Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Boredom with the Australian republic

I remain bogged down in other writing. My main post yesterday, The lessons and questions from Madjedbebe, was back on Australian prehistory. I hope to do better here in the future, but am not promising!

Mr Shorten has again raised the question of an Australian republic. We are to be asked:
"One question — do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state? 'Yes' or 'No'?" he said. 
How things change. When Prime Minister Keating launched his campaign for a republic I was very upset because it was part of what of what I saw as an ideological attack on a whole range of things. When Prime Minister Howard held the 1999 republic constitutional referendum I was engaged on the constitutional monarchy side. Now I am just bored.

At this point, I do not know what Mr Shorten's question means. A constitutional lawyer may need to advise. If we vote yes, I presume that the next question will be a vote on choices of different republican forms. Again, I'm not sure what that means. I'm assuming that if we vote yes on one, we are bound by the majority on two regardless of the absolute number that want that particular option. So we could end up with almost anything.

I haven't done a poll among my friends. Based on what I know, a majority would be pro-republic in an abstract sense, but none would seem to regard it as a key issue measured by their conversation. Those who are strongly republican seem to come from a relatively narrow slice, essentially particular age groups with Roman Catholic, Irish, Labor ancestry.  I am not sure about under thirty voters, nor about those from many ethnic backgrounds. I just don't know wide enough groups to be representative.

Mr Shorten may well win the next election. Until he does and then introduces the question, I see little point in getting engaged. As I said, I am bored with the issue. There are more important things to worry about.


Anonymous said...

Jim, yours is the new Monarchist position ("not a pressing issue"), which shows a bit of a retreat, if you ask me.

I guess Shorten has done this on the basis of some polling and possibly strategy for raising his profile. Recently things have worked best for him by keeping his head down, but you can't keep that up forever.

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning, marcellous. It is true that I think that its not a pressing issue, but I am genuinely bored. I haven't retreated from my support for a constitutional monarchy. I just don't see the need to engage at this point in any active way.

I'm not sure that it's true that Mr Shorten has been keeping his head down. If I interpret his strategy correctly, he seems to be following a multi-prong approach: neutralise security and border protection as an issue by staying in broad lockstep with the Government; reaffirm Labor support for certain progressive causes to hold the ALP vote against the Greens; differentiate the ALP in a selective way on certain economic especially tax issues to play on the equity theme while muting Government attacks on the ALP as economic managers. It is in this last area where he has stuck his head above the parapet.

Things have played for him quite well, I agree. The Liberal Party right is a group that just keeps on giving!

Anonymous said...

"For the prince, the decision not to buried beside the queen is the natural consequence of not having been treated equally to his spouse - by not having the title and role he has desired," Balleby added.

The prince has not announced where he would like to be buried instead.

Queen Margrethe II, 77, serves as Denmark's head of state and is responsible for signing all laws passed by Parliament. But the country's legislative powers have been in the hands of elected governments since 1849.

- http://www.smh.com.au/world/denmarks-prince-henrik-wanted-to-be-king-so-hell-protest-for-eternity-20170804-gxpedb.html

Bored? I think it's endlessly fascinating - and gordelpallofus if ever they should turn their minute brains to anything of significance to the rest of us :)

marcellous, I'd be really interested in your specific views upon just what specific alternative you'd propose? Never mind the Peter Fitz rah-rah; what are your specifics?


Anonymous said...

OK, kvd, I'll take the bait.

funny you should mention the Danes.

I've always been bemused by the approach to new states in the nineteenth century and the belief that they needed to have a royal head of state and hence the press ganging of various minor royalty (it couldn't be major royalty for political reasons - a kind of Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra thing) as heads of state.

There are really two issues with the republican movement: (1) an Australian (ie, not UK) head of state and (2) a "democratically" selected head of state.

If the issue were (1) perhaps we could go for the Gl├╝cksburg solution - Princess Mary's second child could become Queen of Australia. There is a small problem that Princess Mary became Danish before the girl was born, but at least then we would have a kind of Australian head of state from then on.

However, this has probably been out of the question since Daniel Deniehy coined the phrase "Bunyip Aristocracy" in response to W C Wentworth in 1853 - and what a near miss that was! By now we could have had Queen Kate.

(Incidentally it intrigues me that NZ as opposed to Australia seems to have been happy to reembrace imperial honours - did you know that it's Dame Joan Campion now?)

For (2) I don't see much choice other than a popularly elected president. I am a bit fearful this would lead to the election of an athlete of some sort, Australia being Australia, rather like the sorts of people (almost always conservative stooges, actually or, as in the case of Dawn Fraser, unwittingly/witlessly) who get elected to the board of the NRMA. The term should be 5 or even 7 years with some mechanism for removal (but not replacement other than by a fresh election) by both houses of parliament and probably one term only (or possibly, if 5 years, a maximum of 2). At least the scope for such a President to do harm should be limited provided the conventions do not change over time. Yes, I know, there's the rub.

My non-popularly-elected alternative would be election by both houses of parliament on a super-majority basis (in the hope that unless the Govt of the day had a sufficiently large majority, the appointment would be out of the Govt's sole control. Obviously that requires a degree of adult behaviour by our elected representatives.

I know it all seems a lot of fuss and expense (especially a popular election) for a chief fete-opener and (very occasional and in fact we hope never but as we know it can't be ruled out) potential exerciser of reserve powers. It's the latter which are the problem. We need a God in the machine but we don't want to live in the age of miracles any more. I can't help thinking of the Wizard of Oz somehow.

Anonymous said...


NZ honours maybe more accurately described as "neo-feudal" than "imperial."

Jim Belshaw said...

I think that the Danish case is definitely a breach of the principle of hygge, kvd!I understand from later reports he wants to be burred in Denmark. It's sad from a personal viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

Thanks marcellous - my question was genuine, i.e. not just bait, and I thank you for your detailed answer.

While I really don't care to see any change from what we have now (aka Jim's boredom) my own view is that if we must change, then change should be minimal - leading to your less-preferred option of a head of state appointed by some parliamentary process - much as our HC judges are. The thought of a popularly elected h.o.s. is just too awful to contemplate, as you say.

It all gets back to just what it is that the h.o.s. represents in terms of actual powers, I think. There was a book which I'm sure I mentioned here many moons ago, based upon the premise of a GG who held a genuine belief that Australia should not enter into a particular war and, as nominal (but in his view, actual) head of our armed forces, he was more than willing to refuse deployment of troops, against the will of the PM. Unfortunately, after setting out the details of the conundrum, the author took the easy way out by having him assassinated just prior to his announcement of his position - but it made me wonder, all the same.

There are other, far more important and pressing, issues we face - but I guess, as someone once said, we can all walk and chew gum at the same time, so why not address it? I suspect some part of the answer to that contains the word "cowardice" - much like our current obsession with SSM :)


Anonymous said...

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.

Yeah right, so that's very clear:

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging hot or cold, whether black or white, high or low, in or out as cosy, charming or special.

We need more words like that - so precise :)


Jim Belshaw said...

Its not just NZ but also Canada, marcellous, on the honours question. Australia has this very particular cringe! It's an Irish thing! Interviewed, the former NZ PM sounded quite bemused by the trouble over Mr Abbott's knights and dames proposal.

I guess your two questions response illustrates my concern. At present, I can't see how an alternative system might really work. I have suggested before that I thought the end-by date on constitutional monarchy would be when no one was prepared to do the job! The real issue in the end, I think, is whether or not we are prepared to ditch the Westminster system.

Cosy is the best meaning, kvd. The decision not to be burred with your wife is definitely not cosy!