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Is David Flint ( National Convenor since 1998) the republicans best asset, as some claim?

Senate: Victoria Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Tuesday, 30 October 2007

 

Senator Kay Patterson , Liberal Senator, wrote:

Dear Mr Flint

Thank you for your letter of 24 October together with the attached pledge document.

I am writing to let you know that I will leave the Senate on the 30th June 2008, when the term of this Senate expires.

My views on the monarchy have not changed since I gave a speech on this topic in the Senate, which is enclosed.

Yours Sincerely

Kay Patterson.

Liberal Senator for Victoria

 

Hansard,Senate  22 September, 1999:

MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST
Constitutional Referendum: Republic
Speech

Senator PATTERSON (VIC) (1.24 p.m.)—I rise today to speak on the matter of the constitutional referendum on the question of Australia becoming a republic. I have taken the view that, in deference to the constituents who have contacted me about this matter, I would state my position on the public record. I would like to thank those who have taken the time to communicate their views to me on this important matter and to let them know that I have thought long and hard about the issues and their ramifications for our nation's future.

I commence by considering the history of the recent debate which has brought us to this referendum. In 1991 the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at the University of Melbourne facilitated a constitutional centenary conference which I had the privilege of attending. The aim of the conference was to initiate debate and raise public awareness of our Constitution as we moved towards its centenary. The issues recommended for review by the constitutional conference were far broader than the single issue of the head of state and covered a range of issues including judicial independence, trial by jury, federalism, protection of rights and the impact of globalisation. The process had strong bipartisan support from the then Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, and the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr Hewson, and the stage was set for a long-term, sensible and mature consideration of our Constitution.

The whole concept of constitutional change, bubbling and simmering from a groundswell of public information, education and discourse, was something that evoked a strong kinship with our founding federationists. I did not envisage, therefore, a constitutional debate hijacked by a desperate Prime Minister Keating urgently needing to placate the Left and hoping the issue might divide conservative parties. In one fell swoop we moved from bipartisan support for a mature and extended examination of constitutional reform to the single issue of an Australian republic. By railroading the process, Paul Keating set back by years the cause of sensible and constructive debate on constitutional reform. The result has been a divisive constitutional debate and one where the broader issues of reform and community education and consultation have been lost in the `republic before 2000' hyperbole.

The yes advocates make it sound very simple, but I have concerns with the proposed model. According to some, moving to a republic is a simple task of taking our copy of the Constitution and liquid papering out any and all references to the Crown, sovereign and the Governor-General and replacing them with the phrase `President of Australia'. I am highly sceptical that this can be done whilst retaining our political stability, our constitutional certainty and the soundness of our institutions. Whilst I accept that the transfer of the reserve powers to the President can be achieved through the proposed amendment, I remain unconvinced that the conventions which have governed the behaviour of our governors-general will necessarily follow.

I have been profoundly disturbed by the lack of appreciation in the current debate of the values imparted by the concept of the Crown within our parliamentary democracy. An examination of our history shows an evolving Australian concept of the Crown which takes the lessons of European history and adapts them to the unique demands of the Australian nation. This ever-evolving Australian concept of the Crown has guaranteed the dignity and freedom of Australians since our inception as a nation.

Contrary to the easy rhetoric of the republicans, the notion of the Crown in the Australian Constitution is far more than just the person of Elizabeth II. Over the centuries with the passage of time, war, regicide and heated debate has evolved the Westminster system and the constitutional monarchy. The role of the Crown has not only survived but also evolved to become the foundation for a system of democracy which is stable and sound. The Crown has been a solidifying and unifying institution in the Australian Constitution and is removed from the influence of politics and partiality. Yet too often the Crown and the protection it provides to our citizens are disregarded in favour of a confused, simplistic and sometimes petty discussion of the person of the Queen and her heirs.

Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch who represents the human face of the Crown, just as the Governor-General represents the Queen in Australia. The role of the Governor-General has been a role that has evolved since its inception in 1901. Since 1965 all governors-general have been Australian citizens. The way in which they have seen their role in modern Australia has been different for each Governor-General, but the evolution and the transformation of the role has been a consistent and common feature.

The Governor-General is entrusted with all the reserve powers of the constitutional monarch. Too often in this debate, the reserve powers have been brushed aside as a technical matter or treated like a nuisance or, at worst, characterised as somehow being undemocratic. The reserve powers are the invisible hand of our constitutional monarchy, regulating the behaviour of those who exercise power over the citizenry and ensuring flexibility in times of crisis. That is what I would emphasise, so I will say it again: the reserve powers are the invisible hand of our constitutional monarchy, regulating the behaviour of those who exercise power over the citizenry and ensuring flexibility in times of crisis.

It is disingenuous to seek to disentangle the reserve powers from the historical context from which they evolved. We cannot guarantee that, with a stroke of the referendum pen, these conventions will transfer from the old Constitution to the new. We cannot guarantee that a President would be guided by centuries of law and convention which have evolved over a long time. Nor can we guarantee that the tenets of the Westminster system and the inherent impartiality of our present head of state will transfer to a President without diminution. I do not believe that there has been enough debate on the issue of reserve powers and the proposed transferral of these powers to the President, and this is because of what I believe to be a Cinderella mentality—a determined push by sections of the community to achieve constitutional change before the clock strikes midnight on 31 December 1999.

A constitution is a living and breathing document that is the essence of the people who live under its laws, institutions and values. Those who argue that to value the current constitutional system is to be out of date or to belong to a bygone era of Mother England are missing the reality that the Australian constitutional monarchy—with its unique Australian understanding of the Crown—is modern, relevant and evolving. The Statute of Westminster in 1942 and the Australia Acts in 1986 both demonstrate the manner in which the Constitution has adapted and evolved and can continue to adapt and evolve without sacrificing our stability of process and the strength of our institutions.

For nearly 100 years, Australia has functioned as one of the most modern, relevant and inclusive democracies in the world. Without civil war or widespread national division, our Constitution has accommodated great social and political change with only minimal constitutional hiccups. The guarantee of freedom, dignity and the rule of law which the Crown extends to all Australian citizens has drawn millions of migrants to our shores and improved the quality of life of succeeding generations of Australians, regardless of their country of origin. For these reasons, I will be voting no to a republic in the referendum on 6 November 1999.

In closing, I would like to make the point that I consider that one of the more disappointing aspects of the debate thus far has been the level of personal vitriol generated by some with opposing views. I do not pretend to be the fount of all wisdom on the issue, neither do I wish to enter into personal attacks on those who have taken a different view. I do not intend to enter into that sort of debate and would like to put on the record my respect for those who have given a great deal of thought to this issue and have been willing to put their views into the public arena, many of whom differ from me in their views. It may well be that history will judge me to have been overly cautious. If the Australian people choose to move to a republic on 6 November, I will commit myself to working hard to ensure a strong and successful Australian republic.

 

Steven Raskovy, candidate 

I, Stephen Raskovy declare that, if elected: Statement 1.    I will support the role of the Australian Crown in the Australian Constitutional system.   Statement 2.    I will support the retention of the Australian National Flag.  Statement 3.    I do not believe there are significant aspects of the Australian constitutional system which should be changed Statement 4.    I will strongly oppose any bill designed to undermine the right of the Australian people to be consulted in a referendum before any change is made to the Australian Constitution.  Statement 5.    I will oppose any change to the Australian National Flag being effected other than following a popular vote in accordance with the provisions of section 3(2) of the Flag Act, 1953, as in force on 1 September 2007.  Statement 6.    In the event of proposed changes to the Constitution or to the Flag being referred to a vote by the people, I will publicly insist on and vote for the adequate funding of both the yes and no cases.  

 

 

 
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