Australians are not going to change their constitution just because of Soap Oprah, the TV interview between Meghan Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey. That is irrelevant to constitutional change.
From the nineteenth century, republicanism in Australia has always been for an ulterior purpose, racism, communism, and more recently, increased political control.
This came home to me during a referendum debate at Corowa, the birthplace of Federation. I was teamed up with Real Republican Ted Mack against Malcolm Turnbull. Ted was so honest he twice resigned from parliament to avoid receiving the gold-plated politicians’ superannuation he so strongly opposed. I told him I was having difficulties persuading the official republicans that their model concentrated too much power with the politicians. ‘Don’t waste your time ,’ he said. ‘That’s exactly what they want.’
The model which went to the referendum was a shocker ―the only known republic where it would be easier for the prime minister to sack the president than his driver. He could do this without grounds, without notice and without even a right of appeal.
Having lost the referendum nationally, in every state and 72% of electorates, the republicans have kept what they want secret for over 20 years. And that notwithstanding a dozen or so parliamentary inquiries.
In the nineties, the reasons republicans were giving for change were beginning to make them a laughingstock, with Al Grassby and Neville Wran blaming the Queen for unemployment. They claimed their politicians’ republic would solve this.
Then they discovered ‘head of state’, a diplomatic term so obscure it wasn’t even in the Macquarie Dictionary. They now claim, through parliamentary groups, that the only way we can have an Australian as head of state is under their politicians’ republic. But every government, Labor or Coalition, declares to foreign governments that the governor-general is head of state. When in 1987, probably because of some republican mischief, President Soeharto declined to receive our governor-general as head of state, Bob Hawke called off the visit. The Indonesians apologised.
The fact is politicians are brazenly proposing some unknown republic based on a fake reason. Australians are too smart not to see through that.
They know the real problem facing this country is not the Crown. The fact is there is not one one significant problem in Australia which, if it were not created by the politicians, has not been made significantly worse by them. Not one.
The answer is to the out-of-control politicians is to rely on the common sense of the Australian people. At federation, South Australian premier Charles Kingston was ready with a plan for this but was talked out of it on the grounds that the Westminster system would control the politicians. The party powerbrokers changed that.
The founders borrowed the referendum from the Swiss, but not the power the Swiss people have to initiate referendums. They have just banned the burka and they have approved a trade treaty.
This is the sort of reform we should be considering in a convention along the lines of those that drove federation.
Rather than some unknown politicians’ republic, what is needed is constitutional change which will allow Australians to take back their country.
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Professor David Flint AM is an emeritus professor of law and was chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Press Council, president of the National Federation of the English Speaking Union, Associate Commissioner with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and convenor of the Committee of Australian Law Deans. He has been National Convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy since the 1999 referendum campaign. He has authored books on topics such as the media, international economic law and on the Constitution. At Barcelona in 1991 he received a World Jurist Association award as World Outstanding Legal Scholar. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1995. His Good Sauce show,Take Back Your Country, discusses the problems and solutions to the decay of federalism and democracy.