June 11

Philip Benwell attacks Governor-General; “Dont subvert the constitution”-“Fin Review

 Mr Philip Benwell of the Australian Monarchist League has had two letters in the Herald, which is his right.

At the Convention the Monarchist League delegates refused, with the ACM delegates to vote “tactically”. This was to throw our weight behind the McGarvie model. If we had done that the McGarvie model would have obtained a majority, and would have been the model in the referendum. The ARM was terrified that we would do this – even though we said we would not as a matter of principle support any republican model. Moreover voting the argument vote “tactically” meant not only supporting the McGarvie model at the Convention – it meant opposing it at the referendum. This we would not do. And the Monarchist League delegates agreed with us on this.

Of course we may from time to time disagree on other matters –, as any of us will. As I do in relation to Philip Benwell’s two letters.

In one, he charged Archbishop Hollingworth with hypocrisy in accepting the Governor-Generalship. I think this view is harsh. As the Archbishop said at the Constitutional Convention, “my head inclines the one way and my heart another”. The Archbishop saw the Convention’s task as producing the best republican model to be put to the people. In any event he abstained on the crucial vote on what he correctly saw as a flawed republican model. He says he is happy with Australia’s current constitutional arrangements. In this he is like the overwhelming majority of Australians.

 Philip Benwell’s second letter was on the doctorate recently awarded by the Archbishop of Canterbury. True, there was no thesis, nor examination, as in the Ph.D. But it is not, as reported, an honorary doctorate. It is a higher doctorate. These are awarded for outstanding work, usually published in the field of the doctorate. Thus the LL.D., the Doctor of Laws, is awarded for published work of great distinction on the law. A Higher doctorate ranks before a Ph.D., and the SJD and similar degrees (a doctorate which includes both coursework and a thesis). It has nothing to do with an honorary doctorate. So it would be quite correct to address the Archbishop as Dr Hollingworth.

To return to and end on republicanism generally. It is clear that the question of a republic remains on the agenda.

The Australian Financial Review published this extract from my article in the latest issue of Quadrant.

This was  in their “Notebook” , which appears on theopinion pages .

The headline was :

 " Don’t subvert our Constitution"  11-5-2001

 David Flint, the convener of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, in the latest Quadrant writes:" Now we have a plan to circumvent, indeed to subvert, our constitution. According to this plan, before any referendum on a republic, we are to have the French dictator’s [Napoleon Bonaparte] favourite device, the constitutional plebiscite. And not one, two!

hat alone is bad enough. But there is worse.

Remember that this plan comes from the same people who failed, over the decade of the 1990s, to come up with an alternative republican constitutional model which would work. They failed in 1993, and they failed again in 1999.

Knowing this, they are now asking, they are inviting, and indeed beseeching, a vote of no confidence in the existing Constitution … If [this happens], they actually intend this to be followed by a constitutional vacuum to last over the decade. This is breathtaking in its irresponsibility …

Apart from the waste of taxpayers’ money, as well as the legislators’, the governments’ and the people’s time, this exercise should be condemned. Not only does it propose to subvert the Constitution.

Worse, the clear intent is to create a loss of confidence in the present Australian Constitution without any guarantee that after the resulting decade of instability a new constitutional model will be produced which will be acceptable to the people … This is not the way the founders prescribed for constitutional change."


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