Not just monarchists, but all Victorians should be a little taken aback at the way the Victorian Attorney General (and Acting-Premier to boot) is carrying out his Republican agenda without consultation with The People and radically rewriting our legal procedure. (Cf. this article in yesterday’s Age “Victorian courts banish ‘outdated’ Queen” and this article in today’s “Tension over Queen’s removal”
The changes are changes to terminology, but (as in our discussion of the meaning of “men” in the Nicene Creed) words, in law as in religions, are never “just” words. Here are the changes according to The Age which Hulls is driving through for the start of the new year (why have we only just heard about this?).
”From New Year’s Day, criminal prosecutions will be brought in the name of the Director of Public Prosecutions, rather than the Queen…
Referring to the Queen is outdated,” he said last night. ”Substituting the DPP for the Queen or Regina reflects the legal and political independence from the United Kingdom and its monarch that has been achieved by Australia.”
From January 1, law lists will read ”DPP vs Bill Smith” instead of ”Queen vs Bill Smith”.
It follows two controversial changes to the legal system that the then new Labor Government made in 2000: substitution of ”senior counsel” for ”Queen’s counsel”, and the removal of the requirement for new lawyers to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen…
Under the Criminal Procedure Act, effective from January 1, state laws will be written in plain English. For example, the word ”accused” replaces ”defendant”, ”sentence” replaces ”sentencing order” and ”set aside” replaces ”quashed”.
Well, I’m sorry, but this has nothing to do with “updating”. It has everything to do with what is actually going on in our courts. It is the State of Victoria which brings people to trial and the State to which criminals must answer, not the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is merely a public servant – a servant, in fact, of the State. And whatever way you look at it, and I know this is a matter for argument but it remains the fact as long as “the Crown” is the Queen of Australia the Queen is our Head of State. She is not our Head of State as Queen of the United Kingdom, but as our own Queen. Under our current constitution and legal system the Queen remains the only one in whose name trials can be brought about. NOT the DPP. Even if you were to argue that the Governor is the de facto head of state (an argument which holds some water) he is this because of his Vice-Regal status representing the Queen. It is still the Queen who appoints our Governors, last I checked.
We should be asking what right and authority the Attorney General has to change our legal system. As for the other changes, I don’t see how changing “defendant” to “accused” serves any purpose, and surely “quash” is still “plain English”.