July 4

Fewer Labor MPs, abolish States, declare republic: Defence Minister

We have long known that the republican agenda doesn’t stop with removing the Australian Crown.

It certainly extends to our Australian Flag.


It is only since the 1999 defeat that republicans have adopted the line that the Flag is a separate issue. And every so often, one of them breaks ranks and blurts out the truth, as The Age has.

Recently Hal Colebatch warned that a republic would seriously impact on the states (see this column “Warning : republic will give Canberra control over states,” 15 May 2008) 

Now one prominent republican has called for the abolition of the states.

He also wants fewer Labor MP’s.

He is the Member for Hunter and constitutionally, one of “The Queen’s Ministers of State for The Commonwealth.”

He is the Hon. Joel Fizgibbon, Minister for Defence. He was delivering the inaugural Sir Edmund Barton Lecture at the University of Newcastle.

It probably would be a good idea for the University of Newcastle to have its law school check the text of such lectures  before they are delivered.

Much of the theme of this lecture is based on a  misunderstanding of the US Constitution.  I deal with that below

But first I don’t think Sir Edmund’s knighthood is included in the title of this lecture series.

If it, isn’t it ought to be.

It was irritating not so long ago to read about “John Monash” in one of our serious newspapers. He was of course always known since he was knighted on the battlefield as Sir John Monash.

Can’t some quite elderly people get over the need to demonstrate their youthful radicalism?

…the hereditary principle…


But to return to Mr. Fitzgibbon. He succeeded to the seat when his father, Eric retired in 1996.

So the seat of Hunter is as it were a feudal barony, the hereditary principle becoming  of increasing importance in federal politics.

Perhaps this should be formalised. Lord Fitzgibbon, Marquis of Maitland, has a very nice ring about it, don't you think?

Mr ( or Lord) Fitzgibbon not only wants the states abolished, but he also wants a republic.

His sole reason is the state of his digestion  when he performs the onerous and burdensome function of attending State Dinners.

The cause of His Lordship's indigestion is  when the Loyal Toast is offered to the Sovereign.

This used to be a signal to the smokers to indulge. But for  His Lordship, it is a signal to blush, to  become… embarassed. 

Would it be more acceptable if the toast could be made to a politician, especially an  hereditary politician?

It seems there is no shortage of them.

…confusing the US with Canada?…

His Lordship  thinks that his not being embarrassed at State Dinners would make us truly independent, something the High Court has ruled occurred long ago.

He also thinks that it would have been open to the Founding Fathers to have secured a more centralised Australia.

Then he says that “unlike their American counterparts, [Sir Edmund] were content with their enumerated powers and to leave the balance of responsibilities to the states.”

But Article 1 of the US Constitution mirrors exactly our approach.

Mr. FitzGibbon, Lord fitzgibbon, is possibly confusing the United States with Canada.

But he wouldn’t like Canadian State Dinners. There, they raise their glasses to ….Her Majesty, The Queen of Canada.

Does that mean Canada is not independent?


Perhaps His Lordship thinks, as one former Senator and party leader famously did in the 1999 campaign, that Canada is a republic.

Now confusing the US with Canada is not the end of the world.

Except for a Minister of Defence.

So if the Minister for Defence gives the order to start bombing somewhere, let's hope he has checked his atlas.

And what else is on our republican hereditary peer’s agenda?

…fewer Labor MP’s…


It is proportional representation in the House of Representatives.

Now there is an alternative to the messiness of elections.

At one conference, after a long debate about how a restored upper house in Queensland would be chosen, I once asked “ Have you considered the hereditary principle?”

This was greeted with roars of laughter. But I am sure Mr. Fitzgibbon would very much approve.   


Putting PR into the House of Representatives would mean more Greens. But Labor, unfortunately, would be the biggest loser.

Up to one fifth of Labor members would have to go, hereditary or not.

ACM has no views on this. I wonder whether the  Labor Caucus has.




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