Rather than 16 year olds being given the vote, one proposal is that only those – of any age – who pass a knowledge test should be allowed to vote.
This is from Andrew Woodhouse in The Sydney Morning Herald on 10 August (“Vote 1 on an age of reason”)
His 10-second voters eligibility test is:
· Question 1: What does ''separation of powers'' mean?
· Question 2: Why is the prime minister not mentioned in the constitution?
· Question 3: What is the monarch's legal function?
He ends his column “Time's up. Sorry, there are no questions on Don Bradman. Those who do not understand the mechanics of our government system should not be driving the machinery.”
….but would our leaders pass this test?….
This reminded me of the questioning of former Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen in 1988 during the Fizgerald Inquiry (Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct). Although Sir Joh had difficulty answering, the implication drawn from this that the doctrine means a minister is precluded from giving lawful instructions to the police is surely wrong.
Sir Joh had his own style of answering questions, a style which worked better with the media than a Royal Commission or a similar inquiry. ( Foolish republican politicans shoot themselves in the foot when they avoid using the word Royal. As with the title Senior Counsel, the public think this not the real thing.)
In any event Sir Joh's answer to the last question below must have brought down the house.
Although Sir Joh had difficulty answering, the implication drawn from this that the doctrine means a minister is precluded from giving lawful instructions to the police is surely wrong. It is not clear why these questions were asked or indeed allowed. There was no suggestion that Sir Joh had interfered with the judiciary. How were these questions relevant to the inquiry?
…"Australia should become a republic,like Canada" ….
I wonder how many MP's would understand the role and function of the Crown in the Australian constitutional system. We do know that two senators have gone on the record declaring that Canada is a (politicians') republic.
A former head of two government departments and CEO of a leader of the opposition demonstrated in an opinion piece in a national newspaper that he had little idea of the role of the Executive Council.
Sir Joh seems to be the only politician to have been subjected to a public test on constitutional issues.
I was also reminded of the comment of a senior lawyer in 1999. He told me how surprised he was to find many senior lawyers strongly supporting the republican referendum who were unaware of the details of the model and its obvious weaknesses.
They believed in a politicians' republic through faith and not reason. For them was passionate support for some sort of a politicians' republic a substitute for religion?
…transcript from Fitzgerald inquiry….
Michael Forde (Counsel): What do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?
Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen: The Westminster system? The stock?
Forde: The doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?
Bjelke Petersen: No, I don’t quite know what you’re driving at. The document?
Forde: No, I’ll say it again. What do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?
Bjelke Petersen: I don’t know which doctrine you refer to.
Forde: There is only one doctrine of the separation of powers.
Bjelke Petersen: I believe in it very strongly, and despite what you may say, I believe that we do have a great responsibility to the people who elect us to government. And that’s to maintain their freedom and their rights, and I did that – sought to do it – always.
Forde: I’m sure you’re trying to be responsive to the question, but the question related to the doctrine of the separation of powers or the principles –
Bjelke Petersen: Between the Government and the – Is it?
Forde:No, you tell me what you understand.Bjelke Petersen: Well, the separation of the doctrine that you refer to, in relation to where the Government stands, and the rest of the community stands, or where the rest of the instruments of Government stand. Is that what – ?
Bjelke Petersen: Well you tell me. And I’ll tell you whether you’re right or not. Don’t you know?.