April 22

Disgraceful, meaningless and irresponsible

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is pressing the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to do something which would ensure he would receive  the disdain of the Australian people.

 He wants a referendum, he says, meaning a plebiscite, which would trigger a politicians' republic at the end of The Queen’s reign.

"And I hope the Prime Minister has the good sense to adopt the proposal I've put to him," Mr. Hawke modestly revealed to AAP.

"And that is that rather than making such a proposal a divisive issue within the community, you make it a uniting issue by putting the proposal in these terms: `Are you in favour of Australia becoming a republic if it comes into effect at the end of the reign of the present monarch?"

…95% support. Really?…

'"I believe if you did it that way, you'd get a 95 per cent vote and that would be a bloody good thing."

Mr. Hawke has seriously misjudged the Australian people – just  as he did in 1999 when he campaigned for the flawed politicians’ republic then on offer.

An Australian  Prime Minister who put the plebiscite Mr. Hawke now proposes would be condemned by the people and by history, and deservedly so. 

…disgraceful, meaningless and irresponsible…

Frankly, this is a disgraceful proposal. Apart from the inappropriateness of basing some vague  but major constitutional change on the demise of our highly respected and greatly loved Sovereign, the question is meaningless.

Presumably Mr. Hawke is talking about some sort of politicians’ republic.  He probably does not mean to include what many including former Prime Minister John Howard, Justice Michael Kirby, Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott and Justice Ken Handley say is already a republic – a  crowned republic.

But his question could arguably include that.

Even if the form of republic were specified, the plebiscite would still be grossly irresponsible.

As we have said plebiscites were first proposed, they deliberately invite a vote of no confidence in one of the world’s most successful constitutions. This will ensures no change, agreement on which is unlikely to be attained subsequently .

In fact if such a plebiscite were passed, all it would achieve would be years of constitutional instability.

The constitution prescribes one method to amend it and one method only. Many politicians dislike it, because they have to put all the details on the table before we vote.

In summary this proposal is not only disgraceful and meaningless, it is irresponsible, and grossly so. 




Under “Lucky he boobed up” The Sydney Morning Herald’s column “The Diary” reports (23/4):Wednesday night's debate between Bob Hawke and John Howard – their first since Hawke as PM refused to debate Howard during the 1987 election campaign – nearly didn't happen. It has emerged that Hawke was second choice to offer his pearls of wisdom to the Oxford Business Alumni Forum on the future of the global economy.

 Hawke was hurriedly recruited after the first choice – the business heavyweight Helen Alexander, president of the Confederation of British Industry – was stuck in Europe following the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The debate failed to produce any friction between the former prime ministers, but it sent the monarchist movement into a rage.

Both men were asked how they hoped Australia would look by 2050, to which Hawke replied that he hoped Australia would be a republic.

Hawke said voters should be asked if they are in favour of a republic after the Queen's reign ''ends''. The proposal was all too much for the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, which has posted a scathing response on its website damning Hawke's comments as ''disgraceful, meaningless and irresponsible''.





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