The Constitutional Crisis We Nearly Had

The Constitutional Crisis We Nearly Had

The revelations that are now coming out in regard to the end days of the Turnbull prime ministership only strengthen the case for retaining our system of constitutional monarchy. Even Malcolm Turnbull, former head of the Australian Republican Movement, is said to have tweeted “The discretion to swear in a person as PM is vested in the ¬governor-general. The proposition advanced by Mr Porter that it is none of the GG’s business whether the ¬would-be PM is constitutionally eligible is nonsense. The GG is not a constitutional cypher.’’ (Australian 28/6/19)

Mr Turnbull, as we now know, sought to involve the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, in denying Peter Dutton the prime ministership should he have been elected at the party room ballot. At that time, there was no thought that Scott Morrison would be a player in the leadership ballot.

Whilst the Governor-General, by convention, acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, he does not have to do so if he considers that that advice is bad and it was therefore wrong of Mr Turnbull to assume that the Governor-General would listen to him in this regard. The Governor-General is above party politics and any decisions made would be made by him alone, always in the interests of the people. He was, of course, free to call upon expert advice, as Sir John Kerr did in the political crisis of 1975.

Just imagine what the situation would have been had Australia become a republic with a president from a political party - “one of us” as republicans are wont to say. There is no telling whether a decision in such a matter would have been subjected to a bias rather than complete impartiality. Of course, Peter Dutton did not win the leadership ballot and the potential constitutional crisis Malcolm Turnbull was intent on causing was avoided.

Under our system of constitutional monarchy, the allegiance of the Governor-General is to the Queen and through the Queen to the people, never to politicians, not even to the prime minister nominated him or her. Under a republic there is no telling where allegiance will fall.

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