An important group striving for an Australian Republic is 'Republic Now!', which has as its motto: 'Rewrite the Constitution'. Here, convenor Dr Klaas Woldring gives an overview of their approach.
Republic Now! is a PRO REPUBLIC association! It is not an ANTI MONARCHY Association. The constitutional monarchies in Europe, e.g. the U. K., Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain enjoy considerable popular support in most cases. They have grown historically and, as they are constitutional, these monarchies do not have a great deal of political power at all. But they do have significant symbolic power. One could argue that they have become more or less like permanent symbolic Presidencies of a Republic. However, the royals in Europe are living among their citizens, are in close contact with them, and are seen regularly at major public events and functions. That is not the case at all in Australia. The House of Windsor is now very remote from Australian society and the Australian Government's decision making structures and processes.
This is a huge and real difference and, therefore, a Republic IS the logical form of state for Australia. It is not only high time to sever the umbilical cord but, even more, for Australia to actually assert its independence internationally. The most important issue really is "What kind of Republic?" should Australians aim at?
Republic Now! is committed to:
- The creation of an independent Australian Republic with a directly elected President who shall have symbolic functions and powers, without any further delay
- Governance changes resulting in the replacement of federation by a two level structure of governance: national and local, with regional administrations indirectly elected forming a third mezzanine level.
- Governance change aimed at decentralising Australia, decongesting the metropolitan cities and providing excellent regional opportunities.
- Replacing the dominant single-member electoral district system with proportional representation - open party list system, a simple, inexpensive democratic system. This would result in a reversal of the concentration of executive power in two major parties. Australia is clearly suffering from the two-party tyranny which is kept firmly in place by the current dominant electoral system based on single-member electoral districts and compulsory preferential voting.
- Introducing the "Separation of Powers" principle in Governance. This means that the executive, legislature and judiciary shall be strictly separate as is the case in all parliamentary systems of Governance with the exception of the Westminster system.
- Developing a new Constitution for Australia within five years. To that end a New Constitution Council of ten persons should be established of whom no more than four will be constitutional lawyers.
- This New Constitution Council should also draw up a Strategic Plan for a process of plebiscites and constitutional referendums to achieve constitutional change. Such a staged process should involve constitutional conventions of citizens deliberating about specific aspects of constitutional change. The use of preparatory (non-binding) plebiscites is seen as vital for the successful carriage of subsequent referendums.
Merely changing the Head of State, a Minimalist position that has clearly failed to impress voters, should be abandoned altogether. Australia needs a strategic plan to develop governance reform on a broad front. None of the parties represented in Parliaments today have presented such a plan, least of all the major parties.
[For more information about Republic Now! go to the Republic Now! website: http://www.republicnow.org.