What we need in the United States is ...a Governor-General
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 09 April 2011

ImageThis is part of ACM's series, "Constitutional Monarchies and Republics Compared." 

Visitors may access this through this icon in the right hand column of the front page of the site.

Athough a young country, Australia is one of the seven oldest continuing democracies in the world.

Of these five are constitutional monarchies, four of which have Queen Elizabeth II as their sovereign.

This is testimony to the fact that constitutional monarchy under the Westminster system is the only constitutional model which has been imported by other countries and which has operated successfully for any extended period of time.
 
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This in itself should cause Australian republicans to at least attempt to devise and reveal a constitutional model which they honestly believe will be as successful.

But since the Australian people clearly rejected what the republicans believed was their best model in 1999, they have refused for over a decade to indicate what they want.

Instead they want the taxpayer once again to do what they are clearly unable to do: work out what they want



...a new constitution...



 Long ago the Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney, the late Professor PH Lane - one of Australia's greatest constitutional lawyers -argued that it would be an error for republicans to try to graft a republic on to what is essentially a monarchical constitution.

Instead, they should develop a new Constitution.

Assuming the republican movement were willing to do this, and abandon their demand that the taxpayers fund this, what model could they choose?

Instead the republican movement through its media director and his associates spends a vast amount of time telling ACM that they should remove me and our executive director from our roles.

ACM is not at all concerned with who is running the republican movement. We never have. But along with other taxpayers we are concerned that the vast sums paid by Australian taxpayers to fund their search for an elusive constitutional model stop now.



...oldest republics....




The first clue to the republican movement is surely the blindingly evident fact that the two oldest continuing democracies are Switzerland and the United States, especially if you ignore their civil wars and the existence of slavery for so long in the United States.



...Switzerland...

 

 The Swiss Constitution is so idiosyncratic it could not possibly be copied in other countries. But aspects of the Swiss system can be.

Indeed, our founding fathers took the referendum from Switzerland but ensured that only federal politicians and not the people could initiate it.

Even in this form it has rightly ensured that only those constitutional changes the people of Australia have judged “desirable irresistible and inevitable” have been adopted.


...United States...

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[ The President and Mrs. Kennedy ]



Now the American Constitution has its attractions. While it is very much a politicians’ republic, it is at least one one with effective checks and balances, unlike the two highly flawed models proposed by the republican movement at the 1998 Constitutional Convention.
 

It is stable but it suffers from rigidities not present in the Westminster system.


...impeachment paralyses the government and congress..

 

The President is extremely difficult to remove and doesn't go when he assured. The case concerning President Nixon is the best-known example. 

Think of how quickly a Prime Minister or Premier can go under our system.


...President not responsible....


 

(Continued below)



 

As I wrote in one of the ACM’s  referendum campaign books, The Cane Toad Republic, the action taken  after President  Kennedy's failed invasion of Cuba – the Bay of Pigs fiasco - is another less well known example  of this flaw in the American system.

The President succinctly explained this to the deputy director of the CIA:

“ If this were the British government, I would resign and you, being a civil servant would remain…

“But it isn't. In our government, you…have to go and I have to remain.”



...supply dries up, government closes down...



Another example is the denial of supply which at the time of writing may well be about to happen in the United States.  Whethter or not it happens this time , it has happened before and will no doubt happen again.

In Australia a denial of supply is a political crisis, not a constitutional crisis. The constitution provides the answer – refer the issue to the final judge, the people as in 1975.

The same is true in relation to illegal acts by the head of government as in the Watergate affair. It is in the reserve powers of the Crown.  

During another denial of supply years ago an American woman who found her embassy closed and the government unable to service the needs.

She famously declared to the Australian media there:

“What we need in the United States is ...a Governor-General.”

Indeed.