AT LAST SERIOUS CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATE
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Friday, 19 March 2004
It is good to hear and read serious discussion on constitutional issues. The Samuel Griffith Conference last weekend in Perth was one such occasion. (The Society is named after Australia's great Founding Father and first Chief Justice, and was recently identified by The Sydney Morning Herald as one of the nation's leading conservative think tanks.) Among the sessions was one on the role of the Crown, which elicited two papers. These were by Associate Professor Greg Melleuish, on federalism, and another by our most prolific colleague, Sir David Smith, on the role of the State Governors. This is a subject which has been somewhat eclipsed by interest in the office Governor General (The latter is the subject of an article in this month's Quadrant by Professor George Winterton, a leading republican academician). The conference, the sixteenth, touched on a number of issues, including the role of the judges, the proposal to change the deadlock provisions and a fascinating one entitled "Error Nullius". (This remarkable paper challenges not only the views but also the findings of some of Australia's prominent historians and, incidentally judges. Of course, ACM takes no position on this or other issues- apart of course from advancing its mission which includes promoting the Constitution through education) The society's website is well worth a visit, and it is pleasing to note the high number of hits it enjoys. You can read the Perth programme at http://www.samuelgriffith.org.au/pages/Confl6/confl6proganune.htm

 

As usual, the papers given at the conference will be published in a handsome volume and also on the site; in the meantime, the site offers access to papers on various aspects of the Constitution by a number of distinguished speakers over the years. As we discussed the various papers, I could not help but compare the superb way our constitutional system works and has long worked with the extraordinary disorder in the Korean legislature when it decided by a two thirds vote to impeach the president.