The Australian Constitution
Australia's constitution was designed and written at the dawn of written rules for the cooperation of community behavior. There were only five written constitutions in the world before, from which the writers of our constitution drew upon for guidance. Even in the infant domain of sport the rules for play often varied from town to town!
For a thousand years or more control of groups and individuals was asserted from the apex of groups. Those asserting their powers made the rules and the rest obeyed, irrespective of the consequences to all. They were essentially feudal systems, which still operate amongst systems.
Australia's first “civilized” occupants were dumped here as felons from the British Isles to live in this penal colony not of their making. Their desire to alter and set rules for their future destiny was sown as they escaped the control of their distant masters. It was to be 100 years in the making, before at the end of 19th century they began to meet and discuss and design a set of rules they would agree to be governed by.
By this process Australia became the first nation in history to write its own rules for government, while selecting from its historical past the figure of a monarch to be the referee over the observance of the rules.
The writers were all aware of the virtues of the system that imprisoned them, as well as the vices that old system harbored. There was agreement that all government was like fire, an excellent servant but a disastrous master. In their new environment they had already tasted the benefits of self government and knew the reasons why they had prospered. But there was always a power beyond their grasp that troubled them right down to this present day.
With a population around 3 million everybody had the opportunity to meet and add or subtract from the evolving constitution. Hundreds of meetings over 10 years in every state debated about what they wanted, but more importantly they agreed about what they did not want. For a population of its size Australia had then one of the highest literary rates in the world and history was known and taught in all the schools. The tragedy of the American Civil war was well known and understood by so many participating in this new way to avoid civil war erupting here.
The key to avoiding the disasters that had gone before us was seen to be in the decentralisation of all power and authority. A catch phrase of the time was “Power in many hands is Power in safe hands”. All the lessons about power and authority that were written in the New Testament were known to the majority. The Sermon on the Mount, where all power in one set of hands was rejected, was a household measure in those times.
Systems and Governments were to serve people, not visa-versa, were then and still are the pivotal points embodied in their constitution, which once was the safeguard against tyranny.
There is so much more genius embodied in our constitution which has now been abandoned by our educators, politicians and defenders of this staggering achievement which sprang from a penal colony to make the most successful nation in history.
John Brett. Chairman Toowoomba Branch ACM 26th November 2011.