A Republic: To become or not to become

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Are we ready for this hop of faith?

Blurb1:  Even if most Australian electors opted for a republic with a president as the head of state, there would still be the unsettled question of what powers the president should have and what method should be used to appoint or elect them.

Blurb 2: They believe that our current system of government need not be altered to satisfy the philosophical views of a minority.

A Republic: To become or not to become

Let me begin this piece by saying that all the content in this article is my personal opinion. Politics is considered to be a dry and boring subject and it’s the author’s duty to keep the reader interested. That I shall attempt to do.

I thought the best way to start talking about politics would be to go back to the roots. Whether Australia should become a Republic is one of the first questions one should ponder as it will help define a person’s political views. Let look at that first for background.

Put simply, Australia is not a republic. India, on the other hand, is a republic. A comparison of the recent political history of the two countries is relevant here. I was born in India, and have enjoyed the public holiday on the 26th of January when I was growing up. Traditionally Ladoos (Indian Sweet) are distributed in Republic Day celebrations and I enjoyed them a lot, just because I like them, not because I was over the moon about India being a Republic. You see, India became independent in 1947 (15th of August), however it was still within the Commonwealth Realm. It’s laws were based on the Government of India Act 1935 passed by the British Parliament. It was only in 1950 (26th January) when India adopted its own constitution which replaced the Government of India Act 1935, that India became a Republic.

Australia became an independent nation on 1 January 1901 when the 6 british colonies (the 6 states of Australia) agreed to join together and become the states of a new nation. Australia’s formal name is the Commonwealth of Australia. The form of government used in Australia is a constitutional monarchy – ‘constitutional’ because the powers and procedures of the Australian Government are defined by a written constitution, and ‘monarchy’ because Australia’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. Yes, Kate Middleton’s mother-in-law, is our head of state!

So the contrasting histories of India and Australia clarify the meaning of a republic. For Australia to become a republic, it would not have the Queen as the head of state. Instead, Australia would have an Australian head of state: for e.g. President of Australia. By doing this, Australia would no longer be a constitutional monarchy but become The Republic of Australia. Whether to take this step to become a republic is a matter of debate which comes up once every few years. In 1999, a referendum was held by the Howard Government where Australians voted on the following questions:

“A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.”
Result: Yes – 45.13%, No – 54.87%

“A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to insert a preamble.”
Result: Yes – 39.34%, No – 60.66%

In other words, Australians opted to not become a republic in 1999.

Even if most Australian electors opted for a republic with a president as the head of state, there would still be the unsettled question of what powers the president should have and what method should be used to appoint or elect them. Both sides have strong support in Australia. For example, as the names suggest, Australian Republic Movement (ARM) advocates a Republic and the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) advocates leaving things as they are. The vision and charter of both these organisations provide reasons behind their beliefs.

Broadly, Republicans support the shaping of Australia’s independent identity. They are also not in favour of a monarch who must be born in a particular family, being the head of state. On the other hand, those in favour of a constitutional monarchy consider the ties with the British monarchy an integral part of Australian heritage and history. They believe that our current system of government need not be altered to satisfy the philosophical views of a minority.

It’s upto you to decide, however, I, personally, am a Democrat. Instead of spending time on converting Australia to a republic (and potentially changing our currency, and maybe our flag and maybe introducing a second national election to choose a president) I would rather see our state and federal governments spend time on more pressing issues like improving public transport (specially in Melbourne) and introducing Denticare to make dental care affordable for all Australians.

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