Republic? More Power For Politicians (p9 of 11)
Any suggestion that the proposed change to a Republic is not a dramatic change is a myth. In the opinion of the Australian Republican Movement spokesman Thomas Keneally a "Yes" vote would be saying "Yes" to the biggest structural change to the Constitution since Federation. There are over 60 changes proposed and every voter who does not agree with or who does not fully understand every one of the proposed changes must vote "No" if he or she is sincere and conscientious in making up his/her mind.
An example of the dramatic and far reaching changes is clearly seen in section 58. The present s. 58 is as follows:
s.58. "When a proposed law passed by both Houses of the Parliament is presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent, he shall declare, according to his discretion, but subject to this Constitution, that he assents in the Queen's name, or that he withholds assent, or that he reserves the law for the Queen's pleasure. "
The proposed section 58 is:
s.58. "When a proposed law passed by both houses of Parliament is presented to the President for assent, the President shall, according to the President's discretion but subject to this Constitution, assent to the law or withhold assent. "
For a person without an understanding of the meaning of the term "the Queen's representative" and the significance of the term "in the Queen's name" it might be difficult to perceive a real difference. However, for those who have followed through the earlier part of this booklet and have noted the principles of government and the means by which those principles are incorporated into the Constitution, it will be obvious that there is nothing in the proposed section to continue those principles.
The "discretion" of the Governor-General is limited by the principles of government expressed in the Coronation Oath. What would limit the "discretion" of the President? Certainly, it would not be the principles included in the Coronation Oath. Could this proposed section mean that the President would have dictatorial power to withhold assent whenever he chooses? On its wording, the proposed section could mean exactly that. However, while there is a principle of legal interpretation that every word will be given meaning if it is capable of meaning, the proposed section should probably be interpreted on the basis that the word "discretion" would have no meaning. This conclusion could be reached from the proposed section 59 which requires the President to act on the directions of the Prime Minister. Also, the President is subject to dismissal by the Prime Minister.
If the proposed s. 59 would remove meaning from the word "discretion", the traditional responsibility of the Governor-General to protect the people would not transfer to the President. It might be said that the Governor-General rarely exercises his power and that the principle of "responsible government" requires that the Governor General exercise the power only in exceptional circumstances. Although the power might be exercised rarely and only in exceptional circumstances, the power exists now but will no longer exist if Australia becomes a Republic and the proposed section 58 becomes law.
If the President will have no power to exercise discretion, who will have the power?. The answer is obvious - the politicians, particularly the Prime Minister. And what will be the principles of government on which the Prime Minister is supposed to act? Certainly not the historic principles expressed in the Coronation Oath. As a Republic, Australia would have neither monarch nor Coronation Oath. How will the ethical 'measure' for government be determined? Not by the Christian Scriptures. They will be removed with the removal of the Queen and the Coronation Oath.
The fact is that if Australia becomes a Republic the real measure for law and government will be the opinions and views of the politicians, particularly the Prime Minister. The proposal for Australia to become a Republic is to throw away the existing "plumb line" or measuring stick that is the true (but largely neglected) basis of law and government and replace it with whatever the politicians think at any given time.
The change is not minimal. It is major. Indeed, it changes the fundamental principles of government. This does not mean 'the sky would fall in'. On the contrary the average person would hardly notice the difference or might not even notice at all. The difference would not be noticed because the present true basis of government is largely forgotten or neglected.
This booklet is not written to oppose change. Indeed, change is urgently needed. The change the nation needs is for the true basis of the present system to be remembered and applied. This can only be done if the system is retained. To retain the system a "No" vote is essential.
Written and authorised by Dr David Mitchell,
18 Proctors Rd. Dynnyrne, Tasmania 7005
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