“A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.”
submitted by The Beach Doctor
Back in the mid 1990s there was a huge movement in Australia to dump Queen Elizabeth and become a republic with a President as head of state.
Aussies and the world saw a republic as a done deal for the Centenary of Australian Federation in 2001 – the same as Barbados Prime Minister Stuart’s plan to celebrate 50 years of Bajan nationhood by establishing a republic.
And who wouldn’t blame the Aussies for wanting to dump the Crown? The country was established first as a penal colony, slavery really, with all the usual brutality and racial and class divisions.
But many Australians didn’t want to leave the decision to their Parliament as had been proposed “based upon the jubilant mood of the time”. Australians insisted on a referendum, and in the end the people said ‘No’ and voted to retain the Queen as Head of State.
The divisions in the population looked like this, says Wikipedia… (Australian 1999 Referendum)
- Traditional monarchists who held their beliefs largely on principled and/or sentimental attachment to the monarchy, in part based on traditional associations with the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Nations and a personal identification with Elizabeth II and her family. Many were older or from rural rather than urban areas.
- Pragmatic monarchists who maintained that, whatever the argued weaknesses of the current system, it also had many strengths; following the motto of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The view of this group was that constitutional monarchy provides the basis for stable democratic government, with the Governor-General (the monarch’s nominal representative) acting as an impartial, non-political “umpire” of the political process. Many distrusted the Australian political classes and believed the provision of executive powers to a local politician would result in an undesirably partisan head of state, instability, dictatorship, or a possible repeat of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.
- Minimal change republicans who aimed to remove the monarchy, but otherwise maintain the current system as unchanged as possible, thus creating a parliamentary republic. Within this group, there were a small group of supporters of the ultra-minimalist McGarvie Model, but generally the favoured model of these groups was appointment by a two-thirds majority of a joint sitting of Parliament.
- Progressive republicans who wanted a popularly elected head of state.
- Radical republicans, who saw the minimal change option as purely cosmetic, and desired comprehensive revision to the current Westminster-based system and possibly the implementation of a presidential or semi-presidential system. This was easily the smallest major group, but prominent in the debate.
- Tactical voters, who took a long-term view and voted against their inclinations to avoid more radical changes in the future. Many traditional and pragmatic monarchists perceived a weight of inevitability and voted “yes” to the minimalist republic in order to avoid a more radical republic. Many sentimental republicans voted “no” in the hope of a more radical or populist proposal winning a future referendum.
- The uncommitted. As in all elections a certain proportion of the electorate remain unattached to either side. Uncommitted ‘swinging voters’ can be a decisive force in shaping election and referendum results, especially in countries where voting is compulsory.
For me it’s all about trust, or the lack of…
I’d vote “NO” in a referendum and I want to keep the Queen as our head of state. Why?
Because I just don’t trust the politicians and the elites to do the right thing. Better the devil we know.
Besides… if we get rid ‘o Liz… what we gonna do wid all a dem “Sirs” ???