Robert Vose explains why he thinks his Copernican model for an Australian Republic would work well in our system.
This article provides some of the reasoning behind my particular model for a Copernican republic which could be provisionally described as a “Crowned Republic Elect” model. This model differs from other republican models proposed by the ARM and it also differs from other models with a Copernican framework. I have included a diagram with a broad outline of the three frameworks and that shows another worthy model with a Copernican framework — David Latimer’s “Honorary President Model”. I hope that republicans can appreciate the difference between a broad “framework” and the particular models that are built with a given framework. The flowing article is particularly about the “Crowned Republic Elect” model for a republic — it is not about the Copernican framework in general.
In the “Crowned Republic Elect” model for a republic, the Head of State is based on the existing structure of our constitutional monarchy through the Australian Crowns. It is important to describe and understand the existing “framework” for Australia’s Head of State in a constitutional monarchy, because this shows us the basic building blocks that we are starting with as we define a new Australian Head of State for an Australian republic. Any proposed model for a republic would have to demonstrate how the existing framework of Executive Government will be modified, as well as what parts need to be removed and what new elements will need to be added to our system of government for that particular model for a republic.
The ARM describes their preferred “framework” in their policy statement. The ARM would like to remove the Queen while promoting the Governor-General to become our Head of state. A Copernican framework, by contrast, would replace the Queen with an Australian as our Head of State while keeping the Governor-General as the representative of the Head of State for the federal Parliament. The Copernican framework is very similar to our existing framework as a constitutional monarchy; while the ARM framework includes some major structural changes to the existing Executive Government.
The Existing Framework — Seven Australian Crowns
Since the Statute of Westminster 1931, the Crown has been divisible and there is, arguably, one divisible Crown for each of the Australian states respectively and one Crown for the Commonwealth of Australia. So, strictly speaking, there are seven Australian Crowns. The monarch for these seven Australian Crowns is the one person, Queen Elizabeth II. The Australian Crowns are personally unified by the Queen. Queen Elizabeth II is Australia’s de jure Head of State as the Queen of Australia for all the seven Australian Crowns. She is also the Head of State for the 15 other Commonwealth realms including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada.
Each of the seven Australian Crowns has one person to represent the Queen in the respective federal or state Parliament, namely the Governor-General for the federal Parliament and the state Governors for each of the state Parliaments respectively. There is a one-to-one relationship between an Australian Crown and the representative of the Queen in one of the Australian federal or state Parliaments. There is no hierarchical relationship between the representatives of the Queen. They represent the Queen as Head of State for their respective parliament. The State Governors are not subordinate to the Governor-General. The ARM framework for a republic would change and distort these relationships if the Governor-General were to be promoted to be Australia’s Head of State, as the ARM proposes. There are also many other reasons for replacing the Queen only, while keeping the Governor-General as the representative of the Head of State in a Copernican republic.
There are seven representatives of the Queen (the Governor-General and the six state Governors), with one representative each for each of the seven Australian Crowns respectively. A list of the seven Australian Crowns (in alphabetical order) is below:
- The Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia
- The Crown in right of New South Wales
- The Crown in right of Queensland
- The Crown in right of South Australia
- The Crown in right of Tasmania
- The Crown in right of Victoria
- The Crown in right of Western Australia
The Crown is the personification of the state. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, as interpreted by the High Court, is the highest legal authority in Australia. The Constitution assigns powers to the Commonwealth in our federal system of government, while the states are left with residual powers and responsibilities. Everyone in Australia is subject to the power of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia as exercised through the Federal Parliament. Most Australians also live in one of the states, but many people live in one of the territories. We have a system of responsible government and the members of Parliament are democratically elected. One of the few rights enshrined in our Constitution is for the fair compensation from the Commonwealth for any acquisition of property by the Commonwealth. Our system of government works.
The Australian Crown means very much more than just the monarch alone. Our system of government has built up around the Australian Crowns. It is so stable we usually do not even notice it. Most Australians – and many republicans – would not even be aware that there is such a thing as an Australian Crown.
Democratising the Seven Australian Crowns
There is, however, one thing that that should be improved. We should have an Australian citizen as our Head of State instead of a citizen of the United Kingdom. We could ensure that we have a fair process for electing an Australian to our highest office. We could, in short, democratise the Australian Crowns. We can keep the Australian Crowns and periodically elect Australians to replace the Queen in our Constitution.
The Crowned Republic Elect model for an Australian republic aims to democratize the Australian Crowns. A particular state would constitute a natural and logical electorate for the respective Crown in right of that particular Australian state. The people in Queensland, for example, would vote for a Queenslander to act as our Head of State under the Crown in right of Queensland. The other states would also vote for a person from their respective state to act as Head of State. The Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia would have as its electorate all the Australian territories. The Northern Territory and the ACT would vote with the other territories for a person to act as Head of State. To emphasise the point again — these seven electorates for the Head of State mirror the existing reality of the seven divisible Australian Crowns. Currently, the Queen, as the monarch for these seven Australian Crowns, is our Head of State. The Queen currently provides the personal unity of the seven Australian Crowns.
There are three steps for democratizing the seven Australian Crowns. First, each state and the territories combined will need to vote for their respective electorate’s Head of State. This would be with a state-based direct-election. Secondly, there needs to be a round-robin cycle around the states and the territories combined so that each of these seven electorates has an equal amount of time as Head of State in any given cycle. Thirdly, the Commonwealth and all the states would have to accept the particular Head of State at any given time in the round robin cycle as the Head of State for all of Australia. The given Head of State at any one time would provide the personal unity for the seven Australian Crowns, just as the Queen does now. The Commonwealth and the states could agree to refer to the seven Australian Crowns as a single unitary entity with the title — The Australian Crown. We could then say that Australia is unified under the Australian Crown. The state-based election and round robin for the Head of State is based on the reality of the Australian Crowns. It is fair to all the states and territories. As an aside, our national flag includes seven-pointed stars with the Federation Star having one point each for the states and the seventh for the territories combined.
Representatives of the Head of State
This Crowned Republic Elect model for an Australian republic replaces the Queen with periodically elected Australians. Each of the states and the Commonwealth would still have a representative of the Head of State for their respective Parliaments. We would still have the Governor-General, who would be appointed by the Head of State, but only on the advice of the Prime Minister. Each of the states would also retain their state Governor, who is appointed by the Head of State but only on the advice of the respective Premier. The conditions of the Australia Act 1986 relating to the monarch would apply to the elected Head of State.
In the case of a vacancy for the Head of State – say, if an elected Head of State were to resign or die during their time in office – the state Governor as the representative of the Head of State from the particular state that voted that person into office would be a suitable candidate to fill the vacancy. For example, a Head of State who was directly elected in the state of New South Wales, but who resigned during their term in office, would be replaced by the acting NSW state Governor. The promoted state Governor could be expected to carry on with the duties of the Australian Head of State with ease and decorum, while the NSW state Premier should be able to fill the position for a new NSW state Governor quite quickly. For a Head of State voted in by the territories, a vacancy for the Head of State would be filled by the Governor-General.
This article set out to describe a new model for an Australian republic that is built on the Copernican framework. This model aims to democratize the Australian Crowns. It aims to do this incrementally with a series of plebiscites and referenda for small incremental changes to the Constitution. Previous articles in this series with Independent Australia have provided an outline of a process for becoming a republic.
I realise that initially this model may not be popular with active republicans nor with monarchists. I do, however, think this is the best option for replacing the Queen with periodically elected Australians. This model is fair. This model is safe. Most importantly, this model is based on the existing reality of Executive Government in Australia and it maps out a process that involves only minimal changes to the existing system of government.
There are other good models with a Copernican framework that have been developed. David Latimer’s Honorary President Model would appeal to many republicans. In this article I have described a unique and new model – provisionally labeled as a “Crowned Republic Elect” model — where we democratize the Australian Crowns and base the election of Head of State on the existing reality of the Australian Crowns. This new model keeps the Governor-General as the representative of the Head of State as well as all the state Governors.
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