The Republican Party says…

   Posted below is an email from Peter Consandine, National Executive Director of the Republican Party of Australia (http://www.republicans.org.au/index.php).  It’s quite long so I have chopped it into four parts.    

    

CONSANDINE ONE  

   Sorry, Mike, you won't be seeing the writer at the 2nd Republican Gathering (RG2)…  

   But I was, in writing, invited to attend. Many months ago I let it be known to the organisers of RG2 that I had important on-the-ground Republican business in Melbourne to attend to which would preclude my even considering acceptance.   

   Given that I am an actor in the Republican Play, I will – for what it's worth – afford you a general comment on your SA model for an Australian Republic:   

   Essentially, SA is a new model for re-inventing the monarchy.  

   Overall, it would be assessed by the body politic as the "mother of all confidence tricks".  

   I think any reasonably intelligent, zealous monarchist could wage a very powerful case against SA. In any event, a lot of monarchists might speak out against SA – and vote accordingly – on the grounds of SA being remarkably like a perfect example of the thin end of a wedge.  

   I would imagine Greg Craven the arch-minimalist WA republican academic being a supporter of SA. It's all good and well that various academic opinions and proposals such as yours and Greg's come forward, Mike, 'cos grass roots lay people such as me would want to know sooner rather than later what senseless, arrogant, exaggerated academic views were going to be posited along the way.  

   As I did with Greg C, you might accept an invitation from me to come out onto the streets and gauge the thinking of Joe & Josephine Public sometime. Next time I'm conducting a Republican Street Meeting in Canberra I'll let you know about it.  

   There are two things I can agree on with you. The first is your assertion that if the eventual second republican referendum failed [then] the monarchy would be secure for many decades. The second is your belief that when the time comes for the YES/NO vote no other constitutional, parliamentary or government system reform proposals should be held in tandem with that vote.  

   A big fear I already have is that the word, indeed value-added term 'sovereignty', is being tainted in your SA proposal.  

   Another fear I have is for the prospect of success with 'simplistic' solutions.  

* * *

   Thank you very much for going to the trouble to write.  I salute you and your Republican Party colleagues for your dedication.   

   The above contains some odd assertions.  If you have any arguments to back them up, you are welcome to express them.   

   Certainly, SA is the thin end of the wedge for monarchists.  That is the point – to remove the question of the Queen’s power to appoint the GG so that a republic can be discussed.  SA would not get in the way of your maximalist proposal.  At the moment this narrow question of what to do with the Queen’s power completely dominates debate – as it has since 1993.  There is virtually no debate about really being a republic.  Your proposal is perhaps an exception but the people you need to convince have their minds stuck on the narrow question.    

   It doesn’t follow that, because SA is the thin end of the republican wedge, monarchists would vote against it.  Monarchists tended to vote Yes in 1999 out of fear of a more radical alternative.  Some might do the same with SA.   

   Or they might vote for it because it answers their genuine concerns.  Contrary to your assertion of their making “a powerful case” against it, as far as I know monarchists are stumped by SA, and have no argument at all.  There’s seems to be some evidence of that in “SB’s” comments on an early post.  It seems he can do little but sling off.   

    

   CONSANDINE TWO   

   I'll pose some questions FOR YOU which have been prompted by the text of your e-mail to me…  

   1. Why is it inappropriate to 'campaign for a Republic'? – surely the issue has to be kept alive somewhat until the immediate aftermath of John Howard's departure from the Prime Ministership?  

   2. Why, absolutely, must 'Direct Election' [of the Australian Presidency] be 'ruled out'? – why, when the processes are completed (to which I will later refer), will the Liberal Party NEVER accept a 'popularly-elected presidency'? You're not seriously inferring that the Liberal Party would automatically become the 'Revisionist' Party in the event that once the processes have been successfully completed, they would turn on the expressed will of the Australian people are you? I'm as certain as I could possibly be that the idea of a popularly-elected presidency with codified powers will appeal to 65% of Australians who identify themselves as 'Republicans'. And the published opinion polls – over 14+ years – stand the test of time on this score.  

* * *

   Misunderstanding.  I wasn’t talking about keeping the republic alive in the public consciousness.  I was talking about campaigning for a specific model at that final referendum to become a republic.  If campaigning then is necessary, it’s the wrong model.   

   When your “processes have been successfully completed” the sky will be dark with flocks of pigs.  In the reference page “Foolish Senate Report” I show why those plebiscites will never be held.  Indeed, it is in part because they would put the Liberal Party in an awkward position.  I suggest you have a look and tell me if it isn’t an impossible program.   

   65% of republicans is not a majority of the electorate.  I corrected Senator Bolkus on this point.  You think the last referendum was rough?  It was angelic compared with what a referendum for an elected prez republic would be.  I say it’s never going to happen (see earlier post “Elected fantasy”) but that’s not really the point.  It’s your dream and SA doesn’t get in your way.  SA would clear the decks for anyone to promote any radical republic they like.   

   

CONSANDINE THREE   

   3. Why would you put such great store in a postal referendum? There's a helluva lot of difference between a postal ballot for a constitutional convention and a referendum. NO – A THOUSAND TIMES NO! If compulsory voting obtains then voters must get out of their comfort zones and go to their nearest voting station on voting day and, in turn, vote. On an issue as important as Australia's becoming a Republic, there can be precious little room for vote-rigging and voter-fraud.  

   4. Why is the appointment of judges the same as appointing Heads-of-State? I disagree, emphatically. You can hardly say that appointing judges is democratic, can you? There might – and I say MIGHT – be a fair case for claiming that appointing Heads-of-State is democratic. The difference, of course, is that Heads-of-State are nonetheless part of the democratic process once they're appointed. Judges are not.  

* * *

   I set no particular store in a postal referendum.  It simply conforms to long-standing convention of the PM writing to the sovereign.  Again a misunderstanding?  The postal referendum would be how the sovereign appoints the next GG, not the referendum to decide to become a republic.    

   Judges are not the same as the GG.  Except in a constitutional crisis, judges would be more important.  Yes, the Missouri Plan is fairly democratic.  Democracy is when the people rule and under Missouri Plan, the people have the right of veto.  The veto is seldom exercised but the fact that it’s there would be inhibiting chicanery.  State after
US state has adopted it, in each case after exhaustive argument in the legislature.  The point is, the process has been working for the last 60 years in Japan and in numerous US states.  It has a proven track record which is a rare thing with republic proposals.   

   

CONSANDINE FOUR   

   A realistic scenario for a majority 'YES' vote for an Australian Republic might be the following:  

   Stage 1: ALL – and I mean ALL – Republicans Uniting for the success of an Indicative Referendum on purely the alternative clear and clean YES or NO question:  

   "Do you want an Australian Republic?" or "Do you want a Republican system of governance for Australia?" No model whatsoever attaching.  

   With either question we Republicans – in a United fashion – force the status quoists/monarchists/royalists to tell the Australian people WHY we shouldn't become a truly independent Australia with a discernibly Australian national identity. At this stage of the game we all can put our preferred model for The Republic on the proverbial shelf…Stage 1 should yield a certain victory for "YES". And the universal promise would be that the matter of the appropriate model for the Australian Presidency will be decided by a plebiscite based upon a menu of four (4) different models – one of which will be a model signed off on by the federal parliamentarians of the day for a parliamentary model of appointment and another which will be signed off on by a representative convention of stakeholder Direct Electionists.  

   Stage 2: a Binding Plebiscite [the precedent being that of the plebiscite for a National Song in, I think, 1977].  

   Stage 3: a Binding Referendum on the plebiscite's most popular model i.e. the model which enjoyed the most votes in the electorate-at-large.  

   Mike, it's early days. I reckon though that your SA model for Queenie sovereignty transfer to Oz Citizenry sovereignty has set the cat among the pigeons. I doubt if it will gain much, if any, traction. But I guess it's the usual story of "let's wait and see"!  

* * *

   You think that’s realistic?   

   Though much discussed, I doubt your first plebiscite will ever be held.  Beazley has said he’d do it but was it a “core promise”?  The politicians will consider it too important for popular vote.  The outcome is, as you say, likely to be Yes.  Are the politicians going to go collectively mad?  They only hold referendums or plebiscites where the possible outcomes are congenial to them.   

   National song?  There was no power attached to choosing a national song.  I think hoping for the first plebiscite is unrealistic and hoping for the others is ridiculous.  The reasons are plainly set out under “Foolish Senate Report”.   

   As far as I can see, the only politically realistic republic progress that can happen in
Australia is either a re-run of 1999 (very divisive and many years away) or SA.   

 

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