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.