Why do I retain the Governor General in my Proposal for an Elective Constitution Monarchy for Australia?

Fr Greg Blevins wrote to this morning saying:

Just read you proposal for an elective monarchy in Australia. One thing I don’t understand: with a resident monarch, why have a Governor General?

Ah, you see, this is the beauty of it all.

Australia as it exists at the moment is actually federation of separate British Colonies. All the Colonies (now referred to as “States” in the “Commonwealth of Australia”) have their own Governor, directly chosen by the Premier of the local State Parliament and appointed by the Queen herself without any Federal participation in the process. The Governor General is the same sort of beast writ large, chosen by the Prime Minister and appointed directly by the Queen without any participation from the State governements. So we have two quite separate teirs of Government, both directly and independently related to the people and, through their governors, to the Crown.

The next oddity is that under the current constitution we currently have an absentee monarch, sharing our monarch with Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and a bunch of other places. This works very nicely as the Monarch has zilch input in the way our nation operates politically except for the business of appointing Governors and Governors General. In fact, it is hard to know why anyone would want to change this system – we get the best of both worlds: the stability that comes from constitutional monarchy and the self-determination that comes from democratic independence. And we don’t even have to pay for the Monarch.

Effectively we have a vacuum at the top of our political system – one that the Republicans would like to see filled by a President. Proposals for a Presidency have reached all sorts of complications about the way in which such a president would be appointed. Mainly the argument comes down to whether he/she should be appointed by direct vote of the people or through some form of parliamentary concensus. But it is also complicated by the question of what powers the president would have in the political process. This in turn is complicated, because there has been a great deal of debate as to what exactly are and are not the currrent powers of the Governors/Governor General, especially since the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 by the then Governor General, Sir John Kerr. Would a President have the powers to do that? If he did, and if he were a popularly elected leader, that could create a very unstable situation.

My proposal for an Elective Constitutional Monarchy for Australia (in effect, proposing that we have a Sovereign head of state who is elected FOR LIFE by a very particular and predictable process) aims at making the only change necessary in order to have an Australian Citizen as our Head of State, and leaving everything else in place as it currently is. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Retaining the State Governors AND the Federal Governor General would keep the Elected Head of State at a safe distance from the day to day political process. The sole political activity and power of the Monarch would continue to be the appointment of Governors at both state and federal levels (on the recommendation of the Premier of the Parliament), just as it is in the current system. In every other respect the role of the Soveriegn would be purely ceremonial – thus filling that “vacuum” at the top of our political system which is currently filled by our Absentee Monarch.

My system also solves the question of how to elect the Head of State by a similar process of removing his/her election as far from the day to day democratic political process as possible, thus eliminating any possibility of volatility and instability (the same thinking is behind the idea of election FOR LIFE – somthing that should be no trouble when the only political power of the Monarch is the appointment the Governors). I borrowed the idea for an “Elective Monarchy” from the Holy Roman Empire, where the Emperor used to be chosen by a group of princes who had the role of “Electors”. Let the “Electors” be the “princes” of our political system, I thought, namely those Governors and Governors General that remain in the new system. These Electors are people who have been appointed by the leaders of the democratically elected parliaments and appointed by the Crown. They have a limited term of office, but their office is not dependant upon the government who appointed them remaining in power. As a college working together, they, and not the rather more volatile Parliaments, are well placed to do this duty. Add to that that the Governors are generally not in themselves politicians, but “elder statesmen and women” of our nation, and they seem the perfect choice to elect a new monarch on the death of the old one.

Any way, that’s my thinking. I reckon it would not only work, but would flourish as a system of governement for our nation.

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27 responses to “Why do I retain the Governor General in my Proposal for an Elective Constitution Monarchy for Australia?

  1. How about just have the Chief Justice of each State appoint the Governor thereof (on the advice of the State Premier), and the Chief Justice of the High Court appoint the Governor-General of Australia (on the advice of the Prime Minister)?

    In Tasmania, it has become fairly common for the Chief Justice or former Chief Justice to become Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Acting Governor…

    • I hadn’t thought of that.. But one reason I can think of right away for not doing this is that it would involve the Chief Justice in a political sphere in which they are not currently involved, and give them a role they do not currently have. Goodness knows what effect this would have on the overall system. My system is, remember, intended to be entirely minimalist, with everyone retaining their current roles.

  2. The two bits I still don’t understand are: what the inherent deficit is in the current situation that a “monarch for life” would address (unless you believe that a monarch’s having several realms is for some reason I haven’t guessed inherently bad); and why your “monarchy” (I still think what you describe is a republic) needs to hang on to so many structures from the colonial era. If you think that Australia has developed the colonial structures organically, then why, apart from tinkering (absent the inherent problem I don’t yet get) change them?

    • 1. “What the inherent deficit is in the current situation that a “monarch for life” would address (unless you believe that a monarch’s having several realms is for some reason I haven’t guessed inherently bad)?”

      No, I don’t think there is any deficit at all in the current system. The system I propose is the system I would favour if it were universally agreed that we need a new system – something which I do not personally believe. The “deficit” usually cited with the current system is that our head of state is not an Australian system. If this IS a deficit – and I do not concede that it is – then the best way of fixing this deficit is to make this single change and no other to a system that is currently working just fine.

      As for why I propose election of the head of state (and I prefer to use the term “monarch” and “Crown” for this head of state rather than “President” is simply because that is what we currently have – remember my minimalist intent!) “for life” is that this would avoid the instability and the cost and the politics associated with regular re-elections. Acknowledging that it would probably be impossible to set up a new hereditary monarchy in this day an age, I have accepted that we must have an elected head of state. BUT I see no reason why, if the head of state is simply a figure head, we need to limit the head of state’s term of office. All other examples of elected heads of states throughout the world have the disadvantage of expensive, politicised and destablilising elections on a regular basis. I simply ask why we need this, if in fact at the moment we don’t have them, and since this is not a part of the criticism of our current political system.

      2. “And why your “monarchy” (I still think what you describe is a republic) needs to hang on to so many structures from the colonial era?”

      Simply because they are the structures we currently have, they are working admirably and have given us a great deal of political stability for more than one hundred years. If the sole reason for voting for full independance from the British Crown is to have an Australian Head of State, why do we need to change anything else? Any changes we make to the structure beyond the appointment of an Australian head of state in the place of our current absentee monarch might have unforseen consequences. It is largely because of these unforseen consequences that proposals for a system in which we do indeed have an Australian Head of State have failed to win wide acceptance by our citizens as a whole.

      • Thanks – I’d thought that you were positively in favour, rather than proposing an “if you must” alternative.

        Her’s a different one: why not ask HM the Queen (and Prince Edward) if the Earl and Countess of Wessex can, on he death, succeed her as (independent) King and Queen of Australia? You keep the British link, but you patriate it; you maintain the herditary monarchy; you keep the Head of State separate from politics. (And you have the 1905 Norwegian precedent.) At the very least, you give the new system the life of Prince Edward (say 40 more years?) to work out whether Oz wants to be a republic or a monarchy.

        • Well, of course, this – or something like it – has been proposed by others. And of course, I would favour it way above any proposal for an elected head of state, even my proposal. But first: we would have to find a current royal who would really want this job (mind you, I think it would have its attractions), and secondly (and more importantly) I think you would have a hard time actually convincing the Australian public that our new monarch was an Australian head of state (though in general, we accept all naturalised immigrants as “Australians” pretty easily in this country).

  3. Peregrinus

    I think your rather glib reference to “the stability that comes with constitutional monarchy” doesn’t bear a great deal of examination.

    It’s true that most of the world’s surviving monarchies are in stable constitutional democracies, but it is a mistake to assume that those countries are stable because they are monarchies. It is more likely that they are (still) monarchies because they are stable, the rather larger number of monarchies in less stable countries having long since been toppled. And there is abundant historical precedent to show that a country exhibiting a preference for monarchy is no guarantee of stability. In this instance, what you are proposing is the establishment of a new monarchy, but there is no example stable constitutional democracy which has done this since Norway in 1905. Meanwhile the list of countries which have been established as constitutional monarchies and proved unstable is quite long. France alone established three brand-new constitutional monarchies for itself in the course of the nineteenth century, none of which endured for even twenty years, before giving the whole thing up as a bad job.

    And I must say I agree with Ttony that what you have here is a president-for-life which you attempt to disguise with the title “king”. “President-for-life” is a concept against which we generally bridle; about the only thing that can be said in mitigation here is that you are proposing a president-for-life with practically nothing to do, but that is pretty faint praise. The present absentee monarchy at least has the merit of pointing to an important part of the Australian story; the British link. The new head of state, whether titled “president” or “king”, would not even fulfil this function, and the governor-general and the governors would be representing someone supremely irrelevant to Australia and its people. The head of state wouldn’t even provide the entertainment value of a court, a crown prince whom we could either love or hate, a clutch of dukes and earls, and the occasional titillation provided by scandalous behaviour among the idle rich. What’s the point? Plus, who would take the job?

    • I think your rather glib reference to “the stability that comes with constitutional monarchy” doesn’t bear a great deal of examination.

      I was not building my case on the basis of OTHER constitutional monarchies; I was building my case on the basis of the AUSTRALIAN Constitutional Monarchy – which has proved itself remarkably stable. And since it is working, I don’t see why we should change it. Except that I can understand the desire for an AUSTRALIAN head of state. My suggested model is designed to meet that desire and no other.

      And I must say I agree with Ttony that what you have here is a president-for-life which you attempt to disguise with the title “king”.

      I didn’t use the title “king” but “Monarch”. “Sovereign”, “Regent”, or “Crown” would do equally well. But “Monarch” is a good non-gender specific title.

      “President-for-life” is a concept against which we generally bridle; about the only thing that can be said in mitigation here is that you are proposing a president-for-life with practically nothing to do, but that is pretty faint praise.

      But also pretty safe, no? And you can wheel the Monarch out to do all those “head of state” sort of things, like open Olympic Games and Shopping Centres and visit hospitals and support charities… Seems a good deal to me.

      The present absentee monarchy at least has the merit of pointing to an important part of the Australian story; the British link.

      And a very good argument that is for retaining the current monarchy. I agree totally. But for some reason some people seem to think that it is precisely because of this historical link that a change is required (Cardinal Pell, Paul Keating, Tom Keneally… etc. etc.). Go figure.

      The new head of state, whether titled “president” or “king”, would not even fulfil this function, and the governor-general and the governors would be representing someone supremely irrelevant to Australia and its people. The head of state wouldn’t even provide the entertainment value of a court, a crown prince whom we could either love or hate, a clutch of dukes and earls, and the occasional titillation provided by scandalous behaviour among the idle rich. What’s the point?

      Let me get this straight, Perry – because I think you are giving a wonderful expose of the republican movement in this. A “real” head of state would “fulfil [some] function”, be “someone supremely relevant to Australia and its people”, “provide the entertainment value of a court”, and “the occasional titillation provided by scandalous behaviour among the idle rich”. Seems like the job is already taken, doesn’t it?

      Plus, who would take the job?

      Ah, now, that’s the beauty of it all in the end. There is in fact one other Sovereign Head of State in the world today who is elected, and appointed for life. And after he accepts his appointment, they take him to a place called the “Weeping Room” to be dressed in his ceremonial robes before being presented to the people.

      If someone wants the job because they find it an attractive prospect which they could turn to their own advantage, then we should not accept that person for the position. Anyone who expects to be my “Head of State”, who expects me and every other citizen of my country to swear allegiance to them, had better jolly well be willing to give their entire life and existence to the job.

      The woman we have doing this job at the moment would serve as a pretty good model, I reckon.

      • Peregrinus

        [i]I was not building my case on the basis of OTHER constitutional monarchies; I was building my case on the basis of the AUSTRALIAN Constitutional Monarchy – which has proved itself remarkably stable.[/i]

        When you say that the Australian constitutional monarchy “has proved itself remarkably stable”, do you mean Australia, a country with a monarchical constitution, has proved politically stable, or do you mean that the monarchy itself has proved stable?

        If the former, true, but so what? It remains to be shown that the stability of Australia has anything to do with its monarchical constitution. If the latter, true, but so what? An institution can be stable but still completely pointless.

        [i]I didn’t use the title “king” but “Monarch”. “Sovereign”, “Regent”, or “Crown” would do equally well. But “Monarch” is a good non-gender specific title.[/i]

        What’s your problem with the title “president-for-life”? Is it in any way inaccurate or misleading?

        [i]And you can wheel the Monarch out to do all those “head of state” sort of things, like open Olympic Games and Shopping Centres and visit hospitals and support charities… Seems a good deal to me.[/i]

        If the monarch is going to do all that, the governors will have a lot of time on their hands, won’t they?

        And this brings me back to Fr Blevin’s point. The reason the monarch is represented in Australia by a fleet of governors is because she isn’t here to do the job herself. Whether you think the functions of the monarch are important, trivial or a bit of both, there is no reason for a monarch who is in a position to exercise them to appoint someone else to do so. Even if you think monarchy, as a concept, is relevant to Australia, if you have both a resident monarch and a representative of the monarch to carry out the monarch’s functions, at least one of them is redundant.

        [i]Peregrinus: The present absentee monarchy at least has the merit of pointing to an important part of the Australian story; the British link.

        David: And a very good argument that is for retaining the current monarchy. I agree totally. But for some reason some people seem to think that it is precisely because of this historical link that a change is required (Cardinal Pell, Paul Keating, Tom Keneally… etc. etc.). Go figure.[/I]

        It’s a good argument for retaining the current monarchy, but an argument [i]against[/i] your proposal. If there is to be an Australian head of state, why should it be a monarch, given that the Australian monarch will be unable to do the one useful thing that the British monarch can, viz., symbolise the British strain in the Australian cultural and political heritage?

        [i]Peregrinus: The new head of state, whether titled “president” or “king”, would not even fulfil this function, and the governor-general and the governors would be representing someone supremely irrelevant to Australia and its people. The head of state wouldn’t even provide the entertainment value of a court, a crown prince whom we could either love or hate, a clutch of dukes and earls, and the occasional titillation provided by scandalous behaviour among the idle rich. What’s the point?

        David: Let me get this straight, Perry – because I think you are giving a wonderful expose of the republican movement in this. A “real” head of state would “fulfil [some] function”, be “someone supremely relevant to Australia and its people”, “provide the entertainment value of a court”, and “the occasional titillation provided by scandalous behaviour among the idle rich”. Seems like the job is already taken, doesn’t it?[/i]

        No, no, no. I’m saying that, apart from symbolising the British connection, all that can be said in favour of the British monarchy is that his has some rather low-grade entertainment value. But the “Australian monarchy” won’t have that either. An Austrlian republic offers a rather better prospect of providing a coherent locus for Australian sovereignty, identity and allegiance and, if it does that, nobody will miss the dukes and earls, and we can look to soapies stars and League players to provide the titillation.

        [i]Peregrinus: Plus, who would take the job?

        David: Ah, now, that’s the beauty of it all in the end. There is in fact one other Sovereign Head of State in the world today who is elected, and appointed for life. And after he accepts his appointment, they take him to a place called the “Weeping Room” to be dressed in his ceremonial robes before being presented to the people.[/i]

        And he matters because he has a great deal of power (although of course his power has little or nothing to do with the fact that he is a head of state). But you seem to be suggesting an Australian monarch whose function is to do nothing at all and which, therefore, will have some difficulty attacting the adherence and loyalty of the Australian people.

        [i]If someone wants the job because they find it an attractive prospect which they could turn to their own advantage, then we should not accept that person for the position. Anyone who expects to be my “Head of State”, who expects me and every other citizen of my country to swear allegiance to them, had better jolly well be willing to give their entire life and existence to the job.[/i]

        How can somebody be expected to give their entire life and existence to a job in which there is nothing to do? Why would anybody agree to such a travesty?

        More to the point, why should you be expected to swear allegiance to a head of state? If you stop insisting that the head of state has to be called a “monarch”, this problem goes away, doesn’t it?

        • Perry,

          1. I am a monarchist. I am not a republican. Republicanism suffers from terrible democratic notions of “the power to the people” – a recipe for political instability at any time. Monarchy traditionally has, on the other hand, been associated with tyranny, where power is concentrated in the Crown. Constitutional Monarchy is the best system of all, where the day to day government is in the hands of the people, but the people are never “sovereign”. Thus, a Constitutional Monarch appointed by an Electoral Council is a completely different thing to a “President-for-Life”.

          2. I don’t see why the Federal Governor it should be seen as redundant in a system where we have a resident Head of State if the State Governors are not similarly seen as redundant. But no plan for an Australia Republic has proposed the abolition of State Governors.

          The Governors serve a political purpose. At this present time in our history, the Australian Monarch (absent and busy with her other job being the British Monarch) serves only one political purpose: that is, to fill the vacuum left at the top of the Australian political system. Our Absentee Monarch functions admirably in this respect.

          But it seems that many desire a head of state who is a resident Australian citizen. Fine. Let it be. Fiat. But why change anything else?

          You say: because we only have governors to represent the absentee Monarch. Is that so, I ask? In fact, the Governors represent that vacuum at the top of our political ladder called “the Crown” – absent or otherwise.

          Think about this. What would we do if the Queen of England decided to come and live in Australia for the rest of her life and leave her eldest son as Regent in England. Would we immediately dismiss the Governor General and the State Governors? Of course not. She would get on with the job of being the Monarch (doing very little, as a lady of her age deserves), and we would get on with the political business of running the country. Where she lives is irrelevant. Our Governors, State and General, serve a political purpose that is not directly related to where the Monarch – who serves no political purpose other than existing and rubber stamping the appointment of the Governors – has her residence.

          3. You are concerned about what a Monarch would actually do or symbolise.

          Let me make a suggestoin that may in fact clear matters up a little. Consider it a modification of my original model – although there is nothing in my original model that actually directly addresses this in this way.

          There are two roles for a Head of State in the Australian political system. One is a practical political role – the appointment of governors and governments – the other is a symbolic or ceremonial role.

          In my suggested system for an Australian Elective Constitutional Monarchy, it would make sense for the practical political role to be given entirely to the Governors (State and General).

          The Elected Monarch – on the other hand – would carry out the day to day symbolic and ceremonial functions of a Head of State. In these functions, the Governors (State or General as appropriate) may represent the Monarch when he or she is absent. The only political role that the Monarch would have would be to occupy that vacuum which currently exists at the top of our political ladder, and approve the appointment of the Governors (State and General) on the basis of the recommendation of the parliamentary premiers.

          I can think of no simpler method for running our country if indeed it was judged that the present system needed modification so that we could have a resident Australian citizen as our head of state.

          • Oh, and by the way, if we take the case of the Sovereign of the Vatican City State, he may have a lot of power in his spiritual role, but not in his political role. Even when he is resident in the Vatican, he is represented in his political role by the Secratary of State. He has very little role in the day to day “political” running of the Vatican City State, such as it is.

  4. David,

    Perry is right – your Elected Monarch would be otiose, having nothing to do: a roi fainéant indeed.

    My suggestion, of having the relevant Chief Justice appoint the Governor or Governor-General on the advice of the Premier or Prime Minister would do away with this redundancy.

    • So, what? No head of state at all?

      • Peregrinus

        In this scenario, how would the Governor-General not be the head of state?

        • In other words, the Chief Justice appoints the Head of State on the say so of the Prime Minister? Youch. And who appoints the Chief Justice? All a bit messy, I reckon. And involves the judiciary in government. Again, youch.

          • Peregrinus

            As I understand Joshua’s suggestion, the Chief Justice’s role would be purely formal, i.e. he would be bound to appoint the candidate nominated by the Prime Minister. Which is of course exactly the current position; the Queen is bound to accept the advice of the Prime Minister in this matter.

            And, as no doubt you are aware, there is a strong view among the “no change” camp that the GG is already the Australian head of state. On this view, Joshua’s proposal involved even less change than yours; we have a head of state chosen – or dismissed – at the discretion of the Prime Minister of the day. (I personally don’t see this as a terribly good idea, but if you want “no change” then this is what you want.)

  5. Peregrinus

    1. I am a monarchist. I am not a republican. Republicanism suffers from terrible democratic notions of “the power to the people” – a recipe for political instability at any time. Monarchy traditionally has, on the other hand, been associated with tyranny, where power is concentrated in the Crown. Constitutional Monarchy is the best system of all, where the day to day government is in the hands of the people, but the people are never “sovereign”. Thus, a Constitutional Monarch appointed by an Electoral Council is a completely different thing to a “President-for-Life”.

    I have to say that I’m seeing a change in title with no change in role or function here. The point about a president for life is that he tends to reject democratic accountability – he has doesn’t have to submit himself to re-election – and in this respect he is, in fact seeking to emulate a monarch. He differs from (most) monarchs in not (openly) seeking to make his position hereditary. In other words, I see no meaningful distinction between president-for-life, and a non-hereditary monarch. They both exercise power without democratic political accountability.

    I’m not persuaded by your sovereignty versus control-of-government distinction. What is political sovereignty, if not the ultimate power to control government? Australia has been described as a “crowned republic” in that the political reality is that the people are the ultimate sovereign. That would equally be true of the Schutz monarchy, and in fact I think it is true ultimately of all democratic constitutional monarchies. If the people have the political power to abolish the monarchy – by, e.g,, constitutional amendment – then it is the people, and not the monarch, who are sovereign.

    2. I don’t see why the Federal Governor it should be seen as redundant in a system where we have a resident Head of State if the State Governors are not similarly seen as redundant. But no plan for an Australia Republic has proposed the abolition of State Governors.

    The state governors are there to ensure that the prerogative powers are not exercised at the state level by the GG who is, of course, accountable to the Commonwealth government in a way that he is not accountable to the state governments. Since the various models for a republic which have been discussed do not envisage any transfer of further power to the Commonwealth, they generally involve retaining the state governors.

    The “monarch” in your system would not, however, be accountable to the Commonwealth government. He would not be accountable to anybody. If this makes it objectionable for him to have any powers to exercise, what is he for? If, on the other hand, it is not objectionable for him to exercise any powers, what is the GG for?

    The Governors serve a political purpose. At this present time in our history, the Australian Monarch (absent and busy with her other job being the British Monarch) serves only one political purpose: that is, to fill the vacuum left at the top of the Australian political system. Our Absentee Monarch functions admirably in this respect.

    But it seems that many desire a head of state who is a resident Australian citizen. Fine. Let it be. Fiat. But why change anything else?

    But the experience and training the Queen receives in the wider role that she fills equips her admirably to fill this role in a way that is unlikely to be true of an Australian monarch selected by the method you suggest.

    I think this is the key point. The current Australian constitution is a rather more delicate machine than your proposal suggests. By “piggy-backing” off the British constitution, we get more than a slew of ladies-in-waiting, gentlemen ushers and amusing Royal Dukes maintained at no expense to us. We get a monarch who, by upbringing, training and experience, is absolutely steeped in government, in the Westminster constitutional traditions, in advising and counselling generations of British and other Prime Ministers, and who as a result is uniquely well-equipped to exercise the power she has under the Australian constitution – powers which rarely have to be exercised, but which are very important when they [i]are[/i] exercised.

    But the constitution doesn’t [i]have[/i] to be structured to have an individual who holds and exercises these powers. If having an Australian- resident head of state is the priority, then I think the constitution should to be restructured so that it doesn’t require an Australian of the Queen’s experience (a) to be found, and (b) to agree to do practically nothing for the rest of his or her life. If, on the other hand, retaining the current role of the crown in the Australian constitution is the priority, then I think we have to reconsider how badly we want a local head of state. But I think it makes no sense to try to do both. You end up with all the silliest aspects of monarchy, and none of the benefits.

    Given a choice between the current monarchy and the Schutz monarchy, I’d vote for the current monarchy. I think a lot of republicans would (as, it is reasonable to suggest, a lot did when faced with a choice between the current monarchy and a republican model they didn’t like). There’s no reason, though, why that should be the only choice.

    You say: because we only have governors to represent the absentee Monarch. Is that so, I ask? In fact, the Governors represent that vacuum at the top of our political ladder called “the Crown” – absent or otherwise.

    Think about this. What would we do if the Queen of England decided to come and live in Australia for the rest of her life and leave her eldest son as Regent in England. Would we immediately dismiss the Governor General and the State Governors? Of course not . . .

    Not to be the bearer of bad tidings, or anything, but then your proposal does involve significant constitutional change. As matters stand, when the Queens in personally present in Australia, she does exercise her powers personally (though on the advice of the relevant ministers, of course). This is explicitly provided for in the Australia Act 1986, though that Act merely repeats the constitutional rule which applied beforehand, and which applies in every Commonwealth realm.

    There are two roles for a Head of State in the Australian political system. One is a practical political role – the appointment of governors and governments – the other is a symbolic or ceremonial role.

    In my suggested system for an Australian Elective Constitutional Monarchy, it would make sense for the practical political role to be given entirely to the Governors (State and General).

    Huh? It can’t be entirely given to the governors. The governors can hardly appoint themselves.

    The Elected Monarch – on the other hand – would carry out the day to day symbolic and ceremonial functions of a Head of State. In these functions, the Governors (State or General as appropriate) may represent the Monarch when he or she is absent. The only political role that the Monarch would have would be to occupy that vacuum which currently exists at the top of our political ladder, and approve the appointment of the Governors (State and General) on the basis of the recommendation of the parliamentary premiers.

    OK, so the governors aren’t appointing themselves. The monarch is appointing them, and doing all the supermarket openings. So it’s the governors who are left with a lot of time on their hands. They just get to appoint premiers and ministers, which is not exactly a 40-hour a week job. My question is why can’t the monarch do this? Why must this function be kept out of the hands of the monarch? It is very firmly in the hands of the monarch in the UK, not only for the UK as a whole but also for the subordinate governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and I can’t see any great evils flowing from this.

    I can think of no simpler method for running our country if indeed it was judged that the present system needed modification so that we could have a resident Australian citizen as our head of state.

    I think it’s over-simple. The arguments in favour of the current system crucially depend on what the British monarch brings into that. Lose that, and you’ve preserved the form while losing the substance. I think you fail to recognise this.

    Oh, and by the way, if we take the case of the Sovereign of the Vatican City State, he may have a lot of power in his spiritual role, but not in his political role. Even when he is resident in the Vatican, he is represented in his political role by the Secratary of State. He has very little role in the day to day “political” running of the Vatican City State, such as it is.

    He makes his own decision, and exercises his own judgment, about hiring and firing the Secretary of State. I presume you are not suggesting that here!

    PS; Why “for life”? In the nature of things, those elected under your system would already be fairly senior, and a proportion of them would suffer failing physical or mental health – possibly for a prolonged period -before they died. Whose going to open the supermarkets then? If you’re concerned that the person elected should not be subject to the political pressures of ever having to face re-election, what’s wrong with a fixed term, with no possibility of a second term? If anything, that would make the post more attractive – those filling it could at least be assured that they wouldn’t face the pressure of feeling guilty because, at the age of 86, they didn’t feel like opening supermarkets and could no longer recall the name of the leader of the opposition.

    • If, on the other hand, retaining the current role of the crown in the Australian constitution is the priority, then I think we have to reconsider how badly we want a local head of state.

      Precisely.

      … Given a choice between the current monarchy and the Schutz monarchy, I’d vote for the current monarchy.

      Me too, ol’ boy. Me too.

      • Peregrinus

        Well, if not even Schutz favours the Schutz model, I think its future is strictly limited!

        I think you put forward the Schutz model as a compromise between those who want a monarch, and those who want an Australian, as head of state. But to make it fly, you need to persuade those who want an Australian as head of state that they should still want a monarch. But apart from a suggestion that a republic is prone to political instability in a way that a monarchy isn’t (which you seem to shy away from fleshing out), I don’t see much attempt to do that.

        • I said that I did not favour Schütz model (or any other model for that matter) compared to the current situation. I offer (and favour) the Schütz as a minimal model of change for those who think that our head of state SHOULD BE a resident Australian Citizen (an idea with which I have no argument, and am prepared to accept if the rest of the Australian nation desires it, but personally do not favour).

  6. Interesting debate.

    Obviously, as a Yank, I don’t have a dog in this fight.

    I would, however, make one point and ask one question.

    Those, such as Cardinal Pell, who desire an Australian Head of State, are surely motivated, at least partially, by the experience of Ireland vis-a-vis the United Kingdom; therefore, given the close connection between the British Monarch and the Church of England, and the historical oppression of Roman Catholicism in Ireland, there is a religious dimension to this issue.

    My question: it is pointed out above that republics are associated with political instability. Fair enough. OTOH, the republican Constitution of the United States has endured for over 200 years, creating a system in which an elective presidency is, to say the least, no mere figurehead, being both head of state and head of government. Why has this worked here, but not necessarily elsewhere?

    • Dear Fr Greg

      can we leave Ireland out of this? Please?

      Yrs affec

      Ttony

      • But it’s the elephant in the room, isn’t it, Ttony?

        • Peregrinus

          It would be foolish to suggest (and nobody here is suggesting it) that what works for Ireland must necessarily work for Australia.

          On the other hand, the case of Ireland is a standing refutation of the notion that a Westminster-style republic can’t work, or must be unstable. Or that a directly-elected President is inherently destabilising. And I think it’s also fair to note that the part of Ireland which has had monarchical government has been conspicuously more unstable than the part with republican government.

          So, yes, there are lessons to be learned and conclusions rather tentatively to be drawn from the Irish experience that may be of relevance to the Australian debate.

        • I don’t think it is the elephant in the room: I think it’s a bandwidth-consuming irrelevance.

          (Unless you want to convince me that there is a significant number of Australians for whom the fact of being Catholic or having an Irish surname trumps any adult discussion of constitutional politics: that surely isn’t the case! Is it?)

          • Peregrinus

            I’m puzzled by the suggestion that the Irish constitutional experience is relevant only if you happen to be Catholic, or have an Irish surname, and that reference to Ireland must, by definition, not be part of “adult discussion of constitutional politics”.

            Ireland has made the transition from a Westminster-style monarchy with a non-resident monarch to a Westminster-style republic. That transition has had significant implications both for how Ireland is governed internally and for its relationship with the former colonial power.

            Since this is precisely the transition that is proposed for Australia by the republican movement, the Irish experience seems to me obviously relevant – not as the only possible model, or as the model which Australia must follow, but as a model which has actually operated in the real world, and from which lessons can be learnt and conclusions drawn.

            The current Australian constitution draws explicitly on (and in places even reproduces passages of) the constitution of the US, a country and society with which Australia rather less in the way of cultural and historical links than it does to Ireland. If the architects of federation where happy to learn and adapt from the experiences of other nations, why must any reference to Ireland now be inconsistent with “adult discussion of constitutional politics”?

  7. Ireland is not Australia – unlike the Irish, we did not throw off alien occupiers by armed revolt, nor turn on our once-relations in a war of independence as the Americans did; Australia gained her independence soberly, slowly, lawfully, peacefully and constitutionally. While I am a Catholic, I am not Irish (but for a very tiny fraction), and I do resent the attempt often made to equate the two.

    One would have thought, given the fact that still today (as in N.Z. and to a lesser extent Canada) a plurality if not a majority Australians are of British descent, it is reasonable to maintain a restrained constitutional link to Home in in the person of the Crown.

    I mistrust the push for a Republic, because in its rhetoric of suspicion and hermeneutic of rupture I hear the echoes of so much liberal nonsense that has led faith and morals astray within and without the Church.