February 2

As economy slows, government goes cold on plebiscite

There was no announcement by the Prime Minister about constitutional change at the Australia Day celebrations, notwithstanding the strong calls by the republican movement for immediate action.

As economic conditions worsen it will be more difficult for the government to justify the time and money involved in yet another campaign to remove a core institution from the constitution.

A unnamed federal minister told Dr. Philip Dorling of the Canberra Times, who is also a research fellow at the Australian National University,  ''A republic will come one day.  'But we've got bigger fish to fry just now.'' 

There was no great enthusiasm within the Government for moving quickly on the issue of a republic, two ministers said.

One continued, according to a report in the Canberra Times on 27 January ''At some time in the future the Prime Minister will want to move on this, he may do so when he responds to the 2020 summit recommendations, but he'll probably want to appoint a committee first, so don't expect anything soon.'' 

 ''With the economic issues we've got on our plate, there isn't much of an argument for spending political capital on an issue that is potentially divisive and ultimately pretty marginal to the good of the nation; and why should we give Malcolm Turnbull an opportunity to play statesman?''
 

This would appear to indicate cabinet will reject the call from MP Dr. Mark Dreyfus for a plebiscite before the election.  

As we reported here on 2 January, Mr. Dreyfus who is ironically a Queen’s Counsel, is federal MP for the Victorian seat of Isaacs, named after our first Australian born Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs.

He is both chairman of the House of Representatives legal and constitutional affairs committee  and the key national Labor Party policy committee overseeing the development of the platform for this July's ALP national conference. 

Dr. Dorling reported the ARM chairman’s call for the government to move, and the ACM response. “Australians for Constitutional Monarchy national convenor Professor David Flint said he regretted people being divisive on the very day when Australians would wish to be united, “reported Dr. Dorling.

“Professor Flint also dismissed the idea of a plebiscite because he said it would not resolve the critical question of precisely what type of republic Australia would become, something that would still have to be put to a further vote at a federal constitutional referendum.

‘'Republicans fear they would lose another referendum, so to soften people up they want a plebiscite, a taxpayer funded opinion poll,’' Professor Flint wrote in an online article yesterday.  

 '' ‘The point is the first plebiscite calls for a vote of no confidence in one of the world's most successful constitutions without any indication of what is to follow and with every likelihood that a subsequent referendum will not pass. ''

"In other words, it is actually designed to achieve a period of constitutional instability. 'This is not only a divisive and expensive manoeuvre. It is difficult to think of a more irresponsible proposal.’ ''    

 


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