Overview <!IMG SRC="bluedot.gif" WIDTH=200 HEIGHT=10 alt=""> Title Introduction Framework Origins Advantages The Amendments <!IMG SRC="bluedot.gif" WIDTH=200 HEIGHT=10 alt=""> 20 References Section 126 Section 59 Section 60 Section 61 Section 2 Section 4 The States All Amendments The Election <!IMG SRC="bluedot.gif" WIDTH=200 HEIGHT=10 alt=""> Why Elect Apolitical Electoral Law Timing Independence <!IMG SRC="bluedot.gif" WIDTH=200 HEIGHT=10 alt=""> Introduction The Two Roles Costs v Benefits Free Speech Other Issues <!IMG SRC="bluedot.gif" WIDTH=500 HEIGHT=10 alt=""> Referendum One Royal Link Honorary Vice Pres Spectrum of Powers Questions More Questions Conclusion
Response to the Senate Discussion Paper
The Legal and Constitutional Committee of the Australian Senate was referred an inquiry into the Australian Republic on 26 June 2003. The Honorary President Republican Model was sent to the committee on 31st March 2004, in response to the call for submissions.
The Committee developed a discussion paper, which outlined the key questions they felt should be answered. The following section is how these questions were answered in the submission. Soon after the Senators had reviewed the submission, the author was asked to give evidence before the Committee on 13th April 2004.
The Head of State
The interpretation taken for the development of this model is taken from sections 1 and 2 of the existing constitution. The Honorary President Republican Model provides for a Head of State to replace the Queen of Australia.
Question 1 Should Australia consider moving towards having a head of state who is also the head of government?
This is not proposed under the Honorary President model, which provides for an independent and elected Head of State.
Powers of the head of state
Under the model proposed, the powers of the Queen of Australia are transferred to an elected Honorary President through succession. The powers of the office are limited and entirely codified.
The republican succession will have the same affect on the Governor General and state governors as a monarchical secession. They would continue to be bound by constitution conventions which remaining not justiciable or codified. This arrangement will continue existing principles of good government and provide flexibility during any crisis involving executive constitutional powers.
Question 2 What powers should be conferred on the head of state?
The constitution would be amended to create a position of Honorary President to hold all the powers, functions and immunities of the Queen of Australia. Exercise of these powers and functions would be limited to ceremonial activities and appointing and dismissing the Governor General and state governors. The Honorary President would also be subject to legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament which could limit the immunities transferred to the Honorary President from the Queen and provide a number of continuing eligibility requirements, provided the legislation did not interfere with constitutional duties.
The Queen’s power to disallow legislation would be removed from the constitution and not transferred to the Honorary President.
Where prerogative powers and ancillary powers and functions held by the Queen are necessary for good government at a state or commonwealth level, the constitution would allow the Honorary President to delegate the power or function to the Governor General and state governors as required. This delegation would be equivalent to the letters patent. The constitution would explicitly state the Honorary President is not permitted to exercise such powers directly.
The powers of the Governor General and state governors, including reserve powers would remain unchanged during the republican transition. They would continue as delegates of the Presidency and be protected by the transferred immunities.
Question 3 What powers (if any) should be codified beyond those currently specified in the Constitution?
The above formula presents a full codification of the powers of the Head of State (Honorary President).
In contrast, there would be no further codification of the powers and functions of the Governor General and state governors. Their reserve powers would be available in their existing form. The constitutional conventions continue as true conventions and remain outside the jurisdiction of the High Court.
Under the model proposed, the Australian people as one electorate would choose the Honorary President. Candidates would be mostly former governors and former governors-general nominated by the parliaments. There would be three other candidates with demonstrable public support across all states.
The conduct of the election would then be directed by federal legislation. The electoral process would be distinguished from that of parliamentarians at every stage, reflection the difference between them in terms of their constitutional duty and position.
Concerning the Governor General, the existing constitutional convention that binds the Queen to accept the advice of the Prime Minister would find a new form in the proposed constitution. This would provide that only the Prime Minister makes nominations for Governor General. The Honorary President is limited to delaying the appointment and would consider doing so only during a constitutional crisis. Similar provisions could be included in state constitutions to codify the same convention at the state level.
In practice, the Governor General would continue to be selected by the Prime Minister, the governors by their respective state premiers. There would be no need to develop eligibility rules for these positions.
Question 4 Should some form of campaign assistance be available to nominees, and if so, what assistance would be reasonable?
No campaigning assistance would be provided to individual nominees and legislation could be required to prevent candidates from using commercial advertising and associating with political parties.
The government would be required, by legislation, to provide a fixed amount of information about each candidate to electors in a regulated manner. At a minimum this would include a booklet of all candidates set to Australian households and broadcast on government radio and television and interested commercial stations.
The appointment of the Governor General would continue to be a confidential matter between the Prime Minister, the Head of State and the nominee.
Question 5 Should or can political parties be prevented from assisting or campaigning on behalf of nominees? If so, how?
This model is designed to make political parties disinterested in the election of the Honorary President.
Major political parties should accept the constitutional fact that the office of Honorary President would be separate entirely from executive government and be no political prize. Unlike the Governor General, the position offers not even theoretical capacity to implement, support, block or frustrate policy or political leadership. This in itself may ensure that the major political parties would have minimal interest in influencing the outcome of the election, for financial reasons alone.
This consideration would be amplified by the nomination restrictions that encourage state governments and oppositions to support their state governor, rather than a federal nominee. An attempt by a major political party to promote one candidate would be stymied in the state branches of the same party, who must also support their state MPs.
Importantly, if the Prime Minister (or Premier) has in-mind an excellent candidate for Head of State, the model offers them the opportunity to appoint that person to Governor General (or Governor) with a better chance of success in a subsequent election
Minor parties may feel more free and have greater interest to support a candidate, however due to their size, they would be exhausted mounting a petition and successful campaign unless the candidate already had personal mainstream support.
Despite these constitutional and practical restrictions, the Federal Parliament would be expected to provide legislative safeguards that would prevent nominees from associating from political parties. As legislation, the government could adapt it to reflect changes in political activities over time with an interest not just in the probity of the position but also in maintaining the political dominance of the Parliament.
The appointment of the Governor General would continue to be a confidential matter between the Prime Minister, the Head of State and the nominee.
Question 6 If assistance is to be given, should this be administered by the Australian Electoral Commission or some other public body?
The Australian Electoral Commission is well placed to administer the legislation and regulations concerning the conduct of the election
Question 7 If the Australian head of state is to be directly elected, what method of voting should be used?
Any voting method could be used to select the Honorary President, however ideally the method of voting should be distinguished from that of parliamentary elections. The following explanation details one method of achieving such a distinction.
A voting pamphlet would be send to each household and completed ballots would be returned via the post. This would minimise costs and reinforce the idea that the Honorary President has little executive power. The election could be held in the months after a general election, avoiding the costs of updating the electoral rolls.
Voters could be given the option to answer Yes, No or Abstain for each candidate, reflecting a typical voter who would either approve or disapprove of a candidate without needing to rank them in comparison with the others. This simple voting method would reduce informal voting, remove the need for how to vote cards and prevent strategic voting. The candidate receiving the highest percentage of Yes responses would win the election
As a whole, the method is distinguished from parliamentary elections in a number of key areas. The intensity of competition between candidates would be reduced and the opportunity for negative campaigning eliminated.
Question 8 If direct election is the preferred method for election of a non-executive president, will this lead to a situation where the president becomes a rival centre of power to the Government? If so, is this acceptable or not? If not, can the office of head of state be designed so that this situation does not arise?
The powers of the Honorary President are codified by the constitution and limited to ceremonial functions. The only official contact between the Honorary President and the government occurs when the Governor General or a state governor is appointed. The powers would not allow the Honorary President to exercise any executive power at any time, either directly or indirectly.
The title Honorary President conveys to voters the ceremonial nature of the office. This understanding, re-enforced by the guided nature of the electoral process prevents the Honorary President from claiming any mandate or any right to suspend or bypass the explicitly stated restrictions on power under this model.
In contrast, the Governor General would retain reserve powers and the many powers provided by the constitution. As an appointed person, they would be limited by the existing constitutional conventions. If the Governor General exercises power without the advice government ministers, they could be quickly removed by the Honorary President upon the nomination of a replacement by the Prime Minister.
Question 9 Who should be eligible to put forward nominations for an appointed head of state? For elected head of state?
The constitution would provide three methods of nomination of candidates for the election of the Honorary President
As discussed previously and quite separate from the election of the Honorary President, the Prime Minister could make a nomination for Governor General at any time. Similarly, one nominee for state governor could be made by a Premier. The Honorary President would make the actual appointments.
Question 10 Should there be any barriers to nomination, such as nominations from political parties, or candidates being current or former members of parliament?
In accordance with section 60, the Federal Parliament would be expected to enact legislation to disqualify nominees who do not meet the eligibility requirements. Section 60 also allows the Parliament to provide other restrictions.
As discussed in the previous section, there are parliamentary and public nomination methods and each is restrictive.
For parliamentary nominations there would be a requirement to serve a minimum term in their position as Governor General, Governor or Lieutenant Governor. Each parliament could only make one nomination. As there are seven parliaments the number of nominations is thus limited to seven.
For public nominations, there would be a minimum number of petitioners. The successful petitions would in be the top three in terms of the number of signatures.
In contrast, there would continue to be no restrictions for the Prime Minister or a Premier when making a nomination for Governor General or Governor.
Question 11 Should there be a maximum and/or minimum number of candidates?
Parliamentary nominations typically would number seven. The constitution would fix the number of successful public-petitions to three. There would be a maximum of ten candidates.
It would be acceptable if no petition with significant support in more than one state was successful. But it would be unacceptable if there were less than three candidates in total.
For Governors-General (and Governors) there is only one nomination, made by the Prime Minister (or Premier.)
Question 12 Should there be a minimum number of nominators required for a nominee to become a candidate?
Yes. For candidates nominated by petition, this minimum number should be set by legislation, be in terms of thousands of petitioners and be distributed across multiple states. For example the formula may be 10,000 signatures with at least 500 signatures from every state and 200 signatures from the territories combined.
With a limit of three nominations by petition, if four or more candidates passed the above test, a second formula could determine the most successful three petitions, for example by simply counting the total number of petitions.
Title of head of state
What should the head of state be called, Governor
General, President of the Commonwealth of Australia or some other title?