When no means no
The golden rule for constitutional change is that this should only be contemplated if it will significantly improve the governance of the nation. The Founders carefully ensured that the politicians would be controlled on this through the insertion of a crucially important element of Swiss-style direct democracy. After all, that was how we federated.
Under this, the people must cast an informed vote in favour of the change both nationally and federally – that is not only must a majority of Australians agree, there has to be a majority in four states. Note especially the Constitution requires this be an informed vote. All the details of the change must be on the table before the people vote, and not revealed afterwards.
There is no other way to change the Constitution.
Notwithstanding this clear constitutional requirement, Bill Shorten threatens that if he becomes PM he’ll force the people to vote in a fake referendum, a sham plebiscite based on a fraud and designed to circumvent the Constitution. While hiding the details of what he’s up to, Shorten will demand the people answer this question: ‘Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?’.
He will no doubt be supported on this by the very man who, more than anyone else, looks as though he could well hand him the keys to The Lodge − Malcolm Turnbull.
These two have already agreed that federal politicians’ terms should be extended by a third so senators will normally face the people only every eight years. As leading members of the shady republican front, ‘Parliamentary Friends for an Australian Head of State’, who knows what secret deals have been done on a Politicians’ Republic − including who will be our first president?
But according to several commentators, Shorten is using the threat of this fake referendum to show Turnbull up as weak in not pushing something he believes in. Should we really be surprised if this is the way one backstabbing politician rewards another backstabber? In any event, if ever the prime ministership is delivered to Shorten, whatever support Turnbull can then give him will be meaningless. Turnbull will then be a feather duster, with Tony Abbott likely to return to the leadership. Abbott will strongly oppose this fake referendum, no doubt with the support of two by then even more significant political figures, Australian Conservative leader Cory Bernardi, and One Nation’s Pauline Hanson.
Make no mistake, this plebiscite is based on a fraud – the blatantly untrue claim that only in a Politicians’ Republic can we have an Australian head of state. Both Shorten and Turnbull have served in governments and are thus bound by the way those governments have held out to all the world that the Governor-General is head of state, a diplomatic term not in the Constitution.
And in his crass attempt to bamboozle Australians, Shorten may find that this could blow up in his face. Many of those who support the existing system, including John Howard and Tony Abbott, say with justification that Australia is already a republic – a Crowned Republic. So when some people vote Yes, they could be justifiably voting Yes to the existing Constitution. While Shorten objects to the cost of the people deciding whether to change the meaning of marriage in the Constitution, he’ll be borrowing vast amounts of money to force the people to keep on voting on his Politicians’ Republic until they finally give in. This will be followed by a second plebiscite with the names of the model but again without details. Either Shorten hasn’t the foggiest idea what sort of Republic he wants, or he’s hiding this.
That’s not all. Then there’ll be a convention to work out the details. Only after that will there be a constitutional referendum. There’ll also be a special minister with advisers and a department to run this process. Altogether it’ll cost billions.
This will be the sixth time Labor has directly or indirectly forced the people to a vote on their Politicians’ Republic. It’s money down the drain because when the people say No they mean No. The polls indicate a significant decline in support for a Politicians’ Republic since 1999. That was a landslide with the No case winning nationally, in every state and 72 per cent of electorates. And while the elderly were the strongest supporters of the status quo in 1999, the young are now challenging them for this position − a bombshell for Shorten.
Although the republican elites in their salons in the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra triangle ostentatiously declare themselves ‘passionate’, passion in any significant degree exists only among the defenders of the Constitution.
When Bob Carr evicted NSW governors from Government House, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy called out 20,000 of its supporters to protest peacefully in one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in Macquarie Street, with Keating blaming the loss of the following federal election on the reaction to the eviction. The ARM made two attempts to copy ACM but both were monumental failures, especially their open-air concert in the lead-up to the referendum. The attendance was so embarrassingly small, the ARM’s media barrackers declined to report on it even though they had given the event thousands of dollars of free advertising.
ARM’s supporters were so lacking in passion that they had few foot soldiers and were forced to call on the ACTU and the ALP to fill the void. ACM had close to 60,000 volunteers working under the direction of its National Campaign Director, now NSW Minister for Counter-Terrorism, David Elliott. While the ARM was rolling in money, John Howard was impeccably fair and ensured both sides were equally funded, with ACM’s Kerry Jones chairman of the official No committee. Membership was allocated on the basis of votes gained in the constitutional convention election; hence ACM had all eight monarchist seats with two independent and principled republicans who opposed the Keating-Turnbull model.
So will a Bill Shorten, PM be similarly fair to both sides with his fake referendum? The answer is obvious.