Summit: 2020 or 1984?
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 13 May 2008

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Now we have another reason for the choice of the 2020 Summit theme, Mao Tse-tung’s "Let a hundred flowers bloom...”

Not only did they conjure up  a  98:1 vote for some undefined republic, but the Summit’s preliminary report has  been changed in a way almost worthy of Minitrue, Big Brother’s  Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

The report originally said:  

“Stage 1:  Ending ties with the UK while retaining the Governor-General’s titles and powers for five years. Stage 2: Identifying new models after extensive and broad consultation.”

This opened the Summit to justified ridicule. So the report has been massaged to turn Stage 1 into yet another call for a plebiscite.

The republican movement want a plebiscite for two reasons: first, they don’t know what they want and second, they are afraid they would lose another referendum.


...ending ties with the UK...


The problem with the original report was the Summiteers were not talking about ending cricket ties, but constitutional and legal ties.

If there were such ties, it would have meant we are not really independent


But we have long been independent. While Lionel Murphy believed  this came in 1901, most experts opt for some time between 1926 and 1942.

I am inclined to the view that we were independent by 1926. The Balfour Declaration declared we were already autonomous and equal. This meant that whatever lingering links we retained with the UK, these could be ended whenever we wished.


In any event with independence, the Australian Crown divided from and became a constitutional entity separate from the British or Canadian, NZ and other Crowns.

As a consequence, in 1999 a One Nation senator, Heather Hill, lost her seat in the Senate because of her allegiance to The Queen of the United kingdom. That The Queen is also Queen of Australia was not relevant.  

Under section 44(1) any person “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power” is incapable of sitting as a senator of member of the House of Representatives.

There was one anomaly after we became independent. Until 1986 state governments - of all parties - so distrusted Canberra they left it to an increasingly reluctant British government to advise The Queen in state affairs.


This meant that while the Australian Crown operated at the federal level, the British Crown still functioned in the states.

In any event beyond doubt that we no longer have even any lingering constitutional or legal links with the UK.

...no constitutional links; only a personal union...


All we, Canada, Britain, New Zealand and other Realms have today is a personal union in which the one Sovereign wears several crowns.

For the benefit of Peter FizSimons, who warns of a “tedious lecture “ from me, ( Sun-Herald 11 May, 2008; see below) a personal union does not require any  supporting  constitutional or legal links between the countries concerned.

Since it’s not the age for duelling, I’m challenging Peter FitzSimons to a debate on republicanism.

Apart from Commonwealth Realms, the best known example in our history involved the Britain and then the UK with Hanover from 1714 to 1837.


...so why did the summiteers expose themselves to ridicule?...


So why did the summiteers decide on “(e)nding ties with the UK while retaining the Governor-General’s titles and powers for five years”?


One delegate, a former Hawke government minister now priest Fr. Michael Tate called for a “minimalist referendum that need not be concerned with methods of appointment; (Ms) Bryce would simply wake up the next morning as our autonomous head of state.” ( “Loyalty without royalty,” The Australian 17 April,2008)

This  is pure fantasy. Without machinery for vice regal appointment or removal in place, our governments would soon grind to a halt.

If a government were foolish enough to put such a referendum it would be doomed.

 In comparison the Reverend Professor’s Easter call ( “Clergyman’s republican Easter Message,” 23 March 2008) for Mr Rudd to hand over the powers of recommending the appointment of the governor-general to the speaker and senate  president  seems only moderately bizarre.

However it arose, the preliminary report exposed the Summit to justified ridicule.


...the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue, changes the record...


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[Senate House, University of London, which is said to have inspired George Orwell for the Ministry of Truth in 1984]




 

A vague unconvincing and secretive explanation has now appeared on the site. It raises more questions than it answers.

It says amendments were made on 30 April “more consistent with... Power Point Slides presented in the final session...”

It claims the decision to do this was made “immediately after the Summit.”

So why did it take ten days to change the record?

The preliminary report was only changed when it was realized the original decisions opened the Summit to justified ridicule.

 

On whose authority we do not know.

The decisions bear no resemblance whatsoever with what was released on 20 April 2008.

It now reads:

 

“Introduce an Australian republic via a two-stage process, with Stage 1 being a plebiscite on the principle that Australia becomes a republic and severs ties with the Crown and Stage 2 being a referendum on the model of a republic after extensive and broad consultation.”

 This demonstrates information and media manipulation par excellence, worthy indeed of 1984.
So would you trust them with the Constitution?


Postscript: Peter FitzSimons' column   in the Sun Herald 11 May, 2008:
 

The risk in having a go at Professor David Flint , convener for Australian Constitutional Fairytales, is there is just so much material that to do it you have to put another man on.

And so I really try to stop myself.

But what can you do?

On Wednesday, the Prof had a tirade in Crikey about some Morgan poll, which he interprets to mean that a republic won’t get up.
 

“These results,” he says” contrast glaringly with the 2020 Summit where the governance panel voted 98:1 with one abstention in favour of republican change. Actually they recommended ending links with the UK. This was curious for such a gathering. The last links went in 1986.”

As intellectually embarrassing as it is, as glaring an example of sophistry as you can imagine, the Prof and his minions maintain having the Queen in Buckingham Palace sitting atop our constitution is not “a link with the UK.”

Stand by for a tedious lecture.