March 29

Republicans Mix Heads of State Heads of Government

Australia’s republicans have long demonstrated an inability to think through their proposals, and a cavalier attitude in preparing the ground for change. Their ignorance of the conventions of the Commonwealth of Nations during the referendum was stunning.

One of the consequences of the first Keating Turnbull model  was that their president would gradually assume the role of the president of the present French Fifth Republic, which was built around General de Gaulle. 

They had intended that he be like the President of the French Third and Fourth republics. The French found that a republican imitation of the Westminster system would not work for long. 

So they went to a model which on paper gives the President powers similar to an Australian Governor-General. But most of those viceregal powers are exercised in accordance with the well established conventions which surround the Australian throne. 

To the anglophobe republicans, yes, those conventions  did come from Britain. But so do our laws, the basis of our constitutional system and our language. 

The French Fifth Republic demonstrated the danger in having a president who, notwithstanding the existence of an official called prime minister, is in effect both head of state and head of government.


…President Sarkozy…

This is exemplified by periods of cohabitation when the President and Prime Minister are from opposite parties, and the President wages war on the Prime Minister.  But even when they are from the same parties it is the President who leads, as Emma-Kate Symons comments in The Australian (9/2) in “Sarkozy on a loser aping the far right.” ( continues below)


Charles de Gaulle must be turning in his grave. The brave general risked all as the Nazis swept Europe and millions of French fell in behind the collaborationist Philippe Petain.

Out of the ashes of World War II and the shame of fascism a la Francaise, de Gaulle forged an alliance with the left-wing resistance to create a new republic, and a Centre-Right party formed in his own image.Opposed to all that Vichy France represented, in favour of decolonisation and an independent foreign policy, this giant of the 20th century never accepted compromises or deals with the forces of extremism.

Today, the heir to the political movement founded by de Gaulle, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has trashed the heritage of its founder.By pandering relentlessly to the fear and racism of the far-Right National Front, reborn under the bleue-Marine wave of Jean-Marie Le Pen's daughter, Sarkozy has destroyed his political party's raison d'etre and, in all likelihood, his own chances of re-election.And Sarkozy has changed the culture and landscape of French and European politics for the worse, by slavishly following the agenda set by the extreme Right, instead of doing his job as head of state and defining the debate. 

This is why the two positions should  separate and that the office of the  head of state also be strong enough to provide leadership beyond politics. 

Only a constitutional moanrchy can ensure this happy balance 

No ARM model has – although they are not revealing what  their current one is – if they have one.  


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