Honorary President

Senate Submission


 The Amendments 
 20 References
 Section 126
 Section 59
 Section 60
 Section 61
 Section 2
 Section 4
 The States
 All Amendments

 The Election 
 Why Elect
 Electoral Law

 The Two Roles
 Costs v Benefits
 Free Speech

 Other Issues 
 One Royal Link
 Honorary Vice Pres
 Spectrum of Powers
 More Questions


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Honorary President


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© 2004 David Latimer

The Amendments

Constitutions of the States

At the 1998 Constitutional Convention, delegates agreed that there was no need to make recommendations for constitutional change at the state level. The final communiqué declared that ‘any move to a republic at the Commonwealth level should not impinge on state autonomy and the title, role, powers, appointment and dismissal of state heads of state should continue to be determined by each state.’

Given the importance of state government, such a declaration was quite unacceptable. The difficult process of finding an acceptable model in the Federal jurisdiction would need to be repeated a further six times over. Had the referendum passed by a slim margin, any states that by majority voted against the republic would have had grave political difficulty deciding which way to go, especially as retaining the Queen was an option.

If there was any constitutional decision that should apply to the whole nation, it should have been the republican decision. The requirements of section 128 are that amendments should be approved by a majority of states. This is the appropriate expression of states’ rights with respect to Australian sovereignty.

Furthermore, Australians do not think of themselves as citizens of their states, in addition to being Australian citizens. There would have been an outcry, if some states had retained the monarchy. Such an outcome would be met with disbelief or ridicule.

There was nothing to fear for states’ rights and any acceptable republican model should address the issue of amending state constitutions directly. The model for an Honorary President addresses the issue completely.

Should a state continue with its existing constitution, the combined effect of the proposed section 126, the succession of the Presidency, and the existing section 109, which declares that Commonwealth law prevails over state law, would result in the Presidency taking the place of the Queen within that state. Sub-section 59 (v) allows the Honorary President to appoint the Governors and Lieutenant Governors of each state.

Fortunately, for a state to adopt the Honorary President model, the amendments required to state constitutions are straightforward:

  • References to the Queen or the Crown would be replaced with references to either the Presidency or the Honorary President according to its context
  • The appointment procedure for the State Governor would be replaced with a similar procedure to section 2, except that the State Premier would make the nominations in the place of the Prime Minister.
  • A provision would specify the powers of the Honorary President within the state, including the delegation of powers to the Governor and representing the Presidency in ceremonial functions. Sub-section 60 (vi) allows the state to offer the Honorary President special powers, however do so would not be in keeping with the principles of the model.

The result, once all state constitutions were changed, would be a unified federal system, with the Honorary President as its common core. Each state executive government would be a branch of the one Presidency, on the same footing as the Federal Government.

On a practical level, a unified federal system would mean that citizens and companies could move between states and find the fundamental structures of government are similar. It would mean the interpretation of administrative law would be comparable across jurisdictions. It also would mean that ideas improvements in governance could be adopted between states with less difficulty.

In fact, today we take our unified federal system all for granted, but it is an important facet of our federation. It is something well worth preserving in any transition to a republic. That is why every republican model must provide for the establishment of states in a republican form.

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