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‘Head of state’? Did I say that?

Those politicians who seek to change our constitution need to clearly explain why

29 April 2017

9:00 AM

29 April 2017

9:00 AM

Malcolm Turnbull has always been a vote loser, contrary to the opinion of the commentariat who put him there. Apart from nearly losing the last election, this was obvious only weeks after the backstabbing in the North Sydney by-election. Little wonder then that they were beside themselves over the fake news that he had saved Tony Abbott’s seat. Incidentally, if journalists must work as mouthpieces, they should at least follow the code and get comments from the target of the leak before going into print. In all this the commentariat has ignored the extraordinary fact that Turnbull and Bill Shorten have linked up in what sounds like a cold war communist front, the ‘Parliamentary Friendship Group for an Australian Head of State’. This is a deceitful cover for their real aim, breaking their oaths of allegiance.

Its particularly deceitful because both have served in governments which have long told the world that we already have an Australian head of state. The Hawke government even cancelled a state visit when the Indonesians said, probably the result of some mischief spread from our embassy, that they would not receive the Governor-General as head of state. They apologised.

In a corner in the last election, Turnbull even admitted to voters, not once but twice, that we already have an Australian Head of State. Why then join this cabal on the entirely untrue basis that we don’t have one, just to justify spending billions on at least two national votes to agree to some untested politicians’ republic? Imagine the reaction if Abbott did this.

If Turnbull had first consulted his vast army of advisers, the conversation might have gone like this:-

Adviser: ‘But PM, you’ll be accused of duplicity. You made it clear in the election.’

Turnbull: ‘Which I clearly won.’

A: ‘You were criticised for not being present when the Vietnam heroes’ remains were brought home. It was on the Alan Jones….’

T: ‘I’ve told you never to mention that name.’

A: ‘It was on 2GB, 4BC and the Macquarie network.’


T: ‘Who listens to them?’

A: ‘Conservative voters.’

T: ‘I prefer the ABC. By the way, have you lined up Justin Milne yet? He’s just right.’

A: (rolling eyes) ‘PM, you said you didn’t need to go because the head of state was there.’

T: ‘Just a slip of the tongue.’

A: ‘But you also said it on the news. And we’re still telling foreign governments to receive Sir Peter as head of state, as they did in Paris.’

T: ‘I should do that. Arrange a 21 gun salute on the Champs-Élysées when Lucy and I are next there.’

A: ‘You can’t have a 21 gun salute.’

T: ‘Why? Cosgrove got one.’

A: ‘He’s head of state.’

T: ‘But I spent $50 billion on their submarines. By the way, keep reminding Christopher’s office he owes me.’

So why is this such an issue in Australia and nowhere else? Surely not just to get a 21 rather than an 18 gun salute. The real reason is that in the 90s, the republicans had become a national laughing stock, even in the republican media. They were making such bizarre claims about a republic − it would improve trade, increase immigration, improve foreign relations, liberate artists − even that it would reduce unemployment. Desperate, they fell on a diplomatic term so obscure that it didn’t appear in the Macquarie Dictionary. They concocted a duplicitous argument that only in their republic could we have an Australian head of state. The problem was that successive governments had long said we already have one, setting this out in black and white in twenty one editions of the Commonwealth Government Directory.

So why do republicans indulge in this fraud? Support for a politicians’ republic has been in freefall since the referendum. And while the strongest supporters of the constitutional monarchy used to be the elderly, they’re now challenged by the young, a time bomb for the republicans. Their answer is to rig the question so that it effectively says that only in a republic can we have an Australian head of state. In a poll this misleading fraud can be worth up to ten percent, even more.

For parliamentarians, one thing is clear. Any politician who frivolously announces that he or she is a republican only demonstrates a complete unsuitability for the position. Proposing a change to the Constitution is an extremely serious matter. This is the basic law by which the people agreed to establish our Federal Commonwealth under the Crown, our crowned republic. Any politician considering constitutional change is therefore duty bound to undertake a serious and conscientious examination of the issues.

First, he or she must show something is seriously wrong with the Crown in the Constitution. That will be a tall order. The appointment of our viceroys is efficient, extremely inexpensive and almost always, very successful. They play a key role in the governance of the country, not only in matters ceremonial but as a constitutional check and balance on the politicians. As for the Queen and the Royal Family, they serve, setting standards and conventions on the viceroys, with the added advantage that they’re self-funded and not even paid by the British taxpayer, much less the Australian.

But assume that after a serious examination, our diligent politician comes to an honest conclusion that there is a serious problem with the Crown. His or her duty is then to demonstrate, in detail, how a new constitutional model would not only cure that problem but also significantly improve the governance of Australia.

Talking vacuously about some vague republic is a waste of time, an insult to the electors and a clear indication of incompetence. Such empty-headed republicanism is usually associated with some jealousy, disdain or even hatred of the Queen and the Royal family, although nowadays they’re usually cunning enough to hide that. Worse, as that most honest of politicians, republican Ted Mack, warned in 1999, some politicians want a republic which neutralises the constitutional checks and balances on them and increases their power.

Duplicity, hunger for power and incompetence− are there no republicans in parliament today of the calibre of Ted Mack?

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