ACM celebrated the fifth anniversary of the referendum with the traditional Neville Bonner Oration, which was given by Sir David Smith. The title of this year’s oration is THE GOVERNOR GENERAL IS AUSTRALIAS HEAD OF STATE.
It is the irrefutable answer to one of the two principal arguments advanced by republicans – that we must change our constitution so that we may have an Australian Head of State. The other republican argument, that we must become a republic in order to be independent is so obviously wrong that it must be embarrassing for republicans to hear it repeated.
Sir David put a detailed submission on this to the recent Senate inquiry into our becoming a republic. This was conducted by a committee stacked with republicans, one member actually asking a republican academic to respond to Sir David. This was done in a one page response, in which we learn that the term Head of State is not mentioned in the Constitution, that it is a political term without any constitutional significance and it means what the user wants it to mean! Why then,one may ask, do republicans raise it? Is it because they have no other reason for changet?
As you will recall, the report of the Senate Committee was released when it would least be noticed-perhaps they did not want the voters to notice just how out of touch those republican politicians are with the electorate.
A more detailed response to Sir David appears in the September 2004 issue of Quadrant, and is on their website, www.quadrant.org.au.
This is by the distinguished professor of constitutional law, Professor George Winterton. In it, Professor Winterton argues that the debate is an arid an increasingly irrelevant battle over nomenclature!.
Sir David has now replied to this-that is published in the November issue, as is incidentally, a letter of mine. In it I refer to my comments on this in the book I wrote for the referendum campaign, The Cane Toad Republic. I pointed out there that the term came from international law and diplomacy as a replacement to the increasingly inappropriate word, Prince. The first states to use it in their constitutional law seem to have been the fascist states!
In any event, Sir David’s paper was very well received. Edited by Diana Melleuish, and with a foreword by John Stone, it is available from ACM, price $10.