December 10

Another myth: “It was the model”

John Dwyer QC of Richmond, Victoria writes to the Australian Literary Review ( December 2009) arguing that the 1999 republican model was the wrong one.  He wrongly blames the politicians for the model.

The Queen's Counsel says: 

“Nick Bryant’s cover story on the republic in the November ALR (Republic awaits Eureka movement) fails to recognise the key point on which the referendum was rejected a decade ago.   (See the comment on the review published here: “No vision in the "Failed Republic" )  As was well known at the time, the majority of the Australian people wanted a republic with an elected head of state.  The politicians would not permit this because they perceived it would lessen their own power.  The republican case was doomed by its failure to offer the people the republican model they wanted.  This explains the 'seeming paradox' to which Bryant refers.  Were the people of Australia to be offered a republic with an elected head of state, I believe they would support it.  But this is unlikely to happen because the self-interest of the politicians will not allow it.”



… the people don't want an elected head of state…

Mr Dwyer blames the politicians for the model which went to the 1999 referendum. 

But the politicians did not choose the model. It was chosen by the majority of elected delegates to the constitutional convention. It is strange that if the majority of the Australian people wanted a republic with an elected head of state, that they elected delegates who did not.

If you add the monarchists most elected delegates were against direct election, the monarchists being against any politicians’ republic.

Mr. Dwyer must not be aware of the latest Morgan Poll, which actually put the model he likes to respondents, reported here in “Collapse! Young Australians kill off republic” . Support was at only 45% and among the young 23%. Support for any politicians' republic is collapsing. 

…also, don’t forget the constitution – the people haven’t…

 And  Robert Murray of Hampton, Victoria, reminds readers that the constitutional issues are central to this debate. He said :“Bryant seems to assume that the republic debate is all about the attitudes to the monarchy.  However, the idea that the big question is whether Australia is sufficiently emotionally mature and independent to cut the apron strings with the Queen is at best one-third of the truth.  There are significant constitutional issues involved.”

“ The biggest is how a directly elected presidency – now the republicans’ preferred model because of its relative public popularity – would work.  It would be a purely symbolic and probably worthless office without the reserve powers the present Constitution gives the governor-general, including the power to dismiss unworkable or seriously misbehaving governments.  A president with these powers, directly elected for a fixed term could compete with and perhaps seek to dominate the prime minister.”

“ President-PM relationships in republics have not always been happy.  Republican enthusiasts should back off from lecturing the recalcitrant public about emotional immaturity and instead do some hard thinking about how it is all going to work.”   



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