April 1

ALP policy on republicanism

We thought it would be helpful, in the context of the discussion of the likely approach of a Beazley government to the republican issue, to set out the formal position of the ALP on a republic.

The ALP adopted a republican objective in 1991. A useful research paper prepared by the Library of the Australian Parliament , Background Paper 11 1997-98:The Recent Republic Debate-A Chronology: 1989-1998, contains this entry:

25 June 1991 A proposal prepared by the Federal Minister for Employment, Education and Training, John Dawkins, was put to the ALP National Conference:

“This conference calls upon the Government to embark upon a public education campaign, culminating in a referendum which would effect reform of the Australian Constitution and other political institutions to enable Australia to become an independent Republic on 1 January 2001.

The resolution, proposed by Senator Chris Schacht, was passed unanimously

My understanding is  this objective was adopted as part of a deal to obtain support for Bob Hawke remaining Prime Minister against the aspirations of Paul Keating. The other part of the deal was the disastrous print media inquiry, which unusually was a house only inquiry to ensure ALP control. The principal result was to see the triumphant appearance of Kerry Packer before the committee resulting in its being belittled before a national television audience. One key recommendation of the committee was so poorly thought out that it would have had the unintended result of reducing, rather than increasing public membership on the Press Council.

The motion was brought on in the last hours of the conference when many delegates had gone and, according to reports, was adopted without enthousiasm.

The current policy is contained in the “ALP National Platform and Constitution 2004”  adopted at the 43rd National Conference in Sydney 29 January – 31 January 2004.

The platform  contains  the following  provisions relevant to a republic. This enshrines the ARM policy of a cascading series of plebiscites culminating in a referendum. It should be noted that the platform proposes stripping the senate of its powers over supply, but that this is not a condition precedent to attaining a republic.A referendum on this would be unlikely to pass.  

13.The Constitution should:

reflect Australia’s status as an independent nation and as a federal parliamentary democracy;

use simple language and reflect actual practices and conventions of our system of government, including that the head of state should act on the advice of the government enjoying the confidence of the House of Representatives;

provide the most suitable framework for the economic, environmental, social and political development of Australia as a federation;

recognise an appropriate division of responsibilities between all levels of government to facilitate national planning and the effective delivery of public services;

protect the independence of the judiciary; and

ensure that our individual, collective and civic rights are guaranteed, with constitutional reform to entrench these rights. Labor recognises that these inalienable rights carry with them a responsibility to respect the individual and collective rights enjoyed by others, and the need to protect and promote institutions and practices fundamental to an equal, just, democratic and tolerant society.


14.Labor supports the inclusion of a new preamble to the Constitution which recognises Indigenous Australians and the core elements of Australia’s history and democracy and appropriately expresses the values, aspirations and ideals of the Australian people.

18. Labor supports constitutional reform to prevent the Senate rejecting, deferring or blocking appropriation bills.


The Republic And National Identity

A1 Labor believes that the monarchy no longer reflects either the fundamental democratic principles that underlie the Australian nation or its diversity. Labor believes that our head of state should be an Australian who embodies and represents the traditions, values and aspirations of all Australians.

A2 Labor recognises the difficulty of advancing constitutional reform if the Australian people are not fully involved in the process and unless bipartisan support is obtained.

A3 Labor is committed to consulting with the Australian people, other political parties, the States and the Territories as to the form that the Republic should take. Labor will promote community debate about the advantages and disadvantages of the various republican models. 

A4 Labor will conduct plebiscites to establish support for an Australian head of state and the preference for different forms of a Republic. When a preference has emerged Labor will initiate an appropriate referendum under section 128 of the Constitution.

A5 Labor believes that every Australian citizen should be eligible to be our head of state.

A6 Labor supports Australia’s continued membership of the Commonwealth of Nations.





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