I have begun to enjoy the musings of an arch enemy – former Liberal Senator and Minister Amanda Vanstone. Sometimes, for me anyway, she spruiks moderate conservative views with which I don’t agree – being the old Laborite that I am – but sometimes she makes a great deal of sense. Having an insider’s view on the workings of the Liberal corporate mind is enlightening.
The other day she and Professor George Williams were discussing the impact of the same-sex marriage survey but from a different perspective. I found it interesting because they both had similar offerings to the debate we should be having.
They pointed out that we should have had a simple question put to us over the republic debate in much the same way as the same-sex marriage survey question was. In the musings came some enlightening facets.
We all know that our Constitution refers to God. When the Constitution was framed, most people believed in a God and trusted in his beneficence. So, an entreaty to the Almighty in a Constitution should surprise no-one. Also, the Constitution refers to the head of state as being the monarch and his/her successors. That HMQ was made Queen of Australia doesn’t make much difference to my next bit.
Since HMQ is also the head of the Reformed Church (read Anglican Church), Australia must genuflect to the head of a specific branch of the Christian religion. Well, since I was baptised as a Catholic, I have an issue with this.
George also suggested that since HMQ is the head of a religion, not only do we live under a constitutional monarchy, we do so under a theocracy. This might be a weird thought, but he may have a point.
However, it does highlight a problem for Oz as a multicultural nation. Where else do you find people of different religions having to swear allegiance to the head of another religion? You might quote Iran, you might quote Myanmar, but I don’t think I like being lumped in with these guys.
Another enshrinement pointed out by George is the institution of a prayer to open proceedings in federal parliament. Firstly, there is the forelock-tugging to a deity at all, then there is the recognition that this deity is that defined by a Christian church, and there is a reference to a specific branch of that Christian religion through the saying of the Lord’s Prayer in the Anglican Church version.
The Micks don’t say the “For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory” etc., so this is a Protestant prayer said at the beginning of a parliamentary session. Hmmmm!
Now I am an avowed republican – I believe that the people of Oz should be the master/mistress of their own destiny, that there should be historical references to our beginnings 40,000 years ago and references to the occupation of this island back in the late 1700s.
I reckon that an Australian should be our head of state (if we really need one actually) and that such a person be a citizen of this country. I also believe that Aussies should choose their head of state through some mechanism or other (I have my preference but don’t want to get distracted like the country was when John Howard posed the question).
So I am not happy about having a church figure of any religion being my head of state. I’m not happy about having a head of state who is not a citizen of this country. I am not happy about having a head of state who is not even a citizen of his/her country of birth, and I am not happy about having no say in who gets to be the head of state.
Also, while I’m about it, I don’t like the idea of having to put up with a prayer to any deity or mythical entity when representing the populace at large in a secular political environment.
You might like to know that the ACT Legislative Assembly has two aspects with which I mightily agree. The first is at the opening of sessions, the Speaker asks the Members to stand in their places and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the ACT. He/she does not recite a prayer.
Secondly, upon being elected to the Legislative Assembly, the Members are sworn in by the Chief Justice of the ACT Supreme Court and they are asked to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen or affirm their commitment to the people of the ACT. Holding a holy book is optional, and I have seen new members from all persuasions exercise both options.
The ministers are appointed by the Chief Minister, who has been elected by the membership of the Legislative Assembly. They are not commissioned by a representative of the Crown. This is the principal reason our Ministers do not have the title “the Honourable” – as all other states, Territory and federal ministers have – for life.
I reckon the ACT has it about right.
Lastly, if we can have a simple question put to the people on same-gender marriage, surely we can have a simple question also put on a republic debate and voluntary euthanasia (more on this later).
That we can’t is a reflection on the calibre of those who could give us those gifts.
Do you think there should be a postal survey for the republic debate too? Should Australia be a republic? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.