Archive for the ‘General’ category

Crayson’s complaints

March 31, 2006

Peter Crayson read the FAQs and has some criticisms of SA that have been passed on to me:


Peter Crayson: I think there are quite a few problems.  One of the risks is that its simplicity could lead to constitutional challenges regarding interpretation (especially of conventions such as the PM "writing" to all voters).  Another risk is that establishing a system of electing Governor-General without becoming a republic could actually result in complacency and possibly less enthusiasm for moving to a republic.  Another problem is that since this is not a true direct election (it's more of a referendum on choice of GG), it will be rejected by the majority of the population, who clearly favour a direct election.  Another problem would relate to the outcome of the confirmation vote – what if the vote is lost, or what if the vote is very low or a bare majority?  The legitimacy of the GG would then be in question.  A lost vote could result in a constitutional vacuum.  


    MP: I don’t think it’s possible to mount a constitutional challenge to a convention.  That’s supposed to be their virtue: not justiciable.  Of course, they are open to argument so if you have an argument please state it.   

    Less enthusiasm for moving to a republic?  Than now?  You’re kidding.   



The Republican Party says…

March 28, 2006

   Posted below is an email from Peter Consandine, National Executive Director of the Republican Party of Australia (  It’s quite long so I have chopped it into four parts.    



   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.   


Promoting SA

March 19, 2006

   Before putting the FAQs and this blog together, I didn’t really push Sovereign Appointment. 
   I thought it was obvious.  If a republic is where the people are sovereign then the way for a monarchy to become a republic is to transfer the sovereignty from the monarch to the people.  Isn’t it?  Just substitute “people” for “monarch” in the constitution – problem solved. 
   It was so obvious it was a puzzle why they didn’t get on with it.  I got a few mates to chip in $50 each to cover expenses and I faxed a two-page explanation of SA to each delegate at the con-con.  I remember it took hours and I got to bed, in Perth, about 2 am.  But the convention didn’t adopt the idea.  What was wrong with them? 
   Or wrong with SA?  A long version in the Financial Review in 1999 elicited only complimentary responses.  In 2003 the WA ACM chair, Bill Hassell, wrote an anti-republic article in the West Australian.  I responded showing that Sovereign Appointment answered all his whinges – everything.  That’s the beauty of SA: it not only satisfies both major republican camps but also satisfies the rational reasons for retaining the monarchy.  I know that a couple of people prodded Bill to respond but he wouldn’t.  He couldn’t. 
   The Senators in the 2004 republic inquiry also didn’t see any flaw in it, not even misery-guts Bolkus.  Rather the contrary – not that you’d know it from their report. 
   So SA looks pretty bullet-proof (though if you think you can shoot a hole in it, fire away) and it’s surely the only solution that can ever provide consensus of both pollies and people. 
   The FAQ list was suggested by Grant Martyn, the bloke who did (and does) the leg-work for “Real Republic WA”.  The idea is to cover the queries that have arisen over the years and to put every detail, and every foreseeable consequence, out in the open. 
   Years ago I practically begged Richard McGarvie to set out the changes to the constitution his model would require.  “Oh, people get too distracted by the detail,” he replied.  I had a couple of tries to no avail.  The subtext?  “Just agree to my model in broad terms and leave it to your betters to work out the details.”  It’s not only insulting, it’s not facing up to the fact that a referendum will be on the exact changes to the constitution. 
   So  if you think the FAQs gloss over anything, or omit anything, please speak up. 

Don’t campaign!

March 14, 2006

People keep talking about campaigning for a republic.  It’s inappropriate.   

At around the time we were preparing to hold our 1999 referendum, East Timor was having a referendum on independence.  Before their independence vote, much was made of the need for there to be a large majority so that the will of the people would be clear.  Polling did predict a clear majority and the result of 78% in favour of independence left no doubt about the will of the people.  

Polls in Australia showed that there was a similar clear majority in favour of independence from the British crown.  And yet our referendum achieved only 45%.  After the nastiness and failure of that 1999 campaign, the politicians will (hopefully) be leery of again putting up a borderline proposal for neither of its two possible outcomes is happy.  If it won by a narrow majority, the losers would claim that it was because of media bias.  (And it probably would be.)  There’d be subsequent resistance to changing the structure in the states, particularly if in one or two (Queensland and WA) a majority actually voted against the change.  On the other hand, if it again failed, the monarchy would be secure for many decades.  

We don’t need to do any of that.  Polls go up and down but if the republic were a current political issue about 70% of Australians would again be in favour of severing the ties to the monarchy.  So what do we want a campaign for?  If the majority want a republic, they’ll vote for it, won’t they?  The only purpose in advocating a “campaign” is to advocate again pitting republican against republican, to again promote an angry referendum at which one republican idea is intended to crush another republican idea.  

It is unnecessary.  All that is required is to put a practical proposal and the will of the people would be expressed as clearly as it was in East Timor.    

Senate helps monarchy

March 6, 2006

I have just posted a new reference page: “Foolish Senate Report” discussing its nonsense recommendation of holding a plebiscite to choose a model.  It is an attempt at preference trickery which is never going to come off.  This short-sighted, self-interested, deceitful report is the biggest boost to the monarchist cause since 1993. 

No real alternative

February 24, 2006

The recent lively discussion at Quiggin’s blog makes me more than ever convinced that there are just three possible ways this country can resolve the problem of choosing the GG/president.  One is the politicians’ republic à la 1999, a second is politicians’ election, and the other (the only decent way to do it) is Sovereign Appointment

If we take it that the models outlined on page 140 of the 2004 Senate Report cover the field, then the simple PM’s appointment can be ruled out for it has no chance of passing (and no PM will dare put it), and direct election can be ruled out as the politicians will not allow it (see post “Elected Fantasy” below).  Assuming “electoral college” means elite appointment it also won’t wash with the electorate so it, also, will never be attempted.  That leaves two: (i) neo-1999 whereby machine politicians ratify a stooge president for some quid pro quos they bargain over in secret, and (ii) politicians’ election whereby the pollies elect the GG/president from a short field as they do in Germany and Italy. 

Both are forms of  “politicians’ republic” and if put to referendum will meet with bitter opposition from those who favour more sovereignty of the people, ie those who favour a directly elected president.  But with bipartisan support, say a leadership of the flavour of Costello plus Beazley, they would probably get it over the line.  At least, bipartisan support would have succeeded in 1999.  Probably now they would have to wait for a generation to let the memory of 1999 fade.  Even then they will be accused of a divide-and-rule attempt to gather more power to politicians and it will certainly be another dirty referendum with the losers again being very angry. 

And all unnecessary.  The simple consensus alternative is Sovereign Appointment.  Three tiny changes to the constitution passes the present sovereign’s sole power to the people with no side-effects and no impact on anyone’s favourite republic model.       

Appoint, not elect

February 15, 2006

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.