Australian republicanism was written about at length by academics, jurists and political commentators from here in Australia and afar with some multifaceted perspectives all of which has revealed a comprehensive understanding of the various forms of republican models. No absolute full proof algorithmic formula is considered perfect as such in proposing an Australian republican model of best fit. For a simplified formula for an Australian republic model there has considered a minimalist model or a direct popularly elected President republic model on the offing. In the meantime, in 1999, some 54.4% of Australians have answered on the republicanism question, in the attitude of, if it is still working well why change it, which meant that the status quo remained firm. Which means that Australians are, firstly, still apathetically ignorant of their history, their place on the planet, and in their consideration towards the path of the nationhood is still at its infancy. Secondly, in the fundamental principle question of citizenry sovereignty rights versus Imperial subjectivity and subjugation, the latter was reaffirmed and Australians choose to remain British subjectivity and subsuming their sovereign citizenry rights to this subjectivity in the process.
The Australian minority record, thus far, the Australian citizenry rights that was proffered to the indigenous persons of Australia was finally, historically considered ignominiously and shameful for the white imperial rulers and Australian citizens, had been granted to the indigenous people through a 1967 referenda. If this example was not embarrassing enough for white Australia then, once again, Australian citizens have had to ask another question about their sovereignty status with the question of whether Australians should become an independent sovereign nation or to continue to be an imperial subject to a Eurocentric ruler in a far off distant European nation.
The mainstream political agenda setters have been from the intellectual elites, politicians, academics, jurists and working class intellects. The views of the indigenous people have hitherto been ignored until the Keating administration proffered a chair on the consultation table for the representatives of the indigenous people in 1993. As for the multicultural groups they have been considered as outsiders and residual recipients of mainstream political decision making processes. The overarching value added debate of a democratic inclusive Australian citizenry is amongst the fundamental principles of republicanism. It behoves all true republicans anywhere to ensure that citizenry democracy is valued more so than imperial subjectivity.
The following two major Republican models have been considered by constitutional law jurists and academics was proffered to the Australian people to consider and to decide upon in the failed referenda of November 6th, 1999. The first and most accepted model was the ‘minimalist’ republican model. A democratic transition towards an Australian Republic by changing only some of the wording of the constitution and to repeal amend where necessary constitutional principles, above ensuring that the current parliamentary system remains with non-executive powers for the President. The most favoured minimalist model was then proposed to the Australian people.
However, the proposed law: “To alter the constitution to establish the commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and the Governor General being replaced by a President appointed by two thirds majority of the members of the commonwealth Parliament“
The Keating model proposed an inclusion to the minimalist model specifically so as to avoid political collusion of a politically ‘neutral’ President, which was to include a five year rest period, for a former serving politician, before he or she may be eligible for nomination, and eventually, be selected as an incumbent President. However, this addition to the minimalist model was not included in the referenda question in 1999.
The outcome of the republican referenda of 1999: 44.7% said yes and 54.4% said no, 1%informal votes.
In Glenn Patmore’s book, “Choosing the Republic” NSW press, 2009, he simplifies the considered alternative republican models for the people of Australia to consider more seriously.
I will discuss Glenn Patmore’s republican models he has explain so succinctly at length later, firstly, a brief history of the road to republicanism thus far.
The Australian republicanism has been on the minds of many Australians since Australians had seriously thought about their national self identity. The most significant paths towards self-determination for Australians had initially been marked with the creation of the federation of Australia, in 1901.
But, perhaps, the most significant momentous act towards Australian self-determination had begun with Her majesty Queen Victoria assenting to the letters patent for the establishment of the separate states of Australian, then known as New South Wales, within the New South Wales Constitutional Act, of 1842 (UK). (1)
The eventual separation of the states through the authorisation of the letters patent for the States of Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia would be preserved in the NSW Constitutional Act, in 1855 and the letters patent authorised on June 6th, 1859.
The passage towards representative democratic governments of the separate colonial states would make sure that a federation of the Australian states would be the inadvertent process towards nationhood, through the Australian Constitution Act of 1900 (UK).
When Henry Parkes and his colleagues were congratulating themselves and patting themselves on the back with the constitutional convention of 1891, there were some 15 republican groups listed within Australia during the 1880s. (4)
Perhaps, amongst the most famous of these journals was penned by the mother of the famous writer Henry Lawson. The republican debate was already a hot topic for the Lawson household. Louisa Lawson and her son Henry Lawson had already printed their circular “ The Republican in 1887. She and son Henry edited the Republican in 1887-88, which was printed on an old press in Louisa’s cottage. The Republican called for an Australian republic uniting under ‘the flag of a Federated Australia, the Great Republic of the Southern Seas’. The Republican was replaced by the Nationalist, but it lasted two issues.
Glenn Patmore had highlighted 1999 referenda question which had proposed the minimalist model for an Australian model and had contrasted it with the direct election model and the varings methodologies for nomination, selection process, prescribed powers, and the tenure of a proposed Australian President. However, I will not discuss the finer points at length since those are the considerations of the constitutional jurists experts to expand at length and not for this brief discussion.
The minimalist model:
1. The nominations are provided to the Prime Minister by the Presidential nomination committee
2. In the House of Representatives the Prime Minister moves and the leader of the Opposition seconds a motion that named Australian be chosen as the President.
3. The motion is affirmed by two thirds of the total number of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Direct Election:
Popular Elections of a President will result in a politically captured (biassed) President, similar to the United States of America, model. Secondly, the likelihood of an ill qualified and unsuited celebrity may be popularly elected into the Presidency.
Most Australians tend to be sceptical of political appointments since this will remove the democratic rights of most people to choose their President. Most Australians will consider the role of the President as exercising only the prescribed reserve powers which are presently imbedded within the present constitutional conventions of Australian parliamentary procedures.
The unique character of the Australian cultural identity has been shaped by its unique politics of proximity and the obvious Blainey’s tyranny of distance from the imperial ruler of Australia.(6)
In the context, of a hitherto considered , White monocultural and purportedly homogenous Australian history, the road towards a republic had been discussed at length through these mainstream Anglo-Celtic political power elites, as the aforementioned jurists, academics and politicians, and to some lesser extent, have included the egalitarian working class intellects. The later group of republican intellects had primarily come from the Labour left and the socialist movements. The influence of the Hibernian and Catholic church whom indeed become firm advocates and instrumental in instilling the Jacobite thoughtlines.
The multicultural perspective has been viewed as relatively apathy and insignificance in the debate. More particularly is the lack of active engagement by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Australian political history that was until the consultation process during the Keating administration, which had established the Republican Consultation Committee in 1993.
Up until then, the overwhelming Anglo-Saxon Protestant Australian population had considered the republicanism advocates as part of the alternative politics and only a fickle marginal intellectual elite challenge to the status quo.
Apart from the most apathetic attitudes and an indifference to political idea and notions to seemingly complex political movements, the lack of education made for a less receptive citizenry in appreciating the gravity of the momentous decision to becoming a republic. From the multicultural perspective, this apathy was even more obvious. Most minority groups considered that they were already considered as second class citizens and excluded from mainstream political issues. However, it would only natural for indigenous people to advocate for an Australian Republic more the obvious path to reconciliation for the citizens of Autralia and the indigenous people.
Conversely, moreover, the psychological barriers to accepting an Australian republic was for the obvious oxytosine linkages of many Anglo-Celtic people to their English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish families and homes whence they had emigrated from. Australia was historically speaking for many white Australians, and regional neighbours, always considered as a White Australian island of tranquility within a region full of Black and Brrown skinned Aboriginals, Asiatics and Pacific Islanders, and the thought of becoming a republic would be too much to handle, and would be a feather to break the back of a White Australian society.
The South East regional perspective had also chimed into the Australian republican debate with the most obvious multicultural distinctiveness of White Australians from their immediate neighbours Indonesians, Philipinos, Malaysians, Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians to add colour to the already Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander neighbourhood. Ethnically speaking most Australians are white Anglo-Celtic and of European ancestry. Yet, regionally speaking, Oceania and South East Asia region are populated by brown and black skinned Pacific Islanders and Aboriginal indigenous cultures. In the past two hundred years of white settlement has ushered in an overwhelming Eurocentrism of the Australian sociopolitical cultural landscape. This has brought into question two major mass migration movements, the first being the pre-world war two era of the white Australia policy and the Ben Chifley post World War Two white Australia policy re-visited, until it finally was ended by the mid 1960s with last ship loads of Ten Pound Poms had disembarked at various ports throughout Australia.
The influx of the initial non-European migrants begun with the post Vietnam war boat people which has established a tradition of boat people refugees in Australian detention centres ever since.
The Hanson era had begun in the mid-1990s with the acute resentment and xenophobia of many white Australians of the purported backdoor immigration of Asiatics and non-Europeans into Australia which would further add weight to the anti-Republicism by the ultra xenophobic white Australian nationalists, whom would seek international social network links with similar groups such as the British National Party (BNP), ultra right racially bigoted groups whom would inadvertently would support and become firm monarchists primarily within New Zealand, and Canada. Racism has chimed in with the regionalised splendid isolation attitudes brought about by the Geoffrey Blainey ‘Tyranny of distance’ fear mongering amongst many white Australians which would result in the firm resentment to any inkling of change, and certainly, the fear of a republic would imply the fear of the Asianisation of Australian society.
The Australian Constitutional Monarchists (ACM), naturally then, had found an unlikely ally amongst the rabble rouser of the mould of the White Australian supremacist of the mould of the Rompa Stompa misfit nihilist, the example of these persons have been evident with Australian flags draped around bodies with a visualised union jack highlighted by White racists. Conversely, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have their own flags already indicating to many multicultural groups that Australian society is quickly inculcating a culture of separate development, an Apartheid attitude, which may have also be a cultural legacy from varying influences such as disaffected migrating South African Afrikaners, post 1995, whom have arrived in Australia in the hundreds and thousands. ( (In the 2006 census most migrants into Australia, some 105,000 were from South Africa )(5)
All the while the mainstream media have been focusing their attention upon a handful of boat people arriving in dilapidated boats and shipped onto Christmas Island for detention.
In many respects the multicultural variable has factored a significant influence in the predominant ’No’ vote by most White Australians. As for the minority ethnic groups, particularly ethnic groups indigenous to the region whom would overwhelmingly view the Australian path towards a republic as not only significant in terms of showing Australian sovereignty is absolute terms and demonstrably as a natural hegemonic leader of Oceania and, perhaps, in the not too distant future Australia will be considered as a regional hegemonic power within the South East region, and not as surrogate European lovechild discarded amongst the Black and Brown indigenous people, as perceived, by ASEAN member nations, and the multicultural ethnic groups of the South East Asian and Pacific region.
4 The Essential Australian Republic Handbook, ARM, 2011 pg. 3