December 29

Human rights, Mugabe and a politicians’ republic

"Gerard Henderson takes the Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland to task for skewing the composition of the committee established to consult Australians on whether this country should have a Charter of Rights ("Balance missing from rights probe", Opinion, 16/12)," wrote Neil Fearis in a letter published in the West Australian on 22 December, 2008..


The Chairman of the Western Australian Division of ACM continued: "Mr Henderson points out that the report of the governance group at Kevin Rudd's 20/20 Summit in April recorded the strong opposition to a Charter of Rights expressed by a minority within that group (including, presumably, Mr Henderson himself) and yet Mr McClelland has not seen fit to have that minority view represented on his consultation committee.


"Australians for Constitutional Monarchy seeks to uphold Australia's Constitution but takes no specific position on the Charter of Rights issue. We note merely that Mr Henderson's criticism of the composition of Mr McClelland's committee might have carried more weight if he (Mr Henderson) had not, in the very same article, accepted unquestioningly the governance group's decision on another constitutional issue which we suspect also fails to keep Australians awake at night, namely whether Australia should become a republic.


"According to Mr Henderson (himself a committed republican), and to the official Summit reports, the governance group voted 98 to 1 (with one abstention) in favour of Australia becoming a republic. Yes, that's right, 98 to 1 – a voting margin more usually associated with presidential polls in Africa. Robert Mugabe would have been envious.


"This is despite the fact that in a referendum held less than a decade ago Australians voted by a substantial majority to reject the republic which Canberra politicians were then seeking to foist upon them. With the exception of the ACT, every single State and Territory voted against the republic proposal, with a "No" vote being recorded in almost three out of four Federal electorates nationally.


"There is no evidence to suggest that public support for an Australian republic has increased in the intervening years. Indeed, such evidence as does exist points to a decline in support, particularly amongst younger voters, and more thoughtful republicans now accept that Australians have no wish to revisit this issue in the near future.


Neil Fearis concluded: "Gerard Henderson makes some valid points about the integrity of the Summit process but seriously undermines his own argument by appearing to accept the endorsement of an Australian republic by a Summit group whose claim to represent mainstream opinion on that issue is simply laughable. " 

No wonder passioante republican Professor Robert Manne described the Summit as a Mad Hatter's Tea Party. 

And he was there.       



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