Change the constitution

The formal requirements
To become a republic the constitution has to be altered to delete the parts about the Queen and to insert some new arrangements. 

To change the written constitution there must be a national referendum in which a majority of voters and a majority of the states (ie 4 or more) approve of the exact wording of the change. 

Before the proposed changes can go to referendum they must be passed by both houses of parliament. 

In short: the politicians have to agree to the proposal and the people have to agree.  These rules for changing the constitution are set out in the constitution itself in section 128.  There are some other provisions but the above is the essence of it. 

Only politicians may put a proposal to the parliament. 

The practical requirements 
The proposed change will be approved by cabinet (chaired by the PM) then passed by the House of Representatives (which is automatic because the government has a majority of members) and then it goes to the Senate.  If it gets a majority in the Senate it goes to referendum.  The Senate majority will also have been teed up beforehand or the whole business won’t get started.  

To get something before cabinet requires the prime minister’s agreement.  A constitutional referendum is a very important matter so it will require prior party agreement through discussion in the party room.  For Labor it might also require agreement at a Labor Party conference.  (At least it used to.  Labor changed over the last generation and nowadays the Labor conference is orchestrated.)  

History shows it is necessary for both parties to support a constitutional change in order for it to pass the referendum.  If one side opposes, it seems the people get suspicious and vote it down.  If a Labor government got a republic proposal through both houses and then put it to referendum with the Liberal Party opposing it, it would be certain to fail.  They know this so they will not even start.  In future proposals for constitutional change will have bipartisan support or they will not go to parliament, let alone to referendum.  

Since 1901 the politicians have put a total of 44 referendum questions to the people.  The people have passed only 8 of them.  Almost all were requests by Canberra for more power and this is probably the basic reason they failed.  There have never been any proposals whereby Canberra would give more power to the states or to the people. 

Requirements for Sovereign Appointment:  
The exact wording to implement “Sovereign Appointment” (Stage 1) consists of the following replacements of “Queen” by “People” in Sections 2 and 4:   

Section 2:  “A Governor-General appointed by the Queen People shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s People’s pleasure, but subject to this constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.” 

  Section 4:  “The provisions of this Constitution relating to the Governor-General extend and apply to the Governor-General for the time being, or such person as the Queen People may appoint to administer the Government…” 

There is no other mention of appointment of the GG in the constitution.  It appears Section 4 is referring to a temporary stand-in for the GG so it would become more or less irrelevant.  (Quite a lot of the constitution is irrelevant.)     

To actually become a republic (Stage 2) “People” would have to replace “Queen”, “Her Majesty”, etc in about two dozen places throughout the constitution.  These substitutions are of no practical consequence except for one small thing: they’d make us into a republic.   

If we want to re-christen the GG as “President” (and it seems we do) then there is an additional string of simple changes to be made.  





2 Comments on “Change the constitution”

  1. […] 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.    Explore posts in the same categories: General […]

  2. […] 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.     […]

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