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Summary of Comments to ACM Toowoomba Branch
By Brett Hogan, Victorian Convenor, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, 2 August 2009
The new Australian Republican Movement strategy is for a set of national plebiscites.
A plebiscite means whatever the people writing the question decide the question means, and could probably be carried on the support of NSW and Victoria alone.
Modern plebiscites have been with us since the French Revolution:
- Napoleon Bonaparte was responsible for 5 of these (one was carried 3 million in favour and 1,500 against) which were used for example to approve him as Consul for Life and Emperor;
- Napoleon III also used plebiscites, firstly to retrospectively approve an 1851 coup, then another in 1852 to allow him to become an Emperor.
The first Napoleon used plebiscites on the Swiss after he had invaded, leading the Swiss to set up their own referendum system where the details of a proposed change are put on the table before the vote. The drafters of the Australian Constitution adopted this model.
Adolf Hitler also used a plebiscite to give assent to his seizure of greater powers after the death of the German President in 1934, and memorably in 1938 to give Austrians the opportunity to approve the Anschluss - a ballot which attracted 99% support.
A plebiscite is a warm and fuzzy question written by the people who want you to vote a certain way so as to lock you into supporting what they want.
A plebiscite invites a national vote of no confidence in the Australian Constitution which offers nothing to put in its place.
In 1999, when the Blair Labour Government in the UK abolished the right of most hereditary Lords to sit in the House of Lords as Stage 1 of a "democratic" reform process. Ten years later, the Government still hasn't figured out what to put in the Lords' place.
Republican policy is for a first plebiscite to get a Yes Vote for a new Australian Head of State, then a second plebiscite to indicate a preferred republican model and a third plebiscite to select a title for the new republican head, followed by a Constitutional Convention to draft a constitutional amendment, followed by legislation through the Parliament, followed at last by a referendum, that they hope will pass.
ACM says that if you want to change one of the world's most successful Constitutions, you must be required to spell out your proposed changes before a national vote takes place.
A republican plebiscite goes against the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, which clearly and expressly prescribes only one way for constitutional change.
Just because the republicans don't know what they want, and are afraid of losing another referendum, doesn't mean that Australia should suffer years of constitutional wrangling.
To illustrate the spirit of deception that runs through Australian republicans, witness the surreptitious changing of the record of the 2008 20-20 Summit.
The 2020 Summit recommendations, as announced on 20 April, were:
- "Stage 1: Ending ties with the UK while retaining the Governor-General's titles and powers for five years; and
- Stage 2: Identifying new models after extensive and broad consultation."
On 30 April 2008 (ten days later) the record was changed to read:
- "1. Introduce an Australian republic via a two-stage process, with Stage 1 being a plebiscite on the principle that Australia becomes a republic and severs ties with the Crown; and
- Stage 2 being a referendum on the model of a republic after extensive and broad consultation."
ACM Victoria has made it our priority to get the message out there in the community rather than concentrate exclusively on internal matters.
We must continually remind policy makers and the public that our constitutional monarchy is still an important part of Australia's constitutional arrangements and retains support.
ACM Victoria has been active on TV, radio, and in the newspapers.
In 2006 we joined the Victorian Council of British and Commonwealth Societies, to broaden our organisations' links with other like minded organisations.
We also wrote to the five major party leaders before the 2006 State Election asking for their views on a republic and send a copy of their reply to all ACM Victoria members.
In 2007 we wrote to the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police raising our concerns following allegations she had replaced a picture of the Queen with a picture of herself.
Also in 2007, we clarified Protocol rules that confirmed it was OK to play God Save the Queen even when a member of the Royal Family was not present.
In 2008 we wrote to the Premier on an idea floated by a Victorian Parliamentary Committee to abolish the requirement for MPs to swear allegiance to the Crown upon their election to Parliament.
At the end of 2008 we also wrote to all Victorian State MPs to ascertain their views on the republic as well as their attitude to the removal of Royal symbols while Australia and Victoria remain a constitutional monarchy, to improve our knowledge of who is on our side and who is not.