Why I’m No Longer a Republican

I used to be a republican of the minimalist kind.  I’m not anymore.  My apostasy began thanks to the asinine representation of the concept by the current head of the Australian Republican Movement, the hanky-headed buffoon Peter FitzSimons.

I have always believed the so-called Australian republic, as long as it were based on the minimalist model proposed in 1999, is a cosmetic change only, rather like replacing the living room drapes with Venetian blinds.  I have now come to the view that, not only can I live with the drapes, I prefer them.

What finally marked my total conversion to the ‘it ain’t broke’ school of thought is the clear anti-democratic trend emerging in Western societies.  I still think that, in theory, the minimalist model could be made to work.  But I also think it is highly unlikely it would be allowed to operate as it should, i.e as a seamless transition from one symbolic head of state to another, all other aspects of our governance being unaltered. 

When the next referendum comes, as it inevitably will, the most obvious danger is that misguided ideologues would prevail and the ‘elected president’ model be chosen.  That I would die in a ditch to prevent.  The dangers are obvious, but let me point out the obvious fallacy underpinning that model.  Its proponents claim a president appointed, in some way, by Parliament, would be a ‘politicians republic’.  The cognitive dissonance involved in this claim is hard to beat.  Any person popularly elected to the office would have offered some sort of platform and would, almost inevitably, come to believe that they have a mandate to interfere with the government of the day if some legislation or other was at odds with that platform. It is not hard to imagine some high-profile climate or ‘human rights’ activist aspiring to the role.  And given the vacuity of current public debate and the power of social media, such a person would be a shoo-in.  President Grace Tame, anyone?

But even the minimalist model presents a danger.  Currently, we have a last line of defence for our democracy – to ensure that no government gets above itself.  That line of defence is called the Crown and it is armed with certain powers that give it teeth.  These are called the Reserve Powers.  Some are explicit in our Constitution, some are implied.  I do not intend to examine the powers in this essay.  The most controversial of these is the power of the Governor-General to dismiss a government.  Sir John Kerr dismissed the government of Gough Whitlam in November 1975.  In my view, and that of a majority of the electorate, he did the nation a great service by doing so.  But he has, since then, been vilified mercilessly by a cabal of revisionists who are determined to ensure that, by their association with Kerr, the Reserve Powers themselves are discredited. (I do not intend to examine the Powers in this essay, however, as I am currently writing a book on this subject.)

When the next republican debate comes up, you can bet the Reserve Powers will be part of that discussion, just as the actions of Sir John Kerr will be misrepresented to either eliminate or drastically emasculate those same Reserve Powers on the basis that, whatever value they might have in theory, this is outweighed by the damage they can do in the hands of a rogue operator. That would be a tragedy for our democracy.  Yes, that is just a belief on my part.  I can’t point to any specific scenario wherein they might again be called for.  But that is the whole point.  The powers are deliberately opaque so they can be employed in unforeseen circumstances. 

What I see happening in the State of Victoria fills me with great concern.  Here we have a government that is virtually unaccountable to its electorate.  It is governing by fiat, it has suspended Parliament, it has politicised its police force (and not just in relation to COVID), and it has suborned its judicial systems.  The Coates Enquiry into the hotel quarantine debacle gave us a clue about its modus operandi in this respect, but the recent WorkSafe decision really bells the cat.  This is a body stacked with Labor appointees, tasked with overseeing Labor’s own legislation, using blatant sophistry to get its mates off the hook at great cost to the taxpayer and showing utter contempt for the families of 800 dead, in particular and to the Victorian public in general.

It would take a blind optimist in this day and age to believe circumstances like these could never replicate themselves in the federal sphere.  Whatever you might think of Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam, they were products of a system where accountability still meant something.  Those days, as Damiel Andrews demonstrates daily in his arrogance and deceptions, have long gone.

It would be blind folly to tinker with a system that delivered a satisfactory and much-needed outcome in 1975.

  • maxpart27

    I cannot stand Bonnie Prince Charlie but as this article says most clearly he may be the best option for while I am a firm believer in a Republic of Australia the current climate of public opinion could easily get it hijacked.

  • Brian Boru

    Right on Peter. I have been a Republican monarchist for some time.
    Besides, since I watched the royal weddings, I love the royal regalia. I want one of those jackets myself. I just can’t make up my mind if I would look best in a black or red jacket. But as a Lance Corporal retired I don’t suppose I will get the option.
    If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

  • Doubting Thomas

    maxpart27, King Charles III like his mother or any of his successors, will be for all practical purposes as irrelevant to Australian politics as Metro Goldwyn Mayers’ roaring lion is to the management of their company. It continues to astound me that so many Australians seem unable to assimilate the simple fact that it is the Constitutional Monarchy that is fundamental to our system of government, not the personality of the current monarch who could just as easily be a monkey trained to nod its head when our Prime Minister recommended the appointment of a new Governor-General..
    I’m pleased to see that Peter has come around to seeing the light at last. For me, apart from all the myriad rational arguments in favour of maintaining the status quo, the most powerful emotional argument has always been the conga line of people who I’d move interstate to avoid who are chosen to lead the Republican movement. Scruby, Turnbull, FitzSimons. As I’ve said before, it’s very fortunate for us that these people have led the movement because otherwise we’d have to take it seriously.

  • Stephen Due

    Agree entirely. The obvious risk factors with a process of major constitutional change are (a) lack of competent persons to design the new one, and (b) abundant opportunities for graft and corruption to ruin the outcome.
    Once started, any such process would be substantially interfered with by self-styled prophets of progressivism. Every possible vested interest and rabid ideology would immediately be brought to bear. At best the outcome would be the proverbial camel (horse designed by a committee). At worst it be some ill-considered, compromised proposal that would do nothing but cement in power a dictatorial socialist regime (fully supported by the Chinese Communist Party, ABC, the ALP, the Gay-Transgender Coalition, and the newly-formed Society of the Abolition of the Family).
    If the current pandemic has demonstrated anything it is that democracy in Australia is already in the firing line. There is no reason to suppose that the influences currently dominating our governments – the ones that condone granny-bashing by the police, rubber-bulleting one’s political opponents, making treatment of the sick illegal, and forcing people to be injected with a useless, toxic experimental concoction – will suddenly vanish from any political process as momentous as changing the constitution. It is much more likely they will control it.
    It seems to me that the Republic of Australia is a solution looking for a problem. A better approach would be to identify the problem first and then work on the solution. We are in a completely different position from that of the framers of the US Constitution. First, they were the cream of a population that was already free and determined to remain free. We have a slave mentality. Secondly they were trustworthy, principled men. In retrospect, their deliberations provide a stark contrast to the outpourings of the best leaders Australia can muster today (e.g. Daniel Andrews “This is not about human rights”). We are in no position to embark on a task as grave as that of constitutional change without vastly better leadership.

  • Tony Tea

    It probably says something about the current off-broadway status of the Australian Republican movement that I immediately thought of the US Republicans when this article popped up in my reader.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    When the topic of the Dismissal comes up, we should always remember the background that previously, in Opposition, Whitlam attempted to block supply to Coalition governments on numerous occasions. He told the House of Representatives on several of those occasions that a government denied supply must resign. He never succeeded in his attempts to force a government to resign, but when a Coalition Opposition succeeded in denying supply to his government he refused to resign. All of the subsequent huffing and puffing, and the vilification of Kerr, were pure hypocrisy. At least Kerr knew that the right thing was for the electorate to decide, even if Whitlam didn’t. A President Tame, who didn’t believe in innocent until proven guilty, would be scary enough, but imagine a President Rudd or President Turnbull!
    A republic provides no practical advantages to the current system, but changes to the constitution always carry the risk of unforeseen dangers. If it aint broken, don’t fix it.

  • Sindri

    The GG has vast powers, but the powers are not used, with very rare exceptions, except on the advice of the government because the GG has no popular legitimacy. As you point out Peter, it is a ludicrous proposition simply to hand over the vast powers of the GG, including the reserve powers, to an elected President; the President is likely to regard himself as having a mandate of some kind, particularly on issues on which he had campaigned. It would fundamentally alter the system by which we are governed, and not for the better. It would inevitably paralyse government.
    The tragedy is that no-one, not the ARM, not the media, no-one is even attempting to educate people about the complexity involved in changing the Constitution to allow for an elected President. Of course it can be done – there are countries where the PM is head of government, but the president is elected – eg Ireland. It works there because the powers of the President are controlled and defined. The same thing could be done here, but not without a significant and careful change to the Constitution. It would be a lengthy exercise which, if not done carefully, could end up in a horrible mess.
    Is anyone talking about this self-evident truth in the media? Not as far as I’m aware.

  • Claude James

    Must start with a re-do of the Constitution.
    And as part of that, a full re-design of the Senate

  • rod.stuart

    I suppose it all depends upon a person’s viewpoint, or “world view”.
    If one considers the present state of affairs as being just a little odd, then it is worth pondering the nation under a different constitution or form of governance.
    In my world view, the rate at which the cabal (call it ‘Deep State’, Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, World Economic Forum, Club of Rome, CIA, or whatever) is moving toward their dream of a New World Order with a feudal technocracy with a few in total control of the many, the form of government in States which are currently sovereign is a moot point.
    It was becoming obvious back in April 2020 that the entire ‘Rona thing was more than a bit strange. At this juncture it is clear that the entire thing is a giant psychological operation in which the entire population has been conned. It is nearly thirty years since the Earth Summit in Rio formulated the basic goals for global domination. This was to entail the obliteration of property rights, extensive depopulation, and establishment of Totalitarianism.
    With the soft coup in November 2020 in which the cabal usurped control of the USA, it has become palpable that what is considered by most to be true is indeed false. The inoculation of large swathes of the population with a toxic self-replicating synthetic genetic material virtually ensures depopulation on a broad scale over the next few years. The Davos crowd have become very brazen in announcing the Great Reset, (you will own nothing and you will be happy), and the Fascist Schwab is clearly eager to assume control of the proletariat through a Chinese social credit system and digital currency regime tied to a “vaccine passport”.
    IF this world view has merit, it is pointless to consider anything but the revolutionary manoeuvres necessary to thwart this evil plan and protect our way of life.

  • Adam J

    Israel is an example of a country with a politicians’ republic, a president appointed by parliament. It could work here.
    But there is no need to have it because it would not work better than our current system, which is already dying due to the bunyip aristocracy, poor media, bad education, and cultural relativism now calling itself multiculturalism. A president of any kind would not alter this. It’s doubtful that any political changes will.
    We are not only in a completely different position to the US either now or in history, but we are in completely different one to Australians in the past. Do you want to know what time travel feels like? Read some of the Australian Constitutional Conventions. Those guys lived in a different world; it might as well have been written by Jedi Knights. No, we simply can’t rely on the Constitution or any realistic political reform to help us.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Another thing that terrifies me, and makes me glad I’m unlikely to live to see the almost inevitably disastrous outcome, is the creeping adoption by the media and various organisations, particularly the national sporting organisations, of the wildest wishes of the radical left as if they are a fait accompli. Watching the Australia-Argentina Rugby Test match tonight, there on display immediately before the game were the Australian National ensign, the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag. All government buildings here in Canberra fly those three flags as co-equal. They are not equal and should not be treated as if they are.
    Ersatz smoking and welcome to country nonsense and the other procedural drivel that precede virtually all formal occasions have been introduced virtually without prior agreement at the whim of “woke” individuals working on the assumption that the general public will be far too polite to object.
    Our national culture is being gradually but very radically changed by stealth, and it’s high time we stood up against these thieves in the night. For example, the next time someone proudly demands that we use their preferred pronouns, we should simply tell “them” that we intend to do unto “them” as they have just done to us, and treat them with the same degree of rudeness and contempt and ignore them.
    Otherwise, we’re doomed.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    If there was a vaccine to combat megalomania, who would make it compulsory?

  • whitelaughter

    A fun line during the republic referendum was to ask republicans whether they were looking forward to having John Howard as President – and pointing out that as the leader of the most successful political party, he was the obvious candidate to be Australia’s 1st president. As one of the saner republicans, I doubt you’d have batted an eye at that, but good that you have seen the problem with a politicised head of state.

    This is part of a wider battle, that I hope we can win by pointing out to ‘big government’ lefties that the default government in OZ is the Coalition: whenever they want more govt, ask them “do you trust the Coalition with this power?” Because inevitably they are convinced that their side will be the only one to use the new power.
    “Longest serving PM was Menzies, then Howard” is the follow up line. Hopefully ScoMo will continue as PM until the middle of 2027 – this will mean he overtakes Bob Hawke as 3rd longest serving PM, and we can add: “then ScoMo”.

  • ianl

    >” … assume control of the proletariat through a Chinese social credit system and digital currency regime tied to a “vaccine passport”. [rod.stuart above]

    That’s where we are – almost done. Certainly within the fascist grip within the next 4-5 years. Removal of cash as legal tender combined with the forced introduction of the “carbon limit” credit card, such as Mastercard is currently trialling will complete it.

    Then Aus as a Republic or not is irrelevant.

  • phicul19

    The health of our democracy must be the envy of the world if we can have Norman Gunston sharing the stage and being of more interest than the sacked Prime Minister.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    Watching the last two presidential elections in the US left me knowing that our system is much more stable.
    Our span of control and accountability is better defined and less driven by the cult of personality.
    Our processes do not often produce leaders of hubris and, to my knowledge, have never contemplated the frail aged infirm.

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