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New arrival

February 17th, 2006

Regular commenter here, Mike Pepperday, has started his own blog

Consensus Republic

It is to promote an Australian republic via ‘Sovereign Appointment’, whereby the people take over the sovereign’s duty of appointing the PM’s nominee for GG.

I proposed an Irony ON alternative solution here. Irony OFF

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  1. February 17th, 2006 at 10:21 | #1

    A good republican is a dead republican.

  2. February 17th, 2006 at 11:08 | #2

    The link to the blog doesn’t work. It should be:
    http://consensusrepublic.wordpress.com/

  3. February 17th, 2006 at 11:47 | #3

    Bryan Palmer has done something similar, even editing up the constitution. Most of the arguments about republicanism, are not really about whether we should have a republic or not, it is about what do with the Westminster’s poor seperation of powers. The Prime Minister straddles both executive and legislative.

    The Westminster was a hack/patch to route the formal power of the executive away from the monarch. This is the problem for any republican form of government, how much to make the executive independent of the legislative. Should it be fully seperate, some, or not at all.

  4. Mike Pepperday
    February 17th, 2006 at 12:18 | #4

    The separation of powers problem is not particularly Westminster. Similar applies to all European parliaments. Plenty of republics in Europe.

    What’s peculiar for us is that the GG/president is relatively very powerful. That isn’t a Westminster feature unless you want to so define it, in which case Westminster itself is in conflict with it.

    To exercise the power to sack the elected government the GG needs huge legitimation. This presently comes from the sovereign and 1975 showed it wasn’t quite enough – and Kerr’s aim was to get the people’s sanction asap.

    If there’s no Queen, it is only the people who can give the authority to sack the govt. Ergo, the people must take over the sovereignty of the Queen.
    The problem is that the GG/pesident’s enormous authority is to be exercised very rarely. How to give that legitimation while denying any legitimation for interference in day to day govt?
    Easy: pass the Queen’s powers direct to the people. That and nothing besides. The exact changes to the constitution are given at: http://consensusrepublic.wordpress.com/

  5. Mike Pepperday
    February 17th, 2006 at 12:47 | #5

    I had a look at Bryan Palmer’s site. It is nothing like Sovereign Appointment. He is actually seriously proposing what JQ suggested as a joke.

  6. Andrew Reynolds
    February 17th, 2006 at 14:31 | #6

    IMHO, to get a republic through the parliament and the people you are going to have to do a few things.
    1. Not threaten the Parliament’s power.
    2. Not threaten the power of the executive.
    3. Give the people what they want – direct election of the Head of State.
    4. Make a demonstrable improvement over the current system.
    .
    Good luck getting all that into one package. I expect Australia to still be a constitutional monarchy at the turn of the next century and the one after that.

  7. Mike Pepperday
    February 17th, 2006 at 17:00 | #7

    Andrew:
    I see no humility. The 1999 model would have got up with bipartisan support.
    1. Right
    2. Right
    3. Wrong. There will never be an elected president. The Liberal Party won’t allow it. Never. All earnest discussion of it is rubbish.
    4. Why? (Apart from “identity�.) This appears apropos of nothing.

    “Package�? Sovereign Appointment requires three changes to the constitution. Three. Each requires replacement of just one single word and it is the same word in all three cases. And ALL republicans would vote for it as they’d have nothing to lose and a republic to gain.

  8. February 17th, 2006 at 22:22 | #8

    I sortakinda agree with mike. Not threatening the power of the parliament/executive is incompatible with a direct election model. And without direct election, no republic will occur in Australia.

    Then again, the first thing that will happen if there is such a republic is that Steve Waugh would be elected head of state, which wouldn’t threaten anyone. Hmm.

  9. Katz
    February 17th, 2006 at 22:34 | #9

    Mike Pepperday:

    “Easy: pass the Queen’s powers direct to the people. That and nothing besides”

    Sorry Mike. It’s not that easy. What about the following sections of the Constitution?

    59. The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General’s assent, and such disallowance on being made known by the Governor-General by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, shall annul the law from the day when the disallowance is so made known.

    60. A proposed law reserved for the Queen’s pleasure shall not have any force unless and until within two years from the day on which it was presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent the Governor-General makes known, by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, that it has received the Queen’s assent.

    1. Will “the People” be allowed to disallow legislation up to one year after its passage?

    2. Will there continue to be a special class of laws reserved for “the People’s” pleasure?

    There’s nothing wrong with republican minimalism, except that it won’t work.

  10. February 17th, 2006 at 22:55 | #10

    Mike Pepperday’s view here (I haven’t yet followed the link) rests un the unexamined, and as it happens incorrect, assumption that somethingworks.

    If you start with a list of things that don’t work about a republic and stop at the last one according to the way you arranged your list, you are using the Sherlock Holmes approach “if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

    But that doesn’t apply in this case. There is no guarantee that a republic would work any longer than (say) an emergent African state. Nor is there any guarantee that it would be to people’s taste on any more than a Procrustean basis.

    The particular practicalproblem of “the people” is defining it consistently and having it implemented/interpreted suitably. It is in fact the philosophically deepest of the three incompletenesses I have identified in democracy (and there are others that apply in the kind we have, representative democracy).

    I won’t even go into the fundamental differences in emphasis that republicans literally do not perceive, things that others do pick up on as though it was the Monty Python parrot sketch with the sincere assistant somehow failing to get the idea of a parrot’s life mattering. But if you want, Chesterton wrote a pretty good essay touching on the point; I could look it up.

  11. Mike Pepperday
    February 18th, 2006 at 09:57 | #11

    Alpaca
    “without direct election, no republic will occur in Australia.”
    Not so. As I said, the 1999 model would have passed if it had had bipartisan support. A leadership of a Costello + Beazley flavour would do just that. Many pollies want to but I doubt they’ll try it for another 20 or 30 years when the aggro of 1999 has faded.
    I see just two realistic possibilities for a republic: reprise 1999 or Sovereign Appointment.

  12. Mike Pepperday
    February 18th, 2006 at 10:14 | #12

    Katz
    The proposal is to have the people appoint the GG. Sections 59 and 60 have nothing to do with the GG’s appointment.

    It is not republican minimalism. It is the proper transfer of the monarch’s sovereignty to the people. Is a republic a place where the people are sovereign or is that just a pretence? The only sovereignty the monarch has is to appoint the GG. Sections 59 and 60 are defunct.

    Substitute “People” for “Queen” in three places and the appointment problem is solved – wholly transferred to the people. The distraction of the last 13 years would be out of the way and we could then get on and discuss what sort of republic we wanted, including dealing with defunct bits of the constitution.

  13. Mike Pepperday
    February 18th, 2006 at 10:23 | #13

    PML
    There’s a real world out there. In hundreds of polities “the people” is adequately defined for practical political purposes. If that is the worst of the problems, there are no problems!

  14. Katz
    February 18th, 2006 at 13:42 | #14

    MP,

    “It is not republican minimalism. It is the proper transfer of the monarch’s sovereignty to the people.”

    What do you propose to do with Section 59? On the face of it, under your proposal, the monarch would still have the right to disallow Australian legislation one year after its being signed into law.

    What sort of a republic is that?

  15. Mike Pepperday
    February 18th, 2006 at 17:22 | #15

    Katz
    It’s not a republic.
    Sovereign Approval is to allow sensible discussion of a republic.
    What would I do with Section 59? Nothing.
    “On the face of it” you say. Just so: on the face of it. Section 59 is defunct. It can go on doing what it has done for a century – nothing. It is of no consequence.
    There is much in the constitution of Australia that is not in its written constitution.

  16. Katz
    February 18th, 2006 at 18:55 | #16

    Two questions Mike:

    a. Under your scheme how many/what proportion of negative replies would constitute a repudiation of the PM’s nominated candidate?

    b. At present the GG serves at the pleasure of the Monarch.

    Section 2. “A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.”

    In effect the Monarch takes a telephone call from the PM as sufficient cause to withdraw the commission of the GG. Under your scheme who would the PM call to have the commission of the GG withdrawn?

    Here’s the danger that your proposal cannot solve. While the PM is waiting for notification of the people’s desire to withdraw the commission of the GG, the GG can use his/her reserve power to sack the PM. (It’s happened before, you know.)

  17. February 18th, 2006 at 23:24 | #17

    MP, I am tempted just to say “ha, ha, ha” – only, you are so obviously sincere. One, the transition would require so much more than the mere formal function afterwards. Two, those countries do not, by and large, have working systems that have stood the test of time. I have actually studied the matter, and there are only two long term successful republics in the world at present (the USA and Switzerland), and both have had to undergo cosiderable contortions and go through the fire to get there.

    I’ll just point to one misunderstanding that others here have pointed at indirectly. It is not the monarch’s duty to accept a nomination from the PM. Rather, that is the convention – and the very fact that the convention mustn’t be overstrained is what keeps the politicians from drifting into throwing too much weight on the convention (that’s how conventions work, i.e. get transformed into practice).

    To take one example, when George V received Isaac Isaac’s nomination, rather than accepting it pro forma he made sure that it was genuine and workable. He checked back.

    If politicians ever reached the point where they did unreasonable things, they wouldn’t be constrained by outside realities short of popular revolution; conventions evolved to head off things like that. There wouldn’t be any immediate trouble, any more than (say) in India – but even India’s system has degenerated by now, despite the fact that their culture minimises violent expressions of dislocation at that level (they use abstract methods instead).

  18. Alexander McLeay
    February 19th, 2006 at 01:34 | #18

    And ALL republicans would vote for it as they’d have nothing to lose and a republic to gain.

    Mike, you are saying this all over the place, but it seems arrogant and simply isn’t true. Although some republicans are about getting as a republic yesterday, many republicans will only accept a republic we firmly believe is in our best interest. There is no such thing as a minimalist republican model, because all republican models have a very fundamental and low-level change.

    I haven’t thought enough about your model and its implications yet to decide that I absolutely wouldn’t vote for it, but I’m presently very sceptical. It would need to work in the long term. Today, and tomorrow; and in a century and in three centuries, because I think a system that rushes through minor changes every now and again will do so at the expense of our hundred-plus year old democracy and federation. Your system, though, seems to be the first of those “minor changes”.

    BTW, have you read P. M. Lawrence’s stuff? I’m half-way through it, and it brings up many points I had not earlier thought of.

  19. Mike Pepperday
    February 19th, 2006 at 11:34 | #19

    Katz
    To a: Presumably 50 percent plus one – what else? But it won’t ever happen. It seems it happened in the early days in Missouri (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_plan and the links there) because the previous system was corrupt. It has never happened in Japan (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_system_of_Japan).
    To b: Why do you quote section 2? Your next paragraph does not follow from it in any way. But since you have it there, note that if the first two mentions of “Queen� are replaced with “People� then the power to appoint and dismiss is transferred. Fully, I think, but to make sure, there is one “Queen� in s. 4 had best be replaced as well, though it is probably of no effect.

    Phone call? How do you know? It has never happened and never will. I would have thought her maj (ie her government) would like something in writing and I would have thought there would be much flabbergasted discussion in London before any response. Kerr reckons Whitlam stood like a stunned mullet, looked around and demanded a phone in order to ring the palace. Whatever really happened, it was already too late. It’s such nonsense, Katz: in 150 years and about 200 appointments of governors there’s not a single case – or anything that looked like it. If they are not wanted, they resign.

    Your last para is way off-beam. That is not a “danger�. That is the job. If the governor is to exercise the reserve powers s/he needs room to do it. It has happened several times.

    SA doesn’t affect the prospects of any “model� or any reforms to the constitution. It clears the air but it burns no bridges.

  20. Mike Pepperday
    February 19th, 2006 at 11:36 | #20

    PML
    Comparison with Switzerland and the US is disturbed by the fact that they are presidential systems, not just republics. Presidentialism has proven, outside of these two, to be a failure. If these have suffered contortions blame it on presidentialism, not republicanism. However I don’t see that they have – any more than, say the monarchical Australian states and New Zealand which are almost as old.
    It is curious how some see a mystical deep function that the monarchy performs whereas others see it as completely superfluous.
    SA does not create a republic. It is a modest move which transfers the monarch’s only scrap of sovereignty to the people – prerequisite for a republic.
    Your claim that George V “checked back� is not my understanding – which is that he declined the nomination. Then Scullen insisted and won and most people think this set a precedent.
    I am sure QE would say it is her duty, but “duty� or “job� – they are just words. The fact is she does it and this is the hold-up with our becoming a republic.
    Politicians are constrained mainly by the next election and rival politicians. There will be no revolutions. Democracy (as we call it; India is dubious) is as tough as old boots and once established can’t be killed no matter how silly the rules (the US being a prime exhibit). The rules do make a difference, of course.

  21. Mike Pepperday
    February 19th, 2006 at 11:39 | #21

    AMcL
    It isn’t true that all republicans would vote for SA? You are in the booth about to make your mark on the ballot. The choice is between having the people appoint the PM’s candidate or continuing to have the Queen do it. For a republican there really is no choice, is there? Particularly since SA has no effect on the chances for that republican’s favoured “model�.

    By saying “all� the real point I’m making is that the many models we hear about have one thing in common: to get up they would have to defeat a large number of appalled republicans. Realistically, the only one of those models which will ever be put is a 1999 re-run – in 20 or 30 years’ time. It will win (they won’t do it otherwise) but only just and millions of republicans will be disgusted. A fine start to our new republic.

    Well, SA ought to work in the long term (it has worked for a century), but I am not sure whether it has to. It does not affect the possibility of adopting another option – indeed, if it turned out to be faulty it would stimulate change which the present system won’t do. It is even reversible though that is hard to imagine.

  22. Katz
    February 19th, 2006 at 13:24 | #22

    Mike,

    You still haven’t explained the process of withdrawing the commission of a GG under your scheme should s/he prove to be “unsuited” to the role and unwilling to go quietly.

    “Phone call? How do you know? It has never happened and never will. I would have thought her maj (ie her government) would like something in writing and I would have thought there would be much flabbergasted discussion in London before any response.”

    “Never” is a long, long time. If Whitlam had been persuaded that Kerr was going to do what he did before he did it he could have had Kerr’s commission withdrawn in a trice. Whitlam didn’t believe that a GG would actually exercise his reserve powers in such a way because such an exercise was “unconventional”. Now every PM knows that sword hangs over him and thus it’s a case of once bitten, twice shy.

    “It’s such nonsense, Katz: in 150 years and about 200 appointments of governors there’s not a single case – or anything that looked like it. If they are not wanted, they resign.”

    Is that so? Perhaps you are unaware of the careers of Francis Nicholson, Lord Cornbury and Cadwallader Colden, royal Governors or Lieutenant Governors of the Province of New York. None of them were wanted by a large part of the citizenry of New York. None of them resigned. Removal required rebellion and a constitutional crisis, the last of which was terminal for royal government in colonial North America.

    In the history of undefined vice-regal reserve powers 150 years is a very short time. You need to learn some facts before you start accusing people of talking nonsense.

  23. Alexander McLeay
    February 19th, 2006 at 14:16 | #23

    Mike, you’ve missed my point entirely. Starting from the bottom, you claim that Sovereign Approval “does not affect the possibility of adopting another option”—in fact, it encourages it in a nation tired of the debate; it’s a midpoint that almost no-one is happy with. I can’t see how conciously choosing a system we don’t think will last the long haul will have the effect of uniting Australians behind a common person, the immediate task of our Head of State. It will be divisive and will only put off the debate for a better and more suitable republican constitution. And amidst all this division, we will have the additional risk of an untried and untested combination; judges in Missouri are not presidents of parliamentary democracies.

    Choices: For a monarchist, there is no choice: they must reject your model, or else they are not in favor of the monarchy in Australia; they have just voted to remove it. But for a republican, we have still two choices: Accept your model, or reject it and work for a better one. I will do the latter.

    It’s really no different at all from the previous republic referendum. The choice was between having the head of state an Australian representative of the people (albeit indirectly chosen), or a monarch on the other side of the world chosen on the basis of their parents, siblings and religion. And indeed if it turned out unworkable there’s no law preventing constitutional change! What choice did republicans have? Every choice. And they chose to reject it.

    What choice would republicans have in your model? Likewise, every choice. If your model was put up for vote tomorrow, I would have no choice but to reject it. Today I doubt it is conducive to a stable democratic federation. Maybe after a years heated debate I will have changed my mind and vote for it, but I doubt it. Why are you saying I’m not a republican?

    Incidentally, you claim your model is “not a republic”. If it isn’t, then what is it, and why should republicans want it?

    Changes: Sovereign Approval hasn’t worked for a century, at least not in the way you propose; it’s never before existed. Otherwise, there would be no change, and what would the point be? There is a world of difference between a woman in Europe and the voting population of Australia, which is precisely the point of republicans and monarchists.

    As an example, when the Prime Minister asks the Queen to appoint someone at the height of his unpopularity, neither the Queen nor the nominee will have anything to fear. On the other hand, when the Prime Minister asks the People to appoint someone at the height of his unpopularity, the only nominees will be unsuitable (at this point, a suitable nominee would’ve turned the offer down), and the people would reject the PM by rejecting his nominee. The Leader of the Opposition would call it a vote of no-confidence and demand a dissolution and no matter what happens the whole system would be tarnished.

  24. Mike Pepperday
    February 19th, 2006 at 18:34 | #24

    Katz
    Sorry, I thought the theoretical process of dismissal was plain: the PM writes a letter to the sovereign and the sovereign writes back. If the people are sovereign, it is a referendum. Never happen. The country would be agog at a PM, or premier, who wanted to make such a fuss. It’s unthinkable. Rather leave the person there.

    And I’m sorry if said you were talking nonsense. I really meant that all serious scheming of ways to dismiss the GG is nonsense. No, I was not aware of your example but it is so remote it rather supports my view of how urgent the matter of dismissing the GG is. Actually there was a case in the Caribbean once – Winterton discussed it somewhere. But in Australia in 150 years and about 200 governors, not a sausage.

    I think, with many others, that Kerr did not behave with utmost propriety. This is disappointing in a system which relies on the incumbent being a person of exemplary character. But that is the system. Make me king for a day and I will sort it – but that is not what SA is about.

    Once bitten twice shy? I don’t see it. They evidently learnt nothing for they have made no move to codify the GG’s powers. Howard has an exceptional opportunity right now to fix it.

    This hypothetical of dismissing the GG has zilch urgency. Do it before or do it later – but don’t mix up constitutional reform with transfer of sovereignty. SA is for moving toward a republic; it is not about reforming the constitution.

  25. Mike Pepperday
    February 19th, 2006 at 18:44 | #25

    AMcL
    What a tale of misery.
    I never said it won’t last the long haul. All I said was it doesn’t entrap – it does not change your chances of having your favourite model. All other suggestions would change everything. Everything else requires a dirty referendum to crush the republicans who don’t agree and their hopes would stay crushed.
    The process of has worked for hundreds of years all over the British Empire. And the Missouri Plan has worked since 1940 and spread to a large number of polities. (You do make me wonder how they ever summoned the courage in Missouri to start it.) It works well. I can’t imagine there has ever been a proposal for change that has had a better pedigree than Sovereign Appointment.

    I’m saying it would allow debate, not put it off. There’s no debate at the moment; the republic movement is, as David Marr put it in the SMH recently, comatose.

    You say you wouldn’t vote for SA. I say if it came to the crunch, you would. You’d know it was that or the monarchy and if you want “to work for a better model� you’re a mile in front if go-nowhere arguments about appointment of the GG are not overwhelming the discussion. A republic is more than the appointment of the GG/president – though you would hardly know it from the argy-bargy of the last 13 years.

    Compare Sovereign Appointment with the 1999 model whereby the politicians were going to rubber stamp a candidate the party machine men had set up. Now that really was new. That scheme IS untried. You thought it was a way to get a representative of the people? It was an attempt by some millionaires to usurp the crown.

    Monarchists: the rational ones should vote for SA as it is a better guarantee of reliability and dignity than the monarchy. The emotional (in love) will not.

    I think the following thought is perceptive: “when the Prime Minister asks the People to appoint someone at the height of his unpopularity…� The ins and outs of this and how it would be anticipated are worth pondering. There is no doubt that SA would cause a small power shift from the PM to the sovereign. Overall, I think it would take us back to the days when the sovereign had real power, ie before 1930 and the Isaacs business.

    __

  26. Katz
    February 19th, 2006 at 20:08 | #26

    As a matter of fact, I voted “Yes” in the 1999 referendum even though I supported the elected GG model of Phil Cleary et. al.

    I was infuriated by Cleary’s obstructionism when he demanded maximalism or nothing.

    Even though I didn’t favour the minimalist position I supported it for two reasons.

    1. A Yes majority would have started the ball rolling.

    2. The minimalist position, in my opinion would quickly have become unpopular and demeaning in the eyes of the people and/or it wuld have proven to be unworkable. There would be no going back to a vice-regal system. So the only solution would have been a proper republic.

    But that idiot Cleary stuffed any possibility of that happening. And now we’ve got GGPM Howard.

  27. February 19th, 2006 at 23:46 | #27

    I voted ‘NO’ to the republic proposal in 1999 because I can’t see how it was a minimalist model in any way. It put the Constitution through a mincer – the proposed changes were a dog’s breakfast. All the talk about minimalism was spin, in my opinion.

    There is a new kind of republican model that is truly minimalist. A brief outline of these new Copernican models was posted as a comment on Mike’s webpage – reposted here:

    “Hi Mike,
    The appointment of the GG by the Queen is a formality. The Prime Minister has the final say on the person chosen to be GG, and the Queen, as head of state, has no choice in the matter. She has to act on advice.

    The Copernican models recognise that our so-called ‘Crowned Republic’ already has a structure with regard to the head of state. We have the ‘Queen of Australia’ and her representative the Governor-General. So far the republican movement has tried to roll the two roles into one – a president – with various methods of election or appointment being proposed. The Copernican Models propose an Australian head of state [similar role to that of the Queen], as well as a representative of the head of state [same as the role of the GG].

    Some people like to say that these models are bicephalous – with two heads of state – but I think this is incorrect. I think it is more like having a President as well as a Vice-President. But with these Copernican Models the President is elected, the Vice-President appointed on advice of the Prime Minister, and it is the Vice-President who has the power that the GG has now – to provide Royal assent and exercise the reserve powers if need be. The President with these models is purely ceremonial – a ‘Honorary President’.

    The thing about these models is that they clearly preserve our Constitutional structure – they are minimist models – and it means that we could have an elected head of state that has no effective power – just as the Queen today is the head of state but has no effective political power.

    In a nutshell – these models periodically replace the ‘Queen of Australia’ with an Australian, while also keeping a Governer-General. Its the GG who gives Royal Assent to legislation and who can in exceptional circumstances exercise the reserve powers.

    This new Australian head of state would continue in the role that the Queen fills now – including appointing the GG on Prime Ministerial advice. The head of state would be bound by Convention – and should there be a controversial exercise of power in time, those powers of the head of state could be gradually codified into the Constitution by passed referendums.

    I hope this better expresses the basic idea behind Copernican Models.”

    Comments are most welcome…

  28. Alexander McLeay
    February 20th, 2006 at 00:04 | #28

    You say you wouldn’t vote for SA. I say if it came to the crunch, you would.

    Evidently you know more about myself than I do, and so there’s no more point in continuing this discussion (I can only work on my opinion, but I don’t even know them as well as you do).

  29. Andrew Reynolds
    February 20th, 2006 at 01:11 | #29

    Sorry, Mike, but no PM is going to campaign for a system where he (or she) loses effective power – Beazley, Costello or no. Parliament will only support a system where the parliament (or the PM) has the final say and, if there is to be a republic, the people want a direct election. They will not take anything else.
    The creation of a second centre of power, which would be the case with direct election, will threaten the power of Parliament. The people will not trust the Parliament or the PM with the formalisation of the current position and the Parliament and the PM will not trust the people to elect a non-entity. The chances of a SA model are therefore, IMHO, nil.
    To me, at least, the current compromise (even if messy) works well – the PM and cabinet are effectively able to govern without a threat to their power outside Parliament and the people believe, at least those who give it some thought, that the GG will step in in extremis.
    You seem to believe that, in some way, Howard defeated the forces of republicanism at the referendum. To me at least, this is a furphy. It was defeated in every state and comfortably overall. I cannot see the PM being trusted that much – it was simply that they would not trust any politician with that power. And thank heavens for that – I certainly would not.

  30. Tom Dunstan
    February 20th, 2006 at 01:38 | #30

    Mike, I don’t think you’re helping your cause much here. Telling people that they’ll vote the way you want them to because they won’t have any other choice is a sure way to turn them off. And frankly, if such a choice were presented to Australians today I’m not sure they’d react any differently to the way they did in 1999. I suspect that in the eyes of many it’d be just another version where people don’t get a direct vote. I voted Yes btw.

    Likewise your habit of dismissing the legitimate concerns that people have raised such as dismissal of the GG, or what percentage is needed to reject a nomination by saying “it’ll never happen” is hardly reassurring. For a long time we thought that a GG would never dismiss a government, and look at how wrong we were. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean that it won’t. The test of a good constitution is whether it holds up under stress, and it doesn’t appear that you’ve given a lot of thought to the kinds of situations that might arise.

    For my part I don’t think that SA as described would produce nominees of much different calibre to those we get currently, as the nomination process is the same. I think that there certainly *would* be some political campaigns around such an election (or confirmation or whatever you call it) though. On your site you seem to rail against the nomination process in the 1999 model, but the one you propose doesn’t even have the saving grace of bipartisan political support for a nominee that that model had.

    One concern that I have with the process as outlined is that the confrmation method is postal. You can consider that such a ballot is not secret, then, as there’s no method to enforce the secrecy of such a vote. No system where someone can (even voluntarily) offer proof of how they voted can be considered secret, and non-secret votes will always be open to coercion. Why not simply have a normal referendum?

  31. Mike Pepperday
    February 20th, 2006 at 10:13 | #31

    Andrew
    “no PM is going to campaign for a system where he (or she) loses effective power�

    It’s a worry. The transfer of sovereignty to the people under sovereign appointment would reduce the PM’s power. Not much but some. He can pretty much take the Queen’s appointment of his candidate for granted but he couldn’t take the people’s appointment for granted.

    There is meaning to becoming a republic. We can accept that or we can kid ourselves. In a republic the people are sovereign. If they aren’t, it’s a sham. A PM who supported Sovereign Appointment would be accepting it. (Well, cynics might note that he is on the verge of retiring or being retired but that’s politics.)

    I does seem to me that a GG appointed by the people would be more prestigious than a GG appointed by the Queen. Certainly he or she would be in the position of saying: “I am explicitly authorised by the people of this nation (to accept your credentials, or declare this event open, etc). I am not the PM’s puppet or a front for the politicians and nor am I a politician who has paid off the right people to get elected to this position.�

    To endorse SA the pollies have to come to terms with that. But as I point out in the FAQs SA should be acceptable to them for it solves their dilemma of the two unacceptable alternatives: politicians’ republic or elected hoopla.

  32. Mike Pepperday
    February 20th, 2006 at 10:21 | #32

    Tom:

    “For a long time we thought that a GG would never dismiss a government, and look at how wrong we were.�

    Not so. Governors dismissed premiers in NSW and Victoria. But the reverse is different: no governor or GG has ever been dismissed (they resign) and casting about the British Empire for centuries we can find only two cases. How hypothetical do you want to be? Still, I’ve nothing against reforming the arrangement – but don’t mix it with transferring sovereignty.

    “I don’t think that SA as described would produce nominees of much different calibre to those we get currently, as the nomination process is the same.�

    Yay! Spot on.

    Biparisan support? The nominee under Sovereign Appointment would have the same support as at present. The candidate won’t stand otherwise. See the FAQs.

    Postal voting is very normal around the world and perfectly secure. We used it for the con-con in 1988 and it is used for local government elections.

    Why not have a “normal� referendum? It might be a fine idea but (repeating myself): don’t reform the constitution at the same time as transferring sovereignty. The process of writing to the sovereign and of the sovereign writing back has centuries of practice behind it. Introducing one person’s reform just gives someone else grounds to object. Why fiddle with the established practice if it is not central to the matter at hand?

  33. February 20th, 2006 at 11:09 | #33

    It is now generally accepted that
    • The majority of Australians want an Australian to be head of state:
    • The majority of Australians are averse to any very large changes in our constitutional arrangements;
    • The web of accumulated, derived, and developed constitutional roles and functions of the crown in Australia cannot be transferred from the royal family unless they can be defined, and any attempt at definition brings forth such disagreement as to split the parties into mutually repugnant and uncooperative camps.
    This being the case, only the arrangements I propose can square the circle and allow Australians to have what they agree they want.
    1. Australia shall be ruled by a titular monarch.
    This permits all existing constitutional structures, understandings and conventions to be carried on unaltered, with the governor-general standing in for the monarch and his or her powers and duties to remain as they have been, whatever that might be, with all existing ambiguity and uncertainty retained unaltered.
    2. The monarch shall be chosen by computer by random selection from all persons on the Australian electoral roll born on a randomly chosen day .
    This ensures that
    a) the monarch will be an Australian citizen and
    b) the election or appointment of the monarch will not cause divisions among the populace.
    3. The identity of the chosen monarch shall remain in the custody of the computer, neither the governor-general, the government, the public, or the person concerned being informed.
    This means that
    c) every Australian could not only aspire to being King or Queen, but every 365th Australian could believe that they might already be King or Queen – producing that pleasant tickle existing at the back of the mind in the time between buying a lottery ticket and the draw, only indefinitely prolonged for no expense
    d) the person chosen would not be stressed by sudden fame or corrupted by unexpected power.
    4. The only possible objection to this plan would be that as the law now stands the monarch cannot be tried in his or her own courts, and unless appropriate arrangements were made every 365th person brought into court could plead that as it could not be proved they were not king or queen the matter would have to be dismissed; this defect could be cured, however, by introducing a constitutional fiction – the only significant change in the constitutional fabric required by my scheme – to the effect that Australian citizenship involves the waiving of any rights under this head.
    Any nation that can give a real Queen an imaginary birthday should have no problem giving a real birthday an imaginary Queen.
    While it might be objected that this proposal is ludicrous, its great merit is that it is considerably less ludicrous either than the existing system of privileging the heirs of Guillaume le Conquerant or the alternative proposal of going through all the trouble and expense of electing a president empowered to do no more than open fêtes.

  34. February 20th, 2006 at 12:50 | #34

    Chris,
    I like your ideas – perhaps someone could, more out of jest I presume, elaborate on Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance idea to build a theoretical basis for the Phantom Queen of Australia. This scheme would keep everyone guessing. Lots of fun…

    More seriously though, with the ‘Egalitarian’ Copernican model for a republic I propose restricting the pool of nominees for a directly elected head of state to a few hundred people selected at random form the whole population – plus one special nominee of the Prime Minister’s choosing.

    Having a random sample of the population particiate in an election campaign – for a ceremonial postion without power – would change the nature of that election campaign. It would become less politicised and more about sharing stories about ourselves. We could expect the Prime Minister’s nominee to win the election – that person would most likely be already well known. But if the PM nominates a ‘mate’ or someone not to the public’s liking – there would most likely be a few people in the random sample who could build up a serious challenge. This consideration alone should temper the PM’s choice of nominee.

    Symbolicly this process would be about giving a voice to all Australians, and letting people from diverse backgrounds have their say – with their own voices. Politics in Australia is extremely narrow and exclusive at the moment.

  35. Alexander McLeay
    February 20th, 2006 at 13:06 | #35

    Chris, what happens if the monarch moves overseas and takes up foreign citizenship? Then we will have a complex situation in which we not only are not sure who our Queen is, but we are not even sure if we have a Queen!

    A toast to the Queen of Australia, should she exist!

  36. Alexander McLeay
    February 20th, 2006 at 13:20 | #36

    Rob, I think your system will work best if if the PM gets a special nominee, so too do the state Premiers; after all, a Copernican Republican head of state is usually the symbolic head of the state governments too, just like the Queen presently is.

  37. February 20th, 2006 at 21:58 | #37

    Alexander,
    That’s a good idea and it makes sense.
    One thing that I want to try to avoid in this kind of election campaign is an overly competitive contest. With only one nominee by the PM, or parliament, or the PM with the State Premiers and Chief Ministers, there would be one person with such a clear head start that they would be expected to win. This should keep the election campaign more relaxed. The campaign would also be a kind of training for the head of state, and we can see how they perform under public pressure and scrutiny, before they get the job. If they can’t handle it, then the public attention would focus on the people in the random sample who stand out.

    With a number of special nominees – with any number higher than one – each with possibly an established public profile, there may be a tussle to push ahead of the other special nominees in public opinion or election betting markets, etc. This could turn into a mudslinging fight – which we would want to avoid. That’s the main reason for having only one special nominee.

    One reason for a special nominee is as a counter to the point that a random sample of the population may not contain anyone who could fill the position of the head of state. The special nominee is there to make sure that there is at least one person in the ballot who could do the job, without any question. Anyone who would favour an appointed head of state, would have to accept that the -ONE- special nominee has much the same status of an appointed head of state – and that person should be capable enough, given such a headstart, of winning an election in a field of random nominees. Anyone who argues against one special nominee, in this context, can’t really be said to be able to put forward a decent argument for an appointed head of state.

  38. Alexander McLeay
    February 21st, 2006 at 01:04 | #38

    Rob, I thought of precisely those same issues when I wrote it but didn’t discuss them because I didn’t think I could give it the detail it deserved at the time. Thankyou for doing it for me :)

    Another option might be that the nomination cycles between each state government and the Commonwealth government.

  39. al
    March 6th, 2006 at 19:40 | #39

    i dont actually think legitimation is a real word

  40. March 14th, 2006 at 00:18 | #40

    Good day I found your blogg when doing a search for Special Forces used in military watches, not what I was after but hello anyway :-)

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