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© 2005 David Latimer

Senate Committee Report

Legal and Constitutional References Committee

This is an edited summary of a report tabled in August 2004, the first government publication to review and critique the Honorary President Republican Model. The entire contents are available on the Parliament of Australia Website, so only the sections relevant to the model are produced here.

The Road to A Republic

Chapter 7 - Battle of the Models

Introduction (page 101)

7.1 This chapter will discuss the key features of various alternative models for an Australian republic, including the perceived advantages and disadvantages of each.

7.2 It is important to state at the outset that this Committee does not intend to endorse any one model over the others -- that is ultimately a role for the Australian people. The report merely outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of a number of the broad models that were presented in submissions and evidence during the Committee's inquiry.

7.3 In over 700 submissions, the Committee received a plethora of different proposals for models for an Australian republic. These ranged from "ultra-minimalist" style models which proposed as few changes as possible to our current system, through to more radical proposals for a complete overhaul of Australia's system of government. Some models were submitted with complete suggested constitutional amendments, others were just a broad outline of the proposed model. Unfortunately it is not possible in this report to examine each and every model submitted, many of which varied only slightly in the detail. However, many of the possible variations and related issues have been discussed in [other] chapters.

7.4 As was outlined in earlier chapters, one of the fundamental differences between alternative republican models is the method of selection of the head of state. Other important variations relate to the powers of the head of state and the method for removing the head of state. Many other aspects, such as the qualifications and term of office, or methods for dealing with casual vacancies, varied slightly in the different models submitted to the Committee. However, some of these variations are not necessarily dependent on any particular type of model, and the issues surrounding them have been discussed in [other] chapters.

7.5 After making some comments on models generally, this chapter aims to outline some of the main types. These models are discussed under the following broad categories:

  • minimalist models;
  • direct election models; and
  • other models, including "hybrid" or "indirect election" models.

Minimalist models (page 103)

7.13 Many submissions supported what has been described as a "minimalist" approach to achieving an Australian republic. At its simplest, minimalist models involve minimal changes to our current system of government. Some of the main republican models put forward during the Committee's inquiry that could be described as "minimalist" include:

  • ARM "Model One" (Prime Minister appoints);
  • the "McGarvie Model";
  • the model put to the 1999 referendum ("1999 republic model"); and
  • ARM "Model Two" (People nominate, Parliament appoints).

Direct election models (page 108)

7.31 Many submissions supported an Australian republic with a directly elected head of state. Some of the direct election models put forward during the Committee's inquiry included:

  • ARM "Model Five" (People elect the President);
  • ARM "Model Four" (People elect from Parliament's List); and
  • executive presidency models.

Hybrid and other models (page 124)

7.86 Several submissions received by the Committee proposed models that could not be classified easily as either direct election or minimalist models. In fact, many of these submissions proposed what could be described as "hybrid" models. For example, the ARM, in discussing its "Model Three: Presidential Assembly" stated that:

Proponents of this model see it as a bridge between popular election and parliamentary appointment, giving the people a vote (if only an indirect one) while avoiding the risks of a President claiming a superior personal mandate to the Prime Minister of the day.

7.87 Similarly, Mr Peter Crayson observed that "republicans are generally divided into two main camps: minimalists and direct electionists". Mr Crayson, in presenting his "Constitutional Council" model, argued that it:

.... moves beyond the "minimalists" and the "direct electionists" paradigms, reconciling the two camps. The prospect of this reconciliation is the driving motivation behind this model.

7.88 However, it is also possible that some of these models may please neither side. For example, the ARM, again discussing its "Presidential Assembly" model, acknowledged that:

[T]he model stops short of full direct election with all its attendant democratic appeal. While it is intended to bridge the gap between direct electionists and those who favour parliamentary appointment, it may please neither group.

7.89 Some of the other models proposed to the Committee are outlined further below, including:

  • electoral college style models;
  • models with both a republican head of state and a Governor-General; and
  • other republican models.

Models with both a President and a Governor-General (page 128-129)

7.103 A number of separate, but similar, models were put to the Committee which proposed to replace the Queen with a directly elected Australian head of state, but also retain the position of Governor-General.

7.104 These models proposed different nomination methods, but retained the essential ingredient of a direct election of potential candidates for the Australian head of state. For example, Mr David Latimer suggested an "Honorary President" model. Under this model, Mr Latimer proposed a nomination process for the office of "Honorary President" involving public petition, each of six state parliaments nominating former Governors or Lieutenant Governors of their state, and the Commonwealth Parliament nominating a former Governor-General. This would be followed by a direct election with a maximum of ten candidates.

7.105 In terms of the role and powers, while these similar models varied slightly, most suggested that the distribution of powers and functions between the new Australian head of state and the Governor-General would remain essentially the same as the current situation with the Queen and the Governor-General. For example, Mr Latimer proposed that the "Honorary President" would have a ceremonial and symbolic role with no executive powers. The "Honorary President" would hold all powers of the current Queen of Australia, but the exercise of those powers would be limited to appointing and dismissing the Governor-General and state Governors.149 The Constitution would allow the "Honorary President" to delegate other powers to the Governor-General, who would be chosen by the Prime Minister and continue to exercise all powers in a similar way to the existing arrangements.

7.106 The Committee queried the potential for duplication and possible confusion over the roles of the Australian head of state and the Governor-General. In response, one of the proponents of this sort of model, Mr David Latimer, acknowledged that there may be overlap in terms of the ceremonial aspect of the roles of the proposed Governor-General and the Australian head of state, and that perhaps greater clarity might be required.

7.107 Submissions which proposed this type of model often argued that the advantages include minimal changes to the Constitution. However, the Committee notes that considerable change may still be required, for example, in terms of delineating and limiting the powers of the head of state as compared to the Governor- General. Some of the submissions proposing this form of model also acknowledged that there may be additional expense and costs involved in maintaining both the Governor-General and a directly elected Australian head of state.

Author's Notes

The footnotes in the report say that in mentioning the Honorary President model, the Senate Committee is not intending to endorse any particular version of this model over another.

The report's comment in 7.106 about greater clarity only concerns the ceremonial aspects of the role. In Hansard, the actual words used by the author, in concluding an extensive explanation of ceremonial roles of the Head of State and Governor-General, were as follows:

If the demarcation [between the roles] is not entirely clear here, I am sure that, because there is plenty of work to do, they would be able to work out the best thing for each of them to be doing.

The report's comment in 7.107 about additional expense did not refer to savings which were also mentioned in some submissions.