The way in which the election was called on 21 August was another reminder of the subtlety, the sophistication and the security of what is probably one of the world’s best constitutional systems.
The Prime minister did not call the election; she advised the Governor-General to do this. It was of course expected that the Governor-General would accept that advice. On this occasion.
But imagine the situation if in the next Parliament, because of the election of Greens, Independents and others, the ALP has more seats than the Coalition, but not a majority. (Or, if you prefer, imagine the opposite.)
Let us then imagine that Ms. Gillard decides not to resign, but to continue as a minority government. Then her popularity rises dramatically in the opinion polls, beyond even that of Mr. Rudd at his peak. Her advisors and several editorials call for another election. Why? So that the country can have a stable government, they say. Although only eight months have elapsed since the election, let us imagine Ms. Gillard advises the Governor-General that there should be another election.
…not bound to accept advice…
The Governor-General would certainly not be bound to accept that advice.
This story demonstrates the truthfulness of the old adage that the Crown is important not so much for the power that it wields, but the power it denies others. The Crown is indeed the constitutional guardian. It provides leadership beyond politics, alone with the high Court transcending the Federal state divide. And through the allegiance they bear to the Crown, that leadership extends to the other institutions which should be beyond the machinations of party politics, the armed forces, the police, the public service and the courts.
…the negligence of the republicans…
Australians should remember one thing about the push for a politicians’ republic.
None of its proponents, whether they be politicians or media commentators, are in the slightest interested in improved standards of governance. All they want to do is to get rid of that paragon of constitutional and personal propriety, The Queen of Australia. Far too many if not most are prepared to risk the security of the constitutional system to achieve this. Indeed, as several supporters of the failed 1999 model admitted – some even before the vote, that model was flawed and would have unnecessarily increased the power of the political class. That these proponents actually included former high judicial officers was a shock in 1999, and remains shocking today. Why do they loath the Crown, the institution which has been with us at every stage since the settlement, and which has been a force for good and constitutional order?
…the choice ….
The election on 21 August would appear to be between Mr. Abbott, a confirmed supporter of the existing constitutional monarchy or crowned republic, once the Executive Director of ACM, and Ms. Gillard, a proponent of some unknown politicians’ republic. She has recently indicated that she is in no hurry to do this. This is not because of some reservation about the propriety of proceeding towards a politicians’ republic. It is just that there is not sufficient support to do this.
But as the overthrow of Kevin Rudd demonstrated, the election is not presidential. It is between political parties through their preselected candidates in the electorates. The ALP is committed under its platform to some sort of politicians’ republic. It was also once committed to nationalisation of industry, to socialism and to the White Australia Policy. The politicians’ republic will probably go the same way. Its greatest leaders have been constitutional monarchists.
The Liberal Party was founded by a great constitutional monarchist, but shamefully dropped its commitment when the mainstream media suggested monarchists were old fashioned and a republic inevitable. Of the parties with seats in the House only the National Party remains committed to the constitutional system.
…how should supporters vote?
So how should supporters vote? ACM has never told supporters how to vote. Supporters come from across the political spectrum, as has our leadership.
Justice Michael Kirby, who has always been associated with progressive concerns in the community, wrote the ACM Charter and was a member of the Foundation Council. The former Labor Lord Mayor of Sydney, Doug Sutherland led the list of ACM candidates for New South Wales candidates in the 1998 Constitutional Convention. He was to play a significant role there, as did Don Chipp, the founder of the Australian Democrats, and a prominent member of the ACM’s Victorian delegation at the Convention and a spokesman during the referendum. And as I mentioned in a recent column, I remember attending one crucial meeting of key leaders involved in organising the referendum campaign in a crucial state – two Australian Greens were present.Supporters will vote in the way they perceive the best interests of the country will be served. And that is how it should be.
What supporters can best do is to tell the politicians of their choice and the media , including the net and talkback, what they would wish the political candidates of all parties and no party to do in that most fundamental of questions.
And this is in preserving, protecting and defending our indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown and under the Constitution, and our Flag.