«Upholding the Australian Constitution Volume Seventeen Proceedings of the Seventeenth Conference of The Samuel Griffith Society Greenmount Beach Resort, ...»
This obviously worried the Senate’s Legal and C o n s t i t u t i o n a l References C o m m i t t e e a s i t conducted i t s final public hearing on the republic. In desperation, one of the Senators asked a republican witness from the University of Canberra, Dr Bede H a r r i s, if he could prepare a response to my 29-page submission. He produced a one-page response in which he concluded t h a t t h e term “Head of State” is not used in the Constitution; that it is a political term that means whatever the user wants it to mean; and that it is a term without any constitutional significance! 38 In saying t h i s Dr H a r r i s was echoing an earlier s t a t e m e n t by Professor George Winterton that “debate over the identity of Australia’s Head of State is an arid and ultimately irrelevant battle over nomenclature”. 39 If only Professor Winterton and Dr Harris had offered up these confessions years ago, they and their colleagues would not have spent more than a decade of wasted effort making the Head of S t a t e issue the central plank in t h e i r r e p u b l i c a n p l a t f o r m. Professor Winterton’s r e m a r k s i n p a r t i c u l a r t e l l u s w h a t has long been a p p a r e n t, namely, t h a t t h e r e p u b l i c a n s have no response to t h e evidence that the Governor-General is our Head of S t a t e, and t h a t they have finally realised that this has punched a big hole in their case for a republic.
As Sir Guy Green put it in his 1999 Menzies Oration:
“Constitutional reform is a serious matter.... [I]f it turns out to have been i l l - a d v i s e d [ i t ] i m p a c t s u p o n t h e e n t i r e s y s t e m o f l a w a n d government a n d is virtually irreversible”.
The d r a f t i n g a n d approving of our present C o n s t i t u t i o n w a s a noble a n d uniting enterprise in which all A u s t r a l i a n s became involved. Today, t h e republican campaign to alter that Constitution and to give us a vastly different system of government is m e a n - s p i r i t e d and divisive, and is founded on misrepresentation and falsehood. It must not succeed.
16. Amalgamated Society of Engineers v. Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd, (1920), 28 CLR 129.
17. T r a n s c r i p t of a r g u m e n t, pp. 22-3. Quoted in E v a t t, The King and h i s Dominion Governors, op. cit..
18. Christopher Cunneen, Kings’ Men: Australia’s Governors-General f r o m Hopetoun t o I s a a c s, George Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1983, p. 168. See also (Sir) Zelman Cowen, Isaac Isaacs, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1967, p. 191; and D J Markwell, The Crown and A u s t r a l i a, The Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture 1987, Australian Studies Centre, London, 1987, pp. 9-10.
19. As a t March, 2005, Australian Governors-General h a d made 63 S t a t e a n d official visits to 38 countries. In 1987, Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen, acting on the advice of the A u s t r a l i a n Government, cancelled a proposed visit to Indonesia because President Suharto had said that he would not be present a t the welcome ceremony, but would i n s t e a d send his VicePresident. T h a t year S i r Ninian made S t a t e v i s i t s to T h a i l a n d, China, M a l a y s i a and Singapore. In each of these countries the Governor-General was received as a Head of State. Shortly after the Malaysia and Singapore v i s i t s, the Indonesian Government a d m i t t e d t h a t i t h a d made a wrong decision, claimed that it had been wrongly advised by its officials, and said that it would treat our Governor-General as a Head of State on any future visit. That promise was honoured in 1995 during a State visit to Indonesia by Governor-General Mr Bill Hayden.
20. Cunneen, o p. c i t., p. 179; and Cowen, o p. c i t., pp. 197-8.
21. Constitution, sections 1, 2, 5, 61, 62: Royal v i s i t, 1954: Functions t o be Carried Out by Her M a j e s t y t h e Queen, Opinion of the Commonwealth Solicitor-General (Sir Kenneth Bailey), 25 November, 1953.
22. The Royal Powers Act 1953 has been invoked on rare occasions, and then only for symbolic reasons. The last occasion was 2 March, 1986 when, in a public ceremony a t Government House, Canberra, the Queen proclaimed t h e A u s t r a l i a A c t 1986 to come into operation on the following day. This would otherwise have been done by the Governor-General a t a meeting of t h e Federal Executive Council. The Act had been given the Royal assent by t h e Governor-General on 4 December, 1985.
23. See Harry Evans (ed.), Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, Tenth E d i t i o n, D e p a r t m e n t of the Senate, Canberra, 2001, p. 171; and I C H a r r i s (ed.), House of R e p r e s e n t a t i v e s Practice, Fourth Edition, D e p a r t m e n t of t h e House of Representatives, Canberra, 2001, p. 225.
24. T h i s p o i n t may be i l l u s t r a t e d by comparing a couple of sections of t h e
Canadian and Australian Constitutions:
Canada. Chapter III. Executive Power.
“9. The Executive Government and A u t h o r i t y of and over C a n a d a i s hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen”.
“15. The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and M i l i t a r y F o r c e s, o f and in C a n a d a, is hereby declared t o continue to be vested in the Queen”.
Australia. Chapter II. The Executive Government.
“61. The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General a s the Queen’s
In the 1999 referendum on the republic, defenders of the monarchy failed to drive a stake through the heart of the Australian republican movement. The votes had hardly been counted before republicans were invoking t h e i r presumptively perennial r i g h t t o demand a r e m a t c h a t a t i m e and on t e r m s of t h e i r own choosing.
If m o n a r c h i s t s a r e e v e r to achieve a decisive victory, they m u s t not rely upon republicans to shoot themselves in the foot, once a g a i n, w i t h a n o t h e r deeply flawed model of the “politician’s republic”. Should republicans succeed in t h e i r c a m p a i g n t o abolish t h e c o n s t i t u t i o n a l m o n a r c h y, t h e r e p e r c u s s i o n s will be felt far beyond Australia’s shores. Indeed, the fate of what used to be called the British race may very well hang on the outcome of this constitutional battle.
The abolition of the monarchy in A u s t r a l i a would weaken the i n s t i t u t i o n elsewhere, f u r t h e r f r a c t u r i n g t h e a l r e a d y fragile sense of kinship between t h e peoples of Britain and the old settler Dominions.
Of course, the recurrent splits in the republican camp may well doom them t o y e t a n o t h e r d e f e a t. B u t if republicans believe that popular support f o r t h e monarchy is m i n i m a l, l i m i t e d to a m i n o r i t y of spoilers, they will never r e s t content until they achieve their objective – and who could blame t h e m ? Unless and until the British monarchy, understood and accepted as such, captures the hearts and minds of the Australian people, it will be living on borrowed time.
Our rulers no longer conceive A u s t r a l i a a s a country, the homeland of a p a r t i c u l a r people s h a r i n g a language, a religion and t h e i r own d i s t i n c t i v e f o l k w a y s. I n s t e a d, A u s t r a l i a h a s been reduced to an economy, open to the free flow of c a p i t a l, technology and labour in a global system of production, distribution and exchange.
Swamped by “the rising tide of colour” 1 washing in from every overcrowded corner of the Third World, the old Australian dream of a new B r i t a n n i a in t h e Southern Ocean is now little more than a faded memory. Only a miracle can save u s n o w. A u s t r a l i a desperately needs a P a t r i o t King to spark new life into t h e ancient B r i t i s h c o n s t i t u t i o n, rekindling the a n c e s t r a l s p i r i t of Anglo-Saxon liberty in an ever more rootless, deracinated and fragmented population.
A s t h i n g s s t a n d n o w, t h e h a r d c o r e of support f o r t h e m o n a r c h y is to be found in a p a r o c h i a l p a r t y of the past possessing few friends among opinion leaders in the state or the corporate sector, the universities or the media. Many ordinary Australians do still revere the monarchy as an essential feature of our c o n s t i t u t i o n a l heritage. Their loyalty to the Crown reflects the h i s t o r i c a l experience of a distinctive people rooted in a p a r t i c u l a r place, s h a r i n g a collective memory of their genesis in the epic history of the British Empire.
R e p u b l i c a n s o f t e n a s s e r t t h a t t h e y h a v e a l o c k on the younger generation;
still, not all Australian monarchists are only a few steps away from the grave.
Generations of republican ideologues have themselves grown old s a t i r i s i n g t h e hidebound conservatism of A u s t r a l i a n m o n a r c h i s t s, forever ridiculing t h e British monarchy as an anachronistic and obsolescent relic of the colonial e r a.
During the 1999 referendum c a m p a i g n, m e m b e r s o f t h e A u s t r a l i a n Republican Movement (ARM) cast themselves as the progressive party of the future. But the future they proposed – a cosmopolitan, inclusive, multicultural regime open to the world w i t h a resident for President – ran head on into the “ p a r o c h i a l ” traditions of Australian patriotism.2 Far from throwing in the towel, republican leaders will now pursue a more subtle s t r a t e g y. Having already foreshadowed one or more “ i n d i c a t i v e ” plebiscites leading up to a second referendum c a m p a i g n, t h e i r a i m is to w e a r down the opposition, s t r i p p i n g t h e c o n s t i t u t i o n a l m o n a r c h y of i t s l e g i t i m a c y before committing themselves to any particular model of the republic. This war of a t t r i t i o n will be supplied and directed from the commanding heights of political, corporate and cultural power.
Indeed, the final push for a republic might even produce an unprecedented revolution f r o m t h e t o p down. Relying on the best kept, d i r t y l i t t l e secret of Australian constitutional law, republicans could break a deadlock by proceeding under s. 15 of the A u s t r a l i a Act (UK, 1986), p e r m i t t i n g a p h a l a n x of Laborcontrolled Commonwealth and State Parliaments, acting jointly, to proclaim a new republican Constitution (thereby bypassing the s. 128 referendum procedure requiring a majority of the popular vote in a majority of the States). 3 Republicans a r e a l r e a d y accustomed to rule from above, being massively over-represented among the m a n a g e r i a l and professional classes. Republicans attract significant support from non-European migrant communities, but their most important constituency is found in prosperous inner city electorates within easy reach of an international airport. Priding themselves on their cosmopolitan sophistication, republicans are more likely than those who voted “No” in 1999 to deny t h a t A u s t r a l i a is a much better country t h a n m o s t other counties.
S i m i l a r l y, republicans are less inclined to agree t h a t they would r a t h e r be a citizen of Australia than of any other country. 4 The typical, well-educated republican regards himself a s a c i t i z e n o f t h e world. Although republicans loudly p r o c l a i m t h e i r n a t i o n a l pride, in the end their loyalty is to a state, or more accurately, the transnational state system, not to a particular people. When republicans refer to the sovereign people, they do not mean a pre-political community defined by h i s t o r i c ties of language, religion and blood, but rather the more or less random collection of individuals who find themselves resident, for the time being, in Australia.
Republicans believe t h a t t i m e is on t h e i r side, t h a t the republic i s inevitable. They hope t h a t the p a r o c h i a l p a r t y of the p a s t will simply f a d e away, overwhelmed and demoralized by the relentless onrush of replacement migration from the Third World. Should patriotic sentiment continue its steady decline in Australia, as it has elsewhere in the West, they may t u r n o u t to be right.
Australian patriotism and the future of the Anglosphere P a t r i o t i s m i s a t i e t h a t b i n d s members of a p a r t i c u l a r community together through time. It is a sentiment that acknowledges the obligation on those of us now living to respect the interests of both the dead and the unborn. “In the Greek the word p a t r i o t i s m goes back to love of one’s fathers, and”, according to Robert Nisbet, “to t h i s day is quite evidently strongest where a p o l i t i c a l nation i s overwhelmingly composed of citizens who can be thought to be of common ethnic descent”. 5 P a t r i o t i s m presupposes a durable community of memory, and for t h a t reason an hereditary monarchy provides a natural focus for patriotic sentiment.
B u t no successful p a t r i o t i s m can be anchored solely in the p a s t. P a t r i o t i s m must also generate the energy and commitment to carry a people forward into the future. Patriotic triumphs are never inevitable – they are the fruits of will, courage and determination.
If and when it occurs, the advent of an Australian republic will replace the traditionalist patriotism spontaneously generated within a free society with a narcissistic nationalism manufactured by the interlocking ideological media of s t a t e and corporate power. Cosmopolitan élites w i t h no loyalty to t h e constitutional monarchy already manage almost every aspect of organised social life. Even the private r e a l m h a s been invaded by highly refined techniques of m e d i a m a n i p u l a t i o n, t h e r a p e u t i c intervention and disciplinary n o r m a l i s a t i o n.
Accustomed to being in the driver’s seat, members of t h e m a n a g e r i a l overclass r e m a i n confident t h a t, sooner or l a t e r, they will re-educate the hybrid population of a rootless mass society to accept one of their own as head of their own self-legitimating state.