QED

The Prince, Pirate Pete and a Pig in a Poke

Republicans come sniffing around at the hint of a royal scandal. I note that even the editorial writer at The Australian (whoever he or she is) takes the opportunity to flog the comatose horse again. I will make it clear. Being of English birth, and being an English royalist, I like to steer clear of the debate. To recuse myself as it were because of a conflict of interest.

But, in fact, I would probably vote yea in a referendum if the question were put and the model proposed was sensible, workable and complete. What I will not do is to support a dodgy two-stage process of first having a simple plebiscite to test the waters and only then, if the vote favoured a republic, having a referendum to choose between (two?) models.

Here is an apt analogy in all of the circumstances. The question put to you is whether you would like to be married. If you say ‘yes’, you are then presented with two prospective spouses. One of whom you have to pick. You don’t like either one? Tough!

Marriage is an apt analogy because Prince Harry made a choice both to be married and whom to marry. He had wide field from which to choose, being a dashing prince and all. He chose Meghan Markle. Now she might be a very nice person but she is a divorcee, a TV actress, and seems to have a dysfunctional family. I mention, too, that she is an American and half African-American to boot. All told she is a cultural distance from the Royal Family. Trouble has brewed. Who would have guessed?  

Emotion comes into play in personal relationship and these can lead one astray. It’s best, and surely possible, to keep emotion at bay when it comes to changing constitutional arrangements.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the things I would like spelt out before I would vote for a republican model. And, bear in mind, lots of things which are now underpinned by convention and tradition would have to be spelt out. Convention and tradition can’t be invented overnight. I am not an expert, so bear with me. After all, cometh the day, it’s us non-experts who will be called upon to vote.

# How will El Presidente be appointed or elected and for how long?

# How can El Presidente be removed from office for malfeasance and by whom?

# What does malfeasance consist of in this case (“treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours” perchance)?

# Who will take the position temporarily if El Presidente is removed precipitately, becomes incapable of acting or dies in office? If there is provision for an Administrator or deputies to take over, as of now, how will this equivalent person (or persons) be appointed?

# What are the exact powers of El Presidente and the circumstances under which those affecting the conduct of government or the parliament can be exercised? Will these powers include the dismissal of the prime minister?

# How does having a republic square with State governors appointed by the Crown? Maybe the constitutional legalities of this can be worked out but it seems to be a very funny arrangement and surely not sustainable.

All I have heard from republicans is an emotional invitation to buy a pig in a poke. This might win some, undoubtedly many, hearts. It shouldn’t win many, if any, minds.

Those on the Left, usually republicans all, are prone to instant gratification and hang the details and consequences. They are like children. Whether they turn their minds to the economy or to health or to education or to the environment, they are ever ready with madcap unaffordable schemes to make life “better”. Inevitably, conservatives have to clean up their mess. The effects of unwise constitutional changes are hard to clean up. That’s why the Founders made it difficult to make changes.

It clearly isn’t broke, so why fix it? On the other hand, if something better can be developed, set out in detail and explained, maybe it should be considered. All of the hard work this entails is the responsibility of those who want the change. Over to the ARM and Peter Fitzsimons. I hope they are up to it. I know that David Flint and Australians for a constitutional monarchy are up to finding holes if they exist. That’s comforting to conservatives, like me, who are suspicious of ill-thought-through change for change sake.

15 comments
  • Doubting Thomas

    Of many, there are two compelling reasons for me to reject any republican proposal. The first, and most important is that, whether appointed or elected, a President will almost inevitably be despised by at least half the population. The second is simply that any political idea that attracts the zealous support of the likes of Malcolm Turnbull and Peter FitzSimons is, for me, inherently repulsive.

    Fundamentally, our present system works very well, so why change it? Just look at the current situation in the United States, a model popular among our republicans, as a classic example of the hell on earth that potentially awaits us if we go down that road.

  • Peter OBrien

    FitzSimons is probably the worst person the ARM could have picked to lead them because he does not understand the existing constitutional arrangements sand has a very infantile view of the issue. I have been a supporter of the Australian Head of State (and still am, in principle) but my enthusiasm has waned considerably in recent years and FitzSimons is one of the reasons.

  • rod.stuart

    That example republic that lies between Canada and Mexico is on the very verge of tumult, as predicted by the Fourth Turning (Strauss-Howe generational theory).
    Mind you, the same generational upheaval is evident everywhere in the West.
    One of the best ways to avoid the maximum pain of such mayhem is to maintain the stabilty of the current arrangements. The proponents of a republic are, like the Pirate, juvenile in their quest.

  • Ian MacDougall

    The Governor-General has no real political power save one very important one: the power to sack the government of the day and immediately call a general election. In that capacity, and that alone, he/she stands as custodian of political power on behalf of the entire voting population.
    That the Prime Minister is not the Head of State removes him/her from formal tasks like receiving visiting VIPs and allows concentration on matters re the day-to-day running of the country.
    In its time, the US Constitution was a lighthouse for the rest of the world. Not any more.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Ian Mac, precisely! Lovely for me to find myself in complete agreement with you.

  • Alistair

    One assumes that the Left believe they will get to chose the President – And the way the Liberals are at the moment, Im guessing they are correct. I always think back to the Governor General Hollingsworth, who was driven out of the office for what he “should have known”only to be replaced by Quentin Bryce who arguably should have been jailed for what she actually did (see the Heiner Affair). One assumes this is the model for the Presidency that the Left has in mind.

    • Roger Franklin

      Alistair, reluctantly I am coming to the view that, if we must have a republic, it cannot be a simple change of name from Governor-General to President. If, and it is as yet a very tentative “if” on my part, we are to go down the republic route, then it must see the adoption of the US model: a Commander in Chief directly elected by the people (we can thrash out an Australian electoral college yes-or-no when things crystallise) with the power of the veto at his or her disposal.

      Why the US model? Because our current system, or one with a Bunyip President, simply cannot produce a swamp-draining outsider like Donald Trump, and we need such a leader yesterday. True, a Trump doesn’t come along very often in the US, but this one has and the US is the better for him.

      When I see our alleged conservatives tugging their forelocks before the Thunberg altar of climate change, being too a’feared to blame the premiers for their failure to reduce bushfire fuel loads, and indulging what is evidently a deep masochistic streak by going on the ABC for no gain but the customary abuse and ritual humiliation, an outsider president becomes very appealing.

      When I see the lynching of Peter Ridd and not a peep from the education minister, I know the system is broken.

      When I see compulsory preferential voting directing almost all votes, other than the deliberately informal, to the same old players, I know the dog-eared options of the two main parties fall short.

      Speaking for myself, and most definitely not for Quadrant, President Mark Latham has a very nice ring to it.

  • Stephen Due

    Progressives have to change something, otherwise they’re out of a job. In the corporate world, in my day, progressives rose rapidly up the ladder by changing things. People who knew what would happen, and therefore opposed change, were denigrated for being resistant to change. If necessary (which it usually was) they were disposed of via the mechanism of sacking for recalcitrance or, more commonly, nervous breakdown due to constant harassment. Any change will do for the progressive CV. Once implemented, it enables the progressive to move on, a rising star. The damage has been done, but the perpetrator has gone on to greater things. That will happen with the Republic.

  • Tricone

    What examples can we look to of successful democratic transition from independent constitutional monarchy to republic in longstanding peacetime?

    The worst dictatorships of the last 200 years have all been republics.

  • pgang

    There is a very logical reason why, even if Australia secedes from the Commonwealth, it could do without a head of state. The Republicans themselves claim that the Monarchy is ineffectual and pointless. Therefore, if our head of state has been a pointless edifice for so long yet we have still functioned happily, then what is the point of creating another one?
    Anyway there is one very compelling reason to reject change: to reject change.

  • pgang

    rod.stuart those fourth turning guys have simply seen what they want to in history, and pretend that it’s a tool for predicting the future. I read the book years ago – very unimpressive stuff. There’s that other guy floating around the internet who thinks he’s reading the great contemporary political conflations as a result. I’ll hand it to him – his daily research on current affairs is amazing. But he’s as mad as a hatter.

  • PT

    Bear in mind those pushing “republicanism” are the same ones promoting Pascoe and Dark Emu, and for the same underlying reasons.
    .
    As an aside, a constitutional referendum cannot possibly be a choice between two changes to the constitution. Aside from any other consideration it MUST have a majority in a majority of States and an overall Majority to succeed. The change is rejected if it fails in either of those cases even it succeeds in the other. That’s why it has to be the approval of a single proposed change rather than a choice between two. A plebiscite (which is non-binding) could choose a model to be presented for a referendum, not the other way round. It shows the lack of intelligence of Pirate Pete if he’s really stupid enough to imagine otherwise.
    .
    In fact this “plebiscite path” isn’t new, and was floated by Keating in the mid-‘90’s. as I see it, it’s a political hacks idea. They imagine that some vague “republic” may get an overall yes. Monarchists will then realise the “gig is up” and fall in behind the “minimalist model” which they want, but is the least popular republican model! These people imagine that Flint et al actually control the votes of people. But the idea is to foist the least popular option on the public through the equivalent of backroom dealing! Again, the same mindset promoting the fantasy of Dark Emu is evident. Pirate Pete is clearly desperate if he considers the actual non-scandal of Prince Harry dropping out of being a full time part of the firm something he has to capitalise on. But he is pretty typical of the ARM’s leadership quality. There was Turnbull himself, and before Fitzsimons it was Geoff Gallop, previously WA’s Claytons Premier. He only led ONE decision as Premier (and that was to block a development due to a bumper sticker campaign), and spent his time handing out medals to the kiddies, cutting ribbons, and making announcements for all the work of other people. Actions he denigrates the royals and State Governors for doing. A waste of space. Yet the ARM made him their head!

  • jimriddell

    FitzSimons twitter on the bogus “Dark Emu” follows:-
    “Pascoe’s Dark Emu is indeed a brilliant book and the evidence he mounts for his theme – that the First Nations people were a lot more established in agriculture than ever given credit for – is simply overwhelming and irrefutable.”
    He is certainly not immune to the gullibility of the ideologically possessed.

  • oldandfeeble

    The fact that ARM has been stuck for so long with a chairman so damaging to its cause, ie Peter FitzSimons, is compelling evidence of its complete incompetence when it comes to constitutional models of governance.

  • Les Kovari

    Roger Franklin and all ye faithful, you said it all for me, there is nothing more I could add except that the names Fitzsimons and Turnbull definitely start the nausea in my stomach.

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