Philip Benwell, MBE

He had earlier coordinated the Queen Elizabeth Gate Appeal in Australia raising the largest amount of any Commonwealth country other than the UK. The Appeal had been established by Prince Michael of Kent to build the Queen Elizabeth Gates in Hyde Park, London as a tribute to the Queen Mother.

Benwell has written a number of books and papers including:

“In Defence of Australia's Constitutional Monarchy.”
ISBN: 07734-66967 (2003)

“A very public affair – The Australian Constitution and Crown.”
ISBN: 978-0-646-51652-3 (2013/4)

"Australia - Our Country, Our Constitution, Our Governance."
ISBN: 978-0-646-96330-3 (2016).

Prior to his involvement in the Australian Monarchist League, Benwell had been engaged in various community and sporting activities. He was awarded the MBE in 1976 for his work within the community.

His advice on the Australian and British Constitutions has been often sought in Britain and elsewhere. The late Lord Molyneaux of Killead commented that Benwell “is renowned not only in Australia but throughout the Commonwealth for his dedication to sound governance. His first-hand experience of structures in most nations of the world, where his judgment is widely respected, has led to his advice being widely sought in democracies great and small.”

He has written ‘The Wattle Crown’ as a tribute to Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Australia, whom he has served in a voluntary capacity for half of his life.

  • published The Coronation in Our Monarchy 2023-05-04 02:55:07 +1000

    The Coronation

     

     

     

     

     

    The King Comes to His Crowning

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Here you will find information on the Coronation, the timing of the Procession and Crowning, in Australian Eastern Standard Time, together with the Liturgy and other information.

    6pm AEST

     Congregation to be seated inside the Abbey.

    6:30 - 7.45pm

     Heads of state, overseas government representatives, Government ministers, First Ministers, former PMs, foreign royals and members of the royal family arrive.

    6:45pm

    The Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry begin to gather ready for the procession from Buckingham Palace.

    7:20pm

     The King and Queen Consort’s procession sets off from the Palace.

    7:53pm

     The King and Queen Consort arrive at Westminster Abbey.

    8pm

     The King and Queen enter the Abbey through the Great West Door and the service begins.

    9pm

     The King is crowned. The Archbishop of Canterbury places the St Edward’s Crown on Charles’s head. Trumpets will sound and gun salutes will be fired across the UK.

    10pm

     The service ends and the newly crowned King and Queen begin their coronation procession back to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach.

    10:33pm

     Charles and Camilla are expected to enter Buckingham Palace through the Centre Arch.

    10:45pm

     The King and Queen Consort receive a royal salute from the military in the Palace gardens

    11:15pm

     The King, Queen Consort and members of the royal family appear on the Palace balcony to watch the flypast.

    Click on the title below to see:

    The Liturgy - Order of the Service of the Coronation


    The Coronation of Our Kings

    Coronation Church Services in Australia

  • published AEC The Voice YES/NO Leaflet in The Voice 2023-04-27 20:03:02 +1000

    The official AEC Voice YES/NO Leaflet

    The YES/NO Case
    published by the Australian Electoral Commisson

     

  • published AML Submission to the Parliament in The Voice 2023-04-25 09:39:20 +1000

    AML Submission to the Parliament on the Voice

    19 April 2023

    The Committee Secretary
    Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum
    PO Box 6201
    Canberra ACT 2600

    SUBMISSION TO THE ENQUIRY ON THE ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER VOICE REFERENDUM

    The Australian Monarchist League is not involved with any political party or group either for or against the Voice to the Parliament. We are a totally independent incorporated association with a database exceeding 55,000. Our mandate is to protect the Australian Constitution and the Crown within it.

    Our concern with regard to the Voice predominantly relates to implications that the inclusion of the proposed three paragraphs may have on the Australian Constitution and to the smooth running of governance. For instance:

    1) Paragraph 3 of the proposed inclusion into the Constitution states:
    “3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions powers and procedures.”

    We believe that the ‘composition, functions powers and procedures’ of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice should be fully explained to the Australian people prior to the referendum. We express concern about the constitutional inclusion of ‘powers’ and would ask what ‘powers’ is the Voice to be constitutionally imbued with?

    2) The Prime Minister has stated on several occasions that the Uluru Statement from the Heart will be adopted in full. Is it proposed that the other terms of the Statement be introduced under the constitutional inclusion of ‘powers’ which have not yet been explained.

    The Uluru Statement specifies that the sovereignty of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has never been ceded or extinguished and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown. We ask, how can such sovereignty, if constitutionally recognised, be based with an entity or entities other than the Crown and if so with which entity or entities and how will this work alongside the existing sovereignty of all Australian people?

    3) We are concerned about the inclusion in paragraph 2 of the words “and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth’’ which members of the government’s First Nations Referendum Working and Engagement Groups have informed the media would include the Governor-General as well as any official forming a part of the Executive of the Commonwealth. That would appear to include the public service. That ambit of operation is far wider than could possibly be necessary.

    We would highly recommend that these words be deleted.

    4) The question that will be put to the Australian people is whether they agree with: “A Proposed Law: to alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

    Currently the Constitution refers to “people” (lower case “p”) in three ways:
    - the people of a State;
    - the people of the Commonwealth;
    - the people of a particular race.

    Will the words ‘First Peoples of Australia’ be included in any way in the Australian Constitution? If so how will the term ‘First Peoples’ (upper case) relate to the other peoples mentioned in the Constitution and what will be the constitutional consequences of this specific language?

    5) Since The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice is proposed to be a constitutionally enshrined representative body, we would request that the members thereof be required to swear or affirm allegiance in accordance with section 42 of the Australian Constitution. This would, we believe, go a long way towards ensuring the equality of citizenship of all Australian peoples.

    Furthermore we believe that section 44 should also apply to such members.

    END

     

     

     

  • published The Voice Referendum Enabling Bill in The Voice 2023-04-25 09:37:27 +1000

    The Voice Referendum Enabling Bill

    2022‑2023

    The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

    HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 

    Presented and read a first time

    Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023

    No.      , 2023

    (Attorney‑General)

     

    A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

    Contents

    1............ Short title............................................................................................ 1

    2............ Commencement.................................................................................. 2

    3............ Schedule 1.......................................................................................... 2

    Schedule 1—Alteration of the Constitution                                                          3

    A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

    The Parliament of Australia, with the approval of the electors, as required by the Constitution, enacts:

    1  Short title

                       This Act is the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023.

    2  Commencement

                       This Act commences on the day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

    3  Schedule 1

                       The Constitution is altered as set out in Schedule 1.

    Schedule 1—Alteration of the Constitution

      

    1  Table of contents

    After:

    Chapter VIII          Alteration of the Constitution

    insert:

    Chapter IX            Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

    2  After Chapter VIII

    Insert:

    Chapter IX—Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

    129  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

                       In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

                          (i)  there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;

                         (ii)  the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

                        (iii)  the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

  • donated 2023-04-22 12:48:26 +1000
  • Australian Monarchists Launch Campaign against the Albanese Republic

    The Australian Monarchist League does not generally get involved in party-politics but with the Albanese government intent on doing everything it can to bring down Australia’s constitutional system, we feel that we must now mobilise monarchists throughout the country to protest against the insults that are occurring both to the King and to his people.

    Read more
  • published Liberty Newsletter - April 2023 in Newsletters 2023-04-16 20:21:57 +1000
  • published Casual Lunch Gatherings Sydney in Petitions & Surveys 2023-04-07 21:43:09 +1000

    Casual Lunch Gatherings Sydney

    We are organising casual lunch gatherings of just a few people who are available on a particular day.  The lunches would be held at the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel otherwise known as the Masonic Club with individuals ordering and paying separately.  It would be an opportunity for like-minded friends to gather with no speeches or other formalities. 

    If you would like to receive invitations for these casual lunch gatherings, can you please complete this questionaire and also indicate what day is best for you.  We would then need to go with the majority decision.

  • published Exclusive Coronation Auction 2023-03-24 10:16:11 +1100

    Exclusive AML Member's Coronation Auction

     

    An Auction of valuable memorabilia and other items
    To raise much needed funds

     

     

     

    See below for further information

     If you do not want to bid, you can make a donation if you wish via: AML Donations

    Thank you.

    Read more
  • published Petition for the Coronation in Petitions & Surveys 2023-03-18 13:12:04 +1100

    Please Sign Our Petition for the Coronation


    The Coronation of His Majesty The King of Australia and Her Majesty the Queen Consort will take place on the 6th of May 2023. Both the United Kingdom and Canada have announced public celebrations to commemorate the event, with other Commonwealth Realms expected to follow suit.

    The Australian Monarchist League is calling on the Commonwealth Government to follow the precedent set by successive Australian Governments for the 1902, 1911, 1937 and 1953 coronations of previous Australian Monarchs and give the event its due respect with inclusive and lasting celebrations.

    As such:


    We, the undersigned, petition the Commonwealth Government, The Royal Australian Mint and Australia Post to commemorate the coronation of His Majesty The King on the 6th of May 2023 including in the following ways:

    1)  A circulated commemorative coin bearing the King’s effigy;
    2)  A set of commemorative Coronation stamps commissioned and sold by Australia Post;
    3)  The illumination of buildings and bridges across the country in royal blue
          (to represent the Australian flag and the Commonwealth of nations);
    4)  Open days and celebratory presentations at all vice-regal residences across Australia; and
    5)  An Australian Coronation Medal

     

     

    NOTE: where is says 'Will you sign' means simply inserting your name & address.

  • published Letter to Members February 2023 in Newsletters 2023-02-17 12:31:59 +1100

    Letter to Members February 2023

     

     

    A 1500 word treatise on the Voice and the Sovereignty of the Australian People
    by Philip Benwell

    There is a lot that is happening around us that will be confusing for many of our members and supporters. Most are not accustomed to having to handle the intricacies involved in making changes to the Australian Constitution, particularly when the proposers of change, the prime minister and his government, are intentionally not being upfront in providing the detail of any change, instead indicating that the public should “trust us” which is reminiscent of the quote by Charles de Gaulle heading  this article.

    As we have continually stated, the Australian Monarchist League is not involved in the Voice per se, but we are involved in protecting the integrity of the Australian Constitution. It was in this regard that we came out against the ‘Recognise A Better Way’ NO committee when it proposed changing the Preamble to the Australian Constitution. Many Australians were also offended by being termed ‘migrants’, even if their families had been here for over 200 years. It appears to indicate the mindset behind the Voice to the Parliament. It is wrong. All Australian citizens are Australians whether born here or naturalised.

    The fact is, we are not dealing with a simple Voice to the parliament, but with several other integral matters surrounding the Voice which could have a detrimental effect on the Australian Constitution and on our system of governance.

    Matters of Sovereignty
    All independent nations have power. In autocracies or absolute monarchies, which are both dictatorships, that power resides in the president or the king. In many democracies that power is shared between the parliament, however it may be elected, and the government.

    (Four of Australia's Founding Fathers)

    In Australia however, our constitution ensures that the power of the nation resides in the people. That is why the Australian people, and no one else, are required to agree to any change to the Australian Constitution that may be put forward by the parliament. It is a unique power that must be carefully nurtured and protected. This is also why only 8 out of 44 referendums have passed since 1901.

    Just imagine the situation if, as in the UK, the Australian parliament had the power to change the constitution without having to go to the people. We would have become a republic 30 or more years ago, impediments on the power of politicians would have been removed and the power of the Senate totally emasculated, just as Tony Blair did to the Royal Prerogative and the House of Lords.

    We are now being asked to amend the Constitution to include what is termed “an Indigenous Voice to the Parliament.” Whilst this appears to be innocuous, and even necessary to ameliorate the plight of Aboriginal communities, it is important to examine exactly how the Constitution is to be amended and to have legal opinion on what the consequences of any amendment may be. This is not being anti the Voice but rather pro the Constitution and ensuring that if there is to be an amendment it is properly done. At the moment, we lack detail on all basic points.

    For instance, the prime minister has said that the Uluru Statement (image above) will be implemented in full. This will basically include the following which are key ellments of the Uluru Statement from the Heart (my underlining):

    Sovereignty. Acknowledgement that Aboriginal tribes were the first sovereign nations of the Australian continent, that sovereignty was never ceded and that it co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

    Constitutional reform. Constitutional reforms would empower Aboriginal people to manage their own affairs and righten the current skewed statistics for e.g. incarceration or suicide.

    Makarrata Commission. A Makarrata (Treaty) Commission would have two roles: Develop a national framework that would permit each sovereign Aboriginal nation state to negotiate their own respective treaty; and oversee a process of truth-telling. Similar commissions (including truth telling) are common throughout the world and have been established in countries such as Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

    Truth-telling, a process that exposes the full extent of the past injustices experienced by Aboriginal people. Importantly, it empowers Aboriginal people to no longer be a subject in the dialogue about Aboriginal history, but instead be the voice telling this history. It would allow all Australians to understand Aboriginal and Australian history and assist in moving towards genuine reconciliation.

    Voice to Parliament. Establishment of an elected voice to the Parliament with constitutional backing. This voice would be empowered to give Aboriginal people a say in laws that affect them. It would be a voice that cannot be removed unless by a future constitutional referendum.

    You can view the Uluru statement in full, together with other documentation in regard to the Voice on our website at the link below.

    Quite understandably, many people are confused by all this talk about sovereignty because they were taught that there is only one sovereignty, and that is the sovereignty of the Crown and the people as a whole. However, we are now seeing other claims of sovereignty, including the black sovereignty movement now led by Senator Lidia Thorpe. If the Uluru Statement is accepted in full, which appears to be the intention of the prime minister, then also accepted would be the fact that “that sovereignty was never ceded” by the Aboriginal peoples. How an indigenous sovereignty can coexist with the people’s sovereignty has not been explained and in this context ‘coexist’ can mean many things to many people.

    Including either a direct or an implied acceptance of the Uluru Statement in full can lead to a direct undermining of the whole basis on which the Constitution of 1901 was established.

    As you know, there were referendums in each colony (State) in the 1890s which approved the Constitution of 1901. These referendums were held under the auspices of the British Crown which was the sovereignty existing in Australia since 1788. That sovereignty was effectively transferred to the Australian people in 1901.

    However, if the Uluru Statement is to be accepted in full, the Australian people’s sovereignty could cease to exist because Australians would have accepted, by referendum, that the sovereignty of the Aboriginal people, who are to be recognised as “the first sovereign nations of the Australian continent” was never ceded to Britain in the first place.

    The fact is, once the Australian people constitutionally recognise that there are separate sovereignties, the whole basis of our system of governance and the Constitution itself becomes shrouded in uncertainty.

    This has all been highlighted by the claims of Senator Thorpe that the Australian Constitution does not exist and that only Aboriginal (Black) sovereignty exists.

    If the Uluru statement is accepted in full in the Australian Constitution then the High Court could very well accept that Aboriginal sovereignty supersedes the people’s sovereignty, because the people themselves have agreed by referendum vote to include it.

    Mind you, in making these assessments I am only going on the prime minister’s comments but then, what else do we have to go on because there is no written documentation explaining exactly what is to be put into the Constitution and what its implications will be.

    The Makarrata Treaty
    I now turn to the matter of the treaty or treaties. Exactly who will the treaty be with and for what? Will a treaty be recognising Aboriginal sovereignty? What will be the benefit to the Australian people as a whole?

    Now, in all of these issues that I am raising, this is not to say that we are against having a Voice to the parliament, the concern I and others have is that by including not only the concept of a Voice but everything that appears to go with it, in accordance with the Uluru statement, the Australian Constitution will undoubtedly be undermined together with the system of governance as it is.

    We should also not forget that a legislated Voice will be permanent even if it follows the pathway of the seven earlier Voice-type committees and degenerates into absolute corruption, disarray or ineffectiveness as several of the previous seven indigenous committees have done since 1973.

    These seven committees were the Whitlam government’s National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (1973-77) which was replaced by the National Aboriginal Conference (1977-85). That was scrapped to make way for ATSIC, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (1989-2005). The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (1991-2000), the National Indigenous Council (2005-07), the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (2009-19) and the prime minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council (2013-19) were established with the objective of enabling Indigenous voices to be heard in the corridors of power but became defunct.

    Perhaps it would be far wiser to have a Voice to the parliament legislated by the parliament itself rather than being included in the Constitution.

    Yours sincerely

    Philip Benwell
    National Chair

    Papers on the Indigenous Voice

     

  • Key Elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart

    Key elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart

    • Sovereignty. Acknowledgement that Aboriginal tribes were the first sovereign nations of the Australian continent, that sovereignty was never ceded and that it co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

    • Constitutional reform. Constitutional reforms would empower Aboriginal people to manage their own affairs and righten the current skewed statistics for e.g. incarceration or suicide.

    • Makarrata Commission. A Makarrata (Treaty) Commission would have two roles: Develop a national framework that would permit each sovereign Aboriginal nation state to negotiate their own respective treaty; and oversee a process of truth-telling. Similar commissions (including truth telling) are common throughout the world and have been established in countries such as Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

    • Truth-telling, a process that exposes the full extent of the past injustices experienced by Aboriginal people. Importantly, it empowers Aboriginal people to no longer be a subject in the dialogue about Aboriginal history, but instead be the voice telling this history. It would allow all Australians to understand Aboriginal and Australian history, and assist in moving towards genuine reconciliation. 

    • Voice to Parliament. Establishment of an elected voice to the Parliament with constitutional backing. This voice would be empowered to give Aboriginal people a say in laws that affect them. It would be a voice that cannot be removed unless by a future constitutional referendum.

     

  • published What is a Makarrata Commission in The Voice 2023-02-04 14:30:54 +1100

    What is a Makarrata Commission

    An Albanese Labor Government will establish a Makarrata Commission as a priority.

    This sits alongside Labor’s commitment to a referendum on a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament in the first term of an Albanese Government.

    As called for in the Uluru Statement, the Makarrata Commission will have responsibilities for overseeing processes for Treaty-Making and Truth-Telling.

    The Makarrata Commission will be independent and have responsibility for truth telling and treaty making. It will work with a Voice to Parliament when it is established.

    The terms of reference for the Makarrata Commission’s truth telling responsibilities will be finalised after consultation, and will include:

    • Establishing an effective model of local truth telling, to support local communities
    • Inquiring into matters of overarching national significance, including the causes of inequality from colonisation to present day
    • Supporting and funding local truth telling projects, in partnerships with other levels of government, First Nations organisations and the community
    • Recording and telling positive stories of survival and culture, as well as making an official record of colonisation, massacres discrimination and resistance

    The Makarrata Commission’s treaty responsibilities will initially include:

    • Recommending a framework for federal treaty-making, taking into account state and territory processes
    • Initial consultation with First Nations communities
    • Reporting within the first term of a Labor Government

    (From the website of Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Labor Senator for Northern Territory)

  • published Proposed Referendum Wording in The Voice 2023-02-04 14:07:31 +1100

    Proposed Referendum Wording

     

    The Prime Minister has outlined three sentences the government proposes to be added to the constitution:

    1)  There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

    2)  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    3) The parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

  • published Uluru Statement in The Voice 2023-02-04 13:50:18 +1100

    Uluru Statement

    ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART

    We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

    Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs.

    This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

    This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

    How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?

    With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.

    Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

    These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

    We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

    We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

    We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

    In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

    END

  • published The Voice 2023-02-04 12:42:38 +1100
  • Albanese Pushes Neo-Communist Credentials

    The decision by the Albanese government to remove the sovereign of Australia’s facsimile from Australia’s $5 note is typical of the way in which this government is trouncing Australian democracy.

    Read more
  • published Liberty Newsletter - Jan 2023 in Newsletters 2023-01-18 08:58:42 +1100
  • published Submission on Electoral Matters in Vote No Republic 2023-01-10 23:46:26 +1100

    Submission on Electoral Matters

     

    Thursday 5 January 2023

    Committee Secretary
    Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
    PO Box 6021
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Submission to the Inquiry into the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022

    Dear Committee Secretary

    The Australian Monarchist League is pleased to make a submission in respect of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022 and expresses its gratitude to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for its extension enabling the League to express its views.

    Introduction

    With a database that currently stands at in excess of 54,000, the Australian Monarchist League (henceforth “the League”), re-formed in 1993, is Australia’s largest organisation in defence of the Australian Constitution and Crown. Whilst the specific matter of the proposed referendum on the Voice to the Parliament does not fall within our mandate, any proposed amendment to the Australian Constitution, and the way in which attendant referenda are conducted, naturally concerns our members.

    The League accepts that Referendum Acts need to be updated to accord with modern times. However, we believe that the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022 totally undermines the whole basis of Australia’s democratic system of governance by its gross unfairness and bias in advantaging the views of the government of the day and thus undermining any opposing viewpoint.

    The high bar for constitutional change and the balanced nature of a referendum, whereby a case for change and a case for the status quo are fairly and equally put to the Australian people, are hallmarks of Australian democracy. No matter the weight of support lent to the case for change by the government of the day, the operation and character of a referendum transcends political mandates and programs of reform; they stand as a hardy mark of respect for both the strength and precedent of the Constitution, and the right of each Australian to decide between two equally conceivable and selectable alternatives.

    Shadowing the choice every Australian elector must make between supporting the government’s proposed program of change, with all its principles or particulars, is the simple choice whether or not to change the Constitution. Because a No case in a referendum necessarily entails retaining our respected founding document in its current form (as opposed to actively objecting to a program or principle of the government), no Australian should be impugned or maligned for tending towards this option, or even for voting No as a matter of default or principle. As a matter of course, governments ought to allow equally strong and visible exposure for the Yes and No cases in every referendum that they hold, even where support for the principles of the Yes case are strong and are cast in moral terms. This is because behind every No case is the decision to retain a strong working document and behind every Yes case is the decision to alter the document at the heart of our national life.

    If the government has concerns about the content of the No case as expressed, it ought to consider that some arguments in favour of the No case may not concern the moral or political principles at the heart of a reform, but rather a pragmatic consideration of the functional effect of change, intended or unintended, in the context of the current workings of parliamentary democracy.

    Any legislation needs to be drafted not just for the convenience or political advantage of one particular side at a particular time. Legislators need to consider their response to such gross unfairness should they be in a legislative minority and their opponents used the opportunities so afforded for a cause with which they vehemently disagreed. In any electoral law, the system developed must be fair to all and equitable to ensure the people retain confidence in the system and that the results produced are a fair expression of the will of the people after a reasonable, balanced and fair campaign. To retain a robust democracy and maintain goodwill, governments must seek to have confidence that every Australian voting Yes in a referendum is doing so having equally and meaningfully considered both cases, ensuring electors do not experience ‘buyer’s remorse’ regarding the direction they might take. It would be deleterious to democracy if, in the case of success for the Yes case, voters feel their vote was not genuinely arrived at but was naturally swayed by the lopsided amplification afforded to the government perspective. These proposed changes would rightly be called out as ‘stacking the deck’ and potentially leave any result under a cloud of misgiving and resentment. This would be a particularly sad and bad outcome and would undermine Australians’ trust in their democratic system.

    Modernising and moving with our increasingly digitised times is an important and understandable objective. However, while not all Australians are digitally literate, and while Australia still has a digital divide in regional and rural Australia, as well as among older Australians, then paper means of receiving information about the Yes and No cases in a Referendum (Section 11 of the Act) will inherently be more democratic. After all, while not all Australians who receive paper mail access the Internet, all Australians who access the Internet may receive paper mail. The League would also note that Referenda are conducted by paper ballot, and that the AEC has postal vote processes.
    Therefore, posted pamphlets and printed material are natural, commensurate companions to paper ballots. Once the digital divide has been totally bridged and electoral infrastructure has been improved to the extent that paper ballots are extinguished in favour of equitable online voting, then – and only then –will it be time for online information to take the place of paper pamphlets in respect of the Yes and No cases in a referendum.

    The federal government, in the recent Commonwealth budget, enabled deductible gift recipient status for a pro-Voice campaign entity, (Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition) whereas it has not offered any such status to any entity representing the No campaign, which is distinctly prejudicial.

    We submit, in the interests of democracy and fair play, that equal funding for the Yes and No cases be restored in the Bill. The plans to fund with taxpayer money an ‘education campaign’ in relation to the Referendum concerns the League, despite the government’s stated aim of countering misinformation. It is imperative that government funding decisions in respect of a Referendum do not constitute the amplified anticipation of little-known, little-heard counterarguments by those who would make a No case. The proper place for the repudiation of ‘misinformation’, which may also merely constitute ‘rebuttal’, is the pamphlets where equal opportunity is given for each case to be made to each household. Sound, informed arguments, fairly put, will always ultimately prevail against true misinformation in the Australian body politic and ought to have nothing to fear. The League finds it unusual and irregular that the Bill seeks only to disapply Section 11 of the Act for a period until the next General Election, which would indicate that the Government perhaps understands the general importance of allowing for Yes and No cases to be equally made in the context of a Referendum but is applying special treatment to this particular proposal for change; a manifestly undemocratic and inappropriate attitude to referenda and legislative change.

    Since Federation, interested individuals and small organisations have contributed much to Australia’s democracy, and yet not one of them would be eligible to be publicly involved under the terms of the proposed amendments to the Referendum Act, which restricts involvement to what it terms ‘referendum entities’ which themselves are subject to the same political onerous requirements of political parties. Worse, because restrictions apply from six months prior to the writ for the referendum being issued. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Hon. Linda Burney MP, has indicated that the referendum could be held as early as August. This means that reporting requirements would fall into place in February.

    The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has stated “Section 128 of the Australian Constitution provides that a referendum must be held ‘not less than two nor more than six months’ after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses. In this case, it means that under the current Bill the expenditure period will commence prior to the passage of the proposed law. The Committee may care to consider the implications of this matter, and whether such a requirement would impose onerous and retrospective regulatory and administrative obligations on people and entities, and whether that regulatory burden may act as a disincentive for participation in the national debate.”
    The League fully supports this recommendation and shares the AEC’s concerns regarding the retrospectivity and onerousness of the Bill’s effect as it stands.

    The proposed Act replaces the printing of a pamphlet outlining the Yes and No cases, which have been distributed to electors at all referendums except certain unanimous proposals in 1967 and 1977 since 1912, with a subsidy allocated to members of the Parliament to provide information online. There is no determination of what sort of information would be provided or how the attention of electors would be reliably drawn to such material. Given that the majority of members of the Federal Parliament would be in favour of the Yes case, this is manifestly unfair. Furthermore, it is estimated that some 2.33 million Australians do not access the Internet, which has an estimated penetration rate of 91%, and we submit that they would be severely discriminated against by not having sufficient written information to enable them to make their decision prior to voting. For as long as there are paper ballots in a referendum, they must be accompanied by paper pamphlets outlining the case for and against constitutional change.

    We are also astounded that it appears that the full detail of changes to be made to the Australian Constitution are not to be advised to people prior to any vote. This is totally unacceptable; the League calls for the proposed Act to require that full details of any proposed amendment to the Constitution be made public prior to the issue of writs for the proposed referendum. We would mention that the three paragraphs earlier provided by the government are totally insufficient to enable people to make a proper decision (reproduced below):

    “There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

    “The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

    “The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

    The Australian Monarchist League fully accepts and agrees with the restriction on foreign donations, provided it is made clear that Australian citizens resident and/or living overseas are exempt from this restriction.
    The Australian Monarchist League submits that the provisions contained within the Referendum Bill (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2023 are insufficient to enable voters to be properly informed prior to casting their votes at a referendum and requests that the following amendments and conditions be considered prior to its passage through the parliament:

    1) First, that full disclosure is made of the exact text that is proposed to be approved by the referendum for insertion into the Australian Constitution;

    2) Second, that steps be taken to inform the entire electorate precisely regarding each of the following:
    a. how, by that proposed text, the Voice to the Parliament will be constituted;
    b. how the body would operate;
    c. to explain the process and eligibility for determining membership;
    d. to describe what powers and influences it would have over whom and to what effect;
    e. to describe the checks and balances by which its powers would be circumscribed; and
    f. importantly, to provide information to the electorate regarding the extent to which the proposed text could be anticipated to be sent to the Courts for adjudication on the constitution, operation, and powers of the Voice.

    3) Third, that the Bill, if it becomes law, require that hard-copy statements from both the official Yes and No cases making the case for or against constitutional change be sent by Australia Post to all electors, as has been near-universal precedent since 1912.

    Thank you once again for the opportunity to make a submission on this Bill. The League thanks the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for the care it is taking in considering these amendments and seeking the views of Australian entities and individuals in preparing its report.

    END

Philip Benwell
Philip Benwell has been the national chairman of the Australian Monarchist League for thirty years and is the longest serving head of any organisation engaged in defending the Australian Constitution and Crown.