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ACM Home arrow Latest News and Opinions arrow The tide is turning

The tide is turning Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 21 December 2004

The Speaker of the Tasmanian Parliament and ALP member for Lyons, the Honourable Michael Polley has called on Tasmania’s Federal Government members to stand up for Tasmania and ensure that Prince Charles does visit Tasmania next year. He said:

" Tasmania is the only Australian jurisdiction with a genuine claim on royalty, and it would be fantastic to see the Prince of Wales here visiting the home State of the Princess of Denmark. Indeed, as the future King, Prince Charles should be visiting all the States, not just a selected few. Tasmanians have been shocked by the revelation that the Prime Minister intervened to prevent Prince Charles from including Tasmania on his itinerary. It is up to our Tasmanian Liberal representatives in Canberra to fix this situation urgently, and to ensure that the Prince doesn’t miss out on visiting our beautiful State when he is in Australia next year."

 Mr Polley went on to point out that Tasmanians are strong supporters of the constitutional monarchy, as demonstrated in the 1999 referendum. He is to be commended for his strong support for the Crown, his respect for his Oath and his regard for the wishes of Tasmanians. He is a democrat. Congratulations, Mr Polley!

The federal government has denied that the Prime Minister intervened to prevent the prince from visiting Tasmania, but will consider the concerns of Tasmanians. 

 The tide is turning in all over Australia as support for a republic declines. As an Indian newspaper, the Midday Mumbai ( 22 December), observed, the concept of an Australian republic has all but vanished.

This has not stopped republicans from trying to build a case from some recent, and perfectly proper comments by the Governor-General, Major –General Jeffery, who properly repeated government policy.

An opinion piece on this, presenting the private views of a government adviser, appeared in The Australian on 22 December, 2004. So we sent this letter to The Australian:

"Sir,

In his rush to draw comfort for the failing republican cause, David Alexander (22/12) misses the subtlety of the interplay of constitutional and international law in the elusive term Head of State, and in doing so falls into error.

 No wonder that the eminent republican, Professor George Winterton, has dismissed this debate as arid. The High Court, the final authority on matters constitutional, has ruled that the Australian Crown is as separate and as Australian an institution as our Parliament.

Consequently as Queen of Australia, our Sovereign can hardly be foreign, just as the large numbers of our compatriots who are entitled to carry foreign passports are not foreign. Mr Alexander forgets the term Head of State is not formally used in any of our constitutional documents, including the federal Constitution. Rather it is a term which was developed for the purposes of international law and diplomacy to replace the increasingly inappropriate term, Prince.

Given the joy with which Australian republicans, from Paul Keating on, have embraced the term, it is ironical that it seems to have been introduced, for the first time, into the constitution of any country by the Spanish and French fascist governments as, surprise, surprise, an anti- republican term! I

t is clear that almost all of the powers which would be expected to be exercised internally by a Head of State are, under the Australian Constitution, vested in the Governor-General, a point demonstrated with great clarity in 1975 when it was pointed out The Queen could not review an exercise of the reserve powers by the Governor-General. Ours was in fact the first in the British Empire to do this.

And when the Governor-General represents Australia overseas, he is held out by our government, and he is received by others, as Head of State.

 This subtle interplay of international law and diplomacy, and our remarkably successful constitutional system, has led the Howard government to the conclusion that the Queen is the formal Head of State, and the Governor-General is the effective Head of State.

In this view the Howard government differs from the Keating government, which at least for a time, declared the Governor -General to be Head of State without any qualification. As Mr Alexander would appreciate, in these matters Governor-General acts on the advice of his ministers. It would be inappropriate for him to go against this.

One thing is clear- Australians are not chattering about who their Head of State is as they take the bus and train to work, nor are they lying awake at night wrestling with this issue of legal and diplomatic nomenclature.

Yours etc"

The Australian (23 December) commendably published several letters on this, as well as a superb opinion piece by Sir David Smith. 

And now, as the tide is turning, it is time to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and you families and friends from all of us at the ACM office.

 Until next time,

and next year,

 David Flint

 
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