Professor David Flint AM
Thursday, 16 July 2009
The amount of taxpayer funds which republicans have managed to divert from schools, hospitals, transport, water etc., is never ending. The amount involved would be millions and millions of dollars. You might have thought the republican politicians would have had the decency to stop this after their landslide 1999 defeat. You would be wrong.
There were five before the referendum. But there have been seven since. Even the supposedly private Corowa conference was subsidised by the Victorian government.
And that is not all. Every minute the republican politicians put into this folly on their publicly funded salaries, they have less time to attend to their core functions.
The republican politicians won’t even tell us what sort of republic and what new flag they have up their sleeves. In fact the republicans want the tax payers to pay to work out the model the republicans are too lazy, or too incompetent or too divided to work out for themselves
So far the taxpayer has paid millions and millions of dollars into this adventure. Add to that the cost of removing Royal Symbols.
… exercises to achieve a politicians’ republic …
The 12 major votes and inquiries have been:
· Republic Advisory Committee, 1993
· Plebiscite for an Australian Republic Bill, 1997
· Convention Election, 1997
· Constitutional Convention, 1998.
· Referendum, 1999
· Corowa Conference, 2001
Republic (Consultation of the People) Bill, 2001
· Senate Inquiry: Road to a Republic Report 2004
· Plebiscite for an Australian Republic Bill, 2008
· 2020 Summit, 2009
· Senate Finance and Public Administration Report, 2009
Plebiscite for an Australian Republic Bill, 2010
Republicans believe Australians have to keep on voting until they get it right.
In the meantime, they are determined to spend vast and never ending amounts of the taxpayers hard earned funds.
When will the government put a stop to this waste?
Given the refusal of some republicans to accept the very clear decision of the people in 1999, and with some politicians defying that decision and acting as if we were a republic, it is time to subject all of this to an audit.
The purpose is to inform Australians how much of their hard-earned money has been successfully diverted — or is planned to be diverted — from hospitals, schools, aged care, defence and other essential matters to effect the change Australians rejected in 1999.
These moneys include not only the cost of the failed referendum in 1999, and the steps leading up to it, but also both the current proposals on new ways to achieve this, and the surreptitious ways the republican politicians are trying to achieve a republic by stealth.
…costs incurred by taxpayers…
We stress that we are only concerned with the costs paid by or payable by the Australian taxpayer. We have of course no objection to republicans reaching into their own pockets to pay for their own campaigns. But republicans so far have managed to saddle the taxpayer with much of their costs. Moreover, having had a very fair run in the nineties, they are still trying to impose, and at times are actually imposing heavy financial burdens on the taxpayer.
It should be remembered that this is at the cost of essential services which governments find difficult to provide, or provide at the level expected. One recent appalling example was the wasteful Senate Inquiry in 2003-2004. Others are the many instances of creeping republicanism by politicians — all incurred in spite of the people’s very clear vote in 1999.
We have put the audit into four tables.
The first is Table A, which includes all the costs actually incurred to date by the taxpayer in attempts to change our Constitution.
Table B includes the various steps on the agendas of republicans prominent in politics, in the media and in the republican movement to impose a republic, and the immediate financial consequences of this.
Note that this does not include the costs which will be incurred if the republic does not work. These are being incorporated into Table C, which we are opening with one example.
This example is based on one likely consequence of the republican model proposed by the republican movement after 1996, the first Keating-Turnbull republic. The republican movement conceded that this was a likely consequence when the model was changed significantly at the Constitutional Convention in 1998. This is also likely under the model now favoured by the dominant faction in the republican movement — the republican model in which the president is directly elected.
In either of these models, where the President and the Prime Minister do not agree on some fundamental issue, and neither gives way for some period of time, there will obviously be costs if the country is seen by markets as ungovernable. We propose to list other consequences.
Table D will deal with that insidious phenomenon — creeping republicanism, or republicanism by stealth. Here we are looking for an input from supporters across the Commonwealth who will be well aware of examples in their towns, shires, suburbs, territories and states.
In all of these tables we have not assessed the “opportunity costs” of the politicians involved. This is the cost of the politicians spending their time on republicanism, rather than addressing some of the serious problems before them. Whether the politicians spend sufficient of their time addressing the core functions of government is of course a matter for the electorate to judge at the appropriate time.
In many cases we were not sure of the actual cost of a particular measure, and we have attempted an estimate. And quite often, we suspect our estimates will be lower than the amount actually incurred by the taxpayers. For example, during the referendum campaign, many politicians, both sitting and those who are no longer in parliament ,were still able to charge their travel, secretarial and other costs to the taxpayer. In each and every case, we would welcome the authorities revealing to us what was actually spent. If we are mistaken, we will of course correct the error.
We invite readers to send in information, particularly on instances of creeping republicanism, large and small. This may be the removal of a royal portrait, or a change of name. Tell us briefly the year, place, who did it, and any estimate of the cost.
This audit is only a beginning. It is an attempt to show to Australians how much the republicans have managed to divert from what to most Australians should be higher priority items. Each time an Australian has to wait for a hospital bed, or a train is not on time, or schools are overcrowded, care not provided to the aged, assistance to the mentally ill, or police not available to attend to burglaries, Australians should remember how much has been spent, and how much our republican politicians want to spend on their republican folly.
At this point, after we clearly said No, should republicans be spending their own money, and not ours?
TABLE A: REPUBLICANISM — ACTUAL EXPENDITURE BY TAXPAYERS BEFORE 2005 ON PROPOSALS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE: OVER $ 130 million
|1993||Republic Advisory Committee||0.60|
|1998||Convention Postal Ballot||24.00|
|1998||Cost of politicians participation in Convention||1.00|
|1999||City of Sydney Street Banner Campaign For Yes Vote||0.05|
|1999||Time of City of Sydney officials, Lord mayor and Aldermen||0.05|
|1999||Vote Yes Campaign||7.50|
|1999||Vote No Campaign||7.50|
|1999||Cost of federal and state parliamentary time preparing debating bills, public service,including select committee||3.00|
|1999||Federal, state politicians campaigs, including fares, allowances, staff||2.00|
|2000||Corowa Conference: Subsidies, politicians participating||0.5|
|2003- 2005||Senate Inquiry into Republic||0.60|
TABLE B: ESTIMATED COST OF PRINCIPAL PROPOSALS TO INTRODUCE A REPUBLIC AND A NEW FLAG
Costs limited to first decade of republic only
|PRIORITY||ITEM||ESTIMATED COST IN $ MILLIONS|
|1||First federal plebiscite, including campaigns, information||100|
|2||Second federal plebiscites, including campaigns, information||100|
|3||Federal referendum, including campaigns, information||100|
|4||State and territory plebiscites, including campaigns , information, up to 24,||400|
|5||New flag plebiscite , including campaigns and information||100|
|6||Three presidential elections, including campaign funding||300|
|7||Three gubernatorial elections||400|
|8||Cost for various items such as changes of Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Australian Regiment, New National Flag, New State and Federal Flags, photographs and portraits of president on banknotes, coins, public places, portraits and photographs of elected governors, decorations, awards, medals, documentation, salary , superannuation etc travel costs of higher profile presidents , governors , vicepresident(s) , increased staff and accommodation, difficult to estimate, but conservatively say||1000|
|TOTAL||$2500 ($2.5 Billion)|
TABLE C: CONSEQUENCES FOR AUSTRALIA IN ADOPTING A FLAWED REPUBLICAN MODEL
|EVENT||ESTIMATED COST IN $ MILLIONS|
|Government unable to function over extended period because of disagreement between President and Prime Minister causing loss of confidence in financial markets, with dollar falling , business closing. Conclusions based on likely consequences if 1975 political crisis had not been resolved by action of governor-General, experiences of similar model in Trinidad and France||Enormous impact on markets, trade, employment|
TABLE D: CREEPING REPUBLICANISM ACROSS AUSTRALIA
The following are instances of creeping republicanism, with our best estimate of the cost.We are ready and willing to consider submissions from any republican authorities who wish to challenge our estimates. If we are shown to be wrong, we shall correct any error.
Readers are invited to send in examples of creeping republicanism at the federal, state, territory, shire and municipal level. Just send us the year, a few words as to what happened, which authority was responsible, and the estimated cost.
We want this to develop into a complete statement of all acts of creeping republicanism in the country. We want to expose the perpetrators so that at the appropriate time, the people can make a judgement abut the way the politicians spend their time-and the people’s money.
|DATE||ITEM||ESTIMATED COST IN $ MILLIONS|
|1996-||Eviction of Governor from Government house , Sydney, calculated at $0.6 million per year||Approximatley $12 million and ongoing|
|2004||Removal of Royal Arms from buildings in NSW( this was undertaken by administrative instructions for several years before legislation in 2004)||Considerable and ongoing|