"Don't mention the P-word"
If the model released today by the Australian Republic Movement is the model to be voted on, were a referendum to be called, then monarchists will be able to sit back and watch republicans and politicians who want the parliament to appoint a president, battle with the ARM.
An initial reading of the policy summary highlights several downsides and undoubtedly an analysis of the detailed policy will reveal many more. For instance, it seems that an elected president could be simply dismissed by a 50% +1 vote of both houses of the Federal Parliament. Not only will politicians get to decide on who is to be put forward to be endorsed by the people as president, politicians will then be able to get rid of a president by a simple majority.
Whilst the wording indicates that both state and federal parliaments will put forward candidates, what it actually means is that only the Labor and Liberal parties will decide as they are the only ones in power.
It would appear that, under this republic, a president would be purposefully emasculated and be mainly restricted to ceremonial duties. With the abolishment of the Reserve Powers, the significant checks and balances on a government that acts illegally and unconstitutionally, which are inherent in our current constitution, are removed.
On both of the occasions in Australia's history on which a government has been dismissed, an election was immediately held giving the people a direct say on the future of their government. Under this republic, a government that fails to heed the proposed constitution would have no fear of being taken to task and forced to face the people. Truly a politicians’ republic in every sense.
It is strange that the drafters of this document have shied away from mentioning that the head of their republic will be a president. Are they afraid to use the word? Are they trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by making it seem that the extremely complex and almost impossible task of removing the Crown from the Australian Constitution would be simple and not involve massive changes which could easily lead to chaos and end up in the courts for decades.
Furthermore, the proposal to elect a president would, in any event, give the successful candidate a mandate which could well bring him, or her, into direct opposition with the government. As former prime minister and arch-republican, Paul Keating had said “It should be recognised that a Head of State, whose powers derived from a general election, would be the only person in the political system so elected. His or her powers would be nominally much greater than those of all other Commonwealth office holders, including the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, who are, without exception, indirectly elected via large, elected parties. With a popularly elected President, potential would exist for the representative and democratically elected parliamentary chambers, the repositories of the diffuse power of Australian democracy, to be gradually diminished, while the embodiment of the nation and great powers were vested in one person. That would constitute a very dramatic - and undesirable change to a system which all of us agree has served us well.” (An Australian Republic: The Way Forward - 7 June 1995).
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