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21 November 1997. Thought for the Week: "One of the things that comes home loud and clear to me now that I'm out of politics, is the extent to which politicians in Canberra are so completely and utterly divorced from the reality of everyday life for the ordinary person. In Canberra, you are so completely cushioned by all the lurks and perks of office that it becomes impossible to know how it feels to be Joe Blow out there."
Ken Wriedt, former (A.L.P.) Minister for Primary Industry, "The Bulletin", 6/11/90.

REPUBLICAN DISHONESTY ON FLAG, CONSTITUTION

by David Thompson
Last weekend former Governor General Bill Hayden warned that the republican movement was concealing that the next logical step after the proposed republic was the elimination of the Union Jack from the Australian flag. "I hope all realise that should a referendum for a republic be successful, then pretty much the same gang of activists will be on the campaign trail to change our flag," he said.

Hayden's view, undoubtedly correct, is that the flag issue is being kept strictly in the background by the republicans, because it could jeopardise the republican campaign. "The flag is a much more politically volatile issue than the republic, so that stays on the back-burner for now to avoid the emotional exchange that this would release," said Hayden. "It's a game of wait now and pounce later."

Although Hayden is undoubtedly correct in his assessment, which we have previously warned about ourselves, it is interesting that he takes the trouble to point it out so forcefully. At the time of his remarks, he was launching Liberal M.P. Tony Abbott's new book, "How to Win the Constitutional War". Hayden refuses to describe himself as a monarchist, but he is a godsend to the anti-republicans. When appointed Governor General by Hawke, the choice of Hayden was bitterly attacked by many monarchists, as he was a declared republican. But having experienced the weight of the office, he appears to have moderated his views.

He can certainly not be described as a supporter of the present republican campaign. "It's a stunt anyway. I've always said it's a stunt. It's bread and circuses - entertainment for the masses. It won't create one more job, it won't do anything for business or farmers....it won't do anything to promote our culture. I just think the energy and resources that have gone into this are misdirected, given the priorities for this country."

The republicans have carefully avoided responding to Hayden's warning on the flag. When Prime Minister Keating was forced to drop his anti-flag campaign because of the backlash it generated. Turnbull & Co. are prepared to tell simple lies in the republican advertising, which stated "Australia's Head of State would be an Australian citizen chosen by Australians; He or she would have the same powers as the Governor General does today; there would be no change to our system of parliamentary government; Our country would remain known as 'the Commonwealth of Australia'; Our flag would not be changed; Our national anthem would not be changed… (The Australian, 3/11/97).

How can Turnbull make such sweeping statements, knowing full well that such is not necessarily the case at all. Everything depends upon what type of republic was to be adopted. The very fact that people like Nick Greiner (former N.S.W. Liberal Premier) is such a high-profile republican, and also on the board of Ausflag, indicates that either Turnbull is not telling the truth, or Greiner has a serious conflict of interests. If a republic was to be introduced, of course the flag would be scrapped.


KEATING RINGS ALARM BELLS

Turnbull and the A.R.M. claim that a president would have the same powers as the Governor General does today", but avoid admitting that this could only be true if a president was appointed or elected by Parliament. Former Prime Minister Keating's interview last week on ABC T.V. 7.30 Report revealed that Keating agrees with Howard on the question of a popularly elected president; they are both terrified of it. Why should this be so? Because they fear that if a popularly-elected president enjoyed the reserve powers of the Crown, this leaves the "kingly powers" of a monarch in the hands of an elected person without specifying what these powers actually are. Keating knows this is a huge problem.

The Constitution doesn't even mention the Prime Minister, and does not codify all the reserve powers, but it mentions the Governor General dozens of times. Sometimes governments can be elected with as little as 46% of the popular vote, which brings the "mandate" of a Prime Minister into question. Faced with a 'president' elected with perhaps 60% of the popular vote, and holding the reserve powers, the results for a Prime Minister could be terrifying.

Under such conditions, a 'president' could hypothetically refuse to pass legislation presented by the Parliament, sack the Prime Minister, dissolve both Houses of Parliament (with or without issuing the writs for a new election), perhaps sack the High Court, deploy the armed forces, and perhaps even declare war. All such powers fall within the "reserve powers" of the present Constitution, with the slim exception that the Governor General is bound by convention to act only on the advice of a Prime Minister. But if a 'president' claims a greater 'mandate' than a Prime Minister, how is such conflict resolved?

How is a 'president' dismissed under the Turnbull model? No one is too sure. No wonder Keating is slightly nervous about a popularly elected 'president'! The Turnbull republican model is supposed to be the "minimalist" position, leaving the present Constitution relatively "undisturbed". He wants a 'president' appointed by Parliament for the above reasons. But the polls are showing that Australians want to elect their own 'president' if they really must endure such a creature. Turnbull & Co. are forced to give way to popular opinion, which makes patent nonsense of their advertising, which clearly states "There would be no change to our system of parliamentary government". This is sheer rubbish.

The above dramatic scenario, while highly unlikely, is a possibility under an elected 'president', and the republicans find it impossible to explain why this is any advance on the monarchy we already have.


DOMESTIC MONARCH FILLS THE BILL

Those who attempt to appease the republicans, like Tony Abbott, attempt all sorts of uncomfortable constitutional contortions to meet republican demands. The republicans remain contemptuous of all such attempts. The reason for republican contempt of all the monarchists' concessions is that the republicans will settle only for total victory. This requires unconditional surrender from the monarchists, or complete defeat, towards which they are presently being driven. Yet the answer lies within the grasp of the monarchists.

As the debate on the Constitution begins to open up, it becomes increasingly clear that there is only one option, which can satisfy most requirements for head of state. Republican propaganda insists that Australia's Head of State needs to be "an Australian citizen chosen by Australians". The best option to satisfy this is a domestic Australian monarch in residence. Because such a person does not presently exist. Australians would have to choose someone.

The example of Norway is interesting. Forced into a union with Sweden in the 19th century, in 1905 Oscar II dissolved the union of Swedish and Norwegian crowns. Since there was no Norwegian royal family, a Danish prince was invited to become King of Norway. If Australians felt free to follow such an example, and choose a spare prince (or princess) not required by, say, the British, such a person could be invited to emigrate to Australia and become an Australian citizen, meeting republican demands that the Australian Head of State be "an Australian, chosen by Australians".

Would the republicans accept this? Probably not, because the republican elite reject the idea of hereditary monarchy. Then let them argue their case. Such a system serves the kingdom of Norway well today. And what of those shallow Liberal/National party politicians, present and past, who now declare for an "Australian head of State"? Amanda Vanstone is perhaps typical of them, when she declares that the time has come to "advance" towards the next step of a republic. Does a nation "advance" by shrugging off its heritage, and going back to something we once tried and rejected during the Cromwellian interregnum?


CONVENTION A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT

As the voluntary postal voting for Convention delegates proceeds, it becomes increasingly obvious that the Convention may not carry significant authority for several reasons. The first is that Australians appear to be refusing to vote. Not being a compulsory election, and not being of great interest to most Australians, the Convention is in great danger of being ignored. This is why the generally pro-republican Australian press began urging voters to fill in their ballots last weekend.

If only a minority of those entitled to vote do so, the decisions (or otherwise) of the Convention become hollow to the point of irrelevance. By last weekend, only 13 percent of the 12 million eligible voters had bothered. Of them, around 2 percent have been ruled invalid for various reasons. Another 36,000 ballot papers are under investigation because their validity is uncertain.

The second reason that the Convention may be seen as irrelevant is the weird and wonderful people who have nominated. The 'ungrouped' candidates are thick with wild and wonderful characters, few of whom have much chance of election. But even the major groups have some strange characters. For example, the A.R.M. has put up the Victorian "lipstick queen", Poppy King, as a candidate. Ms. King does not have a clue about the Constitution, but is nevertheless a "high-profile" popular figure, with some chance of success.

Professor Greg Craven, Dean of Law at Notre Dame University in W.A., observes: "If you look at the quality of the candidates for this election and the people likely to be at the convention, ... and you compare them to the quality of the people who were at the conventions in the 1890s, it is probably a matter of deep national embarrassment. . . Where is Barton, where is Deakin, where is Griffith, where is Playford, where is Andrew Inglis Clark, where is George Reid, where is Henry Parkes, where is Henry Higgins, where is Isaac Isaacs, and where is Josiah Symon, where is Sir John Forrest? It goes on and on and on."

The only answer to Professor Craven is that we no longer produce people capable of such philosophical depth. We are too busy training them to run computers, or manipulate the letter of the law. The nation is the poorer for it, and the fact that we have such an issue as "the republican debate" in which so much nonsense confuses so many, is a testament to what has been done to Australians in the last century.


KENNETT VENEER WEARS THIN

When former Minister Roger Pescott resigned from the Victorian Parliament, his open letter of resignation demonstrated the corrupt nature of the party system, and the dictatorial manner in which Jeff Kennett controls the party room. "Speak up and be branded disloyal to the cause, say nothing and be part of it," wrote Mr. Pescott of his experiences in the Kennett-controlled party room. "Most members follow the latter course because they do not want to be accused of being disloyal." Apparently Mr. Pescott has overlooked his parliamentary loyalty to his electorate, or the people of Victoria.

Prescott resigned because he could not support Kennett's "privatisation" of the auditor general's office. The 'party line' requires that any party member is expected to toe the party line, and vote with the party in Parliament regardless of how his vote may affect his electorate. The party system allows representative government to flow only as far as the party room. Members of the Kennett government are expected to subvert their promise to the people (Parliamentary oath) and vote in the Parliament as directed.

Kennett's powerful personality intimidates members in the party room, especially junior Members, and the ideal Member for the party has become a wimpish "yes-man". The Member for Shepparton, Don Kilgour (National), has great difficulty defending his subservient role in the Kennett team, with an electorally damaging public debate in the local Shepparton News over draconian Workcare legislation. In a letter to the newspaper, Kilgour says that once he has lost in the party room, he is then somehow bound to vote against his own judgment in the important chamber, the Parliament.

Kennett's 'crash-through-or-crash' philosophy and his demand for total party loyalty is beginning to wear thin. He is the classic example of the elected dictator, having been given a massive majority in both Houses of Parliament when Victorians rejected a disgraceful Labor government, Kennett was able to ram through legislation with little opposition. One of his first 'reforms' was a characteristic betrayal; the forced amalgamation of local government on a massive scale.

With the wholesale adoption of the 'privatisation' dogma, even more massive damage was done, and the state debt still lingers. The privatisation of the auditor-general was the last straw for Roger Pescott, and the Mitcham by-election on December 14th may show that it is a similar turning point for the electorate. With the savage backlash against Kennett building quickly now, his 5.4% majority in Mitcham may not be enough.


GORTON ON THE HIGH COURT

Although a relatively ineffective Prime Minister in retrospect, John Gorton carries at least some moral authority. In his Prime Ministers on Prime Ministers address at Old Parliament House last week, Gorton accused the Senate of "undermining democracy" in that it could frustrate a government with a "mandate". This is a shallow assessment; it is the role of the Senate to act as a House of review, and a States' House, neither of which it does very well.

But Gorton's attack on the High Court was better grounded. "The basic function of the High Court is to ensure Australia remains a federation by ensuring that Commonwealth and State laws are consistent with the Constitution. In other words, its role is to interpret what the Constitution says. "For nearly 100 years the High Court has rarely aroused criticism for its rulings, but in recent years, it has become more actively involved in areas better handled by politicians than judges. The most obvious example of this has been in the court's finding of native title in the Mabo decision....The Labor Government and the High Court turned Australia's land title system on its head. Land disputes will be tied up in the courts for years, with the only sure winners being legal practitioners."


CENTRALISATION NOT INEVITABLE

Two South Australian Councils have announced that they have discontinued any further investigation into merging, as the benefits - financial and otherwise - are insignificant. The City of Burnside and the City of Campbelltown have written to ratepayers saying that there are significant differences in lifestyle, cultural values and socio-economic composition, and that they will retain their separate identities. Their brochure says "An amalgamation between our cities will not proceed in view of the disappointing results from the financial investigations and community consultation about the proposal…Community participation in the amalgamation investigation has been a major influence on the outcome." (Our emphasis).

This illustrates the importance of being involved in making submissions to such processes. The views of the ratepayers in this case were clearly critical to the process, and helped defeat further centralisation in local government.


FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN VACCINATION

The principle of compulsory mass immunisation seems to have suffered a significant reverse with the announcement that the Senate has amended the Commonwealth legislation calling for suspension of childcare payments to parents who refuse or fail to have their children vaccinated. Nevertheless, parents with an objection to vaccination must obtain a certificate from a doctor confirming that they have discussed the issue, and specifying that the parents have a conscientious objection on philosophical, religious or medical grounds. The Senate appears to have fulfilled its proper role in this case: that of checking the abuse of power of the House of Representatives, and protecting the interests of minority groups. It has maintained the right of parents to an informed choice in health care.

FROM THE PRESS

We need royals of our own from The Australian, 11/11/97
"If the argument to retain a constitutional monarchy is so strong, then surely there must be a case to establish our own Australian royal family. "Any changes to the Constitution would then be kept to an absolute minimum, and all our representatives would be Australian. "The fact that this proposition has not been addressed (at least publicly) by monarchists diminishes the strength of their arguments, because it is clear they are quite prepared to use the monarchy of a foreign country, but would baulk at having to establish our own monarchy. "They would, I'm sure find this even more distasteful than a republic itself.
"The monarchist concerns about changing the Constitution if we were to become a republic are well founded. However, the bottom line of their argument is that Australians are incapable of addressing those concerns. "I find it extremely disappointing that all the arguments I have heard from constitutional monarchists centre on their absolute faith in the monarchy and their minimal faith in Australia an Australians."
NICK GIANFRANCESCO, Bleton, W.A.

From Sun-Herald, 16/11/97
"I am writing about the inaccurate statements by Mrs. Holmes a Court concerning the Australian national flag. "In the (November 2) story she says: 'But the people who say Australians fought under it (our national flag) in two world wars and so on should realise that the Blue Ensign was rarely seen before 1955, and our forces only fought under that flag in Vietnam.' "This statement is wrong as an elementary study of history would reveal. The Australian flag was chosen by public competition in 1901. "When the Royal Australian Navy was formed in 1911 it was decreed that the Australian Flag was to be flown from the bows of all naval vessels and as a battle flag during war."
JOHN VAUGHAN, President, A.N.F.A.

No Change from Sun-Herald, 16/11/97
"Janet Holmes a Court's impudence is breathtaking (November 2). She presumes to give advice to the British people by saying that the monarchy is OK for them, then pontificates that it is not good for Australia. "She is wrong on most of the points she makes - but the one which grabbed my attention was her statement that young people were 100 per cent for a republic. She is obviously not speaking to the same young people that I come across - they are 100pc for the retention of the Constitution as it stands. "Mrs. Holmes a Court represents the monied class gone wrong. She is in league with Turnbull, Hughes, Wran, Doogue and all that left-leaning, pro-Irish and anti-British Balmain set. "The quicker we get the referendum out of the way and heed the voice of the people to leave things as they are, the better it will be for everybody.
B.C. RUXTON, Victorian R.S.L. President

From The Australian, 16/11/97
"I was surprised to read the Governor General feels he has a responsibility to speak out about national ideals (The Australian, 7/11). "I'm not sure where he gets these delusions of self-importance from but I would like to remind him that the only vote he got for his position was from Paul Keating, and that position was to speak only for the Queen. "If he would like to enter public debate, perhaps he should have run for public office. I wish our appointed officials, governors, judges, etc., would remember they are appointed and that it is not for them to be at the forefront of public issues.''
MICHAEL THOMAS, Winston Hills, N.S.W.

Cannibalism more than just a myth from The Australian, 10/11/97
"Richard Buchhorn's letter, A Myth Takes Place of Truth (6/11), in which he attacks Channel Nine's presentation Unknown Australia: Cape of Dreams as propagating the myth that Aboriginal people cannibalised whites and Chinese in the days of early settlement, has obviously never read any of Glenville Pike's books. "Perhaps he is ignorant of The Last Frontiers and Queensland Frontier, two of many of Pike's books which cover the establishment of the colony of Queensland. "Both these books record details of cannibal feasts around deserted Aboriginal camp fires. "Sorry. Buchhorn. I tend to believe Pike's 35 years of research and subsequent writings rather than your findings.
W.S. MARTYN, Padbury, W.A.

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