Republicanism in Australia

The subject of republicanism on its own may not seem intimidating to the wider community. However, when spoken in context with the separation of Australia from its monarchical foundations by amending the Australian constitution it is guaranteed to provoke a response. Such as the response made by Prime Minister John Howard who professed his opposition to Australia becoming a republic and suggested that it would not happen in his lifetime. Firstly, this essay will explore the legal issues involved in transforming Australia to a republic by focusing on such matters as the selection of a Head of State and constitutional amendment.

Secondly, it will discuss whether such a transformation is possible during John Howard's lifetime. Australian republicanism has historically been concerned with asserting Australia's independence from Britain. It is believed that such an assertion may have inaugurated in the early to mid nineteenth century when Australian colonies moved toward responsible government (Stephenson, 1994). In 1901 under the Constitutional Convention of 1890, the colonies of Australia federated (Stephenson, 1994).

However, it is suggested that this federation did not generate an independent Australia, rather, that it occurred in 1942 with the adoption of the British Statute of Westminster 1931 where Australia attained Commonwealth legislative independence from Britain. Australia's independence was further enhanced in 1986 when the Australia Acts were passed. This legislation resulted in the abolition of appeals from Australian courts, and extinguished Imperial control on State laws (Stephenson, 1994).

As a result, is it plausible to claim that Australia is now republic in nature? According to Winterton (1994), a republic may be defined as a state based upon popular sovereignty in which all public power is exercised by the people selected by the public. Therefore, as the historical evidence suggest, it may be plausible to assume that the Australia is already republican in nature. During the 1990's, the Australian republic movement was a prominent motivator for a new Australian identity.

As a result, parliament established the Constitution Convention under the Constitutional Convention (Election) Act 1997, to discuss whether or not Australia should become a republic; which republic model should be put to the voters; and in what timeframe might any change be considered (Constitution Convention, 1998). Consequently, Australia went to referendum in 1999 to vote on the republican proposal (Ritchie & Markwell, 2006). However, the referendum was not a success and the republican proposal began to lose enthusiasm. The reason for this failure may be interpreted from Tony Abbot (1994) in which he proposed that, ?

it involves the greatest leap into the political, legal and constitutional dark in Australia's history'. In addition, Ward (2000) believed that whether the outcome of the republic referendum were to be ? no' or ? yes', it was without doubt going to be a lose/lose proposition for Australia. He clarifies by saying that the defeat of the referendum may be attributed to the proposed agenda concerning the selection of a President. The proposal suggested that the President would be selected by Parliament and not selected by the public, which opposes the definition and significance of a republic.

In addition to the selection of the President, the proposed amendments of Section 59 and Section 64 under Section 128 of the Constitution may also have contributed to the defeat of the republic referendum. Firstly, Section 59 failed to define or codify the ? reserve powers' or ? conventions' observed by the President (Ward, 2000). For example, the President would be bound to observe a vague set of non-legal rules, which is consistent with the purpose of the constitutional conventions.

It has been argued by parliament that constitutional conventions cannot be codified; therefore, it is necessary to have the executive (President) and the defining rules of parliamentary government supported by conventions rather than constitutional law (Ritchie & Markwell, 2006). However, it is possible to commit the rules of parliamentary government to constitutional law as this has been achieved by Latvia and Ireland in 1922 (Ward, 2000). Secondly, Section 64 stated that Ministers would ? hold office during the pleasure of the President' and not during the pleasure of the lower house of Parliament (Ward, 2000).

Such an amendment defies the traditional system of parliamentary government. For example, the Prime Minister is elected, selected or nominated by the majority of the lower house and only serves for as long as they hold the popularity of that majority. Therefore, it is permissible to accept that such factors may have contributed to the failure of a republic referendum. The idea of an Australian republic united a temporary visualisation of what the future might hold for Australia. The question now is whether there exists a future for Australia as a republican nation.

According to John Howard it is not foreseeable in Australia's immediate future. However, the Senate inquiry conducted in 1993 appears to believe that it is a plausible scenario for Australia and has explained that the next proposal must not be rushed as was the 1999 referendum. Nevertheless, any future proposal remains unpredictable and as Australia advances towards the year 2007, perhaps it is something for consideration in the subsequent decades. In conclusion, the subject of republicanism is as much a part of Australia's past and future as is the monarchy.

However, the mere contemplation of separating Australia from its monarchical foundations by amending the Australian constitution provoked a response not imagined by the republican movement. Such as the response made by Prime Minister John Howard who opposes Australia becoming a republic and suggests that it will not happen in his lifetime. This essay explored the legal issues involved in transforming Australia to a republic by presenting what was considered to be an important oversight to the people, the selection of the President because it defied the meaning of the Australian Constitution to the Australian people.

Secondly, this essay discussed whether such a transformation is possible in the future. Consequently, it does appear that perhaps anything is possible. References Abbott, T 1994, ? The Politics of Becoming a Republic', in MA Stephenson & C Turner (eds), Australia: Republic or Monarchy? , University of Queensland Press, Australia. Ritchie, J & Markwell, D 2006, ? Australian and Commonwealth Republicanism', The Round Table, vol. 95, no. 387, pp. 727-737. Stephenson, MA 1994, ? Introduction', in MA Stephenson & C Turner (eds), Australia: Republic or Monarchy? , University of Queensland Press, Australia. Ward, JA 2000, ?

Trapped in a Constitution: The Australian Republic Debate', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 117-123. Winterton, G 1994, ? The Constitutional Implications of a Republic', in MA Stephenson & C Turner (eds), Australia: Republic or Monarchy? , University of Queensland Press, Australia. Constitution Convention, 1998, ? The final Report of the Convention', http://pandora. nla. gov. au/nph-arch/O1998-Nov-12/http://www. dpmc. gov. au /convention/index. html Bibliography Abbott, T 1994, ? The Politics of Becoming a Republic', in MA Stephenson & C Turner (eds), Australia: Republic or Monarchy?

University of Queensland Press, Australia. Barns, G & Krawec-Wheaton, A 2006, ? An Australian Republic', Scribe Publications Pty Ltd, Australia. Kirby, M (Hon) 2000, ? The Australian Referendum on a Republic: Ten Lessons', Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 510-535. McAllister, I 2001, ? Elections without cues: The 1999 Australian Republic Referendum', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 247-269. Ritchie, J & Markwell, D 2006, ? Australian and Commonwealth Republicanism', The Round Table, vol. 95, no. 387, pp. 727-737. Stephenson, MA 1994, ?

Introduction', in MA Stephenson & C Turner (eds), Australia: Republic or Monarchy? , University of Queensland Press, Australia. Ward, JA 2000, ? Trapped in a Constitution: The Australian Republic Debate', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 117-123. Winterton, G 1994, ? The Constitutional Implications of a Republic', in MA Stephenson & C Turner (eds), Australia: Republic or Monarchy? , University of Queensland Press, Australia. Constitution Convention, 1998, ? The final Report of the Convention', http://pandora. nla. gov. au/nph-arch/O1998-Nov-12/http://www. dpmc. gov. au /convention/index. html