April 21

Crikey: Against dismantling our constitutional system

[On 21 Apriel, 2008 the nation's leading online political newsletter, Crikey, published a slightly edited version of the following comment by David Flint.]

So Maxine McKew couldn’t find anyone opposed to a republic. Didn’t she know it was a condition of appointment to the governance panel that you be a republican?

And did Julia Gillard really have to claim most Australians want a republic? Surely she knows the last Newspoll shows support is down to 45% — hardly a majority. Support among the young has fallen even more.

But not only was the governance panel rigged, they are obviously in need of some elementary legal advice. The panel is in danger of becoming a national and international laughing stock.

The first stage of two is to “end ties with the UK.” Didn’t anyone on the panel know this happened 18 years ago? The Queen was personally involved in finding the solution.

What the summiteers actually want in a first referendum is to remove what the High Court stresses is the Australian and not the British Crown. But this will vastly increase the powers of the governor–general and the governors.

The only sanction on their not following convention that surrounds the Crown is the power of removal by the Sovereign. That is to go.

So a governor-general could dismiss the government for no reason, refuse to sign bills, appoint judges and refuse to accept cabinet decisions. But we’ll have to stick with him. You see, under the Summit proposal, nobody can appoint a new one.

…republicans have had a decade to work out what they want – they haven't…

During these five years, the republicans are supposed to do something they haven’t been able to do for the last decade — work out what sort of republic they want. But then they'll have to do what they couldn't in 1999 — get us to approve it nationally and in four states.

If the republicans can’t agree, or if the people don’t like what they offer, we’ll be in a constitutional no man’s land. Governments and parliaments will eventually be unable to function.

Of course, it's just not going to happen.

Even if the government in the cold light of day decides to put this irresponsible half-baked proposal with say, the 2010 election, it will go down. Even committed republicans will vote aginst it.

The Australian people are far too smart to fall for this one. It’s hard to believe the panel was serious.

They will now back peddle and say they only want a plebiscite in Stage 1.

Their lawyers will no doubt break the sad news that a plebiscite cannot end ties with anyone.

 


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