Australia the ‘Conventional Monarchy’?
A Notion by Kaitlin Withers
In 1999, 54.87% of voters (that turned out) voted no to replace the Governor-General with a President, and change the Commonwealth of Australia into the Republic of Australia. Opinion polls consistently showed that many people wanted a republic, but they wanted to directly elect the President, and the proposed model put to the referendum was that two thirds of the Parliament would select the President.
Traditionally, Australians have little support for changes to the Constitution via referendums. Most of the proposed changes to the Constitution were rejected, and the last change made was in 1977. Also, apart from allowing Territorians to vote in referendums and allowing the government to create laws for Aborigines, the only changes have been relatively minor.
Instead of changing the Constitution to give the Government more freedom, conventions have been put in place, so that that the Prime Minister acts like the Head of State, and the Governor-General’s role was thought to be ceremonial. But, as Sir John Kerr showed Gough Whitlam, conventions are not law.
Australia is a ‘Conventional Monarchy’ (a term I made up), as the Government can be changed by the Queen’s representative, but the government uses conventions on a day-to-day basis. Australia has shaped its own culture, defining itself and becoming independent from the British. The Head of State needs to be elected by the people, the Australian people, and not the British Monarchy.
When Australia was shaping the Constitution, it feared following in the Americans’ footsteps and starting a war with Britain. But the American Revolutionary War started in 1775, and the 21st century, is a (much more) civil time, and so Australia is able to become independent peacefully.
However, there are others things Australia can lose, such as a lot of time and money that will be needed to replace anything to do with the Monarchy, such as our currency. We would also have to hold a referendum, which, as well as the obvious material and labour costs, would also cost taxpayers for political advertising. All this, for a Government which will, (pretty much) act the same.
But what will be gained is more independence, and the freedom for Australia to be its own country, and for Aborigines to finally get the respect that they deserve.
As Julia Gillard said we should consider Republicanism at the next change of Monarch, we can expect some serious proposals… in ten or so years, when Julia Gillard is no longer leader of the Labor party.
Other politicians are likely to sidestep this tricky and offensive idea by stating that they have more urgent matters to attend to, which is how they sidestepped gay marriage.
Right now, it seems that Australia is going to continue being a Conventional Monarchy for a while.