This comment below was written in reply to a comment on the Australian Republic Supporters Facebook page where I posted a link to the previous post:
Thank you for your comment. I will answer some of your points here:
1. “It also does not consider the model that has been agreed by the Australian Republic Movement”
I have been a member of the ARM on and off over the last 2 decades. When I rejoined a year ago the ARM was still claiming to be something of an umbrella group representing the single issue of transitioning from a constitutional monarchy to a republic by replacing the Queen with an Australian as our head of state. I am happy to be part of such a group.
Early this year the executive at ARM released their Australia Choice Model. They did that unilaterally as a fiat accompli. The membership has not “agreed” to any model. The membership has not even been involved in the decision to promote one particular model and move away from being an umbrella group of sorts. I think the intention with the small group running the ARM was always to do exactly what they have done – but claiming the membership “agreed” to it is a far stretch.
Secondly, my approach is based on the current reality – how Australia as a constitutional monarchy actually works now – and posits a framework where we only replace the Queen/King with an elected Australian to serve fixed terms as our head of state and leave everything else as it is.
Even though the spin of the ARM is that they have a similar purpose, the ARM model starts with a mistaken understanding of our system and the results would significantly undermine the checks and balances we have built into our existing system – and that enabled our political and social stability over the last 120 years.
The approach to democratise the Australian Crown is very different to the ACM model proposed by ARM, and the model voted on in 1999. In a post this weekend I will contrast the three frameworks on a number of criteria – comparing reality, with a democratic Australian Crown, against the ACM model from ARM.
2. “the explicitly stated limits on power or the Constitutional changes already written by the ARM”
The explicitly stated limits on power in the ACM is an attempt to partially codify the Reserve Powers of the Governor-General assuming the new elected “President” will replace the Queen and Governor-General combined. There are so many assumptions in the ARM ACM that simply do not stand scrutiny.
Can reserve powers be codified – possibly – will it work – very unlikely. Reserve powers cannot really be codified because we cannot anticipate the all the possible circumstances where they would need to be used. This is a massive topic in itself.
Will the head of state for an Australian republic have reserve powers – in the ARM ACM model YES, in a democratic Australian Crown model – NO. In the model I am proposing we still have a Governor-General as the representative of the elected Head of State for the Commonwealth parliament. The Governor-General would still have reserve powers just as they do now. The elected Head of State would have no recourse to reserve powers – the Governor-General and State Governors keep the Head of State at arms length from any exercise of power – so there is no need for explicitly stated limits of power. The elected Head of State must conform with conventions limiting the Queen/King from exercising power or influencing Parliament. Everyone understands that. There is no wiggle room. There is a heavy weight of history that weighs down on an elected head of state in a democratic Crown to conform to these norms. By contrast – the more you try to codify reserve powers the more you will find Presidents, political parties, and their lawyers combing through the text looking for loopholes and exploiting any slipups as precedents.
The ARM ACM model was written by committee. It was designed to tick boxes but starts from an incomplete understanding of how our system works. That the ARM has written it and promotes it means nothing. It has no legitimacy within the membership of the movement – have the membership voted on it? It was foisted on the group in an authoritarian way by the executive as a fiat accompli. They opened up an online discussion forum where there were many objections about their model – but they stayed silent through most of it and ignored most objections. I think their strategy is simply to bluff it through and push on with media and publicity – hoping that a media company takes it up.
3. ‘And the most glaring error is the final paragraph. “I see this election process for an Australian republic as being completely aligned and in tune with the Voice to Parliament.” It isn’t and the two must be kept separate.’
I see the Voice to Parliament as a change in paradigm. It will be something that complements the usual political discussions and processes. It will be more about people talking about their experiences, how laws and government impact people’s lives in practice, and I think it will become a forum where topics, options and possibilities can be discussed openly and in public. It would still be up to the elected politicians to implement what policies they see fit, and how they see fit. I see the Voice to Parliament as a public forum that is part of civil society, and that encourages people to participate and tell their truth. It is like a feedback mechanism for society. In the past the newspapers served this role, but some of the largest networks have been hijacked by extremists.
A democratic Australian Crown where the election nomination and campaigning processes are designed around philanthropic activities – mimicking some of the best attributes of the monarchy (think of Diana campaigning against landmines and the many community groups, hospitals, charities, etc, the royal family supports) will be a way to engage many people in our society who feel powerless and help them speak their voice. In this way – as a new paradigm that will reinvigorate civil society – I think the Voice to Parliament and a democratic Australian Crown will work together in a way that complements traditional political discourse.