|Written by Professor David Flint AM|
|Sunday, 03 August 2008|
In our piece on the next Chief Justice of Australia, the Hon. Robert French, ( “With the utmost respect,Your Honour,” 31 July, 2008) we should have credited His Honour with distancing himself from a particular sleight of hand the republicans attempted in 1999.
In the Sir Ronald Wilson lecture of 8 May, 2008, “Dreams of a new republic ,” he refers to the plan to make the federal entity republican, while keeping the states constitutional monarchies.
No. It was nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to make it easier to get the referendum through by minimising objections from the states.
Had this ploy been successful it would have involved chopping up our indivisible Australian Crown into seven entities, and perhaps opening the door to secession, if any state were so inclined.
It could have ended what the preamble to the Constitution Act describes as our “indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown”
In his speech Justice French said:” It would be a bizarre dichotomy indeed to have a Republican nation with one or more of its States operating under a monarchical constitution.”
That is good - so far.
Presumably this would mean the Premier could remove the Governor.
In 1932 the Premier, Jack Lang, cleared all the bank accounts of the State government and hid the cash to avoid the impact of a federal law found valid by the High Court.
The Governor, Sir Philip Game, demanded that he reverse this. When Lang did not, the Governor withdrew his commission.
Just imagine what would have happened it the Premier had had this power.
We can only assume that His Honour is not aware of that the selection process for the Summit governance panel resulted in a gerrymander of which Robert Mugabe would have been envious.
We assume that he is also not aware that the process was so mismanaged that republican Professor Robert Manne likened it to a Mad Hatter’s ( Tea) Party.
We also assume that His Honour is unaware that the principal conclusion of the Summit on a republic was so erroneous it made the Summit a laughing stock.
And we also assume His Honour does not know that the recommendation for a plebiscite was only surreptitiously slipped into the Summit record ten days later.
It is likely that any plebiscite will be designed by spin doctors to ensure maximum support and to paper over the longstanding and well known irreconcilable differences between republicans.
We are surprised then that the process has already attracted such unqualified judicial endorsement.
Surely His Honour knows that the only reason for the plebiscite is because the republicans expect that if they approached the issue honestly, that is with a referendum, it would be defeated.
....dreaming of a new republic....
For those of you who wonder what is new in the republic which haunts His Honour's slumber, he explains that it is not the republican debate which is new.
It is the vision which is new.
“In this lecture I wish to identify some key values and elements for which I think we should look. There will undoubtedly be, in this audience and the wider community, a variety of visions.
"It is important however, that we continue the debate about the basic values and essential elements to try to forge some kind of consensus to drive the change which is inevitable."
Why do you need to drive something which is inevitable? If it is inevitable why not just wait for it?
His Honour seems to accept that after the landslide rejection of the politicians’ republic in 1999, only a model in which the president is elected by the people has any chance of being approved.
He admits this is likely to result in instability with the president becoming a political competitor of the prime minister.
So he canvasses contrivances to stop this. One suggestion is to a quasi judicial constitutional council to control him.
You sense it immediately. The dream will turn into a nightmare.
His Honour also recommends the constitutional recognition of the Aboriginal people.
He also argues that popular sovereignty be given legally effective recognition in the Constitution.
If it doesn’t, are these to be meaningless words? Or is this the new vision?
“As a people,” His Honour concludes, “we can afford to set our goals high in moving to a Republican Constitution.
“Those high goals would recognise the convergence of our many histories, and ensure that popular sovereignty is given legally effective recognition in the Constitution, recognise and make provision for the indigenous people of Australia.
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