March 4


Our republican friends seem determined to assert that the Governor-General is the Head of State. So why do they contradict themselves? Even the arch-republican Paul Keating had the Governor General declared Head of State in the official Government directory! Republicans sometimes write to me claiming the opposite. I recently received this note on Qantas Club notepaper, attaching- again on Qantas Club paper- a print out of our Hot News, Republican Myths, from an anonymous correspondent: "If the Queen (of England) would not hear of a request from an Australian PM, then she is Australia (sic) Head of State. Condemned (sic) by your own words. Long live the coming Republic "Had my correspondent left an address, I would have asked for more information. I think that he (I suspect my correspondent is a man) is referring, erroneously, to Sir John Kerr's withdrawal of Mr Whitlam's commission in 1975. But Mr Whitlam did not appeal to the Queen-the Speaker did. And in any event, Mr Whitlam was no longer PM!


We also received an e-mail on the same subject this week, but this time from a person who identified himself. He wrote: "Why is it that your organisation, particularly one of its most prominent spokesmen, professor David Flint, continues to peddle the misinformation that the Governor General is our head of state? As Professor Flint should realise, as a professor of law, the Constitution is quite clear on this matter – our head of state is the Monarch, for the time being, of Britain, presently Queen Elizabeth II. Professor Flint and others do your cause no good by repeating the lie that our head of state is the Governor General."In reply I said that the term Head of State is not used in the Australian Constitution, any of the State Constitutions, the Balfour Declaration, the Statute of Westminster, or the Australia Act. The term comes from international law and diplomacy, and in this context the Governor -General is recognized by foreign governments and international organisations as the Australian Head of State. In fact, the Keating Government incorporated this description in its official Government Directory. It would be wrong, then, to characterise as a lie the proposition that the Governor – General is the Head of State. This point, I reminded my correspondent, is developed in The Cane Toad Republic, 1999, Chapter 3, which may be found on the ACM site. The question is the subject of an exhaustive submission by Sir David Smith to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Accordingly, I said, ACM has no difficulty in asserting that while Her Majesty is Queen of Australia, the Head of State is His Excellency, the Governor-General. It is not difficult to understand why our republican friends are so intent on insisting that the Governor – General is not the Head of State. The difficulty is that we, including Ministers of the Crown who happen to be republicans, hold him out to be our Head of State whenever he leaves our shores. Perhaps republicans are saying he is not Head of State while he is here, but he is Head of State once he arrives in another country. If someone could explain the logic of this, could they write to me? Including of course, Mr Qantas Club.


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