19 September 2022

Abandoning the monarchy is all very well, but what would we replace it with?

| Ross Solly
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British soldiers and bandsmen march through London in the Queen’s birthday parade. Photo: Region.

A couple of weeks ago, while waiting for a connecting flight through London’s Heathrow Airport, I bought my mum a tin of shortbread biscuits adorned with a smiling Queen Elizabeth, made especially to commemorate Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne.

One week later, the Queen died. Suddenly my tin of shortbread, which will be presented to mum on Christmas Day, took on added significance. My mum is a staunch monarchist and would have no hesitation in agreeing with former prime minister Tony Abbott that no death in human history will be as widely felt.

To be honest, I think that is a load of piffle. There are many corners of the globe that have but a passing interest in the life and times of Queen Elizabeth, and while I’m sure her passing will sadden them, they have already returned to their daily routines.

For example, I was in Poland at a sporting event when the news broke, and while the news obviously touched some, the majority moved on pretty quickly.

My colleague Ian Bushnell raised the obvious question following news of the Queen’s passing – is now the time to talk once again about Australia becoming a republic? Some say now is definitely not the time, but it’s not as if the events of the past week have taken us by surprise. The common consensus has always been that the time to revisit the issue will be when the Queen dies – and so here we are.

READ MORE Queen’s passing opens the way for the republic to be revisited

But two things to consider.

First, it’s always been assumed that younger Australians have far less connection and sentimentality towards the royal family. But we shouldn’t dismiss William and Kate’s role in giving the royals a more human face.

And King Charles is likely to be a much more activist head of state than his mother. The Queen was always a steady hand and a calming influence but never stuck her nose into anything that could ever be considered controversial.

Charles, on the other hand, is passionate about many issues, not least the environment. Indications are that he will continue to give his opinions and guidance on topics he feels are important. He has been very outspoken about a British Government proposal to transport illegal arrivals to Rwanda, which has raised more than a few eyebrows and caused considerable consternation in UK Government circles.

So while this approach, if adopted by the King, will horrify many traditionalists, it may well strike a chord with younger generations.

READ ALSO The only colour that mattered in Vietnam, Indigenous soldiers said, was green – their uniform

The second consideration – are we any closer to agreement on what we would replace the monarchy with? The consensus last time we voted on becoming a republic was that while many Australians wanted to get rid of the monarchy, the difficulties we were having reaching agreement on how our system would look post-royals led to a lot of no votes.

Do we end up with a “President”, elected by popular vote, heading down the path of the US system, which would make that person more powerful than the Prime Minister?

Do we leave it to our elected representatives to nominate our new President? And then what powers do we give this new President?

The other option, and maybe the easiest to sell, is to replace the Governor-General with – nobody. Do we really need someone to carry out a few ceremonial duties, especially if the election of said person is going to be so problematic?

It may all be irrelevant in any case. Roy Morgan conducted an SMS poll last week and found that 60 per cent of Australians favoured retaining the monarchy. Ten years ago, 55 per cent of Australians felt the same way.

With emotions running high after the Queen’s death, perhaps the result should not be surprising. But all this talk of Australians waiting for the passing of the Queen to finally cut ties with the monarchy may well have been misplaced.

For the time being, we should all sit back, enjoy our shortbread, and wait for common sense to prevail. Whatever form that may take.

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I am annoyed that our actual head of state is supplied by a mediocre family in the UK. I would like to see the GG/President (an Australian citizen) elected every five years with an independent panel (a presidential commission) drawing up a list of apolitical nominees. They would be drawn from apolitical institutions such as military, police, judiciary or academe.
The GG/President would retain the same ceremonial powers as today but cannot be sacked by the PM nor can they sack the PM.

HiddenDragon8:34 pm 20 Sep 22

It may rarely arise, but the GG does have a role as a protector of the constitution and the best way to underline that role would be to keep the rules for the appointment and removal of the GG as apolitical as possible if we move to a republican model.

The current system of appointment has, with one egregious exception (depending on your view of the events of November 1975), worked well in keeping the role apolitical. All that would be needed beyond that under a republic is a clear system for removal of the GG before the end of their term. Something alone the lines of the provisions for removal of High Court justices and the Auditor-General, but maybe with a requirement for a two-thirds majority (rather than a simple majority)in both house of parliament, might be appropriate.

People who don’t trust politicians and/or who are infatuated with the idea of Australia as a little America would never be satisfied with such minimalism, but if we go down the path of a directly elected head of state, we might as well look at other changes, including allowing talented people to be appointed as ministers without the hassles of getting themselves elected to parliament and spending years climbing the greasy pole.

The last time we went thru this there was an argument whether the President should be appointed or elected, like they do in America. ?

Unless someone can demonstrate that Australia will be substantially better off having a President, I’m more than happy to leave things as they are.
God save the King.

We can most definitely elect a president by popular vote and we can follow the Austrian model in which the president is elected every six years, whereas government is elected every five years. Whilst in office, the president is expected to be apolitical.

Australians did not reject a Republic. They rejected the model the John Howard put forward, one he knew would be rejected. We want a republic, we just have to come up with a model that the majority of us can accept.

bladeau, the model put forward was selected by the Constitutional Convention, not PM Howard, and then the majority voted to remain a Monarchy.

Heads of state (HoS) provide two very important roles and many nice to haves. The first important role is to confirm an elected government, particularly if the election is a close call. The second is to sack a government that has lost the confidence of the people and to call an election. Without a HoS who Carrie’s out those two functions? A bureaucrat? The nice to haves are shaking hands, patting heads, cutting ribbons and attending ceremonial events while the PM and government get on with running the country.

There is a very simple solution to this. Just make the G-G (or whatever title we assign to the role) the Head of State that they currently are for all intents and purposes. No changes to powers, no need to popularly elect the head of state. Probably a 2/3rds majority of a joint sitting of parliament would be IMO the best way of electing them, and keep them at 5 year terms. The G-G or President would only be a ceremonial role as it is now.

All the people spreading doom and gloom don’t understand the fact that having an Australian head of state doesn’t mean we turn into the USA/Russia or similar crappy republic.

Now of course there may be many Australian Republicans that want a popularly elected head of state in Australia with more powers than they currently have and thats a legitimate concern, its why the last referendum failed. All I want is an australian head of state and the simplest soultion with no actual change to how the country operates seems the best and safest way.

We don’t need a head of state. But if we must let’s look at the Republic of Ireland, Germany and Switzerland who have elected heads of state and are all functioning perfectly

Peter Graves11:28 am 20 Sep 22

There is a very simple method of indirectly electing a President: The German model through its “Federal Convention” For those not familiar with German, the “Lander” are the states

“The Federal Convention consists of all Members of the Bundestag and an equal number of members elected by the parliaments of the Länder.

The number of representatives which the individual Länder may send to the Federal Convention is calculated based on the population of each Land.”

Check it out here and let’s have some sensible comments
https://www.bundestag.de/en/parliament/function/federal_convention

As some have commented already, and also proposed by Geoffrey Robertson (QC), the simplest effective answer to the headline question is “Nothing”.

Monarchists themselves effectively argue for this wherever they deny or downplay a monarch’s role.

Further reform can come later.

The title of this article hints at what one of the main arguments of the pro-monarchy side in the inevitable republic referendum will be: “There is no simple answer to this question, so let’s not worry about answering it at all.”

While our Constitutional Monarchy is an imperfect system, the alternative proposed by Republicans looked worse.

Artificial Intelligence.

Let’s be very clear about the role of the Monarch in Australian life…he has none, he is a Constitutional Monarch. His one and only task is to formally appoint Governors-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Australian Governors-General have all the real ‘reserve powers’ under the Constitution – but powers are not actually codified as to what they may be and of course by (Westminster) Convention, they are rarely used. It’s very odd that we, a modern nation state, retain this Constitutional relic of colonial imperialism. In fact it’s silly. We are not British, we are our own nation. The Monarch is not a unifying proposition for our country. On the contrary, we forever have these debates about becoming a Republic, usually accompanied with some excuse: the time’s not right…wait until the Queen dies…give Charles a chance. It is a near impossible task to become a Republic as the Constitution has built in barriers to achieving change anyway, so getting anything else fixed such as First Nations recognition, is a monumental task in its own right. The first step to becoming a Republic is to adopt a New Zealand model where the Governor-General is a First Nations person. A symbolic but powerful approach that would lay the foundation for Constitutional reform and eventually remove the Monarch. We can do this now…changing the Constitution however, will take years.

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