Appoint, not elect

Do you believe the people should be sovereign in a republic?  If so then for a monarchy to become a republic shouldn’t the monarch’s sovereignty to be transferred to the people?  
 The Queen only has one scrap of sovereignty: her power to appoint the GG.  If we found all the places where the constitution says the Queen appoints the GG and if we struck out “the Queen” and wrote “the People” instead, what would be the effect? 
 The effect must be that the power to appoint the GG would be in the people’s hands.  All the power.  The Queen would have none. 
 Note that the sovereign appoints the GG.  Appoints, not elects. 
 The process of appointment has been in operation for centuries in the British Empire and the British Commonwealth.  No sovereign ever elected a governor.  The PM writes to the sovereign suggesting a candidate and sovereign writes back.  With a sovereign people, the PM has to write to each citizen, which means he has to hold a postal referendum. 
 It is the process used to appoint judges in Japan and many US states where it is known as the “Missouri Plan”
 How many places does the constitution have to be changed to do this transfer of sovereignty?  Three.  In sections 2 and 4, literally switch “People” for “Queen” in three places.  That’s it. 
 No politicians, no election, no campaign, no promises, no effect on the dignity of the office, no effect on conventions. 
 And no effect on the kind of republic we might decide upon.  All republic possibilities remain on the table.  The only effect is to remove the distraction of the problem of appointing the GG. 

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14 Comments on “Appoint, not elect”

  1. Andrew Leigh Says:

    Mike, thanks for explaining more. Two questions:

    * If

  2. Wayne Errington Says:

    I wonder how enthused the general public will be about the prospect of sovereign appointment. Direct election excites us, well most of us, because we feel it would give us power. Sovereign appointment gives us power in an important, but abstract, sense. The real choices still fall back on the PM.

  3. Andrew Leigh Says:

    Sorry, somehow my previous comment was truncated by WordPress. My questions are:

    What’s the criteria for approval? 50% of the electorate? 50% of those who vote? Is there any restriction on the number of candidates the people can reject (and thereby force another multi-million dollar vote)?

    What makes you think people won’t be offended by a Republican model that gives them only the right to rubber stamp the PM’s choice?

  4. Mike Pepperday Says:

    To Wayne
    Direct election gives the machine men behind the preselection committees power – rather than the people.  As I explain in the FAQ, Australia will never have an elected Prez. (I think this might be explainable to the wider public but not as long as the only alternative is a “politicians’ republic” – they just don’t want to know.) Whatever: SA doesn’t affect the chances of further change to direct election or any other model.
    I’m not so sure about the PM’s freedom of choice. He will be concerned that the people accept his nominee. If they ever didn’t, he would be finished. This is the one (small) shift of power that SA brings about.

  5. Andrew:
    Number of candidates? The people will not reject the PM’s nominee. The very fact that they can will ensure that it won’t happen. Any Hollingworth will be exposed and withdrawn before the poll – probably before the public ever hear about him.
    As the FAQs discuss, the only rejections AFAIK were in the 40s in Missouri when the system was introduced, apparently to get rid of corrupt judges. Since then none in the US or in Japan (and judges have more to do with the people than a GG has).
    I would say simple 50% of the vote. I don’t think anyone would want 50% of the electorate – I think that idea is pretty much a proven failure. Voting would anyway be compulsory: response by the sovereign is not optional.
    The big day comes; you are in the booth ready to decide whether you want SA or not. The question: should the Queen approve the PM’s choice or should the people? Now which way is every republican in the country going to go?
    Well, it is not a rubber stamp. In 1999 the model was to have the politicians really rubber stamp the back-room nominee. I suppose one could claim the people were offended then though they were really offended by the exclusion of the people.

  6. Angus Algie Says:


    I have read through the Sovereign Appointment FAQ. The individual questions and answers are good but I think there is a need for more structure within the FAQ. Specifically, the questions and answers seem to fall into two categories:

    Category 1: “What is Sovereign Appointment and How Does It Work?”

    Within this section I think there is a need to really bring to the fore that this model is already used elsewhere – an appeal to precedent is very powerful when proposing gradualist reform. It certainly impressed me to read that the model is already in operation elsewhere and works smoothly!

    Category 2: “Why Sovereign Appointment? What’s So Good About This Model of Achieving the Republic?”

    Within these questions there is a real need is to sort out the relationship between what you call Stage 1 and Stage 2 in the transition to a republic more clearly.

    The questions addressing this issue need to be consolidated and your position simplified, i.e. as I understand it that:
    · Stage 2 would address the remaining constitutional powers of the monarch with the really divisive question out of the way – how the day-to-day head of state gets the job – and that the least change step is simply to extend the principle of the people as the sovereign to these powers as well; and
    · Stage 2 would also allow the question of the exact conditions and powers that apply to the Governor General/President as the day-to-day head of state to be debated without the divisive question of how he or she gets the job confusing the issues.

  7. Angus:
    Thank you very much for your efforts and the thoughtful remarks.
    I guess you are right; I will restructure the FAQs. A significant task.
    You are understanding “Stage 2” – the actual conversion to a republic – correctly: Stage 1 resolves the GG appointment problem to allow discussion of a republic.
    I have not regarded Stage 2 as immediately germane. I suggest in the FAQs that a form of it could be simply to do as in Stage 1 and replace “Queen” with “People” everywhere in the constitution, however that’s only my suggestion. The shape of the republic is a matter for public discussion and with the running sore of the GG’s appointment out of the way, we might hear and consider a lot of interesting ideas.

  8. copernican Says:

    The Queen of Australia does not exercise a choice when presented with a request to appoint a GG by the Prime Minister. The process is a formality. This extends to the actions of the GG when he[/she] provides Acts of parliament Royal Assent. The reserve powers are exceptional.
    If a GG was elected in the SA manner – a voting process with the whole population is still a form of election – could not that GG claim some kind of mandate from the population, and so exercise a degree of choice over his or her functions such as providing Royal Assent?

  9. It is true the Queen has no choice (nowadays). But does she obey the orders of the PM (or premier)? I don’t think we would quite claim that. Perhaps the fact that her approval is sought affects the PM’s (or premiers’) behaviour. We cannot really know. Sir David Smith told me (when I asked) that the nominee is informally communicated to the Queen before the PM writes the official letter recommending someone. Thus the “formality” has to some extent been cooked up.

    What mandate? No politicians, no election, no campaign, no promises – no mandate. Then again, there are valid reasons why the office should be held by a person of exemplary character. There is some discussion of this in the FAQs.

    For the GG to interfere in politics at all – ie within the reserve powers – is an extreme action; to interfere by defying convention is unthinkable. Imagine the howls of wrath if there was even a whisper of reluctance by the GG in Assent. If any new law was so bad as to warrant incurring it, the law would probably warrant some more thought.   

  10. gordon Says:

    In 1999 I decided that I would vote for a republic only if three conditions were met: first, the head of state must be elected; second, the powers of the H of S must be codified and given Constitutional sanction (preferably they should be purely ceremonial); and third, we must have a Bill of Rights.

    Still a non-republican, I’m afraid. But it doesn’t really matter, because having a republic isn’t going to make me a better person, it isn’t going to improve my self-esteem (or my sex life), it isn’t going to make Australia a better place; in fact, it would achieve precisely nothing.

  11. I have often wondered about the effects. What difference would it make if we got a republic where nothing changed except that the monarchy was gone?

    I think our identity would change the very day it came into effect. For old Anglos, old Irish, mature Italians, young Turks, younger Vietnamese, and many others, the feeling of being Australian would be different. I am unable to imagine Aboriginal feelings but for the immigrants of the last two hundred years I think I can imagine what it might be like. Some would have regrets but even they would share a new sense of apartness and of common life. Perhaps self-esteem would be part of it.

  12. gordon Says:

    I am amazed at the effort being put into this republican thing by otherwise apparently intelligent people who, if Mike Pepperday is a fair representative, apparently don’t know why they are doing it. Is there some sort of social payoff in attending republican rallies? Do Americans and Frenchmen laugh at them for still having a Monarch? Is it just the trendy thing to be seen to be doing, like having a mobile phone conversation while driving a Land Cruiser at high speed?

    “Our identity would change the very day it came into effect”, “the feeling of being Australian would be different”. It sounds like changing the curtains and repainting the living room. Maybe we could get a fashionable interior designer (who of course is the daughter of a really dear friend) to change the flag at the same time. Then we could have a really wonnnnderful party, dahling, to celebrate. Then we could do something else.

  13. Your amazement reflects a perception that intelligent people only act selfishly.

    In that case, is there some sort of social payoff from sledging people anonymously?

    Ad hominem is not useful.

  14. S.B Says:

    Hmmm, Mike I think you’re a little quick to take offence on that one. It’s a legimtiate point.

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