Two Alternative Frameworks
The Australian Republican Movement has a new policy outline. It was released only recently, at a gathering to mark the twenty years since the foundation of the ARM.
The relevant parts of the policy are listed at the end of this post and the sections that are underlined are important to note.
The ARM says that it wants to replace the monarch with an Australian citizen, yet they want this Australian citizen to have the powers of the Governor-General.
3. Australia’s Head of State to have powers similar to those of the Governor-General.
The Queen and the Governor-General are two distinct entities in our Constitution and system of government. They have very different powers. Our stable system of government over the last 110 years is due largely to the structure of the Executive level of our system of government: with the Queen as our Head of State and the Governor-General as Her Representative.
The two roles of the Queen and the Governor-General are not equivalent and the changes proposed in the ARM Framework by the ARM would be a considerable alteration of the Executive Level of our system of Government.
The existing Commonwealth Framework differs substantially from the ARM Framework. We can still, however, become a republic that has an Australian as our Head of State with the existing Framework of the Executive of the Commonwealth of Australia.
We can remove the Queen as our Head of State and have an elected Australian as our Head of State with the Australian having powers similar to those of the Queen and bound to also follow the conventions of the Queen in our Constitutional Monarchy. The Commonwealth Framework differs from the ARM Framework on policy point number 3:
3) Australia’s Head of State to have powers similar to those of the Queen.
There are actually TWO Frameworks for our Executive level of Government implied in the ARM policy statement:
1) The existing Framework of the Commonwealth
2) The ARM Framework
Without discussing these two very different Frameworks for the Executive explicitly, the ARM actually has a wider agenda than replacing the Queen as our Head of State with an Australian. This is what concerns me. We can have an Australian as our Head of State without changing the Framework for the Executive level of the Commonwealth of Australia. Copernican Republicans propose changes to an Australian republic where we preserve the existing Commonwealth Framework for the Executive (see: Copernican Republic Forum).
Republic Plebiscite and the Flags Act
One point worth noting is that if there is a proposal to change the Australian Flag that is to be put to the people in a plebiscite or referendum, there is a requirement in the Flags Act to include the existing Australian National Flag as one of the alternatives that voters can choose. For such an important change to our Constitution and system of Government as a change to an Australian republic there should also be an option for voters to choose the existing Commonwealth Framework for the Executive of the Commonwealth of Australia. Without the option for voters to choose the existing Commonwealth Framework in a plebiscite or referendum for an Australian republic, any vote with regard to a republic should be considered illegitimate and void.
The ARM Policy
To show the contradiction in the policy and proposed process of the ARM, the new policy of the Australian Republican Movement is displayed below (underlined sections are my emphasis):
Much of the discussion about an Australian Republic in recent times has been about the method of appointment or election of the Head of State. This has often overlooked the framework needed to support the final preferred selection method.
The ARM recommends the following framework for an Australian Republic:
- Australia to have an independent Constitution, resting solely on the will and authority of the Australian people, unconnected to any British legislation.
- Australia’s Head of State to be a resident Australian citizen.
- Australia’s Head of State to have powers similar to those of the Governor-General.
- Australia’s Constitution to have all obsolete references to the monarchy removed and to have all active references to the monarchy and the Governor-General replaced with references to Australia’s Head of State.
- Australia’s Head of State to be dismissed only by a significant majority vote of the Federal Parliament…Pathway to an Australian Republic — the processThe ARM recommends the following process for achieving an Australian Republic. Each of the following steps should be supported by the public consultation and education necessary to ensure that all Australians are fully informed and involved in this important decision about our nation’s future:
- A non-binding plebiscite on a threshold question along the following lines: ‘Do you want Australia to become a republic by replacing the British monarch with a resident Australian citizen as Head of State?’.
- After extensive consultation with the Australian people on the possible forms of an Australian Republic, including the selection method for the Head of State, a second non-binding plebiscite to determine the form of Australian Republic preferred by the Australian people.
- A referendum, as required by the Constitution, offering a choice between adopting the form of an Australian Republic preferred by the Australian people and keeping the Constitution unchanged, that is retaining the British monarch as the Australian Head of State.