March 19

Euro crisis

We should be very careful when politicians supported by the media suggest radical changes to tried and tested  fundamental structures.   

According to the BBC World Service (17/3), the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told the Bundestag that existing EU rules were not strong enough to deal with the current crisis triggered by the debt incurred over thirty years by successive governments of the Greek republic, described as a “serial defaulter” by Harvard Professor Kenneth Rogoff, formerly chief economist at the IMF. Greece's budget deficit – four times higher than EU rules allow – has raised fears of possible contagion in the Eurozone. 


The euro was established by the provisions in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. In order to participate in the currency, Member States must  meet strict criteria including a budget deficit of less than three per cent of their GDP, a debt ratio of less than sixty per cent of GDP, low inflation, and interest rates close to the EU average.

It was surely obvious – or it ought to have been obvious to the German proponents of the Euro  – that the power to expel was necessary to enforce compliance with the criteria . After all, they were about to substitute a new untested currency for one of the world’s soundest, the deutschmark. It is hard to conclude other than that they were either negligent or incompetent.

…they all knew the 1999 model was flawed….or they ought to have known… 

So in 1999, every proponent of the politicians’ republic knew – or ought to have known –  that it vastly extended the powers of the prime minister by turning the president into his poodle. This was indeed central to the model. That is why ACM proposed that a reference to this be included in the question which every voter would have to consider. 

Our proposal was rejected, a matter which I raised in the interview with Mr. Howard on the tenth anniversary of the referendum.

The government also rejected the proposal by the republican movement to remove the words “president” and “republic” from the question. So much for the republican media myth that John Howard “fixed” the question.

The result of this outrageous provision was that this would have been the only republic in the world where it would be easier for the prime minister to sack the president than his cook. He could do this without any notice, without any published reasons and without any appeal.  Leading republican Professor George Williams  conceded in 2008 that this was indeed a “flawed mechanism”. But most of the mainstream media and most politicians campaigned vigorously for this model, many pouring scorn and derision on their opponents.

I remember that during the campaign in 1999, I drew the attention of a meeting in Sydney to these provisions. A lawyer refused to believe that this could possibly be so. A friend told me that when he questioned senior lawyers, including some judges about this – all of whom saying they intended to vote yes – they too were unaware of this.

As Alan Jones said, if you don’t know, vote No.   The lesson surely is to be very wary of the politicians and other elites.



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