Politics

The Latest Republican Muddle

On the 12th of January, 2022, the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) proposed its new model, the Australian Choice model, for delivering federal republicanism to the Commonwealth of Australia.[1] From the lawn of Sydney’s Federation Pavilion, ARM Chairman Peter FitzSimons decreed that Australians “yearn to be rid of [their] last colonial vestiges”.[2] He argued the defeat of Australia’s 1999 referendum was not the result of a hopeless crusade but rather a flawed model proposed by republicans.[3] FitzSimons closed the press conference by stating:

It is time to run our own show … There will be people who say, ‘No, it’s not time, we can’t do it, etcetera, etcetera.’ There’s always been people like that [sic]. How differently would we look at … the proud nation of Argentina … if we thought every time that Argentina passed a law it had to be signed off by the Spanish royal family? Wouldn’t everybody go, ‘What? Seriously, in the twenty-first century?’ We can run our own show, we all know it. We need a model that will bring the two sides [of the republican movement] together, and we think we’ve done it.[4]

If Argentina had been to remain under the Spanish royal family as Australia currently remains, by FitzSimons’ inference, under the Crown, the nation might have avoided several decades of civil war and political instability, as well as its confrontation with the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands.[5]

This essay appeared in a recent Quadrant.
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It is not the right time to raise the issue of federal republicanism in Australia. Accompanying its Australian Choice model, the ARM has renewed its advertising efforts, championing the slogan, “Thanks, we can take it from here”.[6] However, for the organisation to release its model and associated advertising at the onset of Her Majesty Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee betrays ingratitude and arrogance. Upon detailed critique, these vices lurk similarly within its Australian Choice model. The model is undesirable and at times illogical. It lacks detail and is contrary to Australia’s political, financial and sociocultural interests. Its extreme empowerment of the Federal Parliament invites tyranny and threatens the safety of the Commonwealth and its people. FitzSimons claims that Australia’s Westminster system of government “stays intact” under the Australian Choice model; rather, Australia’s Westminster system revolves around the constitutional importance of an apolitical Crown, which is exactly what the Australian Choice model, and by extension any model for federal republicanism in the Commonwealth, seeks to eradicate.[7]   

For the Australian Choice model to be implemented, a referendum to amend Australia’s democratic governance from that of a system of constitutional monarchy to a federal republic would need to pass. In the case that such a referendum were successful, the Australian Choice model permits the various parliaments of Australia to nominate candidates for election as Head of State, thus replacing the Sovereign of Australia and their federal vice-regal representative, the Governor-General of Australia. These nominations are then presented to the Australian people, who elect one candidate by way of popular vote.

The following metaphor can be employed to better understand this initial, basic reading of the Australian Choice model: A parent perceives their child to have behaved well for the week and so, as a reward, takes them to a lolly shop. Upon arrival, the parent instructs the child to wait patiently outside. “Why?” asks the child. “Can’t I come into the shop too?” The parent shakes their head. “Don’t worry,” they say, “I know what lollies you like.” Entering the shop, the parent browses the available confectionary. They choose their lollies, purchase those lollies from the shopkeeper and return to their child. The child inspects their parent’s selection and immediately objects: “I wanted sour straps and chocolates, not snakes and milk bottles. And I don’t even like strawberries and cream!” Smiling, the parent dips their hand into the lolly bag and proceeds to snack on a crystallised banana.

The parent’s true motivations are quickly understood. The child was never going to be rewarded; the parent simply wanted an excuse to satisfy their own cravings. The parent, then, represents the various parliaments of Australia. Despite the ARM’s rhetorical messaging, Australia’s elected Head of State under the Australian Choice model would not be “one of us, by us, for all of us”.[8] Parliamentarians would decide the candidates Australians could vote for, rather than Australians themselves. A republican’s response to this first criticism is predictable. Parliamentarians, they would contend, are indeed elected to represent their constituents; by the same token, constituents, upon electing a parliamentarian, implicitly demonstrate (theoretically) that they trust that parliamentarian to represent their views. Therefore, if parliamentarians believe that certain individuals should be nominated as candidates for election, constituents, having granted those parliamentarians mandates by way of electing them, should (theoretically) respect their judgement. This is, of course, a simplistic understanding of a far more complex problem. Both the federal Australian Labor Party and the federal Australian Greens support an Australian republic, whereas the federal Liberal-National Coalition has no formal position on the issue.[9] Some Liberal parliamentarians are monarchists while others are republicans. For example, Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as Leader of the Liberal Party, was also one of the ARM’s founding fathers. More intricately, if a hypothetical constituent in the Federal Division of Mackellar is a staunch monarchist who supports the Liberal Party politically, how disappointed that constituent must feel to learn that their incumbent Liberal representative, Jason Falinski, was part of a two-year consultation process designed to improve the Australian Choice model.[10] After all, the Mackellar constituent’s monarchical interests had previously been protected by their former Liberal member, Bronwyn Bishop, for thirty years.[11] The more issues parliamentarians are demanded to represent, the more difficult it becomes for them to successfully discharge their offices, particularly when their affiliated political party does not have a position on a certain matter. Debating the notion of an Australian republic is yet another gratuitous complication of Australia’s political ecosystem, not just for parliamentarians but their constituents too.

This argument, however, does not necessarily mean that it would be appropriate for Australians to more directly prepare their own shortlist of candidates. Since the 1990s, Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, a dedicated republican in his own right, has identified that a national popular vote affords any elected Head of State a greater mandate to govern than a caucus-elected Prime Minister.[12] Keating’s argument can be extrapolated: if Australians were to involve themselves in preparing a shortlist of candidates for any election, they would be subverting the traditions and practises of the Westminster system. In the Westminster system, candidates for election are presented to constituents by an electoral commission; that is, constituents do not decide communally who amongst them should stand for office. Moreover, there is always the risk that the public would nominate an unmanageable number of candidates. FitzSimons himself believes that a “full-on, direct election for all those who put their hand up to be Head of State…would fall over like a one-legged emu”.[13] The Australian Choice model rightly implies that “an unwieldly list of hundreds” would be difficult to administrate.[14] That unwieldly list, though, is inherently more democratic than a condensed relative, and democracy is what the ARM claims to hold sacrosanct.[15]

All these paradoxical scenarios give rise to that tired yet honest adage: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This sentiment becomes even more relevant when the Australian Choice model begins to explicitly define the total number of Head of State candidates that parliaments could nominate. Under the model, the parliaments of each state and territory may nominate one (1) candidate, while the Federal Parliament may nominate no more than three (3), resulting in a final shortlist of no more than eleven (11).[16] These numeric provisions are totally arbitrary. It is inevitable and perhaps the ARM’s intention that states and territories will nominate their own residents.[17] If that is the case, it is imperative to note that New South Wales has more than thirty-three times the number of residents of the Northern Territory.[18] It is not equitable for states and territories to nominate an equal number of candidates when those states and territories have vastly differing populations. Additionally, the Australian Choice model provides no justification for why the Federal Parliament should nominate any candidates at all, nor how the number three (3) was calculated.

FitzSimons states that, under the Australian Choice model, Australians “can pick one of [their] own based on merit”.[19] The model itself claims that Australia’s parliaments would nominate “credible candidates for the job” who were “eminently suitable to be Head of State”.[20] This assumption is ignorant and dangerous. Parliamentarians would undoubtedly nominate candidates by considering their popularity and wealth. Trending fads would inform parliaments’ nominations, not necessarily their candidates’ merits. This likelihood is compounded by the disproportionate allocation of nominations as discussed above. If the parliamentarians of New South Wales may only nominate one (1) candidate out of the state’s 8.6 million residents, its candidate would surely be the most noticeable New South Welshman, not the most qualified. The Australian Choice model itself admits that parliaments should “nominate candidates that are likely to have broad public appeal”.[21] The ARM forgets that it is the populace’s responsibility to decide what is popular, not parliaments’. Moreover, parliamentarians’ nominations would be inextricably political, because parliamentarians are themselves political. If a candidate were to be nominated by the seven justices of the High Court, that candidate’s understanding of the law would likely be considered. The parent in the aforementioned metaphor ultimately selects the lollies they like based on their own tastes, not the tastes of their child. The Australian Choice model unfairly benefits former politicians, particularly former prime ministers, and societal elites. The everyday, hardworking Australian is certainly eligible to be nominated under the model, but here the ARM must again recognise a difference between the theoretical and the practical.[22] Put bluntly, the Australian Choice model significantly advantages those who own Lower North Shore mansions, and Lower North Shore mansions themselves, when considered symbolically, are not all that removed from London palaces.    

For these reasons, parliaments would not present the Australian public with a “diverse cross section of nominees”.[23] Chiefly, one wonders how much diversity could possibly be included within a list of eleven popular, wealthy, and politically-active individuals. More importantly, however, a candidate’s diversity, just like their broad public appeal, is not necessarily an indicator of their abilities. If it is the Australian Choice model’s intention to present diverse candidates for election, various parliaments would after a time begin to coordinate their nominations. Coordination would be the only way to ensure that an equal shortlist of men, women, heterosexuals, LGBTQI+ persons, White Australians, First Nations Australians and migrant Australians was offered to voters. Were such coordination to occur, parliamentarians would be behaving in violation of their states’ independent constitutions. This emphasis on candidate diversity by the Australian Choice model encourages parliaments to disregard the most basic tenants of democracy.

The model’s embrace of Australia’s general system of preferential voting is also problematic.[24] In Australia, a political candidate’s character should ultimately fall secondary to the ideologies of their affiliated party; that is, the Westminster system positions constituents to primarily vote for policies, not politicians. Independent candidates are the exception to this fact. An independent’s election platform is comprised only of their own beliefs, heightening the importance of their character. As discussed above, a Head of State elected via the Australian Choice model would be inherently political. With no purported affiliation to any sort of organisation, it seems reasonable to predict that candidates would run their election campaigns as if they were independents. Independents, however, may promote their policy platforms, whereas Head of State candidates would have no such platforms in the first place. Thus, all that competing candidates could do during their campaigns would be to reference each other’s character. The inevitable eventuality here is that candidates would form factions between one another, endorsing and denouncing their competitors to influence how voters preferred their ballots. Such would create clear political divisions between candidates and only serve to further politicise the ARM’s supposedly-apolitical Head of State. On this score, Keating is right to decry the Australian Choice model for its American flavours; the fact that FitzSimons insists that the former prime minister’s objections are unfounded speaks volumes as to the ARM’s surface understanding of its own proposal.[25] Populism and sensationalism are not, and will never be, in Australia’s national interest. 

Evidently, the system of election proposed by the Australian Choice model does not hold up under scrutiny. This is also true of the model’s included constitutional amendments. One such example lies in the ease with which the Federal Parliament may depose the Head of State from office.[26] Canberra has previously been regarded as “the coup capital of the democratic world”.[27] Indeed, Australia saw five prime ministerial administrations between 2010 and 2015. Capital Hill’s culture of political skulduggery cannot be allowed to threaten the office of Australia’s Head of State. Under the Australian Choice model, the likelihood of such a threat manifesting increases exponentially. If a Head of State elected by way of popular vote were to become unpopular, political rivals would no doubt take actions against them. The presidency of Donald Trump is a testament to this point, and such an instance arising in Australia is not implausible either. Prime Ministers only serve three year terms; the Australian Choice model proposes that the elected Head of State, like the Governor-General, serve a five year term.[28] The longer a politician’s term, the more likely it is to descend into entropy, entropy that could be capitalised upon by the politician’s enemies. It is obvious that the Australian Choice model has not considered this. 

Furthermore, the model does not wholly consider the implications of its provisions to reallocate the Head of State’s authority in the event that they become indisposed or have travelled abroad. In such circumstances, the Australian Choice model outlines that “administration of the Commonwealth shall pass to a senior available Governor of a State”.[29] The seniority of state governors is derived from their date of appointment; at the time of publication, the most senior state governor is Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau, Governor of Victoria.[30] State governors, though, are not popularly elected. If an elected Head of State’s powers were to be transferred to a vice-regal office, particularly whenever that Head of State simply left the country, the entire point of a republic becomes undermined. The Australian Choice model claims that “state-level reforms are not a pre-condition of a change occurring at a national level”, but evidently this is not the case, unless the ARM desires their elected Head of State’s authority to circumstantially reside with an unelected state governor.[31]

Most critically, the Australian Choice model bills its Head of State as only “ceremonial in nature”.[32] Under the model, the Head of State would have “no discretion to overrule the [Federal] Parliament on proposed laws”.[33] Such reveals the totalitarian agenda of republicans. Currently, the Governor-General of Australia on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen assents to each piece of legislation passed by the Federal Parliament. In extraordinary situations, however, the Governor-General also retains the authority to block the passage of legislation.[34] The state governors may do the same within their jurisdictions. No Governor-General has ever employed this emergency constitutional mechanism, but its sheer existence ultimately prevents the passage of legislation that would directly harm the Australian people. To remove this mechanism would afford the Federal Parliament unprecedented power. Legislation would be carried without the final oversight of an authority whose only concern was to protect the Commonwealth and its people. Indeed, the Australian Choice model casually admits that it seeks to “preserve the primacy of the Australian Federal Parliament”.[35] Put bluntly, the model makes it frighteningly easier for the Federal Parliament to re-enact slavery or remove the right of women to vote. There is, after all, no Australian Bill of Rights engrained within the Australian Constitution. Australians will likely view these hypotheticals as impossible; certainly, 1920s Germans believed the society and culture of their post-war Weimar Republic to be sophisticated and indomitable.[36] History records the opposite. Parliaments afforded executive authorities will inevitably take advantage of them. In 2021, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Australia Talks National Survey found that the majority of Australians think “that their political representatives are dishonest, unaccountable and corrupt”, as well as that a federal anti-corruption commission should be established.[37] A republic as outlined by the Australian Choice model would, through empowering parliamentarians, only heighten corruption in Australian politics. Thus, despite the ARM’s non-independent polling which claims that 92% of Australians are in favour of a republic, a republic is in fact directly contrary to the current interests of the Australian majority, a majority which desires less political corruption, not more.[38]

The Australian Choice model also seeks to revise the oath and affirmation sworn by parliamentarians upon their election.[39] The oath reads: “I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Her heirs and successors according to law. SO HELP ME GOD!”[40] Under the Australian Choice model, the oath would read: “I, A.B., do swear that I will be loyal to the Commonwealth of Australia and the Australian people whose Constitution and laws I shall uphold. SO HELP ME GOD!”[41] The notion of swearing loyalty to the people of a nation is fundamentally flawed. An oath of allegiance must be sworn to a higher authority, not an authority which the swearer is hierarchically above. Those testifying before Australian courts, for example, historically always swore their testimonies on the Bible, not to the court’s jury. Politically, the Australian people elect parliamentarians to prioritise the vastly differing views espoused by the nation. They provide the mandate, certainly, but they do not enforce it. That is the role of a nation’s constitution. It is for this reason that Joe Biden and his predecessors swore “to preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States, not the American people.[42] United States senators similarly swear to “support and defend the Constitution”.[43] The presidential oaths of Ireland, Poland and India all acknowledge their nations’ peoples, but they do not swear loyalty to those peoples.[44] The distinction is critical. In Australia, Her Majesty The Queen is the physical manifestation of the Crown in Australia. Thus, She is not simply Australia’s Head of State, but the apolitical personification of its laws and culture.[45] This is why parliamentarians swear allegiance to Her; She is the highest authority in the nation as well as the nation itself. Ministers of the Federal Parliament are accountable to Her Majesty, because She, via Her Governor-General, may dismiss them from office.[46] The Australian people may elect as they see fit, but they cannot executively dismiss. Yet again, the distinction is critical. The Australian Choice model’s warped understanding of the constitution it seeks to revise effectively advocates for civil insurrection. In an effort to enforce their supposed constitutional authority, Australians could only riot en masse. This behaviour may be characteristic of the ARM and other organisations subconsciously influenced by America’s vigilante culture, but it is not the Australian way.

There are other vague particularities within the Australian Choice model which should be questioned. In one case, it declares that “Australians generally oppose hereditary rule”.[47] This is likely the case, but the model’s inferred promise is misleading. The Bush and Clinton families, for example, have dominated the American presidency since the 1980s.[48] There is no guarantee that an Australian republic would free the Commonwealth from dynasty and inherited political power any more than constitutional monarchy.

Similarly, the model disclaims in its fine print that the title Head of State may eventually be modified.[49] If a name may change whimsically, so too may the powers of that name. It is intentionally difficult, not to mention dangerous, to alter a nation’s constitution; if it were not, nations would frequently rewrite themselves. Australia has only ever had one federal constitution, implemented upon Federation in 1901. Alternatively, in the time since the arrival of the First Fleet, France has had fourteen constitutions, one of which, the Charter of 1814, lasted for less than a year, and all of which facilitated political instability. The obsession with reinventing the French nation, as opposed to simply refining it, began in 1789 when the eight-man Committee of the Constitution embarked upon “a complete remaking of the polity”.[50] In so doing, the committee set a precedent. Throughout the long nineteenth century, the French constitution ceased to be the French nation and simply became one of the nation’s many documents. In turn, the French people became desensitised to the mammoth significance of continually replacing their constitution. The same cannot be allowed to occur today in Australia. Those seeking a republic are prepared to go to great and unprecedented lengths to obtain it, as the Australian Choice model demonstrates. Were they to be successful in their efforts, there is little telling what they might seek next.[51] Head of State might become Supreme Leader, with the powers to suit. Again, this is an extreme suggestion, but one that the Australian Choice model’s ambiguity leaves open to possibility. It is worth noting, perhaps anecdotally, that eight of the ten individuals comprising the ARM’s Constitutional Advisory Body hold senior positions as academes across Australia’s tertiary education sector.[52] The body does not include serving or former justices of any Australian court.

There is no mention – as there never is – of what price tag might accompany an Australian republic. The necessary referendum would be the first expense. The 1999 referendum cost approximately $115 million.[53] The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey 2017, which was nothing more than an inquiry, cost approximately $84 million.[54] Then, elections for Head of State would need to be conducted every five years. The 2019 federal election cost approximately $372.4 million, as opposed to the 2016 double dissolution which cost approximately $305.1 million.[55] The Australian Choice model in fact specifies that in certain circumstances more than one election for Head of State could be conducted in a single term.[56] It also empowers each parliament to “develop their own nomination methods to determine their nominee(s)”.[57] With such license, there seems no reason why parliaments could not send out $84 million postal surveys to confirm the public supported their nominations. Thus, these two additional provisions of the model have the potential to dramatically increase a republic’s recurring expenses. The sheer act of electing Australia’s first Head of State could cost well into the billions.

The expense of elections would be insignificant compared to the costs required to transform Australia from constitutional monarchy to republic. For example, it would no longer be the Royal Australian Air Force or Her Majesty’s Australian Ship. In the courts, there would no longer be Queen’s Counsels. The administrative revisions to both the defence forces and the justice system would be enormous. Additionally, although the ARM has no position on the matter, the Union Jack appearing on the Australian Flag is an obvious reminder of Australia’s history as, in FitzSimons’ words, “a British outpost”.[58] Similarly, the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, a gift from His Majesty King George V in 1912, is inextricably imperial, and would need to be replaced. The Royal Australian Mint would need to recall all coins and five-dollar notes in circulation as Her Majesty The Queen appears on all their obverses. Streets, parks and buildings championing royal names would all need to be retitled, consuming astronomical expenses in the process. The ARM might label all these scenarios as pedantic, but they are entirely necessary if FitzSimons is determined that Australia leave behind its “colonial vestiges”.[59] After all, there is little point of a half-republic, a republic that is lacklustre and conceptually incomplete. If the Australian social fabric is to be utterly reformed, and the Australian people are expected to embrace those reforms, the reforms themselves need to be convincing. This sentiment, however, is treacherous in of itself. An Australian nation so fundamentally redesigned would not only cost billions and billions of dollars, it would risk alienating its own people.

Those billions and billions, too, would be borne by the taxpayers, the ordinary Australians who in practise could never accede as Head of State under the Australian Choice model. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was right to accuse the ARM of announcing the model “at the worst possible time”.[60] Not only does the model attempt to disrupt Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, it surfaces in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, bushfires, floods, debates concerning climate and energy, increasing geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific, and the rising costs and challenges of living in the technological twenty-first century. Australia’s attention and its various treasuries have little need of an additional preoccupation. The fact that the Australian Choice model has appeared at a time of already-great fiscal strain demonstrates how arrogantly the ARM views the costs of a republic and, by extension, the financial struggles of the “robust, proud, strong, smart and independent” people it purports to serve.[61] Indeed, one thinks that if the elevation of Australians were the primary concern of the ARM, the organisation would support the reintroduction of the division Knight and Dame of the Order of Australia, simply on the premise that the highest quality work deserves the highest quality reward.

Monarchy does, as the ARM states, continue to “play a role”, albeit a limited one, in Australian politics.[62] This remains for the better.[63] The 2018 Democracy Index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that of the world’s top twelve democracies, eight were constitutional monarchies: Norway (1), Sweden (3), New Zealand (4), Denmark (5), Canada (6=), Australia (9), the Netherlands (11), and Luxembourg (12).[64] Of these, Norway, Sweden and Denmark are among the most libertarian and socially progressive nations in the world. [65] That these nations are also constitutional monarchies debunks the assertion made by the Australian Choice model that Her Majesty The Queen does not appropriately reflect Australia’s modernity.[66] Rather, constitutional monarchy encourages social cohesion more than any other system of government. In historian David Starkey’s measured view, “monarchy survives…because all alternatives are even worse”.[67] Moreover, it must be stated that this social cohesion is achieved at great sacrifice to the monarch and their family. The Australian Choice model’s attempt to portray Her Majesty and the Royal Family as elites displays a shallow understanding of the burdens of holding such offices.[68] There is no privilege in embodying a nation, only expectation and inevitable suffering. Her Majesty and Her family, simply put, “have no privacy and no life of their own”.[69]    

After investigation, it is apparent that the Australian Choice model, in addition to the general republican movement, is significantly detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth. The model’s outlined process for the nomination of candidates for the office of Head of State is contrary to the principles of the Westminster system and would unavoidably result in narcissistic demagogues and washed-up tyrants populating ballot papers. The model is imprecise and does not follow through to conclusion several of its recommendations. This is most obvious in the cases of its desire for preferential voting, the ease with which its elected Head of State could be deposed, and its suggested revisions to the oath and affirmation. By removing the Head of State’s discretionary legislative powers, it prioritises certain corruption ahead of the Australian people’s protection. It is totally ignorant of the billions and billions of dollars that an Australian republic, in its functioning entirety, would cost Australian taxpayers. Indeed, for the model to infer that Her Majesty The Queen does not have “sole allegiance to Australia’s interests” might be construed by some as treason, but can be construed by all as just plain rude.[70]

Republicanism in Australia is little more than a vanity project led by the ARM. According to FitzSimons, ironically the author of James Cook and Mutiny on the Bounty, there is “indignity” in Australia remaining tied to its British past.[71] This paper’s considered view, however, is that there is nothing more dignified and mature than setting aside personal ambitions to accept and be grateful for a superior system of government.

Alexander Voltz is a composer. His music has been performed throughout Australia. He lives in Brisbane

 

[1] Australian Republican Movement, The Australian Choice Model: A Genuine Choice for Australians (Leura: Australian Republican Movement), 3, accessed 12 January, 2022, https://republic.org.au/policy. The Australian Republican Movement is abbreviated as ARM throughout.

[2] ARM, “The Australian Choice Model Launch Event,” YouTube, 12 January, 2022, video, 2:23, https://youtu.be/FGvvtPw8wQM.

[3] John Warhurst and Malcolm Mckerrras, “Constitutional Politics: The 1990s and Beyond,” in Constitutional Politics: The Republic Referendum and the Future (Brisbane: The University of Queensland Press, 2002), 21–7.

[4] ARM, “Launch Event,” 14:33. See Warhurst and Mckerras, 4–6.

[5] Australia does not have a royal family as the United Kingdom does. The Sovereign of Australia is subject solely to the Constitution of Australia.

[6] ARM, “We Can Take It from Here,” YouTube, 14 January, 2022, video, https://youtu.be/RakOkcUTGMU; ARM, “One of Us. For Us. By Us.,” YouTube, 14 January, 2022, video, https://youtu.be/qygF67GfAi8.  

[7] ARM, “Launch Event,” 14:31. 

[8] ARM, Australian Choice, 3.

[9] Australian Labor Party, ALP National Platform: As Adopted at the 2021 Special Platform Conference (Canberra: Australian Labor Party), § 6.11, accessed 15 January, 2022, https://www.alp.org.au/about/national-platform/; Australian Greens, “Constitutional Reform and Democracy,” The Greens, accessed 15 January, 2022, https://greens.org.au/policies/constitutional-reform-and-democracy.

[10] Michael Koziol, “‘A Major Advance’: Liberal Republic Crusader Backs New Plan for Head of State,” WAtoday, 12 January, 2022, https://www.watoday.com.au/national/a-major-advance-liberal-republic-crusader-backs-new-plan-for-head-of-state-20220112-p59npq.html.  

[11] Bronwyn Bishop, interview by Annie White, AM, ABC RN, 21 October, 1999.

[12] Paul Keating, “An Australian Republic: The Way Forward – 7 June 1995,” paulkeating.net.au, accessed 13 January, 2022, http://www.paulkeating.net.au/shop/item/an-australian-republic-the-way-forward—7-june-1995.

[13] ARM, “Launch Event,” 5:27.

[14] ARM, Australian Choice, 6.

[15] ARM, “Launch Event,” 3:46.

[16] ARM, “Australian Choice,” 6.

[17] For the “parochial” challenges this intention incurs, see Corbin Duncan, “‘The Worst of Both Worlds’: How the New Model for the Republic Gets It Wrong,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 January, 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-worst-of-both-worlds-how-the-new-model-for-the-republic-gets-it-wrong-20220113-p59o0n.html

[18] Australian Bureau of Statistics, “National, State and Territory Population,” abs.gov.au, accessed 15 January, 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/national-state-and-territory-population/jun-2021. Statistics recorded as of 30 June, 2021.

[19] ARM, “Launch Event,” 7:16.

[20] ARM, Australian Choice, 3, 6.

[21] Ibid., 6.

[22] Ibid., 7.

[23] Ibid., 6.

[24] Ibid., 7.

[25] Matthew Knott and Michael Koziol, “Keating Blasts New Republic Proposal as Dangerous ‘US-Style Presidency’,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 January, 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/national/keating-blasts-new-republic-proposal-as-dangerous-us-style-presidency-20220113-p59o22.html.

[26] ARM, Australian Choice, 17.

[27] Nick Bryant, “Australia: Coup Capital of the Democratic World,” BBC News, 14 September, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-34249214

[28] ARM, Australian Choice, 7.

[29] Ibid., 16.

[30] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Protocol Guidelines,” dfat.gov.au, accessed 15 January, 2022, https://www.dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/corporate/protocol-guidelines, § 1.3.

[31] ARM, Australian Choice, 18.

[32] Ibid., 11.

[33] Ibid., 15.

[34] Australian Constitution, § 58–9.   

[35] ARM, Australian Choice, 4.

[36] Heinrich August Winkler, The Age of Catastrophe, 1914–1945, translated by Stewart Spencer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), 237–45. As Winkler concludes of the Weimar Republic, “Internal threats to democracy had not gone away completely but had merely faded into the background.”

[37] Casey Briggs, “Most Australians Expect Politicians to Lie, but We Also Think They Should Resign if They Do, Australia Talks Survey Reveals,” ABC News, 16 June, 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-16/australia-talks-when-should-politicians-resign/100217170.

[38] ARM, Australian Choice, 1. The ARM’s polling results are at direct odds with the results of Ipsos Australia, Ipsos Australia Day Poll Report (Sydney: Ipsos Australia, 2021), accessed 17 January, 2022, https://www.ipsos.com/en-au/ipsos-australia-day-poll-report. The poll found that only 34% of Australians supported an Australian republic.  

[39] Aus. Constit. § 42. The oath and affirmation are set forth in the Constitution’s schedule. The affirmation is simply a non-religious variant of the oath.

[40] The name of the reigning Sovereign of Australia is substituted. The affirmation differs from the oath in that the exclamation “SO HELP ME GOD!” is removed.

[41] ARM, Australian Choice, 18. 

[42] Constitution of the United States, art. II, § 1, cl. 8.

[43] U.S. Congress, Senate, Standing Rules of the Senate, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 2013, S. Doc. 113–8, 3, https://www.rules.senate.gov/rules-of-the-senate.

[44] Constitution of Ireland, art. 12, § 8; Constitution of the Republic of Poland, art. 130; Constitution of India, pt. V, § 60.

[45] See Vernon Bogdanor, The Monarchy and the Constitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 301.

[46] Aus. Constit. § 64.

[47] ARM, Australian Choice, 6.

[48] Matthew Corrigan, American Royalty: The Bush and Clinton Families and the Danger to the American Presidency (New York: Palgrave, 2008), 3.

[49] ARM, Australian Choice, 5 fn. 3.  

[50] Michael Fitzsimmons, “The Committee of the Constitution and the Remaking of France, 1789–1791,” French History 4, vol. 1 (1990): 27. 

[51] For example, psychological studies into drug dependence have long proven that the initial consumption of illicit drugs leads to cravings for future consumption, and that social phenomena reinforce these cravings. See George Koob and Floyd Bloom, “Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Drug Dependence,” Science 242, vol. 4879 (1988): 715–23; Serge Ahmed and George Koob, “Transition to Drug Addiction: A Negative Reinforcement Model Based on an Allostatic Decrease in Reward Function,” Psychopharmacology 180 (2005): 473–90. Applying these studies more broadly, parliamentarians addicted to political activity must exponentially increase the magnitude of that activity in order to continue stimulating their addiction.         

[52] ARM, Australian Choice, 18.  

[53] Australian Electoral Commission, “Costs of Elections and Referendums,” aec.gov.au, accessed 16 January, 2022, https://www.aec.gov.au/elections/federal_elections/cost-of-elections.htm. The Australian Electoral Commission is abbreviated as AEC throughout. Cited costings are, when appropriate, adjusted approximately for inflation. 

[54] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Report on the Conduct of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey 2017 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics), § 3.2, accessed 15 January, 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/1800.0.

[55] AEC, “Costs.”

[56] ARM, Australian Choice, 7.

[57] Ibid., 6.

[58] ARM, “Launch Event,” 1:57.  

[59] Ibid., 2:23.

[60] Knott and Koziol, “Keating Blasts New Republic.”

[61] ARM, “Launch Event,” 7:13.

[62] ARM, Australian Choice, 5.  

[63] See, for instance, the more recent arguments advanced by Robert Hazel and Bob Roberts, “Towards a New Theory of European Monarchy,” in The Role of Monarchy in Modern Democracy: European Monarchies Compared, eds. Robert Hazel and Bob Roberts (Oxford: Hart, 2020), 277–81; Mauro Guillén, “Symbolic Unity, Dynastic Continuity, and Countervailing Power: Monarchies, Republics, and the Economy,” Social Forces 97, no. 2 (2018): 607–48. As Guillén finds, “Our research indicates that monarchies create a beneficial effect above and beyond parliamentary republics. We also found that monarchies outperform democratic republics, whether presidential or parliamentary, in terms of reducing the negative effect of internal conflict and of executive tenure.”

[64] The Economist Intelligence Unit, “Democracy Index 2018: Me Too?: Political Participation, Protest and Democracy,” 36.

[65] See Anu Koivunen et al., eds, The Nordic Economic, Social and Political Model: Challenges in the 21st Century (London: Routledge, 2021). 

[66] ARM, Australian Choice, 5.  

[67] David Starkey, “The Monarchy” (lecture, Cambridge in America Day, Cambridgeshire, 19 November, 2005).

[68] ARM, Australian Choice, 5.  

[69] S. Williams, “A Citizen Monarchy,” in Power and the Throne, Anthony Barnet, ed. (London: Vintage, 1994), 62.

[70] ARM, Australian Choice, 17.

[71] TJ Ryan Foundation, “2018 07 19 TJ Ryan ARM Reviving The Republic,” YouTube, 26 July, 2018, video, 27:10, https://youtu.be/YJxNKviBud4.  

9 thoughts on “The Latest Republican Muddle

  • Alistair says:

    What a clown!
    Doesn’t FitzSimons know that national sovereignty is dead, and that we are all supposed to be signing up to the globalist agenda run by the World Economic Forum? Doesn’t he realise that Scott Morrison, as a graduate of Klaus Schwab’s school for global leaders (!!!), has signed Australia up to the World Economic Forum agenda? This ridiculous belief that Australia is somehow still beholden to an English monarch is an anachronism, a blatant case of misdirection, that has rendered the republican cause irrelevant for decades. Doesn’t he realise that Australian Law is not written and rubber stamped by the British monarchy, but is written and rubber stamped by the boffins at Davos? Does he have a problem with that? Apparently not. He is more concerned with fighting the old class wars of the last century – or even the century before that! Is the Republican Movement going to propose some form of independence from the World Economic Forum? No, I don’t think so! To pick up the analogy described above – FitzSimons doesn’t mind which adult chooses his sweets – as long as its not the Brits.

  • Adam J says:

    I’m not exactly a Republican but this chaotic mess of writing reveals just as many fatal flaws of the Westminster system. On the one hand the Queen is the nation (rubbish) but in France the Constitution is the nation (also rubbish). And why should politicians not be loyal to the Australian people? Oh right, because Howard introduced dual citizenship and dual loyalty against hundreds of years of English law.

    I particularly enjoyed this:
    “In the Westminster system, candidates for election are presented to constituents by an electoral commission; that is, constituents do not decide communally who amongst them should stand for office.”
    This is literally the same as the Australian Choice model, so it will make no difference. Democracy as government for the people, by the people, of the people, has never existed in the Westminster system because democracy was not on the minds of those who made it. In other words we don’t have a democracy and never did, certainly not with a two-party system. We have a pseudo-democracy run by oligarchs that from time to time need permission to get another official term.
    As this model will not change it, there is no reason to adopt it.

  • maxpart27 says:

    I could not read all this but think we need a republic. Google “The Family of All Life Alliance” and check out the Australian flag and hence our new government. Anyone hankering to have Charles in charge is…

  • ianl says:

    Missing from the ARM model (likely deliberately missing):

    1) In the event that the Senate blocks or refuses Supply, the ARM model insists that the Head of State *cannot* accede to an election at the request of a Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of the House (I’m presuming the “House” here includes both chambers, although it may not). Similarly, with the ARM model the Head of State cannot *force* an election against the wishes of the Prime Minister, Lower House confidence or not. So the Govt just governs without Supply ? This issue cut Turnbull’s model apart in 1999, as well;

    2) Since the State Governors acting in Council (ie. on advice from State Cabinet) issue the writs for a Senate election, what happens (as in 1975) when an out-of sequence Senate election is requested by the Federal Govt, perhaps as a proposed resolution to blocked Supply, but the State Governor(s) under State Cabinet(s) advice refuses to issue said writs ? (Happened in 1975, so it’s not a nutter scenario). This issue is so close to the very heart of the Constitution that it is simply *never* discussed … just so sacred.

  • Claude James says:

    Yes, Fitzsimons is a clown -an entertainer.
    But consider all the “worthies”, some of them non-Big-Govt Statists, who believe that electing an Australian head of state will the Big Great Fix for Australia.
    This, when the causes of weaknesses in Australian governance reside at deeper levels in the Constitution and in the legal and admin structures that derive from that very inadequate Constitution.
    Careerism and other vested interests -and commitment to ignorance- by many among the higher-ups in all institutions who think they know everything.
    Awful. And down the drain we go.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Than you, Mr Voltz. The ARM exists solely because Sir John Kerr had the temerity to dismiss Gough Whitlam and his Labor Government. It’s just an accident of history that Whitlam’s own clearly intended wish to do whatever it took to be rid of a former Coalition Government did not result in a Governor-General acceding to his druthers. Had that occurred, the Governor-General du jour would instantly have been elevated to an unassailable place high in the ALP pantheon. Instead, the brave and honourable Sir John Kerr has been libelled and demonised relentlessly by people unfit to polish his boots.
    There may well be saner arguments in favour of an Australian Republic than any advanced to date, but I certainly cannot think of one. In the final analysis, one is tempted to judge the issue by the credibility of its most fervent adherents.
    On that basis, the ARM has done itself no favours by its selection of its leadership. As I’ve said before, were it otherwise, we Constitutional Monarchists would be forced to take the Republicans seriously.

  • STD says:

    Two points to keep in mind….
    Red Flag and Norman Lindsay’s Magic Pudding – the inexhaustible appetite at the moving feast of Republican socialising – Utopia.
    I may be off key here and for that matter out of sync, I think Master Fitzsimmons has been quietly and assiduously channelling the Ockham – nominalistic ( nominalism) realities- the rock band crowded house leaps to my mind anyways,” everywhere you go, always take the wether ( weather) with you”.
    On behalf of The Australian Republican movement – the bandanna- an imposter, unauthentic version of a top hat -a cheap and disposable item, or utterance as the case may be.
    Bandanna is a symbol of ‘membership’ to a particular cerebral mode of thinking (SHIFT), therefore the ARM represents the monoclonal disease we know as constitutional shiftiness .

  • RB says:

    It is safe to assume it will be a dog’s breakfast if the bandanna’d one is involved in any way and skip the assumptions in this article. The roll call of those promoting the republican movement is sufficient to throw it overboard without further consideration.
    The Queen’s long service and determined absence from AU politics recommend her and the current state of affairs. Regrettably, the next generation…not so much. Perhaps his minders will keep him on the straight and narrow, we can survive some of his more loony views, they are no worse than what passes for political thought from the general run-of-the-mill politicians, I am not sure we will survive whatever inanities spring from the fevered imagination of one whose brain is so tightly bound yet vacant.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON says:

    Arrr! Shiver me timbers fellow boofheads and bilge rats. Listen to cap’n Pete and we’ll all wear the republican bandana soon.

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