Any change to a republic, even a so called minimalist republic, will necessarily involve radical change, warns lawyer and noted author Hal Colebatch, ( “We would be losing a lot more than Her Majesty, ” The Australian, 2 May, 2008.
He says the radical nature of the change is “not immediately obvious.” The weight of constitutional scholars’ opinion being that the governor-general, and not the Queen, is the Commonwealth of Australia’s head of state, he warns that in a republic the state governors would be appointed by and loyal to the president.
Given that the state governors have the power to sack state governments, this would have effectively given Canberra, using the state governors, the power to sack state governments.
Australia is already a crowned republic, he says, but one with some unique historical and constitutional features that have subtle but important ramifications.
At the time of the referendum, constitutional monarchists warned that the republican model would diminish the states ( see, e.g. The Cane Toad Republic, 1999, chapter 12)
Premier Richard Court and Robert Ellicott QC warned of the federation being split, and of secession.
…state leaders do not understand what they would throw away….
But it seemed as if the state leaders, with the exception of Western Australia’s Richard Court, were ignorant of the advances gained for them under the 1986 Australia Acts as part of our constitutional system, and were willing to throw this advantage away.
Premier Jeff Kennett should have known about this. He once presented a superb defence of the constitutional system as it affects the states.
This was in "The Crown and the States," a speech to the Samuel Griffith Society delivered in 1993, and published in Volume 2 of the Society's proceedings.
But like so many policicians, he jumped onto the republican bandwagon at the 1998 Constitutional Convention.
Reaching the constitutional settlement in 1986 was not easy, and took three of four decades and th epersonal involvement of The Queen.
The story is told superbly by Anne Twomey in The Chameleon Crown: The Queen and Her Australian Governors, reviewed by Sir David Smith in this column on 22 July 2007.
Dr Twomey's speeches to meetings of ACM were one of the highlights of its 2007 programme.
Her book should be compulsory reading for all state politicians.
Fortunately, in 1999 the people showed how much wiser they are than republican politicians.