At last a republican model - but why the French Fifth Republic?
Written by ACM   
Monday, 07 May 2012

It was said of the Bourbon dynasty that they had learned nothing - and they had forgotten nothing. 

Unfortunately you could say the same of Australia's Republicans.

As they did in the nineties, they are again  calling on Australians to give up our constitution and adopt the inherently unstable French Fifth republic

It is clear that they just do not understand what they are proposing. 

To hear Professor David Flint comment, click here. ( When the window opens click on the arrow.)

[ King Louis XIV ]

It's appropriate to recall this with the election of François Hollande as President of France.

This election   is very important for Australia.

Not just because the European Union is such an important remains  trading and investment partner.

It's because once again the Republican movement is once again proposing that we change our constitution to follow France's.

In about the same time as Australia evolved into our federal Commonwealth under the crown, France has had 18 constitutions that tried 18 constitutions – five since we adopted our only one.

There have been five republics, three constitutional monarchies, two empires, various dictatorships, one of which was a fascist pro-Nazi regime. 

The present French Fifth Republic was tailor-made for General de Gaulle. It is  inherently unstable because it tries unsuccessfully to mix the British Westminster system with an American executive presidency.  It nearly collapsed in 2002 when there were calls for the creation of a sixth Republic.  Every so often it throws up a peculiar situation called “cohabitation” where the president comes from one party and the prime minister from the opposition. This is much the same as having two drivers for one car.  France may well be heading towards that when the  next Parliamentary elections are held.

What has all this to do with our constitution?  It's that the first model which the republican movement proposed in the nineties, Keating-Turnbull Mark 1, would have resulted in Australia becoming an antipodean version of the  French Fifth Republic.

 The republicans’ mistake was to make it almost impossible to remove the president, and giving him the vast powers of the governor - general which would not be exercised in accordance with Royal conventions, he would become a powerful executive president grafted onto our Westminster system. However he was elected, he would have  a mandate bigger than the prime minister’s.

The Republican movement only conceded their error  after the late Justice Richard Mc Garvie, a former governor of Victoria, agreed with us.  So at the Convention the Republicans produced  another model.  Unfortunately for them, this was equally disastrous but for other reasons. 

(Keating-Turnbull Mark 2, rejected in the 1999 referendum landslide, was unique. It was the only republic in history in which would have been easier for the Prime Minister to sack the president than his driver.  The president could be sacked without notice, without reason and without appeal which would have turned him into a poodle of the prime minister vastly increasing the prime minister's powers completely unbalancing Westminster system.)

Well, believe it or not, the republican movement has now gone back to having a French style presidency in Australia.  Once again the president is to have the same powers as the governor-general general without being subject to the royal conventions, and, he is going to be extremely difficult to remove.

After 13 years the Republicans at last have a model, a partial model because they haven't said how the president is to be elected.  But he'll be a French style president.  Welcome to the Australian Republican movement's new model, Keating Turnbull Mark 1.5

Like the Bourbons  the  Republican movement  has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.