An Australian Republic: a sound investment in democracy

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The modest cost of an Australian Republic is the price of democracy, as well as a sound investment in our nation's future.

One senior monarchist put the cost of creating an Australian republic at a staggering  – and massively inflated – $2.5 billion. In truth, the cost would be only about $300 million.

by David Donovan

The monarchist estimate mostly details costs that would not be necessary under any reasonable move to a republic.

For example, providing money for a plebiscite on a new flag would not be required since the flag is a completely separate issue (refer page 13).

Taxpayers would not need to provide money for plebiscites in every state and territory, since only in Queensland and WA is the position of the Queen and Governor “entrenched’ in state Constitutions (and even that’s debatable). Plebiscites for those states would cost about $20 million (M) in total.

Australia will almost certainly continue to have a system based on the Westminster system with non-political Head of State having similar powers to the Governor General. Therefore, even under a direct election appointment model, the costs of presidential elections would be minimal. For an appointed President, there would be no campaign costs. There is no suggestion State Governors would be elected.

Inflated figures were tendered for Republican rebranding costs: for such things as new banknotes, coins and changing the names of institutions with “Royal” in their titles. The truth is quite benign. New coins and notes are produced every day. When we became a republic old currency would be phased out and replaced in exactly the same way it is done at the moment. No new costs. As for design work, we produce new designs for our money all the time as a matter of course, every day, so no new costs there either. The same goes for changing the names of institutions. There would be no requirement for “Royal” institutions to instantly rebrand all their stationery, building and equipment, this would also happen naturally over time and cause negligible additional costs.

New national, state and territory flags; new awards and medals; and higher wages, travel, accommodation and staff costs for Presidents and Governors are not required.

The ARM estimates that a maximum of $300M would be required to create an Australian Republic. The main costs would be for the $250M for the plebiscites, information campaigns and the final referendum. This is a conservative estimate based on costs provided by the Australian Electoral Commission. As a comparison, the 1999 referendum cost a mere $66M. This could be less if votes were held in conjunction with federal elections.

Unless you argue our Constitution should stay fixed as it is now forever, this is the modest cost of maintaining our democracy. Running a democracy costs money – a dictatorship is cheaper.

On the other side of the equation, there are savings to be made from becoming a Republic. For instance, whenever a member of the Queen’s family visits Australia, the Australian taxpayer picks up the tab — and they don’t travel cheap. Australia has had two expensive royal tours in the last year by Prince William, who has no role in our system of Government at all. Not paying for tours by the monarch’s family will save us money for the life of our Republic.

Australia is a rich country and we can afford the costs if we are committed to improving our democracy. The modest costs necessary to bring about an Australian republic are necessary to give the people a say in the future of their democracy.

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