January 29

No cringe over constitution


When The Australian published extracts of this column’s report about the "mate for head of state" fiasco on Bondi Beach on Sunday, 22 January, 2006, the republican movement deputy chairman, Anne Henderson wrote to The Australian about that burning question which keeps our compatriots awake at night, just who is our head of state.

This is my reply, which The Australian published on 27 January, 2006:


Anne Henderson says I cannot argue that the Governor General is Head of State.

I can, and I do. The term was introduced into the debate not by constitutional monarchists, but by the republican movement who thought it would be the silver bullet to secure victory. Other republicans, for example constitutional law expert, Professor George Winterton, argue that this is an arid and ultimately irrelevant debate over nomenclature.

The term is not one of constitutional law. It is a diplomatic term, its usage governed by international law. Whenever the Governor- General travels officially, he is held out to be and is received by foreign governments, the UN, the Japanese Emperor and the Pope as the Australian Head of State. When the Indonesian government indicated that Sir Ninian Stephen was not to be so received, he did not go, and the Indonesian government apologised.

I would have thought that if somebody wants constitutional change, they would set out in detail what is wrong, and what they would put in its place.

A slogan is no substitute for reasoned argument

"Yours etc.,"


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