August 21

“Ladies & Gentlemen, The President…” Part 3


We Australians are now being told that we must be independent. This is an insult to previous generations, those who served in the Second World War for example. We are told there will be more trade with Asia and more jobs. Apart from more jobs for the politicians, tell that to Dr Mahathir and Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

A few years ago New Zealanders were subjected to a relentless campaign to make a fundamental change to the way they elected their politicians. The system, MMP meant that parties would be proportionally represented in parliament. If say NZ First got 40% of the vote but only 25% of the seats, you would add more politicians from a list until 40% of the MPs were NZ First. (The list of course gives even greater power to the party/ organisation.)
It would be more democratic, they said. Although warned not to, the people approved the change.
In the next election, they threw out the Bolger National government. Or so they thought. After months of confusion, they got a new government. Led by Mr Bolger! The NZ First party, which told electors a vote for them was the way to throw out the nationals, did a deal. They entered into a coalition. Try to imagine months of confusion after our last Federal election. A new government is announced. And the Prime Minister is none other than Paul Keating. Unbelievable! But that’s what the new system did for New Zealand.
What is being proposed here is not MMP, its SMP – seven more politicians. One group of republicans says leave it to the politicians, everything will be the same because they’ll have to do a deal to elect the Presidents. Like the New Zealand First deal? The Crown is there not because of the power it has but because of the power it denies to others. That is, the politicians.
Don’t get me wrong. Politicians perform an essential role. Most do this conscientiously, and some are superb. But our constitution rightly imposes checks and balances on them. As Lord Acton said, Tower corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely".
So why should we give the great powers of the Crown, which are constitutionally restrained, to a President who will be virtually beyond control. Alternatively, we could take those powers. But power doesn’t stay in a vacuum. You would then effectively transfer those powers to the other politicians.
As Michael Photios [former NSW Liberal MP] says, we already have three layers of politicians. We must have more politicians per head than most other countries. Do we want another layer? Do we want SMP, seven more politician presidents?
(Note: These papers were prepared in the context of the first version of the Keating-Turnbull republic 1993-1998. This model was superseded by the second version which was unveiled in the last days of the 1998 Constitutional Convention.)


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