April 15

Politicians playing with fire

Some republican politicians are arrogantly demanding that the 1999 referendum be repeated. As one European politician said when the EU Constitution was rejected in both the French and Dutch referendums, the people must keep on voting “until they get it right.”   

The same approach is being adopted here in the hope that the people will become exhausted and agree to some vague sort of politicians’ republic – and some new flag.

These politicians may well come to rue this. It could lead to a serious diminution in their powers.


People may begin to ask why they have to vote on something which doesn’t interest them, when they could be voting on matters which do.  

Some obvious questions which people might like to vote on include the following.  Why for example should politicians receive essentially taxpayer funded superannuation?  Why should they be entitled to take their superannuation at any age? Why should they receive allowances the expenditure for which they do not have to account?  Readers will no doubt think of others.

Such is the monochrome nature of federal politics today, no federal politician seems to show any interest in CIR’s.

It is argued that citizen initiated referendums (“CIR’s”), as are found in Switzerland, and certain US states and the Canadian province of British Columbia, are incompatible with the Westminster system which is a representative democracy.

The question of CIR’s was the subject of an excellent paper to the Perth 2008 ACM National Conference by Joseph Poprzeczny entitled  “Australia — a democracy or just another ballotocracy?”.  Mr.Poprzeczny is a respected Perth-based freelance journalist and historical researcher.

In his paper, he traced the interest in Citizen Initiated Referendums in Australia in the drafting of our Constitution, and in early platforms of the Labor Party. This was presented in an abridged version in issue 9 of The Australian Constitutional Defender.

…CIR’s in the UK…

Interest in CIR’s is now increasing in the UK where there is anger there about the arrogant way the politicians have pushed through the unpopular  European Constitution without a referendum except in Ireland.

Now a new British politician has emerged who is promising the introduction of CIR’s. He is   a member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan MEP.   Born into a British Peruvian family, and educated at Marlborough College and Oriel College, Oxford, he speaks French and Spanish.

Daniel Hannan is the author of several books, and writes for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Spectator, The Wall Street Journal, the German newspaper Die Welt, the Swiss Weltwoche, The Catholic Herald, and the Brussels Journal. He was a strong opponent of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Constitution.  He is a cofounder of Direct Democracy, a movement among conservative MP’s.


After the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in preparation for the recent G20 London summit, Daniel Hannan followed (24 March 2009).  He delivered a short speech scathingly critical of Gordon Brown’s response to the global financial crisis, ending with these words:


“ You cannot spend your way out of a recession or borrow your way out of debt. And when you repeat, in that wooden and perfunctory way, that our situation is better than others, that we are well placed to weather the storm, I have to tell you, you sound like a Brezhnev era apparatchik giving the party line. You know and we know and you know that we know that it's nonsense.

" Everyone knows that Britain is worse off than any other country as we go into these hard times. The IMF has said so. The European Commission has said so. The markets say so, which is why the pound has lost a third of its value. In a few months, the voters will have their chance to say so, too. They can see what the markets have seen: that you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government.”


When this was posted to YouTube it caused a storm, attracting 630,000 views in 24 hours and over 2,000,000 in two weeks. (The video is embedded below on the ACM site.)

  It was the 'most viewed today' YouTube video worldwide for two consecutive days. He appeared on major US TV channels, but curiously received only limited coverage on the BBC and ITV.



Given the discussion in Australia over a charter of Human Rights, Mr Hannan’s denunciation in the EU Parliament on 21 January 2009 of the imposition of a Charter against the will of the people is interesting. A video on this is also embedded on the ACM site below:


We only need a leader of similar quality to Daniel Hannan to emerge in Australia for CIR’s to return to the agenda.

The republican politicians will not get their republic, but the unintended consequence of their campaign may be to put CIR’s onto the agenda.

By proposing a plebiscite, our politicians may well release an Antipodean Daniel Hannan onto the national scene.


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