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ACM Home arrow Resources arrow Constitutional Essays arrow Australia, Canada, and the Constitutional Impossibility of 'Managed Change'

Australia, Canada, and the Constitutional Impossibility of 'Managed Change' Print E-mail
Written by Ian Holloway   
Monday, 20 August 2001
In his 'Dictionary of Political Thought', the British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton suggested that the Enlightenment was characterised by, among other things, a ‘scepticism towards traditional authority in matters of religion and politics, an openness of outlook, and a respect for reason as the guiding principle and defining property of the human condition’. It is no surprise, then, that republicanism - in its modern form, that is - has its roots in the Enlightenment. As a matter of simple detached reason, it is difficult to gainsay the philosophical premises upon which republicanism rests. The notion that compliance ought to be a function of freewill and hence, that sovereignty ultimately resides in the governed, is one which flows naturally and logically from the proposition that we are all creatures capable of independent thought and action. That the apparatus of state ought therefore to be representative of the governed is then but a short leap forward.
Unfortunately, this sort of philosophical reflection tends to be overlooked in much of today’s discussions about constitutional reform in Australia. Instead, the Australian brand of republicanism is presented chiefly as an antidote to perceived anachronism. Republican views on the Constitution are many and disparate. But they share one underlying theme - that through the process of constitutional re-engineering, positive change (however ‘positive’ may be defined in any given mind) can be engendered. Never mind that Australia has enjoyed the benefits of philosophical republicanism since federation, the constitutional monarchy, republicans say, enshrines an out-dated view of Australia as a British dominion at the cusp of the twentieth century, rather than an Asia-Pacific nation sitting at the cusp of the twenty-first. And what Scruton referred to as a ‘present-day scepticism’ has been replaced in some quarters by an unthinking and reflexive contempt for the traditional emotional allegiances that characterised what one might call the digger generations. Of genuine reflective consideration of the implications of the republican project, however, there has been hardly a skerrick.


The Spectre of Constitutionalism


In fact, one has some sympathy for the Australian republicans. The truth is that the nature of constitutional dynamism is something that is difficult to discuss with precision. Almost by definition, the process of constitutional change - particularly in a system like ours, where the formal Constitutional document is so difficult to alter - is both ephemeral and incremental. Hedging, imprecision and conjecture must be the stock-in-trade of the Australian constitutional scholar. Take, for instance, the question of when it was that Australia became an independent nation. It is clear that in 1901, we were not one. It is equally clear that by 1986 (when, in its last Imperial action for Australia, the British Parliament passed the Australia Act), we were. But the precise point at which we transcended from sort-of ‘super-colony’ (as the new Commonwealth was in 1901), to fully independent member of the community of nations (as we were by 1986) is one that has proven impossible to determine. The best that the Hawke-appointed 1988 Constitutional Commission, comprised of some of Australia’s leading constitutional minds, could do was to say that it took place some time between 1926, when the Imperial Government adopted the Balfour Declaration, and the end of the Second World War.


So in a way, one understands the inclination of constitutional tinkerers to shy away from the unknowable. Yet, the fact is that we now sit poised at the brink of a referendum, in which we are going to be invited to commit ourselves irrevocably to a period of sustained division over constitutional alteration. And lest there be any doubt of this, it is worthwhile to remember that the Convention recommended that if the referendum is passed, another Constitutional Convention should be held, to consider a further range of constitutional amendments - which in substance would be much broader than those sought to be embodied in the shift to a republican form of government. Happily - though probably depressingly for those in favour of constitutional change - there is a useful comparator, to which we can look to see exactly what we would be letting ourselves in for before we embark on the journey along the path of constitutionalism. That is Canada.


We seldom think of the link today, but Australia and Canada share more in common than almost any other two countries on earth. They share a common political root. They share a legal system. They share a federal model of government. They share a military tradition. They share an ethnography. They share an odd, yet appealing, mix of British reserve and American openness. These things alone make the Australian-Canadian comparison an apt one. But there is another, rather more contemporary, aspect of the similarity. Today, Australia and Canada are both troubled countries; countries with a grave sense of unease. Both are smallish nations (in terms of economy and population, that is) trying to grope their way through, and find a place in, the world of the ‘post’: post-colonialism, post-industrialism and post-modernism. In both countries, people are asking the same sorts of questions: what exactly does it mean to be an Australian or a Canadian at the cusp of the twenty-first century? How can one maintain a national distinctiveness in an era where national borders no longer mean much? How is one to reconcile the realities of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism with long-held (if imperfectly realised) Anglo-European ideals of equality and the rule of law. Yet, despite all of this, one searches the debates over the republic largely in vain for anything other than an occasional reference to the recent Canadian experience with constitutional reform.


Perhaps it is a reflection of fear of the sheer enormity of questions like this, but the lack of any real comparative analysis reveals another similarity between the two countries: in each, the debate over constitutional issues has come to be phrased in curious, almost distorted, terms. On neither side of the Pacific has the focal point of the debate been the philosophical foundations according to which society is ordered. Nor has it involved a search for any sort of consensus about national values or ideals. Instead, in both Australia and Canada, the national unease has been reflected in an almost pathological obsession with the formal provisions of the Constitution. Without meaning any disrespect to the participants, this is made amply clear by the style and tone of the debate over various models of republicanism that has been taking place in Australia over the past six or seven years.


One might describe the way in which our debate over constitutional reform has been taking place as the ‘spectre of constitutionalism’. By this is meant a fixation with the form, rather than the substance, of the terms of a country’s constitution, and a seemingly uncontrollable compulsion to lurch towards a fundamental alteration of its form without realising that this in fact is being done, and without paying heed to the consequences which will necessarily follow on from the alteration. This is a point that is too often overlooked by today’s constitutional agitators. The most important part of a constitution is not the document itself, but rather the dynamic that exists under the constitutional order to support a country’s social and political life. To put it another way, the most critical part of a constitutional debate ought to do with the small ‘c’ constitution, rather than the capital ‘C’ one.


One does not make this observation with any smugness or feeling of superiority. On the contrary, in a great many respects, the essence of the debate that is taking place here has a familiar ring to anyone who has studied recent Canadian history. For even though Canada does not have an organised republican movement, it has - just like Australia - been gripped of late by the spectre of constitutionalism. In fact, the Canadian experience with constitutional pathology has gone much further down the road than the Australian, and there are some valuable lessons that we in Australia could gain from looking at the Canadian experience with the overall process of formal constitutional change, and the effects that it can have upon a society’s underlying cohesiveness.


Canada as a Constitutional Analogue


Canada, as most will know, was formed in 1867, out of a federal union of four British North American colonies: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Over the years which followed, the remainder of Britain’s North American possessions joined the union, the last being Newfoundland, which became a province of Canada in 1949. At present, Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories.


Canada’s head of state is HM Queen Elizabeth II. Section 9 of the Canadian Constitution provides that Executive authority in Canada is ‘declared to continue and be vested in the Queen’. But quite apart from the form of the Constitution, it is clear that there is no question but that the form of government contemplated by the new nation was a monarchical one, which resembled in spirit the government of the United Kingdom. Like the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, the Canadian Constitution was a creation of the Imperial Parliament, but also like its Australian counterpart, it had its origins in a draft prepared in Canada, by Canadians, for Canadians. The preamble to the Constitution makes plain the common understanding of the framers. It begins,


‘Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom ...’


As in Australia, a Governor General is appointed to act on the Crown’s behalf, and to carry out public functions in the Queen’s stead. As the Earl of Dufferin, one of the first holders of the office, once put it, the Governor-General of Canada is ‘the head of a constitutional State, engaged in the administration of a Parliamentary government.’


In contrast to Australia, however, the formal position of the Crown in Canada seems quite secure. Section 41 of the Constitution Act 1982 provides that in order for there to be a future constitutional amendment which would affect the position of the Crown, there must be unanimous agreement among the federal government and the provinces - something which, given the fractious nature of Canadian federalism, is difficult to imagine ever occurring. Nevertheless, Canada has been embroiled in a round of near-steady constitutionalism since the 1970s - since the Prime Minister of the day, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, made it his ambition to alter the Canadian constitution.


As has been noted, the Canadian Constitution, like the Australian, was a statute of the Imperial Parliament. Unfortunately, however, unlike the framers of the Australian constitution, the Canadian ‘Fathers of Confederation’, as they are known, could not agree on a formula with which to amend the Constitution. This being the case, after confederation constitutional amendments still had to be passed by the Imperial Parliament on Canada's behalf. This was a theoretically anomalous situation, to be sure, but in the pragmatic Canadian way (another characteristic which Australia and Canada share, many might assert) a convention was developed whereby if the federal government wished to amend the constitution in a way which would affect provincial competence, it would first seek the support of a substantial number of the provinces. Following this, a request would be made of the British Parliament, which would pass the amendment without question.


Canada and the Experience of Out-of-Control Constitutionalism


From a theoretical perspective, this was rather anomalous, but it permitted the Canadian Constitution to develop to make provision for things which could not have been contemplated by the Fathers of Confederation in the 1860s. Nevertheless, Mr Trudeau made it his life's mission to rectify the theoretical deficiency. He was to be the one who succeeded in ‘bringing the Constitution home’ (as the rhetoric of the day had it – a rhetoric which, interestingly, seems to have been adopted recently by Mr Beazley) where everyone else had failed. Accordingly, he came up with a plan which would accomplish two things: first, the British would surrender all remaining rights they had to legislate for Canada (much as was done in the Australia Acts). A necessary precondition to this, of course, was developing an acceptable amending formula, so that Canadians could formally amend the Constitution themselves. Secondly, the Trudeau plan called for the entrenchment in the Constitution of a Bill of Rights (known in Canada as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms)


Without going into the detail of the story (though it does make for interesting reading), the bottom line was that in political terms, Mr Trudeau succeeded in his goal through the sheer force of will. Initially, he was opposed by a number of provinces, but he managed to win them over. If they did not agree, he said, he would go to London unilaterally (as by virtue of the Statute of Westminster 1931 he could do). In the end, the province of Quebec was the sole holdout. Trudeau's chosen solution in the circumstances was to reach a deal with the other nine provinces and simply to ignore Quebec's opposition.


Now one might have different views about the nature of the relationship between the French and English speaking populations in Canada, but the fact that Canada’s sole francophone province did not participate in the patriation process was of tremendous symbolic importance. While the fact is that one doubts that the Quebec government would have agreed to anything which was acceptable to the rest of Canada, it is no exaggeration to say that most adult Quebeckers - even Quebeckers who had no sympathy for the separatist cause - felt betrayed by the actions of the federal government.


It is that feeling of betrayal that has been responsible for the repeated failed attempts since patriation in 1982 to bring Quebec back into the constitutional fold. The first attempt began shortly after the election of a Conservative government in 1984. Brian Mulroney, the new Prime Minister, immediately began to seek amendments to the Constitution which would be acceptable to Quebec. This set of constitutional proposals came to be known as the ‘Meech Lake Accord’, after the location of the Prime Minister’s summer residence, where the proposed terms had been agreed upon. The Accord would have given Quebec special rights in the constitution which no other province had. These included a formalised role in the regulation of immigration, a constitutionally entrenched role in appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada, and a right of veto over future constitutional amendments. The Accord also included a formal, but undefined, statement that Quebec constituted a ‘distinct society’ within Canada. While the Accord had been agreed to by each of the provincial premiers, in order for it to come into force, it had to be ratified by resolutions of each provincial legislature by 23 June 1990.


The inclusion of a ‘distinct society clause’, in particular, rankled many Canadians, and in the end, the Meech Lake Accord failed. Two provincial legislatures failed to ratify it in time. In Newfoundland, the Premier did not want to put it to a vote in the Legislative Assembly, because he knew that it would be resoundingly defeated, and he did not want a formal political message of rejection to be sent to Quebec. In the western province of Manitoba, the sole Aboriginal member of the Provincial legislature, in a protest over what many considered to be the short-shrift given to Aboriginal concerns in the Meech Lake Accord, successfully used stalling tactics (which were entirely lawful) to delay the vote until after the deadline had expired.

As one might expect, this led to bitter resentment in Quebec. So the provincial government – which at the time was pro-Canadian in orientation – issued a set of ‘minimum demands’, which of course included the ‘distinct society’ clause. But by then, other groups – Aboriginal peoples, women, other cultural societies – began to say that if the constitution were to be amended to address the concerns of Quebec, then the opportunity should be taken to right other perceived constitutional wrongs. So this time, the federal government was forced to put together a very complex package which tried to reconcile all of these competing goals.


Not surprisingly, in trying to come up with a package which could please everyone, the government ended up in pleasing no one. Many French-speaking Canadians were unhappy because they felt that their historical status as one of the two founding peoples of Canada was being forgotten. Most native groups were unhappy because they felt that their long-standing grievances were not being given sufficient consideration. And some women’s groups were unhappy because they felt that the argument was over a document prepared by a bunch of dead white males.

Nevertheless, in the end, the Government managed to cobble together a deal - this time called the ‘Charlottetown Accord’. But what made the Charlottetown proposals different from the Meech Lake Accord was that they provided that the Accord be put to a referendum. This was somewhat unique, for unlike in Australia, referenda are not part of the Canadian political or constitutional tradition.


In the campaign leading up to the referendum, which was held in 1993, Canadians were subjected to a media blitz. Voting ‘Yes’, they were told, was the only way to save the country. Moreover, most of what P. P. McGuiness would call the ‘chattering classes’ were urging a ‘Yes’ vote. The leaders of all three of the (then) major political parties, a number of university academics, retired members of the judiciary - all were telling Canadians that even if they did not like the deal, they had to vote ‘Yes’ in order to keep Canada together. Yet, despite this extreme pressure (in which historians may later see as one of the defining chapters in Canadian populist democracy), the Canadian people said ‘No’.


They said ‘No’ to a deal that had been arranged by people who did not really have a sense for what ordinary Canadians - the Canadian ‘battlers’, so to speak - felt and believed. They said ‘No’ to having a deal forced upon them by the social elites, and being told that they then only had one way in which to exercise their franchise. And they said ‘No’ in a huge majority. But as fine a thing as this assertion of what North Americans call ‘grass-roots’ democracy may have been in principled terms, Quebec’s feeling of bitterness and betrayal thereafter became even more profound. So a separatist government was elected in Quebec and, as most will remember, the provincial government in 1995 held a referendum on separation which only lost by about one per cent - less than fifty thousand votes!


Australia, the Republic and the Perils of Constitutionalism


So what does this say about Canada today? And, more importantly, what lessons does the Canadian story hold for the Australian constitutional debate?


To be blunt, in social terms, the Canada of today is in many ways not a pretty sight. Many will remember the 1993 federal election when the Canadian Conservative party was virtually wiped out. It was reduced from two hundred and fifty-odd seats in the Parliament to just two. In truth, however, the real story is not in the garish headline that accompanied the Conservatives’ fall in fortunes, but rather in the social aftermath that the electoral pattern reflected. Simply put, Canada is today in a Balkanised state. Region has been pitted against region, and group against group.

Transposing the Canadian experience to this continent, it becomes evident that the root problem with the republican case is that notwithstanding its appeal to reason, logic and modernity, it does not take account of the real difficulties associated with constitutional reform in this country. From the beginning, in suggesting that the road to a republic could be a simple one, the Australian Republican Movement has been neglecting to consider the obvious lessons of history - the chief of which is that the Australian Constitution is one very difficult to alter. Other people have described in much more thorough terms than could I the various manifestations of this, but for good or bad, the framers of the Australian Constitution decided upon a formula for amendment which provides the maximum opportunity for constitutional debate to be overtaken by other issues.


The critical thing that the republican cause has chosen to overlook in this respect is the Australian political dynamic. It is true – as some republicans have retorted to my arguments in the past – that Australia has no direct equivalent of Quebec. But this notwithstanding, politics in this country lends itself to sharp partisanship, and consequently to deadlock. The nature of party discipline in Australia is probably one of the main contributing factors in this regard, along with the nature of elections to the Senate which permits small parties to assume a prominence far beyond their raw electoral numbers. But whichever the cause, the fact is that Australian record with non-partisanship in matters of public controversy has not been a good one. The attempt by Billy Snedden to ‘impartialise’ the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives is perhaps the most colourful and relevant example of this in recent memory, but plenty of other examples can be found.


The lesson that the Canadian experience with constitutional dynamics holds is surely this: that constitutionalism is like a Genie; once let out of the bottle, it can never be put back again. In Canada, the past twenty years have represented a level of infatuation with the terms of the Constitution that is still alien in this country. Probably the closest we have come to a similar episode was during the referendum over the banning of the Communist Party in 1951 (which, many now forget, was in fact carried in three of the six states). But there are now many here, who, like the Canadians, believe that reform of the Constitution is the key to national rejuvenation - that unless all of the ills facing society are specifically addressed in the Constitution, nothing constructive can be done about them.


Constitutionalism is a form of ‘feelgood-ism’. If we accept that the Constitution, including its preamble, ought to represent an affirmation of our national values - of what it means to be Australian - then it follows naturally that the Constitution should contain reference to the things we hold dear. It makes us feel good about ourselves to talk about making the Constitution ‘more relevant’ or ‘more inclusive’. Per se, there is nothing wrong with this. But the problem is that people who view the relationship between the Constitution and the national sprit this way have the equation backwards. As American legal scholar Alpheus Thomas Mason once put it, ‘a nation may make a Constitution, but a Constitution cannot make a nation.’


Moreover, in today’s multi-cultural, post-modernist society, it is virtually impossible to reach any real consensus about a statement of national values, except if the statement is at such a level of generality as to be meaningless. As the Canadian experience makes clear, the inevitable end-result of trying to please everyone through constitutional inclusion is that no one is pleased. The natural consequence of constitutional bloatedness is an environment of antagonism; of competing feelings of entitlement between different groups within society that can only be destructive of social cohesiveness. To put it in language that I used earlier, by expanding the terms of the capital ‘C’ Constitution, we are inexorably moving towards an upset of the more critical small ‘c’ constitutional dynamic.


Now, republicans - particularly members of the Australian Republican Movement - argue that the sort of constitutional alterations being mooted are of the minimalist kind, and that it is unfair to compare their version of the republican project with the Canadian experience. To a point, this is a fair criticism. But as we saw during last year’s constitutional convention, the fact is that here, the debate about ‘minimalist’ change is rapidly becoming moot. The capitulation of the ARM group at the Convention to the forces of short-term populism, and even then, their failure to secure a majority in favour of the adopted republican model, speaks of a constitutional petulance that is far beyond the power of a Malcolm Turnbull or a Neville Wran to control. To use sporting expression, the ‘real’ republicans, as they call themselves, have been punching far above their weight throughout the debate over reform - something which they could not do had they not been riding a genuine crest of public support.


The point - a point which the ARM and other ‘minimalist’ republicans have completely overlooked - is that it is impossible in this day and age to consider constitutional amendment in isolation. People in favour of change may suggest that it can be done quickly - and cleanly. Well, the simple fact is that it cannot. The experience of Canada, whose unhappiness should serve as our natural constitutional laboratory, must surely teach is that once a Constitution is opened up, especially in a rights conscious society, as ours is rapidly becoming, it becomes a Pandora’s box. Canada provides a wonderful example of how an attempt to remove a widely acknowledged ‘anachronism’ from the Constitution (in Canada’s case, the requirement that all constitutional amendments receive the approval of the British Parliament) can lead to constitutional meltdown. In Canada, this occurred because the main question became swamped by other issues. The move to bring the Canadian Constitution up-to-date became overwhelmed by issues of linguistic rights, the position of native peoples, and the powers of the provinces. During the various moves for reform, Canadian political leaders struggled desperately to keep the debate focussed, but each time, other issues came to the fore.


The Misguidedness of the ‘Patrician’ Republican Project


All of this must seem highly troubling to ‘Patrician’ republicans like Malcolm Turnbull, Neville Wran and the rest of the leadership in the Australian Republican Movement. It must seem positively frightening to members of the oxymoronically named ‘Conservatives For a Republic’. What had seemed just months ago like a simple exercise in inevitability has indeed now taken on Pandora-like features. But the simple fact is that the Patricians could never have succeeded at their mission. For the Patrician approach to the republic depended upon them being able to control not only the outcome of votes, but also the agenda for debate. This is an important observation: the Patrician project for Australian republicanism was predicated from the outset on limiting the ability of ordinary Australians to participate fully in the debate about change. People will remember that for a long time, the position taken by the Patricians was that a constitutional convention was unwise. Instead, they argued, there ought to have been a plebiscite on the question of whether Australia should become a republic, but the matter of what sort of a republic was one which ought to have been determined by experts. The reason for this was clear: the Patricians needed the seal of public approval to justify a move to a republic, but they did not have faith in the public to have a say in the actual form of change.


In the Harvard Business School, the Patrician approach to republicanism would be described as an example of ‘managed change’. As an organisational principle, the concept is a sound one. Managed change involves a gradual process of controlled transformation, in which the opportunity for alarmism among people who might stand to lose from the change is minimised. Most successful instances of alteration of corporate culture represent examples of managed change.


Had the Patricians had their way, the move to an Australian republic would have been an exercise in managed change, akin to a change in corporate culture. There would have been no convention. The people would have been given two opportunities to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the question of republicanism: the first would have been in an in-principle plebiscite, following which they would have been presented with a republican model on which they could cast a second vote in the formal referendum. But the key word in the definition of managed change is ‘control’. Once the decision was taken to hold the convention, and to have half of its delegates be popularly elected, the Patrician approach was doomed to fail. It is curious: in the lead-up to the convention, some Patricians were critical of the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint half of the delegates. But the fact was that the Patricians had the most to lose from popular election.


During the convention’s proceedings, one saw several attempts by the Patricians to exert a form of control. But, given the make-up of the delegates, much of this came across as clumsy and heavy-handed. On the second day, for example, the ARM group attempted to remove from the agenda for further debate the proposals of the ‘real’ republicans for a direct election. It was only through the intervention of Bill Hayden that this move failed (and for his troubles, Hayden was to suffer a series of attacks on his personal integrity in the days to come). Likewise, there were some reports of ARM members of the Convention’s Resolutions Committee trying to bully other members of the Committee to get ARM motions placed on the agenda in favour of other ones.


In behaving like this, and in adopting a strategy towards republicanism that, in effect, denied one of republicanism’s chief tenets - that of real sovereignty residing in the people - the Patricians showed that they simply do not understand the dynamics of modern political change. In a modern democracy, ‘managed change’ is a nonsense. For one thing, the level of authoritarian control required for its implementation cannot exist in the information age. Managed change might be able to take place in places like Singapore or Malaysia, or the Peoples’ Republic of China. But it cannot take place in Australia, Canada, or in any of the other dynamic western democracies with which we normally compare ourselves.


In the particular context of the Australian version of democracy, moreover, managed change is a complete non-sequitur. By definition, in a constitutional system which contemplates the popular referendum as the trigger for modification, the premise which underlies the notion of ‘managed change’ cannot easily fit. Within the party room (and consequently, within the House of Representatives), where the Whip’s power remains paramount, it may still operate. But in a system not bound by the confines of the party room - like today’s Australian Senate, for instance - the process of change cannot be managed. Arguably, one of the great features of Australian political development of late has been the shift in the composition of the Senate so as to allow ‘other voices’ to be heard. But the price of the widening of what one might call the rhetorical franchise has been an extreme difficulty in achieving consensus on sensitive issues. That is why, for instance, the matter of Native Title has served to bedevil both the Coalition and Labor governments.


The point is that in our context, managed change is a doctrine of the corporate boardroom. In order to succeed, it requires a level of control over both the apparatus of authority and the mechanism of debate that cannot exist in the Australian state today. A corporation represents a closed system, in which dissident voices can be silenced either by sacking or by buy-out. The Australian polity in 1999 is, in contrast, almost completely open. And in today’s climate of moral relativism and increasing rights-consciousness, it more difficult than ever to silence dissentient voices.


Now, the extraordinary thing about all of this is that the Patricians were pursuing their strategy of ‘managed change’ when all around them were signs that it was destined to fail. The antithesis of the sort of republicanism favoured by the Patricians is populism. Yet all of the suggestions are that, like Canada, Australia is increasingly becoming a society motivated by, and responsive to, waves of populism. This is at once a paradox and a tragedy. More than anyone, it was the ARM Patricians who ignited the flame of populist republicanism in this country. Through their steady and constant barrage of criticism of the present Australian Constitution over the past several years, they sought deliberately to undermine public confidence in our system of government. They planned to create a momentum in favour of change, on which they could coast to victory in a referendum on minimalistic constitutional change. But instead, as we all saw during the constitutional convention, the Patricians lost control of the republican agenda. As a result of their political miscalculations, the Patrician project for a managed alteration of our Constitution has been overtaken, just as the Trudeau project for a managed alteration of the Canadian constitution was overtaken. The extraordinary thing is that this has taken anyone by surprise. Tibi seris, tibi metis: One sows to oneself, one reaps to oneself.

 
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