Articles » Changing The Australian Federal Constitution
By Mr John Brett, May 2015, Toowoomba.
Section 128 (Ch. VIII) of the “Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia” sets out the procedure for altering the constitution. Over its lifetime there have been forty two attempts to change various sections, of which only eight have been successful. Most changes have been aimed to increase the power of Government, not to strengthen the authority of electors.
Any change to constitutions that erodes the authority of those whose designed purpose it was to serve, needs careful consideration and not constant challenges.
Sir Guy Green, a former Governor of Tasmania and administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth, in his Sir Robert Menzies Oration described any changes to the constitution thus:-
“Constitutional reform is a serious matter. Unlike ordinary law reform whose effects are confined to specific areas and which may be modified or repealed if it turns out to have been ill-advised, constitutional reform impacts on the entire system of law and government and is virtually irreversible. It follows we have an obligation not only to ourselves but to our descendants to consider any proposals to change the constitution of the Commonwealth or a State rationally, deliberately and with complete understanding of the nature of that which is being changed and of what the consequences of the change will be.”
Quick & Garran in their massive 1,000 page “Annotation of the Commonwealth Constitution”, foreshadowed everything Sir Guy Green wrote, using only three words,
“…The safeguards in this Constitution have been provided to prevent change being made in haste or by stealth, to encourage public discussion and to delay change until there is strong evidence that it is DESIRABLE, IRRESISTIBLE AND INEVITABLE.”
There are two immediate and serious consequences facing Australians in the proposed next alteration to the Federal Constitution, together with the judicial abandonment of “The Rule of Law” in Queensland.
The Commonwealth Constitution is an inclusive covenant, it excludes nobody by birth, colour, race, religion or previous nationality. It was written to apply to all those who legitimately reside in Australia, irrespective of who arrived first, or those yet to arrive.
It stands above all racial, ethnic, national and political differences, the most benign and beneficial covenant ever entered into between a people and its own proposed new government.
At the time it was written probably the largest non indigenous black or white population were the Chinese, who now may come back to financially haunt us!
Its whole intent by mutual agreement was to proceed forward as a new civilised nation, neither favouring nor disadvantaging any single person or special entity. Any previous uncivilised colonial State events that could not be mended were to be left behind, as elsewhere in the world.
The present proposal to change the existing constitution naming Aboriginals to be named by race or ethnic identification in the constitution, apart from any other distinct or identifiable group, retrospectively turns the original constitution into an exclusive document, which it never was by intent or design. Worse, it would turn the whole document into a non inclusive document negating every intent and caution of the authors. As Sir Guy Green warned, “It could become irreversible”, which some people obviously have in mind.
Australia’s Constitution was being written in the shadow of the tragic American Civil War, where a nation divided into two conflicting groups over the slave system in place in the South, ended in massive carnage to all involved. The only winners were the arms manufacturers. “The slave who was formerly protected by his chains as an article of value” said Walter Bagehot (“The English Constitution”) “was turned free in a nation where nobody now wanted them.” Wikipedia article › eBook on Gutenberg ›
This was one of the reasons the writers of our Constitution were to make absolutely certain there were no grounds, by way of racial division, to replicate the American disaster. The new document included everybody living in the nation. It is an inclusive covenant.
The future political consequences can clearly be discerned as present immigrant populations who far outnumber any past or present Aboriginal population, could be used by preference of numbers, to include their particular ethnic identity by name in the constitution, with or without the named ethnic group’s consent or even awareness.
This would turn the original document into a shambles, opening a Pandora’s Box of legal argument with enormous financial legal rewards, diminishing or extinguishing the purpose, intent and success of this most successful ever covenant, which our forefathers left in our care, for the benefit of all.