Young Australians and a republic

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Young Australians are starting to question the importance of constitutional ties to Britain and the possibility of becoming a republic, writes Kelly Butterworth.

Australia’s current political system (the constitutional monarchy) is one which enables the continuation of political ties to Britain. The alternative political system commonly suggested by interest groups is a republic, which would replace the Governor General who is the Queen’s spokesperson with an Australian head of state. This is referred to as ‘democratising the Australian Crown’ and is an option which many young Australian’s are starting to believe is important.

Australian Republican Movement (ARM) National director David Morris said that for many Australian youths, monarchies are both out dated and undemocratic.

“We are ready to stand on our own feet as republic, a strong, healthy democracy,” Mr Morris said.

Mr Morris’s belief that monarchies are undemocratic is one which is shared by many people in Australia, including Independent Australia’s managing editor, David Donovan who said that the system of the monarchy is inequitable and unfair.

“How can we tell young Australians that our society is set up to reward hard work and talent, and with diligence and tenacity you can get anywhere in life — anywhere except the top job, which is reserved for the firstborn non-Catholic from a certain, extremely highly privileged, English family,” Mr Donovan said.

In March 2011, the Sixteenth National Schools’ Constitutional Convention was held in Canberra. The Convention involved school students from all over Australia, who were taught about both constitutional monarchies and republics and then asked to vote on what they believed to be the best option for Australia. The results indicated that young Australians are in favour of Australia becoming a republic.

[caption id="" align="alignright" caption="ARM national director, David Morris."][/caption]

Australia is commonly referred to as a fully independent nation, however Mr Morris said that to be independent as a country and viewed that way by the world, Australia must first rid itself of its British ties, which are seemingly unnecessary.

“I strongly support democracy, and the removal of the last undemocratic vestige, our link to an inherited monarchy on the other side of the world,” said Mr Morris.

Many interest groups believe that the ties to Britain are unimportant enough politically to warrant keeping them there as a safety net in case of world issues. Political science student Rebecca Perkins stated that remaining tied to Britain could be in Australia’s best interest in the long run.

“Being in a constitutional monarchy doesn’t affect us dramatically and being tied to Britain isn’t ruining us economically or politically. It’s always good to be close to another country in case we ever need them, like for a war or trade as examples. Why fix what isn’t broken?” said Ms Perkins.

The idea of an Australian Head of State is one which attracts many, with Mr Donovan stating that:
 “…an Australian Republic will have a resident Australian citizen as Head of State, embodying and reflecting Australian values and devoting his or her full and undivided loyalty and attention to Australia and its people”.

With young Australians becoming more vocal in society with the emergence of the new generation – ‘Gen Y’ – the views expressed by them are becoming equally important in national decision making, which is evident in current political circles with younger politicians gaining seats and becoming more prominent in their parties, however a major concern of these young Australians is that their fellows have little or no knowledge of political systems or how Australia is run.

Australian students who choose to study politics are taught not only about the Constitutional monarchy that is in place, but also alternatives such as republicanism — however politics is not a compulsory subject for students in any state or territory. Students who do choose to study politics are given basic information on all systems of government with no bias for or against any particular system.

Politics student Rebecca Perkins stated that if voting is compulsory for school-leavers, then studying politics should be as well in order to obtain the necessary level of understanding required to be able to make informed decisions about the running of the country.

“Politics shouldn’t be a chosen subject, but one that is compulsory,” said Ms Perkins.

“The people in our schools — one of those will be our next Prime Minister, and all those people affect our country as a whole by voting.”

The Australian Constitution is constantly being scrutinised, with many other issues also being raised by the Australian democrats.

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