There is a suggestion in the Discussion Paper on the Northern Territory becoming a state which introduces a totally unnecessary issue, one which could completely distract the voters (The Australian, 10 May 2007). If as a result, a quasi republican model is put to the people in a plebiscite, the vote will be, at least in part, about republicanism and not whether there should be a new state. This is in no one’s interest.
The suggestion is a revolutionary one: that there be no governor to represent and exercise the powers of the Australian Crown. This is against the letter and spirit of the Australian constitutional system, and against the interests of the people of the Northern Territory. It is difficult to understand why the authors of the Discussion Paper have introduced this red herring. After all they admit that the people of the Northern Territory (as with those of all states and 72% of federal electorates) in 1999 rejected the best model the republicans could devise, and one which had overwhelming media, political and celebrity support.
The Federal Constitution assumes the existence of a governor in each state. The Australia Acts of 1986, which are in the nature of constitutional documents, specifically mandates the existence of a governor in each state to represent the Sovereign. And it was with good reason that state governments of all parties for years fought successive federal governments until the principle that the governor was appointed by The Queen on the advice of the premier was finally accepted, a matter recorded with hitherto unknown detail by Dr Anne Twomey in her recent book, The Chameleon Crown: The Queen and Her Australian Governors.
The governor is no ceremonial figurehead, but an important check and balance, providing leadership above politics. Removal of the Crown from a state constitution would turn any replacement into either another politician or a poodle of the premier, and unlike a legitmate governor, probably unable to act as governor-general. The absence of any check and balance in the person of an administrator appointed by the Governor-General in the ACT has demonstrated the dangers of this, for example, in the Bruce Stadium financial scandal which an administrator would have averted.
Those advancing the cause of a new state do not need this ideological republican distraction. ACM will put in a submission expanding on these views. If those in authority are so misguided as to put up a quasi republican model for the people’s decision, they will only have themselves to blame if this quasi republican model were to become an issue, or even the principal issue in the vote, rather than whether there should be a new state. If they persist with this red herring, the ideologues could well sink the project.