Winning Entries to the 2005 Essay Competition
2005 Division 1 (16 - 18 years) Winner
Alexandra Mathewson (Centenary Heights State High School, Toowoomba)
"Explain how Australia's Constitution prevents any one individual from
gaining absolute power over the people of Australia"
The Australian constitution contains the essential political principles by which Australia is governed. The constitution has a number of safeguards that effectively prevent any one individual from gaining absolute power, power which in the past has been proven to corrupt absolutely. In Australia this is prevented through the use of an external referee, the constitutional monarchy. The monarchy consists of the Queen and her representative in Australia, the Governor General. Any amendments to the constitution must have the full approval of the Australian public via a referendum. These precautions ensure that the Australian people can be assured of peace and stability in the future.
The Governor-General is considered to be 'above' Australian politics. He effectively 'withholds power which could potentially be misused.' (S.Copeman 2005) and keeps the politicians honest. It must be noted that the Queen has no political influence over the people of Australia. Her previous powers were repealed in the Australia Act of 1986. She does, however, ratify the selection of the Governor-General on the advice of the current elected government. The Governor General is not obliged to the government. Therefore he has no political aspirations. The Governor-General has been recognised by many people, including Sir David Smith, as the Australian equivalent of the Head of State (p.48 A.Tuck). He can summon, adjourn or dissolve federal parliament. In contrast, the American President, holds a veto in parliament which gives one man the right to overrule the decisions of the American people, whether it is in their best interests or not, a power which is not possible in Australia. The Governor General is ultimately responsible to the Australian people rather than to the political agendas of the government of the day.
In order to attain absolute power it is imperative that they change the Australian constitution. If an amendment is to be made there are a number of strict conditions that apply. There must be an absolute majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate before the amendment can be proposed to the general public. The proposed change must be presented in specific words and then voted on in a referendum. It is required that there be a complete majority of electors votes and a majority of states voting for the change. Changes, however, are not common.
'Only 8 of the 44 proposals for change have received the necessary mandate'
As this suggests, Australians are people that are highly suspicious of a government's desire to increase its powers. Therefore, the Australian constitution effectively prevents an autocracy.
A stable and strong government currently exists in Australia because of the many protective measures contained within the constitution. Historical evidence of heinous totalitarian governments can be seen in the regimes of dictators such as Hitler and Stalin. The saying 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' is relevant in both instances and in some republics today, such as The Peoples Republic of China and North Korea. Complete power ultimately leads to corruption and instability within society. 'In the days of yore the crown represented total power. Today it represents the denial of total power '(Dr.G. Sheil). The necessity for the denial of such power, in Australia was brought to the fore in 1975 when '?the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, withdrew Whitlam's commission as Prime Minister,' (www.nma.gov.au) after the senate would not pass supply. This incident showed that any power can corrupt and reveals the need for a constitutional monarchy.
Australians have enjoyed many benefits that are due largely to the system of government formulated by Australia's founding fathers over a century ago. There are no advantages in changing a system that has served the nation of Australia so well since its inception in 1901. Australians must remain vigilant in retaining and protecting this system. Australia's Constitutional Monarchy ensures that Australia will remain a prosperous, stable and strong society in the years to come.
Dr. G. Sheil, 1998, The Constitutional Convention and Growing Up
Tuck, A, Sovereignty in Australia, Pacific Rim Press, Dulong
Wilkes, G.A, 1986, The Collins Dictionary of the English Language, William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd. Sydney
Australia's Constitution, www.aph.gov.au (online) accessed 28/07/05
The Australian Constitution, scaleplus.law.gov.au(online) accessed 28/07/05
Commonwealth law, www.comlaw.gov.au (online) accessed 23/07/05
Constitution, www.statusquo.org (online) accessed 23/07/05
Constitutional Monarchy, www.australianpolitics.com
Constitutional Monarchy, www.nma.gov.au (online) accessed 26/07/05
Monarchy, www.smh.com.au (online) accessed 18/07/05
The Monarchy, www.arts.monash.edu.au (online) accessed 18/07/05
Monarchy v Republic, http://www.norepublic.com.au (online) accessed 26/07/05