Look before you leap to a republic

| July 20, 2020

Fortunately, the present fuss over the Queen’s role in the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 is overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The monarchy is an institution that transcends both the state and the individual who happens to be monarch currently. But, at the same time, the monarch is meant to personify our values and aspirations as a people; a notional superior entity, above politics.

By acknowledging our imperfection and corruptibility we place ultimate power, at least in theory, beyond the grasp of would-be autocrats and tyrants.

Former opposition leader, Mr Shorten, promised a referendum to ask if Australia should become a republic. Mr Shorten loudly proclaimed: “We are Australian, not Elizabethan.” That’s not a long way from Trump shouting about making America great again and we’re seeing where that leads.

The present impasse between the US president and the legislature and also, potentially, the judiciary, results from the founders of the USA not clearly defining and limiting the powers of the president. But to be fair, they could not have expected a fool would ever be raised to the highest office.

If Australia decides to become a republic and we dispose of the Monarch, important questions would remain about what form the Republic of Australia would take. It’s a fairly safe bet that most voters would probably favour direct election of the head of state and not appointment by the Parliament.

Candidates for President of an Australian Republic would be supported by powerful media or multi-national corporate interests who may well be inclined to place their commercial interests above those of the nation.

The parliament might soon find itself in conflict with a popularly elected president and history suggests that the constitutional reforms needed to create a workable system would probably be rejected at a subsequent referendum.

The major political parties know that considerable reform could be achieved by legislation but they prefer the status-quo which tends to limit representation of minorities. This diverts the Senate from its intended functions and frustrates implementation of mandated government policies.

A republican government might well be confronted not only by a hostile Senate but also by a President claiming a separate mandate. A Republic of Australia could turn out to be even less functional than the present constitutional monarchy and democratic change would be all the more difficult to achieve.

Who would have thought a virus could save us from becoming victims of our own folly?


One Comment

  1. Alan Stevenson

    Alan Stevenson

    July 20, 2020 at 10:26 am

    It is great to welcome Max Thomas back. I agree that most of us want our independence even though I greatly admire the Queen and all that she has done during her reign.

    The difficulty about selecting a head of state is that currently most people’s thoughts are fairly easily swayed by social media and the press.

    We have only to look at the US where large numbers of people are refusing to wear face masks or socially isolate and refuse to even believe in the dangers of Covid19.

    The power of the press might be diminishing but it is still a force to be reckoned with and social media appears to have been infiltrated by foreign governments and bots.

    Any decision regarding a head of state must be taken with a lot of care and after a lot of open discussion.

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