Our Constitutional Republic – for a "can-do" country

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Ross Garrad believes there is some confusion about just what an Australian Republic entails, and what it doesn't. Here he sets the record straight.


Keeping and improving our Westminster system of democratic government — YES

How would a constitutional republic improve our system of government? By removing the most dangerous defect in our weird mutant “politicians’ monarchy”: the power of the Prime Minister to appoint the Governor-General, our nation’s “constitutional umpire” who acts as our Head of State because the real one lives on the other side of the planet. Familiarity has blinded us to the craziness of this situation, which is not much different from the Grand Final umpire being chosen by the captain of last year’s winning team. Our system of government needs an umpire who represents the nation as a whole, not just the government.

Keeping and honouring our existing flag, until there is an overwhelming community desire to alter it — YES

There’s no need to change our flag when we become a republic – these are two separate issues. Long ago, Canada replaced its flag while keeping the Queen as its Head of State (but take one look at the old Canadian flag, and you’ll see that their need was more desperate than ours). Someday, whether we’re a monarchy or a republic, the Australian people may decide that it’s inappropriate to give another country’s flag the most honoured position on our own flag. In that event, it’s most likely that we will amend our existing flag, instead of replacing it as the Canadians did.

Staying in the Commonwealth of Nations and winning even more medals at the next Games — YES

There has never been any suggestion by republicans that Australia should leave the Commonwealth. Why would we? Most Commonwealth countries are already republics, and monarchies like Australia are in the minority. Any suggestion that an Australian Republic would want to, or be forced to, leave the Commonwealth is simply a lie, repeated by the liars and manipulators who, for whatever reason, want to stunt our country’s democratic growth. As for winning more medals ... well, that’s not a promise, it’s an aspiration – for an optimistic, aspirational Australia.

Continuing to bludge off another country’s undemocratic Head of State, because we’re too lazy or lacking in self-confidence to choose our own — NO

The Queen has many fine qualities, but two fatal flaws: she is not Australian, so her first loyalty is to another country; and as Britain’s monarch, she was chosen in a particularly archaic, discriminatory and undemocratic way. In fact it’s difficult to imagine a method of choosing a Head of State that is so far out of step with Australian values. More than a century ago, our forefathers created a whole new Constitution for a new and confident country, but today the political naysayers tell us we can’t apply our energy and imaginations to this one small improvement: devising a way of choosing our Head of State that fits in with our democratic, egalitarian Australian values.

Blindly going into an American-style political circus to choose an “elected monarch” — NO

The American presidential system may dominate our TV screens, but there is wide agreement that it’s not right for Australia. Regardless of how our future Australian Head of State is chosen, the role will resemble what today’s Governor-General is supposed to be: an impartial umpire, and a respected figure who represents Australia to our country and to the world, but does not interfere in the processes of government except in extraordinary circumstances.

Doing it THE AUSTRALIAN WAY, and enhancing the power of the people over our Constitution— YES

We can learn from other countries, but we must not be limited by them. Unlike some other democracies such as the UK and the USA, Australia gives the people the final say over constitutional reform. This power was intended to maintain our Constitution as a contemporary, living document for a young, forward-looking country. But an irrational fear of change, often promoted by politicians for political purposes, has shackled our Constitution to the past. A successful republic referendum would be the medicine our country needs, to unclog the arteries and free up the arthritic joints of a young country grown prematurely old.

It’s a natural evolution for a “can-do” country.

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