resist playing the politician.
The only sanction is for both houses to resolve to remove him on the grounds of undefined “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.
The High Court will obviously require there be a fair and, therefore, long process, but if the Senate agrees with the president, which is more than likely, a president playing politics will be unstoppable.
We can then say farewell to a stable government.
Then there’s the provision that, in certain circumstances, the “senior governor” is to take over. Having to change their constitutions, some states might opt to elect a US-style executive governor. So we could wake up one morning with Daniel Andrews acting as president.
The nation has little interest in changing our crowned republic into a costly politicians’ republic. The fact is that when Australians say no in a federal referendum, they mean no – even when asked five times.
Polling indicates a constantly declining interest in a republic.
Last Australia Day, Ipsos found only 34 per cent think Australia should become a republic. But when shown a model – any model – a significant proportion invariably revert to our crowned republic.
There’s a time bomb there for the ARM. Of those aged 18-26, only 26 per cent think Australia should become a republic. If you can’t persuade the young on such an issue, you might as well give up.

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson has said that if the republic is not dead, it is comatose. For the sake of the nation, will no one put it out of its misery?

The Australian Republic Movement’s latest republican model, the third in as many decades, is even more confusing and contradictory than the others. This includes the one defeated nationally, in every state and 72 per cent of electorates, by a campaign run on the smell of an oily rag against most politicians, the media and the vast wealth of the ARM.

The ARM offers only one reason for removing the one part of our constitutional system that works and works well and is economical. This is the untruth that only under a politicians’ republic can we have an Australian as head of state.

As long ago as 1907, a unanimous High Court of Founders declared the governor-general is the “constitutional head of state”.

Reflecting a 1926 Imperial Conference decision, whenever officially overseas, every government, Coalition or Labor holds out to the world that the governor-general is head of state.

Just as a camel is supposedly a horse designed by committee, so this quintessential politicians’ republic is, frankly, unworkable.

While stripping the head of state of the crucial Westminster roles of constitutional guardian and of providing leadership beyond politics, it taints any president with preference deals, slick campaigning and a massive mandate for the winner. The election itself would be more appropriate to a guided democracy where the same cabal of powerbrokers that have captured our two-party system will determine the 11 candidates, with the smaller states, more often than not, subsequently outvoted.

In addition, the complications and confusion about dual citizenship are inexplicably added to the process. Woe betide any candidate of foreign, even New Zealand, parentage.

And if that is not enough, the ARM has given effect to its lately acquired obsession of revenging the lawful dismissal of Gough Whitlam and Jack Lang. The governor-general’s crucial role of ensuring supply before an election is granted, the last required of the Turnbull government by Sir Peter Cosgrove, is out the window.

To top that off, the model elevates the prime minister from being no more than first among equals to being something no Westminster PM should ever be: the constitutionally endowed head of government. This reverses the overwhelming decision at the 1891 Constitutional Convention against empowering an individual as an American-style executive. Nor is it explained how this can be resolved with the existing – to be unamended – provision that the executive power of the commonwealth, vested in the Crown, remains exercisable by the head of state.

To persuade conservative Republicans to support an elected presidency, the draft purports to move real power even more to the politicians but takes away the present sanction for misbehaviour.

This is that the incumbent holds office at the pleasure of the Queen of Australia.

It is inevitable the elected president will, at some stage, be unable to resist playing the politician.

The only sanction is for both houses to resolve to remove him on the grounds of undefined “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.

The High Court will obviously require there be a fair and, therefore, long process, but if the Senate agrees with the president, which is more than likely, a president playing politics will be unstoppable.

We can then say farewell to a stable government.

Then there’s the provision that, in certain circumstances, the “senior governor” is to take over. Having to change their constitutions, too, some states might opt to elect a US-style executive governor. So we could wake up one morning with a Daniel Andrews acting as president.

There is little interest in the nation in changing our crowned republic into a costly politicians’ republic. The fact is that when Australians say no in a federal referendum, they mean no – even when asked five times.

Polling indicates a constantly declining interest in a republic.

Last Australia Day, Ipsos found only 34 per cent think Australia should become a republic. But when shown a model – any model – a significant proportion invariably revert to our crowned republic.

There’s a time bomb there for the ARM. Of those aged 18-26, only 26 per cent think Australia should become a republic. If you can’t persuade the young on such an issue, you might as well give up.

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson has said that if the republic is not dead, it is comatose. For the sake of the nation, will no one put it out of its misery?

The third in as many decades is even more confusing and contradictory than the others. This includes the one defeated nationally, in every state and 72 per cent of electorates, by a campaign run on the smell of an oily rag against most politicians, the media and the vast wealth of the ARM.

The ARM offers only one reason for removing the one part of our constitutional system that works and works well and is economical. This is the untruth that only under a politicians’ republic can we have an Australian as head of state.

As long ago as 1907, a unanimous High Court of Founders declared the governor-general is the “constitutional head of state”.

And reflecting a 1926 Imperial Conference decision, whenever officially overseas, every government, Coalition or Labor holds out to the world that the governor-general is head of state.

Just as a camel is supposedly a horse designed by committee, so this quintessential politicians’ republic is, frankly, unworkable.

While stripping the head of state of the crucial Westminster roles of constitutional guardian and of providing leadership beyond politics, it taints any president with preference deals, slick campaigning and a massive mandate for the winner. The election itself would be more appropriate to a guided democracy where the same cabal of powerbrokers that have captured our two-party system will determine the 11 candidates, with the smaller states, more often than not, subsequently outvoted.

In addition, the complications and confusion about dual citizenship are inexplicably added to the process. Woe betide any candidate of foreign, even New Zealand, parentage.

And if that is not enough, the ARM has given effect to its lately acquired obsession of revenging the lawful dismissal of Gough Whitlam and Jack Lang. The governor-general’s crucial role of ensuring supply before an election is granted, the last required of the Turnbull government by Sir Peter Cosgrove, is out the window.

To top that off, the model elevates the prime minister from being no more than first among equals to being something no Westminster PM should ever be, the constitutionally endowed head of government. This reverses the overwhelming decision at the 1891 Constitutional Convention against empowering an individual as an American-style executive. Nor is it explained how this can be resolved with the existing – to be unamended – provision that the executive power of the commonwealth, vested in the Crown, remains exercisable by the head of state.

To persuade conservative Republicans to support an elected presidency, the draft purports to move real power even more to the politicians but takes away the present sanction for misbehaviour.

This is that the incumbent holds office at the pleasure of the Queen of Australia.

It is inevitable the elected president will, at some stage, be unable to resist playing the politician.

The only sanction is for both houses to resolve to remove him on the ground of undefined “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.

The High Court will obviously require there be a fair and, therefore, long process, but if the Senate agrees with the president, which is more than likely, a president playing politics will be unstoppable.

We can then say farewell to a stable government.

Then there’s the provision that, in certain circumstances, the “senior governor” is to take over. Having to change their constitutions, too, some states might opt to elect a US-style executive governor. So we could wake up one morning with a Daniel Andrews acting as president.

There is little interest in the nation in changing our crowned republic into a costly politicians’ republic. The fact is that when Australians say no in a federal referendum, they mean no – even when asked five times.

Polling indicates a constantly declining interest in a republic.

Last Australia Day, Ipsos found only 34 per cent think Australia should become a republic. But when shown a model – any model – a significant proportion invariably revert to our crowned republic.

There’s a time bomb there for the ARM. Of those aged 18-26, only 26 per cent think Australia should become a republic. If you can’t persuade the young on such an issue, you might as well give up.

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson has said that if the republic is not dead, it is comatose. For the sake of the nation, will no one put it out of its misery?

David Flint The Weekend Australian 15 January 2022


New Republican Movements

In the 1960s, a group of intellectuals in Australia held the belief that the Australian Crown's problem stemmed from the obligation felt by their social class to display deference towards Britain. However, this matter went unnoticed by the British. It is crucial to acknowledge that our constitutional system is entirely distinct from the personal psychological issues of a small number of Australian intellectuals.

The rise of Republicanism was not primarily motivated by a sense of inadequacy towards Britain but rather stemmed from a cutthroat political battle that took place in 1975. Two politicians engaged in this struggle, both of whom were unwilling to compromise and make concessions. This intense power struggle ultimately gave rise to the prominence of Republicanism.

The Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, was impatient for government and not willing to wait the normal 18 or so months for an election to be held. Meanwhile, the unpopular Prime Minister, Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC, was not prepared to have his term shortened. Fraser used his numbers on the Senate to delay the supply until the Prime Minister advised an early election. It has been unconstitutional since the reign of King Charles I for a government to rule or spend money without supply being granted by Parliament. The Whitlam government tried to find ways of continuing without supply, such as bank loans, but they were refused. Eventually, the Governor-General would have had to act. On November 11, 1975, instead of a general election, Mr Whitlam advised a half-senate election. The timing of this would depend on the state governors, who were mainly hostile. Even if the election were favourable to Mr Whitlam, new senators would not take their place until July 1, 1976.

In the year 1975, Australia experienced a highly controversial political crisis that left a lasting impact on the nation's political landscape. During this time, the Governor-General made the unprecedented decision to dismiss Mr. Whitlam's commission and instead appointed Mr Fraser to form a new government. Despite initial hesitation, Mr Fraser eventually agreed to act as a caretaker of the government and proposed a double dissolution of Parliament. This led to a general election on December 13th of the same year, which resulted in a significant victory for Mr Whitlam's opponents. While the crisis was resolved democratically, it sparked widespread discussions and calls for constitutional changes to limit the powers of the Governor-General and the Australian Crown, highlighting the need for reforms to ensure a fair and just political system.

There was growing interest in making a change, but it wasn't until Paul Keating became Prime Minister that the Australian government made it a priority. Unfortunately, Keating was defeated in the 1996 election, but his opponent, John Howard, decided to address the issue by proposing a constitutional convention before the election. The convention took place in 1998, and a referendum followed in 1999. Despite widespread political, media, and financial support, the referendum was ultimately defeated across the nation, in all states, and in 72% of electorates.

A Republic of the Arts

The arts have had a long association with nationalistic Australian republicanism. It goes back to Henry and Louisa Lawson, who embraced the narrow, racist and isolationist vision of a new Australia espoused by the Bulletin. Mark McKenna also includes the painter Adelaide Ironside and the poet Charles Harpur as "artistic" Republicans.

In more recent years, we have had Donald Horne, Patrick White, Geoffrey Dutton, Les Murray and Arthur Boyd. McKenna attributes the republicanism of these artists and writers to the strong sense of nationalism they asserted through their work in this seemingly isolated country.

Republicanism became a convenient refuge for artists who wished to signify their separation from the "cultural Mecca" of London. They feared a form of psychological dependence that would shackle their creative endeavour in making Australian art. Concerns about a "cultural cringe" are not new.

P.R. Stephensen insisted as long ago as 1936 on the impossibility of a distinctly Australian culture developing while Australia remained intellectually or politically dependent on the British Empire. In the 1960s, this sentiment developed significantly, led largely by writers such as Geoffrey Dutton and Donald Horne, who spent time in England in the 1960s.

But by then, the campaign seemed curiously dated. Weren't these artists fighting yesterday's battles? Hadn't they noticed that the dominant cultural influence in Australia was now that of the United States? As Michael McKenna observes, republicanism was being led by intellectuals who had only belatedly decided that they no longer needed to feel inferior to Britain.

Meanwhile, most Australians who identified with Americana were seeing the revival of Australian film, watching for the first time Australian television dramas, and hearing at least some Australian music.

The cultural cringe

No doubt the average Australian wondered, if they paid any attention at all to the issue, why these intellectuals were worrying about British influence.

So we have the phenomenon of members of the Australian intelligentsia leading from behind as French politician Alexandre Augustine Ledru Rollin exclaimed, "Ah well! I am their leader, I really had to follow them."

Given the profound impact that writer Donald Horne was to have on the later Republicans, it is worthwhile to consider his early approach more. From a contemporary perspective, they seem to be only of academic interest. His observations about British domination of Australian culture are obviously no longer accurate reflections of Australian society - the Australian sun has long set on British cultural predominance.

But Horne's conclusions are historical in that he spends a great deal of time discussing the “ problem” of past perceptions of Australia rather than those which prevail today.

In 2008, the Lowy Institute Poll showed that from a list of countries of interest to Australia ( New Zealand was not included),  Australians are by far most favourably disposed towards Great Britain. Horne wrote that for the extreme empire loyalists of the past, loyalty was primarily a matter of the empire and the monarch. Loyalty was due to Australia precisely because Australia was British.

To the extent that Australians deviated from "Britishishness”, they denied their heritage and their destiny. Even to distinguish between the interests of Australia and Britain was disloyal. It is telling that even in 1965, Horne preferred to address a mentality that existed in Australia in the past tense.

Overlooking the example of Canada, Horne claimed the crisis was that Australia has no identity and its only hope is to pursue republicanism. So, some politicians’ republics are necessary because Australia lacks an identity.

The dismissal

The dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, followed by an election, changed the Republican debate. What was a curious academic school, the obsession with a cultural cringe suddenly had legs. It is worth recalling the immediate causes of the 1975 crisis.

They were Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Fraser's impatience for government and the determination of the Whitlam government that it would try to govern without supply, that is, without the authorisation of funding by parliament. It was the Governor-General's decision to act before the supply ran out that brought the crisis to an end.

The crisis was in no way caused, provoked or exacerbated by The Queen. But logic is not necessarily a guide for political action, and many blamed the monarchy rather than the politicians who had actually caused the crisis. So the dismissal provided a new source of Republican sentiment.

Until then, the Labor Party had been as monarchist as the Liberal and Country Parties. Labour leaders such as John Curtin, Dr H.V. Evatt and Ben Chifley were as a royalist in sentiment and in action as R.G. Menzies. After all, it was our great wartime prime minister, John Curtin, who recommended that a Royal Duke be made Governor-General.

A New Labor Platform

But in July 1981, six years after Whitlam's dismissal, a national conference of the Labor Party voted to support a republic. There were in fact two motions, this one from the floor, and another from the executive, asking for an inquiry on the subject and a report. According to the historian Alan Atkinson, the motion from the executive should have been put first, but Neville Wran, the national president, gave priority to the motion from the floor. It was carried unanimously. Labor was committed to a republic without any form of consultation or discussion within the broader party.

A motion in 1991 for a public education campaign, culminating in a referendum to make Australia an "independent" republic on 1 January 2001, was carried - but "not very vigorously", according to the then ALP president.

What then are we to make of something being official ALP policy? The first platform of the ALP aimed for the total exclusion of "coloured and other undesirable races". For many years Labor was committed to the widespread nationalisation of industry and the banks. Both of these policies have not only been abandoned but reversed. Will republicanism stay as ALP's official policy?

Before he endured the indignity of dismissal, Gough Whitlam was asked whether it was correct that he wished to transform the office of Governor-General into a presidency.

He replied: “No, I do not think that is said. I have used the term that the Governor­General is viceroy, and some people seem to think that is an extraordinary concept, but constitutionally, it is quite obvious. He is the stand-in for the Queen when she is not in residence here. He can do everything that she can do as head of state. The system ... works quite well.

“After all, no government of any political complexion can be better pleased than with a system where the head of state, the ceremonial head, holds the position for a certain number of years on the nomination of the national head of government. The system works very well and our governors-general, certainly the Australian ones, have always been top men.”

So before his dismissal, Mr Whitlam clearly thought the Australian system quite agreeable. He is, of course, entitled to change his views. In 1983 he wrote that he believed not merely in a symbolic change but in large-scale substantive alterations to the Constitution.

The case for a republic, he says, is not primarily directed against the monarchy "but against the faults" in the Australian constitution.

He believes that the case rests not so much on the need to sever links with the Crown but on the need to strengthen Australia's own institutions and democratic safeguards.

He says any worthwhile improvement of the constitution will require major changes, and "since the monarchy is integral to, and virtually inseparable from, the constitution as it stands, the only realistic course is to replace it altogether".

The action of Sir John Kerr certainly renewed impetus for the cause of republicanism in Australia. A former governor­general, Sir Zelman Cowan, points out that a republic, of itself, would not necessarily dispose of the problem of the exercise of such discretions.

But the fact that a governor-general, "unelected and the representative of the queen", acted in this way is seen by some - perhaps by a growing number of Australians - as grounds for remaking the constitution without monarchical institutions and representation.

He believes the achievement of "full" independence for Australia, the changing pattern of her relationships with the world, and the changing character and composition of Australian society and the Australian people have all affected our view of the special relationship with Britain and its institutions.

Mark McKenna says that the modern push for a republic had its roots in Donald Horne's response to the dismissal. Horne saw a need to remove the monarchy not only to assert our national identity but also to democratise the constitution.

McKenna points out that Australians are reluctant to endorse constitutional change. So, Horne's republic might sink quickly if it were too closely linked with substantive changes to the constitution. Isolating the republic as a mere question of patriotism, of national identity, from the problem of substantive reform is precisely the approach embodied in the ARM's platform.

It was no doubt hoped this has the added advantage of avoiding what Australians have traditionally done in referenda -look closely at the details of the proposed change.

The Australian Republican Movement

The smouldering passion for revenge ignited by the 1975 dismissal was directed at the Crown and only relatively briefly at Malcolm Fraser. Yet Fraser had forced the issue and taken the country to the brink. Ironically, now a Republican, he has escaped the ignominy that was directed at Sir John Kerr. Little blame today is attached to Gough Whitlam, who, through his wit, a fine sense of humour, and patrician elegance, enjoys a high standing in Australian life today.

But his newfound republican mission would have been dissipated had it been not for the creation of the Australian Republican Movement but rather that change to a politicians’ republic became part of Prime Minister Paul Keating's agenda, as he put it, part of the   "big picture".

The Australian Republican Movement was not born in such heroic circumstances as were the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta or the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Rather, according to Republican writer Thomas Keneally, it came about over lunch with Malcolm Turnbull in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Woollahra:

“That lunch at Jill Hickson's and Neville Wran's table had now reached the point where nearly all the fish they bought the day before at the Sydney Fish Markets had been eaten.

“In a manner all too typical of generous Sunday lunches in Sydney, a number of bottles of Hunter Valley Chardonnay had also been drained.

“ Neville Wran leaned over the table and said, ‘The other thing I want to see happen bcf()re I bloody well die is an Australian republic.’ “ A celebrity Republic McKenna says that Keneally's description of a "boozy lunch", while honest, was not particularly astute: wine as the wellspring of the Australian Republic.

The concept of a group of citizens leading the Republican debate proved to be effective, but it would also lend itself to allegations of elitism.

A celebrities' republic

The ARM, McKenna says, was not so much a people's movement as a "media offensive by a minority of influential individuals who claimed to have the people's interest at heart".

The argument that the ARM's approach is elitist has also been expressed by other republicans. In 1995, launching Tony Abbott's book The Minimal Monarchy, poet and long-time republican Les Murray declared:

"I am probably (seen as) a notorious old republican. Have I turned away from all that suddenly and become a royalist? No....I've become more of a republican lately, out of fear of the ugly, elite republic towards which we are being rushed at the moment ­ the republic of celebrities and hectoring and social scorn."

An anonymous internal report leaked to the press expressed similar concerns about the ARM's leadership. Later in the same month, The Australian reported that the ARM had come under attack from within its own ranks for being controlled by a "Sydney dinner party set" and being anti-democratic.

A document prepared within one of the movement's state branches also claimed many potential members resent the "brash, egocentric, sometimes overbearing, sometimes bullying personal style" of its chairman, Malcolm Turnbull.

A fundraising function in Melbourne was described as one where the champagne was decent and the canapes okay, but the timing and placement were terribly wrong.

"It was a night to forget. Mostly because so many republicans cannot bear to remember it without wincing." (Virginia Trioli, The Bulletin, 30 March 1999)

With photographs of the opulent evening splashed across the daily press, she said the event produced the answer to only one question of any importance: where do osprey feathers actually come from?

The answer comes from society leader Susan Renouf.

A Prime Minister with Visions: Paul Keating

The ALP platform, disgruntled artists and the Australian Republican Movement - even together - were not enough to make republicanism a real political force.

Everything was to change when Paul Keating overthrew Bob Hawke in the Labor caucus.  Keating's prime ministership was based on his “big picture” image as a leader seeking national re-invigoration and new defin­itions of Australian identity.

He was never without an opportunity to speak on these issues: even when announcing the Australian of the Year in 1995, Keating managed to reduce Arthur Boyd's entire artistic oeuvre to an attempt to distil the essence of Australia on canvas!

As Alan Atkinson says, politicians - especially Keating _ are often confused about what they mean by Australian identity. Sometimes, they mean our profile in the world; sometimes, what they think about themselves. "If he feels more excited and dis­tinctive as a leader among leaders, it ought to follow (in his view) that we should feel more significant as Australians."

It is the prime minister's task, Atkinson says, to build our profile in the world. It is not Australians' task to colour themselves to match his profile.  For a government that had been almost a decade in power and was about to go to the polls at a time of high unemployment and economic recession, the republic provided Keating with a means of reinvigorating the government and distinguishing his prime ministership from that of his predecessor.

He used it, too, to paint the Liberals as un-Australian to distract Labor supporters from his free market policies and also to drive a wedge into the liberal Party. Sufficient numbers of liberal politicians succumbed to this tactic.

Keating's drive for a republic was encouraged by Paul Kelly, then editor-in-chief of Rupert Murdoch's flagship newspaper, The Australian. From the time of Keating's appointment as prime minister, The Australian maintained a consistently pro-republican line, regularly leading editorials with sympathetic headlines such as "Our republic a historic opportunity".

Keating planned to change the flag and the constitution before the centenary of the federation. But he was defeated in 1996, but not before his rival, John Howard, had decided to neutralise the issue in the election by adopting a policy of calling a constitutional convention to consider the matter.

The trail set by The Australian was to be followed even more vigorously in more recent years by The Sydney Morning Herald. Once Sydney's conservative newspaper, the Herald, relieved of the patrician stewardship of the Fairfax family, has given itself over to a series of small “l” liberal causes. Newspaper editors around the country have followed. Now, an editor or journalist who is not a Republican is a rare bird indeed.

This sudden rush of republicanism among the political establishment and the elites was remarkable, given that only eight years ago, the mere suggestion that republicanism would play a central role in Australian politics would have been thought absurd.

The convergence of a Labor prime minister wearing a streak of republican nationalism like a badge of honour, the London media's intrusion into the private lives of the Royal Family and the birth of the ARM have assisted the growth of republicanism. But this was still essentially a vague idea of removing the Crown, not for a specific constitutional model.

For the ARM, Keating and the Australian, there has been a common desire to address what they see as a need for a singularly Australian concept of national identity that would not be shared with Britain, nor presumably with Canada or even New Zealand. There is little evidence that Australians are interested in going down this path.

In February 1999, the Bulletin Morgan Poll on the three most important things the "federal government should be doing something about" ranked "the republic vs the monarchy and flag issues" at 4 per cent, up from I per cent. Employment (53 per cent), health (37 per cent) and education (35 per cent) were the leading issues.

This was after years of massive media promotion of Republican issues, as well as the government-created and funded Republic Advisory Committee and the Constitutional Convention of 1998.

Historians and political scientists have discussed narrow republicanism for years. But this discussion has remained limited to the elite, found mainly in academia and the opinion pages of the broadsheet press. While the rhetoric is about a republic as a vehicle for 'inclusion', there are few signs that Australian women or Australian Aboriginals are about to lead the Republican charge.

The republican debate in Australia has narrowed to a point where the agitators now concede that the aims of official republicanism are actually embraced by the existing constitution. The Republic Advisory Committee even admitted that it may be appropriate to regard Australia as a "crowned republic". There has also been a partial concession made in the nationalist Republican debate now that the  "cultural cringe" has absolutely no relevance.

A politician’s republic is now claimed to be only about how to express the Australian identity. It is no longer whether the Australian identity is distinct from a British one. Everybody knows that it is and probably always was.

As Mark McKenna writes, the republican debate is, therefore, no longer about whether we are British or Australian - it is about "how we wish to be Australian". Official ARM Republicans would do well to remember the wisdom that prevailed a century ago when our present constitution was adopted.

Sir Henry Parkes said that our constitutional system would "not come to meet with wild ravings of some person who may call out 'Republicanism', without the slightest knowledge of what he is talking about.

The 1999 referendum

The story about the referendum is set out in more detail in another section of this site. Suffice it to say although enjoying considerable political, media and financial support, the referendum was defeated in 1999, nationally, in all states and in 72% of electorates.

The Australian Republican Movement did not go into liquidation as it promised before the referendum. It has, however, changed into an umbrella organisation trying to include once mortal enemies, conservative Republicans and those who wish to have a general election to fill the presidency, a matter considered elsewhere.



[Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston (19 March 1764 – 5 January 1823) was a British military officer who served as Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales, Australia, after leading the rebellion later known as the Rum Rebellion.]

Parliamentary Democracy

The French, the Spanish, and the Portuguese did not transmit the parliamentary concept to their colonies, as the British did to their American colonies long before independence and as they did to Australia. Why? Because they could not. The other European powers, with the possible exception of the Dutch, did not have this concept at home. And the Dutch showed no interest in granting self-government to their colonies.

So parliament, self-government and the Westminster system, the fifth pillar of our nation, came very early to Australia within our one generation of the founding of the penal colony. And Australians quickly adapted to these institutions, making them even more democratic and, thus, more Australian.


Initially, the power of the colonial governor was restricted only by the law and by instructions from London. This power was later tempered by an advisory legislative council and executive council. Gradually the legislative council took on an increasingly representative flavour, and within a surprisingly short period, the executive became responsible to that legislature. This is even more remarkable if we remember that most of the states started as penal colonies. The eminent constitutional authority Professor Lane sees an analogy with seventeenth-century England where "the people had gradually wrested from the crown the power to make law and the power to raise taxes and expend public money".

(Lane, 193) Lane explains that for the first 35 years, the NSW governors "ruled like local monarchs". But they did so strictly under the law they brought with them. The governor legislated, adjudicated and governed: "You should appreciate there was no local legislature or, until 1814, no supreme court, no executive council — none of these restraining institutions." The governor imposed taxation, established and interfered with law courts, civil as well as criminal, took appeals, appointed civil servants, handed out land grants and maintained an armed force, not just for defence but also for law and order.

(Lane, 160) Fortunately, most governors ruled for the benefit of and interests of the people. There is little evidence of corruption or the desire for personal gain. The passing of the New South Wales Act 1823 (4 Geo IV, ch 96) transformed the penal settlement into a civil colony by establishing a legislative council consisting of crown nominees to advise, though not over-rule, the governor. The council was invested with the power "to make laws ... for the peace, welfare, and good government" of the colony. This formula continues to be used in relation to the state parliament's legislative powers. The high court has determined these or similar words to be the formula used by the imperial parliament when it wished to confer the plenary power exercised at Westminster on a colonial legislature: Union Steamship Co. of Australia Pty Ltd v King, (1988) 166 CLR 1. This broad power is in contrast to that which was to be vested in the commonwealth parliament, which was to be a legislature of specific enumerated powers. The colonial parliaments were prohibited from legislating repugnantly to the law of England, a restriction which lingered at the state level until the passing of the Australia Acts 1986. The 1823 act also established the Supreme Courts of New South Wales and Van Diemen's land, with general jurisdiction over "all pleas ... and jurisdiction in all cases whatsoever ... [just as in Her] Majesty's Courts ... at Westminster". Such power continues to be exercised by the State Courts.

Further reform came in 1825 with the inception of an executive council appointed to advise the governor, who remained free to depart from such advice. The great colony founded by Governor Phillip in 1788 was broken into four lesser colonies with the creation of Van Diemen's land in 1825, Victoria in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. Separate colonies were established in Western Australia and the Province of South Australia. Each colony in time, developed similar institutions of government.

The provisions of the Imperial Act of 1823 were further enhanced by the Australian Courts Act 1828 (Geo IV, ch 83), allowing the local courts to apply all the laws and statutes then in force in England and simultaneously allowing such laws to be locally amended (though this did not extend to statutes operating by paramount force until the passing of the Australia Acts, 1986). The act also increased the size of the legislative council.

In 1842 the first signs of representative government emerged with the passing, by the imperial parliament, of "An Act for the Government of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land" or the Australian Constitutions Act No. 1, 1842 (5 & 6 Vic, ch 76) allowing for two-thirds of the 36 members of the legislative council to be directly elected. A minority of members were still nominated, qualification for voting rested on stipulated property ownership, emancipists were prohibited from voting, and the governor still controlled the executive. Nevertheless, Lane sees this as a great turning point.

He says that we can identify three basic constitutional doctrines expressly found in the 1842 Act. "No taxation without representation": that is, the newly constituted people's institution was to make laws, including the tax laws. "The financial initiative of the crown": that is, the governor must first recommend to the legislature the purpose for which public money was to be appropriate. "Parliament controls the expenditure of public money": that is, an appropriation of (most) revenue must be made by the legislature, and in no other manner.
The second Australian Constitutions Act, 1850, "An Act for the better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies" (13 & 14 Vic, ch 59) brought similar reforms to the other colonies (except for the Moreton Bay district – Queensland –which was attached to the New South Wales legislative council.
Until 1859).

This act was extremely important. It empowered the various colonies to draft their own constitutions, although they were still to be approved by the Colonial Office in London before being presented for the Queen's assent. Thus the documents that were to become the state constitutions were, as Lane puts it, "essentially homegrown, even if monitored by the Imperial authorities". (Lane, 194) They were never imposed by London. And this was half a century before the federal constitution. In each of these cases, the constitutions for the Australian states provided for a bicameral legislature. At least the lower house was elective, and the beginnings of a cabinet system of responsible government emerged. This was to mean that each of the crown's advisers was a minister of state sitting in the legislature, thus rendering the executive answerable to parliament.

Lane observes that the development of the legislative council in each of the colonies brought about constitutional monarchy in Australia.
In time it became wholly elective. It progressively took over power to make laws and raise taxes. Lane stresses that ours is a constitutional monarchy, a system of government in which the crown does not exercise absolute power, only limited power under the constitution. In particular, the crown is advised by its ministers, who are answerable, through parliament, to the people. (Lane, 193)

The state governors survive as living symbols of the process of evolution from rule to representative and responsible government under the crown and as constitutional umpires and auditors.


King George entertained Dominion leaders at Buckingham Palace in 1944Left to right: Peter Fraser (New Zealand), John Curtin (Australia), Winston Churchill Great Britain), King George VI, William Mackenzie King (Canada), Jan Smuts (South Africa).
King George entertained Dominion leaders at Buckingham Palace in 1944
Left to right: Peter Fraser (New Zealand), John Curtin, Winston Churchill,
King George VI, William Mackenzie King George entertained Dominion leaders at Buckingham Palace in 1944
Left to right: Peter Fraser (New Zealand), John Curtin (Australia), Winston Churchill Great Britain), King George VI, William Mackenzie King (Canada), Jan Smuts (South Africa).

The Crown has been an established component of the Australian constitutional system since the country's inception. Despite facing challenges such as the Second World War, it has endured and continues to serve as a crucial mechanism for checks and balances. The current campaign by the Republican party marks the fourth major effort to eliminate the Crown's role, but its integral place in our language and culture cannot be denied.

The first significant Republican movement was in the nineteenth century. Its aim was to establish a white racist republic free of the immigration policy of the British Empire. This faded away with the movement to the Federation, with the Commonwealth of Australia endowed with an express power to establish a national immigration policy.

The second and longest campaign was to create a communist state similar to the East European Peoples’ Republics established after the Second World War.   Its proponents never made the slightest impact in Australia electorally, notwithstanding their control of several key strategic unions.

The third was initiated by the Australian Republican Movement and promoted by Paul Keating when he was Prime Minister. Its object was to graft onto the constitution a republic, but initially only at the federal level. In this republic, the president would be appointed by parliament.  Although a string of implausible reasons for the change was advanced by senior Republican figures, ranging from reducing unemployment and the brain drain to stopping Australian expatriates from being taken for Britons,  the raison d’être of their campaign was that only a republic could provide an Australian Head of State.

Their formidable political and media campaign culminated in the 1999 referendum, which was defeated nationally and in all states. The Republican movement said that whatever the result in 1999, it would close down. However, it has mounted the present and fourth campaign for an Australian republic.

The significant differences now are. First, the movement is unwilling or unable to specify the model or any details of the change it wants. Secondly, the movement calls for holding a plebiscite or, according to one faction, two plebiscites

The Early Years

The more radical form of nineteenth-century Australian republicanism is distinguishable from the conservative tradition by its emphasis on nationalism. Dr Mark McKenna argues that this is a Labor tradition. But it was broader than that, and not all those associated with Labor were Republicans.

Indeed, all Australian Labor prime ministers were monarchists, with the exception of Bob Hawke – an indifferent Republican in office, and Paul Keating. (Gough Whitlam became Republican after, and probably because of, his dismissal.) The best-known early nationalist Republicans came to prominence well before the birth of the Labor Party.  Today, many official Republicans seek to frame republicanism as a choice between Australian independence and fealty to the former mother country.

John Dunmore Lang was a Scottish-born Australian Presbyterian minister, writer, historian, politician and activist. He was the first prominent advocate of an independent Australian nation and of Australian republicanism.
John Dunmore Lang was a Scottish-born Australian Presbyterian minister, writer, historian, politician and activist. He was the first prominent advocate of an independent Australian nation and of Australian republicanism.

This was certainly Paul Keating's position, and it was also true of the radical nineteenth-century Republicans, at least until the end of the transportation of convicts and the rise of responsible government in Australia.  The first noteworthy great republican figure of the nineteenth century was undoubtedly the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, a minister of religion. He also had the habit of collecting money from new immigrants on the basis that they would immediately receive land grants. They did not. As a result, he was sent to gaol- until his supporters raised sufficient funds to release him.

Needless to say, this did not help the reputation of the Republican cause. The Sydney Morning Herald described Lang as "arrogant, intolerant, and a scheming charlatan".  NSW Premier Sir Henry Parkes and other colonial leaders soon saw that linking republicanism to self-government would be fatal. They distanced themselves from Lang, who attempted to reform his Republican League, with a targeted membership of 10,000.

A public meeting was called on Australia Day 1854 for the launch, but only thirty people attended. Lang's bleak Republican dawn brings to mind Tony Abbott's comment that some of the 1993 public meetings across the country called by Paul Keating’s Republican Advisory Committee (with generous taxpayer funding and with all those Republican celebrities) could have been held in a telephone booth.

A White Republic

We received an email from a student doing research on 'Why didn't Australia become a republic in 1901'. The student asked for assistance “in understanding Australia's resistance to forming a republic in 1901”.  We pointed out that the way in which the colonies united to form our nation was unique in that it was not only debated in the mainly elected conventions but was actually approved by the people. Unlike the United States, we have verbatim records of all the debates in several conventions and voluminous records of public consultations and discussions.

There is no record of any “resistance” to a republic - it was not an issue. There was a consensus that the new parliament would operate under the Westminster system with the Crown at the centre of the constitutional system.

The only significant republics in the world at that time were France, the United States and Switzerland. The latter two had been through civil wars that century, and France had experienced several violent changes in the regime. The British seemed to be the most advanced system, for it combined stability with democracy under the rule of law. It had been copied not only in the British Empire but also in Europe.

The time when republicanism was an issue in Australia was not at the Federation, but some decades before. This began around the time of the gold rush when a movement developed for a white Australian policy. But the British imperial authorities were opposed to any discriminatory immigration policy. So the more radical thought this could only be achieved by secession as a white republic.

An influential journal, The Bulletin, led this movement. This was founded by J.F. Archibald, who financed the magnificent fountain bearing his name in Hyde Park, Sydney.  For a small population, the circulation of the journal was very high and, at times, reached around 80,000.  The motto on the journal’s masthead was “Australia for the White Man”, a motto which still existed until it was taken over by Sir Frank Packer in 1961.

Interest in a separate white racist republic waned with the movement to the federation. Among the powers of the new Parliament was one over immigration. To try to circumvent British displeasure with the White Australia Policy, a South African-style discretionary dictation test was introduced.

Republicans today are embarrassed when it is pointed out that their most significant predecessors were those in the nineteenth century who were principally interested in a racist republic and those in the twentieth century who wanted to impose a Soviet-style peoples’ republic onto the nation.

A Very Racist Republic

While there is a strong nationalistic republican tradition in early Australian history, it would seem curious that there is little reference to this by contemporary official republicans who nevertheless loudly appeal to patriotic sentiments.

The reason is simple: many early patriotic Republicans embraced embarrassing doctrines. Late nineteenth-century republicanism was dominated by the leading Australian journal at the time, The Bulletin. In 1888, 40,000 people attended an anti-Chinese demonstration in the Sydney domain.

The Bulletin said, "Australia had to choose between independence and infection, between the Australian Republic and the Chinese leper".  The Bulletin wanted an Australian form of ethnic cleansing: the expulsion of all Asians. Little is said of these antecedents within the present Republican movement. Certainly not from Robert Hughes, the Australian-born critic of Time magazine, who, at a rally in 1996, tried to draw some tenuous link between our constitution and racism.

He clearly overlooked nineteenth-century Australian republicanism.

The Bulletin attacked Joseph Chamberlain, the British colonial secretary when Royal Assent refused the Queensland Sugar Works Guarantee Amending Bill, which banned coloured labour.

On 22 June 1901, the year of federation, The Bulletin observed: “If Judas Chamberlain can find a black, or brown or yellow race.... That has as high a standard of civilisation and intelligence as the whites, that was progressive ... as brave, as sturdy, as good nation-building material, and that can intermarry with the whites without the mixed progeny showing signs of deterioration, that race is welcome.”

The Bulletin's racism was to linger well beyond its republicanism. Only within living memory did it suppress the motto on its front page masthead: "Australia for the White Man".

It is true that there were attempts by the Labor movement in the 1880s to link the maintenance of monarchical institutions with the persistence of social inequality in Australia. But by the end of the next decade, when Labor politicians began taking their seats in the colonial parliaments - not to mention their oaths of allegiance - it became apparent that reform could best be encouraged through the existing institutions.

It was generally agreed that the monarch was no obstacle to reform. The Brisbane-based Boomerang, for instance, explained in 1890 that:

“Unless republicanism is thoroughly progressive and democratic practically, as well as nominally, we might as well remain exactly as we arc, Because we are discontented with King Log we do not want to place ourselves in the hands of President Stork ... The republic we want is a land of free men whereon the government rests on the people, and is by them with them and for them. No other form of republicanism will suit us not even though it does a few who follow the will-o-the-wisp of a mere name.”

Mark McKenna concludes that the Labor movement realised that Australia's monarchical institutions were as amenable to social democratic government guaranteeing equality as they were to the laissez-faire capitalist policies of the conservatives.

It became equally apparent to that most nationalistically republican of journals, The Bulletin, that abolition of the monarchy was no longer a practical necessity.

It conceded that the monarchy was practically unobjectionable so long as it was understood that the British monarch held his or her position by the nation's will and for the nation's convenience.

Federal Conventions: Only One Republican Delegate

In fact, only one delegate at the nineteenth-century constitutional conventions argued for the end of the monarchy. He was George Richard Dibbs, the Premier of New South Wales. When he visited London, he accepted a knighthood. The Bulletin referred to him as Sir George Republican Dibbs.

Sir George Richard Dibbs KCMG (12 October 1834 – 5 August 1904) was an Australian politician who was Premier of New South Wales on three occasions. He became Premier on 17 January 1889 but was succeeded by Parkes seven weeks later. When Parkes resigned in October 1891, Dibbs came into power following the 1891 New South Wales election, with Labour support, in a time of great financial stress. He went to England in June 1892 on a borrowing mission, not only as the representative of New South Wales but also of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and carried out his negotiations successfully. During the banking crisis of May 1893, he showed himself to be a firm leader, saving the situation in Sydney by giving the banks the power to issue inconvertible paper money for a period. However, most of them failed to take advantage and went bankrupt. In 1893, his electoral reform removed rural over-representation. He was elected as the member for Tamworth in 1894. He later received a substantial public testimonial for his services at this time. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in July 1892.

George Richard Dibbs, the Premier of New South Wales. When he visited London, he accepted a knighthood. The Bulletin referred to him as Sir George Republican Dibbs.
George Richard Dibbs is the Premier of New South Wales. When he visited London, he accepted a knighthood. The Bulletin referred to him as Sir George Republican Dibbs.

Banjo Paterson wrote a ballad of GR Dibbs:

This is the story of G.R.D.,
Who went on a mission across the sea
To borrow some money for you and me.

This G. R. Dibbs was a stalwart man
Who was built on a most extensive plan,
And a regular staunch Republican.

But he fell in the hands of the Tory crew
Who said, "It's a shame that a man like you
Should teach Australia this nasty view."

From her mother's side, she should ne'er be gone,
And she ought to be glad to be smiled upon,
And proud to be known as our hanger-on."

And G. R. Dibbs, he went off his peg
At the swells, who came for his smiles to beg
And the Prince of Wales -- who was pulling his leg
And he told them all when the wine had flown,
"The Australian has got no land of his own,
His home is England, and there alone."

So he strutted along with the titled band
And he sold the pride of his native land
For a bow and a smile and a shake of the hand.

And the Tory drummers they sit and call:
"Send over your leaders great and small;
For the price is low, and we'll buy them all
With a tinsel title, a tawdry star
Of a lower grade than our titles are,
And a puff at a prince's big cigar."

And the Tories laugh till they crack their ribs
When they think about how they purchased G. R. Dibbs.

The Bulletin, 27 August 1892.

The realisation that there is little or no reason to complain about a monarchy  that is there only as long as the nation wants it, and holds its  powers in trust for the nation has been expressly acknowledged  by Queen Elizabeth herself at her golden wedding celebrations at the Guildhall in 1997:

" ... an hereditary constitutional monarchy  exists only with the support and consent of the people. "

Australia’s 'nineteenth-century republicanism, while it lasted, was overtly racist,  based on a narrow, isolationist and exclusive image of Australia as a white man's land. It was motivated by a fear of Asian immigration.

And these Republicans were also dismissive of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Mark McKenna concludes, "There is no heroic pantheon of  republican antecedents in Australia."

The second republican movement: bolshevism

By way of contrast with Australia’s first republican movement, the earlier twentieth-century republican movement, from the First World War until about the sixties, was at most times not racist. However, its allegiance was certainly not to the Crown but rather to a foreign government.

That allegiance was wholly and totally to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the name of the old Russian communist empire. The members and supporters of the Communist Party of Australia denounced and sought to undermine the Second World War while Stalin was in alliance with Hitler, with a secret deal on how to partition Poland.

When Hitler turned on Stalin, they declared war just. This did not stop them from actively sabotaging the war effort when they saw it advancing their aims and when such sabotage did not damage their beloved USSR. The USSR gave the Party not only its direction but also substantial financial assistance.

The Party did not achieve any significant electoral support in Australia, never winning a seat in the federal parliament, even with their apparent support for the war and talk of a united front, the Stalinist tactic at the time.

But they managed to occupy commanding positions in the trade unions, particularly those of strategic importance to the defence of the Commonwealth. Although against the rules, they sought to infiltrate the ALP and influence it. The damaging post-war split in the ALP and the formation of the Democratic Labor Party was a result.

A communist republic

Before the split, the ALP Industrial Groups in the union movement were the only significant opponents of communist control. Heavily influenced by the Catholic Church but not exclusively Catholic, they gradually removed the communists from a large number of trade unions.

In fact, it was a renowned constitutional monarchist, Dr Frank McGrath (formerly His Honour, Mr Justice McGrath), who was instrumental in breaking the grip of the communists on the Federated Ironworkers Association. This seemed to contradict the story that the late Whitlam government minister, Jim McClelland, had actually done this.

According to Frank Rooney, a prominent anti-communist trade union leader, Jim McLelland was never part of the team and came into the picture only after the battle had been won.  Then, a young articled clerk, Frank McGrath, was working with a firm of solicitors in 1951 in a challenge to a recent union election.

During the hearing, he signalled to the junior barrister, later Governor-General Sir John Kerr, that he had discovered something.  With the aid of the rays of the sun streaming into the courtroom, a number of impressions of “ticks” clearly came through on the disputed ballot papers tendered as evidence. Obviously, stacks of blank ballot papers were being filled in by one person at a time.

Frank McGrath was to spend days in the witness box. On the strength of his evidence and that of handwriting experts, Mr Justice Dunphy found that Laurie Short had actually been elected as general secretary and that new elections for the other offices must be held. (This story is told in Frank Rooney, Dictators within the Labor Party of Australia, edited by Dr Amy McGrath, Towerhouse Publications, Sydney, 2005 )

Unlike today’s Republican movement, the communist Republicans did not pretend they had no model. They wanted to turn Australia into a workers’ paradise - a people’s republic on the East European model. They never explained why people were always trying to escape from, and not into, their peoples’ republics.

Australia’s second republican movement was long subsidized by and under the instructions of the Soviet Union. Without the Soviet Union, it would have been impoverished and directionless. It is unlikely that it would have been able to occupy the positions of significance it did in the trade union movement and in political life.

Communism and monarchy

It is interesting to speculate what would have happened in Russia had not the German High Command smuggled Lenin in a sealed train into Russia with the intention of weakening and neutralizing the Russian Government.

When the Bolsheviks eventually seized power, it could not have been said they had a popular mandate. But with power, they were able to change Russia.

Had they not come into power, there would have been no significant Communist Party of Australia and no second Republican movement.  So, how did the Tsarist system compare with the subsequent Soviet regime? Were the Soviet republics, as we were constantly told, a great improvement?

Oleg Gordievsky is one of the highest-ranking and most valuable KGB defectors. He was a Colonel of the KGB and the bureau’s rezidentura in London but became disillusioned with the Soviet system.

He defected to the United Kingdom in 1985. In a letter to The Independent on July 21, 1998, he wrote:

“Russia under Nicholas II, with all the survivals of feudalism, had opposition political parties, independent trade unions and newspapers, a rather radical parliament and a modern legal system. Its agriculture was on the level of the USA, with industry rapidly approaching the Western European level.  [In contrast] in the USSR there was total tyranny, no political liberties and practically no human rights. Its economy was not viable; agriculture was destroyed. The terror against the population reached a scope unprecedented in [human] history.  No wonder many Russians look back at Tsarist Russia as a paradise lost.”

Can you imagine what our second Republican movement could have done with Australia?




So Australians set up a balance of power. The Governor-General (and only the Governor-General, not the Queen) can sack the Prime Minister if he or she acts unconstitutionally. On the other hand, the Prime Minister can advise the Queen to sack the Governor-General if he or she misbehaves. The former situation happened in 1975, while the latter situation has not yet arisen.

The Governor-General is sworn to uphold the Constitution and acts in one sense as an impartial 'umpire' in the case of an irreconcilable dispute between the House of Representatives and the Senate, elected as they are on different electoral bases but with equal powers (except over money bills). A republic will seriously impair the present system of checks and balances if that referee becomes a party political politician either before, at the time of, or after the election. Some other machinery must be devised to replace the impartial umpire we now have.

In 2001 we will celebrate a century of the success of this written Constitution, which created our nation of Australia in 1901. It is the heart of Australia. Its operation is our national heartbeat. Under this Australian-designed Constitution, we have become the sixth oldest working democracy in the world—stable, free, independent and sovereign both in law and in fact. We have fought two World Wars and done this without military coups, uprisings, riots, insurrections, civil wars or even prolonged political crises.

Elizabeth II is Queen of 16 nations, including the Pacific-Rim nations of Canada, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, as well as Australia. Instead of having sixteen separate monarchies, one person, the Queen, is able to be the monarch of each, and 16 local monarchies are not necessary. Except for the United Kingdom, where the Queen is both the symbolic and active Head of State, each of the other nations has a different local Governor-General as an active constitutional Head of State.

Queen Elizabeth II is also Head of the Commonwealth of 1.6 billion people, a free association of 53 countries from every continent in the world. She is our symbolic, personal tie with a sixth of the world's multi-racial population. The system of government by constitutional monarchy has behind it centuries of successful history and works well for us both federally and in every State. It also works well in Europe (e.g. Spain, Sweden, Norway and UK) and in Asia (e.g., Japan, Malaysia and Thailand), as well as the previously mentioned Pacific-Rim countries (indeed Fiji has also expressed a wish to revert to constitutional monarchy). There is no compelling reason for Australia to abandon it.

What do the Republicans want to do with this success story? They say they want a republic, but of course, Australia will need seven republics, one nationally and one in every State. Seven presidents. Seven presidential palaces? Seven presidential jets? Seven new Constitutions? Of 116 republics in the world, only two are older continuous democracies than Australia—USA and Switzerland. Which of the 116 models do they really want for us?
In a democratic republic, the Constitution must provide how a president is to be selected, given powers and then controlled or dismissed. Do Republicans want a president elected by the people (estimated to cost $50 million each election plus the costs of elections of the presidents in each State), or for the politicians to instal one of their own through parliamentary elections engineered by themselves? Either way no one in the smaller States will have a hope of having an effective say at the national level. And only politicians or millionaires will ever be able to stand for popular election. Some improvement!

What powers will republicans give a new president? The Governor-General has the power to appoint and dismiss all Ministers, to call and dismiss parliament and command the armed forces. Who wants to politicise these powers by giving them to a political president? When the Governor-General loses them, will the president get them or will the Prime Minister grab them?

If a president is to replace our present independent constitutional umpire, the Governor-General, he or she will be or become a politician and will pull on the jersey of one side or other, thus becoming a major political player. This has already happened in republics such as France, USA, Pakistan and India. Political tension and instability will be the new order of the day.

Whatever powers the President gets, to remove him or her will need provisions for removal or impeachment, and the US experience of President Nixon's impeachment was woeful. Not just our present system of a quick telephone call to the Palace but a drawn out legal and parliamentary battle!
A republic may necessitate changing our flag and our National Anthem, and many republicans say they want it to change us and how we see ourselves! We have already seen one republican Premier seize Government House and use it for his own Ministry, that of the Arts. Alleged savings of $2 million a year have resulted in fact in greater expenses of $600 000 a year! Already a site is set aside in Canberra for the new presidential palace.
A republic will jeopardise what we now enjoy, our political stability, our national unity, our flag, our anthem, our theory of government and our sense of ourselves. This republicans claim is its purpose.

A republic will do nothing to improve unemployment, trade, the economy, poverty levels or our national debt. It will only divide the nation, which is to nobody's advantage. Our present system works well, and keeps the politicians in their place. It is safer to stick with what we have, celebrate it as one undivided nation in 2001, and count our blessings. Not only is it risky to change, but the present system has considerable virtues. What then are the advantages of our present system?

Firstly it divides the power from the glory: either one can have the prestige of the Governor-General and act on advice, or one can be Prime Minister and give the advice, but unlike USA one cannot have both the power and the glory, be Head of State and Head of Government at the one time.
Our system of constitutional monarchy ensures there is normally only one centre of power, the Crown and its current ministers, with an ultimate balance of power between them, whereas any republican system has to balance president against Congress or Parliament, or, as in Ireland, place all the power with the parliament.

Our Australian adaptation of the Westminster system, where the Crown is served by Ministers without whose advice the Crown does not act is extremely flexible and responsive to the perceived will of the people. Our constitution does not mention the Prime Minister but we all know that he or she is politically all-powerful. But a Prime Minister is only as safe as the last vote of his or her colleagues. If they decide that they will be better off without him or her, then, without any further election, a change can be made immediately. No one votes for a Prime Minister directly except his or her colleagues. Unlike USA, where a president unless he dies, resigns or is impeached exercises power for four year terms, Prime Ministers can be shuffled on and off in a matter of days, depending on the perceived will of the people.

Again it is unnecessary in a constitutional monarchy to codify the powers of the Head of State, as they are normally only exercised on advice, and if not the representative can be removed instantly: in a republic it would be unsafe to leave such presidential powers uncodified and risk power struggles between a virtually un-removable president and a prime minister.

Codification (or the complete writing down) of each and every power to be given to a president has difficult consequences. Even assuming you can correctly write the powers down (and there is a good deal of controversy about what they actually are now, and even more about when and how they can be exercised), what is their status and effect to be? If they are laws (as part of the Constitution), then they must be open to challenge, interpretation and enforcement by the High Court. Such action by the High Court will inevitably lead it into exercising power in the heart of the Executive Government, from which it is presently excluded by the doctrine of the separation of powers envisaged in the Constitution. This occurs, for instance, in republics such as Pakistan.

If, however, as some eminent legal commentators propose (e.g. Professors A. Blackshield and G. Winterton), the powers are merely codified and then expressed to be 'non-justiciable', i.e. not subject to the jurisdiction of the High Court (or any other court), what is the possible utility of doing it? If it is merely the pious hope that a future president I will be shamed into observing them, the absence of any sanction if he or she does not do so will certainly not constrain a president without shame. By giving a false sense of constitutional or even political security that they will (or ought to) be followed, unjusticiable codification could be extremely dangerous by giving the illusion of security where none in fact exists.

Thus the system of constitutional monarchy has many benefits that are difficult to replicate in a republic. There is also a sense in which all are equal under the Crown which can be lost in a republic which elevates and semi-deifies a president. While in both systems there appears to be a strong dislike and distrust of politicians, such odium does not usually attach to a monarch, who remains above politics, or a vice-regal representative who is similarly above the political fray.

There is also often little thought given to the advantages that being a constitutional monarchy has given us in a sense of ourselves. For instance every valid executive act since 1788 has been done in the name of the Crown, initially acting on the advice of the British ministers and now acting only on the advice of Australian ministers. Just as Canada relishes its difference from USA by stressing its links with the Crown of Canada and avoiding the political excesses of presidential rule in USA, so too, not having a president lets us stand out in the galaxy of nations.

Our links with the Crown make us inheritors of a system of government that has evolved over a thousand years, the second oldest institution in Europe after the Papacy. It has prevented civil war in England since the mid-seventeenth century, a very enviable record even when compared with the great republic of the USA. It has prevented dictatorship in Britain and its former colonies since Lord Protector Cromwell and his son in 1660, and has given us a true love of freedom where all are equal before the law.

Why should we now risk reversing the successful outcome of a thousand years' constitutional struggle to pander to the vanity and ambition of those who say 'why can't I be president instead of only governor-general?'. The Turnbull report noted that the mere creation of a president would give the office-holder 'a more prominent role in Australian life simply because he or she would not be just a representative of the Queen, but Australia's head of state in his or her own right'.

Of course the Governor-General is much more than 'just the representative of the Queen'. The Keating Government's Republican Advisory Committee (from which all constitutional monarchists were deliberately excluded) at p 34 reported:
The Governor-General 's position is significantly different from that of the Queen. While her powers and duties under the Constitution are few, the Governor-General is the central figure in the text of the Constitution.

Later the report very usefully sets out many of the powers given to the Governor-General. These include the powers to:
Sec. 5: Sec. 32:
Sec. 57: Sec. 58:
Sec. 61: Sec. 64: Sec. 48:
dissolve, prorogue and summon Parliament. issue writs for a general election for the House of Representatives, dissolve both Houses of Parliament simultaneously grant or withhold assent to bills passed by the Parliament and, if he or she wishes, return a bill to Parliament with proposed amendments,
exercise the executive power of the Commonwealth, appoint Ministers of State, act as 'Commander-in-Chief' of the armed forces.

Of the powers conferred on the Governor-General by the Constitution, only four are thought to be exercisable solely at the Governor-General's own discretion, in other words, without or contrary to the advice of Ministers :
the power to appoint the Prime Minister;
the power to dismiss the Prime Minister (and therefore the Government);
the power to refuse to dissolve the House of Representatives under Sec. 5 or both Houses of Parliament under Sec. 57 of the Constitution; and
the power to force a dissolution of the House of Representatives.

But the way he or she acts is limited by a lack of mandate, the duty to use the Queen's powers only as Her Majesty would and the fact that he or she can be removed immediately allsanctions that could not apply in a republic. So there is no doubt that its proponents claim that the intention and effect of a change to a republic will be to enhance and enlarge the role of Head of State. This must diminish the role of the Prime Minister, and establish two centres of power and prestige that may well be at loggerheads and inhibit smooth responsible government such as we have enjoyed for the last century.

The altenative, creating a merely 'ceremonial' president (as is seen in Ireland) will surely mean more power for the Prime Minister and even for the Senate, if there is no impartial constitutional umpire to act as Sir John Kerr did in 1975. Either way, politicians (president, prime minister or senators) will get more unrestrained power over us. So why do it? You have been warned!


A good debater should be able to speak for or against a proposition at any time, and as experience grows, with less and less preparation. Debating is the art of persuasion. If it is adjudicated, it is traditionally marked on Manner, Matter and Method. Manner is individual. One can always improve.
These notes are mainly about Matter but with a little Method thrown in. They should enable anyone involved in the debate on this issue to argue for or against any of the major propositions in the constitutional debate now exercising Australians.

For every proposition, there is an answer, a counter-proposition, a telling quotation or a method of invalidation of the proposition. Sometimes debaters do this by avoiding the issue by changing the ground rules of the debate, by a closer analysis of the terms used, the assumptions made or even the emotions employed.

The result in a debate is usually decided by an independent adjudicator or an unprejudiced audience, especially if the topic is non¬controversial, e.g. 'Venus needed more Milo', 'Gender difference is an illusion', 'Might is right', 'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet', and so on. But with the debate on possible changes to the Australian Constitution, debaters will run into hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) prejudices that no amount of logical argument will alter, influence or overcome. At one Melbourne Writers' Festival debate, I had a heckler for my ten minute speech repeat again and again, 'The Irish hate the Queen!' There was no way around his solution to the debate, even had I claimed (correctly) Irish family connection with the ancient Irish King Dermot McMurragh. Whatever I said would have made (and did make) no impression. His mind was made up.

Whether he was a citizen, visitor, migrant, Irish national or just sozzled, I never found out. As the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson had recently enjoyed afternoon tea with the Queen, I guess he was wrong in that instance at least! Much of the prejudice you may encounter is anti-Royal or anti-British, but there is also a lot which is anti-Irish, anti-multicultural or racist. Much depends on perspectives of the debate and prejudices, which are deeply ingrained and sometimes the opposite of that of other participants.

So, I say to all those entering the debate—be truly sensitive to the feelings of others! Argue the issues, not the personalities. Avoid abuse. Avoid silly claims of 'patriotism ', ' racism' or 'xenophobia'. Nearly everybody I have encountered in the debate has wanted the best outcome for Australia. They just disagree on what that is to be.

Finally, the issues are complex. Make sure that whatever argument your opposition uses, you confront it fairly while still advancing your own. Remember that to win a debate, you must attack as well as defend. And make no mistake. Whilst ' Removing the Queen' may seem a simple emotional objective, its results will be very wide-reaching.

The powers of the Head of State go to the very root of government. If they are to be politicised by giving them either to a political president or to the Prime Minister rather than leaving them in the hands of our impartial Governor-General, then the debate about changing the Constitution is about power and substance as well as about emotion!

Lloyd Waddy, RFD QC
National Convenor
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy
Sydney NSW February, 1998


The following definitions are the critical terms used in any debate on whether Australia should remain a constitutional monarchy or become a republic; two very different and alternative systems of government.


This is the most confusing word in the whole debate (except monarchy!). It is used by many people in many different ways, and thus must be defined if minds are to meet. 'Republic' is derived from the Latin words 'res' (things or matters) and 'publica' (common or public). Thus the word's derivation indicates 'things held in common' i.e. public things or matters—as distinct from personal things—one's house, car, family, etc. Historically, 'republic' has been used for constitutional matters, i.e. the public way in which a community is governed.

You will readily see that it does not necessarily imply any particular system of government. There are 116 nations in the world today which claim to be 'republics' —which one is referred to? Say USA, or Ireland or Switzerland or India, and they differ so what is meant by 'republic'? Republics are very old. The most famous is Plato's, expounded over two thousand years ago.

Republics can have monarchs or not. Republics are sometimes defined as representing the sovereignty of the people; that is that all power is seen to derive from 'the people'. But then who are 'the people'? In the most famous modern republic, USA, the foundation documents of the 1770s sound wonderful until you realise (or learn) that they did not include the African Americans and other slaves, who were not liberated until the United States Civil War of 1865. This was long after slavery had been disallowed in England and Wilberforce had stamped out the slave trade as a citizen of a monarchy! To make matters even less clear, as early as the 1860s, a leading journalist (Bagehot) had described the monarchy of the United Kingdom as a 'disguised republic'—a description close enough to the one Australian constitutional monarchists use today—a 'crowned republic'!

If you want to simplify this area, you can avoid the use of 'republic' and just say 'Australia should get rid of the Queen and the monarchy and have a president'. It is in this sense that many (but not all) modern day Australian republicans really mean to use the term. Each republic in the world is different. Some republics are absolute dictatorships. There are not many people proposing a 'dictatorship' republic for Australia. However, history has shown that some republics, such as the (German) Weimar Republic (acclaimed as the most democratic of its time) were not intended to be dictatorships, but unfortunately ended up going this way.

Distinguishing republics

The Turnbull Committee (officially the Keating Government's Republican Advisory Committee) produced a report which summarised many of the types of democratic republics, and their characteristics. One characteristic of a republic is how the president is elected. This may be:
by nomination by some individual or institution;
by selection by an 'electoral' college or a group of people delegated to make a choice on behalf of the nation;
by election by the members of one or more parliaments with or without special majorities;
or by popular election, usually one voter one vote.

However, another characteristic to describe republics is by the powers given to a president. Does the president govern or not (in whole or in part)? If he does, it is called an executive presidency. If not, it is called a ceremonial presidency. A well known example of an executive president is the President of USA, who governs by appointing his own Ministers or Secretaries of State. Congress (the Houses of Parliament—the Senate and the Representatives) merely passes laws and budgets and sometimes overrides the President's vetoes.

A well known ceremonial president is that of Ireland, formerly Mary Robinson. She had no personal authority to govern, but did have a great deal of personal influence as President (she had previously been the leader of the third party in Irish politics, as, say, Cheryl Kernot once led the Democrats in Australia). But if the Presidential Office is to be a purely ceremonial post, this means the powers of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will be increased. Such cenermonial presidencies greatly increase the power of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Some commentators have gone so far as to describe constitutional monarchies, such as Australia, UK or Canada (where all sovereignty is in the people but they choose to retain a constitutional monarch to remain above politics) as 'crowned republics' and compare them with republican models without monarchs.


This term derives from the Greek 'monos' or'alone' and 'archein' or 'to rule'. Thus it technically means rule by one person. In this primary sense, it can be used as a description of anyone who rules on their own--dictator, president, king or noble baron! 'Monarchy' is not necessarily 'hereditary', i.e. passed directly from parent to heir or child. In ancient England the monarch was elected from amongst the King's children. Just as there are types of 'republic', so have we types of monarchy. They are usually grouped as 'absolute' or 'constitutional'. So just like republican presidents, monarchs come in many shapes and sizes!

Absolute monarchy

'Absolute' monarchies were those where the monarch had absolute power. There was no constitutional restriction on what an absolute monarch could do so long as he kept his 'throne' (a shorthand way of saying his power to govern). Many European monarchies were of this type, but it has never been the case in England or UK. Several examples of absolute monarchs were Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the ancient Kings of France.

Constitutional monarchy

'Constitutional' monarchies are those where the powers of the king or queen are subject to a constitution, a series of conventions, and to parliament or something which 'constitutes' or makes up the state. The constitutions vary greatly in their details and leave the monarchs with more or less powers as allowed by those who consent to be governed by them. For example, the Emperor of Japan has only ceremonial functions. He just leads his nation by existing and living. The King of Thailand has powers to summon his ministers who by custom, as a sign of respect, approach him on their knees. Elizabeth II as Queen of the United Kingdom exercises her day to day powers in the United Kingdom only on the advice of her ministers (except for her very limited reserve powers). Nevertheless unless she does assent to Bills from Parliament they would not be legal or binding.

In contrast, as Queen of Australia, while very wide powers are vested in her (that is 'owned' or protected by her), according to the Constitution she cannot exercise (or 'use') any of them. They can only be exercised by her representative, the Governor-General, who also has a lot of additional constitutional powers given to him directly by the Constitution.


A constitution can be described as the arrangements under which a people or nation (or club!) agree to be governed. Like republican presidents, absolute monarchs, and constitutional monarchs, constitutions also come in many shapes and sizes. Yes, you've guessed it, they vary! Sometimes the arrangements are written down in a special document, sometimes in more than one document and sometimes the arrangements are so old no one would ever think of codifying them.

Illustrations of countries where Constitutions were written down in one document are the new republics like our near neighbour, Vanuatu. There are many, many more. Illustrations of countries with a Constitution and other documents would include USA, where there is both a federal Constitution and a Bill of Rights—as well as Constitutions in each of its individual states.

An illustration of a country that does not have a written Constitution at all is the United Kingdom. While there are certainly some famous documents that no one there would ever disobey, such as the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Acts of Settlement, a great deal is left to convention or traditional practices which have evolved and keep evolving. Thus monarchs who had a great deal of power when they had to govern (such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth 1) have been replaced with monarchs who do not govern at all (such as Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 11). Those who do govern in the name of the Crown, the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the other ministers, exercise authority they have won over centuries from the Crown.

The Australian Constitution

If you want to deal with Australia's Constitution, it has two meanings:
1. The Constitution, which came into effect in 1901 as expressed in the document of 128 Sections, and which most people mean by 'our Constitution'. (We shall call it the 'Constitution of 1901'); and
2. The Constitution of 1901 plus all the conventions and practices which go with it which follow from its form as a constitutional monarchy, and bring many (but certainly not all) of the practices of the monarchy in the United Kingdom, together with all the practices of a modern representative democracy with responsible government.

For instance, there is no doubt that the head of government in Australia is the Prime Minister, the most powerful person in the land. But nowhere in the written Constitution of 1901 is there any reference to the Prime Minister or for that matter the Cabinet, although Professor Donald Horne, among other republicans, seems to think this is a bad thing. Some republicans and some constitutional monarchists take different views of what 'the Australian Constitution' is. Sometimes they use Meaning 1 and sometimes Meaning 2. Sometimes they slip from one meaning to the other without saying so (or knowing it). Some republicans and constitutional monarchists share the worry that if Australia becomes a republic, many conventions will lose their force or be swept aside. Others (on both sides) say everything important should and can be written down. Still others (on both sides) say they cannot be safely and fully written down at all. Writing everything down is called 'codification'.

It is aggravating, but such is the complexity of the subject that even terms which seem to mean one thing often mean another! But remember, most of our freedoms derive not from the written Constitution of 1901 but are the results of freedoms won in constitutional battles in England long before Australia was settled. These include freedom from confiscation of goods, arbitrary arrest, the right to prompt justice, freedon from confiscation of property, freedom of association, freedom of religion, the right to vote for a parliament which alone can levy taxes, trial by jury, and so on. Conventions These usually mean the unwritten and unenforceable habits or practices by which our system of government actually operates.

A basic convention is that the Queen and each of her representatives, the Governor-General and State Governors, only ever act on advice.  This has been so throughout our history. It has been safe to leave very wide powers with the Crown, and the written Constitution of 1901 in many places mentions 'advice' and in others does not. It is 'safe' because of another convention, that is that the Crown only takes advice from the Prime Minister or his nominated other ministers, who are responsible through the Parliament to the people who elect them at election time. This is 'safe' because of the convention that the Prime Minister is the person who enjoys the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives when Parliament is in being, and can obtain supply (the money to govern) from the Parliament, (the House of Representatives and the Senate, which under our written Constitution are of equal power, unlike in UK).

This rests on another convention, that if a Prime Minister cannot obtain supply (the money to govern), he must resign or advise an election.
It was a dispute over that and the next convention that caused the upheaval of 1975. The Prime Minister ignored or rejected that last convention. This brought into play the next convention (also hotly disputed) that if a Prime Minister could not get supply and would not advise an election, the Crown is entitled to choose another adviser who can and will. Thus, the Governor-General dismissed one Prime Minister and selected another who could get supply and who advised an election, and the choice of government was returned to the voters to decide at an election.

It is disputed whether this was an exercise of the Governor-General's powers under the written Constitution of 1901 or of the so-called unwritten 'reserve powers of the Crown' to act effectively as umpire and ensure that the Constitution (in both senses) was upheld. Controversy over the 1975 political crisis will bedevil the republican debate for years to come. Many constitutional monarchists (but not all) say the Constitution (in both senses) worked very well; the people got an early election and determined the matter. Many Republicans (but not all) say the power of the Senate to block money bills must be broken and the 'reserve powers' be codified (i.e. entirely written down) whether we remain a monarchy or become a republic. Many (on both sides) say they cannot be fully written down. And so it goes on!

Head of State

See Head of State Debate Resolved...

The Queen

To most people, this means Queen Elizabeth II. In Australia, the term 'the Queen' is often also referred to by the term 'the Crown'. This, too, is not as simple as it looks. Where the words 'the Queen' are used in the Constitution of 1901, they then meant 'Queen Victoria', but if the Constitution was to last forever, they meant those who followed her as legitimate monarch, 'her heirs and successors according to law', as the schedule to the Constitution puts it. In 1901, constitutional theory was that the Crown (meaning the Queen and, through her, the system of the monarchy) was indivisible, unable to be divided. It was described as 'The Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland'—a Crown which no longer existed after Ireland became a republic. It seemed simple. There was only one person as monarch. Therefore, there could only be one Queen.

However, slowly, as circumstances changed, it was seen that this was wrong. One person could quite successfully fulfil many separate roles as Queen. Thus it has developed (and republicans readily acknowledge) that there are legal personalities which are quite distinct--Queen of Canada Queen of New Zealand, Queen of Australia, Queen of UK, etc.

The thrones of all these monarchies are occupied by the same person (Elizabeth II) but now are seen to be, and are defined by, their separate roles, where Elizabeth II, as Queen of each, only takes constitutional advice from the people's ministers in that nation, much as company directors or club officials only act on one company's, or club's, affairs at any one time.

The Governor-General

The Commonwealth Government Directory, 1995-1996, issued on the appointment of His Excellency, the Hon. Sir William Deane, defines the role of Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief as:
The Head of State in whom the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested. The Governor-General is also one of the three elements comprising the Commonwealth Parliament. His powers include summoning, proroguing and dissolving Parliament; recommending appropriations; assenting to Bills; issuing writs for general elections; appointing and dismissing Ministers; submitting proposals for referendums; making Proclamations and Regulations; and creating government departments and making statutory appointments.

Republicans may be right when they say that some countries have refused to accept the Governor-General as a Head of State. On the other hand, many more countries have not refused to do so. Sir David Smith, former Official Secretary to five Governors-General, replying to a comment from a former Australian diplomat, states:

"In my experience, the difference has often been due to whether or not our diplomats have known and understood our Constitution and have been able and willing to explain it to their foreign opposite numbers... In our present system, the Governor-General has no fixed term and can be removed by the Queen instantly on the advice of the Prime Minister, who need give no reasons for his advice, but who himself has no fixed term and can himself be removed by his party colleagues at will or, in exceptional circumstances, by the Governor-General.

The Governor-General is our Constitutional Head of State, and in the exercise of his Constitutional duties, he does not act as a delegate or surrogate of the Sovereign. I cite the following evidence:
Lord Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada, 1873; A. Inglis Clark, Studies in Australian Constitutional Law, 1901; W Harrison Moore, The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1902; Lord Haldane during an appeal to the Privy Council by the State Governments, 1922; The Imperial Conference of British Empire Prime Ministers, 1930; Advice from the Commonwealth legal advisers to Prime Minister Menzies, 1953; Advice from the Commonwealth Solicitor-General to Prime Minister Whitlam, 1975; Letter from the Queen's Private Secretary to Speaker Scholes, 1975; Advice from Prime Minister Hawke to the Queen, 1984; Final report of the Hawke Government's Constitutional Commission, 1988; and Statement to Parliament by Prime Minister Keating, 1995.

The view that Australia should become a republic in order to ease the workload of Australian diplomats is as insulting to all Australians as it is to those members of his former profession who do understand our Constitution and who are prepared to stand up for it. I know of at least one country that made a wrong decision about our Constitutional arrangements, whose Government later admitted its mistake and said that it had been made on the basis of incorrect advice from its own officials and subsequently made amends."

The States

Under the Constitution of 1901, Australia is a federation where the States are independent and sovereign in their own areas of responsibility. They are not subservient to the Commonwealth. Each State is itself a constitutional monarchy, and the Queen is part of each Parliament and represented in each State by a local Governor. Each State Governor is appointed by the Queen on the nomination of the State Premier, which is conveyed directly to the Queen and does not go through any Federal or UK ministers. State Governors rank equally with the Governor-General but by courtesy, afford him precedence.

Checks and balances

In any system of government, there must be effective checks and balances. The most fundamental is between the politicians doing what they want and electors voting them out if they don't like what is done. Our checks and balances derive from two sources: the words of the Constitution of 1901 (which established a Federation of States as part of the Commonwealth, each being in its own sphere sovereign and independent in its operation as its own constitutional monarchy under State Governors representing the Queen) and the centuries of inherited practices or conventions (not laws) of the constitutional monarchy on which established basis the Constitution is overlaid.

When the Constitution of 1901 added to the UK system of responsible government (with a Prime Minister drawn from the House of Representatives, where each elector has a vote of approximately equal value), a US-style Senate (where voters vote for 12 Senators in each—very unequal—State), and then gave each House equal power (except in financial matters), there needed to be a neutral constitutional 'umpire' above politics (the Governor-General) to resolve disputes and force the voters to vote again.

The present Constitution (in both senses) provides a very flexible, effective and decisive mechanism to do this. It has been used only once federally (in 1975), and its rarity of use is seen as a sign of its success. However, great controversy exists as to:
(i) whether the powers exist;
(ii) whether they should exist;
(iii) whether the rules of how the powers are exercised should be written down; and
(iv) whether the power of the Senate to deny supply (or the money to govern) to a government should be diminished. Labor oppositions (unsuccessfully) threatened to use the power 169 times before the Coalition used it (successfully) in 1975, so it is a longstanding issue of controversy.

In any republican constitution, it will also be necessary to have checks and balances, and very small amendments to a written text can have very large (and perhaps unforeseen) consequences. In opposing popular election for a president, well-known Republican and former Prime Minister, the Hon. P.J. Keating, said, 'Why would one want to give the powers of a King of England to a virtually unremovable elected president?' Thus, it is apparent to republicans and constitutional monarchists alike that any constitution must have effective checks and balances. The current checks on the Governor-General for which Republicans giving his powers to a president must find acceptable replacements are:

When exercising the powers vested in the Queen by the Constitution of 1901 but which she is denied the exercise of, that being vested solely in the Governor-General, convention binds the Governor-General to exercise them in a non-party-political nature: they are not his personal powers he or she exercises (as they would become in the hands of a president) but the powers of a monarch above politics;
(ii) a Governor-General nominated by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Queen has no political mandate from the people of Australia;
(iii) a Governor-General has no fixed tenure, but being appointed at the Queen's pleasure' can be removed at any time on the advice of the Prime Minister. In contrast, a president elected for a five-year term would not only be virtually unremovable but if parliamentary elections are held every three years, must outlive the parliament which supports him or her (or during which the appointment is made). The president being a political figure, it is highly likely that he or she will often be out of sympathy with the elected parliament and the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the day, leading top considerable political friction and instability.

In Australia, the creation of States in the Constitution of 1901 also created a federal balance of powers, which has altered over the century but which of itself is a form of check and balance on the exercise of political power. Replacing a neutral umpire (the Governor-General) with an elected politician as president will greatly alter that balance of power in a way rejected in the Convention that preceded the Constitution of 1901.



 1. The Constitution is old and out of date.

1.1 It dates from 1901, before planes, television, computers, and the Internet.

1.2 It is a 'horse and buggy' document from a 'horse and buggy' age.

1.3 It has bits in it that are never used.

1.4 If you read it, it is misleading. It suggests inaccuracies, e.g. that the powers of the Governor-General read like those of a dictator:
i) to call and dissolve parliaments;ii) to appoint and dismiss ministers and
iii) to command the armed forces.

1.5 A literal reading tells you very little about how the country is actually governed.

1.6 It has bits left out that should be in it, e.g. there is no reference to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. A literal reading tells you very little about how the country is actually governed.


1. Australia's Constitution of 1901 is not out of date. It is as up-to-date as we, the people who alone can change it, want it to be. As for age, it is only half as old as that of the USA. Its age proves it works and works well.

1.1 It dates from 1901 indeed, a lot later than the US Constitution of 1787, and has proved able to legislate for planes and television (and is working on the Internet!).

1.2 Just as horses and buggies evolved into horseless carriages (motor cars), so the Constitution is a living document which has kept pace with changes in society.

1.3 It does have bits that are never used, but, by definition, they do no harm (so why go to the trouble of having costly referendums to try to get them removed?). But so has the US Constitution, including those that imply a slave-owning society.

1.4 Anything can be misleading if you read it out of context. The context of the written Constitution is the unwritten practices of democratic, responsible government under a Constitutional Monarchy whose conventions and practices, together with the written Constitution, have ensured our freedom from dictatorship since 1901. The Governor-General's powers are restricted by his or her lack of election, mandate, and party-backing. Also a Governor-General serves only at the Queen's pleasure, not for any fixed term, which means that he or she can be dismissed immediately on the advice of the Prime Minister if he seeks to use his powers improperly. Thus, whilst the powers are very wide, his or her position to use them is very restricted. A president would have both a mandate.

1.5 The written Constitution of 1901 exists against a background of Constitutional Monarchy derived from England which has no written constitution at all. Much of this background is called convention (that is practice not having the effect of law) and the Prime Minister and Cabinet are recognised by convention (based on their power of controlling the parliament). There is no need for the Constitution of 1901 to mention them at all.
Thus the written Constitution is only part of our national Constitution. It is wholly based on the age-long practises and conventions of constitutional monarchy, the great benefit of which is its flexibility and ability to adapt to changes. There are other written documents which are also important, the State Constitutions, the Statute of Westminster and the Australia Acts.

1.6 The absence of the Cabinet reflects the fact that it is of little or no legal relevance. It's decisions are given legal effect by the Ministers, or the Governor-General in Executive Council. Equally the party meetings and caucuses are important, but being political bodies are not in the Constitution. The titles of each minister change from time to time—it would be extremely inconvenient to write them into the Constitution.
If you try and write in the Prime Minister and Cabinet, you will never get the people to vote for it. Only the people can change the Constitution by voting 'yes' (by a majority overall and in a majority of States).


 2. Australia needs a Constitution which has not been drawn up by men only.

 2.1 Women did not have a vote for the Constitution and should have one for the republic. Because no women voted for the Constitution, it is not theirs. They never agreed to it. They may not even have wanted it! The Constitution represents the repressive attitudes prevalent in early Australia. We must adopt a new Constitution which is chosen freely by men and women alike.

 2.2 Aborigines were excluded from voting for the Constitution and they too should now be allowed to vote.

 2.3 Federation achieved little for those Australians who were female or indigenous.

 2.4 The repressive attitudes towards women and Aborigines, of which the Constitution was a product, can only be remedied by Australia becoming a republic.


 2. Never mind who drew it up, the real achievement was that it was drawn up well to benefit all. In the nineteenth century, there were no women in public office anywhere (except Queen Victoria!) so were we not to move to nationhood and Federation because of that? The draftsmen were no more archaic in their attitudes than those who drafted the US Constitution.

 2.1 Some Australian women were entitled to vote in 1900, and where they had the franchise or right to vote (such as in South Australia) presumably did so. But it is true that most women did not vote and were not entitled to vote anywhere in the world. In 1900, it was a male dominated world, to be true. New Zealand and Australia led the world in giving women the right to vote, but Colony by Colony.

 2.2 Not so. In those Colonies where they were permitted to vote, other than Queensland and Western Australia, Aborigines on the rolls could vote and presumably did so. Certainly not all Aborigines were entitled to vote in 1900.

 2.3 The introduction of the new Commonwealth of Australia hastened the granting of the right to vote to Australian women and well before r the referendum of 1967 (approved by the biggest majority of votes ever), all Aborigines (men and women) were given  the right to vote. All eventually benefited from the advantages of the new nation.

 2.4 Whatever its origin in 1901, since they have had the vote, both women and indigenous Australians play an equal democratic part in amending the Constitution, so in that sense it too has become theirs. The Constitution does not discriminate against women or Aborigines.


3.1 Australia is not independent while it has the Queen.

3.1.1 Becoming a republic will make us more independent.

 3.2 The Queen takes advice from British ministers. It is their advice alone that she accepts in all matters of state.

 3.3 The Queen is seen by the world as representing UK and not Australia, which creates confusion. This problem can only be avoided by Australia becoming a republic.

3.4 Australia must be seen as an independent nation, not tied to the apron strings of Britain in any way. The Governor-General does not have the profile of other presidents and monarchs.

3.5 The composition of Australia's population has changed and therefore a Queen drawn from Britain is inappropriate.

3.6 The Queen cannot represent the non-English component of our population, e.g. Australians of South East Asian and Pacific descent.


 3.1 Australia is completely and utterly constitutionally independent. The Queen, as Queen of Australia, is actually a legal entity separate from the Queen of New Zealand or the Queen of Canada, etc.

3.1.1 A republic cannot make us more independent because we are as independent as we can possibly be.
As long ago as 1926 the Imperial Conference of the UK and Dominion (Australia, Canada, NZ etc) Prime Ministers declared:
i) that the Governor-General of a Dominion would stand in the same relationship to his Dominion Parliament as the King then did to the UK Parliament; and
ii) that the King would only pay State (overseas) visits to other countries on behalf of the UK, and that Governors-General would do so on behalf of the other dominions etc. and be treated as a Head of State. Canada's Governor-General paid the first such visit in 1927. Australia's Governor-General first did so in 1971, and since has paid more than 49 State and official visits to 32 foreign countries. Furthermore, only the Governor-General can exercise the powers vested in the Queen.

3.2 The Queen takes advice only from British ministers in the affairs of the UK. In Australian affairs, she takes advice only from her Australian ministers. She has said so and so has Mr P.J. Keating.

 3.3 The person to represent Australia abroad is the Governor-General who has pays official visits overseas as Head of State of Australia. Misconceptions must always be based on ignorance. The Queen is also Head of the Commonwealth—of one third of the world's population—consisting of 53 different countries spread over every continent. Many of them are republics—others are monarchies, some with monarchs other than the Queen! The remedy to this misconception (if it is widespread) is education and informed dipolmacy to clear up the misconception. We got rid of the White Australia Policy, so diplomatically clearing up this minor problem (if it exists) should be simple.

 3.4 A higher international profile for our Governor-General would assert the reality of our independence, as well as our distinctive foreign policy. It would have to be accepted that more overseas visits as Head of State would cost us more in taxation.

 3.5 Britain's population has changed at the same time as Australia's—both are now multi-cultural comunities. Sharing the Queen with other countries is a positive contribution to internationalism. In the past Australia was proud to proclaim it was 'British' and have a 'British Queen'. But both institutions have developed at the same time. We now proudly proclaim our Australian citizenship and we have, in law and in fact, a Queen of Australia, a role filled by Elizabeth II. The monarchy has evolved to meet the new circumstances.

 3.6 When Papua New Guinea has the same person as Queen, and the republic of Fiji wants to become a constitutional monarchy under Elizabeth II again, Australia, with two thirds of its people of 'British' descent should have no difficulty with our present Queen continuing in that role. Furthermore, in the Commonwealth of Nations, of which the Queen is head, those of 'British sh descent' are vastly outnumbered by those of 'non-British descent' amongst its 1.6 billion peoples spread world-wide.


 4. The Head of State in Australia is the Queen.
The Governor-General only acts on her behalf because she is too busy being the British Head of State. Therefore we need a new Head of State who is an Australian citizen, one of us!

 4.1 The Head of State must be appointed by Australians—not hereditary. Furthermore, the Head of State must be a local, a resident for president!
The Constitution of 1901 makes it clear that the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is our Head of State. It provides that the British Queen:
(i) is part of our Parliament;
(ii) is the person in whom the executive power is vested; and
(iii) may disallow any law even after assent has been given.
Therefore, the English Queen must have the same rights and duties both in UK and in Australia.

4.2 We need a Head of State who represents only the nation of Australia. The Queen is our Head of State but when she travels abroad, she is received as the British Head of State. Thus we are not seen to have our own Head of State who represents only Australian interests.

 4.3 The Australian Head of State must be:
(i) an Australian citizen ('one of us');
(ii) appointed by Australians;
(iii) a resident; and
(iv) representative of only the nation of Australia.


 4. Australia already has just such a Head of State, the Governor-General plus the bonus of the Queen. The republican argument is misleading by its use of the word 'a' (singular) and 'Head of State' (which is a diplomatic term and does not appear at all in our written Constitution of 1901). Some people argues we have two heads of state. Other states have or have had more than one Head of State e.g. England under Queen Mary II and King William III,  Andorra until recently, the former USSR, etc.  It is also inappropriate in the context of our historical evolution as a free democratic independent nation.

 4.1 Our entire system of government is based on the context of our inherited (but absentee) constitutional monarchy. In 1901 it was well understood (and remains true) that countries like Canada, NZ, PNG and Australia have a Sovereign and a constitutional Head of State, which gives us extra checks and balances in our Constitution.

The advantages of having a Sovereign or monarch whose office is inherited  places the monarch entirely beyond political interference or inclination—it ensures that the Sovereign is always above politics and this is reflected in the conduct of the constiutional Heads of State (Governors and Governors-General) who also remain above politics.

 4.2 The High Court in 1907 described  The King or Queen as the Sovereign, the Governor- General as the constitutional head of the Commonwealth and the governor as the Head of State.  An alternative argument is that that we have a divided Head of State system provides us with a Head of State who represents only Australia. Under this we have a symbolic Head of State who is above politics, above corruption, beyond intimidation, owes nobody anything from being elected, and in 15 out of the 16 monarchies of which Elizabeth II is Queen, is not resident, This ensures the utter integrity of the system of government where enormous powers can be safely entrusted to the Queen and her representatives;
(i) because she is only one person and cannot be everywhere at once, in 15 of the 16 countries the Queen must have local representatives. In Australia this is the Governor-General (federally) and six Governors (one in each State);
(iii) as all the Queen's powers given under the Constitution of 1901 are exercisable only by the Governor-General (and not by her), the Governor-General is the local Constitutional Head of State; and
(iv) he claims he is; the government treats him as such; he is received overseas as Head of State and he is one of our Heads of State.

 4.3 It can truly be said that the Governor-General:
(i) is an Australian citizen ('One of us'—in that sense);
(ii) is appointed by Australians (he is nominated to the Queen by the Prime Minister for appointment by her and is invariably so appointed on his or her advice);
(iii) is and must be a resident during such term in office; and
(iv) represents only the nation of Australia.

It is telling that republicans want to confer on their new presidential head of state the identical powers (or a variation of them) now exercised by the Governor-General. No one suggests that the personal powers of the Queen (to appoint on the Prime Minister's or Premiers' nominations the Governor-General and Governors respectively) would be part of those powers. In fact, the Queen would be replaced (if at all!) not by a president but by the parliament or the electorate.

Furthermore, as each independent sovereign country can designate its own Head of State, Australia could confer the title of Head of State on the Governor-General (who once appointed has full plenipotentiary powers) by Act of Parliament. This would involve no alteration to the text of the Constitution of 1901—and make our present constitutional arrangements totally clear to all. The Queen would remain as Queen of Australia—no more and nothing less.


 5A. There are at least four different options to be considered for the process of appointing the president within an Australian republic.

 5A.1 Appointment of the president by a two thirds majority of a joint sitting of both Houses of the Federal Parliament; (the model preferred by the ARM).

 5A.2 Popular election by the voters of Australia. This model is the most popular with the electorate (70% support) according to polls.

 5A.2.1 This model would separate the president's appointment from Parliament and allow any citizen to 'have a go'.

 5.2.2 Every Australian would have a say.

 5A.2.3 The president would gain office only through the endorsement of the electorate.

 5A.3 Establishment of a special Electoral College or committee to preside over the appointment. Various models of this kind have been proposed by the Hon. Richard McGarvie among others.

 5A.4 Prime Minister of the day (polls show that this option commands the support of only 4% of voters).


 5A. Any replacement Head of State system for our present one should deliver at least as good a result as we have at present. Our current system of Governor-General appointed for an indefinite term (usually understood to be five years barring death, emergency such as war, or misbehaviour) by the Queen on the nomination of the Prime Minister. This means the Governor-General must remain above politics, owes nothing to any electorate or political party, has no mandate to act on any political platform of his own, has no political power base to oppose a duly elected government, has the legal power to dismiss a Prime Minister and to call new elections, but only the moral power of his or her integrity and the legal or moral authority of the constitutional monarchy to do so. Every variation from this system either increases the power of the Governor-General (or president) or diminishes it and his powers go to the Prime Minister under an amended Constitution. Either way powers now non-political are given to politicians—president or Prime Minister.

 5A.1 A two thirds majority of all members of Parliament was intended to stop the president becoming the captive or nominee of one political party only. Its faults are these:
(i) It won't work to guarantee an independent president. It did not in Pakistan in 1998 where the President was elected by a 78% majority.
(ii) (a) The Electoral Acts are not presently part of the Constitution and can be changed at any time by Parliament (and are presently under reconsideration).
(b) Before there was proportional representation in the Senate, several parties had absolute majorities of both Houses, so if the Acts were changed back to what they were, it wouldn't operate to prevent one-party domination.
(c) Even under our present electoral laws, the Fraser Government of 1975 came within one vote of controlling both Houses—with only one absentee it would have! So again the proposal is not failsafe.
(iii) Even if its success could be guaranteed, there is a much more basic objection—our politicians have too much power already and will only elect one of their own or someone politically acceptable to them.
(iv) Any president with at least two thirds of the elected representatives' votes would have the greatest mandate and power of anyone in our whole constitutional system of government. Combined with a fixed term (and removal only with extreme difficulty, by impeachment etc.), we would create a power far greater than the Prime Minister's, and no voter would ever have had a direct choice of candidate.
(v) The voices of the larger States (NSW/Vic) will swamp the rest and prejudice the federal position of the smaller States.
(vi) Even the Americans do not let Congress elect their President. In fact the Founders specifically warned against the danger of having the Congress elect the President.

 5A.2 Direct popular election is at least truly democratic, but such a process will give a president almost as much power as the first alternative; a huge mandate of at least half the voters of Australia. He or she will be the only person in the Executive being directly responsible to the people as the Prime Minister answers to his or her party and he or she and the Ministry answer to Parliament between elections.

 5A.2.1 Only millionaires (e.g. Ross Perot) or the candidates of political parties could possibly afford to campaign across Australia, and the average Australian, or member of an ethnic minority, will never stand a chance.

 5A.2.3 A president so elected would have almost as much power as the first alternative; a huge mandate of at least half the voters of Australia.

 5A.3 This is the way the Americans do it but they at least elect their Electoral College. Some plans depend on Chief Justices (which would politicise their offices) or even State Governors (which would vanish under a republic anyhow).

 5A.4 Few take this seriously because it appears so open to abuse, as the new President's office will be essentially political no matter how appointed. It only works for the appointment of Governors-General because they are not and do not act in any party political role. Appointment by the Prime Minister is different to the present system. Although nominated by the Prime Minister, the Governor-General is appointed by the Queen, and must strictly observe the conventions which surround the Crown. The Governor-General acts then as trustee of those powers for the people.

 5B The provisions may use ancient (but well-understood) constitutional language, but they work very well. The issues of a fixed term, method of removal and causes of removal are extremely simple under our present system and designed to strengthen the power of the elected representatives of the people and maintain only one centre of legitimate political power in the nation—the elected government of the day. These objectives will be weakened and threatened by any system of a fixed term for a president with cumbersome machinery for removal. Any new system should at least be as effective, as flexible and as efficient. All republican proposals fail on all three bases.


5B. The provisions in the Constitution that the Governor-General is appointed by the Queen as her representative and at her pleasure are archaic even if it is acknowledged that the powers are used only on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day. It is demeaning to our sense of sovereignty.

5B.1 A president cannot preside for life, so must have a fixed term. Most republicans suggest five years or seven years.

5B.2 In most republics, removal of the Head of State is a parliamentary process. This may however involve one or both Houses of Parliament, the Chief Justice in some capacity, a Constitutional Court or popular referendum. Ultimately however the process and grounds for removal depend on themethod of appointment adopted (appointment by the Prime Minister, Parliament, electoral college or popular election).

513.3 A president must either have some individual or body with the power to remove him or her. Most republicans say this should be the Houses of Parliament voting by a two thirds majority.


5B.1 As the present federal electoral cycle is a limit of three years, any president will span at least more than one parliament in five years or probably two if for seven years. If there is a change of government in between, a political president will be out of sympathy with a hostile government, leading to:
(i) the possibility of serious differences between Parliament and President. Even 'ceremonial' presidents, such as Mary Robinson in Ireland, were political players. Before being elected president she led the third party in Irish politics; and
(ii) as former Commonwealth Solicitor-General Sir Maurice Byers warned, 'irreconcilable appointees are likely to yield chaos'.

 5B.2 If a president must be able to be removed, and the issue does arise, on what basis can a president be removed? It follows that:
(i) the basis for forced removal of president will be even more difficult to establish than the removal of a High Court Judge (last unsuccessfully attempted against the late Justice Lionel Murphy); and
(ii) depending on what they are, the grounds will need to be established (beyond reasonable doubt) and that will take a great length of time—when a week is a long time in politics!

 5B.3 Neither Parliament nor the High Court will be able to successfully remove a president because:
(i) to rely on the High Court removing a president would be to irrevocably politicise that body and cannot be allowed;
(ii) to rely on Parliament to remove a president at all is dangerous, as the president can dissolve Parliament; and
(iii) if the president is misbehaving to the benefit of one political party, getting a two-thirds majority (or any at all) may be impossible, as the party benefiting from this misbehaviour will support him or her. Thus none of these 'solutions' is nearly as good as our present system. It has to be faced that a president once appointed will be virtually irremovable during his or her full term; remember the paralysis of USA over the impeachment of President Nixon—the length of the process, the divisions, the distractions and then his political ally his Vice-President, by now the President, gave him a presidential pardon! It makes our system look like Nirvana, with a simple recall of a non-political figure on the advice of the Prime Minister!


6. There are various approaches to how we should provide for a system of checks and balances in the Constitution.

 6.1 The ARM'S preferred model:

 6.1.1 The office of the president should retain the powers which the Governor-General currently uses, under due conventions or traditions, that have developed over the century.

 6.1.2 A president's powers should be clearly defined (i.e. 'codified), stating that the president acts on the advice of the elected government, except where the government has lost the confidence of the House of Representatives or is breaking the law. Representatives by omitting the third qualification 'or cannot obtain supply (the money to govern)' from the Parliament (which includes the Senate).

 6.2 Not writing down the reserve powers in a republic has several major consequences:
(i) nobody will know for sure what power the president has;
(ii) clashes between president and Prime Minister will be frequent, intractable and destabilise government;
(iii) there will be no body able to enforce the exercise of the powers or compliance with them if they are unresolved and unwritten. Presidents will have a blank cheque and no one sensible will vote for such a system; and
(iv) combined with a long presidential fixed term of office, longer than any House of Representatives or government taken from it, constitutional struggles between president and Parliament may go on for a long period (totally unlike the present very effective, quick and responsive system).

 6.3 'Me honest assessment by former Senator Evans is an endorsement of the present system of constitutional monarchy which, because it has a Head of State system of Queen and her representatives, can be entrusted with undefined powers without risk to the liberty of the people or the stability of government.

6.4 According to Tony Abbott 'this would mean that in times of crisis, the President makes his own rules!' In fact, if a Court cannot review what a president does, he or she will only answer to the electorate at the end of the presidential term, and then only if seeking re-election. Until then there would be no restraint on the office except impeachment by a two-thirds majority of Parliament. But if there has to be a new parliamentary election or if the president dissolves parliament, again the president could avoid or delay being called to account (contrast this with our present system). Remember: presently the so called 'reserve powers' exercisable by the Governor-General are not written down in the Constitution nor Constitutionally agreed as to what they are.


 6. Once the Crown is taken out of the written Constitution, all conventions and traditions must give way to the new law, so that the exact written terms of the new Constitution will no longer by read against that background, i.e. the intention of having a republic will cancel out all existing monarchical conventions.

 6.1 There are several problems with the ARM preferred model:

6.1.1 The president cannot simply keep doing what the Governor-General did because:
(i) if the new Constitution reads: 'the president is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces' he will be. Who is to say he will not be? Is the High Court to be allowed to add its interpretations to such a clear statement? So, too, with every other provision; and
(ii) those who say 'request the President to follow tradition and convention' leave to a president unresolved powers and wide discretion—a highly dangerous course when presidential power will not be as 'representative ve of the Queen' but purely personal and political. Without legal sanctions to enforce the 'request' the president will be a free radical.

6.1.2 The solution of codification (writing them all down), if possible, doesn't solve the problem until you know what they are in every conceivable Constitutional emergency. The code suggested seems innocent, but in fact elevates the power of the House of Representatives.

 6.2 Other republicans including the Keating Government argue that this is not the time to re-open a divisive debate about the Senate's power to block supply (and thus bring down a government). Hence the reserve powers should remain as they are--unwritten.

 6.3 'The definition (of the reserve powers) would be a labour of Hercules. Reformers would have to devote 30 years to the task to have an impact. The ghost of '75 (the political crisis of 1975) is still with us...' (republican the Hon. Gareth Evans).

6.4 The Keating Government proposed to state in the Constitution that the president's powers are subject to the conventions that now govern the Crown—but stipulating that the exercise of these powers can't be reviewed by any court and that the president can only be sacked by a two thirds majority of Parliament.


 7. The Keating Government's Republican Advisory Committee, chaired by Mr Turnbull, Chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, canvassed three options for the States:

 7.1 Option I: the states remain as they are, constitutional monarchies under a federal president.

 7.2 Option II: all States vote to change each of their Constitutions to remove the Queen from them, thus having six State republics, or seven in all.

 7.3 Option III: some States vote to remain monarchies under the Queen and do so.

 7.4 The majority of States and voters needed to create a republic federally use their powers to override the wishes and Constitutions of those States that would otherwise have remained monarchies. Professor Winterton has suggested a clause be inserted in the new Constitution preventing the Governor of any State from representing or being appointed by the Queen or any foreign government.


See how you have to read the fine print in complex matters! The former Keating Government's preferred republican model dodged the supply question-no doubt because it believed the people like things the way they are!

 7. Each Australian State is an independent monarchy under the Constitution. Thus one aspect of the debate is about whether we have one republic or seven.

 7.1 If the States remain monarchies, but we have a federal president, Australians will have divided loyalties, owing allegiance to the Queen of Australia as Queen of NSW, Queen of Queensland and soon, and to 'Australia' (however defined) through the symbolism of a president. Surely this would defeat the alleged purpose of the republicans to unify Australia with new symbols of our nationhood!

 7.2. This seems to be the only reasonable way to proceed, but would need seven new Constitutions in all, all enacted simultaneously. Some States have 'entrenched' Constitutions, some of which only the people can alter, while others can be altered merely by Act of Parliament. The Australia Acts confirmed that the Queen is represented in each State by a Governor. Amendment of the Australia Act may be made by the federal Parliament but only at the request and approval of all State Parliaments. Little public attention has yet been given to this aspect of republicanism, except that attempts in NSW to downgrade the office of Governor and deny him residence in Government House led to prolonged public protest, a street march to Parliament House by 15 000-20 000 protesters and a voter backlash.

 7.3 This alternative was adopted in the Federation of Malaysia where some States are local monarchies and some are not. Few people regard it as satisfactory and some regard it as absurd for Australia. Would it not divide the country instead of unifying it?

 7.4 This option, even if it has constitutional validity, which is doubtful, has enormous political drawbacks and would no doubt enrage the States over States' rights and many voters in other States who would not want to crush an unwilling State by mere majoritorianism. It is a measure, though, of the lengths to which republicans will consider going—'republicanism at all


 8. Given that there is sufficient support, a republic would require a process including a referendum.

 8.1 Relying on the precise terms of Section 128 of the Constitution, broadly speaking, a republic can be effected by amendments to the Constitution passed by 'a majority of the electors voting', together with 'a majority of electors voting' 'in a majority of States'. Such amendments will first of all have to be passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate 'by absolute majorities', (or twice passed by one House and the Governor-General using his powers under Section 128 to present it to the people). As the government is the source of advice to the Governor-General and normally controls the House of Representatives, any referendum in practice will need government support or acquiescence.

 8.2 The Acting Solicitor-General's advice to the Republic Advisory Committee suggests that even if it were contested whether the process established under Section 128 could not amend the covering clauses of the Constitution, the High Court would be reasonably likely to uphold an amendment.

 8.3 If necessary, a majority of voters overall and in a majority of States could force recalcitrant States to become republics against the wishes of the majority of voters in those States.

8.4 However high the Constitutional obstacles may seem, we must be prepared to tackle them if we feel passionately about the cause and really mean to reap the benefits when Australia finally becomes a republic.


 8. Even if there is enough support, the road to a republic will be an extremely rocky one, but short of revolution can only come about (if at all) by referendum as a first step.

 8.1 Section 128, whichever procedure is used, may not be the end of the story, but only the beginning. For instance, the Preamble is clearly not part of the Schedule of the Act which contains the Constitution of 1901. Thus it is debatable whether a referendum is appropriate or effective to change it.

8.2 The preamble to the Constitution Act, of which 'the Constitution' is a schedule, recites the prior agreement of 'the people' of the Colonies 'humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God' to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established'.
The counter argument runs:
i) after the Australia Acts confirmed the termination of any power of the UK Parliament to extend to Australia, and as Section 128 clearly only applies to 'this Constitution', i.e. the schedule to the UK Act, who now has legal power to alter the Constitution Act itself?;
ii) others say, need it be altered?; and
iii) others say, if it needed the consent of all States to unite under the Crown, may it not need the consent of all States to abolish the Crown?

 8.3 Any referendum may not affect the position of State Governors. As Sir Harry Gibbs explains:
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.

 8.4 As an independent, sovereign nation, we, the people of Australia, can undoubtedly do as we please, but to do it legally and effectually, constructively and symbolically, we will need the overwhelming goodwill and cooperation of the people across the whole continent. To proceed otherwise would be foolhardy—and get any republic off to a very rocky start!


 9. Not only is a republic 'inevitable' (see next heading), but Republican support is growing according to opinion polls, and hence a referendum will be successful.

 9.1 The republic will need the support of all parties if it is to be successful. It already has the support of the ALP, the Democrats, the Greens and various independents and a significant number of coalition members in the Federal Parliament. The referendum will proceed when there are strong indications of political and social support.

 9.2 All polls suggest growing support for the republic, especially among younger Australians.


 9. Monarchists point out it is never easy to get a referendum to succeed, even if it looks promising according to the polls.

 9.1 The history of referenda in this country is not promising for successful change. Although 42 amendments have been proposed to the Constitution and put to the people at referenda, only on eight occasions have amendments been approved—in 1906, 1910,1928, 1946,1967 and 1977 (3 amendments). The rest were rejected.

Those approved included provisions dealing with Senate elections and Senate casual vacancies, State debts, social services, the retirement of Federal Judges (at age 70), Aborigines and referenda (giving Territories the vote in referenda). Nothing controversial has passed. Nothing opposed by a major party has passed. Nothing seen as giving more power to politicians has passed.

Where 25%-35% of the voters are strenuously opposed to a republic and over 40%'undecided', success seems unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Referendum campaigns which started with even 80% support in opinion polls, have failed at the ballot box.

 9.2 Analysing opinion polls is a matter of opinion and judgement. Results depend very much on the questions asked, the political circumstances when they are asked and who asks whom what question. In fact, some opinion polls suggest that younger voters may not be as Republican as the middle-aged.


 10. Some republicans claim that 'a republic is inevitable', others have reservations. Those who do say that, put simply, 'a republic is inevitable.

 10.1 The republic marks the natural progression in our Constitutional development; thus, it is logical that it will simply occur.

 10.2 That the republic is inevitable has been a continuing theme in the debate, and McKenna (republican author of The Captive Republic: A History of Republicanism in Australia) considers that the belief in its inevitability has been one of the reasons for its postponement.

 10.3 'Inevitability' (by Republicans) 'was a sign of weakness, not its cause.' Dr J.M. Hirst (ARM Convenor in Victoria)


 10. Only the people, by their vote, will allow a change of their Constitution. Thus, it is far from 'inevitable'.

10.1 Despite the appeal of this argument, it is ultimately unconvincing, as demonstrated by the following quotations:
(i) 'Nothing is inevitable—except death and taxes' by Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790);
(ii) 'The inevitable never happens. It is the unexpected always' by John Maynard Keynes; and
(iii) 'The only referenda that have succeeded in recent years have enjoyed bipartisan support and carried not the slightest risk of affording significant new powers to politicians. So when I hear the assertion of 'inevitability', I spare a thought for history' by the Hon. Michael Kirby

 10.2 Often, when people say, 'Oh, it's inevitable', they mean they want to avoid both argument and discussion of the topic of the republic. To count 'inevitables' as active Republicans is as fatuous as to count all those who say they are 'undecided'.

 10.3 If Republicans really believed the republic was 'inevitable', they could safely sit back and let the 'inevitable' happen. There are two reasons why they do not: first, personal ambition to be remembered in history for bringing it about, and secondly, because they do not believe it to be 'inevitable' at all, as it has no demonstrable advantages over our present system and many demonstrable features that are much worse.


In addition to the ten major Republican arguments considered so far, debates are often peppered with apparently self-justifying assertions by Republicans, which gain currency by repetition but which, on analysis, are often highly suspect and certainly far from self-evident or convincing. Here are ten of them.

Often the most persuasive reason that Republicans give for wanting to become a republic is that they perceive the Queen to be a foreigner. Although this is the principal sentiment of the Republican cause, on examination, many of these remarks appear to be of a superficial nature. The argument comes in many guises, and each one is considered below:


1. The phrase 'one of us' needs closer scrutiny; it is reminiscent of one volk. In what way is the Queen not one of us?

1.1 Is it because the Queen resides overseas—as do many Australians at present? Are they not one of us? Dame Joan Sutherland, David Malouf, Robert Hughes, Clive James, Germain Greer, Greg Norman, Arthur Boyd (six months of the year), even Thomas Kenneally when they are away?

1.2 Is it because of her genealogy—part Scot, mainly German (the family only changed its name to Windsor in 1917) and related to members of nearly every country in Europe?

1.3 Is it because she is Queen of 16 different countries—Where will that leave those with dual nationality in our country—aren't they 'one of us'?

1.4 As our Constitutional Head of State, the Governor-General is both an Australian citizen and resident here—isn't that enough?


2. We don't have any relationship with the 'English' Queen or 'The Queen of England'. There hasn't been a Queen of England since the Union with Scotland in 1707.

2.1 As Australia is an independent sovereign country, we have and owe allegiance only to Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia—not as Queen of New Zealand, Queen of Canada or Queen of England if they mean the United Kingdom.

2.2 If we don't have Elizabeth II, we will need someone else to be King or Queen or tear up our Constitution, as the Crown and its representatives appear in one-third of its provisions and merely to eliminate references to the Crown will need 76 alterations.


3. What is meant by a 'foreigner'?

3.1 The Queen is by law (the Constitution) an essential part of our Federal Parliament, just as she is of every State Parliament. She is also, by law, reaffirmed by our Parliaments as recently as 1986, 'Queen of Australia'. She is certainly not 'foreign' to our Constitution. Every valid executive act in Australia since 1788 (and since 1901) has been done in the name of and by the lawful authority of the Queen or her predecessors—how much more integral to a country can one be?

3.2 Is it suggested that Elizabeth II is British and thus 'foreign' to Australia? If so, what of the two million British migrants and residents who have lived here (some nearly all their lives) who vote and pay taxes? Are they, too, 'foreigners'?

3.3 In a 'global village' with a 'global' market, isn't it rather childish to divide the world into 'us' and 'them' or 'us' and 'foreigners'. Where does it leave our vaunted multicultural policies—do they apply to everyone except the Queen?


4. The Queen is certainly not an Australian citizen.

4.1 Monarchs are not citizens of any country. The Queen is no more nor less than our country's Queen. Elizabeth II is not a citizen of Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Canada or the United Kingdom either. The Monarch forgoes many privileges, such as the right to vote, the right to a passport, and the right to take part in politics, so that the Queen is kept out of the day-to-day political battle.

4.2 Ironically, nobody is or can be a citizen of Australia except by an Act of Parliament, which only gained its effect when the Queen of Australia's assent was granted.

4.3 How can one who has been part of giving citizenship to others be a lesser part of the body politic than those who choose to take out citizenship?

4.4 To be a citizen is only one way to belong to a country. Many Australians live and work here and pay taxes who are citizens of another country or dual citizens. As its symbolic head and an essential part of each of the State and Federal Constitutions, the Queen is in those ways more a part of Australia than anyone else.


5. Opening the Games is a huge task. Whoever does it merely says, 'I now declare these Olympic Games open'. It takes all of, say, twenty seconds! For this reason, some Republicans say they want to tear up seven Constitutions, have seven presidents, a new flag and a new anthem by the year 2000!

5.1 Most republics have come about through revolution (USA), war (Germany) or repetition (France is on its fifth!), but Australia will be the world's laughing stock forever, being the only republic to come about because of a twenty-second speech before a sporting carnival.

5.2 In any event, the Prime Minister will probably advise our Head of State, who receives all Ambassadors, who travels abroad as our Head of State, who assents to all our laws and is part of our Parliament and Head of our Executive Government, with all the powers of the Constitution at his command—our Australian Governor-General—to open the Games or do it himself! What do you think?


6. The republican assertion can be stated as 'the Queen, as Queen of the UK, betrayed Australia at Strasbourg because she addressed the European Parliament not as Queen of Australia but as Queen of the United Kingdom'.

6.1 This is one of the deceptions put about by those who should know better. Nothing the Queen said at Strasbourg could possibly lead a sane person to say she betrayed Australia. Four times in a four-page speech, she urged the EEC to look at the interests of those outside it. As the Queen of Australia, is it to be said that if Australia joins APEC, Elizabeth II is betraying the UK?


7. The one person in the whole Constitutional debate from whom no Australian has anything to fear is the Queen. She has discharged her duties assiduously since 1952; she has visited Australia (when given permission by her Australian Ministers—she cannot just rock up here when she likes!) on no fewer than twelve occasions; in 1954 as the new Queen; and in 1963,1970, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1992.

7.1 She has seen more of Australia than most Australians, and worked with every Prime Minister since Menzies—Holt, McEwan, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard. She has been part of our nation for 45 years and takes a keen interest in Australia.

7.2 Because the UK joined the European Common Market, the Convenor of the ARM in Victoria, historian Dr J.M. Hirst, has more than once labelled the Queen (not her country) an 'enemy'—an emotive slander against someone who drove trucks as part of the Allied war effort, on our side, in World War II.


8. We have a resident for the Constitutional Head of State—that has worked well here for the whole of Australia's history. There is no need to change it. No one else can exercise the powers of our Head of State, certainly not the Queen who is precluded by the words of the Constitution of 1901.

8.1 Implicit in this is the assumption that anyone can stand for election as President, but could they or would they? Sir Zelman Cowen has said he wouldn't. Unless one were a millionaire, who could afford it but a nominee of a political party? Thus we'd get a local millionaire (like Ross Perot in the USA) or a political nominee- (Labor's Whitlam, Hawke or Keating; Liberal's Gorton or Fraser; the Democrats' Chipp or Kernot; One Nation's who?).

8.2 Would 'residency' be the only criterion? Could anyone who merely lives here be our president, e.g. foreign visitors, recent arrivals and dual citizens?

8.3 In the USA, Presidents must have been born in the country—would we go that far and exclude all our migrants, a quarter of our population?

8.4 Could someone with dual nationality be president, owing allegiance to Australia and another country at the same time, as many Australians do? (But wait a minute, isn't that what Republicans claim was wrong with the 'foreign' Queen?).

8.5 Why did the former Keating government's Republican proposal exclude active politicians from standing for five years after they had been in Parliament? Does anyone seriously believe a man of honour abandons his life's principles or his friends after five years?

8.6 What other surprises lie behind 'a resident for president? If all they want is another resident Head of State (in addition to the one we have), perhaps a local monarchy that lived here would satisfy them (now it was Republican Paddy McGuinness who first suggested that).


9. As the Republican Advisory Committee reported, the Queen's personal duties under the Constitution are very limited—to appoint (and remove) Governors-General (and Governors in the States). This occurs about once every five years; it is hardly exhausting (however, her ceremonial and social duties, touring Australia and her other realms, takes more—but not a great deal more—time).

9.1 We thus have all the advantages of the system of constitutional monarchy without the upkeep of a resident monarch (£189 million a year in the United Kingdom—to which Australia contributes not a penny!). Governors and Governors-General cost only what their respective parliaments allow them. Their salaries are presently comparable with those of Supreme Court Judges.

9.2 Thus, our 'minimal monarchy' is designed to run on its own, almost completely within Australia—as are the Queen's other self-contained realms in their own territories. Only in the UK is the Queen the Constitutional as well as the symbolic Head of State.

9.3 By sharing Elizabeth II with other countries, we have no legal links with them but share in the symbol of an institution which, after the Papacy, is the oldest institution in Europe, noted for its integrity, unquestionably above politics, completely unambitious and which by its very existence thwarts the ambitions of those would desire to seize both the power and the glory of the State (as, for instance, the President of France, has done).

9.4 Republicans (including the ARM and the former Keating Government) say that Australia will remain in the Commonwealth of Nations, of which the Queen is Head.

How come we can share her as the symbol of the free association of 1.6 million people from 53 countries, from every continent (even countries such as Mozambique, which had no previous association with the UK or the British Empire), but we cannot share her as Queen with 16 other countries, including great sister democracies such as New Zealand, Canada and the UK and neighbouring Papua New Guinea because once every five years she appoints our Prime Minister's nominee as Governor-General. It is all too silly for words!


10. The suggestion (by Mr Keating) that the Queen must go because 'the British betrayed us in Asia in World War II' was about the lowest point of his Republican campaigning. Not only was it bad history, it was bad politics; people with British sympathies or who lost relatives fighting alongside the British forces never forgave him.

10.1 Firstly, it is a non-sequitur—it doesn't follow—even if the claims were true.

10.2 Secondly, the claim is nonsense.

10.3 The British had to garrison a worldwide Empire alone at the time of the fall of Singapore; few people expected the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbour or enter the land war in South East Asia, nor if they did, that their armed forces would be so efficient or mobile.

10.4 Singapore was a military disaster for UK and Australian forces. The British suffered very heavy losses (HMShips Prince of Wales and Repulse, thousands of men etc.) as it did in the early days of the war against Germany it was fighting at the same time.

10.5 Nevertheless, the British regrouped in India. Viscount Slim fought the Burma Campaign, UK and USA fought back alongside Australian forces and eventually won.

10.6 At the end of the Pacific War, Britain had over 600 warships in the Pacific.

The chief format of these notes has been to follow the ACM Handbook, where the quotations on the selected topics provide ready ammunition for debaters to weave into their speeches. However, it should not be thought that a positive case for our present system of constitutional monarchy cannot or ought not to be made.

It is equally true, however, that the common law or common sense principle that 'he who asserts must prove', is much better used to invite those who wish to assert that change will be beneficial to Australia to establish their arguments first. This has cast the monarchists or constitutionalists as negators or, as the Australian newspaper has put it, 'refusenics'!

My experience, for what it is worth, is that far more light is generated if the Republicans advance their case first and the monarchists rebut it or answer it. I believe this to be because the subject is so vast that unless one takes specific points, it becomes unwieldy. Mere explanation of the intricate balance of our present system of checks and balances can take a night, how they will be altered by seemingly innocuous suggestions can be equally tedious, although essential.

Others may well disagree. You may like to try it the other way around. But for what it is worth, that has been my experience over the past six years.
The sort of debate that might ensue if the monarchists are asked to press the advantages of their system and for the Republicans to counter with their arguments is logically the reverse of the earlier notes. However, some examples of the types of matter suitable are set out below. They are, of course, far from exhaustive.




The system of constitutional monarchy separates the power from the Glory! Under our system, the monarch (or her representative) reigns but does not rule; i.e., the monarch (or her representative) only acts on advice and the advisers are held responsible through the parliament to the people: in reality, the advisers have the power but the monarch (or her representative) has the ceremonial glory, acting as a figurehead and symbol of the State rather than the government of the day.


Presidents can be either ceremonial (as in Ireland) or executive (as in the USA), or somewhere in between (France). A ceremonial president can be as effective as a ceremonial monarch or governor-general.


But a monarch has no mandate and is not expected to enter into political debate. A president is inevitably either a politician when elected or becomes one on election: having a mandate, they do speak out and our system of government will need to be changed to accommodate this.



A monarch or governor-general stands above the party political contest and embodies the continuing state rather than the day-to-day governments of particular political parties. By inheriting the throne, there can be no dissent about who is to be monarch, and vice-regal representatives are appointed by the monarch on advice of a prime minister, who can choose someone without continuing political loyalties, and thus avoid any expensive or divisive elections.

Presidents are elected either by the people (Ireland and France), by an electoral college elected by the people (USA), or by other politicians (Germany). In all cases, they represent the outcome of political struggles and alienate as many people as support them, many not even having a majority of the electors bothering to vote.


A presidential system can involve the people more in selecting the identity and character of the candidate. The people themselves must take responsibility for their choice directly and not feel they have no say in who is to reign over them.


But hereditary has the great advantage that there can never be a contest for the throne. It is in the hands of fate who lives how long and who has which children and in what order! It removes a very divisive issue from the body politic and saves a huge amount in election expenses!



All heads of state, monarchs, presidents, or vice-regal representatives must have sanctions upon their conduct. The sanction on a hereditary monarch, and according to Queen Elizabeth, the only justification for a hereditary monarchy in a modern responsible democracy is for the monarchy to accurately reflect the will of the people. If a monarch does not, the monarch faces the sanctions of overt hostility or being deposed or forced to abdicate (Edward VIII). Vice-regal representatives are only appointed according to their respective constitutions. In Australia, the appointee is to hold office at the Queen's pleasure, so it can be removed immediately on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day. This is the safest mechanism for ensuring a head of state sticks to his office and does not stray outside it.

Controlling presidents is much harder, as the French, the Indians and the Pakistanis have found. Presidents can be very hard to remove. If popularly elected, then the way of impeachment is cumbersome and very divisive (e.g. President Nixon in the USA). If there is to be removal by parliament, its sitting cannot depend on the whim of a president who may defeat the move to remove him or her. If, say, a two-thirds majority is required, minor parties may ally themselves with the president's actions and defeat the government.


Any decent Republican constitution will provide for the removal of a president in certain circumstances that depend on the wishes of the people. It is traumatic but not as traumatic as an abdication crisis.


But the removal of a Governor-General by the advice of the Prime Minister and the action of the Queen is so much neater and involves no turmoil at all. The Prime Minister must answer to the people, and they can decide. Once removed, the former Governor-General could speak up for himself if the removal had unfair overtones. But far more effective in keeping a governor-general in his place is the possibility of such removal at the will of the Prime Minister and the action of the Queen. The immense respect in which the Queen is held allows this process to operate. All suggested attempts to replace it are cumbersome, and many potentially ineffectual, meaning that once appointed, a president will never need to have a realistic fear of removal at all.

It seems to me that these illustrations are enough to get any debater started on similar topics. Perhaps in a later edition, we may enlarge them, but now there seems to be enough to go on with.

May I wish one and all much happiness in debating, much enlightenment from exploring the topic, and much fellowship from respecting the views of each other?

Let us all remember at all times that the overwhelming majority of those who debate this topic sincerely believe they are championing what they think is best for Australia. No one wants either to imperil our freedom, frustrate our governance, detract from our international standing or stand in the way of the democratic will.

Similarly, monarchists and republicans alike want to share their insight with each other and wish the people of Australia to whom even knowledge that we have a Constitution (in both senses) in the Commonwealth and the States is (or would be) a complete revelation, let alone any detailed knowledge of any constitutional machinery or terms, or the likely or possible effects of even minor change. So go to it—the future of our nation is being debated - let's be in it to win it!



The Australian Crown is not only what The King or Queen wears when he or she is crowned. It also refers to our oldest legal and constitutional institution.

It is central to our constitutional system.

Today it remains an important check and balance against the abuse of power by those elected to represent the people and form the Federal and State governments.

With the High Court, it is the only institution which straddles the State and Federal divide.

When our Founding Fathers established our Federation, there was no serious proposal that the new nation should be anything but a crowned republic.

The essence of the new nation was that it would be an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown. Our Founding Fathers proposed that and were approved by the people of the six colonies, now the states.

This was affirmed by the people in all six States and by 72% of all electorates in a referendum in 1999.

It is surprising how little it is understood and studied, particularly by those who propose removing the Australian Crown.

The Australian Crown is not a historical curiosity nor a jumble of separate and unrelated offices.

The powers of the Australian Crown are exercised by the Sovereign (The King or  Queen), the Governor-General and the Governors in accordance with established customs, often called conventions.

All of this means that the Australian Crown ensures through the Sovereign, the Governor-General and the Governors that the nation enjoys leadership beyond politics.

Proposals for change involve turning our crowned republic into some sort of politicians’ republic.

This would involve elections every three or four years to choose sixteen additional politicians, each with their own political agenda.

Or it would involve the appointment of functionaries by the politicians.

Under the model proposed in 1999 – unique in the world - the president would be instantly dismissed by the prime minister without notice, without the requirement to give any reasons, and without any appeal, which could result in reinstatement.

The president would have been completely under the control of the prime minister. Monarchists said that "this would be the only republic ever known where it would have been easier for the prime minister to sack the president than his driver."

Treating the vice-regal offices as unrelated is as wrong as seeing an iceberg as only its visible tip.

This approach is analogous to dividing the tip of that iceberg into seven pieces and then saying each is unrelated not only to the others but also to the vast part of the iceberg under the waves, which is being ignored.

Whether we like it or not, the Crown remains the nation’s oldest institution, above politics, central to its constitutional system, and with the High Court, the only institution which straddles the component parts of the Commonwealth, State and Federal, and looking outwards through the personal union of the sixteen Crowns and across the Commonwealth of Nations.

It was under the Crown that the nation was founded; it was under the Crown that responsible government was granted. It was under the Crown that the nation federated. It was under the Crown that Australia attained its complete independence.

So before discussing its removal, we have to understand what it is.

In the following sections, we discuss the roles and functions of the office of the governor-general and the Governors.

We then discuss ten aspects of the role and functions of the Australian Crown: as part of the Legislature, as the formal Executive, the Fount of Justice, the Fount of Honour, Head of State, the Command–in-Chief, the employer of the Public Service, the Federal Lynchpin, the Constitutional Guardian, in the Personal Union and as the Head of the Commonwealth.

And as we are discussing the Commonwealth, we have referenced the Anglosphere, the English-speaking countries.

The United States of America have more in common than their language, and our Founders looked to aspects of American constitutional arrangements in proposing ours.

From Federation

The Federation of Australia was a Unique Achievement:

Federation was thus the sixth pillar of the nation.

Australia has been able to enjoy a peaceful, limited government, both in times of peace and war, as well as during times of prosperity and depression, thanks to the Federal Constitution. This document has allowed the nation to transition from being a self-governing Dominion within the British Empire to achieving full independence as a Realm within the Commonwealth. The Federation was established on the principle of the new entity being an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown, which remains a fundamental aspect of the nation's federal structure. While there have always been individuals who sought to remove the Crown, these individuals were not elected to the nineteenth-century conventions.

For almost all of the first century of the federation, no Australian leader had questioned the place of the Crown in our constitutional system.

Paul Keating's Austalian Banana Republic
Paul Keating's Australian Banana Republic

In 1993, the Australian government, led by Prime Minister Paul Keating, initiated efforts to explore the potential for Australia to transition to a republic. A Republic Advisory Committee, helmed and chaired by Malcolm Turnbull, was established to conduct the necessary research.

The committee mandated that all appointees must demonstrate a prior commitment to removing the Australian Crown, regardless of any advice sought from the Premiers regarding appointments.

This report presents insightful research regarding Republican models. Back in 1995, the prime minister expressed the government's intention to pursue a proposal to modify the Constitution by eliminating the monarchy. Under the new system, the president would be selected through an election and can be removed through a two-thirds majority vote during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The proposal did not move forward due to the defeat of the Keating government in the 1996 election.

In 1997, in pursuit of an election promise, the Howard government called an election for half of the places to the Constitutional Convention, which met in 1998.

The remaining members were appointed and were mainly ex officio. By their voting at the Convention, it was clear that a majority of the appointed members favoured removing the Crown.

Although the Convention voted for change, the model preferred by the overwhelming majority of Republican delegates could not command a majority vote.  To the approval of the Republican movement and most of the mainline media who were campaigning for change, the Prime Minister ruled that this would be the subject of a referendum.

In 1999, a referendum was called in which the people were invited to vote on this republican model. This was the referendum model, which had the overwhelming support of the Republican delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Most of the mainline media and most of the sitting politicians campaigned in its favour.

The referendum was defeated nationally (55:45), in all states and 72% of electorates. After the defeat, the ARM and the Labor Party called for a national plebiscite to be held in which people would be asked whether they wanted Australia to become a republic. No details would be revealed.

If this were passed, another plebiscite would follow in choosing between different forms of republics. The existing constitution would be excluded from that vote. After the second plebiscite, a  referendum on the preferred Republican model would follow. After this, a conference was held at Corowa, which endorsed this plan.

Senate Inquiry was established in 2003, which produced a  report just before the 2004 election, Road to a Republic. This endorsed the ARM-ALP proposal for two plebiscites, but Liberal Senator Marise Payne, an ARM office bearer, dissented from the proposal for two plebiscites.

Then came a Republican “Mate for a Head of State”  campaign, which failed to create any support for a renewed campaign, and then the 2020 Summit, whose governance panel, after minimal discussion, voted an improbable 98:1 in favour of Australia becoming some vague, undefined republic.

Shortly after the Summit, the Morgan Poll reported the lowest support for a republic in 15 years, with very low support among the young.


At the time of our movement to Federation, our Founding Fathers did not look to the French constitution for processes and institutions worthy of adoption. Nor has the present Australian Republican movement. In fact, the French know more about constitutional models than most countries. France has experienced an absolute than a constitutional monarchy, five republics, a restored monarchy, then a "bourgeois monarchy", two empires, various revolutionary regimes (Legislative Assembly, Convention, Directorate, Consulate) as well as the Vichy dictatorship. Incidentally, all of this occurred in France at the time that Australia evolved from a penal colony to autonomy, to federation and to independence. We should never forget that we are more experienced in democratic government than any of the principal mainland European powers, indeed any major world power except the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

The First French Republic ended in the Reign of Terror and then Bonaparte's dictatorship, which he converted into the First Empire. The Second Republic was converted, through the use or rather the abuse of the plebiscite, into the dictatorship of the Second Empire. The Third Republic provides some interesting case studies on presidents chosen by parliament. Under the Third Republic (1871-1940), the president was elected not by the people but by the National Assembly. The understanding was that he was to reign and not to rule. The first president, Adolphe Thiers, resigned in 1873 within two years of his election when his preferred government lost a vote of confi¬dence in parliament. He expected to be recalled and had planned to restore his party to office. He was mistaken. He was succeeded by Marshal Patrice de McMahon, who, in 1877, used his reserve powers to dismiss the government. He argued that while the prime minister was responsible to parliament, he, as president, was responsible to France. When his party was not returned to the government, he resigned. The third president, Jules Grevy (1879-1887), was noted for using all his power and influence in the election of the prime minister. He regarded foreign affairs and military matters as his own "domaine reserve". He played a major role in Franco-German relations, but he resigned after his brother-in-law was convicted for selling favours, including honours. Another president, Jean Casimir-Perier, was so provocatively authoritarian in his inaugural address that this unleashed a campaign for his removal. Fortunately, he resigned within five months of his election in 1895.

Some presidents of the Third Republic are remembered more for the way they died than for what they did during their terms. When the unfortunate Paul Doumer was elected in 1931 by 504 votes out of 883, he said, inexplicably: "With votes like these, I'll only be assassinated." He was when opening a book exhibition in the Maison Rothschild. His assistants, wishing to spare his feelings, told him he had been knocked down by a taxi! His last words, "Quel chauffeur!" (What a driver!) was understandable. He no doubt wondered what a taxi was doing in the Maison Rothschild.

Felix Faure (1895-1899) also regarded foreign affairs as his and played a major role in cementing the Franco-Russian Alliance. He refused to reopen the Dreyfus case, an infamous example of injustice and anti-Semitism. One of the peculiar arguments of the ARM is that the politician's president who emerges from their republic will somehow be a focus for the unity of the nation. If presidents can unify a country, Felix Faure unified France more in his passing than anything he did in his life. This occurred in the course of what the French describe as a "rendezvous gallant" with Mme Stenheil, whose cries caused staff to burst in to release her hair from the deceased president's hands. He is celebrated by an avenue in Paris and countless other avenues and Rues Felix Faure throughout France.

His successor, Emile Loubet (1899-1906), also claimed a special role in foreign affairs. (Isn't one of the arguments for an Australian president that he or she can represent us in other countries? We shall then have two foreign ministers, or three if we count the prime minister. Or Witt this be a "domain reserve" for our president?) Not all presidents of the Third Republic thought they should rule. Armand Fallieres (1906-1913) was one who behaved impeccably as if he were a constitutional monarch. He seems to have been in the minority.

If the French experience shows anything, it is that politicians are no better, and probably worse, at selecting presidents than the people. When the National Assembly elected Paul Deschanel in 192," his opponent Clemenceau exclaimed, "But they've elected a madman!" Unfortunately, Clemenceau was right, and Parliament was wrong. At Nice, after a speech was well received with cries of "Bis" (encore), Deschanel gave it again, in full! On his way to Montbrison, he fell out of the presidential train and was found wandering along the trace in his pyjamas. The music halls resounded with a new song, "Le Pyjama Presidential". After seven months, he was persuaded to resign. He was succeeded in 1920 by Alexandre Millerand, who shocked even the French with his blatant intervention in government. He forced the foreign minister, Aristide Briand, to resign. He even campaigned for the Bloc National in the legislative elections. But unlike President Deschanel, he lasted until 1924.

The last president of the third republic, Albert Lebrun, to his credit, refused to resign in 1940 to allow Marshal Petain to be appointed dictator. Another deal, another trade-off? Petain was appointed anyway, and three days later, Lebrun did resign. Nobody noticed. The new Vichy regime was more eager than even the Nazis expected to deport Jews to Germany. Charles de Gaulle was condemned to death in absentia. Who put this appalling regime in power? Not the people of France. It was the parliament that chose the president.

The next republic, the fourth, had a parliamentary-elected president. It did not last long. It was born in Algiers with a Provisional Government (GPRF) under General Charles de Gaulle in 1943. Its death rattles began again in Algiers when the former governor-general of Algeria, Jacques Soustelle, attempted a coup d'etat. The last president, Reny Coty, threatened to resign unless de Gaulle was recalled, and the parliament granted him supreme
powers. Which they did. Unlike Petain, de Gaulle introduced a new constitution that retained democratic elections.

The Fifth Republic was born in 1959 and de Gaulle was chosen president by an Electoral College. He, too, was expected to reign rather than rule. But he then gave a new constitution what one commentator describes as a "presidentialiste" interpretation. In particular, he regarded foreign affairs as his "domaine reserve". To everyone's surprise, he failed to confirm Georges Pompidou as prime minister after Pompidou won a landslide victory after the student uprising in 1968. When de Gaulle resigned in 1969, Pompidou succeeded him.

I recall not so long ago, the French news broadcast in Australia by SBS opened with an announcement by President Chirac dis¬solving the National Assembly. He needed no advice to do this. And the president is treated with un-Australian deference on tele¬vision. It is as if he were a king but a political king.

None of the French regimes has lasted the time of our Australian system. None of the French Republics is in any way superior to, or as good as, the Australian system.



Republicans raised the constitutional status of Argentina. Richard Woolcott said that an Argentinian had told him it would be impossible to conceive of the King of Spain also being King of Argentina.

Australia and Argentina

Our Federation was born on the first day of the new century, 1 January 1901. A comparison with another similar country demonstrates the extraordinary success of the Australian Federation. In 1901, Australia had one of the highest incomes per head in the world, an honour it shared with another former settled colony, Argentina.

We had much in common. Both were countries of European set¬tlement, both supplanting an indigenous population, although Argentina was treated much more harshly. Both attracted large-scale immigration, and both imported much of their essentially Judaeo-Christian culture and their European language. Both were developed with substantial British investment, and both were rivals for shares in the lucrative British meat market.

But our histories since then could not have been more different. Australia remains one of the world's oldest continuing democracies —Argentina has alternated between a symbolic democracy behind which a wealthy plutocracy ruled and bouts of dictatorship, usually military. The last resulted in the "disappearance" — the murder — of thousands of Argentinians, the precise number of which is still unknown. The economy has undergone a series of crises. The legal system is discredited, and unlike Australia, Argentina has contributed little to the worldwide struggle for freedom and democracy, certainly nothing like Australia. More Australians died fighting in the First World War than any other non-European power, even the US! We were one of the very few who fought from the very beginning to the end of the Second World War. Argentina was neutral, at least for most of the duration, of both. Today, the Argentinian economy is ravaged, and the people are poor. Australia, in Purchasing Power Parity terms (PPP), is amongst the world's tenth richest (Buckingham, 2001).

The Argentinian economy collapsed in early 2002. Rioting mobs set fire to the economics ministry. The economic supremo, Domingo Cavallo, the architect of tying the peso to the US dollar, had already gone in late 2001. President Fernando de la Rua resigned, and interest payments on Argentina's massive debts were suspended. By the end of the year 2001, de la Rua's successors had also vacated the presidency. In just two weeks, Argentina had had five presidents!

Now the Argentinian people are in no way inferior to the Australians — just as hard-working, as honest and as brave. What is wrong? The difference is in the underlying institutions and values of the two countries. While both began with the benefits of a Judaeo-Christian culture and an advanced European language, Australia, from its beginnings — even as a penal colony — enjoyed both the rule of law and the central role of an institution above politics but under the law, the Crown. It was inevitable that self-government under the Westminster system would soon follow. That was not at all inevitable for Argentina. Why? Because the colonial power, Spain, did not enjoy these benefits and, therefore, could not give them to her colonies. While Argentina had to fight for her independence, Australia was given hers.

The institutions we have — democracy, the rule of law, parliament, a responsible government, the Westminster system, an independent judiciary and an institutional heart beyond political capture, namely the Crown — are the foundations on which our country is governed peacefully, democratically and effectively. While those institutions have all been adapted and Australianised, they still allow us to withstand the enormous stresses that are inevitable in the life of a nation. That is how we have played such an extraordinary role in the world's conflicts, the last being the liberation of East Timor. That is how we maintained our democracy both under the cold winds of world economic crises, especially the Great Depression, and during terrible wars.
Not so many years ago, certain Australian gurus were warning — and some even predicting — that Australia would go down the Ar¬gentinian path of economic disaster. Paul Keating, then Treasurer, even used the term "banana republic".

During the height of the last Argentinian crisis, I wrote along these lines for The Age, published on 26 December 2001. I concluded, "We may well cry for Argentina, but we perhaps should have rejoiced more fulsomely than some public intellectuals have over our remarkable success. On 5 January 2002, The Age published a piece by Mr Peter Costello, the Federal Treasurer. He said I had argued that Argentina lacks good institutions and does not have a monarchy! Rather, he said, Argentina's economic problems are merely the consequence of recent bad economic management. But Argentina's problems are deeper than that. I remember, in 1994, a minister in Buenos Aires lamenting the state of the courts, especially their lack of independence and even corruption. Argentina had, during the 1970s and early 1980s, put up with her armed forces playing politics again, this time murdering thousands. And unlike Australia's, Argentina's armed forces rarely go to war —except of course, the ill-fated Falklands adventure. Whenever there was a coup or when those in power engaged in illegal or unconstitutional acts, there was no authority in Argentina to bring them to heel.

Stable democratic systems are few and far between. Even in the first half of the twentieth century, when Argentina seemed to function reasonably well, this was really a facade for an old, powerful oligarchy, one which Juan Peron replaced with a populist dictatorship. Development had been principally financed by British investment; Peron na¬tionalised most of that, with disastrous consequences.

Argentina was never burdened, as we were, with heavy contributions in people and money to the campaign for freedom and democracy, particularly in the two world wars. In the Second, her government even flirted with the Nazis. Australia continues to live under one of the oldest and most stable democratic systems the world has ever seen and remains one of the richest. Argentina is probably the only country to have fallen from First to Third World status. A rich country has been laid waste.

Yet both countries have produced governments which have mismanaged the economy. In fact, most countries do. But once we realise our mistake, we vote them out, and the system ensures they go. The army does not try to do this for us by putting the generals in power. And one of the advantages of our Federation is that the damage governments can sometimes do is necessarily limited. So whatever damage the John Cain and Joan Kirner governments did, this was kept essentially to Victoria. As was the case with the Brian Burke Government in Western Australia.

A Federal Government can do worse, as with the large accumulated debt left by the Keating Government and the inflationary spiral created by the Whitlam Government when it spent about 50% more than its income. But this is still less damaging than a unitary government. The difference between our success and Argentina's failure is not between the floating of our dollar and Argentina's peso-dollar parity. Both were to a great extent, forced on the governments by circumstances then prevailing. The difference is that we had inherited and then made our own stable institutions and sound conventions within a tried and tested constitutional system.

Mr Costello ridiculed me by pointing to the US as a stable republic. The experience of the United States itself is, however, testimony to the difficulty of changing core institutions. The United States actually spent the better part of its first century of independence trying to establish a sound currency to replace the pound. The saying "not worth a Continental" refers accurately to the value of her first currency, termed continental paper. This was followed by a succession of crises of truly Argentinian proportions — something which Australia, Canada, and New Zealand did not experience. Why? Because our transition to independence was evolutionary, not revolutionary.

On the ABC Foreign Correspondent programme broadcast in April 2002 about the Argentinian crisis of 2001-2002, members of an Argentinian family indicated they wanted, desperately, to emigrate to Australia or Canada. They said that 80% of their friends and relatives wanted to leave, too. A former minister in the Government of President Carlos Saul Menem said that Australia and Argentina are similar countries but with one important difference. This was: "Australia has British institutions. If Argentina had such strong institutions, she would be like Australia in ten or twenty years." Australia does indeed have that rare asset in the world: strong and stable institutions, as well as the values that go with them and which underscore them.
The lesson is not so much to find a perfect government, although we should, of course, keep those in office who demonstrate prudence and competence in the nation's affairs. Dr Helen Irving, a Republican academic, has called for a wholesale review of the Australian Constitution. Her reason? It recalls the celebrated French elite comment, "Well, it may work in practice, but does it work in theory?" (Ca marche en pratique, mais en theorie ... ?) (Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 2002).

Rather, the lesson is to maintain, and not recklessly undermine, a constitutional system which has been shown to work and work well over an extended period of time. And there certainly are not many of those in the world.


Republic Advisory Committee RAC 1993

In 1993 Prime Minister Paul Keating established a Republic Advisory Committee (RAC) to advise him on the various options for minimal change necessary to bring about a republican government in Australia. The RAC's terms of reference stipulated that it should not address any broader issues regarding other areas of constitutional reform or the normative question of whether Australia ought to become a republic. It should also not make any final recommendations but rather address the advantages and disadvantages of the possible approaches to a specified list of matters. (RAC, Vol. 1, p iv)

So the Republic Advisory Committee was not intended to debate the advantages or disadvantages of a republic over the existing system. Its formation reflected Keating's adversarial style. He once argued that the first question about a republic was: "Do you support an Australian republic?" Only if you supported such an entity were you to be admitted to the forum that would discuss the form of the republic. This theme was brutally applied both in terms of reference and of the membership — totally Republican — of the RAC. It was chaired by Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of the Australian Republican Movement.

When the prime minister gave his response to the report, he endorsed the desirability of Australia becoming a republic on the basis of a "minimal" change to the constitution. He addressed five areas of change. The principle components involved:

It was Keating's stated intention that the transition to a republic would be a small step, albeit a highly significant one, with minimal disruption to the system by which Australia is governed. There was dissent in the Republican ranks, however, as to just how small the step being proposed was. One democratic-republican, the late Professor Patrick O'Brien, explained:

In his speech, Keating repeated the false claim that the move from a constitutional monarchy to a republic was a small step. It is a giant leap. In itself, the institution of a republic means the institution of a new constitution and a new political order. Whether it is a giant leap forward or backwards, therefore, depends upon the constitutional distribution, weighing and checking and balancing of power and authority among the people, the parliament, the executive, the bureaucracy and the High Court. (O'Brien, 158)

It was quite clear that Professor O'Brien saw the Keating–Turnbull model as a giant leap backwards.


[This was originally published in 1997 as THE ACM HANDBOOK, Key Facts and Opinions for the Republic Debate in Australia. Some minor editorial changes have been made. The Handbook  opened with the following preface and acknowledgements:

Our Charter is to defend the Australian system of government and the Australian Constitution. This handbook has been produced from materials forwarded to our ACM office by generous supporters, from our own comprehensive library which includes media monitoring since 1992, and from our field and media appearances when debating republicans and their arguments. The tireless efforts of our leader since its formation, Mr Lloyd Waddy, QC, are continually reflected in the philosophy and arguments presented in this handbook. We give our special thanks to Barbara and Lindsay Thomson, Gold Coast 'No Republic' branch, for their invaluable contributions and research. In particular, we thank our ACM supporters who have stood up for our cause through thick and thin. The spirit of thousands of voices pervades this handbook throughout in defence of our Australian Constitution and the role of the non-political Crown in it!

Kerry Jones
Executive Director, ACM

Editorial assistance, design and layout were donated by Clive Longstaff, and the volume was printed by Standard Publishing House, Rozelle NSW]

The history of republicanism in Australia is the history of an imagined destiny. The Australian republic is a two-century-old dream not realised.' (Mark McKenna "The Captive Republic. A history of republicanism in Australia 1788-1996". p1). The 1850s and especially the lead up to Federation in 1901 saw debate and discussion on the best system of government for Australia.

In the 1890s the peoples of the Australian colonies were more involved in the making of their constitution than the people of any of the world's other great democracies. The Australian Constitution came into effect on 1 January 1901 with the federation of the separate colonies into one, united Australian nation. Since pre-Federation, it was only in the 1990s that a serious attempt was made to force republicanism on Australia.

This handbook, which is unequivocally and unashamedly written from the perspective of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), is intended to provide our Supporters and spokespersons with arguments useful for debating those advocating a republic.

Whilst republicans have many different preferences for aspects of an Australian republic, they tend to argue on two levels; emotional and constitutional. The emotional lines usually centre on their perceived need for Australia to have 'one of us' as Head of State, getting rid of the 'foreign' Queen, Australia needing to be independent, and the problems associated with the private lives of younger members of the Royal Family (and their ex's). Often, changes to symbols of our system of government and our national identity, such as changes sought to our Australian flag, our national anthem, and our Government Houses, are also linked to the emotional debate.

The constitutional debate, which is central to our ACM platform, focuses on the defects in the various models of republics as alternatives to our current working system of government; the problems with each of the methods advanced for appointing and dismissing a president, exposing the powers a president would have, and the dangers inherent in replacing the Governor-General as our non-political Head of State, which only the Crown can ensure, with a powerful political president.

There are many additional technically-complex constitutional questions which we must insist are addressed before any vote is taken on any Republican model. These include subjects not generally recognised by the Australian people as fundamentally related constitutional issues, such as each of the States being a separate constitutional monarchy. The possible content of a new preamble to a new constitution opens up a minefield of considerations. Should a new republican constitution include a bill of rights, abolish the federal Senate, abolish the States or local government, including provisions on controversial issues such as euthanasia, gun laws and abortion, deal with aboriginal reconciliation, include a commitment to the environment, incorporate the principal of citizen-initiated referendums, or abolish the current requirement for ongoing constitutional change to be preceded by a referendum? Added to these are all the other interests being proposed by various supporters of the republic. Or should these issues remain, as under our current constitution, the role of the parliament through its ongoing legislative programme with legal challenges decided by the High Court?

For citizens who like their country the way it is presently governed, our strongest case is still the adage, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. We have never claimed that our system of government is perfect, just that the Republicans so far haven't offered anything better or justified good enough reasons for change. After all, we are surely right to be proud of living in the world's sixth-oldest continuous democracy.

Only the people of Australia, voting through a referendum, can and will decide whether Australia will abolish the role of the Crown in a new republic. Of course, this would mean a new constitution, a new identity and an unknown constitutional future.

We hope that armed with this handbook, in conjunction with other materials that support our ACM cause, all defenders of the Australian Constitution, and the role of the Crown in it, will be able to challenge and convincingly argue any case a republican might try to justify.

It is anticipated that as republican agitation increases towards the referendum, further handbooks with questions and answers, as well as guides on debating, will be published by ACM.

The words of Justice Michael Kirby, ACM Charter Signatory, summarise it all: 'I support reform of society and laws. But reform means more than change. It means change for the better. My proposition is that the establishment of a 'Federal Republic of Australia' would not be a change for the better ... Under the Constitution that has served Australia for nearly a century, we will all peacefully cast our ballots. No blood in the streets. No gunfire will accompany the result. We can rejoice in our mature Constitution. In the words of the poet laureate of practical people: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it."


[This was originally published in 1997 as THE ACM HANDBOOK, Key Facts and Opinions for the Republic Debate in Australia. Some minor editorial changes have been made. The Handbook  opened with the following preface and acknowledgements:

Our Charter is to defend the Australian system of government and the Australian Constitution. This handbook has been produced from materials forwarded to our ACM office by generous supporters, from our own comprehensive library, which includes media monitoring since 1992, and from our field and media appearances when debating republicans and their arguments. The tireless efforts of our leader since its formation, Mr Lloyd Waddy, QC, are continually reflected in the philosophy and arguments presented in this handbook. We give our special thanks to Barbara and Lindsay Thomson, Gold Coast 'No Republic' branch, for their invaluable contributions and research. In particular, we thank our ACM supporters who have stood up for our cause through thick and thin. The spirit of thousands of voices pervades this handbook throughout in defence of our Australian Constitution and the role of the non-political Crown in it!

Kerry Jones
Executive Director, ACM

Editorial assistance, design and layout were donated by Clive Longstaff, and the volume was printed by Standard Publishing House, Rozelle NSW]

The history of republicanism in Australia is the history of an imagined destiny. The Australian republic is a two-century-old dream not realised.' (Mark McKenna "The Captive Republic. A history of republicanism in Australia 1788-1996". p1). The 1850s and especially the lead up to Federation in 1901 saw debate and discussion on the best system of government for Australia.

In the 1890s the peoples of the Australian colonies were more involved in the making of their constitution than the people of any of the world's other great democracies. The Australian Constitution came into effect on 1 January 1901 with the federation of the separate colonies into one, united Australian nation. Since pre-Federation, it was only in the 1990s that a serious attempt was made to force republicanism on Australia.

This handbook, which is unequivocally and unashamedly written from the perspective of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), is intended to provide our Supporters and spokespersons with arguments useful for debating those advocating a republic.

Whilst republicans have many different preferences for aspects of an Australian republic, they tend to argue on two levels; emotional and constitutional. The emotional lines usually centre on their perceived need for Australia to have 'one of us' as Head of State, getting rid of the 'foreign' Queen, Australia needing to be independent, and the problems associated with the private lives of younger members of the Royal Family (and their ex's). Often, changes to symbols of our system of government and our national identity, such as changes sought to our Australian flag, our national anthem, and our Government Houses, are also linked to the emotional debate.

The constitutional debate, which is central to our ACM platform, focuses on the defects in the various models of republics as alternatives to our current working system of government; the problems with each of the methods advanced for appointing and dismissing a president, exposing the powers a president would have, and the dangers inherent in replacing the Governor-General as our non-political Head of State, which only the Crown can ensure, with a powerful political president.

There are many additional technically-complex constitutional questions which we must insist are addressed before any vote is taken on any Republican model. These include subjects not generally recognised by the Australian people as fundamentally related constitutional issues, such as each of the States being a separate constitutional monarchy. The possible content of a new preamble to a new constitution opens up a minefield of considerations. Should a new republican constitution include a bill of rights, abolish the federal Senate, abolish the States or local government, including provisions on controversial issues such as euthanasia, gun laws and abortion, deal with aboriginal reconciliation, include a commitment to the environment, incorporate the principal of citizen-initiated referendums, or abolish the current requirement for ongoing constitutional change to be preceded by a referendum? Added to these are all the other interests being proposed by various supporters of the republic. Or should these issues remain, as under our current constitution, the role of the parliament through its ongoing legislative programme with legal challenges decided by the High Court?

For citizens who like their country the way it is presently governed, our strongest case is still the adage 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. We have never claimed that our system of government is perfect, just that the republicans so far haven't offered anything better or justified good enough reasons for change. After all, we are surely right to be proud of living in the world's sixth oldest continuous democracy.

Only the people of Australia, voting through a referendum, can and will decide whether Australia will abolish the role of the Crown in a new republic. Of course this would mean a new constitution, a new identity and an unknown constitutional future.

We hope that armed with this handbook, in conjunction with other materials that support our ACM cause, all defenders of the Australian Constitution, and the role of the Crown in it, will be able to challenge and convincingly argue any case a republican might try to justify.

It is anticipated that as republican agitation increases towards the referendum, further handbooks with questions and answers, as well as guides on debating, will be published by ACM.

The words of Justice Michael Kirby, ACM Charter Signatory, summarise it all: 'I support reform of society and laws. But reform means more than change. It means change for the better. My proposition is that the establishment of a 'Federal Republic of Australia' would not be a change for the better ... Under the Constitution that has served Australia for nearly a century, we will all peacefully cast our ballots. No blood in the streets. No gunfire will accompany the result. We can rejoice in our mature Constitution. In the words of the poet laureate of practical people: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The ARM and ACM

In July 1991 the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) was launched. Its central platform? To establish a republic by the centenary of the Federation on 1 January 2001. Described by McKenna as the 'brainchild of New South Wales Labor MLC Franca Arena', the ARM has since operated from the offices of the merchant bankers Malcolm Turnbull and Neville Wran.

Another founding member, Thomas Keneally, described the reasoning behind the movement's formation:
'In a manner all too typical of generous Sunday lunches in Sydney, a number of bottles of Hunter Valley chardonnay had been drained. Neville Wran leaned over the table and said, 'The other thing I want to see happen before I bloody well die is an Australian republic'.'
Thomas Keneally "Our Republic".

Since 1992, political interventions often described as 'republicanism by stealth' coupled with a recognised bias in favour of the republic through the Australian press gave substantial support to the republican cause. In addition, the blatant promotion through both funding and policy commitments of the Keating Labor Government until its election defeat in March 1996 has led many Australians to assume that a republic in Australia is 'inevitable'.
The public spokespersons associated with the ARM, coupled with an annual series of lavish $150 per head dinners, have frequently resulted in ARM members and the organisation being described as 'elitist' and out of touch with real Australia. This description is perhaps apt and is compounded by an ARM growth rate less than a quarter of that of ACM. Furthermore, in popular opinion polls, even at the height of the Keating Government's Republican push, 'a republic' has never ranked in the top ten issues those polled wanted the Government to address.

The movement to defend the constitution, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), was launched at a public meeting on 4 June 1992. Tony Abbott, the first executive Director of ACM in his book "The Minimal Monarchy" described the organisation as 'the brain child of two Sydney lawyers: Lloyd Waddy, senior barrister and Chairman of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, who acted as spokesperson and organiser; and Michael Kirby, judge and law reformer who drafted a Charter for ACM which embraced everyone from ardent royalists, to strong constitutionalists, to republicans who were in no hurry for change.' Members of the Foundation Charter Council included Sir John Atwill, Aboriginal former senator Neville Bonner, former High Court Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs, Gareth Grainger, Stephen Hall, Angelo Hatsatouris, Sydney University Chancellor Dame Leonie Kramer, Vahoi Naufahu, Justice Barry O'Keefe, artist Margaret 011ey, New South Wales MLC Helen Sham-Ho, former Labor Lord Mayor of Sydney Doug Sutherland and Margaret Valadian. ACM now boasts a list of Supporters Australia-wide well in excess of 16,000.

A rally in Sydney Town Hall on 26 November 1993 addressed by the Hon John Howard MP (now Prime Minister of Australia) attracted a standing room only audience of over 2000. A march from the gates of Government House to the front of Parliament House in Sydney, organised by ACM in January 1996 to protest at the New South Wales Premier Bob Carr's attempt to downgrade the Office of Governor and deny the incoming governor residence in Government House attracted some 20,000 people. In addition ACM's established councils and branches across Australia have successfully held grass roots seminars, debates, luncheons, dinners and receptions for the wider community. Since its formation, ACM's overwhelming source of funding has been average donations of $5—$10 from individual Supporters. Fewer than 30 Supporters have given over $500.

In the lead up to the Howard Government's promised People's Constitutional convention ACM has focused on the need for educating Australians on our working constitution and system of government.

We know from the Civic Expert Group appointed by the Keating Government in 1994 that 82% of Australians know nothing about the content of our Constitution. Through the generosity of our Supporters the ACM resources development programme has included books, a video, collections of papers, our national Newsletter and a variety of handbooks.

In summary

'The Australian monarchy is a peculiar beast. Some would say that it doesn't really exist. But monarchies have an infinite variety, and ours is no less real because it's peculiar. During the 1990s we began to understand it better than we have done for many years, and we can thank the republican movement for that. ... ...

Monarchy is deeply embedded within the Australian tradition. It has its faults, but its virtues are fundamental to our way of life. Until that fact is recognised there is no useful way forward, no means of reconciling monarchists and republicans and no way of pursuing the other option to a republic, the remodelling and rebirth of the system we know.'

Allan Atkinson (Author) Quoted from "The Muddle-Headed Republic"


'We live under a Constitution that was formed without the directions of any women at all, and without indigenous people (including women and men) or, generally, women and men of non–English speaking background or ethnic minorities. ... ... Those rights that are contained in the Constitution would have been framed very differently if women and indigenous people of both sexes participated.'
Dr J. Scutt (Feminist lawyer) Paper: "From a colonial past to an inclusionary future woman — the Constitution and women's rights"
Political Equality For Women Seminar, Canberra 19 September 1996

'Feminist historians are often quite proud of the exemplary achievements of Australian women in the context of world history
— gaining the right to vote so early: 1894 in South Australia, the other colonies a little later, 1901 in the Commonwealth.'
Curthoys & Mueke. (Authors) "The Republican Debate" UNSW Press 1993.

'On 7 June (1995) Paul Keating told parliament ... that serving politicians and those who had served within the preceding five years would be ineligible for appointment as president. In these days of equal opportunity and non-discrimination, Keating wants to insert in our Constitution a provision that world discriminate against two categories of Australians regardless of merit.'
Sir David Smith (Official Secretary to Governors-General 1973-1990) "The Australian" 15 October 1996 p13

'Learning about the Constitution apprises ses people that we have got a constitution which was designed by the British Foreign office to look over the Australian Government's shoulder.'
The Hon P.J. Keating (former Prime Minister) Speech when launching the need for a national education programme to inform people about citizenship and the Constitution! Melbourne, 15 June 1994

'Mr Keating uses history to his advantage. He reinvents it to suit his agenda — the republic.'
Randal Marquee (Canberra Bureau Chief) "The West Australian" 18 June 1994

We Made One of the World’s Most Successful Constitutions

Prior to Federation, Australia was made up of separate colonies with their own elected governments. The 1890s saw a series of conventions with delegates both popularly elected and/or nominated by the colonies. The draft Australian Constitution was adapted from the constitutions of the USA, Canada and Switzerland as well as incorporating many ideas from the British system of responsible parliamentary Government. The draft, similar to that finally approved by the people in the referendums held in each of the colonies, was extensively the work of Samuel Griffith (QLD), Edmund Barton (NSW), Charles Kingston (SA) and, Andrew Inglis (TAS).

As no single colony could legislate for any of the others, and to give the new constitution undoubted legal effect in all colonies, at the request of the people in each colony, the British Parliament in 1900 passed the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act to which our constitution, as agreed by the people, was and is a Schedule. Our federal Constitution was designed by Australians, for Australians and approved by Australian voters. The Australian constitution came into effect on 1 January 1901. All those who voted for it approved its creation of one nation on one continent under the Crown.


That women and aborigines were not allowed to vote in the colonial referendums for the Australian constitution and the federation of the Commonwealth of Australia.


The authority of the Crown comes from the people and in 1900 Australians voted to retain the monarchy. The people of all States by a majority voted to have the system we've got. It is not true that no women voted. Those States where women had the franchise did vote, as in South Australia. Those aborigines that had the franchise in Victoria and New South Wales did vote. But, sure, it was a male dominated world then.

'The debate over Australian history, however, risks being distorted if its focus is confined only to the shortcomings of previous generations. It risks being further distorted if highly selective views of Australian history are used as the basis for endless and agonised navel-gazing about who we are or, as seems to have happened over recent years, as part of a 'perpetual seminar' for elite opinion about our national identity.
The current debate over Australian history would benefit from a more balanced approach, from a wider perspective and from less pre-ordained pessimism.

In the broad balance sheet of our history, there is a story of great Australian achievement to be told . ... ...

We are right to be proud of living in one of the world's oldest continuous democracies, having pioneered advances in women's franchise, individual freedom, the accountability of governments and the rule of law.'
The Hon J.W. Howard (Prime Minister of Australia) Address: "The 1996 Sir Robert Menzies Lecture" Melbourne, 18 November 1996

A Working Constitution

Our Australian Constitution is nearly 100 years old. It is now the sixth oldest in the world. We hope to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2001 united as Australians. Since Federation in 1901 the Australian Constitution has sustained our legal and governmental systems, providing us with a stability and unity which has made us the envy of the world. Thousands of Australians have chosen to migrate here after fleeing from disastrous experiences in republics.

The Australian Constitution unifies our nation's system of government and ensures the people of Australia are sovereign in our democracy. Through parliamentary legislation and the legal system, our nation evolves and adapts to the complexities of the modern world. Thanks to the vision of the Australian voters in 1900, Section 128 of our constitution ensures Australia is one of the very few countries in the world where constitutional change can only be achieved through a referendum of the people. Otherwise it is our elected members of parliament who make the day to day decisions of government although all legislation must receive the assent of the Governor-General before becoming law.


The constitution is old and out of date.


Our Constitution is as modern as we the people want it to be. In the exercise of the sovereignty of the people, voters have approved only eight of the 48 suggested amendments put to them at referendums.

Republicans are not able to demonstrate any way in which Australia would be better off as a republic. We could end up with replacing one of the best systems of government in the world with constitutional and political uncertainties.

If the republicans are right and nothing will really change, why bother! If, on the other hand, they are playing down the extent of the flow-on changes, why take the risk? A republic diverts attention from more pressing questions.


'A republic says that this is Australia: a nation not defined by race or religion or cultural background, but a nation defined by its commitment to this land above all others. It is a commitment to our own unique democracy and democratic institutions.'
Australian Republican Movement. Platform document p4

'The present system works well. It allows us to have stable Government in this country. The Head of State is aware of the restraints under which he must function. They are acknowledged all round and have worked since Federation quite effectively. If we move away from that and there is no restraint, then my apprehension would be that we could go through extensive periods of quite unstable Government.'
The Hon W.G. Hayden (former Governor-General) ABC "Four Corners" 1993.

'Republicanism can mean and has meant many things beyond the mere removal of the monarch. A republic denotes sovereignty of the people or a mixed and balanced Constitution, both of which are compatible with monarchy so long as the monarch is a constitutional monarch. From the mid-19th century, the British system of parliamentary government was commonly seen as a disguised republic.'
Dr John Hirst (ARM Victorian convenor) Review of "The Captive Republic.
A History of republicanism in Australia" by Mark McKenna
"The Australian" 13 November 1996

'The constitution is like a marriage licence. It tells us two people are bound together in marriage but not much about what goes on inside the marriage.'
Lloyd Waddy (ACM National convenor) Various speeches. 

Australia Is Independent

In 1931 the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster, which allowed the self-governing Dominions to make their own decisions about defence and foreign policy, the only areas of policy which had remained under British control. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia passed a law to ratify the Statute of Westminster in 1942. Remaining links with Britain (as distinct from links with the Crown) were broken by Acts of the Commonwealth Parliament in 1968 and 1975, which first restricted, then abolished, appeals from the High Court to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Finally with the passage of Australia Acts 1986 through both the British Parliament (at the specific request of the Commonwealth and all State Governments) and the Australian Parliament, all remaining legal links (mainly involving the States) between Australia and Britain were severed.


Australia should have a Head of State who is an Australian citizen, who is appointed by Australians and who represents the independent and sovereign nation of Australia, called the 'President of Australia'. The Queen of England is seen by others as representing the UK, not Australia, and this creates confusion. The British Queen does not represent the people who now make up Australia. Australia must be seen to be an independent nation, no longer tied to the apron strings of Britain.


Australia is completely independent. We no longer have any legal or constitutional ties with Britain. Nothing in the changes that are proposed could make us any more independent. Australia is already a form of republic under the Crown of Australia; a crowned republic. The 1926 Imperial Conference of the British and Dominion Prime Ministers declared that the Governor-General of a Dominion was no longer to be the representative of His Majesty's Government in Britain, and that it was no longer in accordance with the Governor-General's constitutional position for him to remain as the formal channel of communication between the two Governments. The Conference resolved that, henceforth, a Governor-General would stand in the same constitutional relationship with his Dominion Government, and hold the same position in relation to the administration of the public affairs in the dominion, as did the King with the British Government and in relation to public affairs in Great Britain. It was also decided that a Governor-General should be provided by his Dominion Government with copies of all important documents and should be kept as fully informed of Cabinet business and public affairs in the Dominion as was the King in Great Britain.

At that same conference the Prime Ministers recognised that the Sovereign would be unable to pay State visits on behalf of any Commonwealth country other than the United Kingdom, and it was agreed that Governors-General of the various realms would pay and receive State visits in respect of their own countries. 'Buckingham Palace made it clear that it expected that Governors-General would be treated as the Heads of their respective countries and would be received by host countries with all the marks of respect due to visiting Heads of State. Canada exercised this right almost immediately and its Governors-General began visiting other countries the following year, 1927, but Australian Governments waited until 1971, forty four years after Canada, to follow suit. Since then our Governors-General have made 49 State and official visits to 32 foreign countries.


'So we have evolved to the point, in our time, at which the Governor-General, an Australian citizen and resident, performs Head of State functions in and for Australia even though lie is not formally Head of State. It is this development, this evolution, which explains why Geoffrey Wainey says that Australia is in practice a republic'.
Rt. Hon Sir Zelman Cowen (former Governor-General) "The Australian Constitutional Monarchy" Grainger & Jones p 46

'Those who seek to argue that Australia or its States or Territories are not independent must ignore political reality and law, both international and domestic. In every sense of the word, Australia is an independent and self determining nation, and changes to our constitution must be justified by other arguments, not those which assert or infer that we are in sonic way tied to the apron strings of Britain or that we are in some way still of colonial status. ... ... Australia as a nation was never a colony, although each of the States of Australia have colonial origins. Our constitution is the product of the finest Australian legal and political minds, exercised over the last part of the 19th century, hammered out in the founder of the constitutional conventions and presented for adoption as our constitution. It is an Australian Constitution, formulated by Australians, for Australians. ... ... It is a good document, a sound document, one which has, and still does, serve us well. ... ... Changing the Commonwealth constitution will not enhance our independence, our sovereignty, or our capacity for self determination. They are full and plenary'.
The Hon. Barry O'Keefe (ACM Charter Signatory) Speech: "Australia 1995: An Independent and Self Determining Nation" 2 November 1995.

'Our Head of State should be one of us'
The Hon P.J. Keating (former Prime Minister) Parliamentary speech: "An Australian republic; the way forward" 7 June 1995

'The Governor-General's statutory powers, that is, those powers conferred on him by legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, were similarly conferred on the Governor-General in his own right and could be exercised by no one else — not even the Sovereign. So Parliament was asked to pass the Royal Powers Act 1953. This Act allows the Queen, whenever she is personally present in Australia, and is so advised by her Australian Ministers, to exercise any statutory power ender an Act of Parliament that is exercisable by the Governor-General. The Act further provides that the Governor-General may continue to exercise any of his statutory powers even while the Queen is in Australia, and in practice Governors-General have continued to do so.'
Sir David Smith (Official Secretary to Governors-General 1973-1990) From background notes explaining the Australian Parliament's Royal Powers Act 953.

Who is the Head of State?

Our Constitution does not contain the expression 'Head of State'. What it says, in Section 61, is 'the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth'.


Australia shall have a Head of State who is an Australian citizen, who is appointed by Australians and who represents the independent and sovereign nation of Australia.


The fact is we already have an Australian as our constitutional Head of State. It is the Governor-General, not the Queen, who exercises the powers of the Head of State. Our Australian Governor-General functions with all the powers of a Head of State and is recognised as such by other countries.


'Under our present constitution, we have two Heads of State, the Queen is our symbolic Head of State and the Governor-General is our constitutional Head of State. ... ... The monarchy and the Crown have given us such an impeccable method of appointing the Australian who is to serve as our constitutional Head of State, that even those who have come directly from politics have served the Office with distinction'.
Sir David Smith (Official Secretary to Governors-General 1973-1990) Speech: "Australia's Head of State" Sydney Legacy 29 August 1996

'Our system gives us two sovereigns. One is monarch and/or her representative, a figure whose authority is deeply embedded in the past, who has no special interest to serve and whose dignity cannot be subverted. The other is the people, a body all-powerful at election time. The first is not just an ornament. The symbolic and spiritual power of the Queen strengthens the hand of the Governor-General in dealing with the politicians. The Crown has thus played a part in making Australian governments accountable. It has nourished a culture in which watching and questioning is taken for granted.'
Allan Atkinson (Author) Quoted from "The Muddle-Headed Republic"

'On the basis that he looks like a Head of State, and sounds like a Head of State, the Governor-General is Australia's Head of State. Bill Hayden called himself Head of State when he was Governor-General. In 1975 when the Speaker of the House of Representatives sought the Queen's intervention after the dismissal of the Prime Minister, the Queen's Private Secretary observed that 'The Queen has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the constitution,   and  it would not be proper for [her] to intervene in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the Governor-General by the Constitution. Even the Republican Advisory Committee concluded that the Queen's sole remaining power under the Australian Constitution was to appoint a Governor-General — and that this could only be exercised on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister. It's time for the real Head of State to be acknowledged, stand up and take a bow'.
The Hon A.J. Abbott (former ACM Executive Director) 'Consoling the Republicans' "The Adelaide Review" July 1996

'This theory of our 95-year old constitutional arrangements [i.e. we have both a symbolic and a constitutional Head of State] is not some bizarre theory dreamed up for the current debate. It is well supported and was voiced at the time of Federation.
It is supported by an 1873 speech by Canadian governor-general, Lord Dufterin; by the writings of two Australian legal scholars, A. Inglis Clark's "Studies in Australian Constitutional Law", 1901, and W. Harrison Moore's "The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia", 1902; by the decisions of the British and Dominion prime ministers at the 1926 and 1930 Imperial Conferences; by advice given to prime minister Robert Menzies by the Commonwealth government's legal advisers in 1953; by legal.

Appointing the Head of State now & in a Politicians’ Republic

There is a fundamental difference between an office holder who is appointed (a Governor-General) and one who is elected (a president).
Appointment, coupled with a sense of duty and obligation to the Crown, acts as a powerful restraint. Election, by whatever means, brings with it supporters, obligations and the notion of a mandate and a power base, and removes the impartiality of a non-political referee. Therefore any candidate for election becomes, by definition, political.

In 1993 the Keating Government's $600,000 Turnbull Report canvassed four options for the selection of a president: appointment by the Prime Minister; appointment by the Parliament; popular election; or appointment by an electoral college. There are fundamental weaknesses in all these options that could be abused by an ambitious president in a time of crisis. A president selected and dismissed by the Prime Minister would lack democratic legitimacy and could be seen, and possibly become, a puppet of the Prime Minister as was seen during the prime ministership of Mrs Ghandi in India. A president elected by the people would have more authority than a Prime Minister elected by MPs as would a president chosen by a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Federal Parliament.

A president must have a fixed term of office e.g. 5 years, 7 years (or for life!!). A Governor-General has no fixed tenure. Thus Australia's Prime Ministers have it made! An inbuilt safeguard. If the Governor-General behaves improperly, or shows political bias, a fax to the Queen advising the 'recall' of the Governor-General and he or she is on his or her way. The monarch will be bound, in turn, to accept the advice of her Australian Prime Minister.
Not so with a President, however elected, with a fixed term. If a President behaved improperly or flouted the conventions, it could take weeks, or even months, and it may not even then be possible to send him or her on their way depending on whatever machinery for the removal of a president (e.g. two-thirds majority of parliament) is prescribed.

Opinion given to prime minister Gough Whitlam by the Commonwealth solicitor-general in 1975; by advice given to Speaker Gordon Scholes by Buckingham Palace in 1975; by advice given to the Queen by prime minister Bob Hawke in 1984; and by descriptions of the governor-general as head of State by former prime ministers Hawke and Keating, former governor-general Bill Hayden, countless newspaper editorials through many years, including in "The Australian", and by leading Australian constitutional scholars such as Brian Galligan, professor of political science, University of Melbourne, in "A Federal Republic: Australia's System of Constitutional Government", published last year'

Sir David Smith (Official Secretary to Governors-General 1973-1990) Lecture delivered during the Australian Senate's Occasional Lecture Series
Canberra 17 November 1995

'Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief Last Update 22.12.95

...... He is the head of state in whom power of the Commonwealth is vested.'

Extract from "The Commonwealth Government Directory — The Official Guide"

December 1995–February 1996 Edition issued by Keating Government


The President should be elected by a two-thirds majority of a joint sitting of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. (ARM publication "Towards an Australian republic").


A two-thirds parliamentary-appointed president would mean that the people would not be allowed to elect a Head of State directly despite opinion polls continually showing that at least 80% of Australians would want to elect a President if Australia were ever to become a republic. The politicians would determine who would be president, not the people. Such a method of appointment would immediately imply behind-the-scenes factional and party political deals. It would give a blank cheque to the politicians.

The Keating Government had its own proposal. This was that the Prime Minister would choose and nominate only a single candidate who would be presented to the parliament which would then be obliged to vote without debate. Some dubbed this the 'Russian Model'. If the nominee needed and gained two-thirds of the votes of Federal parliamentarians, such a president would have and could claim a mandate that none in the rest of the executive government could have. In addition it is not impossible that a single party could again hold a two-thirds majority of votes in the parliament. A President obligated for both appointment and protection from dismissal to a particular political party may have great difficulty in making impartial judgement at a time of crisis.


'Irreconcilable opposites are likely to yield chaos'.
Sir Maurice Byers (former Commonwealth Solicitor-General) on the dangers of having a popularly-elected president and parliament.
Article: "Australian Lawyer" October 1995 removable on the advice of the Prime Minister is to be replaced by a president elected for a fixed term and with a method of removal designed to guarantee difficulty for a Government faced with a strong Senate and an ambitious President.'
Sir David Smith (Official Secretary to Governors-General 1973-1990) ACM address "Australia's Heads of State". 29 August 1996

'It is by no means improbable that a President would flout the conventions and use the powers as he or she pleased, either because of a political motive, or because of a wish to assert the importance of the office. In some cases it could be impossible to get the two-thirds majority needed in Parliament to remove a President who behaved improperly or showed political bias. But the fact that the Governor-General may be removed at will provided an additional check against abuse of power. So it is not in any Prime Minister's long term interest and certainly not in the people's best interest to get rid of the two-tier system of Head of State.'
Rt. Hon Sir Harry Gibbs (Chief Justice of the High Court 1981-1987) "The Australian" 21 June 1995

'In the unlikely event that the method of election for the House of Representatives were changed from our highly democratic preferential voting system to the British first-past-the-post system, a two-thirds majority would be quite easy to obtain. Even under our present system, the Fraser Government after the landslide against the Whitlam Government in 1975 was only one seat short of a two-thirds majority'.
Padraic McGuinness (Journalist) "The Age" 9 June 1995
(Note: In this instance the final decision on the choice of a president could well rest with a single Independent member of parliament.)

'Warnings against this type of change were echoed long ago by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Governor-General Bill Hayden. A president with a two-thirds majority of both Houses of the Parliament has a stronger power base than a Prime Minister with a bare majority in the House of Representatives. Couple this with the [same] method of removing a president by the same means as appointment, and you will provide a much greater temptation for a president to be what Bob Hawke has described as `a wilful beast'. A Governor-General appointed 'at the Queen's pleasure' and removable on the advice of the Prime Minister is to be replaced by a president elected for a fixed term and with a method of removal designed to guarantee difficulty for a Government faced with a strong Senate and an ambitious President.'
Sir David Smith (Official Secretary to Governors-General 1973-1990) ACM address "Australia's Heads of State". 29 August 1996

'It is by no means improbable that a President would flout the conventions and use the powers as he or she pleased, either because of a political motive, or because of a wish to assert the importance of the office. In some cases it could be impossible to get the two-thirds majority needed in Parliament to remove a President who behaved improperly or showed political bias. But the fact that the Governor-General may be removed at will provided an additional check against abuse of power. So it is not in any Prime Minister's long term interest and certainly not in the people's best interest to get rid of the two-tier system of Head of State.'
Rt. Hon Sir Harry Gibbs (Chief Justice of the High Court 1981-1987) "The Australian" 21 June 1995

'In the unlikely event that the method of election for the House of Representatives were changed from our highly democratic preferential voting system to the British first-past-the-post system, a two-thirds majority would be quite easy to obtain. Even under our present system, the Fraser Government after the landslide against the Whitlam Government in 1975 was only one seat short of a two-thirds majority'.
Padraic McGuinness (Journalist) "The Age" 9 June 1995
(Note: In this instance the final decision on the choice of a president could well rest with a single Independent member of parliament.)

Head of State’s Powers

Our constitution describes the Governor-General as the Queen's representative, but in practice when the Governor-General discharges his constitutional duties he does so at his own discretion exercising powers granted to him by the people through the Constitution and not as an agent or proxy of the Sovereign.

The 1993 Republic Advisory Committee Report defines the Office of Governor-General on p 34 thus:

'The Governor-General's position is significantly different from that of the Queen. While her powers and duties under the Constitution are few, the Governor-General is the central figure in the text of the Constitution. ......

The Governor-General may:

The Governor-General routinely discharges constitutional duties following 'advice' formally tendered by the Prime Minister or other responsible minister. However there are occasions when the Governor-General must exercise his own judgement to seek new advisers either because there is no Prime Minister to advise him or because he feels he should reject the advice already tendered. It is on these occasions that we see the value of having an independent and non-political Governor-General who is free to act as the constitutional umpire. In a situation where the Prime Minister or the government are no longer able to govern, the Governor-General will seek advice to call a general election to resolve the crisis.

Our constitution does not spell out the 'reserve' powers. Where used, the Governor-General is said to be exercising the reserve powers of the Crown — not the British Crown but the Australian Crown —although here, as in other monarchical countries within the Commonwealth, the vice-regal powers in Australia are those granted by the Constitution or inherited from the traditions, conventions and precedents evolved over hundreds of years by the British constitutional monarchy.

The Governor-General can stand independently apart from the parliament, the government and politicians. In an unresolvable clash between the Senate and the House of Representatives the Governor-General can replace his existing advisers with others who will form a caretaker government until elections can be held (as occurred in November 1975). So, in reality, the reserve powers of the Crown, or reserve powers of the Governor-General are actually the reserve powers of the people. They are exercised in our interests and on our behalf and ensure that we, the Australian people, are sovereign in our democracy where both provisions of the Constitution and the rule of law are upheld for everyone's benefit.

Constitutional powers were used by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Philip Game, when he dismissed Premier J.T. Lang in 1932 for potentially illegal conduct. They were similarly used in 1975 by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr, to dismiss the Labor Government of E.G. Whitlam. Supply was blocked when the Opposition in the Senate failed to pass the federal budget. In both cases elections were held forthwith and Australians voted for new governments, indicating overwhelming endorsement of the actions of both the Governor-General and the Governor.

Some republicans, e.g. Malcolm Turnbull, claim that any President should have his powers codified (i.e. written down). Other republicans (e.g. Gareth Evans and Professor George Winterton) argue that it would be impossible to codify all the unpredictable circumstances that might arise. Minimalists would entrust a president with the current powers of the Governor-General but without the historical precedents and conventions that currently guide the Governor-General. They would become the personal powers of a politician to use as he or she saw fit, without the restraint of the conventions of the Office of Governor-General.

Whichever way you look at it, there is no doubt that under any republican model the sovereignty that we currently entrust to a non-political Governor-General could end up in the hands of an all-powerful, political president to be exercised for personal or party-political gain.


'Under our constitution the power of the Crown as Head of State of Australia is exercised by her representative the Governor-General. The office of President should retain the powers which the Governor-General currently uses under the conventions, or traditions, that have developed over this century. At the moment the so-called 'reserve powers' are not spelled out in the Constitution. We believe a president's powers should be clearly defined, stating that the President acts on the advice of the elected government except where the government has lost the confidence of the House of Representatives or is breaking the law'. (From platform of the Australian Republican Movement; p2)


Just as the Senate acts as a check and balance to the House of Representatives, so the Governor-General is an independent check and balance on the government, acting on behalf of all Australians and, in a political stalemate, referring the issues back to the vote of the Australian people through a general election.

The strength and independence of a Governor-General arises from the community's respect for a figure bound to be above politics, impartial and unchanging. The Governor-General is bound by the constitution and hundreds of years of Royal and Vice-Regal precedent. The incumbent has no personal mandate and is bound by a sense of duty and obligation to follow these conventions. At a time of crisis would a political president, not facing the threat of his own dismissal as part of the crisis, feel the same compulsion? World history suggests not!


'The present system works well. It allows us to have stable Government in this country. The Head of State is aware of the restraints under which he must function. They are acknowledged all round and have worked since Federation quite effectively. If we move away from that and there is no restraint, then my apprehension would be that we could go through extensive periods of quite unstable Government.'
The Hon W.G. Hayden (former Governor-General) ABC "Four Corners" 1993.

'On the other hand, there are real dangers that we would be worse off if Australia became a republic. That is because the Governor-General and the Commonwealth, and the Governor in each State, has a key role to play in the working of the Constitution and provide safeguards which a President would be unlikely to provide.'
Rt. Hon Sir Harry Gibbs (Chief Justice of the High Court 1981-1987) 'The Australian Monarchy' "Tricare Newsletter" August 1994.

'Those who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians'.
The Rt. Hon Baroness Thatcher (former UK Prime Minister) Sydney speech. Reported in "The Australian" 20 November 1995

'The notion of a president is quite foreign to our thinking about government. It is imported from outside. It is a stranger in our midst. It means not just an alteration of words in our Constitution but the creation of a new constitution. It is like putting a square peg in a round hole — it just does not fit.'
The Hon J.A. Lee (Chairman, ACM Legal Committee) Speech: "The uncertainties of a president – appointed or elected" Sydney 27 August 1996

'The rules should be written down'
Mr M.B. Turnbull (Chairman, Australian Republican Movement) Speech at Constitutional Centenary Foundation Conference, Canberra. Reported in the "Australian Financial Review" 9 May 1995

'Without a clear statement of the President's powers even I will vote NO in a referendum.'
Donald Horne (ARM founding member) Statement on the eve of the Keating Government's republican model announcement. Reported in "The Sydney Morning Herald" 3 June 1995

'The government does not believe this is the time to re-open a divisive debate about the Senate's power to block supply. ... ... The reserve powers would remain as they are — unwritten'.
The Hon P.J. Keating (former Prime Minister) Parliamentary speech: "An Australian republic; the way forward' 7 June 1995

'Definition [of the controversial unwritten conventions would be] 'a labour of Hercules.' Reformers would have to devote 30 years to the task to have an impact. The ghost of '75 is still with us and the strength of feeling is going to be with us for another generation or so. ... ... You're not going to get ready consensus or even hard-won consensus on those issues – frankly I think the task is impossible'.
Former Senator Gareth Evans. Speech at Constitutional Centenary Foundation Conference, Canberra. Reported in the "Australian Financial
Review" 9 May 1995

'A serious blunder for republicans would be to try to avoid codifying the application of the reserve powers ...this would put an obstacle in front of republicans which would deny our goal forever. ... ... The republic cannot resolve our constitutional conflicts.'
Paul Kelly (Former Editor, "The Australian") 'Towards a republic' "Quadrant" May 1995 p38

'First, just as good fences make good neighbours, so do clear ground rules make for stable and predictable Government. It is important in this most important area of our democratic life that all the players – the President, the Prime Minister, the two Houses of Parliament and the High Court – know precisely what their responsibilities and obligations are. The second reason is that it is quite wrong in a democracy such as ours to have fundamental elements in our democratic system left to so-called unwritten rules or conventions. As we have seen, our Constitution is a quite misleading document, giving the impression that the Governor-General is an all-powerful ruler....... Australians should be able to pick up their Constitution and find in it an accurate description of how their democracy works. Therefore, I support a full codification of the powers of the President.'
Mr M.B. Turnbull (Chairman, Australian Republican Movement) "The Reluctant Republic" 1993 p166

'If these powers are not defined, there is little hope for the republican push. In our view, that is really wimping out of the most fundamental issue in this debate. We think it is tantamount to surrendering the republic, because people are not going to vote for a position which has unlimited powers.'
Mr M. Ward (Former Executive Director, Australian Republican Movement) "The Bulletin" May 1995

'If a Prime Minister can reverse a vote of no confidence in four days but not three, too bad. If a Leader of the Opposition announces that lie or she will move a vote of no confidence when the House meets on Monday, a Prime Minister must still be granted an election on
Sunday because no confidence motion was yet formally before the House. Instead of the reserve powers giving a head of state the capacity to manage the system through crisis and difficulty, they are turned into a set of inflexible instructions. The more detailed the instructions, the less confidence they inspire.'
Dr J. Hirst (Convenor, ARM Victoria) "A Republican Manifesto"

'The real argument ... ... is not over the retention of the reserve powers. It is between those who, like Malcolm Turnbull, wish to draft a codified system of reserve powers and make their use justifiable before the High Court, and those, like George Winterton, who wish to leave the present conventions concerning the reserve powers – including even their ambiguities – essentially untouched and uncodified. For complex reasons, I believe conservative republicans should strongly support Winterton.'
Robert Manne (Editor) "Quadrant" April 1995

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'.

“It’s inevitable”


An Australian republic is inevitable.


To become a republic a new Australian Constitution which details an agreed republican model will have to be approved by a referendum with at least a majority of States as well as a majority of voters. Since 1901 only eight out of forty two federal referendums have been successful. No referendum has been successful where the NO case has been supported by a major political party or where there has been a strong NO case run by a key organisation.
As yet the republicans have still no agreed republican model despite trying since the 1850s. Published comment on the former Keating Government's proposals demonstrates the breadth of division amongst key republicans.


'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes'
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

'And to the assertion that the republic is inevitable and that we should therefore lie back and accept it, I would answer in the words Passage of the communism referendum, in the frenzy of the Cold War, was inevitable, but it was lost. The only referenda that have succeeded in recent years have enjoyed bipartisan support and carried not the slightest risk of affording significant new powers to politicians. So when I hear the assertion of 'inevitability' spare a thought for history. There is certain impatience in sonic Australians who resent the constitutional conservatism of their fellow citizens. It is unfashionable just now in Australia to support the Constitution. As its centenary approaches, I hope that, as a people, we still come to reflect upon and appreciate the blessings we have enjoyed living under it.'
The Hon Justice Michael Kirby (ACM Charter Signatory) Lecture 'Keeping calm about the Crown: an Australian perspective of the republican 'debate
Fifth William Merrylees Memorial Lecture, Charles Sturt University. 9 November 1993

'That the republic is inevitable has been a continuing theme in the debate and McKenna considers that the belief in its inevitability has been one reason for its postponement. Again, it is important to identify the speakers. In the past it was often republicans who declared the republic was inevitable as they gave up their open advocacy or when they didn't dare to commence it. Inevitability was a sign of weakness, not its cause.'
Dr J. Hirst (ARM Victorian convenor) Review of "The Captive Republic: A History of Republicanism in Australia" by Mark McKenna"The Australian" 13 November 1996

'To rub salt into the wounds, the culmination of a decade of assiduous and detailed consideration of the Constitution within the Labor movement was soundly defeated in the referendum of 1988.'
Mark McKenna (Author) "The Captive Republic" p246

'My government has formed the view that it is probably impossible to write down or codify these [reserve] powers in a way that would both find general community acceptance and cover every possible contingency. ... ... It would not be desirable to attempt to codify the reserve powers.'
The Hon. P.J. Keating (former Prime Minister) Parliamentary speech: "An Australian republic; the way forward" Syjune 1995

The Republican Advisory Committee (chaired by Malcolm Turnbull) had concluded that 'Tippex' republicanism – which substituted 'President' for 'Govern or in our existing Constitution and which assumed that the conventions applying to the Crown would carry over to a republic – gave the President potentially autocratic powers. (Report p119).
The Keating proposal, to state in the Constitution that the President's powers are subject to the conventions now governing on the Crown – but stipulating that the exercise of these powers can't be reviewed by any court and that [lie President can only be sacked by a two-thirds majority, means that, in times of crisis, the President makes his own rules.'
The Hon A.J. Abbott (former ACM Executive Director) "The Minimal Monarchy" p21

'Considering the divergence of republican opinions, it is not only not inevitable, it is inconceivable.'
Mr Lyndsay Thomson (President, 'No Republic' Gold Coast Branch) Various speeches

The Queen is Not Foreign

Not so! Queen Elizabeth is Head of the Commonwealth to 51 countries and she is also Head of State to 16 of those countries. In Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Papua-New Guinea, the Governor-General is the Constitutional Head of State, the Queen is the symbolic Head of State (the two-tier system). The Queen is specified to be part of each Federal and State legislature, and (titular) head of the executive government of the Commonwealth and each State. The Queen is an integral part of our constitutional governance.

The Queen has borne the official title 'Queen of Australia' since 1953 when the Australian Parliament passed the Royal Style and Titles Act, 1953. She is ours too. The Governor-General is Australia's constitutional Head of State and all Governors-General have been Australians since the appointment of Lord Casey in 1965. There is no discrimination in the appointment of the Governor-General who can be from any background or religion and of either sex.

Clearly the Queen never represents Australia abroad, a function performed by our Australian Governor-General, our Prime Minister and other Ministers. Foreignness implies citizenship of some other place. The Queen is not a citizen of any nation.

Thousands of ordinary Australians (including Arthur Boyd, the 1995 Australian of the Year) don't permanently live here either. Three million of today's Australians (including some of our recent leaders) were not born here.


The Queen should not be invited to open the Olympic Games. The opening must be performed by an Australian Head of State.


The Queen of Australia will surely be invited to play a key role in the Centenary of Federation celebrations which will commence in January 2001. As it is unlikely the Queen would also be able to attend the Olympic Games in continuous stream of constitutional instruments from which it takes character and strength and a new start for the government of a new nation. Its forebears include the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Act of Settlement of 1701, the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the United States Constitution which, in turn, was very largely the attempt of the American settlers to enshrine in one document their conceptions of the essential features of good government which had been won by the English people at home but which were being partly denied in the settlements and plantations in North America.

It has become fashionable in some quarters to deny the past links with the United Kingdom and even to rewrite history. But we cannot expunge something so indelible as the lineage of our constitutional form of government'

The Hon Justice Michael Kirby (ACM Charter Signatory) Address: 'The blessings of the Constitution' to the Australian Constitutional Foundation.
13 August 1996

National Identity


A republic would enhance our national identity


Some republicans have chosen to try and help their cause by distorting history and encouraging the re-writing of the symbols of our national identity. There is a real nationalistic danger in many of these arguments, but there is no doubt that becoming a republic would be seen as a definitive break with Australia's history and past and a re-negotiation of the symbols of our national identity. We can't re-write history, as much as some people try. ACM is fighting to protect our working Australian democracy that grows and strengthens itself through evolution rather than revolution!


'Republicans claim that we should 're-negotiate our nation' and 'the symbols of our identity' through 'giant committees of young people'. Amongst the country's young there is a yearning for new symbols appropriate to a reinvented, or re negotiated nation in a reinvented world. If young people are not to pluck symbols from the air, or find themselves in anti-democratic or destructive movements, they must be given knowledge and the tools to help them create new symbols'.
Prof. D Horne (ARM founding member) "Teaching Young Australians to be Australian Citizens - A 2001 Centennial National Priority". 1994

'As a people perhaps our most significant attributes have been our tolerance, our sense of equality, our sense of fair play. All these have been fostered under our existing constitution. [Donald Horne's paper is] alarming in its emotionalism and nationalistic sentiments'.
National identity used to be a subject on which there was a broad measure of agreement between major parties. But the Keating Government is attempting to redefine national identity in a crudely self-serving way. ... ...
Our identify is so distinct and our shared values so robust that we cheerfully take them for granted unless something threatens them or someone challenges them. Our past is a legitimate source of pride as well as confidence and self-understanding.
The suggestion that we have yet to develop a proper identity, or that government can deliver us a new and improved one, treats us like children. It smacks of Big Brother. It also suggests that we need someone else to dream our dreams for us.'
The Hon J.W. Howard (Then Leader of the Opposition) Speech. 'A Reflection on the National Identity Debate' 13 December 1995.

'Australia's history can be denied but not undone. For better and for worse, it has made modern Australia. ... ... If becoming a republic is really necessary for Australia to be unique and distinctive, all the achievements of pre-republican Australia are devalued. Tom Keneally says that becoming a republic is like leaving home, the final step to adulthood. If so, most republicans seem intent on slamming the door on the way out.'
The Hon A.J. Abbott (former ACM Executive Director) "The Minimal Monarchy" pp63-70

'I could hardly credit it when the Prime Minister [Keating] began the most recent (of many in the past 150 years) republican pushes by head-butting the British. He accused them of betraying Australia's interests in both world wars and described opponents of republicans as 'bootlickers' and 'lickspittles' of the British.
Not to lay it on with a trowel, it is hard to forget republican Malcolm Turnbull's May 1992 assertion that non-republicans are less than Australian, ... ... [and that] those who support the monarchy despise themselves, they despise Australia and they despise Australians, [or] our republican Tom Keneally's St Patrick's Day 1993 description of the monarchy as 'a colostomy bag on Australia "
Frank Devine (Journalist) 'Republic mixes mystery and menace'. "The Australian" 29 September 1994

Will Trade Improve Under a Politicians’ Republic?

There is no valid reasoning for arguing that Australians would think better of ourselves and become more loyal and united and more respected by our Asian neighbours if Australia became a republic.


A republic would improve our trade relations with Asia.


This is a republican red herring! In reality, Asian leaders would be gravely concerned at any threat to stable government which might occur under a new constitution and a new system of government. Indeed, such changes could adversely affect all our trade relations, not simply Asian ones.

A bigger threat to our sovereignty are the more that 2000 foreign treaties signed by Australia under the previous Federal Labor Government.


'Constant debate abort identity implies either that we don't already have one, or worse, that it is somewhat inadequate ... ... if Australia starts disavowing its history, or disowning its values, or changing its institutions simply because we think countries in our region will respect us more for doing so, we will be badly mistaken'.
The Hon J.W. Howard. (Then Leader of the Opposition) Speech. 'A Reflection on the National Identity Debate' 13 December 1995.

'The British High Commissioner, Sir Roger Carrick, yesterday warned that Australia's relationship with Britain could be damaged if his country was dragged into the republican debate. Sir Roger said it was 'none of our business' whether Australia became a republic and neither government could allow the 'tabloid level of comment' to affect the substance of the bilateral relationship. The UK could be dragged into the debate by others, beyond our two governments, in a way that could damage the bilateral relationship gratuitously,' Sir Roger said.'
Gabrielle Chan (Journalist) Article: 'UK envoy warns on republic debate' "The Australian" 12 December 1995 p5

There is no valid reasoning for arguing that Australians would think better of ourselves and become more loyal and united and more respected by our Asian neighbours if Australia became a republic.

'There is no good reason for changing the Constitution to a republican one, but there are good reasons ' for not making the change. Many important and controversial questions would have to be decided before a republican constitution could be adopted. However those questions were decided, the consequences of the change would be unpredictable, and could well prove detrimental to the working of our democratic institutions.'
Rt. Hon Sir Harry Gibbs (Chief Justice of the High Court 1981-1987) ACM Melbourne address 1 June 1994

'I don't think Asia understands what the argument is about. Australia would not generate greater esteem in Asia as a republic than it does with its present constitutional arrangements.'
Lee Kuan Yew(Si!-i Ere Senior Minister) "The Australian Financial Review" 19 April 1994

'It is a matter for the Australian people'
HE Mr Chris Patten (Governor of Hong Kong) Speech. 17 February 1994

'When asked at a media conference if there were any advantages for Australia in cutting ties with Britain, Mr Ramos was careful to avoid the issue of an Australian republic. 'I understand the question of Australia's future status is being hotly debated,' Mr Ramos said. 'It is your call really—I wish you the best"
David Nason (Journalist) Report on Philippines President's visit "The Australian' 24 August 1995 p6

'One need only point to another country, with a similar constitution which has been more successful than we have in attracting immigrants, in trade, in advancing higher education and yet she has done this as a constitutional monarchy, indeed as one under Elizabeth II. I refer of course to Canada. And what Canadian would doubt that she is independent? The Canadian constitution is perhaps more difficult to change than the Australian.'
Professor David Flint (Dean of Law, UTS, Sydney) In response to P.J. Keating's argument that a republic would be good for trade and for our relations with Asia. "Weekend Australian" 27-28 July 1996

'An Australian head of state would enhance Australia's economic links with East Asia because the head of state would, unlike the Queen, promote Australia's interests. ... ... It is incomprehensible to the countries of East Asia that Australia's head of state is not an Australian.'
Richard Woolcott (former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) Address to sixth ARM annual dinner 19 October 1996

'Richard Woolcott, addressing the annual dinner of the Australian Republican Movement, made only two sensible observations: 'The republic is not a burning issue that directly impacts (sic) on the daily lives of Australians'; and '[in] the four South-East Asian posts in which I served, whether Australia remained a constitutional monarchy or became a republic was not really an issue in our day-to-day bilateral relations'. ("The Weekend Australian" 19-20/10]. ... ...
Woolcott should not have tied himself in knots, as on his own admission he did, because President Suharto could not understand the role of [lie Queen or her representative in the Whitlam Government's dismissal. It was no business of Suharto's in any case. And Woolcott should have given him no more than the simple assurance that that colourful event's immediate consequence would be an election the result of which neither the Queen nor the Governor-General could determine. That distinction might well have been appreciated by Suharto.'
J.B. Paul (ACM Supporter) Letter to the Editor, "The Australian" 25 October 1996

'Since 1971, Governors-General have made forty nine official visits to thirty two foreign countries and were treated abroad as Australia's Head of State . ... ... When travelling abroad, protocol requires that the Governor-General be recognised as Australian Head of State . ... ... No doubt they'll (other countries) soon learn, but until they do, it's their problem not ours and no reason to change a system which works well for us.'
The Hon A.J. Abbott (former ACM Executive Director) "The Minimal Monarchy" pp 17 & 56

'President Menem told bankers and executives yesterday that lie is the father of the economic policies and that Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo follows orders, official sources said yesterday.
`The economy is subordinate to politics and only strong political leadership like the one I carry out can guarantee that this economic plan will continue,' Menem was quoted as saying by the sources.'
From 'Political beat' column "Buenos Aires Herald" 23 October 1995

'The Federal Government should not sign any more international agreements until they have been at least been examined by the Australian Parliament.
Australia is now signatory to more than 2000 treaties, conventions and agreements (not including those ratified under the International Labor Organisation).
By contrast, the United States has signed fewer than 400.
Many of these agreements are of doubtful merit and impose inappropriate requirements on Australia . ... ...
Do we really want countries like Cuba influencing our industrial-relations practices, the Europeans our farm-management practices or the African nations how we manage our and land.'
The Hon J.D. Anderson (then shadow minister for primary industry) Letter to the Editor "Canberra Times" 28 May 1994

'Like others I have lived for some years in Asia. I have done business in most Asian countries, the Middle East, North America and New Zealand.
Never have I been asked if Australia is a constitutional monarchy or if I see Australia as part of Asia. I have been asked if I was British, but given that up to recent times, Britain controlled a large part of the civilised world, this is understandable. The only consistent question I have been asked is 'How do I get a visa to live in Australia?'
Until I can see tangible benefits of a republic I am afraid that I will continue to be a fence sitter'
Letter to the Editor from R.D. Thomson in the "Daily Telegraph Mirror" - July 1995

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.


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


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.


'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

Our National Symbols

Our National Anthem, flag, coats of arms and Government and Parliament Houses are the symbols of our identity. They embody our national aspirations and unify us towards a higher common purpose.

Ask most Australians to nominate what they would define as the essence of the Australian identity and usually the answer will be 'tolerance and a fair go'.


The symbols of our national identity, such as our flag and the National Anthem, should be changed. (Many republicans, particularly politicians such as Premier Carr and former Prime Minister Keating, openly attempt(ed) to change the symbols of our nationhood to further republicanism by stealth).


We would have preferred issues surrounding the appropriateness of the symbols of our nation to have been kept separate from the debate about the Constitution and a republic.

However, republicans have made it clear that they offer a package deal of change with new symbols being part of their republican agenda. The exhibition 'Flagging the Republic', with alternative flag designs, was funded and sponsored by Malcolm Turnbull and sponsored by the Australian Republican Movement. Our Australian flag is proudly unique; it is the only national flag which represents a nation's history, constitution and geography. Our Constitution through the Federation of the States is symbolised by the 7-pointed star. The Southern Cross represents our geographical identity and the timelessness of our land. The Union Jack, to which many republicans object, is a combination of three crosses; St Patrick of Ireland, St Andrew of Scotland and St George of England. To take out this historical reference is tantamount to denying our heritage and attempting to rewrite history.

Well-known republicans, such as Premier Carr of New South Wales, continually advocate a new national anthem for Australia. No change to the symbols of our nationhood should be made without full consultation, debate and voting by the Australian people.

Some examples of republicanism by stealth include:

Mr P.J. Keating was the first Australian Prime Minister who chose not to fly the existing Australian flag on his official car;

The Governor-General was instructed by the Keating Government not to submit to the Queen any further requests from national organisations for permission to add the prefix 'Royal' to their names;

Federal parliamentary statutes have, since 1990, omitted any reference to the Sovereign;

In some Australian States, new appointments as Queen's Counsel have ceased;

The migrants' Oath of Allegiance no longer includes reference to the Queen;

New South Wales Government statutes traditionally displayed the Royal Coat of Arms and a reference to the year of the Sovereign's reign. No longer;

The title of Crown Solicitor for the Commonwealth has ceased to exist. Instead, we now have the Australian Government Solicitor;

Former Prime Minister Keating ordered the removal of all pictures of the Queen from public areas;

The symbol of the Crown has been deleted from the Australian Customs logo as any visitor to our international airports can discover;

Under the Keating government Commonwealth book shops were instructed not to sell photographs of the Queen to the public (since reversed by the Howard Government: now issued free of charge);

In mid-January 1996, the Premier of New South Wales announced plans to downgrade the Office of Governor of New South Wales. Also Government House was no longer to be the official office and residence of the Governor. Following the ACM-organised protest in Macquarie Street on 30 January 1996, certain of the proposals (principally making the governorship a part-time occupation) were abandoned. But the governor remains evicted from her home.

In October 1996, NSW Premier Carr was at it again attempting to delete the Crown from the New South Wales parliamentary crest, extending the deletion also to new uniforms for parliamentary staff (all without any consultation with the Presiding Officers or other members of the Parliament). Crowns were also deleted from the uniforms of Supreme Court staff.

Attempts at republicanism by stealth by Labor governments and local councils seem destined to continue despite there being no mandate from the Australian people for any politician to interfere with the symbols and workings of our constitutional monarchy before a successful people's referendum approving such changes. It is important to alert the general public to these developments whenever they are detected.

In summary, many republicans want a new constitution, a new flag, a new national anthem, a new Oath of Allegiance, abolition of the States, and a plethora of other changes. Wouldn't they be happier in a new country and leave Australia to those who love it the way it is!


'It is clear to all now that the republicans intend to: dismantle the Constitution; shred the Australian flag; and shed our national anthem.'
Mr D. Sutherland Former Labor Lord Mayor of Sydney) ACM/ARM forum, Killara, NSW 14 November 1996

'[Premier Carr's] suggestion to change the national anthem from Advance Australia Fair to the tale of a sheep thief, Waltzing Matilda, is bizarre. To suggest this folk song replace the anthem so proudly sling by our victorious Olympic athletes in Atlanta nonplussed most —including Prime Minister John Howard, who scoffed at the idea. ......
The Labor Government has made a practice of riding roughshod over public feeling, not thinking twice about abolishing long-held traditions such as the office of the Governor. ... ...
Mr Carr's republican leanings are well known and lie has already moved to remove references to the monarchy from State oaths of allegiance.
When the national anthem was changed from God Save the Queen almost 20 years ago, a national vote zuas taken. But this democratic process does not appear to appeal to Mr Carr, who has chosen instead to tell the people that if he wants their opinion, he will give it to them.'
Editorial "The Sunday Telegraph", Sydney 18 August 1996

'The monarchy has come under a new attack front the State government, which has deleted the coat of arms from the NSW Parliament crest.
Angry MPs are demanding the crown be returned to the top of the crest, which has been deleted from the uniforms for parliamentary staff.   ... ...
MPs claim the government, having failed in previous attempts to downgrade the monarchy's presence in NSW, is secretly imposing a republican agenda.'
John Larkin (journalist) Article: "Sunday Telegraph", Sydney 6 October 1996 pN

'Comments made by Mr Malcolm Turnbull, Chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, as published in 'The Age' (11/5) that 'the Governor-General, Mr Bill Hayden, wanted Australia to remain a constitutional monarchy because lie was propped upon cushions with slaves at his beck and call' are as scandalous as they are outrageous.
Our current Governor-General, as well as our State Governors, are assuredly among the lowest funded Heads of State in the world. Contrast this with the recent republican claims that the National Planning Authority has already commenced the design for a billion dollar 'presidential palace'! Recent publications have referred to the billions of dollars spent on the American President and his associated comforts.'
The Hon J. Ramsay (Convenor, ACM Victorian Council) During debate with Malcolm Turnbull; Law Students Society, Melbourne University
12 May 1995

'The NSW Governor, Mr Gordon Samuels, has been told to reject a State government plan to lease out parts of Government Horse or face a public outcry which would diminish his standing in the community.
The warning, delivered yesterday by the Leader of the NSW Opposition, Mr Collins [a renowned republican], came as Mr Samuels sought further talks with the Premier, Mr Carr, over the use of the 150-year-old official residence.
Mr Collins also said lie had advised Mr Samuels that a Coalition election victory in 1999 would see the Governor return to a traditional role, both living and working at Government Horse.'
David Nason (Journalist) Article: 'Governor warned on official residence' "The Australian" 23 October 1996 p47

'Australians need to understand their present system of government before deciding on whether they want a constitutional monarchy, Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair said yesterday. ... ...
`We, as present day Australians, should do what is right for our future generations.' he said. 'We are only the second generation to make judgment on how our future generations should be governed and we should be sparing no effort in getting it right. ......
`We need to make sure there is an understanding of what it is we want to change and then be in a position to judge the merits, or otherwise, of what we want to change against what we already have.
`We are not within a Mill's roar of reaching that point within the near future.'
Report on address to NO REPUBLIC Hunter-Newcastle Branch by
Rear Admiral P.R. Sinclair, (former Governor of New South Wales)
"Newcastle Herald" 8 November 1996 p6

'The timing of a change to Australia's flag has been linked for the first time to Labor's push for a republic by 2000.
Finance Minister Kim Beazley said yesterday the Government was working towards changing the flag around 2001, the centenary of Federation. ... ...
`The Prime Minister has been working towards both symbolic and real changes in the context of the centenary of Federation, so I guess all that is moving to that sort of timetable.
'I think that Prime Minister has identified that as something that requires change as you move to a republic. "
Report in the "Telegraph Mirror" (Sydney) 6 June 1994 

The Royal Family


The marital problems of certain members of the Royal Family in the eighties and nineties has caused some people to be concerned about the role and future of the Constitutional Monarchy. Personalities should have no place in the Australian republican debate. It is our freedom which is at stake, not a popularity contest.


Alleged scandals, marital problems in the eighties  and exaggerated and untrue stories in the media about  the Royal Family mean that Australia should become a republic


In is important to distinguish between people's jobs and their personal lives. The only member of the Royal Family with any formal role in the Australian system of government is The Queen. Unfortunate as it is there are not many families today that are not facing divorce and other problems. Divorce is an inescapable factor of modern life.

If there were to be any doubts in the future as to the suitability of the succession, Australia would again be consulted as we were during the events leading up to the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936.

At the same time the service which members of the Royal Family should not be ignored. Constitutionally, The Queen does not cost Australians a single cent beyond the postage of the letters of appointment of our Governors-General and Governors.  Australian taxpayers do not pay for the upkeep of the monarchy, and no member of the Royal Family receives any allowance or is eligible for superannuation from Australia.

The British government in fact makes a profit from the royal Family through The Queen transferring to the government all of the  income from the Crown Estate from which the costs of maintaining buildings and offices are sourced.

Although in their eighties, both The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh continue to fulfil their various duties.  Her Majesty has reigned as Queen of Australia for over half the life of our country. She played a significant role in finding a solution to the constitutional problem concerning the States which remained unresolved for forty years from 1926. Our State politicians trusted the British more than our federal politicians. Accordingly the States formally remained under the British Crown rather than the Australian Crown until 1986. Advice to The Queen on State matters went through British ministers. Now, uniquely in the Commonwealth,  the State Premiers each  enjoy direct access to The Queen.

Canada also retained an anomalous relationship with Britain in that amendment to her constitution had to be effected through the British Parliament until the constitution was patriated in 1982.

Meanwhile, at a time when many are considering retiring Prince Charles raises over a quarter of a billion dollars a year for charities for a wide range of purposes including the disadvantaged. His sons Prince Charles and Prince Harry are doing similar work as they serve in the armed forces.


'Australians involved in the ongoing constitutional debate concerning a proposed republic for Australia will do well to remember that personalities have a great deal less to do with our system of government in Australia than in Britain.



Abbott, A., The Minimal Monarchy, Wakefield Press, 1995
Atkinson, A., The Muddle-Headed Republic, Oxford University Press, 1993 Curthoys, A. & Mueke, S., The Republican Debate, UNSW Press, 1993
Grainger, G. & Jones, K. (ed's) The Australian Constitutional Monarchy, ACM Publishing, 1994
Hayden, W. G., Hayden. An autobiography , Angus & Robertson, 1996 Hirst, Dr J., A Republican Manifesto, Oxford University Press, 1994 Keneally, T., Our Republic, Heinemann, 1993
McKenna, M., The Captive Republic. A History of republicanism in Australia, Cambridge University Press, 1996
Turnbull, M., The Reluctant Republic, Heinemann, 1993


Gibbs, The Rt Hon Sir Harry, ACM Melbourne Address, June 1994
Holloway, I., Address: The ACM National Conference 1996, Sydney, September 1996 Howard, The Hon J.W., "The 1996 Sir Robert Menzies Lecture", November 1996
Howard, The Hon J.W., Speech: "A Reflection on the National Identity Debate", December 1995
Keating, The Hon P.J., Speech to launch a national education programme to inform people about citizenship and the Constitution, June 1994
Keating, The Hon P.J., Parliamentary speech, "An Australian republic; the way forward", June 1995
Kirby, The Hon Justice M., "Keeping calm about the Crown: an Australian perspective of the republican 'debate', November 1993
Kirby, The Hon Justice M., Address: "The Blessings of the Constitution", August 1996 Kramer, Dame Leome, Speech: "Australian Culture and Identity", June 1994
Lee, The Hon J.A., ACM speech, "The Uncertainties of a President—appointed or elected", August 1996
Lee, The Hon J.A., Speech to an ACM/ARM Open Forum Killara, NSW, November 1996
O'Keefe, The Hon B., Speech: "Australia 1995: An Independent and Self Determining Nation", November 1995
Patten, HE Mr C., Speech, 1994
Schreuder, Prof. D. M., Address: "Why we care about the Commonwealth of Nations in the late 20th century — new paradigm for an old organisation", October 1996
Smith, Sir David, Speech: "Australia's Head of State", August 1996
Sutherland, D., Speech to an ACM/ARM Open Forum Killara, NSW, November 1996 Waddy, L.D.S., Speech to Sydney Legacy, September 1996
Waddy, L.D.S., Various speeches
Woolcott, R., Address: Sixth ARM annual dinner, October 1996
Australia's only link with the Crown is the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth. ... ...
We cherish it system of government in Australia which places all the Crown's day to day executive powers in the hands of Australians, either ministers chosen from our elected representatives or Governors-General and Governors answerable to their Prime Ministers or Premiers. In-stich a system, issues of personalities, their strengths and their weaknesses, including those of the Royal Family, have no significant or legal place. ... ...
If issues of personality lead to gross unsuitability in a monarch, Australia will be consulted, just as it was in Edward VIII's abdication crisis, if any change is contemplated. ... ...
Until the problem actually arises in that ' form, there is no constitutional machinery for penalising an heir, even an Heir Apparent, ' for family breakdown nor deemed or judged inadequacies. Any judgement now is probably twenty or thirty years premature.'
Lloyd Waddy (ACM National convenor) ACM media release 21 November 1995
'Morals test for high office would disqualify nearly every incumbent. Politicians, celebrities, even the clergy, can be found in compromising situations without a hiccup in their careers. Yet the moment members of the Royal Family do likewise, the Monarchy is said to be in crisis, and Britain, let alone Australia, is headed for a republic.'
The Hon A.J. Abbott MP (former ACM Executive Director). "Telegraph Mirror" (Sydney) 22 April 1994.
'The strength a Constitutional Monarchy gives to the country is immense and should not be threatened by the events of recent years, however sad they may be.'
A. Blair (Leader of UK 0position) When applauding the achievements of the Queen and asserting his own faith in the Monarchy.
UK's "Weekly Telegraph" 22 April 1996
'According to a constitutional expert at the University of New South Wales, Professor George Winterton, the Australian Government might be asked its view [on Charles remarrying or the appropriateness of succession]. Professor Winterton said the Statute of Westminster of 1931 says that where it is `meet and proper', member governments of the Commonwealth should be consulted on issues affecting the succession.'
"The Australian" 28 August 1996 p. 1


Scutt Dr J., "From a colonial past to an inclusionary future woman — the Constitution and women's rights", September 1996
Smith, Sir David., Background notes explaining the Australian Parliament's 'Royal Powers Act 1953' enabling the Queen to be involved in some of the formal processes of government during the 1954 Royal Tour, November 1996.


The Age
The Australian
The Australian Financial Review The Bulletin
The Buenos Aires Herald The Canberra Times
The Daily Telegraph Mirror (Syd.) The Herald Sun
The Newcastle Herald
The Sunday Telegraph (Syd.) The Sydney Morning Herald The Weekly Telegraph (U.K.) The Weekend Australian
The West Australian


Abbott, A., The Adelaide Review "Consoling the Republicans", July 1996
Australian Republican Movement, Platform Document, (year?)
Byers, Sir Maurice, Australian Lawyer, October 1995
Gibbs, The Rt Hon Sir Harry, " The Australian Monarchy", Tricare Newsletter, 1994
Hirst, Dr J., Review of The Captive Republic. A History of Republicanism in Australia (McKenna, M.), 1996
Horne, D., [from the Keating Government's], "Teaching Australian Citizens Young Australians to be Australia - A 2001 Centennial National Priority', 1994
Australian Government Publishing Service, "The Commonwealth Government Directory - The Official Guide', 1995-1996
Kelly, P., "Towards a Republic", Quadrant, May 1995
Marine, R., (ed.) Quadrant April 1995


Republic Advisory Committee Report, 1993


BC "Four Corners"


Speakers Bureau Network

The Australian Crowned Republic Network has a team of speakers available for school functions, conventions and other occasions.

Please email [email protected] and indicate the occasion, the date and place,

A short description of the subject envisaged and the time allowed, and contact details, including phone numbers.

While we cannot guarantee a speaker will always be available, we will use our best endeavours to ensure a speaker is available.

Queen Elizabeth II Accession

Accession describes the event of a new Sovereign taking the throne upon the death of the previous King or Queen. A new Sovereign succeeds to the throne as soon as his or her predecessor dies and is proclaimed as soon as possible at an Accession Council in St James's Palace.

From 1952 until 2022, Accession Day took place on 6 February, during the reign of Elizabeth II. The present monarch, Charles III's, accession day is 8 September. Accession Day is observed in the United Kingdom by flying specific flags and various official functions.

On 6th February 1952, H.R.H. The Princess Elizabeth succeeded her father, King George VI and took the name Elizabeth II. When she was born on 21st April 1926, there was little to indicate that this would be her destiny. Her father, H.R.H Prince Albert, Duke of York, was born on 14th December 1895 — a less than felicitous date. It was the thirty-fourth anniversary of the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. It was also the seventeenth anniversary of the death of their second daughter, Princess Alice, wife of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse. Prince Philip of Greece, born in 1921, who was to loom large in the life of The Princess Elizabeth, was through this Hessian connection the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria.


[Salute to commemorate The Queen's Accession]

Download PDF copy of "The Queen's Accession" by John Barrington Paul

H.R.H. The Princess Elizabeth (now Her Majesty The Queen) broadcasts her speech on the occasion of her twenty-first birthday to the British Commonwealth and Empire through the wireless.

‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong.’ God Save The Queen! Long may she reign!

***  This extract was taken from http://www.gg.gov.au on the 19/02/2009  ***

Governor-General's Role

The Governor-General is appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister (see the Commission of 21 August 2008). After receiving the commission, the Governor-General takes an Oath of Allegiance and an Oath of Office to The Queen and issues a Proclamation assuming office.

The Governor-General’s appointment is at The Queen’s pleasure, that is, without a term being specified. In practice, however, there is an expectation that appointments will be for around five years, subject on occasion, to some extension.

The Governor-General’s salary is set by an Act of Parliament at the beginning of each term of office, and cannot be changed during the appointment. (See Constitution, s 3 and the Governor-General Act 1974).

The Governor-General’s powers and role derive from the Constitution. Letters Patent from The Queen, dated 21 August 2008, also set out certain provisions relating to the Governor-General.

In several sections of the Constitution, the Governor-General’s powers and role are expressed. Section 2 provides that.

A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.

Additionally and importantly, Section 61 of the Constitution provides that

The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution and of the laws of the Commonwealth.

In addition to being The Queen’s representative in Australia, the Governor-General also has specific constitutional and statutory powers. In fact, since the passage of the Australia Act in 1986, the only action performed by The Queen under the Constitution is the appointment of the Governor-General on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister.

In 1975 the then Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Mr Maurice Byers (later Sir Maurice Byers QC) gave the following legal opinion in relation to the powers of the Governor-General:

The Constitution binds the Crown. The Constitutional prescription is that executive power is exercisable by the Governor-General, although vested in The Queen. What is exercisable is original executive power: that is, the very thing vested in The Queen by Section 61. And it is exercisable by The Queen’s representative, not her delegate or agent. The language of Sections 2 and 61 had, in this respect, no contemporary parallel...*

In other words, the Constitution does not describe the Governor-General’s power. It prescribes it.

When exercising the executive power of the Commonwealth, in accordance with long-established constitutional practice, the Governor-General acts on the advice of Ministers who are responsible to the Parliament. That advice is conveyed largely through the Federal Executive Council. The Governor-General presides at meetings of the Executive Council, which are attended by at least two members of the Council.

However, there are some powers which the Governor-General may, in certain circumstances, exercise without – or contrary to – ministerial advice. These are known as the reserve powers. While the reserve powers are not codified as such, they are generally agreed to at least include:

  1. The power to appoint a Prime Minister if an election has resulted in a ‘hung parliament’;
  2. The power to dismiss a Prime Minister where he or she has lost the confidence of the Parliament;
  3. The power to dismiss a Prime Minister or Minister when he or she is acting unlawfully; and
  4. The power to refuse to dissolve the House of Representatives despite a request from the Prime Minister.

In addition, the Governor-General has a supervisory role to see that the processes of the Federal Executive Council are conducted lawfully and regularly.

In essence then, the Governor-General’s role is to protect the Constitution and to facilitate the work of the Commonwealth Parliament and Government. For example, before giving assent to legislation, the Governor-General must be satisfied that the proposed law has passed both Houses of Parliament and that the necessary certification from the Attorney General has been obtained.

In summary, the Governor-General has many important constitutional, ceremonial and community duties to perform. For example, the Governor-General:

Under Section 68 of the Constitution, the Governor-General is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force, although in practice he or she acts only on the advice of Ministers of the Government. The Minister for Defence is responsible for Australia’s defence policy.

The day-to-day administration and operation of the services are under the command of the Chief of the Defence Force and his officers. Through the Executive Council, the Governor-General:

As Commander-in-Chief, the Governor-General has an important ceremonial role to play. He or she attends military parades and special occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day, and presents Colours and other insignia to units of the Australian Defence Force.**

There are many other duties performed by the Governor-General. For example, he or she:

The Governor-General is Patron of a great many organisations and takes a keen interest in their activities. A list of the Vice-Regal Patronages can be found here.

Possibly the most visible role of the Governor-General, as the office has evolved over the years, is to encourage, articulate and represent those things that unite Australians as a nation. In this capacity, the Governor-General and his or her spouse:

The role of Governor-General differs from that of a State Governor in three ways. The Governor-General alone:

For details on the Governor-General’s daily activities see the Governor-General's Program and Gallery on this website.

Further Reading

Aitken, G & Orr, R 2001, Sawer’s The Australian Constitution, 3rd ed, Australian Government Solicitor, Canberra.

Downing, S 1997, The Reserve Powers of the Governor-General, Research Note 25, 1997-98 Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Library.

Evans, H (ed.) 2001, Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 11th ed, Department of the Senate, Canberra.

Green, G S M 2006, Governors, democracy and the rule of law, Constitutional Law and Policy Review, Vol 9 No 1 May 2006.

Harris, I C (ed.) 2005, House of Representatives Practice, 5th ed, Department of the House of Representatives, Canberra.

Hasluck, P M C 1979, The Office of Governor-General, 1st ed, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Hazell, M 2008, The Role of the Governor-General: An Address by Mr Malcolm Hazell CVO, Official Secretary to the Governor-General, 14 June, Wagga Wagga; also published in Public Administration Today, Issue 15 April-June 2008 pp 63-70.

Moens, G A & Trone, J 2001, Lumb and Moens’ The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia Annotated, 6th ed, Butterworths, Australia.

Smith, D I 2005, Head of State – the Governor-General, the Monarchy, the Republic and the Dismissal, 1st ed, Macleay Press, Sydney.

Stephen N M 1983, The Governor-General as Commander-in-Chief, Address to the Joint Services Staff College, Canberra, 21 June.

Twomey, A 2006, The Chameleon Crown – The Queen and her Australian Governors, 1st ed, The Federation Press, Sydney.

* “Governor-General’s Instructions”, Opinion of the Solicitor-General of Australia (Mr Maurice Byers), 5 September 1975 quoted in Smith, D I 2005, Head of State – the Governor-General, the Monarchy, the Republic and the Dismissal, 1st ed, Macleay Press, Sydney (p.99).

**Interestingly, while the Australian Constitution provides that the Command-in-Chief of our Defence Forces be vested in the Governor-General, the corresponding Canadian provision vests the Command-in-Chief of the Canadian naval and military forces in The Queen.

Governor General of Australia

Since 1 July 2019, the governor-general has been General David Hurley. From the Federation in 1901 until 1965, 11 out of the 15 governors-general were British aristocrats; they included six barons, two viscounts, two earls, and one royal duke.

The Role of the Governor-General has been described in detail on the Governor-General’s website.
A copy of the website content as of 19th February 2009 can be found here.

The relationship between the office and that of the Sovereign has evolved as the Crown itself has been Australianised and separated from the imperial British Crown, so much so that some people ask why we cannot just keep the viceroys, the Governor-General and the State Governors and dispense with our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II her heirs and successors.

We propose dealing with these three issues separately on this page see blow.

General David John Hurley, AC, DSC, FTSE, is a former Australian senior officer in the Australian Army who has served as the 27th governor-general of Australia since 1 July 2019. He was previously the 38th governor of New South Wales, serving from 2014 to 2019.

Governor-General David Hurley says it's time to recognise the extraordinary work of everyday Australians.
Governor-General David Hurley says it's time to recognise the extraordinary work of everyday Australians.

The swearing-in of Ms Quentin Bryce as Governor-General.

The evolution of the roles of the Sovereign and the Governor-General.

The rapid evolution of overseas dominions during the last fifty years has involved many complicated adjustments of old political machinery to changing conditions. The tendency towards equality of status was both right and inevitable. Geographical and other conditions made this impossible to attain by way of federation. The only alternative was by the way of autonomy, and along this road, it has been steadily sought. Every self-governing member of the Empire is now the master of its destiny. In fact, if not always in form, it is subject to no compulsion whatsoever.

The Balfour Declaration recognised conventions that had already been developed. The Declaration was given statutory effect when the parliament at Westminster passed the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which recognised the full emancipation of the dominion parliaments. Now, they could enact laws repugnant to the law of England (section 2) and give "extraterritorial" effect to any legislation (section 3). The statute limits the competence of the United Kingdom to legislate for the dominions to circumstances in which the relevant parliament requested and consented to such imperial legislation (section 4). The act stipulated that the operation of the dominion constitution was not affected in any way (section 7 and section 8). It also stipulated that, unlike the Canadian provinces to which it would apply, the act would not apply to the Australian states. This was at their request (section 9). Finally, the act would not have any effect in Australia until the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia adopted the act itself by means of an adopting act (s10). In fact, the commonwealth parliament did not adopt the statute until 1942, at which time the act was given a retrospective operation "as from the commencement of the war between His Majesty the King and Germany".

The precise point at which independence was attained remains a moot point. Was it the political compact? Was it the formal offer by the mother parliament? Or was it the formal acceptance of the offer by the newly independent dominion parliament? In a fairly recent judgement, Lord Denning MR maintains independence came as a matter of evolving usage and convention rather than by means of enactment:

Hitherto, I have said that in constitutional law, the crown was single and indivisible. But that law was changed in the first half of this century — not by statute — but by constitutional usage and practice. (R vs Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs ex parte Indian Association of Alberta, 1982, 2 WLF, 641, at 651)

The passage highlights the role conventions have played in the evolving relationship between governments within the British Empire and the subsequent Commonwealth of Nations. Were such relations governed by the rigidity of statute, such developments could not occur so naturally as need requires. The gradual emergence of full Australian nationhood was possible precisely because of the flexibility that is offered by convention.

It has been argued that legal independence did not occur until the passage of the Statute of Westminster through both imperial and dominion parliaments was complete. In a passage dealing with the difficulty of making such a determination, Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick said:

The historical movement of Australia to the status of a fully independent nation has been both gradual and, to a degree, imperceptible ... though the precise day of the acquisition of national independence may not be identifiable, it certainly was not the date of the inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1901. The historical, political and legal reality is that from 1901 until some period of time subsequent to the passage and adoption of the Statute of Westminster, the Commonwealth was no more than a self-governing colony, though latterly having dominion status. (China Ocean Shipping Co. v South Australia, 1979, 145, CLR 172 at 183)

The position was certainly resolved by the Australia Acts of 1986, which made certain that Australia is absolutely independent of the United Kingdom. Sir Anthony Mason, then Cheif Justice of Australia, held this to be the true date of a hand-over of sover­eignty, explaining that the Australia Acts- "marked the end of the legal sovereignty of the imperial parliament and recognised that ultimate sovereignty resided in the Australian people". (Australian Capital Television Ltd v Commonwealth, 1992, 177, CLR 106 at 138)

With the Balfour Declaration and the Statute of Westminster had come the termination of British legislative and executive responsibility, at least for the commonwealth, if not the states. Judicial responsibility remained, however, until the termination of appeals to the privy council (Her Majesty in Council), which had become part of the Australian court structure.

There are four significant points about the Australia Acts of 1986. Firstly, the bulk of the acts is concerned with severing those remaining legal ties between the states and the United Kingdom. These gave the state legislatures the full powers that the United Kingdom had previously retained—at Australia's request—to leg­islate for the state as well as the power to legislate extra-territori­ally. The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 and the doctrine prohibiting repugnance to the law of England no longer applied (section 6). British executive responsibility and privy council appeals from the state disappeared (section 10 and section 11).

Secondly, the Acts clarify the role of the queen and the gover­nors with respect to the states. The state premiers would give advice on the exercise of royal powers, not through the British govern­ment, but directly to the queen. The premiers were never prepared to go through Canberra.

Thirdly, the Statute of Westminster was amended in several respects. These included the termination of the power of the United Kingdom parliament to legislate for the commonwealth, the states and territories thereof, even at the request of the Australian parliaments. (Notwithstanding this, over recent years, some Republicans have made the bizarre suggestion that the British parliament should be requested to impose a republic! ) Now, no British Act can apply to any Australian jurisdiction (section 11 and section 12).

Fourth, the Acts stipulate that the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act and the Statute of Westminster continue to be in force and provide an intricate method by which the Australia Acts and the Statute of Westminster may be amended.

Both Acts, enacted in substantially identical terms by the United Kingdom and Australian parliaments, were proclaimed by the queen to come into effect on March 3 1986. On arrival in Australia to proclaim the Australian version, she observed both the rise of Australian national identity and the circumstances under which the constitutional relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom had come to an end:

I can see a growing sense of identity and a fierce pride in being Australian. So it is right that the Australia Acts has finally severed the last of the Constitutional links between Australia and Britain, and I was glad to play a dual role in this. My last official action as Queen of the United Kingdom before leaving London last month was to give my assent to the Australia Acts from the Westminster Parliament. My first official action on arriving in Australia yesterday was to proclaim an iden­tical Act — but from the Australian Parliament — which I did as Queen of Australia. Surely, no two independent countries could bring to an end their constitutional relationship in a more civilised way, and I hope you will agree with me that this has been symbolic of the depth and quality of the relationship between Australia and Britain. Anachronistic consti­tutional arrangements have disappeared— but the friendship between the two nations has been strengthened and will endure. (McDonald, 67)

What we have seen since the adoption of the Australian con­stitution is the gradual emergence of Australia as an indepen­dent nation. This surely is one of the beauties of our system — that it has permitted such a peaceful evolution.
As Sir Harry Gibbs explains:

Our Constitution has been criticised because it sketches the outline of the system of government and does not set out in detail the rules and conventions that determine the working of the various arms of government. Any such criticism is totally misconceived. The strength of our Constitution, as it has been the strength of the Constitution of the United Kingdom, is that it allows the needs of a changing society to be met by a gradual development, which has been found impossible in some nations whose written Constitutions attempt to lay down all the rules in detail. (Gibbs, 1994)


Our task now is to plot the constitutional development of the office of the governor-general and that of the sovereign. Here, we shall not presently be concerned with issues such as the reserve powers other than to the extent that they affect the development of these offices. The role of both governor-general and sovereign has evolved to meet changing needs as Australia emerged as an independent and self-determining nation.

How did the founders of our constitution view the role of the governor-general? In their commentary on the constitution, Quick and Garran discuss the role of a colonial governor. They quote from Merivale's "Lecture on Colonisation", 1861, where it is explained that a vice-regal representative has a dual role: "He has to reconcile, as well as he can, his double function as gov­ernor representing the crown, and as a constitutional head of an executive." (Quick and Garran 388) The reference to the crown here is, of course, to the imperial crown, that is, the British government.

Even in 1861, the vice-regal representative was understood to be principally the constitutional umpire and auditor. This becomes significant in the contemporary disputes about who is, in fact, the head of state. As far back as 1873, Lord Dufferin, when the governor-general of Canada, understood himself to be: "The head of a constitutional state, engaged in the administration of parliamen­tary government."

The dual role was changed in 1926 by the adoption of the Report of the Inter-Imperial Relations Committee to the Imperial Conference.

This referred to the previous practice of appointments being made solely on the advice of His Majesty's ministers in London. The Report stated:

In our opinion, it is an essential consequence of the equality of status existing among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the governor-general of the dominion is the representative of the crown, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain and that he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain or of any Department of that Government.

It seemed to us to follow that the practice whereby the governor-general of dominion is the formal official channel of communication between His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and His Governments in the dominions might be regarded as no longer wholly in accordance with the constitutional position of the governor-general. It was thought that the recognised official channel of communication should be, in future, between government and government direct ... it was recognised by the Committee, as an essential feature of any change or development in the channels of communication, that a governor-general should be supplied with copies of all documents of importance and in general should be kept as fully informed as is His Majesty the King in Great Britain of Cabinet business and public affairs.

Thus, the conference affirmed the abolition of the governor-general's residual role as representative of the British govern­ment in Australia, but in doing so, it did not declare him head of the executive or head of state. Why? For this, he already was. The emphasis on the idea that the governor-general should stand in the same relation to the dominion government as that in which the King stood to the British government clearly indicates this. As the dominions increased their already substantial exterior roles, the governor-general became accepted internationally as a head of state, a rarefied term hitherto used only by diplomats and international lawyers.

Although the method of appointing the governor-general could no longer involve the British government, the new process was not clarified until the conference of 1930, at which the fol­lowing six principles were confirmed:

The parties interested in the appointment of governor-general of dominion are His Majesty the King, whose representative he is, and the dominion concerned.

The constitutional practice that His Majesty acts on the advice of respon­sible ministers also applies in this instance.

The ministers who tender advice and are responsible for such advice are His Majesty's ministers in the dominion concerned.

The ministers concerned tender their formal advice after informal con­sultation with His Majesty. (This surely puts paid to the false proposition that the Queen might instantly remove a governor-general on a phone call from the prime minister and makes more glaring the awesome power of instant dismissal the prime minister would have under a Keating—Turnbull republic.)

The channel of communication between His Majesty and the govern­ment of any dominion is a matter solely concerning His Majesty and such government.

The manner in which the instrument containing the governor-general's appointment should reflect the principles set forth above is a matter in regard to which His Majesty is advised by his ministers in the dominion concerned.

Sir David Smith says that the conference decision was taken at the height of and in support of, action initiated earlier that year by Australia's Prime Minister J.H. Scullin, who insisted on advising the King on the appointment of an Australian as governor-general. "Scullin's insistence on the right to recommend the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Australia's first Australian-born governor-general became the genesis of the new rule for the appointment of governors-general throughout the Empire." (Smith, 1997, 5-6) The king had argued, unsuccessfully, that there was an advantage for Australia in having someone who had not played a political or other role in Australia.

The 1926 and 1930 Imperial Conference decisions changed the status of the vice-regal office and established a new relationship between the governor-general and the Australian government. "What we did was alter our constitutional arrange­ments to meet evolving constitutional needs, but without having to alter one word of the constitution itself. These changes are perfect examples of the far-sightedness of our founders and evi­dence of the adaptability and flexibility of our allegedly horse-and­buggy and inflexible Constitution." (Smith, 1997, 5-6)

Although Sir Isaac Isaacs was succeeded by a number of British appointments, since the appointment of Lord Casey (himself for­merly a governor of Bengal in 1965), the office has been consis­tently filled by Australian residents. It was argued by some in Australia in the 1950s that appointments should be made from other commonwealth countries. There was a vague proposal, for instance, that Mrs Pandit, sister of the Indian prime minister, should be made governor-general.

So we have in the governor-general, a head of the executive and head of a constitutional state who stands in the same relation to the Australian government as the queen does to the United Kingdom's, who is appointed on the advice of Her Majesty's Australian ministers and who is normally an Australian citizen with appropriate qualifications. There is no legal restriction on a person who has dual citizenship becoming governor-general, unlike members of the federal parliament.

What is the status of the queen according to Australian con­stitutional law? Perhaps the greatest development on this front has been the recognition of the divisibility of the crown, confirmed by the high court in Sue vs Hill, 23 June 1999. To understand this requires us to return once more to the Imperial Conference of 1926. Prior to this time, the crown had been regarded as indivis­ible, the majority in the Engineers' case in 1920, for instance, explaining:

The crown ... is one and indivisible throughout the Empire ... The first step in the examination of the Constitution is to emphasise the primary legal axiom that the crown is ubiquitous and indivisible in the king's dominions.
As we have seen, the Balfour Declaration took the crown in a new direction. It provided the beginnings of a new theory wherein there could be one common monarch who wore multiple crowns, each of which represented a logically distinct legal person. The preamble to the Statute of Westminster 1931 states:

... in as much as the crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and as they are united by a common allegiance to the crown, it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that any law touching upon the succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent of the Parliaments of all the dominions and the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The proposition about the succession was tested by the abdi­cation crisis of 1936 when the Australian prime minister replied to the British prime minister's telegram asking whether Australia would support a morganatic marriage between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, that is, one which would have no constitutional significance or effect:

There would be outspoken hostility to His Majesty's proposed wife becoming Queen, while any proposal that she should become Consort and not Queen ... would not be approved by my Government. (Ziegler, 305-306)

Subsequently, the Abdication Act (Imp.), 1936, received the assent of the commonwealth parliament by resolution of both houses. The second point in the preamble was dealt with by means of the Royal Style and Titles Acts, 1953. In this, the com­monwealth parliament provided a unique royal style and title for use in Australia. This followed the commonwealth prime ministers' conference of the previous year, at which it was decided that a common style and titles were not needed throughout the commonwealth so long as a common element was retained.

The title agreed to in 1926 had been George V, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India. This had been updated in 1947, substituting the Head of the Commonwealth for Emperor of India upon Indian independence.

The new style and titles adopted by the Royal Style and Titles Act 1953 (Cth) for exclusive use in Australia was Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. This was altered in 1973 to the present Royal Style and Titles, which reads Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II said at Parliament House, Canberra, on 18 October 1973:

The reality and dynamic quality of the relationship between the crown and people will be symbolised in another way tomorrow when I give my Assent in person to an Act of the Australian Parliament, which amends my Style and Title. It puts Queen of Australia first and foremost. It will give me much satisfaction to do this because it is realistic because it is some­thing which my father thought should be done as long ago as 1947 and, above all, because I hope it will strengthen that relationship which I value and cherish.

So, the office of the Queen of Australia has evolved into a legally separate and distinct person as a result of a gentle process that commenced at the Imperial Conference of 1926. A majority of the high court in Nolan vs Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (1988) 165 CLR 178 held:
The transition from Empire to Commonwealth and the emergence of Australia and other dominions as independent sovereign nations ... inevitably changed the nature of the relationship between the United Kingdom and its former colonies and rendered obsolete notions of an indivisible crown ... It became accepted as a truism that, although there is only one person who is sovereign ... in matters of law and govern­ment the Queen of the United Kingdom ... is entirely distinct from the Queen of (eg) Canada or Australia.

Having examined the development of the office of the gov­ernor-general and the emergence of the Queen of Australia as a distinct entity, I now make some final comments about the rela­tionship between the two offices.

The Constitution clearly hands the queen's power over to the governor-general (ss2 and 61). However, this appears to have been largely overlooked both in Britain and Australia, with Queen Victoria issuing Patent and Instructions Letters– subsequently revised by Kind Edward VII in 1902, King George V in 1920, and Queen Elizabeth II in 1958. When the error was realised, the queen revoked Queen Victoria's Letters Patent and issued new ones on the advice of Prime Minister Hawke in 1984. (Smith, 4, 8)

The reason that the sovereign may in no way interfere in the governor-general's activities stems from section 61 of the consti­tution which, unlike the state constitutions or that of Canada, stipulates that while the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the queen, it is exercisable by the governor-general alone. This became apparent to Lord Haldane during argument in the application for special leave to appeal the high court's decision in the Engineers' case to the privy council when he asked of section 61: "Does it not put the sovereign in the position of having parted, so far as the affairs of the commonwealth are con­cerned, with every shadow of active intervention in their affairs and handing them over, unlike the case of Canada, to the gov­ernor-general?" (Evart, 311)

This interpretation was confirmed by the passage of the Royal Powers Act 1953 (Cth). In preparing for the Royal visit of 1954, it became apparent to Prime Minister Menzies that the constitu­tion prohibited the governor-general from delegating any of his powers, which were totally his, even to his sovereign. Thus, it is apparent that the vice-regal representative is no mere representa­tive. The new act provided that the queen could exercise any of the governor-general's statutory but not constitutional powers while personally present in Australia if so advised by her Australian ministers, though this does not preclude the governor-general from continuing to exercise such powers simultaneously. The argument heard in the privy council and in the cabinet was put from Buckingham Palace in 1975 when the speaker of the House of rep­resentatives was advised that the queen could not interfere in the constitutional crisis:

As we understand the situation here, the Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the crown in the hands of the governor-general as the representative of the Queen of Australia. The only person competent to commission an Australian prime minister is the governor-general, and the Queen has no part in the decisions that the governor-general must make in accordance with the Constitution. Her Majesty, as Queen of Australia, is watching events in Canberra with close interest and attention, but it would not be proper for her to intervene in person in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the gov­ernor-general by the Constitution Act. (Kerr, 330)

The true position of the governor-general was summed up by the Constitutional Commission in 1988, which concluded that: "Although the governor-general is the queen's representative in Australia, the governor-general is in no sense a delegate of the queen." (para. 5.17)

Australianising the Crown

While the Canadianisation of the Crown became formal government policy under the Trudeau government, Australianisation has been a piecemeal process [i].  Indeed, the Australian Constitution had, from its adoption, and almost unnoticed, made a significant step towards Australianisation. This was done by a measure unprecedented in the Empire - the placing of the exercise of the executive power of the Commonwealth in the hands of the Governor-General [ii]. Another unprecedented measure was to grant the new Commonwealth of Australia the power to change its own Constitution [iii].

In any event, the trend over the years has been to move further down the path of Australianising the Crown, vesting more authority and status in the Governor-General but still as representative of the Crown. An important measure has been to declare to foreign governments and international organizations that the governor-general is the head of state and should be accorded that dignity [iv].

If Australianisation means that the Governor-General may do things in Australia and beyond the seas that are consistent with his or her role of representing and exercising the powers of the Australian Crown, there can surely be no objection. This is, after all, consistent with the formula in the Balfour Declaration made in the early part of the twentieth century:

 “…it is an essential consequence of the equality of status existing among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the Governor-General of a Dominion is the representative of the Crown, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain, and that he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain or of any Department of that Government.” [v]

But this does not mean that the office should take on a character different from and inconsistent with the Crown in a constitutional monarchy.  We are becoming accustomed to hearing on the announcement of an appointment to a vice-regal office that the incumbent will, once in office, concentrate on some or other worthy cause. Too often, this is dangerously close to a political agenda, however worthy. This is not an appropriate vice-regal vocation: that vocation is to represent the Crown, to provide leadership beyond politics. How can they provide this if their agenda is even tangentially political? The vice regal-elect should first acquaint themselves with the office before announcing some or other agenda.

A former Governor-General, Sir William Deane, devoted much of his term to the advancement of the interests of Australia’s indigenous people. At most times, it was possible to conclude that this interest had not become political, that he was in no way challenging government policy, but that he was engaged in taking a well-intended interest in the indigenous people. On one occasion, he was criticised by a national newspaper for arranging direct access to The Queen without referring the request to the government [vi].  But after he left office, Sir William became openly critical of government policy, sometimes harshly so. The unfortunate result was that, retrospectively, he confirmed in the minds of many that he had crossed the line while in office. This experience justifies the proposition that even after he or she leaves office, a governor-general should be careful never to compromise the office. Speaking in favour of a republic, or even opining that it is inevitable,  seems inappropriate for one who has represented the Crown. But to do so in office is, at the very least, a most inappropriate entry into politics, apart from being an act of disloyalty to the Sovereign to whom the viceroy has sworn allegiance.

In Canada, in order to overcome what he saw as public indifference to the office of the Governor-General, a former incumbent suggested that the Governor-General henceforth have greater freedom to express his personal ideas and even that he be made chairman of a new senate. Another suggestion was that the Governor-General, outside of the extraordinary circumstances referred to above, should be able to refuse assent to legislation [vii].

Apart from a Governor-General being free to speak on matters clearly, not on the political agenda, all of these proposals are inconsistent with the concept of constitutional monarchy. They may well flow from the mistake of seeing, consciously or subconsciously, the office as separate and autonomous from the Crown. This is not so- the office can have no existence apart from and independent of the Crown.

A viceroy is the representative of the Crown, nothing less – and nothing more. As Walter Bagehot observed: “We must not bring The Queen into the combat of politics or she will cease to be reverenced by all combatants; she will become one combatant among many.” [viii] Obviously, this advice applies equally to a viceroy.

[i] Smith, Crown, p.45
[ii] Smith, Head of State, pp.85-116; other unprecedented aspects of the Constitution were that it was approved by the people and that the power of amendment was vested in Australians.
[iii] Constitution,s.128
[iv] Ibid; Flint, Republic, pp 37-48; unlike Canada, the Australian government does not appear to have requested The Queen to act as Queen of Australia in any foreign country.
[v] Imperial Conference, 1926, Inter-Imperial Relations Committee: Report, Proceedings and Memoranda, E( IR/26) Series ( the “Balfour Declaration”)
[vi] Smith, Head of State, pp.326-327
[vii] Smith, Crown, pp.110-115
[viii] Bagehot, op.cit., p.54

Dispensing with the Sovereign: Cutting the Link

While accepting the considerable, indeed central role of the Crown in our history and our constitutional system, it is sometimes argued that we could retain all the benefits of the Crown while dispensing with the Sovereign [i]. Many, if not most, of the forms of republics were proposed at the 1998 Constitutional Convention and, since then, purport to do this. This is particularly true of the minimalist models, which may even go so far as to retain the name of Governor-General. One model proposes that the role of appointing and dismissing the viceroys be the responsibility of a council of eminent persons, acting on political advice instead of the Sovereign [ii].

The proposition that the Crown could effectively be retained without keeping the Sovereign is completely fallacious. This is not merely because we would lose the impeccable standards set by Queen Elizabeth II; however, we are fortunate to have known these during her reign, which, incidentally, has extended over more than one-half of the life of our Commonwealth.

Her Majesty’s dedication, her personal standards and her sense of judgement are celebrated, and rightly so. Indeed, a viceroy in a quandary as to what behaviour would be appropriate could do no better than ask himself or herself:

“What would The Queen do in a case like this?”

The fundamental, unavoidable and insoluble problem for such republican models is that without The Queen, there can be no Crown. Not only would the offices of the viceroys who are above politics disappear, but so would the fountain of honour, including the ceremonial role of the viceroy who is, and is seen to be, above politics, and so would the fountain of justice with Her Majesty’s and not some politician’s judges, so would The Queen-in Parliament and the Crown as the auditing executive, so would the Crown as the employer of the public service, rather than the governing party, and so would the Crown as the Commander in Chief - in sum, the whole vast institution which is above politics and which has been with us from the beginning would vanish. This institution, which has been with us since the settlement in 1788, under which we received self-government under the Westminster system, under which we federated and under which we became independent,  would disappear forever.  And there would be no vacuum. All of this, in every aspect, would fall to the political class.

Perceptive observers who understand this have attempted to construct some sort of faux Crown not so much to fill the void but to protect it from the political class. This has revolved around some collective entity.  However, the two principal models proposed in Australia and Canada could not function as the Crown. Neither the vice-regal appointments council of the eminent, consisting of gender-balanced selected former viceroys and chief justices, as has been suggested in Australia, nor a college consisting of the 150 Companions of the Order of Canada, as suggested for that Realm, could possibly replace the Crown [iii].  Either would perform the functions of appointing or electing the president and removing him - and there is no guarantee they would do either well. But they would not replace the Crown. The proponents do not, for example, propose that the army should owe allegiance to the council or to the college or that Her Majesty’s judges should become their rotating eminences’ judges or the judges of the college of companions.

These proposals recall that of the Abbé Sieyès, who wished to create a “grand elector” in the French 1799 constitution for the Consulate. This was designed to replace the monarch he had helped first make constitutional and later shamefully despatched to the guillotine. As Walter Bagehot observed, it was “absurd… to propose that a new institution, inheriting no reverence, and made holy by no religion, could be created to fill the sort of post occupied by a constitutional king in nations of monarchical history [iv].” So, in an Australian republic, the new republican office of the president, whether or not appointed by a council of the eminent and whether or not elected, could never replace the Crown as an equally vast institution above politics. Indeed, this is not even suggested. Instead, the proponents choose to ignore the issue.

The question, therefore, has to be asked of all these proposals to graft a minimalist republic onto our constitutional system: where would all of the powers and protections of the Crown - apart from the appointment and dismissal of the viceroys, fall?  Into whose lap? The answer is, of course, the politicians’ lap, the same politicians who are already concentrated in the closely linked and controlled executive and legislative arms of government. In the American republic, the politician in the executive and the politicians in the legislature are at least quarantined and isolated one from the other, the founders believing, rightly, that the resulting adversarial relationship, however rigid,  would act as a check and balance against the abuse of authority. They were aware of the truth of Lord Acton’s dictum before he enunciated it: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely [v].”

As Canadian Professor David E Smith notes, in a minimalist republic, a powerful executive would become that much more powerful [vi]. And that was written before he had the opportunity to examine the specific terms of the model presented to the Australian people in 1999. This was famously criticised as offering the only known republic where it would be easier for the prime minister to dismiss the president than his cook [vii].

The alternative model, that of filling these offices by election, would merely turn the incumbents into politicians.

The consequence of the vice-regal offices being cast adrift would not be that they would be endowed with an alter ego, becoming separate Crowns themselves. They would not have -and could not have - two bodies. We, and the judges, the armed forces and the public servants, would and could owe them no allegiance. They would become Republican sinecures to be filled either by servants of the politicians or by even more politicians. In their ceremonial and other roles, the public would know that they were either politicians or servants of politicians and treat them accordingly.

[i] Richard E. McGarvie, Democracy: Choosing Australia’s Republic, Melbourne University Press, Carlton South, 1999
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] In 1992, an editorial in the Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail, proposed that The Queen be succeeded by a head of state elected for life by the 150 Companions of the Order of Canada: Smith, Crown, p.5
[iv] Bagehot, op.cit., p. 45
[v] Lord Acton, letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 3 April 1887, in The Oxford Book of Political Quotations, ed. Anthony Jay, Oxford University Press, Oxford,1996
[vi] Smith, Republic, p.219
[vii] Flint, Republic, pp.137-149


[Charles Nuttall: The opening of the first Federal Parliament, 9 May 1901, Museum Victoria Collection]


Federation, although first proposed by the British, was our own decision. This was to establish “an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown ... and under the Constitution".

The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act provided that the six self-governing Australian colonies would be “Original States” in the new Commonwealth of Australia.

The law-making power of the new Commonwealth was to be vested in a Federal Parliament, which was to have only those powers clearly set out in the Constitution. Some powers would be exclusive to the Commonwealth, such as making laws for Commonwealth Territories, raising military forces to defend the Commonwealth or minting coins.

Other powers would be shared with the states (the “concurrent powers”), for example, banking, insurance, corporations, marriage and divorce. But for each of these, the Commonwealth law would prevail if there were an inconsistency with State laws.

The powers not listed, the so-called “residuary powers, were to be exclusively the States’. This would include land, school and university education, police, prisons, state taxes, including state income taxation, mining, roads, railways, and fisheries.

Our federation can only be seen as a culmination of our colonial history and in the context of a strong desire and intention to retain the self-governing states as important entities in themselves.

Although the Constitution can be changed, most proposals to expand federal powers have been rejected by the people. However, the powers of the Federal Parliament and Federal government have been expanded significantly since 1901.

It is relevant to ask two questions. First, how has this happened, and second, is it in the national interest?

"The States" shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States. Each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called "a State": section 6."

Original States" shall mean such States as are parts of the Commonwealth at its establishment.

This desire to retain the states' autonomy and freedom from federal control explains the long delay until 1986 in ending their residual links with the British Crown.  Until 1986, appointments of State Governors were made by The Queen on the formal advice of British ministers.  This had only continued because the States were suspicious of Federal governments. The solution was unique in the Commonwealth of Nations and involved each State Premier advising The Queen of Australia on matters relevant to his or her State. That solution was only found with the involvement and approval of The Queen: Anne Twomey, The Chameleon Crown: The Queen and Her Australian Governors (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006).

The Expansion of Federal Power

The expansion of federal power has been achieved mainly against the wishes of the people who have generally refused extensions of Federal power. The expansion has been done principally through the interpretation of the Constitution but by the Commonwealth controlling revenues, including income taxation. This has led to the Commonwealth funding the States to a level unknown in most other federations, as the graph below illustrates. This is sometimes referred to as “Vertical Fiscal Imbalance”.

Those who designed the first federation, the United States, stressed the importance of state governments obtaining their revenue from their electors.
This imbalance suits some state politicians in that they do not have to answer to their electors for the spending of taxes collected from them. The result is that the people are confused as to which government is responsible for which matters. State governments lose the incentive to perform well in their areas of responsibility.

Under our constitutional system, only two institutions straddle the Commonwealth-State divide. One is the Crown; the other is the High Court. Both are intended to be above politics. Neither should have a political agenda. While the Crown remains unquestionably above politics, the High Court, or a majority of the court, has occasionally wandered beyond its role, never more so than in some of their more controversial decisions during the 1990s.

One policy which has dominated the court since 1920, and for which there is no constitutional authority, is centralism, once disguised as an objective exercise in literalist interpretation. This began as long ago as 1920 in the decision of the High Court in the Engineers' Case [ii].

According to Professor Geoffrey de Quincy Walker, the case inaugurated a method of one-sided interpretation that contradicted the constitution's plain intention, ignoring the first principles of legal interpretation and violating the people's wishes as consistently expressed in constitutional referenda, as well as mocking their sovereign power. This, he says, denied the people the advantages of competitive federalism and increased the burden, cost and remoteness of government, more recently pushing the constitutional order to the brink of breakdown [iii].

The court has continued this trend in the recent decision in 2006 in the WorkChoices case [iv]. Whether or not we agree with the changes in the Howard Government's industrial legislation, it is difficult not to be concerned as to the consequences of this decision on the future of the federation. The court indicated, with Justice Michael Kirby and Justice Ian Callinan dissenting, that the Commonwealth's use of the corporation's power is almost without limits. The court had two decades ago come to a similar conclusion with respect to the external affairs power [v].

It cannot be said that this vast expansion of federal power was the intention of the founders or that it reflects the wishes of the Australian people. In fact, most of the failed referenda which involved giving more power to Canberra--some even rejected more than once--have been circumvented by High Court decisions which have favoured the Commonwealth[vi].

Professor Greg Craven observed that "the states should be in absolutely no doubt" that this latest decision "is a shipwreck of Titanic proportions. Not since the 1920s has the court struck such a devastating blow against Australian federalism ..."

"How," he asked, "a court can weigh every tiny word of a constitution without grasping the central premise that it was meant to create a genuine federation must baffle historians and psychoanalysts alike." This is, he said, "the greatest constitutional disaster" to befall the States in 80 years.

Reflecting the warning of Justice Kirby in his strong dissent, Professor Craven warned that the federal authorities now have an "open cheque to intervene in almost any area of state power that catches its eye, from higher and private education, through every aspect of health, to such matters as town planning and the environment" [vii].

That this should worry conservative constitutionalists is well explained in the dissent of Justice Callinan. That this should also worry conservative politicians and their supporters was demonstrated when P.P. McGuinness warned that this decision could and probably would work both ways. A future government could attempt to regulate prices and incomes, re-regulate the labour market and, if socialism becomes fashionable again, effect the nationalisation of any sector of the economy. He wrote that the majority had "destroyed our federal system of government". They had effectively abolished any logical or sensible limitation of the federal powers [viii].

Professor Craven said there is not the "least chance that Canberra will use these powers comprehensively to take over such policy nightmares as our health and education systems". Instead, based on long practice, Canberra will employ its new capacity to "cherry-pick politically attractive items and to embarrass uncongenial state governments". In other words, the politicians will, thanks to the High Court, be allowed to behave like politicians.

In handing down its decision on November 14, 2006, the High Court majority said the fact the people may have indicated their objection to a specific change is of "no assistance" to them. That is, the fact the people may have refused to grant some power to the Commonwealth is to be completely ignored. The High Court has turned its back on--or, as Professor Walker says, mocked--the "quasi sovereignty" with which the founders specifically endowed the people [ix].

The result is that the High Court has abdicated much of its role as an important check and balance. As Professor Craven says, we no longer have "even a deeply biased constitutional umpire". The High Court "has given Canberra the key to the constitution".

[i] The Western Australian government says Vertical Fiscal Imbalance:

The WA government says the GST-related tax reforms (which involve the Commonwealth government raising a GST and providing the proceeds to the States in the form of grants) have increased the States’ dependence on the Commonwealth, as the States have been required to abolish a number of their own taxes over time as part of the tax reforms (such as financial institutions duty and debits tax.

[ii] Amalgamated Society of Engineers v. Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd. (1920) 28 CLR 129.
[iii] "The Seven Pillars of Centralism: Federalism and the Engineers' Case", Proceedings of the Fourteenth Conference of The Samuel Griffith Society, 16 June 2002, vol. 14.
[iv] New South Wales v Commonwealth (WorkChoices Case) (2006) 231 ALR 1.
[v] Commonwealth v Tasmania (Tasmanian Dams Case) (1983) 158 CLR 1.
[vi] David Flint, The Cane Toad Republic (1999), p. 160.
[vii] The Australian, 17 November 2006.
[viii] The Australian, 15 November 2006.
[ix] Quick and Garran, op.cit., p.988. Professor Walker prefers the term "sovereign power".

The Case for Federalism

The arguments against federalism dominate the media and politics. The High Court only gives nominal respect to federalism while whittling away the powers of the States.

A frequent argument is that the States should be abolished and replaced by smaller regions. The problem with that is that even if this could be achieved, the regions would be even more dependent on the Federal government.

Professor Walker observes that for "a framework of government that has created a new nation and given it external security, internal peace, stability, progress and prosperity throughout the most violent, turbulent century in human history", our constitution has been subjected to an "inordinate" amount of negative comment.

He says the chief obstacle to a balanced appraisal today is the failure of the critics to consider the advantages of federalism. He lists 10: the right of the citizen of choice and exit, the possibility of the experiment, the accommodation of regional preferences and diversity, participation in government and the countering of elitism, the better protection of liberty, the closer supervision of the government, stability, fail-safe design, competition and efficiency, and the resulting competitive edge for the nation. Professor Walker writes that the debate has hitherto focused exclusively on its disadvantages. More recently, there has been an increasing acceptance of the advantages of federalism. Those advantages were noted in a major Business Council report [ii].   They were stressed in a major report in 2007 by Dr Anne Twomey and Professor Glenn Withers [iii]   to the newly formed Council for the Australian Federation, which brings together all of the Australian governments, with the exception of the federal government.

They argue that by focusing too much on the problems in the operation of the federal system, we forget about the benefits of the federation, including checks on power, choice and diversity, customisation of policies, competition (although they do not mention it, unilateral action by the Queensland Government led to the abolition of that inequitable tax, death duties, in all states and at the federal level), creativity and co-operation.

The CFAF report drew attention to widespread media coverage of the BCA report, which suggested that the cost of inefficiencies in the federal system, or perhaps the federal system itself, cost $9 billion for 2004-2005, or $450 per Australian, a conclusion which was highly qualified in the report itself. The authors of the CFAF report preferred to measure the benefits of federations from a comparative OECD study, which found that, for the last half-century, federations had a 15.1 per cent advantage over unitary states. In addition, they measured the benefit of fiscal decentralisation, which ranges between an average of 6.79 per cent to "federal best-practice", exemplified by Canada, Germany and Switzerland, of 9.72 per cent.

Australia, they conclude, is the most fiscally centralised of the OECD federations, demonstrated by the fact that the states and territories raise only 19 per cent of taxes but are responsible for 40 per cent of public spending. As long ago as at the time of the creation of the United States, it had been realised that such vertical fiscal imbalance is inimical to good government. As a principle, governments should be responsible to the people who elect them for the money they spend. The CFAF report argues that the benefit to Australia from being a federation is already 10 per cent and that this could be raised significantly by further decentralising our taxation system. The result would be to raise average incomes by $4,188 per annum.

To read more about these issues, go to “The Future of Our Federation: in safe hands?”

[i] "Ten Advantages of a Federal Constitution", Proceedings of the Tenth Conference of The Samuel Griffith Society, Brisbane, 7-9 August 1998, vol. 10, chapter 11; see also Greg Craven, "Federalism and the states of reality", Policy (Centre for Independent Studies), vol. 21, no. 2 (Winter 2005), pp. 3-9.
[ii] Business Council of Australia, Reshaping Australia's Federation: A New Contract for Federal-State Relations (2006).
[iii] Anne Twomey and Glenn Withers, Federalist Paper I: Australia's Federal Future, a report for the Council for the Australian Federation (April 2007).


New States

The Australian Constitution has always envisaged the admission or establishment of new states. The fact is that no new states have ever been admitted or established. The use of the word admitted probably refers to the possible admission of other British colonies. There seems to be no reason why other territories which were never British colonies could not become Australian states[I].

[The Haka could be Australian...if New Zealand were one or two Australian States]

From time to time, there have been proposals to create new states, most notably in New South Wales and Queensland. In New South Wales, there have been proposals to establish new states in the north, “New England”, the south, “Illawarra”, and in the Riverina.  There has also been a proposal to establish a new state in the North of Queensland, “Capricornia”.

There have been proposals to establish the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory as states. In a referendum in 1998, the electors of the Northern Territory rejected a proposal for statehood which would have retained the name “Northern Territory”.

From time to time, there have been proposals that New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Fiji each be admitted as a state.  Sometimes the suggestion has been that New Zealand be admitted as two states, one for the north and one for the South Island. There have also been proposals for an Aboriginal State.

Because it would not involve the dismemberment of an existing state, the most likely first new state would appear to be the Northern Territory.

[i] After reciting the agreement of the people to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act enacted by the British Parliament states explains that it was also “ ... expedient to provide for the admission of other  Australasian Colonies and possessions of the Queen”.

In addition, section 6 of that Act   says: "’ The States’ shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States, and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called a State’."

Constitutional Provisions

111. The Parliament of a State may surrender any part of the State to the Commonwealth, and upon such surrender and the acceptance thereof by the Commonwealth, such part of the State shall become subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.

Under this provision the Commonwealth has accepted the Australian Capital Territory from New South Wales, and the Northern Territory from South Australia. There was proposal by Isaac Nathan Steinberg that part of the Northern Territory with land in Western Australia be acquired as a Jewish homeland for up to 75,000 refugees from the Nazi Holocaust. Known as the  Kimberley Scheme, or Kimberley Plan, this had the support of the Western Australian government and the trade unions, but was opposed by The Bulletin which had led the 19th century movement to make Australia a white republic. The proposal was rejected by the Curtin government in 1944. Had it been successful, it would have reduced Jewish emigration in to the then Palestine, now Israel.

Chapter VI. New States.

121. The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States and may, upon such admission or establishment, make or impose such terms and conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of the Parliament, as it thinks fit.

122. The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.

123. The Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of the Parliament of a State, and the approval of the majority of the electors of the State voting upon the question, increase, diminish, or otherwise alter the limits of the State, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed on, and may, with the like consent, make provision respecting the effect and operation of any increase or diminution or alteration of territory in relation to any State affected.

124. A new State may be formed by separation of territory from a State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States or parts of States, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the States affected.


The Crown was our first institution, and it is our oldest.

As with common law and the language, so with the Crown: it was to be adapted and made Australian, a point specifically recognised by our High Court in 1999 when it ruled, unanimously, that our Crown is in fact a separate, Australian institution. The sovereign is the same person who is the Sovereign of Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and her other realms, but each crown is separate.

In the British Empire in its heyday, there was but one Crown. Labour Leader and High Court Judge Dr Herbert Vere Evatt 1936 (The King and His Dominion Governors, reprinted in Evatt and Forsey on The Reserve Powers, Legal Books, Sydney 1990) concluded that the imperial crown was one and indivisible. But this has changed with the independence of the former dominions, now the realms.

The Australian Crown is the vast institutional, non-political heart of our constitutional government. It draws the line beyond which the politicians and the political parties can't go. Without the sovereign, there could, of course be no such vast institution.

The Crown has many aspects. Above all, it is part and parcel of the defence that the Westminster system provides against the fulfilment of Lord Actons's famous warning, which is fundamental to an understanding of how freedom can best be preserved. This is because power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.


First Four Pillars

Australia, also known as the Commonwealth of Australia, has a rich history that dates back to the settlement established in 1788. The British brought with them four fundamental elements that form four of the six pillars of our nation, the foundation of our nation. These elements have been adapted to Australian culture and are now integral to our identity. Our national language, English, the rule of law, our Judeo-Christian values, and the Crown, our oldest institution, offer guidance beyond politics. They have helped shape our nation into the prosperous and diverse country it is today.

The 1999 Referendum.

The republican model, the Keating Turnbull republic, was then referred to the people.

This emerged in the last days of the Constitutional Convention. This was the Second Keating-Turnbull Republic, one which was highly authoritarian and anti-federal and which was suddenly pulled out of the hat. After telling us in 1993 that there was an almost universal view that the President was not to hold office at the whim of the Prime Minister, the ARM (Australian Republican Movement)  now proposed the first republic in recorded history where it would be easier for the Prime Minister to dismiss the President than his cook! Not developed from the point of constitutional principle, this model was formulated only to procure the maximum votes from the politician delegates so as to obtain a majority vote at the Convention. And it failed even in that.

But as the constitutional model was chosen and preferred by the largest number of Republican votes at the Convention, the Prime Minister honoured an election promise and put that model to the people.
In the resulting campaign in 1999, the Yes case coalition was to come out with at least six conflicting messages.

Mr Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Greg Barns of the ARM (Australian Republican Movement) said that if you voted Yes, there would be no substantial change to the Constitution.

Mr Thomas Keneally, the author and spokesman for the ARM (Australian Republican Movement), said that if you voted Yes, the result would be the biggest structural change to the Constitution since the Federation.

Mr Andrew Robb, former Liberal Party Director and spokesman for Conservatives for an Australian Head of State said that if you voted Yes, you would escape from the horror of ever being allowed to choose the President. You would never have to elect the President, principally because you would never be allowed to do this.

Mr Kim Beazley said that if you voted Yes, he would allow you to decide — at some later time and if he became Prime Minister — whether you would wish to be allowed to elect the President.

Sir Anthony Mason and Mr Jason Li seemed extremely worried by an imagined "rule" that the Governor-General never appears with the Queen. This, they said, proved the Governor-General not to be that Head of State which the Keating Government said he was and held him out to be inferior to foreign governments. (The lack of such a "rule" was exposed by Sir David Smith when he drew attention to an official photograph of a State occasion showing the Queen sitting next to the Governor-General and with Sir Anthony in the group!)

Mr Jason Li also seemed to be promising greater sexual freedom, although whether this would be before or after the republic was installed was not clear.
Out of this cacophony, out of these contradictory acts and voices, there was only one single theme. It was to get rid of the Queen. And, clearly not understand the institution of getting rid of the Australian Crown. At any price.

Even at the price of an unwise, unprecedented, undemocratic accrual of power. Even at the price of constitutional and government instability.

Behind this Yes case was a grand coalition of unusual bedfellows:

Against that, not a lot. Only a band of men and women, almost all volunteers, whose ranks by the 6 November 1999 grew to over 50,000 Australians. Almost a parallel, single-purpose political party! Kerry Jones (2000) proved a superb leader of that campaign, with a rare command of advocacy, political, organisational and financial skills. Unlike the Australian Republican Movement, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy has only had two Executive Directors, Kerry Jones and Tony Abbott. (It has had only two National Convenors, Justice Lloyd Waddy and myself) In contrast to ACM's grassroots organisation, it was all so easy for the ARM (Australian Republican Movement). For its foot soldiers, all it had to do was ring the Secretaries of the Australian Labor Party and the ACTU.

The Results

When I saw the patently flawed Republican model adopted at the Convention, greeted by the headline "It's all over bar the voting", I had expected that the Yes vote in the referendum would have even been lower than that recorded on 6 November. We were subsequently warned that the electoral system would probably make the Yes vote larger than it actually was. First, there is no verification of recent registrations. Secondly, voting is no longer restricted to one polling place, and there is no means of preventing voting in two or, indeed, several places, especially in inner metropolitan electorates where anonymity is virtually guaranteed.

In addition, I did not expect that so many people in politics, the law, the media and elsewhere would throw themselves with such enthusiasm behind such a bad model. I had not expected that so much of the media would so unashamedly campaign for such a flawed model in news columns and broadcasts. Ted Mack, the wise man, foresaw that they would do so. He warned me at Corowa, well before the campaign, that they would do so because so many relished the centralisation and concentration of power that the model offered.

Nevertheless, we in the No case had believed all along that Australians, as Richard McGarvie puts it, are wise constitutional people. We had confidence in the people of Australia. The result was a landslide. Taking into account informal votes, and non-voters, about 43% of the electorate voted Yes. While Republican lawyers assumed that constitutional success for the Yes case required that it capture four states, all six States voted No, and the Northern Territory voted No. Only the Australian Capital Territory voted Yes. (A better view, held by former Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs and Richard McGarvie, was that the change was so fundamental all six original states needed to agree.)

Every regional electorate voted No. Every rural electorate voted No. Every truly outer suburban electorate voted No.  Seventy-two per cent, 72% of all electorates voted No. In South Australia, 75% of electorates voted No. In Tasmania, 80%, and in Western Australia and Queensland, 93%!

When I was interviewed on the Sydney Opera House balcony by the BBC early in the evening of 6 November, above the marquees displayed below to welcome Republicans celebrating their victory, I said that it already looked like a landslide. Young Republican Jason Li, who was also being interviewed, looked at me in utter amazement.

The campaigning and its consequences — some personal experiences - By David Flint

After the referendum, Malcolm Turnbull (2000) published his referen¬dum diary Fighting for a Republic (which Julian Leeser said should be renamed Whingeing for the Republic). In it, Turnbull has some harsh words to say about me. Not only am I lacking in humour and a carica¬ture of a monarchist — I also have a "pseudo-British" or a "pseudo-English" accent. I am extreme, untruthful, raising one scare after another. I am not at all a constitutional lawyer (although I have taught and published in the area). Then, on 2 November 1999, Turnbull condoned a very personal attack on me by his campaign director Greg Barns who, he wrote, was clearly in an "if you see a head, kick it" mode. Turnbull justified this because campaigning rationally and courteously had not done the ARM (Australian Republican Movement) much good!

But his most cruel comment, which cut me to the quick, was that my book for the referendum campaign, The Cane Toad Republic, would end up in the remainder aisle. Imagine how I felt when I was subsequently told by a friend that the University Co-op was offering Mr Turnbull's Fighting for the Republic at a 50% discount!

The Cane Toad Republic has given me some difficulties since it was published in 1999, but the comments I have received from readers have made these difficulties more than worthwhile. At a hearing of a Senate Estimates Committee following the referendum, every detail of my travels when campaigning during the referendum campaign was put under the microscope. Someone — I cannot imagine who would have bothered to do this after the referendum — had very carefully worked out my itinerary, mainly on the weekends or on leave.

I was asked at the beginning and the end of the questioning who had paid for my visit to Canberra for the launch of my book The Cane Toad Republic on 12 October. I first replied that I did not believe I was in Canberra that day. At the end of the interview, the Senator read a story about the book launch in The Canberra Times. "Does that refresh your memory, Professor?" Eventually, I had to point out the obvious that just because a book launch is reported in The Canberra Times doesn't mean the book launch was in Canberra. When I pointed out that the book launch was in Sydney, the penny dropped. The questioning moved to other issues.

In the following Saturday edition of The Sydney Morning Herald, Mike Carlton said that "we" don't have much of a brief for that cockalorum, Professor David Flint, but that I am a smooth operator. In contrast to Malcolm Turnbull's Fighting for the Republic, no newspaper published extracts from or even reviewed The Cane Toad Republic!

My literary efforts did, however, attract some media attention. There was a press conference after the launch, which broke up in uproar because a TV reporter began chanting, over and over, and at the top of his voice, "We want section 2" (of the Constitution)!

Then there was the odd behaviour of a group of journalists, led by one from The Age. Apparently, they had received a tip that I had used the advertising power of the No Case as leverage to get an interview on Melbourne radio to promote my book! Now the proceeds of the book went to ACM (Australian Republican Movement), so there could be no personal profit for me. But the thought that I needed the leverage of the No case advertising budget just to get one talkback interview or that I would have used such leverage was preposterous. I was not a member of the government-appointed No case committee, and I had no control over that particular budget. As for the ACM, our funds were so stretched we could not even afford radio advertising in Victoria!

When the reporters learned this, it only encouraged their fantasies. They then came to the extraordinary conclusion that a substantial proportion of the official No case budget had actually been appropriated to promote my book! A lot of time and effort was thrown into trying to show this, all to no avail because it was a fantasy.

The fact is that not a cent of the $7.5 million No case funds went to the promotion of my book. And if the figures are ever published, I have no doubt that they will show how much more effectively and professionally the No case funds were spent in actually getting advertising time and space than those of the Yes case. The No case was undiluted, clear and simple; the ARM (Australian Republican Movement) spent a lot of money on a series of confusing and conflicting messages, the best being those involving former politicians. Seeing those former adversaries Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam together, with Gough saying, "It's time, Malcolm", must have moved many uncertain voters to the No camp.



Three words are central to the current debate about whether Australia should move from its crowned republic.

Those words are “constitution”,  “republic”,  "commonwealth ", and “head of state.”


This term may be used to refer to the basic law of the Commonwealth of Australia, as set out in the Constitution Act 1900. It can equally be used to refer to the constitution of a state. In a wider sense, the term can refer to the whole constitutional system, including various important statutes that came with the 1788 settlement and the conventions or customs that have evolved over the years.

During the course of the 1999 referendum debate, the Constitution was sometimes criticised by those advancing the Yes case because it did not, for example, refer to the cabinet or the prime minister. Earlier, an unsuccessful attempt had been made to write down or codify the Reserve Powers vested in the Crown, which may be exercised without advice or even contrary to ministerial advice.

Perhaps the best definition, and the one used on this site unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, is that offered by Lord Bolingbroke (1678-1751), put into modern English:

A constitution is “that assembly of laws customs and institutions by which the people have agreed to be governed.”

Republic:  the dictionary

The Macquarie Dictionary ( 1st edition)  gives the following three relevant definitions of a republic:

1.     A state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them

2.     Any body or persons, etc., viewed as a commonwealth

3.     A state, especially a democratic state, in which the head of government is an elected or nominated president, not an hereditary monarch.

Note that a constitutional monarchy clearly falls into the first and second definitions. It is also covered by the third, where the head of government is the prime minister.  It also falls into the third, as a constitutional monarch is not the head of government.

The word originates from the Latin respublica, meaning public matter. The closest word in English is Commonwealth.

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd edition) says the word first occurred in English in 1603.

Its relevant definitions are:

1.     The state, the common weal -1684

2.     A state in which the supreme power rests in the people and their elected representatives or officers, as opp. To one governed by a king or the like; a commonwealth 1604.

Either could include a constitutional monarchy.

Republic: political theory and usage

Sir Thomas Smith introduced the term “republic” to describe the English system as long ago as the sixteenth century. He was an English diplomat and one of the greatest classical scholars of his time.

He studied at Padua and was made Regius Professor of Civil Law and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. He was also a Member of Parliament, an ambassador to France and as a secretary of state, a very close and trusted confidante of  Queen Elizabeth I.

His book, “De Republica Anglorum; the Manner of Government or Policie of the Realme of England, " was published in 1583.  His intention was to show how the English system differed from and was superior to others.

“No one”, said the renowned historian, FW Maitland, “would think of writing about the England of Elizabeth’s day without paying heed to what was written about that matter by her learned and accomplished Secretary of State.”

But the term republic was still occasionally used to include ones where the executive was in the hands of a hereditary officer.  The best example from our point of view was King William III, who was invited with Queen Mary II to take the throne after James II fled the kingdom.  William had been Stadtholder of  Holland and four other provinces in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, the Dutch Republic, which would become the Kingdom of the Netherlands—by the time of William, a sovereign Prince of Orange, the office of Stadtholder had become hereditary in practice if not in law.

It is undoubtedly of particular relevance that our first more constitutional monarch after the Stuart Kings came from an undoubtedly crowned republic.

Eighteenth-century republican theorists did not see constitutional monarchy as incompatible with genuine republicanism, says Professor Brian Galligan, A Federal Republic, 1995, p.4.  Indeed  Montesquieu praised the English constitution as an ideal model for republican government

The French political philosopher Montesquieu, one of the greatest figures of the Enlightenment, declared England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to be a ‘republic hiding under the form of a monarchy.’Seeing England as one of the freest countries in the world, he found there the development of an important check and balance against the abuse of power.

This was the separation of the judicial power from the legislative and executive powers, one of the achievements of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 under King William III and Queen Mary II, which established an earlier version of the constitutional monarchy and was the basis of government in the United States which many regards as an elective monarchy.

The point is that no definition of the word “republic” is all-encompassing. Indeed by itself, the word ‘republic’  is so imprecise as to be almost meaningless.  It requires some qualification to explain what is intended. On this site, we distinguish between crowned republics (also known as constitutional monarchies) and politicians’ republics. This does not purport to be an exhaustive classification. 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. But most countries today would be either crowned republics ( constitutional monarchies)  or politicians’ republics. All crowned republics are democracies. Many politicians’ republics are not.

Politicians’ republics can be classified in various ways. In Australia, the Republican movement proposed a republic where the politicians chose and closely controlled the president. This was rejected in 1999.Although they will not today reveal what sort of politicians’ republic they want, the two most talked about is, first, some variation of that rejected in 1999. The other is one where the president, and presumably the vice president, the six governors, the six lieutenant governors and the administrator of the territory are all politicians.

Australian usage

The statement Australia is already a republic may come as a surprise to many. But this would have been the assessment of those great political philosophers Rousseau and Montesquieu, who praised the English constitution as an ideal model for republican government.

As Sir Henry Parkes, to many the Father of Federation, wrote:

"Every constitution is in reality a republic. There is just as much a republic in England as there is in the United States, the only difference being, that in the one case the word is not used, and in the other it is."

Cardinal Moran, the leader of Australia's Catholics during the final phase of the nineteenth-century movement for Federation, described our constitutional system as the "most perfect form of republican government".


Patrick Francis Cardinal Moran,
Patrick Francis Cardinal Moran,

Patrick Francis Cardinal Moran,

born on September 16, 1830, and passed away on August 16, 1911, holds the distinction of being Sydney's third Roman Catholic Archbishop and the first cardinal ever appointed from Australia.

The Republic Advisory Committee, established by Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1993, chaired by Malcolm Turnbull and consisting only of Republicans, conceded that it might be appropriate to regard Australia as a crowned republic. (The Australian Republic, Vol 1, 1993, page 3)

The term "crowned republic" has been used by leading supporters of the Australian Crown in our constitutional system, including the former Prime Minister, John Howard, the former Minister, Tony Abbott, the former High Court judge, Justice Michael Kirby, and the former NSW Court of Appeal judge, Justice Ken Handley.

Politicians’ republics can be classified in various ways. In Australia, the Republican movement proposed a republic where the politicians chose and closely controlled the president. This was rejected in 1999. Although they will not today reveal what sort of political republic they want, the two most talked about is some variation of that rejected in 1999. The other is one where the president, and presumably the vice president, the six governors, the six lieutenant governors and the administrator of the territory are all politicians.


The choice of this word to describe our Federation, the Commonwealth of Australia, is consistent with Australia being a crowned republic. That word "Commonwealth" is, after all, the English equivalent to a republic. But as with the word "republic", it does not necessarily mean a state in which there is no monarch or sovereign. From 1649 to 1660, England was a Commonwealth or republic under Oliver Cromwell. But it was also a de facto monarchy, with the office of Lord Protector passing to his son,  son Richard.

The term is used today not only in relation to Australia but also in The Bahamas and four American states which do not have a monarch.   It can be thus used in relation to a state where there is no hereditary monarch.

The term was proposed by Sir Henry Parkes, who believed Australia to be a republic. This was at the 1891 Federal Convention in Sydney. It was adopted in 1897-8.  In both conventions, observe Founding Fathers Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garren. Other names were suggested, including “United Australia,” “Federated Australia,” and “ The Australian Dominion.”  But “Commonwealth” prevailed, the principal objection being it was suggestive of republicanism.

As we are arguably already a republic, albeit crowned or disguised, and as our constitutional system is one of the most successful in the world, constitutional monarchists ask why there is such a fuss over turning Australia into a politicians' republic. The principal proponents, they say,  do not seriously argue that this will improve governance.

They say millions and millions of dollars have already been spent, and more are proposed to be spent on this.

 More importantly, they ask why anyone would wish to change any of the fundamental features of such a successful constitutional system, of which there are so few in the world.

Republics: Crowned and Politicians'

No definition of the word “republic” is all-encompassing. Indeed, the word ‘republic’ is so imprecise that it is almost meaningless.  It requires some qualification to explain what is intended.

On this site, we distinguish between crowned republics (also known as constitutional monarchies) and politicians’ republics. This does not purport to be an exhaustive classification. Falling outside these are, for example, absolute monarchies, which have existed historically in France under Louis XIV and exist today in Saudi Arabia. But most countries today would be either crowned republics ( constitutional monarchies)  or politicians’ republics. All crowned republics are democracies. Many politicians’ republics are not.

In Australia, the Republican movement proposed a republic where the politicians chose and closely controlled the president. This was rejected in 1999.

Although they will not today reveal what sort of political republic they want, the two most talked about is some variation of that rejected in 1999. Alternatively, it is one where the president, and presumably the vice president, the six governors, the six lieutenant governors and the administrator of the territory are all directly elected politicians.

Read more: Australia - A Crowned Republic.

Head of State

This diplomatic term was almost unknown in ordinary everyday English until the Republican movement began to use it in the 1990s to support their campaign for major constitutional change. In international law, the head of state is the person held out to be this by a government and who is recognized as such in other countries. The Governor-General is clearly such a head of state.

The term is also used to refer to the person who is the ultimate constitutional guardian. In 1907, the body which can give an authoritative interpretation of the constitution, the High Court of Australia, explained the situation in Australia. The High Court, consisting of five of our leading Founding Fathers, all of whom had been intimately involved in the process of Federation, gave a unanimous ruling. They declared that the Governor-General, who under section 61 of the Constitution exercises the executive power of the Commonwealth, is the constitutional head of the Commonwealth, and the Governors are the constitutional heads of state.

Read More: Australia's Head of State Debate Resolved


The Second Referendum Model

We come now to the so-called "bipartisan model" for a republic that emerged from the Constitutional Convention. It is essentially owned by the Australian Republic Movement (ARM), which had for years espoused the first version of the Keating—Turnbull republic. That is why it is best described as the second version of the Keating—Turnbull republic.

The fundamental question for Australians in the coming ref¬erendum is whether this model is better than, or at least as good as, the present constitution. The Australian Republic Movement (ARM) argues that it is as good and that the change is only symbolic. But if the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) is questioned about the details of their model, the response usually is that opponents are engaged in the "mother of all scare campaigns". This will be a term used over and over during the campaign.
It is clear the last thing the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) wants is a debate on the detail of the model. Kim Beazley says he would become "terribly depressed" if this debate were to be about the "minutiae" of the election of the president and the president's power. (Australian, 26 November 1998) The principal issue, he says, is about having an Australian head of state and a republic. Whether or not we like the process that emerges, he argues we can deal with any problems down the road. (SBS News, 27 January 1999) These could be fixed up at future referenda! These details should not cloud the move to a more "mature" political system. (Australian, 26 November 1998)

An unbiased observer could not fail to come to the conclusion that this is an admission the Keating—Turnbull republic is inferior to the present system. Kim Beazley's suggestion of further referenda confirms this. But, surely, if a change of this nature is proposed — as Thomas Keneally says, the biggest structural change since the Federation —we ought to end up with a constitution at least as good as we have. It is not as if there has not been enough time or enough money spent. The taxpayers' money, not the ARM'S. In fact, the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) has had the best part of a decade, and by the referendum, about $120 million of the taxpayers' funds to produce their model and have it put to the people.

The first Keating—Turnbull republic was also a failure. It did not make the president a mirror image of the governor-general. It would have instead imported into Australia the essence of the 1958 French Fifth Republic, which allows the "cohabitation" between two powerful competing politicians, a president and a prime minister. The only reason France tolerates the inevitable tension between these two is that the dozen or so previous constitutions since 1789 were all failures too.

Displaying, as Sir Harry Gibbs says, a "remarkable pliability", the second Keating—Turnbull republic goes to the other extreme. It turns the president chosen by the politicians into the prime minister's poodle. And no explanation for this drastic change has ever been forthcoming. It bears all the marks of the frantic manoeuvring, wheeling and dealing, trade-offs and "back-of-the-envelope" drafting in the last days of the 1998 Constitutional Convention. All done just to achieve a majority of votes, which still eluded the Australian Republic Movement (ARM). The model puts the president at the absolute mercy of the prime minister. Unlike the constitution of any other democratic republic, the prime minister will be able to sack the president. At any time. For any reason. Or no reason. Without any notice or right of appeal. This is the power that the prime minister certainly does not have now! To the question of why no other republic has such an arrangement, Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans gives an awesome answer. No other country has ever been so misguided as to accept such an obviously unbalanced arrange¬ment. Leading experts on the Constitution, most of them Republican — have identified a multitude of serious flaws in this model.

The Australian public is passionate about fair play. A rule change which allows one of the captains to send off the referee will be recognised as the rort it so clearly is. This Republican model is not only another embarrassing failure — it is dangerous. To give effect to the model, two bills have been passed by both houses of parliament. They will not be submitted to the governor-general for the royal assent unless the principal bill, the Constitutional Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999, is approved in the referendum on 6 November 1999. The other bill is the Presidential Nominations Committee Bill 1999 (Nominations Bill). The people can see this but not vote on it. Other significant areas of detail are also left to the politicians to develop and change.

The Referendum Question

The manner in which a referendum question is put to the people is governed by the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984. A referendum question must set out the title of the proposed law to amend the constitution and then ask whether the voter approves. The original title of the Referendum Bill, as introduced into parliament, read: "A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution of Australia as a republic with a president chosen by a two-thirds majority of the members of the commonwealth parliament."

In its submission, ACM pointed out the long title does not refer to the unique and extraordinary aspect of the model. Unlike any other known republic, the prime minister can summarily dismiss the president. ACM, therefore, submitted that the following words be added to the title: "appointed for a term of five years but removable by the prime minister at any time by a signed notice with immediate effect". Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans and Australian Republic Movement (ARM) patron Senator Andrew Murray made similar submissions. A range of submissions on the title were received by the Parliament's Joint Select Committee on the Republic Referendum. At a hearing in Sydney on 5 July 1999, Australian Republic Movement (ARM) Chairman Malcolm Turnbull even argued for the deletion of the words "republic" and "president".

The Committee, whose membership was strongly Republican, finally recommended the title be: "A Bill for an Act to alter the constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic, with the queen and governor-general being replaced by an Australian president." This was no improvement. It obviously excluded any reference to the method of choosing or especially dismissing the president. And while the president will replace the governor-general, the queen's functions certainly do not go to the president. They go to the politicians, particularly the prime minister. And the Committee wanted to state clearly and simply the essential purpose and outcome of the bill as it claimed. Why did it put "Australian" before "president"? Surely the detail of the model is part of the essential purpose and outcome of the bill.

In the meantime, polling had indicated that there would be substantially different results depending on the question. But it was probably not explained to those polled that all of the questions were in fact, about the same model! In any event, the government chose an amended title which eventually prevailed: "A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the queen and governor-general being replaced by a president appointed by a two-thirds majority of members of the commonwealth parliament."

The senate then approved an amendment by the Australian Democrats, changing the title to: "A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic." A meaningless title that the government rejected before both houses finally approved the bill.


Under the Nominations Bill, any Australian citizen may nominate just about any other citizen to be president. This procedure is quite pointless. Under the Nomination, Bill, the 32-person Presidential Nominations Committee, with a majority directly nominated or aligned to the prime minister, must give a confidential written report on nominations received by the prime minister. This must include a confidential shortlist of the most suitable candidates (clause 20). The prime minister is not, under section 60, to do any more than consider the report. He may nominate any Australian citizen to be chosen as president. So why have this process? Before the convention election, the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) indicated it had not closed its mind on the question of direct election of the president by the people. They knew, of course, that opinion polls constantly show that if Australia were to become a republic, an overwhelming majority would insist that the people should elect the president. So to camouflage the fact that the second Keating—Turnbull republic will be a politician's republic, we have a cosmetic nomination process. And it may well be worse than useless. Remember that Bill Hayden had said that only the "stout hearted" would be able to endure that "personal inquisition" to which a nominee might be subjected by a joint sitting of parliament.

As Sir Harry Gibbs says, this is likely to deter at least some suitable persons from allowing their names to be considered. (UNSW, 1998, 16) Those of the calibre of, say, Roma Mitchell, Zelman Cowan, Richard McGarvie, or Peter Sinclair are unlikely candidates. We can be sure that this process will come to resemble US senate nominations, which in recent years have involved witch-hunts against anyone who is perceived as having ideas unaccept¬able to members of the relevant committee. At the convention, Federal Treasurer Mr Peter Costello said that the nominations process would put people who are up for consideration in a very difficult position. But when he put this to Malcolm Turnbull, who had come "like Nicodemus, by night to try to steal my vote". Mr Turnbull replied, "Don't worry about any of that: the parlia¬ment can ignore it." ("Hansard", 1998, 975) Republican academic Professor John Williams writes that the untested political assumption is that the Nomination Committee will quell the people's obvious electoral appetite for a say in the election of the president. He concludes that it is a hollow attempt to appease electoral demands in states other than NSW and Victoria. In other words, it's a front. And a failed one at that. It certainly hasn't fooled the real Republicans, Ted Mack, Clem Jones, Phil Cleary and Martyr Webb.

The "Election"

The next stage in the process is for the prime minister to make a single nomination to a joint sitting of the commonwealth parlia¬ment. Under a last-minute amendment, it is only at this point that politicians and members of political parties are excluded. In other words, they can resign just before nomination. The nomination must be seconded by the leader of the opposition in the house of representatives. The joint sitting must then approve the nomination by a two-thirds majority. So this will normally require approval by the opposition.

Winterton warns that it could be difficult to identify the leader of the opposition constitutionally, as the non-government parties in the lower house may have equal numbers or no members at all– as was the case in New Brunswick after the 1987 election when the government won all the seats. His solution is to give this responsibility to the speaker of the house. The speaker is the neutral presiding officer, the symbol and advocate of the house as a whole. As such, he or she could not be entrusted with political discretion. The speaker could be given the role only if it was not political, merely ceremonial. But in this case, the seconder has no choice but to second the nomination, further strengthening the position of the prime minister.
There seems to be no obligation on a prime minister to make a nomination. This could suit a prime minister who wishes to keep the office vacant and is happy with the president continuing in office under section 61 or with an acting president or deputy president. Neither the support of the leader of the opposition nor of a joint sitting would be necessary to support this strategy.

A political deal can also take the form of a trade-off. An opposition may well accept the government's nominee on the basis of some returned favour. The deal could be: We do not really like your presidential nominee, but we will support the nomination if you do something in return for us.
Public negotiations also tend to leak. The way in which the presidential nominee has been selected would inevitably become known to the public. The deals would be explained in the press. The selection process would then be looked upon unfavourably by outsiders and demeaning to the candidate selected.

Of course, politicians are well accustomed to deals. Northern Territory Chief Minister Mr Shane Stone argued that even on the subject of the proposed law to suppress the Northern Territory euthanasia law, a conscience vote was impossible. "What you'll see is the linking up of groups in factions, deals will be done and there'll be trade-offs with people ... in the senate in exchange for other bills. I know how it works, we're a soft target, we're an easy trade." (Sydney Morning Herald, 6 July 1996)

Perhaps one of the best-known deals was the Kirribilli House Agreement made before the 1990 election. Prime Minister Hawke agreed that after the election, and unbeknown to the electors, he would hand over the prime min¬istership to Paul Keating. Witnessed by TNT CEO Sir Peter Abeles and ACTU Secretary Bill Kelty, the agreement was kept secret. But when Mr Hawke changed his mind after the election, and Mr Keating went to the backbench to campaign against him, the agreement found its way to the press. (Hawke, 451-453)

The point was, of course, that the deal was of momentous public interest. The people thought they were electing a government to be led by Bob Hawke, not Paul Keating. It is, of course, either naive or deceptive to think that politicians will use the power to elect a president only for the purpose of choosing a president above politics. The two-thirds vote will ensure that they enter into a series of deals and trade-offs as the price for accepting the prime minister's nomination. The Americans understood this. So when they founded their republic, they wanted to ensure that the process of electing the president was not corrupted by deals and trade-offs. The politicians were totally excluded from the process, especially re-elections, to ensure, as founder Alexander Hamilton insisted, there was no "sinister bias". (Hamilton, 457)

But in Australia, the political deals and trade-offs surrounding the election of the president will not only be possible, they will be entrenched.
The president will owe his office to politicians' deals. Worse, he is just as likely to be a party to the deals. Yet the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) argues that a popular election will inevitably produce a politician. Their president will not only be a politician but one who emerges from shabby and secret political deals. As democratic republican Ted Mack says, "The president won't be one of us. He'll be one of them." This will no longer be a position beyond politics. The second Keating—Turnbull republic will most certainly be a politi¬cian's republic. And the president will most definitely be the politicians' president.

The President

A new section 59 of the constitution would provide that:
The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the president and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution and of the laws of the Commonwealth. The president shall be the head of state of the Commonwealth.

There shall be a Federal Executive Council to advise the president in the government of the Commonwealth, and the members of the Council shall be chosen and summoned by the president and sworn as Executive Councillors and shall hold office during the pleasure of the president. The president shall act on the advice of the Federal Executive Council, the prime minister or another minister of state, but the president may exercise a power that was a reserve power of the governor-general in accordance with the constitutional conventions that related to the exercise of that power by the governor-general.

It will be noted that for the very first time, the term "head of state" is to appear in an Australian constitutional document. This is a diplomatic term which has been used, or more correctly misused, by the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) to create a case for change. This totally superfluous provision can have been inserted only to give some substance to the deception that the governor-general is not already a head of state and that the term is of some constitutional significance, which it is clearly not.

The first and second paragraphs continue, in a republican form, sections 61 and 62 of the existing constitution. However, the third paragraph differs both from the present constitution and also from the Communique of the Constitutional Convention in two ways. First, the sources of advice to the president specified in the constitution are increased from the present one, the federal executive council. The sources of advice are now the federal executive council, the prime minister or another minister of state.

Although the addition of the prime minister and another minister of state to the federal executive council actually reflects current constitutional practice, their express inclusion creates a situation where the president may receive conflicting advice of apparently equal validity from different sources. This would not matter if such advice were not legally binding, which is the position at present.

The second difference is the more important. The president is now legally bound to act on advice. This appears to deny the president the traditional rights of the governor-general to be consulted, to advise, and to warn. That is, as a constitutional auditor.

Thus, if any minister of state insisted that he act immediately, the president would probably be precluded from doing what governors-general have normally done — asked questions. Requesting the executive council to obtain formal advice from the attorney-general or solicitor-general or delay acting on questionable advice until satisfied that it was constitutional or legal. The Constitutional Convention did not recommend that the president be placed under a binding legal obligation to act on advice. We have previously referred to the case in India, where Mrs Ghandi had insisted the president sign an unjustified Declaration of Emergency. Under this constitution, a president could not refuse.

It is difficult to exaggerate the enormity of the change. At one stroke, it denies the president the day-to-day power and duty that governors-general have enjoyed as auditors of the proper process since federation. But that is not all. The reference to the reserve powers appears to make their exercise justiciable—that is, reviewable in the high court, a matter ACM raised soon after the Exposure Draft was released in April 1999.

The reserve powers are those where the governor-general may act at his own discretion as the constitutional umpire. Under the third paragraph of the new section 59, we have tension. There is now a mandatory obligation on the president to act in accordance with the advice of the executive council and others. But there is an exception relating to the exercise of the reserve powers in accordance with the constitutional conventions governing their exercise by the governor-general. As the first part of this paragraph imposes a legal duty on the president, ACM and others argued it would be "justiciable" and thus enforceable in the high court. (See, for example, the high court decision in The Queen vs Toohey, ex parte Northern Land Council, 1981, 151, CLR 170) So the exercise of a reserve power must also be "justiciable". The traditional view is that the exercise of reserve powers under the present Australian constitutions cannot be examined or reviewed by the courts. For example, Sir John Kerr's decision to dismiss Mr Whitlam and dissolve parliament could not have been reviewed by the high court.

Some Australian jurists say the law has developed so that now the exercise of the reserve powers is justifiable. On this view, Sir John Kerr's decision to dismiss Gough Whitlam in 1975 could have been reviewed by the high court. That could have extended the constitutional crisis for many weeks or even months. This was the Pakistan experience when the exercise of the president's powers was found to be justifiable. In the absence of a clear provision in the constitution, only the high court can give us the answer. And then only when someone with standing seeks a review.

More recently, the former solicitor-general and attorney-general, republican Bob Ellicott QC, dropped a bombshell. He argued that it was likely that the high court would find that under the Keating–Turnbull republic, the president had actually lost the power to dismiss the prime minister. This flowed from the proposed new section 59, which provides that the president may exercise a power that was a reserve power of the governor-general "in accordance with the constitutional conventions" relating to the exercise of that power.

But the attorney-general says in the Republic Bill Explanatory Memorandum, referring to 1975, that there is no generally agreed convention relating to the exercise of the reserve powers. New section 59 only allows the president to exercise reserve power in accordance with convention. Ellicott concludes that if a president dismissed a prime minister under this republic, the high court could review the president's decision, but guided by the Explanatory Memorandum, it could then find the power to dismiss no longer existed.

Just before the Republic Bill was to be passed in August 1999, the attorney-general introduced an amendment. Under clause 8 of Schedule 3, the bill will not make justiciable the exercise of reserve power if the exercise is not justifiable now. But as we have seen, the law is now unclear on this point. And because of the "who shoots first scenario" which we are yet to discuss, high court involvement may be unavoidable. It would have been far better to have closed off the potential for a high court review of the president's exercise of reserve power. After all, the exercise of the prime minister's power to dismiss the president is not reviewable. Why should the presidents? This is yet another example of the failure of the Keating–Turnbull process to involve the people at all stages and to ensure proper public discussion. It once again demonstrates that this model has been scrambled together without careful consideration which was a feature of the federation process.


All democratic republics give the president a degree of tenure during his or her term. Where he or she presides over a Westminster system, the president will ideally operate as a check and balance on the politicians. If she or he does not, then you have a system that leaves the same politicians in control of both the legislature and the government—an excessive and dangerous concentration of power.

Historical evidence demonstrates that in the Westminster system, the crown, rather than a president, provides the better check and balance as an umpire and auditor against this concen¬tration of power. (Obviously, there are others, the courts, a free press etc.) A Westminster president needs to have a clearly defined role. His powers must be codified —which, as we have seen, can bring in the problem of justiciability. How do we know the precise boundaries of his powers without a court ruling on them? And above all, the president needs the security of tenure, but obviously, he or she should be removable for proven and serious breaches of the law or of her duties.

This is normally done through a three-stage process of impeachment. First, there is a formal charge or impeachment on specified facts falling within grounds for dismissal set out in the constitution. So that this is not frivolously made, this usually has to satisfy, say, a house of parliament, as in the United States, or a specified majority of members of parliament. Then there is a fair trial, for example, before the senate as in the US, or before a tribunal of five judges presided over by the chief justice, as in Singapore. Finally, there is usually a parliamentary vote with a special majority (two-thirds in the US, three-quarters in Israel and Singapore).

Without an impeachment process, you cannot have a democratic republic. The eerie words of the proposed new section 62 of the constitution demonstrate that this is not a democratic republic: "The prime minister may, by an instrument signed by the prime minister, remove the president with effect immediately."

These are words which have no precedent in any constitution of any republic. The prime minister must seek approval from the House of Representatives for this action within thirty days unless (i) within the thirty days the house expires or is dissolved or (ii) before the removal, the house has expired or dissolved, but a general election has not taken place. Note that the Senate is not involved. Sir Anthony Mason thinks this goes too far in strengthening the House against the Senate. The exclusion of the Senate is especially significant in light of the 1975 crisis. Had Sir John Kerr been a president under this republic, Gough Whitlam would have been able to instantly dismiss him without any reference to the senate. But if the House of Representatives does not ratify the prime minister's action, the president is not to be reinstated. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, this ensures an opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of the prime minister's action. This is not so. It only allows for scrutiny by the house.

The Explanatory Memorandum recalls that the convention had said a failure by the House of Representatives to ratify the prime minister's decision to dismiss the president would constitute a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. The Memorandum says it is highly unusual to have a vote of no confidence in a single minister, particularly the prime minister. One consequence of a vote of no confidence in the prime minister might be a loss of government. However, the Constitution is silent on the issue. So it leaves the question unresolved. It is to be left "for resolution in accordance with parliamentary processes, which must, in turn, develop within the broader constitutional framework". Whatever that may mean. Yet another example of how little proper care and scrutiny has been given to this model.

Sir Harry Gibbs believes that just the knowledge of his own insecurity would prevent a president from taking valuable but uncontroversial initiatives. He recalls the decision taken in Tasmania in 1989 by Governor Sir Phillip Bennett, who would not accede to the request of the premier that an election be held. The governor was satisfied that the opposition could form a government with the support of the Greens. The model, Sir Harry says, fails completely to strike a balance between the offices and greatly strengthens the position of the prime minister at the expense of the president.
A long list of criticisms is levelled against the procedure by Professor Winterton, some of which include: failure to stipulate grounds for removal; unnecessary exclusion of the senate from the dismissal procedure; the prime ministerial action may be thwarted by pre-emptive presidential action; failure to explain why a wrongly removed president should not be automatically reinstated; and presidential competency should not be linked to the house's confidence in the prime minister.

Gareth Evans, a minister in the Keating government and a prominent Republican delegate at the Constitutional Convention, has been quoted as saying he could never live with having a president who could be dismissed by the prime minister at the stroke of a pen — that this would make our president the most miserable head of state in the world. (Frank Devine, Australian, 12 February 1999)

Both Keating—Turnbull republics suffer from the fundamental deficiency that while they would dismantle the crown piece by piece, first federally and then at the state level, they offer nothing in its place. It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) just does not understand the role and nature of the Australian crown. Not understanding, they wish to destroy that institution without putting anything in its place — except the absolute executive authority of the prime minister.

The proposition that the neutered office of the president could be an adequate substitute for the crown confirms an inability or unwillingness to accept the subtleties of the present constitutional arrangements. The second Keating—Turnbull republic ensures that the president must emerge from deals and trade-offs between the politicians under this system. He is already guaranteed to be the politician's president. But this politician's president will hold office at the whim of the prime minister.

Anglo-American political thought and practice is suspicious of the proposition that an ideal political arrangement can be devised and that the government established should be endowed with vast powers. Rather, our tradition is to be suspicious of potential abuses of power. This is reflected in the advice of Paul Keating's own Republic Advisory Committee, chaired by Malcolm Turnbull. They reported they had encountered an almost universal view that, regardless of the integrity of any prime minister, the head of state should not hold office at the prime minister's whim and must be safe from instant removal to ensure appropriate impar¬tiality. The need to protect the head of state from arbitrary removal has particular force, they said, where the head of state has discretionary powers that can be exercised adversely to the interests of the prime minister or the government. (RAC, Vol 1, 77)

The traditional view is most famously enunciated in Lord Acton's dictum, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Thomas Jefferson once asked, "What has destroyed liberty and the rights of men in every government?" He answered: "The concentration of all powers into one body." And as we have noted, Australian Republic Movement (ARM) patron Senator Andrew Murray warns that the second Keating–Turnbull republic gives the prime minister "absolute executive power".

When confronted with this the proponents of the Keating–Turnbull republic nowhere acknowledge their previous counsels against the president holding office at the whim of the prime minister. Their knee-jerk reaction is to talk of the "mother of all scare campaigns". But when pressed, they answer the critique in three ways – and thereby accept that the fault exists. First, they say, no reasonable person would behave so unreasonably. Then they say that the prime minister will not be able to choose "the president's successor". Finally, they claim that it merely replicates the current system.

No prime minister would dismiss unreasonably.

But people in power do not always act "reasonably". Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Blainey, in a speech on 10 March 1998, reminded us that in the 1930s, one of the world's most civilised countries, Germany, fell into dictatorship because at the very top the constitutional checks and balances of the Weimar Republic were found wanting. Of course, he was not saying, as one newspaper suggested, that another Hitler is possible. What he was reminding us was to those who say that authoritarianism could never come, one of the principal purposes of a constitution should be to ensure that excessive concentrations of power are not possible.

During the convention debates of the nineteenth century, Sir Richard O'Connor actually warned of the dangers of a supply crisis, particularly where a double dissolution was not available. But the founders preferred to rely on the good sense and moderation of politicians rather than a special provision to cover this. (Galligan, 85,86) In 1975, good sense and moderation seemed to have flown the coop. It was fortuitous that the "trigger" existed for a double dissolution. If it had not, the governor-general could still have acted, but only by having a dissolution of the House of Representatives and an election for half the Senate. The new Senators, with the exception of those from the territories, would not have taken office for many months.
What good would dismissal do the prime minister?

The ARM'S second response is that in dismissing the president, the prime minister will not necessarily get his man or woman as acting president. Won't he? The Republic Bill makes it clear that the prime minister can dismiss any or all acting presidents and that the prime minister could already have such deputy president as he wishes, with such powers as he has specified. Proposed section 63 of the constitution assures this:
63 Acting President and deputies:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the longest-serving state gov¬ernor available shall act as president if the office of president falls vacant.

A state governor is not available if the governor has been removed (as acting president) by the current prime minister under section 62.
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the prime minister may appoint the longest-serving state governor available to act as president for any period or part of a period during which the president is incapacitated.

The provisions of the constitution relating to the president, other than sections 60 and 61, extend and apply to any person acting as president.
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the president may appoint any person, or any persons jointly or severally, to be the president's deputy or deputies, and in that capacity to exercise during the pleasure of the president (including while the president is absent from Australia) such powers and functions of the president as the president thinks fit to assign to such deputy or deputies; but the appointment of such deputy and deputies shall not affect the exercise by the president personally (including while the president is absent from Australia) of any powers or functions ... (These powers are exercised on "advice": section 59)

We have thus the most extraordinary aggregation of power in the hands of the prime minister ever known in the history of our country, or indeed of any democracy. This results from the following:

The result is that the role of the president, as a check and balance on unconstitutional action by the prime minister, is weakened even further than in the 1998 convention communique. The politician's president will be well and truly the prime minister's apathetic poodle.

The prime minister can do it now.

The ARM'S final attempt to answer concerns about the prime minister's extraordinary concentration of power in this republic is to claim that he will have no more than the prime minister enjoys now. That this is untrue can be demonstrated by reference to the events of 1975. Sir John Kerr says that on 11 November 1975, he asked Gough Whitlam if he intended to govern without supply. When Whitlam replied that he did, Sir John said he intended to withdraw Whitlam's commission. Whitlam jumped up, looked at the tele¬phone and said: "I must get in touch with the palace." "It is too late," Sir John said. Whitlam asked, "Why?" Sir John told him: "Because you are no longer prime minister; these documents tell you so, and why."

In a re-run of 1975, it would be possible under this republic for Gough Whitlam, instead of saying: "I must get in touch with the palace," to have simply dismissed him. He could have scribbled and signed a note saying: "You're dismissed." Under this republic, he may well carry a prepared note. The point is there is nothing — nothing Gough Whitlam could have done to have secured Sir John Kerr's dismissal at their meeting on 11 November 1975.
It is completely untrue to say that the instant dismissal under the Keating—Turnbull republic replicates our current system. The procedure for the appointment and, by implication, the removal of governors-general was in fact settled at the Imperial Conference in 1930, where it was agreed that formal advice on an appointment (and thus removal) would come from the dominion ministers usually the prime minister. But this would be after informal consultation. All of which takes time. It is true that the prime minister can recommend to the queen the removal of the governor-general. But that does not equate to the governor-general holding office at the whim of the prime minister.

In 1932 prime minister de Valera petitioned the king to dismiss the governor-general of the Irish Free State. The king did feel some doubt about whether he had to accept de Valera's advice. He declared that, while he was ready to act in accordance with constitutional practice respecting advice, in this case the advice was related to the position of the sovereign and to his personal prerogative and, therefore, the advice had a special char¬acter. So he asked for reasons to be given for de Valera's request. He also wanted Governor-General McNeill to be given an opportunity to resign and a longer period of notice. In this case, the King's decision had the effect of inducing a voluntary relinquish¬ment of office and so obviated the need for the King to exercise his prerogative.

How might this compare with the situation that could have arisen in 1975 had Whitlam attempted to act as de Valera did? Whether or not one believes the queen would have been bound to act on such a request, it is clear that Sir John Kerr would not have been dismissed immediately on the basis of a midnight tele¬phone call. Even if he had wanted to, which he denies, Gough Whitlam could not have had the governor-general dismissed in time to evade his own dismissal. In 1982 the queen's private secretary, Sir William Heseltine, confirmed this in a letter later cited at a session of the Advisory Committee of the Australian Constitutional Commission: "I can say that, while a telephone call from the prime minister might have frozen the situation, Her Majesty certainly could not have acted on the basis merely of a telephone conversation to dismiss her governor-general. Some formal instrument, whether transmitted by mail or cable, would most certainly have been required." And Sir David Smith points to the recent New Guinea example, where an original document, not a facsimile, was apparently thought necessary.

Professor George Winterton, a professor of constitutional law and a Republican, accepts that the queen could take time to consider any advice of the prime minister and even endeavour to persuade the prime minister to withdraw his advice. He says the queen would ultimately "be obliged to accede to that advice unless she were willing to countenance a general election in which her conduct was an issue". He accepts that under the Keating—Turnbull republic, the president will lack "this slender shield" and that the president's vulnerability will be "unprecedented among world republics". ( Weekend Australian, 7-8 August 1999)

Fred Daly, who was the Leader of the House and Minister for Administrative Services at the time of the 1975 crisis, agrees, and he ought to know. He confirms that the removal of a governor-general is not a speedy or simple process. (Daly, 237) Sir Anthony Mason believes that any assumption that the queen would act immediately on a prime minister's request is "quite incorrect". He believes that the queen would be entitled to consider the matter. She might well take the view that an Australian constitutional con¬troversy should take its course according to the judgement of the governor-general "without intervention on her part until that controversy was resolved". (Mason, 1998)

Author Sarah Bradford writes that while there is nothing the queen can do if a prime minister submits a name for an appointment she is not happy with, she is not powerless. She recounts a story about a Dean of St Paul's who had asked what the queen could do if she received advice to make an unsatisfactory ecclesiastic appointment. The queen replied, "I can always say I should like more information. This is an indication a prime minister will not miss." (Bradford, 498)

But the strongest argument against the proposition that the governor-general holds office at the prime minister's whim comes from Gough Whitlam himself. He suggests the proposition is "preposterous" and "ludicrous"! In The Truth of the Matter, he ridicules Sir John Kerr's fears that he could have him removed by telephone. Whitlam referred to our recent experience in seeking the removal of Queensland Governor Sir Colin Hannah's "dormant" commission to act as administrator of the commonwealth. All state governors normally receive these. Sir Colin had publicly criticised the Whitlam government, that it engaged in political controversy–an act normally thought to be incompatible with viceregal status. An open and shut case for removal. It took ten days.

Whitlam says he merely asks: "Have you discussed this with the palace?" and that Kerr replied, "I don't have to and it's too late for you. I have terminated your commission."

At the very least, then, even if she ultimately accepted her prime minister's advice, the queen would be entitled to the three rights recognised by the celebrated nineteenth-century constitu¬tional authority Bagehot: to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn. That means time, precious time.
As we have seen, some experts say the queen has the discretion to refuse unacceptable advice. Professor Tony Blackshield and Justice Kim Santow say it is generally accepted that if in 1975, there had been a race to the queen and Gough Whitlam had won, the queen would have exercised independent discretion in deciding whether to remove the governor-general in what were already exceptional circumstances. (Australian Financial Review, 16 February 1998) However, those who have been closest to the question, Sir John Kerr and Sir David Smith, think that ultimately the queen must accept the prime minister's advice if he insists.

In any event, as former governor-general (and Labor Premier of New South Wales) Sir William McKell has pointed out, there is no guarantee as to when she will act. Sir William said that the queen is a very busy woman. She may be difficult to contact. She can always ask for more information. So by the time she acts, the governor-general could have ensured an election takes place.

Indeed, the very idea that a prime minister could be automatically granted the removal of a governor virtually negates the reserve powers of the governor-general. Governors-general would be all but powerless if they could be removed any time they resisted the prime minister's will.

Who shoots first?

At this point, we refer to a curious feature of this hurriedly put-together constitution. Yet another example of the lack of care, and the need for public discussion in the drafting of such an important document. This is the practical difficulty of both the president being able to dismiss the prime minister and the prime minister being able to dismiss the president. This has just not been thought through. Who moves first will be absolutely crucial. Would a prudent president and prime minister carry signed notices of dismissal to future meetings, might either of them even backdate a notice of dismissal? There is not even the need fora witness on the prime minister's notice! If they met alone, there could be different recollections of what had happened.
Hadn't the authors of this considered what had actually happened in 1975? Because in 1975, Gough Whitlam and Sir John Kerr had different recollections of the events in the study at Yarralumla.

Sir John's claim that Gough Whitlam rose looked at the phones and said, "I must get in touch with the palace," Whitlam denies. He says:
This is a concoction and an absurd one. I had been in the governor-general's study at least half a dozen times when Lord Casey was governor-general and scores of times while Sir Paul Hasluck and Sir John Kerr had been governors-general. While Sir Paul and Sir John had made telephone calls and received them while one was there, I had no knowledge of the procedure for making calls. I did not know the number of the Palace. I had no staff with me. He had his aides, his secretaries, his telephonists, and his police. I was trapped in an ambush; my sole instinct was to escape, to depart at once from the place where the deed had been done and the presence of the man who had done the deed.

So Sir John Kerr says that Gough Whitlam was about to tele¬phone the queen to have him dismissed, and Gough Whitlam denies this. At a meeting in a similar crisis and under this republic, establishing who moved first could be equally disputed. The former Chief Justice Sir Anthony Mason worries about the ability of either to sack the other in a "who shoots first" scenario. Professor Cheryl Saunders writes that this ludicrous situation is, to say the least, undignified.

In the event of both claiming to have dismissed the other first, the president would appoint a new prime minister, and the old prime minister would have the acting president he wanted. In other words, two claiming to be prime minister and two claiming to be president, and, it should be stressed, two claiming to be commander-in-chief. That the phenomenon of two or more persons claiming to be president has happened in other countries is surely a good argument not to adopt a half-baked constitutional model that would allow this to be repeated here.

Republican Critics

It is not surprising that this model has been criticised by consti¬tutional experts, many of them republicans. The following come from the 1998 University of New South Wales Law Journal Forum:

The convention's model is flawed. Its presidential removal mechanism is both structurally unsound and entirely inappropriate. Professor George Winterton

I remain sceptical about the enduring qualities of the final recommendation for the so-called bipartisan appointment model. Professor Cheryl Saunders
It is a weak model with a number of serious deficiencies. Professor Greg Craven

This model does not prevent a politically motivated dismissal of a president. Professor Linda Kirk

In summary, the conclusion must be that the extraordinary, unprecedented power to remove the president is unknown in any democratic republic. And in no way does it replicate our existing system.


The model, let us remember, is not based on carefully considered, dispassionate and extended discussion. It was scrambled together in the last few days to get the maximum support at the convention. It is full of holes. The most worrying aspect is the failure of its proponents to admit now that it is a model unworthy of our great democracy. Remember that the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) refused to admit, for five years, that the first Keating—Turnbull republic was a recipe for instability. We have to assume that by now, the proponents must be well aware of the fundamental and dangerous concentration of power and the potential for instability that flows from this model.

Real Republican former independent MP Ted Mack says many in the Australian Republic Movement (ARM), the media and academia are well aware of this. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1998)

And success in the referendum will result in pressure for other changes, apart from those changes that could occur because of a failure to prepare for them properly, such as our membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Certainly, the flag, the chief national symbol, is next on the agenda. As Bill Hayden has said, if the referendum is successful, "the same gang of activists will be on the campaign trail to change the flag".

The states, too, are on the agenda. A minister in the Keating government, Alan Griffiths, pointed this out at the beginning when he said: "The republican issue is a threshold thing, to get people's attention ... the real business was achieving competitiveness in government arrangements which might, in the long run, entail the abolition of the state. (Australian Financial Review, 5 April 1993) But the worst consequences may be those which could flow from governmental instability that the model allows.

As we have seen, a president and a prime minister can sack each other. The president could say his dismissal was invalid, or he was first and appoint the opposition leader as prime minister. An acting president could claim to be in office. There would be challenges in the high court that would inevitably become politicised. In turmoil, with increasing civil disorder, both "presidents" (and perhaps both prime ministers) could call the Army for support. Whom should the Army obey?

Eventually, supply would run out, with government services and payments curtailed. This scenario wasn't dreamt up as part of a "scare campaign". It comes from the experiences of other countries that have drafted or changed their constitutions without thinking carefully about the consequences. Pakistan has actually lived through similar events over the last few years.

So it would obviously be more difficult under the Keating–Turnbull republic to resolve a 1975-style crisis. It would have far more serious consequences.
In 1975, the Australian economy was cordoned off from the world. Now all the regulatory barriers are down. As Paul Keating discovered a decade ago when in the course of warning about the state of the economy on talk-back radio, he uttered just two words, "banana republic". Foreign money was flushed out of Australia, and international confidence collapsed. The dollar Plunged.

Australia cannot afford the luxury of constitutional instability. The resulting international judgement would be harsh and imme¬diate. As the dollar crashed, as Standard and Poor and Moody's reassessed their rankings, most Australians would be the losers. The only people standing to gain would be speculators on our currency and those who buy up our property cheaply.

So the cost of this republic would not only be the $120 million to get to the referendum. It will not only be the hundreds of millions to change the currency, the uniforms, to upgrade everything; to pay for the president, deputy presidents, and the state presidents, who, both in office and retirement with their new status, will expect to be maintained in greater style than our retired governors and governors-general. It will be the cost to the nation of giving up its constitutional stability.

Australians are being engulfed with the argument that this change is only symbolic, only about an Australian head of state. That is not what it is about. It is not only about getting rid of the queen at any price. It is about a major transfer of power in Australia.


Australian Constitutional Convention of 1998.

In early 1998, the Old Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, became the centre of a significant event known as the Constitutional Convention. The purpose of this event was to address a critical matter that would impact Australia's future, namely whether the country should become a republic or maintain its current system. Esteemed personalities from various backgrounds gathered to engage in constructive and thought-provoking discourse. However, as the summer of 1998 approached, Robert Manne, an Associate Professor in Politics at Monash University and a regular columnist, expressed surprise in the Sydney Morning Herald (1 February 1999) about what he described as "infighting" within Australia's Republican Movement (ARM). Even if the Republican camp were united, he noted, persuading a majority of Australians and a majority of states during the upcoming referendum would have been immensely challenging. However, with an "internally divided, self-lacerating Republican Movement," these challenges would be insurmountable. Manne concluded by saying that "this fatal contradiction at the heart of Australian republicanism had emerged in a way no Australian monarchist at the Constitutional Convention could have predicted."

It's not uncommon for Republicans to have disagreements amongst themselves. History has shown similar conflicts between different political groups, such as Cromwell's Roundheads and the Levellers, the French Girondins and Jacobins, the Russian Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, and the Stalinists and Trotskyists. The 1998 Constitutional Convention also saw clear and unsurprising divisions. Despite this, Manne seemed surprised by the outcome.

It is important to note that the terms "republic" and "republicanism" have multiple interpretations, rendering them impractical for use in discussions pertaining to Australia's political system. Despite this, there is a persistent call for a plebiscite on the matter of Australia becoming a republic, as well as a continuous discourse in politics and media regarding "the" republic. However, the notion being presented by the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) is tightly regulated, with no place for the monarchy. In other words, their objective is to remove the monarchy at all costs. This has become increasingly evident in recent times.

Authentic Republicans hold a deep-seated belief in the importance of fostering people's engagement and involvement in the workings of government, in contrast to the ARM's objectives, which include limiting such participation. Additionally, they place great emphasis on the implementation of checks and balances as a mechanism for ensuring that power is regulated effectively. It is worth noting that there are several similarities between true Republicans and constitutional monarchists, as constitutional monarchies often exhibit a high degree of democratic governance. This underscores the shared focus on ensuring that power is distributed in a manner that is responsive to the needs and desires of the people.

Real Republicans, unlike the ARM, do not focus solely on the crown. Ted Mack, a prominent real Republican from New South Wales, is an example of this. During his time as Mayor of North Sydney, he successfully implemented Citizen Initiated Referenda. He has also opposed the generous superannuation funds for MPs and has resigned from parliament twice just before becoming eligible for a pension. Mack's true Republican beliefs extend beyond these issues and include promoting popular involvement in government, including direct elections.

In the midst of the 1998 Constitutional Convention elections, Australia's Republican Movement (ARM) presented a proposal that aimed to establish a direct presidential election process by the people. This suggestion proved to be quite popular and managed to secure the ARM more votes. Furthermore, it also allowed the Republican factions to unite and work together towards a common goal. Although the proposal held great promise in terms of its potential benefits, it ultimately failed to come to fruition.

What were the origins of the Constitutional Convention? It all began in 1995 when Paul Keating, the then-prime minister, took a closer look at the 1993 report of the Republic Advisory Committee, which was chaired by Malcolm Turnbull. After thoroughly reviewing the report, the government announced its policy on June 7th, 1995, stating that Australia should become a republic by 2001. The very next day, John Howard, who was then the leader of the opposition, proposed a People's Convention. This suggestion had also been put forward by his predecessor, Alexander Downer. Interestingly, while constitutional conventions played a crucial role in the federation of Australia, none had been held in the 20th century.

Until 1998, proposals for constitutional change came from governments, sometimes advised by specialist bodies. The Republic Advisory Committee, consisting only of Republicans and bound by its terms of reference to come up with a Republican model, was the most partisan of these. Although often criticised for "manipulating" the process, the revival of the convention as an instrument for constitutional review was a democratic approach. And it was much more generous and fair to Republicans than the former prime minister had been to monarchists and other constitutionalists.

The convention was made up equally of elected and nominated delegates. Some commentators suggested that because of the nominated delegates, the convention was stacked by the Howard government. This is untrue. A substantial number of places were reserved for nominees of the state and federal parlia¬ments, which ensured a wide range of representation and views. Many, if not the majority, turned out to be Republicans.
It was made clear that if a republican model were adopted by the convention, it would be put to the people. Alternatively, there would be an indicative plebiscite offering choices.

The campaign that preceded the election of delegates demonstrated that there is no level playing field between the principal groups, the ARM and the ACM. The ACM estimates that the ARM outspent it in advertising by a factor of ten –about $ 5 or $6 million against $500,000. The ARM was able to broadcast a large number of television advertisements. The ACM had none. In the voluntary postal ballot, the ARM had the resources and the manpower of the ALP and ACTU behind it, evidenced by the high voting returns in safe Labor electorates. Many ALP MPs used their offices to mail out encouragement to voters. This was replicated by a few coalition MPs in favour of the ACM, but only in South Australia. And even then, the coalition MPs were divided, only some supporting the ACM. But the ACM led the vote in South Australia!

Apart from some small newspaper advertising, the ACM advertised on the radio. Its campaign material was circulated by its own supporters — not by a compliant political party. Of the other groups, only Clem Jones' Queensland Republic Team advertised extensively. ACM was warned that it could lag up to 20 per cent behind the ARM. Such would be the effect of the ARM's advertising, the support it had enjoyed over the years of the Keating government, and its strong media backing.

In fact, the ACM and its allies gained 30.67 per cent of the vote. The ARM obtained 30.34 per cent. Many of those who voted for ARM must have done so believing its claims that it would seriously countenance direct election. But soon after the convention opened, the ARM moved to close off any further discussion of direct election. This was too much for the independent Republicans, who threatened a walkout. The ARM had to retreat and allow further discussion.


This was the subject of a law forum in the 1998 issue of the University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol 4, No. 2  (UNSW). All the following comments come from that journal unless otherwise indicated. Cheryl Saunders, a prominent academic lawyer, said: "While some elected delegates had formerly been politicians, the convention generally broadened the range of people normally involved in the development of proposals for constitutional change."

Moira Rayner, a Republican delegate, said: "It ran efficiently. It did not collapse, as it could have, on the second day. It got a result." Her final conclusion was, "We missed a chance in February." Sir Harry Gibbs disagreed: "No doubt a constitutional con¬vention should include representatives of all schools of political and constitutional thought, but the representation of sectional interests is more likely to divert attention from the constitutional issues than to assist in resolving them." John Uhr, Director of Public Policy at Australian National University, maintained that the process was good even if the outcome wasn't:

The Convention was an important illustration of Australian democracy at work. An assessment of the worth of how the Convention went about its work can tell us much about the strengths and weaknesses of democracy in Australia ... As a process, the Convention proved valuable as an example of what can be achieved through wider community consultation over the agenda of government and closer public participation in government decision making. I remain sceptical about the enduring qualities of the final recommendation.

Yet Attorney-General Darryl Williams took a quite different view, which George Winterton explained is justifiable in terms of the government's purpose: "[Williams] recently declared the February 1998 Constitutional Convention 'an outstanding success'. This is a fair assessment if the convention is judged against its designated purpose — to decide whether Australia should become a republic, when this should occur, and which republican model would be put to referendum. However, at least for repub¬licans, the convention will ultimately have failed unless a satisfac¬tory model of republican government is approved at the referendum."

The convention soon demonstrated the vacuity of the terms republic and republicanism, at least as they are being used now in Australia.
Professor Greg Craven writes that whereas previously, antipodean republicanism had tended to be perceived as a single, more-or-less uniform entity: "Now, however, we realise that there are at least three orders of republicanism."

Craven divides most of the Republican delegates into one of three categories: "democratic Republicans", or as he prefers to call them, "radical Republicans", "conservative Republicans", and "symbolic Republicans", described by Craven as "mainstream Republicans", and whom I have sometimes chosen to call "official republicans". Each group had its own claim to a kind of republicanism, but some felt inclined to argue that theirs was the only legitimate expression of republicanism. As Moira Rayner explained: "The republican cause is a broad church. True believers may, and we did, legitimately differ, yet the Australian Republican Movement ... claimed orthodoxy and that other views were heretical."

Democratic Or Real Republicans

The democratic or real republicans were those delegates at the convention who embraced constitutional reform but saw it as not merely symbolic in nature. Rather, the symbol of a new political order was to gain significance from the other substantive reforms it heralded for the people. Many of these delegates combined to form a loose coalition, the "Direct Election of the President Group". But for many, a directly elected president transplanted into a Westminster system was not really enough. Often, the aim was an executive presidency. These people were attempting to reform the system rather than merely redecorate it. They have united under the name "Real Republicans" to fight for a No vote in the 1999 referendum. They, even more than con¬stitutional monarchists, attracted the ire of the official republicans. For example, former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam called them "irresponsible and ignorant". (Australian Financial Review, 26 May 1999)

The democratic republicans were quickly robbed of any real opportunity to discuss their concerns. As John Uhr explains their predicament:
John Howard justified his Convention as a way of broadening the agenda of constitutional change from the head of state to other issues of great constitutional significance, such as parliamentary terms, Commonwealth—State relations and the allocation of legislative and executive powers. Sadly, the Convention was given a much narrower brief, which pushed to the side any constructive deliberation on related issues of democratisation and constitutional modernisation.

This was a great problem for those who, unlike the official Republicans, were not interested merely in symbols. These included Moira Rayner and the Reverend Tim Costello. Rayner says: "We ... argued that the head of state was an unimportant symbol ... We had always said that the head of state issue was less important than our democratic and constitutional problems."

They were joined by a vocal minority, including Sydney Magistrate Pat O'Shane (who wanted not "just a republic" but "a just republic"), Western Australian Professor Patrick O'Brien and the teams mounted by former Brisbane Labor Lord Mayor Clem Jones in Queensland and former independent MP Ted Mack in New South Wales, to lobby for a directly elected president.

The discussion was not completely limited to minimalist change. John Uhr notes that much of the debate, and indeed the final communique, "strayed beyond these narrow confines" almost as a kind of proof that the popularly elected delegates would not be prevented from raising a wider range of issues for constitutional change.

Those hoping for reform, like Uhr, must remain profoundly disappointed with the convention's outcome. For this, he blames a "sceptical" prime minister who had won a victory that promised to make an Australian republic safe for the prevailing interests that dominate the Australian parliamentary government. "The preferred option leaves most of the crucial decisions in the hands of the ruling prime minister. Thus a conservative prime minister has the prospect of bringing home Labor's minimalist bacon." He seems to have forgotten John Howard is opposed to the model.

Richard McGarvie and the Conservative Republicans

The conservative Republicans (perhaps we should call them "neo-monarchists") remained a force after the Democratic-Republicans had been vanquished. This group comprised the delegates attracted to the model proposed by a former Victorian judge, then Governor Richard McGarvie. McGarvie acknowledged that the queen plays a real role in the constitution, one that a genuinely minimalist Republican must seek to replace with a new institution. They proposed establishing a council of retired statesmen and jurors to appoint the president on the prime minister's advice.

Craven says that the conservative republicans have more or less "reluctantly" embraced the Australian republic as inevitable but are vitally concerned to ensure that the new republic clings as closely as possible to the underpinnings of its monarchical ancestor. (Yet early in the referendum campaign, Craven moved to support the so-called bi-partisan model that is the subject of the referendum – the second Keating–Turnbull republic.)
These are Australians who are willing to contemplate an Australian republic so long as it represents merely "an indigenous adoption" of Australia's highly successful system of constitutional monarchy.

Professor Winterton says that McGarvie is misguided in thinking that his constitutional council is any real substitute for the crown. He overlooks the important consideration that a head of state must enjoy "some legitimacy" for the effective performance of the functions of the offices, including both the symbolic role of national figurehead and focus on national unity and the exercise of reserve powers to protect the constitution if necessary. The governor-general's legitimacy derives from the representation of the crown, which enjoys a legitimacy derived from history, tradition, sentiment and, for some, religion.

But, Winterton asks, what reserve of popular authority could a republican head of state chosen by a prime minister and appointed by a constitutional council draw upon when necessary to dismiss a prime minister or premier commanding the solid support of the lower house of parliament? Australia's political culture is, he says, "too egalitarian" to place much credence in a constitutional council of retired judges or retired heads of state. Moreover, while the "majesty and respect" enjoyed by the monarch may constrain an Australian prime minister in nomi¬nating a candidate for governor-general, it is difficult to envisage the proposed constitutional council fulfilling a similar function, so that the council's alleged equivalent with the monarch is "unsustainable". (Adelaide Review, August 1997)

Unlike the symbolic Republicans, the conservative Republicans are concerned about retaining the monarchical skeleton even if it is encased in a Republican shell. Professor Craven says that the existing system is not, as is sometimes supposed, unadulterated in character. Our democracy is fundamentally qualified. It is both "representative" and "parliamentary" in nature so that the will of the people cannot legitimately be expressed directly and immediately but only through the prism of their constitutionally elected representatives. This essentially conservative British version of democracy was, he says, directly confronted at the convention by the "spectre of a popularly elected president" wielding popular power in defence of the electorate against its parliamentary representatives. So, he says, the real Republicans were at odds with everyone who stood by a more traditional concept of Anglo-Australian constitutional theory. Craven suggests that the real dilemma for conservatives is one about how best to preserve the democracy they presently enjoy rather than one about republicanism versus monarchy.

The conservative Republicans exerted a greater influence over the official ARM Republicans than the democratic Republicans were able to do. This was principally because of a media campaign to tempt the ACM and its allies to vote "strategically". This strategy was to support the McGarvie model as the "least worst" republic so it would emerge as the preferred model at the convention. The strategy then would be to campaign against the model at the referendum as the easiest one to defeat. The ARM would not believe ACM's protestations that they were determined to resist this temptation. So, they saw the need to win over at least some democrat republicans and conservative Republicans by changing their model.

Official Republicans - Australia's Republican Movement (ARM)

This group of Republicans included the dominant voice at the convention, the Australian Republican Movement. The group differs from the conservative Republicans (and to some extent the democratic or real Republicans, too) by "ardently desir[ing] dramatic change in Australia's symbols". They also differ from the democratic republicans (and to some extent find common ground with the conservatives) by claiming not to seek to change the "substantive systems of government". The difficulty is that they either do not know what they are doing or they are not letting on that they want to make significant changes to the Constitution. Both of their models are substantially different from the present constitution.

Yet this is the school of the so-called "minimalists", the heirs to the Keating legacy. It had the numbers to largely control the Republican vote at the convention, provided the monarchists did not vote "strategically". The model endorsed by this group was the one that popped up in the last days with a nomination procedure tacked on as an apparent peace offering for the Democratic-Republicans and an amended dismissal procedure to attract the conservative Republicans and the Labor Party. In other words, just another deal behind the scenes to get the maximum vote.

There are many critics of this group's final model. Professor Winterton, himself a delegate of the symbolic republic persuasion, explains that the convention's failings are largely attributable to two factors: insufficient attention was devoted to the details of the republican model, and the ARM conceded too much to the prime minister and to supporters of the McGarvie model in "a futile attempt" to secure their support.

Besides criticisms of their tactics, some highly informed commentators began to question the fundamental tenets of the minimalists' approach at the convention. Professor Cheryl Saunders has said that, in hindsight, minimalism was a mistake. It has encouraged Australians to think in terms of retaining unnecessary monarchical forms while replacing the monarch.

This approach resulted in a first model where the substance is monarchical and the symbolism republican. This is as intolerable to those who want substantial reform as it is to those who believe the existing machinery works well and should not be jeopardised. Moira Rayner writes that if the referendum succeeds, we will enter the twenty-first century with "twentieth-century amendments cobbled onto a nineteenth-century constitution which is dressed up with a poetic, meaningless preamble". She describes this as "the sweet smell of democratic decay masked with the synthetic scent of eucalyptus".

The official ARM Republicans, despite their numbers, influenced few others. Their so-called symbolic changes were anything but that. They would work to the detriment of the existing system of checks and balances, which is so important to all other delegates! Furthermore, they were unable to provide the kinds of reform desired by the democratic republicans. However, their program did have an initial appeal for those people in society who sense the desirability of change but have not yet considered the details or implications.


The convention's final resolutions were compiled into a commu¬nique given under the hand of the Chairman, Ian Sinclair, and the Deputy Chairman, Barry Jones, to the prime minister pending the compilation and tabling in parliament of a report of the convention. In Principle Support for a Republic, The convention resolved that it supported "in principle, Australia being a republic". This was hailed by Republicans as a decisive victory. But as Sir Harry Gibbs points out, since there are many republican models, some of which may be attractive but others which would be regarded by Australians as entirely unacceptable, it is "futile to say that Australia should become a republic" unless an acceptable model fora republican constitution is at the same time suggested. A resolution drafted in the way this one was reflects sentimental preferences but covers up divisions. It was so lacking in meaning that every delegate could have, in good conscience, supported it.

The convention then resolved that the "Bipartisan Appointment of the President Model" be adopted "in preference to there being no change to the constitution" and that the required changes "be put to the people in a constitutional referendum". It was resolved that this referendum should be held in 1999, and if carried, the new republic should be instituted by 1 January 2001.

The States

The communique adopts a view never before advanced, that the crown is seven crowns and that each can be dismantled piece by piece. So, the convention resolved that the commonwealth parliament and executive should consult their state counterparts to determine whether the adoption of a republican system by the central government would have any implications on the state's constitutional arrangements. It was also resolved that change at the commonwealth level should not pressure the states to make any involuntary changes, and provision should be made to allow for any state that wished to retain their monarchical arrange¬ments for the time being. All the states will not be required to change at the same time as the commonwealth.

As Sir Harry Gibbs explains, problems may arise from the convention's treatment of the states:
It would be absurd and destructive of the symbolic significance which Republicans attach to the change if some states remained monarchies when the Commonwealth became a republic. Further, such a situation would give rise to constitutional questions as yet unresolved, including the question of whether the change could be made without the assent of all states. It is a matter of controversy whether a referendum carried only in a majority of states would suffice for this purpose. In any view, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900) would require amendment, and one view is that this could not be done by way of s128 of the Constitution. From every point of view, if Australia is to become a republic, the Commonwealth and the states should change together.

Julian Leser, the youngest convention delegate, warned that in a situation where a majority of votes is achieved overall and in the requisite four, but not all six, states, the high court may be required by the other two states to adjudicate on the constitutionality of the act. He says that the high court could be placed in "an invidious position". If it decided to make those declarations, it would be forced to ignore the will of the majority of people and the majority of people in four states. Conversely, if it did not make those declarations, it would force the two remaining states into a federal republic that they did not want – it would be ignoring the sovereignty of the people of those states. "The worst scenario for republicans who argue that a republic will bring Australians together is a high court challenge that will tear Australia apart." It should be noted that the high court cannot give an opinion on the constitutionality of proposed legislation in advance. (In re Judiciary and Navigation Acts, 1921, 29, CLR, 257)

The Bipartisan Model

This was the model that prevailed over the others, such as direct election or appointment by the constitutional council on the prime minister's advice. It only had the support of 73 of the 152 delegates. It consists of four components: a nomination process, appoint¬ment by a joint sitting of parliament, dismissal by the prime minister and that the president's powers be those of the governor-general.

The Preamble

Going beyond its terms of reference, the convention resolved that a new preamble should be inserted in the Constitution. The preamble to the Imperial Act is to remain, but any spent covering clauses are to be removed while any remaining operative will be moved into the constitution itself. This will presumably have the effect of limiting the content of the Imperial Act to the preamble, followed by the Constitution, which will commence with a second preamble.

Eleven elements are stipulated for inclusion in the new preamble, ranging from a reference to "Almighty God" to an "affirmation of respect for our unique land and its environment". Three other matters are listed for possible inclusion. The most curious element is that the preamble is to be drafted "in such a way that it does not have implications for the interpretation of the constitution". As if that were not enough, Chapter II of the constitution (dealing with the Judicature) is to contain a new provision: "That the preamble not be used to interpret the other provisions of the constitution." It is not clear that this would be effective, especially in international forums.

On this, Alex Reilly argues that it is illogical to support the expression of core values in a preamble and then to ensure that they are not constitutionally enforceable: "In one breath, the pre-amble pronounces values to aspire to, and in the next it ensures that those values are unenforceable in the interpretation of the constitution."

What was the intention? Mary Delahunty, an ARM delegate, described the preamble just as a "welcoming mat" for the constitution. Craven suggests that some delegates had a more sinister inten¬tion. He says that the "constitutionally literate" among the radical Republicans had no illusions about the process in which they were engaged. They hoped that the inclusion of rights and values in the preamble might provide "a right-minded high court" with a base from which to interpolate those concepts into the body of the Constitution.

Sir Harry Gibbs is critical of the whole project, explaining that a constitution should prescribe the method of government, and an expression of social values is out of place in such an instrument. It is particularly unwise to attempt to give constitutional recognition to contemporary values since the most elementary knowledge of history should show how dramatically values can change in a comparatively short time ... It cannot be predicted with certainty whether those provisions would be used, with unpredictable results, in international tri¬bunals as an indication of the principles which Australia, having recognised, should apply in practice. Despite this, Winterton maintains, "The convention's resolution on the preamble is one of its most significant, and least timid, accomplishments."

Even if not for Winterton's reasons, the preamble resolution is highly significant. It exhibits a desire to make sweeping gestures that have no substantive effect. But there was urgency, and due attention was not paid to the detail – wherein the devil lies. In these senses, it seems to exhibit more transparently the symptoms present in the resolutions regarding the bipartisan model.

In any event, the convention's proposals were not accepted by the prime minister, who established a separate process, which will be the subject of a separate referendum.

Consequential Changes

The convention also passed resolutions on a number of conse¬quential issues: the name "Commonwealth of Australia" be retained; the use of the title president; new oaths; commencement date of new provisions; various provisions regarding the presi¬dency; provisions regarding monarchical symbols; and eligibility for the presidency. It says that Australia will remain a member of the Common¬wealth of Nations in accordance with the rules of the Commonwealth.

Ongoing Constitutional Review Process

The convention resolved that a provision be made for a mandatory convention to be held three to five years after the refer¬endum is carried, with the purpose of reviewing "the operation and effectiveness of any republican system of government introduced by a constitutional referendum" and to address a broad range of issues. Irrespective of the desirability of another intervention (there were many issues that could not be discussed at this one), making provision for reviewing the system is no compensa¬tion for getting it right the first time. If the 1999 referendum is carried, there is no reason to assume a subsequent referendum to correct the mistakes in the first one would be carried. It will be hard enough to get one referendum through, let alone two.

National Symbols

Attention was drawn to the fact that although consideration of the Australian National Flag and Coat of Arms fell beyond the convention's terms of reference, some delegates raised the possibility of enshrining both in the constitution.

Definition of Presidential Powers

The convention effectively avoided this issue by resolving that the powers of the new head of state should be the same as those of the governor-general. To this end, the constitution would spell out the non-reserve powers as far as practicable, and a new provision would be inserted stipulating that "the reserve powers and the conventions relating to their exercise continue to exist". This provides two problems, as we have seen. Firstly, the conventions of the crown could be less effective or disappear. Secondly, the new clause saving the conventions would effectively make them "justiciable" (i.e. reviewable by the court). As Sir Harry Gibbs observes:

If a provision to this effect is written into the Constitution without qualifications, it will fall to the courts to decide what the constitutional conventions require. This would render an exercise of the reserve powers open to legal challenge, whereas at present, those conventions are not open to judicial review. So, a constitutional crisis could drag on for months.


The Bipartisan Model was the result of the ABM trying to wrestle with great questions of constitutional law and political theory. It took no more than four days of discussion and negotiation, sup¬ported by many millions of dollars of taxpayers' funds. But it actually failed on the floor of the convention. Nevertheless, it was the preferred model of the Republican delegates. Accordingly, the prime minister decided that it should be put to the people in a referendum, a view supported by a majority of delegates and by all of the major political parties.

But in what form? Professor Winterton suggested that the "Parliament should generally honour the convention's resolutions". This is surely not good enough. In a speech given on 27 March 1998, Sir David Smith warned against federal ministers changing the convention model in the parliament. The people should be allowed to vote on the Republicans' preferred model:

After describing the final republican model as "a hybrid on a hybrid on a compromise" and after referring to elements of it that he believes are unworkable, Peter Costello was reported as vowing he will urge the Federal Parliament to amend the model produced by the Convention. Other reports spoke of Daryl Williams tinkering with the model during his Department's drafting of the referendum Bill. For the Government to allow the Treasurer and the Attorney to produce their own version of what they think the Constitutional Convention should have come up with, or for Parliament to tolerate such action, would be a betrayal of the Convention and a repudiation of the Prime Minister's undertaking. I hope that the community debate that lies ahead of us will be aimed at keeping the bastards honest.

A feature of the convention was a moving address by ACM's Queensland delegate, Senator  Neville Bonner".

Senator Bonner added a funeral. Chant to a draft by Professor David Flint on the theme, 'How dare you?'


After Prime Minister Keating’s response to the report of the  Republican Advisory Committee, a model for the Australian Republic emerged, the first Keating -Turnbull republic.


The first Keating–Turnbull model has met with both practical and ideological criticism. Despite strong electoral support for popular elections, the Keating government advocated parliamentary appointment and dismissal. Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans has argued against this method of appointment on principle:

Most people, not intellectuals, are able to detect the massive contradiction at the heart of the elite orthodoxy: the monarchy must go partly because it is undemocratic, but the people must not be allowed to choose the replacement because they would stupidly make the wrong choice. (News Weekly, 29 July 1997)

Bill Hayden, a former governor-general, warns of the practical effect of election by the special parliamentary majority:

Those who believe a president elected by both Houses of Parliament would attract nominations from the 'best people in the community', need to be reminded of the adversarial structure of our political system. The hectoring style of so many Senate Committee hearings is illustrative of the sort of grinding and very personal inquisition to which a nominee could be subjected. The process here would make the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of the USA Senate, such as in the cases of Dinks and Hill, look like a suburban manse morning tea party. The prospect of such an experience would discourage all but the stout-hearted. (Hayden, 548-549)

The election of the president would be by a joint sitting of both houses of the federal parliament. So the greatest say would be to the most populous states, effectively the Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne axis. A two-thirds majority would be required. It would be a strange election, at least outside of the totali¬tarian countries. There would only be one candidate, just as in the old Soviet Union. The thinking was that at least the government and opposition would have had to support the candidate. This is not guaranteed. The Fraser government came down to having a two-thirds majority. A change by legislation of the method of election of the Senate could easily increase the likelihood of governments commanding this majority. This does not need a constitutional amendment. It can be done by legislation.

In the meantime, the attempt to force an agreement between the government and the opposition assumes that both will act in the best interests of the nation and choose the best candidate. What will obviously happen is a deal. In return for support for a candidate, the other side will agree to support some measure or not take some action – secretly, of course.

Australians have already seen and are disenchanted by this wheeling and dealing. The American founders saw the danger of deals between politicians and with the candidate, both in election and re-election. So, they decided to remove the politicians from the presidential election process.


And even a single candidate election is still an election. As minister Bronwyn Bishop says, in an election, the candidate has to stand for something – his or her platform. By winning, he or she has a mandate. This is totally unlike the non-political governor-general who has neither a platform nor a mandate. So what do we have under this republic? A politician chosen by politicians. And with an enormous mandate – two-thirds of parliament. The prime minister, by contrast, may have a little over half the house and a minority in the Senate. Who would have the biggest mandate?


Perhaps the most serious problem with the first Keating–Turnbull republic was that raised by one with first-hand experience of viceregal office, Richard McGarvie, who warned against the threat to democracy that would result from instituting a head of state who was not readily dismissible:

The fatal flaw of the models many Republicans still support is that a president elected by parliament or the people could not be promptly dismissed. That sanction for breach, which gives binding effect to the convention of exercising the great powers of the head of state as elected ministers advise, would disappear. Oppositions do not support governments. No federal government for fifty years has had that majority. Even if it did, a president could stymie dismissal by exercising the power to dissolve or adjourn (prorogue) parliament. Our democracy depends on the sanction of dismissal and if it evaporates so will democracy. (Adelaide Review, December 1997)

Professor Flint argued for ACM that without codification, this proposal would import into Australia something like the French Fifth Republic, where a powerful president "cohabits" uneasily with a parliamentary prime minister. The French have such a system only because their efforts to have a US-style republic or the Westminster system failed. The ARM's reaction to this and other ACM criticisms was to denounce our arguments as scare-mongering.


The basis of the new presidency under the Keating government's model was that the new head of state would simply "slip in" to the role presently carried out by the governor-general. Republican Professor Patrick O'Brien argues that the governor-generalship cannot be stripped of its monarchical overtones:

Abolish the crown, and you thereby also abolish the office of governor-general. Its political and metaphysical functions cannot simply be transferred to another office, regardless of what it is called. These powers are inseparable from the crown. The fashioners of the United States Constitution understood this simple point. Hence, the creation of the brand new executive offices followed two decades of the most intense, polemical debate about the future constitutional shape of their proposed republic. (O'Brien, 159-160)

The staunchest of Republicans and the staunchest of monar¬chists find themselves bedfellows in their common opposition to the Keating government's attempt to graft a republican institution onto our monarchical constitution. As Professor Lane observed, rather than attempting to graft a republic onto a monarchical constitution, republicans should develop a new constitution. Justice Lloyd Waddy, as Convenor of ACM, wrote that the way to achieve a republic is a radical rewrite of the constitution as the Americans did, not merely preserving the present arrangements but severing them from their source of legitimacy:

When I begin most speeches on republicanism, I make two basic state¬ments. First, I say, Of course, we can have a republic if a sufficient majority votes for it. If the Americans can run a republic for two hundred years with only one (very bloody) civil war, Australians could run two republics before breakfast. Secondly, I add, if you want me to nominate a republican system I would presently favour, it is that of the USA; we know it is safe and that it works in its way, and it has done so for over two hundred years. But I must confess that I believe the operation of its system of government, with an executive-style presidency, is infinitely inferior to our own. (Grainger and Jones, 101)


One of the greatest sticking points of Prime Minister Keating's speech responding to the RAC's report, however, was his preferred treatment of the reserve powers of the crown – the powers which do not require the advice of the ministers of the crown. Under the first Keating–Turnbull republic, the reserve powers of the governor-general would continue to be exercisable by the president, but they would remain uncodified. Rather, a provision would be inserted into the constitution, providing that the informal conventions governing the operation of the vice-regal reserve powers – whatever they may be – would continue to operate to bind the new head of state.

The failure to codify the circumstances in which the reserve powers could be exercised was deemed catastrophic by some Republicans. Writer Donald Horne explained shortly after the Keating proposal was announced:

Since a president would be harder to get rid of than a governor-general, it is prudent for us to change our Constitution to say what powers a president has and, therefore, by inference, what powers a president does not have ... after a referendum, we would insert into the Constitution a section saying that, except in specified circumstances, the president would act only on the advice of the government. (Sydney Morning Herald, 27 October 1995)
He said: "Without a clear statement of the president's powers, even I will vote No in a referendum." (Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 1995)
Malcolm Turnbull similarly favoured codification, although he supported Keating's method of appointment. He has emphatically declared that: "I support full codification of the powers of the president." (Turnbull, 166)

The ARM Platform adopted a similar stance: "The functions of the president shall be spelt out in the Constitution." There appear to have been two grounds for arguing against codification. One revolves around the difficulty of the exercise. As Senator Gareth Evans explained, the "definition [of the present controversial unwritten conventions would be] a labour of Hercules. Reformers would have to devote thirty years to the task to have an impact ... Frankly, I think the task is impossible." (Australian Financial Review, 9 May, 1995) In other words, the problem of codification already exists in the present arrangements and concentration on the problem will only hinder progress towards a republic. Professor O'Brien argues that however desirable and effective non-codification has been, it is a creature of historical developments that will necessarily disappear.

The removal of the crown, he says, "will also mean the removal of these royal prerogatives and reserve powers, whatever they are". He asks in whose name will the powers be exercised —the prime minister's, the parliament's, the high court's, or the people's? What will be the source of those powers? How are they to be defined, and in relation to what? What will be the due processes governing the office and its relationship with other major institutions of government? Surely, he writes, these and numerous other questions must be answered to the satisfaction of the people and be codified. And if these powers are not con¬ferred upon the president by a majority of the people at a free election, the president would be deprived of the respect of the people. The incumbent will correctly be perceived as the parliament's and the executive's poodle.

It appears that the proponents of this republic have thrown up their hands in despair. They say that codifying the reserve powers is far too difficult. But if Australia is to become a republic, surely you have to set out the powers of each of the offices of the republic. The crown has been removed, and these conventions depended on the crown for their lives. Some might say that it is more a matter of luck than design that Australia's constitutional arrangements are as they are. But is that not the very advantage of evolution over revolution? Were it not for particular historical developments, we might not have the flexible arrangements we enjoy now. A republic will and must change the existing structures. This was played down by the Keating government to make the product appear more marketable. Yet without the crown, we have an inherently unstable mixture.

On the one side, we have those, such as Dr John Hirst, the his¬torian who still wants the flexibility of uncodified powers to be carried into the Keating–Turnbull republic. On the other side are Horne and O'Brien and the warning that codification is necessary if a new institution is to be established. The crisis is between the desirability of flexible arrangements and the knowledge that a new order must provide all its own rules, not rely on the conventions of the one it supersedes. It is clear that Republicans cannot have it both ways.

The Keating–Turnbull model expects that the new president would represent Australia overseas and be the embodiment of Australian identity.
High Court Justice Michael Kirby, for instance, rejects the suggestion that the president should, of necessity, represent the nation's interests overseas in a way the queen does:

To the complaint that the Queen is not seen as a representative of Australia when overseas, a ready answer may be given: the Prime Minister should be the main representative of Australia overseas. We can survive the shame of a nineteen-gun salute. Our system is Parliamentary. That means a Prime Minister. Let him or her be Australia's representative overseas. And in the unlikely event that the people of Asia, or anywhere else, care the slightest about our constitutional arrangements, let them mind their own business. Just as we mind ours in relation to their constitutions. Such things are the product of history and sentiment and are not always susceptible to easy explication to neighbours.

And when it is lamented that the queen never represents us overseas as Queen of Australia, a further answer is obvious. Her Australian ministers have never advised her to do this. In fact, the governor-general has occasionally represented us, but more frequently, it has been the role of the prime minister and the ministers. The other key role of Keating's president is to be the embodiment of the Australian national identity. Chancellor of the University of Sydney Dame Leonie Kramer explained in a speech at the ACM launch on 4 June 1993 that there can be no one exhaustive expression of such an identity:

As for the question of identity, suffice it to say that there is no reason why individual Australians should subscribe to some common notion of what it is to be Australian. There is room for all the differences of opinion that a mixed society such as ours can contain ... what does matter is that we share common values relating to democratic policies and practices, representative government, a non-political legal system, private enterprise, educational systems committed to high standards in teaching and learning, equality of opportunity, and tolerance of others' views – in short, a free society. The best guarantee of the maintenance of these values is our indigenous form of constitutional monarchy.

In fact, to most Australians, the national identity is about respect for democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, English as the national language and freedom of expression. For the small elite, a new presidency may seem to be a strong assertion of Australian identity and independence. But this is not at all true of the rank and file. As Geoffrey Horne said at the 1998 Constitutional Convention:

Becoming more competitive in trade with our Asian neighbours ... would assert our freedom and independence more. Having the Wallabies beat the All Blacks or the Socceroos reach the World Cup finals would more effectively assert our independence as a nation, and fixing unem¬ployment and domestic matters would have more effect in asserting ourselves as free people in an independent nation. (Report of the Constitutional Convention, 2-13 February 1998, Vol III)


Our final problem before leaving the first Keating—Turnbull republic is its treatment of the states. The states were to be involved in two ways. The first is that each state forms its own constitutional monarchy distinct from each other and the commonwealth. If only the part of the constitutional monarchy at the federal level is abolished, the question arises as to whether this would have any impact on the continuity of the six-state monarchies. If not, ought the states be forced to change their constitutional arrangements? Secondly, the question arises as to what role, if any, the states might have to play in the changes required to bring about a republic at the federal level, even if no change were to occur at the state level.

It was the view of the prime minister that there would be no necessary implications for the states were the commonwealth alone to become a republic, and the government had no intention of exerting any pressure on the states to make their arrangements consonant with those of a new republican commonwealth:

It is not our intention that the government's proposals should affect the Constitutions of the Australian states. It would be up to each state to decide how they would appoint their respective heads of state in the future. It is reasonable to expect that if the Australian people opt for an Australian head of state, the states would follow suit. But the question would be for each state to decide.

In this way, the difficulty of forcing the states to change was avoided, and an ordinary section 128 referendum would be suffi¬cient to establish a federal republic requiring a national majority and a majority in only four rather than all six states. However, there are good arguments that, this being a fundamental issue, the consent of the six states is necessary.

Should such a referendum be carried with only four states' support, it is conceivable that the legislation might be contested by one of the other two states on the basis that there is only one crown in Australia (albeit with seven manifestations). The destruction of that crown, it might be argued, would go to the heart of the original compact, thus constituting a renegotiation of the terms of the initial "indissoluble" compact to establish an indissoluble federal commonwealth under the crown. Furthermore, if the crown is one with various manifestations rather than seven separate crowns, destruction of it might constitute an action by the commonwealth disabling a state to operate in a fundamental sense.

Support for such a conception of the crown is to be found in Justice Rich's approach in Minister for Works (WA) vs Gulson (1944), 69 CLR 338 at 356, where he explains:

It is by the crown that all legislative and administrative authority is exercised throughout the Empire, although in each constitutional area, such authority can be exercised by the crown only through the agencies of the appropriate Parliament and the appropriate group of constitutional ministers so that legalistically, it would be more strictly accurate to speak of the state of Western Australia in right of the crown than of the crown in right of the state of Western Australia.

It is clear that the single indivisible imperial crown under which Australia federated had become several crowns, but only down to an Australian, a Canadian, or a New Zealand crown. The crown in Australia is one and indivisible. If it were the seven crowns that the RAC suggests, the indissoluble federal common¬wealth established in 1901 would be effectively dissolved. Each state could go its own way. This is a devastating result unless you try to overcome this by constitutional amendments dividing the Australian crown seven ways and abolishing one of them.

These questions could require further determination by the high court, and the first Keating—Turnbull republic was criticised by both monarchists and republicans on these grounds. For five years, the ARM insisted on the rectitude of this model. They scoffed at any criticism. And then, in the last days of the Constitutional Convention, without any adequate explanation, they changed the model to prove that the Australian president, unlike any other in the world, would hold office at the whim of the prime minister.

Also, See the Second Referendum Model 

The Senate Inquiry  2003-4

On 26 June 2003, less than four years after a resounding rejection in 1999,  the Senate referred an Inquiry into the Australian Republic to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee.

The Terms of Reference were not whether a politician's republic was desirable.


Terms of Reference

(a) the most appropriate process for moving towards the establishment of an Australian republic with an Australian Head of State; and

(b) alternative models for an Australian republic, with specific reference to:

(i) the functions and powers of the Head of State

(ii) the method of selection and removal of the Head of State, and

(iii) the relationship of the Head of State with the executive, the parliament and the judiciary.

The committee is also required to facilitate wide community participation in this inquiry by conducting public hearings throughout Australia, including in rural and regional areas.


Remarkably, the inquiry was to establish "the most appropriate process for moving towards the establishment of an Australian republic with an Australian Head of State."

At considerable expense, the Committee travelled around the country conducting hearings in all state capitals.

Australians for Constitutional Monarchy made this submission.

The Committee tabled its report called Road to a Republic on 31 August 2004, a time when the nation was increasingly engrossed in the approaching  Federal Election.

As expected, the majority wholly endorsed the plan of the Australian Republican movement that two plebiscites be held, the first to determine whether Australians want a republic and the second on the form of a republic.

A referendum would follow this.

If the 1999 approach were followed, separate changes would have to be made for each state and also regarding the Flag.

Curiously, Liberal Senator and ARM officer Senator Marise Payne dissented from there being a second plebiscite, which is generally thought to be one that would favour a directly elected president.

When the report was released, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy issued the following media release.

Inquiry Invites No Confidence Vote In Our Constitution
Written by ACM
Tuesday, 31 August 2004

Today’s report by the Republican-dominated Senate Inquiry into the process of becoming a republic should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. It recommends a series of plebiscites (opinion polls) which invite a vote of no confidence in one of the most successful constitutions in the world. Unlike a referendum, a plebiscite asks the questions first, and the politicians fill in the details later. It is a blank cheque in favour of the politicians. It is an unnecessary stunt by politicians that does not change the Constitution in any way.

Voting will be compulsory, but Republicans are divided over the number of plebiscites and their timing.

“The Senators are telling Australians to jettison our constitution, the best in the world, without having the foggiest idea of what would be put in its place. Nor have they been able to point to any problems in our constitution or give us any reason to attempt yet another costly and divisive change”, said Professor David Flint on the tabling of the report.

At a time when our nation faces serious issues, the Senators want Australians to waste time on an issue rejected by every state and 72% of electorates less than five years ago. The 1999 Referendum cost taxpayers well over $150 million.

“This report deserves to be treated with cynicism and contempt”, added Professor David Flint. “The Republican Senators are saying the money should be diverted from schools, hospitals, the disabled and the aged into an issue which does not even rate a mention amongst Australians.”

The Inquiry itself was a farce. The Committee was dominated by those whose arguments had been rejected in every state in 1999. Senator Scullion rightly says that it was unnecessary and inappropriate to revisit the issue. Despite widespread advertising, it attracted very poor public attendance in the small number of places visited by the Senators. An almost equal number of submissions were pro and anti-republican. Yet almost exclusively, those heard were from Republicans, who proposed diametrically different processes and Republican models.

ACM is particularly concerned by the suggestion that the usual Yes and No cases in this process and future referendums be replaced by a single document prepared by a parliamentary committee. “Australians are entitled to read the arguments of both sides before they take a decision. Sending them a single document is a sinister and undemocratic proposal. In addition, the Senators have not answered in any depth Sir David Smith’s submission which in great detail demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that we already have an Australian Head of State in our own Governor-General. This latest Republican folly has been a futile waste of the taxpayer’s money”, concluded Professor Flint.



This site was established as part of the Crowned Republic Education Project to provide a better understanding of our heritage: our Australian constitutional system, the role of the Australian Crown in it and our Flag. The Patron of the Crowned Republic Education Project is the noted broadcaster Alan Jones AO.

Crowned Republic was designed by Jai Martinkovits and Kerem Besikcioglu‎ of J.K Managed Solutions.

Emeritus Professor David Flint AM, Jai Martinkovits and Ed Copeman constituted the editing team.

They are supported by Philip Gibson as a fundraiser, Thomas Flynn as administrator and Peter Cavanagh as financial adviser.

Podcasts from The Republic Unplugged have been generously made available by Nick Hobson, DFC AFC.

2023 This site was updated by Clayton Metcalfe of the Australian FREEDOM Network in conjunction with HarpBBT.

All material is authorised by Professor Flint and Thomas Flynn, 6th Floor, 104 Bathurst Street Sydney 2000,

All inquiries to: _______________

The Australia 2020 Summit.

The 2020 Summit was called by the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Kevin Rudd, as an ideas summit of the “best and brightest”. It was held on 19 and 20 April 2008 at Parliament House in Canberra. The Prime Minister described the Summit as” an exciting initiative aimed at harnessing the best ideas for building a modern Australia ready for the challenges of the 21st century. “

The media treated the Summit’s endorsement of a vague, undefined republic as its most important and central recommendation. This emerged with minimal discussion and no details from the Summit’s governance panel by a vote of 98:1 with one abstention. It is hard to take the Summit seriously. Indeed, one leading Republican academic, Professor Robert Manne, described the governance session as resembling a Mad Hatter’s Party.  Another respected constitutional authority, Dr Anne Twomey, criticised the resort to chat show formats.

The following comparison between the 2020 Summit and the 1998 Constitutional Convention appeared on the ACM site on 2 June 2008.

The contributions of those arguing for change at the 1998 Convention demonstrate little of the depth and understanding of serious constitutional issues demonstrated in nineteenth-century conventions. Too many Republican delegates seemed intent on telling the Convention about themselves and their moment of conversion. That said, the 1998 Convention stands out as a work of great sophistication compared with the 2020 Summit.

Comparing the republican way with the monarchist style
2 June 2008

With the release of the 2020 Summit Final Report, it is possible to compare the governance styles of republican prime minister Kevin Rudd and constitutional monarchist prime minister John Howard. This has nothing to do with the fact that one is Labor and one Liberal. After all, the greatest Labor leaders were constitutional monarchists. Only Labor has obtained the appointment of members of the Royal Family as Governor-General, and that on two occasions.

...the comparison...

Mr Rudd was widely assumed to be similar to John Howard. At least on republicanism, he’s nothing of the sort, as a comparison between the 2020 Summit and the 1998 Convention demonstrates. This is at its most glaring in the sort of people each wanted. The Summit was for the “best and brightest.”

The Convention was half elected, part ex officio and part selected. It reached out to the rank and file. The Summit governance panel turned out to be at least 98% Republican. Only one constitutional monarchist (Senator George Brandis) slipped through –he was wrongly assumed to be a Republican.

...appointments on merit...

Thirty-six of the 152 places at the Convention were in John Howard’s gift. On the crucial Republican vote, less than one-third of them -   a mere ten - voted John Howard’s way. Kevin Rudd made himself and his close friend Dr Glyn Davis co-chairmen of the Summit. John Howard handed over all control to Ian Sinclair and Barry Jones, both Republicans. He left the running to these two, both highly experienced in chairing parliamentary forums.

Kevin Rudd left the governance panel to John Hartigan and Maxine McKew, although neither is experienced in such matters –and it showed. But both share Rudd’s views on a republic.

...control, transparency...

John Howard participated as an ordinary delegate, and Kevin Rudd retained control as ultimate co-chair. John Howard saw that the Convention debates were recorded in Hansard and, with the two experienced chairmen, ensured the process and decisions were completely transparent and on the public record. Not so the Summits.

The crucial decision on governance was a call to end ties with the UK. But the next day, Alan Jones on 2GB pointed out the embarrassing fact that such ties went years ago. Ten days later the Summit record was surreptitiously changed, and without any vote.
In its place is a call for a plebiscite.

...scuttling the direct elect Republicans...

This was not only to get around the embarrassment of all those eminent lawyers relying on such an elementary error of law and fact. It was also used to score a victory over the “direct elect” Republicans who want the people to elect the president. They haven’t woken up to this yet. When they do, they will be extremely angry. This change in the record eliminates the second plebiscite to choose a model that Kim Beazley had promised.

The slower conservative Republicans hadn’t grasped the fact that this second plebiscite would guarantee the referendum would be on the direct elect model. One-time monarchist and  Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven has been taking them aside for years and explaining this. But rather than producing the “wrong” republic, he says it will only delay any republic.

He is on record as saying it will result in an even bigger defeat than in 1999.  It will, he says,  ensure Australians live under the reign of not only King Charles III but also King William V.

...jobs for the boys...

In the meantime, when the Summit accounts went to Senate Estimates, the nation learned that the jobs for the boys - and girls- ethic still prevails. Confirming revelations in The Age, a company owned by a staffer and run by his wife, was paid $56,000. The co-chairmen’s office charged $317000 for “cost recovery.”  A number of juicy appointments were made without any tender process. So did John Howard when he appointed Ian Sinclair and Barry Jones. But they didn’t charge, and they had the opposite view to his on a republic. And both proved to be more than up to the job.


When the Convention finally made up its mind and called for a republic but then rejected every model, John Howard immediately did the sensible thing. He announced he would put the model preferred by an overwhelming majority of Republican delegates to the referendum. For this, he received rare and enthusiastic praise from the Republicans, the media and the political class.

Kevin Rudd instead has talked about shaking trees, saying the government would indicate its views, probably at the end of the year. He realises a referendum is doomed and so probably is a plebiscite. But having the issue simmering keeps the elites and the “serious” media on the side. The excitement about a republic at the Summit demonstrates that. So we are likely to see a review, a committee or even a whole new agency with a mission, vision and key performance indicators to “progress” the issue. Whether it’s inclusiveness, appointments on merit, transparency, or decisiveness, the contrast between the Rudd Republican and Howard monarchist styles could not be more glaring.

According to Andrew Roberts, the English-speaking countries, the Anglosphere, today account for more than one-third of global GDP, despite their combined population being only 7.5% of the world’s population [i].

These countries share a common origin: their constitutional system, which gradually evolved over centuries. The constitution, which emerged in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, is the basis of later developments in all of the English-speaking countries.

It is not that English-speaking people are more intelligent than anyone else. It is that they have long been accustomed to a liberal constitutional system.

Such a constitution provides a stable, limited government where people are more free to make their own decisions. It also ensures that there are effective checks and balances against the abuse of power.

An electorate used to living under such a constitution becomes more capable of making sophisticated judgements in deciding how to vote. They are, above all, suspicious of those who would overthrow the Constitution. So, the electorates of English-speaking countries have typically rejected extremes at either end of the political spectrum.

The electors can of course, be misled, but they are less inclined than others to render heroic status to their leaders or to be swayed by adventurism. Accordingly, it is no coincidence that the communist and fascist parties never attracted any significant support in English-speaking countries, in contradiction to many of the apparently sophisticated European continental countries.

By maintaining a liberal constitution, the result is that the electorate becomes a guardian of that system.

The Birth of the United States of America

When the American Founding Fathers set about designing their constitutional model, they did not come to their task in a vacuum. They were, after all, the thirteen freest countries the world had ever known. They were and saw themselves as heirs to Blackstone’s Fundamental Laws of England and beneficiaries too of the Glorious Revolution.

And James II had tried to remove their representative government[ii]. William and Mary restored it. It was the belief of the Americans that a subsequent English government was denying them their rights. It was not so much the Great Proclamation [iii]  that prevented the colonists from taking more Indian land. Nor was it the decision in Somerset’s Case concerning a runaway American slave. There Lord Mansfield had found, probably apocryphally, that “the air of England was too pure for a slave to breathe. Let the black go free.” [iv]

American slave owners knew that this common law ruling would, in time, spread to America. These two irritations were reason enough to try to establish an independent slave-owning state, free to take Indian land.

But these factors alone were not enough. Rather it was the ham-fisted way that the English government unilaterally required the Americans to make what was a quite fair contribution to their defence against the French.

“No taxation without representation” was their remarkably effective slogan. Michael Barone argues that the Glorious Revolution was the inspiration for the resulting War of Independence and the formation of the United States of America. The alternative model was not attractive to the Americans. This was a time when Europe was moving towards absolutism, with the great example being in her dominant power, where the Sun King, Louis XIV, was unchallenged. [v]

Absolutism, apparently modern and efficient, seemed as much the way of the future as the gullible would later think the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or Mao’s China. [vi] But out of one corner of Europe, as Barone puts it, an alternative had emerged. This was a “constitutional monarchy with limits on government, guaranteed rights, relatively benign religious toleration, and free market global capitalism.” [vii]

This, Barone says, was a long step forward toward the kind of society we take for granted now. It was “the backdrop for the amazing growth, prosperity, and military success of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain—and for the American Revolution and the even more amazing growth, prosperity, and military success of the United States.” [viii]

“It changed England from a country in which representative government was threatened to one where it was ingrained, from a nation in which liberties were based on tradition to one in which they were based in part on positive law, from a nation where the place of religion was a matter of continued political dispute and even armed struggle to one where it was settled in a way that generally respected individual choice, from a nation that mostly kept apart from the wars of continental Europe to one that saw its duty as maintaining a balance of power there and around the world, ” he writes. [ix]

It was this English and British example of representative government that inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States and the entire world [x].

It was copied –with minor variations – in the British colonies, many of which would become major nations. This improbable revolution, he argues, did much to shape the world as we know it. Mead writes that many of the values, ideas and attitudes which are thought to be part of “ America’s unique exceptionalism” actually came from Great Britain. [xi]

In particular, he says the ideas of the Glorious Revolution have left “a deep and abiding mark on political culture as well.” As only one example, he points out that the Declaration of Independence itself was closely modelled on the Declaration of Rights. The Glorious Revolution also guaranteed liberties. The “right to bear arms” was very different from the feudal obligation to bear arms. Rather than being an obligation to support the king and his government, it was now “a way for the freeman to protect his property and his liberty.”  Here we see the clear origin of the Second Amendment in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Barone also reminds us of the Third Amendment against the quartering of troops, the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, and the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. [xii] The Glorious Revolution did not establish religious freedom, but neither did the US Bill of Rights.  It also prohibited a federally established church; it is only a more recent judicial interpretation which has changed this into mandating the separation of church and state.

And it was not just in the constitution and the law that the Glorious Revolution guided America. It was also in her institutions and even her foreign policy. The Glorious Revolution had given Britain financial institutions similar to those of the United Provinces, which allowed it to be more effective in government, war and trade than the richer France. This preponderance of sophisticated intuitions was continued and developed in America.

The Glorious Revolution and the world

The Glorious Revolution influenced the world in two ways. The successful Anglo-Saxon forms of governance have been copied around the world. With the exception of Switzerland and the United States, and only if we disregard their civil wars, only the Westminster system has been successful in providing limited stable government over extended periods, particularly in periods of stress.

Most of the world’s successful nations have adapted the principles of the Glorious Revolution. But the Glorious Revolution has had another influence, one on the peace and freedom of the world. Barone writes that the revolution brought a theme to British foreign policy, which the United States inherited when she succeeded as the dominant force in the world. This was the concept of the balance of power.

Barone sees a line from the Anglo-Dutch alliance against Louis XIV, through the opposition to Napoleon, to that against  Imperial Germany and then Hitler. This continued during the Cold War and today’s struggle against terrorism. [xiii]

Barone wonders, “What kind of world would there be if Britain and then the United States had not gotten into the habit of opposing tyrannical hegemonic powers?”

Whatever the world would have been like, he asserts that Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler Stalin and Osama bin Laden would not have been so constrained, and most may not have been defeated. Barone concludes that William III and what he terms the improbable revolution of 1688 were indispensable in bringing into being the world we know today.

He ends with these words from Winston Churchill: “His daring and determination and perseverance should be an inspiration to any who are inclined to weariness and flagging resolve in trying times.” [xiv]

Never before, and not since, has there been such a remarkable achievement in such a short time, the discovery of a model of governance which would at one and the same time assure stable government, checks and balances sufficient to prevent continuing and gross abuse of power, and freedoms which would allow a people to grow in a way which had not been seen before.

This model allowed economic progress and the gradual introduction of democracy in a way that other governance models promised but never delivered.  And this was the basis of the American system, which has been the basis of the rise of that union, and of the Westminster system, which has been widely and successfully adopted in many countries.

[i] Andrew Roberts, op.cit., p 637
[ii] Barone,op.cit., p236-237
[iii] The Proclamation of 1763 was made on 7 October 7, 1763, by King George III at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War. The Proclamation in effect, reserved land west of the Appalachian Mountains to the Indians.
[iv] R. v. Knowles, ex parte Somersett (1772) 20 State Tr 1; (1772) Lofft 1
[v] Barone,op.cit.,p.7
[vi]The most celebrated was by Lincoln Steffens, who, after returning from a visit to  Russia in 1921, said, "I have seen the future, and it works."
[vii] Barone, loc.cit.
[viii] Barone,op.cit.,p. 8[ix] Barone, op.cit., p. 229
[x] Barone, loc.cit.[xi] Mead op.cit., p.47
[xii] Barone, op.cit., p. 232
[xiii] Barone, op.cit., p. 240
[xiv] Barone, op.cit., p. 243

Australian Republican plebiscites slammed as irresponsible vandalism: Senator Minchin 13 June 2008

Senator Nick Minchin was responsible for implementing the Coalition's promise at the 1996 election to hold a Constitutional Convention to consider the question of a Republic. He regards this as one of the greatest honours bestowed on him by Prime Minister John Howard. The conduct of the Convention is a great tribute to him. It was open, fair and transparent, and allowed participation by the people, political leaders of all parties across the Commonwealth, as well as a selected group of outstanding Australians.

The process of selection for this was so fair that the very competent chairmen turned out both to be Republicans, and most of the nominated members were not constitutional monarchists.

Compare that with the 2020 Summit.

Senator Minchin is one of those honourable people in politics who are not afraid to hold to their principles when this is unfashionable or even when it is declared to be hopeless by most of the media and the political class. In holding to his principles, he has always behaved honourably and ensured that his opponents are treated fairly. To use a word which has become unfashionable, for reasons which are self-evident, he is a gentleman.

It is disappointing that those who ran the 2020 Summit did not accept that they should have behaved similarly.
In the referendum campaign, Senator Minchin was one of a small band of constitutionalists who would not be swayed by the fashion of the day and who did not lose hope because of a massive media and political juggernaut.

He was involved to the hilt on every single day of that campaign.  He played a significant role in ensuring that the Republicans were defeated in the 1999 landslide. The fact that our safe and stable constitution is still in place owes much to his efforts. So when he speaks on this issue, he does so with considerable authority.

...inviting a vote of No Confidence in our constitutional system...

Senator Nick Minchin has now issued a powerful warning against the use of a plebiscite or plebiscite to overcome the "complete failure of the 1999 Referendum.” He likened this strategy to a form of guerrilla warfare which has as its object the undermining of our constitutional monarchy to the point where it is hoped that it will simply collapse under the attacks.

The plebiscite, he says, would be "a gigantic and irresponsibly expensive distraction designed to produce a vote of No Confidence in our current Constitutional arrangements,... a form of Constitutional vandalism cynically designed to rip apart the legitimacy of our Constitutional Monarchy."

"It would produce a dangerous and extended period of Constitutional instability, with the legitimacy of the very pillars of our Constitution being severely damaged. Senator Minchin said that constitutional monarchists must have ”no part" in such a process and should "oppose it at every turn." He said it is the responsibility of constitutional monarchists "to demand of Labor that they abide by the process for Constitutional change laid down so wisely by our Founding Fathers."

"We cannot let them get away with the fraud and deceit of a plebiscite based first on the fatuous proposition that we need a Republic in order to have an Australian Head of State." He said that constitutional monarchists must work harder to ensure "that Australians understand that Constitutional Monarchy is about a system of government that works, and is not simply about who sits on the throne."

The text of his speech follows.
13 June 2008

Thank you for the invitation to speak at your Queen's Birthday luncheon – honour to do so, and right that we honour the extraordinary public service of Queen Elizabeth the Second, our Sovereign. Even though I am now 55 – with my birthday in April, the same month as the Queen’s – she has been our Queen for all but six weeks of my life. And she has not merely presided but has reigned with grace, dignity, compassion, wisdom and commonsense.

It is Australia’s great good fortune to be a Constitutional Monarchy with Queen Elizabeth as our sovereign. I affirm to you today my strong support for our Constitutional Monarchy, which in my view, will survive well beyond the reign of Queen Elizabeth. A Republic in Australia is certainly not inevitable. It was my privilege to be a Minister in John Howard’s Federal Coalition Government for ten years and to share with him a deep and abiding commitment to our current Constitutional arrangements.

One of the greatest honours he bestowed on me early on in our Government was the responsibility of implementing our promise at the 1996 election to hold a Constitutional Convention to consider the question of a Republic. Given that I simultaneously had responsibility for the reform of the Native Title Act, it was a challenging but exciting task. The planning and implementation of the national election of Convention delegates was a considerable undertaking, but I’m pleased to note resulted in the first non-compulsory national election in about 75 years.

Can I say with due modesty that the Constitutional Convention was one of the great successes of our Government, accepted by Constitutional Monarchists and Republicans alike as a great meeting of minds and a very fair and equitable process for considering all the issues associated with Australia becoming a Republic? It is a great tribute to John Howard’s integrity that following the 1998 Convention, he honoured his commitment to put in place a Constitutional Referendum on the ARM’s preferred model.

He also honoured his promise to stay out of the Republican campaign, thus leaving the task of advocacy for the status quo to the likes of me, Tony Abbott and other conservatives within our Coalition. Nothing in my political life has given me greater pleasure than to be part of the 1999 campaign to persuade the Australian people to reject the proposed Republic.

Our victory was resounding – with every State, even Victoria, voting NO. The unity and a sense of purpose among the defenders of the status quo were magnificent and contrasted starkly with the disarray on the Republican side. But now, as a result of our loss of Government last November, we have a Federal Labor Government bound by a Party Platform which commits it to the destruction of our Constitutional Monarchy. We have, for the first time in 12 years, a PM who is a committed Republican. We have a PM whose biggest initiative so far was to hold a 2020 summit, the only outcome of which anyone can remember was a renewed demand for a Republic.

We have, for the first time ever, a Labor monopoly on power at the Federal, State and Territory levels, with all that means for the future of our Constitutional Monarchy. We have 9 Labor Governments which cynically and deceitfully perpetuate the lie that our Governor-General is not our Head of State and whose whole raison d’etre for a Republic is the proposition that an Australian should be our Head of State.
Given that an Australian, Michael Jeffery, is already our Head of State, this seems a remarkably flimsy basis for Constitutional upheaval of the kind required to turn Australia into a Republic.

On that note, may I take the opportunity to praise the work of Michael Jeffery as our Governor-General and Head of State.  He has conducted himself with great dignity and exemplary behaviour. May I also congratulate Quentin Bryce on her appointment as our next Governor-General and the first female to hold that office? I have every reason to believe she will be a fine occupant of that great office – and I am pleased to note that in the past, she has identified herself as a Constitutional Monarchist. I expect her to be a very good Australian Head of State who will strengthen public support for the role of Governor-General in the current Constitutional arrangements.

While the new Labor Government appears to have chosen well, there are no doubt many in Labor ranks determined to ensure that Quentin Bryce is our last Governor-General. It will no doubt fall to you and I and millions of other Constitutional Monarchists to ensure that she is not. Labor’s approach to the destruction of our Constitutional Monarchy will, this time, be more subtle, more devious and more insidious than that of the last Labor Republican PM, Paul Keating.

This time Labor is committed to a 2-stage process, which first involves destroying the legitimacy of our Constitutional Monarchy. Their chosen vehicle for destroying the legitimacy of our Constitutional Monarchy is the device of national plebiscites to “establish support for an Australian Head of State and the preference for different forms of a Republic”, as set out in Labor’s National Platform.

Given Labor’s complete failure in the 1999 Referendum, this time, they will try to use a form of guerrilla warfare to undermine our Constitutional Monarchy to the point where they hope it simply collapses. They will begin by continuing to perpetuate the Orwellian lie that we don’t – but should – have an Australian as Head of State. They will continue to reduce the complex issue of an Australian Republic to the simplistic notion that it’s about us having an Australian Head of State. They will use taxpayer funds to hold a national plebiscite asking Australians if we should have an Australian Head of State. Assuming majority support in the plebiscite for that proposition, they will conduct another plebiscite offering presumably two models for a Republic. The model which receives majority support in the plebiscite – which is bound to involve a popularly-elected President –will then be put forward in a Constitutional Referendum. This is a process which we Constitutional Monarchists should never support. A taxpayer-funded national plebiscite is nothing more than a massively expensive opinion poll. It will tell us nothing that a professionally conducted opinion poll will tell us. It could not tell us any more than the most recent nationwide opinion poll on a Republic told us.

A Roy Morgan survey in May 2008 confirmed that only a minority of Australians - 45% - want Australia to become a Republic with an elected President. Support for a Republic with a President appointed by politicians would be considerably less. It is a process that is bound to lead to a directly-elected President, which most thoughtful Republicans agree would be a disaster.  A plebiscite conducted by a Labor Government will of course, not be fair and objective. It will be based on perpetuating the lie that we don’t already have an Australian Head of State. It will be a gigantic and irresponsibly expensive distraction designed to produce a vote of No Confidence in our current Constitutional arrangements. This is a form of Constitutional vandalism cynically designed to rip apart the legitimacy of our Constitutional Monarchy. It would produce a dangerous and extended period of Constitutional instability, with the legitimacy of the very pillars of our Constitution being severely damaged. We should have no part in such a process. We should oppose it at every turn.

If Labor wants to destroy our Constitutional Monarchy, it should seek to do so in the only legitimate, honest and lawful manner available – by way of a referendum to amend our Constitution. The only legitimate way for Labor to bring about its Republican paradise is to agree on the details of a Republican system of Government, pass the requisite legislation through the Commonwealth Parliament, and put the proposed Constitutional Amendments to the Australian people in a Referendum. It is our responsibility to demand that labour abides by the process for Constitutional change laid down so wisely by our Founding Fathers. We cannot let them get away with the fraud and deceit of a plebiscite based first on the fatuous proposition that we need a Republic in order to have an Australian Head of State.

At the same time, we must all continue to argue the public case for the virtues of our current Constitutional arrangements.  And this case is not about simply affection and respect for the Queen and her successors. This is about protecting and preserving one of the most successful national Constitutions ever devised by humankind. One only has to observe the facile, shallow and never-ending soap opera that is the US Presidential election process to be forever grateful we have been bequeathed our Australian Constitution.  As this is a Queen’s Birthday luncheon, it is important to note that Australians’ continuing reservations about a Republic are very much influenced by their great respect and admiration for Queen Elizabeth.
As I mentioned before, a recent Morgan Gallup poll found support for a Republic with an elected President was at 45%, the lowest level in nearly 15 years. However, if Prince Charles became King, support for a Republic in this same poll rose to 56%. That is a welcome sign of the affection Australians have for Queen Elizabeth but a sobering message for Constitutional Monarchists. It is the reason many Republicans state openly that the next Referendum on a Republic should not be held until Queen Elizabeth is no longer on the throne.

And it is the reason why we must work harder to ensure that Australians understand that Constitutional Monarchy is about a system of government that works and is not simply about who sits on the throne. I am a supporter of our Constitutional Monarchy not because I’m a Royalist but because we have a set of Constitutional arrangements that have served Australia extraordinarily well, and there is not a Republican model to match it.
We need to convince a majority of Australians of two things in relation to our system of Government: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There is an inherent law of unintended consequences. The first should appeal to the underlying pragmatic conservatism of most Australians, and it puts the onus on Republicans to prove that the current system is broken, which to date, they have failed to do.

The second should be known to anyone who has had anything to do with Governments.  If there is one thing I learnt in 10 years as a Federal Minister, it is that there are always unintended consequences of any Government action. I shudder to contemplate the unintended consequences that could be unleashed by the Constitutional upheaval required to turn Australia into a Republic are unimaginable.

So while today we honour Queen Elizabeth, the greater honour is for the institution she represents and the system of government of which the monarchy is the lynchpin. One of the many reasons I joined the Liberal Party was its long and proud tradition of support for our Constitutional Monarchy. With Labor in power everywhere, our Constitutional Monarchy faces a difficult period.  Nevertheless, you can be assured that I and thousands of other Liberals around Australia will continue to take every opportunity to articulate the great virtues of one of the best sets of Constitutional arrangements the world has ever seen.

Thank you.



This is a plan to circumvent the Constitution by the use of cascading constitutional plebiscites, which are designed to soften the people up before a final referendum. This is a constitutional change by stealth and by fatigue. It irresponsibly invites a vote of no confidence in our Constitution to create a vacuum for at least a decade. This might be the sort of tactic that political parties might adopt over some minor issue. It is not the way to deal with something so fundamentally important as the Constitution.

Apart from the sheer irresponsibility of this approach, there is nothing in it for any of the political parties. It is a folly of monumental proportions, beside which the Millennium Dome will appear as a minor glitch. There is nothing in it for the Labor Party -- that was clear from the way in which so many safe Labor seats voted. The issue is even less attractive to the Liberal Party, which has already embittered a significant portion of the membership and supporters. And both the members and supporters of the National Party are overwhelmingly anti-republican. There is a new factor which results from the federal election in 2007. For the very first time in the life of our nation, all governments are formally committed in their platforms to republican change.

Since 1986, the powers of the state and federal parliaments, acting together, seem to be absolute and without limit. It is not so much that they can raise the GST - the  Federal Parliament could do this alone if it so wished, just as it could change the Flag without a popular vote. (Mr. Keating and Mr. Beasley planned to do precisely this before they lost office, and Mr Howard’s subsequent amendment to the Flag Act could be repealed by a determined government with the numbers and the requisite discipline.)

On one view, our seven parliaments acting together could not only bring in any sort of republic without a referendum, but it could also abolish the Senate, turn the states into regions, extend the terms of the politicians to five or seven years or more, subvert the judiciary and gag the media. Legal advice is divided, but if the parliaments decided to act together, only a determined High Court could stop this, and there is no guarantee.
Now no one is saying the seven parliaments are going to attempt all or even any of this. But there could be a temptation at some time in the future to use a plebiscite to justify an attempt to circumvent a referendum. Such a temptation should not be put there.

There is one way, and only one way, to undertake responsible constitutional change here. That is by the referendum. And this is not there to prevent or indefinitely resist change. It is there, as our great founders, Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran said, to prevent change from being made in haste or by stealth, to encourage public discussion, and to delay change until there is strong evidence that it is desirable, irresistible and inevitable.



Having rejected a proposal, the Australian people have, at least until now, also rejected any subsequent similar proposal.

In fact, they have been asked to give the following additional powers to Canberra more than once, and they have repeatedly said "No":

Monopolies (5 times).
Corporations are not already the subject of federal power (5 times).
Industrial matters within the State (5 times).
Intra-state trade and commerce (3 times).
Marketing schemes (twice).
Price control (twice).
(It could be said that some or most of these would be superfluous today because of the judicial interpretation of the Constitution.)

Attempts to impose simultaneous elections of the House and Senate have been rejected on three occasions. (While these proposals might at first glance seem sensible, they would have reduced the Senate's powers and thus the influence of the smaller States.) The people have also t