July 13

Understanding how we’re governed

Most Australians “would struggle to explain their legal link to The Queen”, said Fleur Bitcon in the Sunday Herald Sun ( 12 July).  This is probably true.  According to a recent government survey, only one in three Year 10 students chose the correct answer to that most elementary question "What is the Australian Constitution?"

 

The students were given four answers and asked to choose one. To repeat, only one in three chose the correct answer to this simple and basic question. And with any multi choice question, you can guess the right answer.

Yet for some years the federal government has been pouring millions of dollars into civics education.  As far as we know the previous government did not ask any constitutional monarchists to become involved in the direction of or even advice about the programme. It can hardly be called a success. 

How then could Australians be expected to explain the role and function of their oldest institution and a significant check and balance in their constitutional system? It is either not taught or hardly touched on – even in our universities.

…history vital to understanding…


The teaching of the history relevant to the evolution of our constitutional system is either not taught or has been downgraded, even in our law schools.   Ask a law student about say, the Glorious Revolution and its relevance to our constitutional system and you will probably get a blank look.

In a recent High Court decision on a case challenging the validity of the legislation giving certain Australians a bonus of $900 as part of the government’s economic stimulus package, three justices observed:

 “A knowledge of legal history is indispensable to an appreciation of the essential characteristics of the power of appropriation in the Constitution; it affords an understanding of the setting in which the Constitution was formulated.” (Pape v Commissioner of Taxation [2009] per Gummow, Crennin and Bell JJ.)

They referred with approval to an observation by the former Chief Justice, Murray Gleeson, where he said that a knowledge of the law, including legal history, is indispensable to an understanding of terms and concepts in our constitutional system ( Singh v The Commonwealth [2004]). 

(There is some concern that the  Pape case may mean that the Commonwealth cannot directly fund local government councils. However it could probably achieve this by conditional grants to the States. These are specifically authorised under section 96 of the Constitution.)

…some elite republicans don't understand…

In recent years two senators claimed Canada is a republic. A former head of two government departments and chief advisor of a former leader of the opposition attacked the former Governor-General on the basis of an elementary misunderstanding of the role and function of the Federal Executive Council.  All were activated by an agenda to turn Australia into a politicians’ republic.

If elite campaigners for a politicians' republic don’t know, can we really expect the public to understand the role and function of the Australian Crown? The point is they are suspicious of those who are proposing some unknown model of a politicians’ republic.

And rightly so.

…the answer?….

Australians live under one of the world's most successful systems of government. To discuss any proposal to make substantial changes to this, and especially to vote on this, they need to be properly informed.

Polls show the majority of Australians, and particularly the young, do not want a politicians' republic. If they did we would be having a referendum next weekend.

Australians are entitled to information, not just tired and too often uninformed republican propaganda.

ACM has produced more publications on the defence of our constitutional system than all of the other participants in the debate.  In 1993, former prime minister Bob Hawke, a republican, observed " the constiutional monarchists are winning the intellectual argument."

ACM hosts one of the most active constitutional monarchist websites in the world, which is attracting a record number of hits and page views from around the world.

A team of young Australians, Jai Martinkovits, Ed Copeman and others have been working with me on a project to answer this need, The Crowned Republic.  This is the latest version of ACM's longstanding education programme. 

The first stages of this exciting project involve a comprehensive new website, www.crownedrepublic.com.au  which, together with an outreach programme into the schools, was launched in Parliament House Sydney on 3 June. Although moved to a larger venue, the launch was booked out.

The number of hits and page views indicates the site is becoming known, and not only in Australia. 

And this has been done without one cent coming from the taxpayer. It is being achieved on a very small budget and through the help of our supporters across the nation.  
 

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