Turnbull Proposes Postal Survey to Reignite Republic
Malcolm Turnbull today forecast holding a postal survey on a republic to ‘reignite the debate’ (News.com 1.1.18).
Arranging a postal survey is a ministerial, not a parliamentary decision. There is no need for any debate and it is the government, or rather the prime minister, who decides the question to be asked. There is no funding for a yes or no case. Indeed, there is no yes or no case other than that managed and funded outside the government. A legal challenge on the use of a survey not approved by the parliament was rejected by the High Court in the same-sex marriage issue.Whilst the prime minister continues to say ‘only when the Queen dies’, did not he also emphatically state just over a month ago that there would be no Banking Royal Commission one day and then appoint a Banking Royal Commission the next? He had also said in 2016 "The other point I would make is that what political parties say they will support and oppose at one time is not necessarily ultimately what they will do,"
Now having before him a mechanism he can use to his advantage to manipulate a mandate from the people, why wouldn’t he try and finish what he started 25 years ago? Most people voting in such a survey would really have no concept of the implications of what they are actually voting on unless there is also a year-long nation-wide civics education programme for all Australians including an in-depth and totally impartial explanation of the role of the Queen and the Crown within our Constitution prior to such a survey vote.
However, the release of the 1994/95 papers of the Keating cabinet clearly show that the whole process of bringing on a republic was a total farce costing the taxpayer well over a hundred million dollars. A president of a republic would be either elected by the parliament or by the people. According to cabinet discussion there is no way that they wanted a president elected by the people as such a president could countermand their authority but they also knew that a proposal to appoint a president by the parliament (one of their own) was likely to fail: “Public opinion polls … suggest that any mechanism for appointing a head of state short of direct election will be controversial.”
And yet they went ahead and failed. They blamed not themselves but the people who voted no “they got it wrong” some said. They also blamed the prime minister who actually put to the people the proposal essentially put forward by the Australian Republican Movement. Malcolm Turnbull actually stated “He was the Prime Minister who broke this nation’s heart”
Comments now released in the 1994/95 papers clearly show the dangers of becoming a republic as have statements made by former prime minister Paul Keating against a directly elected president. Mr Keating has also been quite aggressive about the prime ministers who followed him in not pursuing a republic, but then he himself shied away from holding a referendum during his 5 years in government. We now know, from the Executive papers, that he represented a disunited cabinet on this issue, as will Malcolm Turnbull if he pursues a republic.
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