Direct election republican model (Australia)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A direct election republican model is a proposal for Australian constitutional reform. If proposal of this type is approved at a referendum, it would establish Australia as a republic with a Head of State chosen directly by the Australian electorate.

On face value, this definition describes a wide range of models, however when republicans express support for the direct-election model, support for a parliamentary system of government is usually implied. Such people are envisaging a reform where the Governor-General becomes a directly elected figurehead President and the Prime Minister remains the Head of Government.

Important models in this class[edit]

There are many proposals by individuals or small groups for a direct-election model, however the following is a list of models in this class which have been canvassed through governmental institutions:

  • RAC Popular Election model (1993)
  • Gallop model by Geoffrey Gallop (1998)
  • Hayden model by Bill Hayden (1998)
  • ARM Model 4 - People elect the President (2001)
  • ARM Model 5 - People choose from Parliament's List (2001)

Rationale[edit]

If implemented, the model would establish an Australian Republic by removing constitutional links to the monarchy. References to either Queen or Governor-General in the Australian constitution would be replaced by a reference to the President of Australia. The resulting structure would be similar to other parliamentary republics where the President has very little or no discretionary power.

Supporters of the model say that, although elected, the change to a republic is argued to have minor but positive impact on the rest of Australia's parliament and government. The elected President would be a true figurehead for the Australian people. New provisions in the constitution could prevent the President from taking control of the government away from the Prime Minister.

Critique of the Model[edit]

These models are criticised for their potential for unintended consequences. As the Head of State is elected, it is not clear what candidates may say or promise to improve their standing among voters. An elected President with a mandate may morally choose to abide by their promises instead of strictly following the rules of the constitution. This would create a constitutional crisis.

Such a possibility becomes more likely if the election is allowed to be contested by the major political parties. This would introduce cohabitation to the Australian political system.

Should the law provide effective apolitical provisions, it is argued that celebrities with a public profile would have an unfair advantage over more worthy candidates. Furthermore a very worthy nominee may decline to contest an election due to harsh media attention.

The models are also criticised for constitutional provisions which would, in practice, increase or decrease the political authority of the Prime Minister. It is argued that it is impossible to replicate the existing conventions as written constitutional law or that politicians would find and exploit loopholes.

A direct-election model would need careful consideration before it could be adopted by any of the six Australian states.

History[edit]

Direct election of the Governor-General was considered in the conventions leading to the federation of Australia, however rarely revisited until the advent of the modern republican movement.

In 1993 direct-election was reviewed as one of four options by the Republic Advisory Committee, chaired by Malcolm Turnbull. A partial and complete codification of the reserve powers of this model were presented. [1] Prime Minister Paul Keating rejected this option saying it would "constitute a very dramatic and undesirable change to a system which all of us agree has served us well"

Under Prime Minister John Howard, two models were closely examined and criticised at the 1998 constitutional convention. During voting, the Hayden model was first to be eliminated, however supporters of that model did not transfer all their support to the more popular Gallup model which was consequently next to be eliminated.[1]

At the 1999 Australian republic referendum, many direct-election republicans voted NO and ensured the defeat of the bi-partisan appointment model.

After the defeat, the Australian Republican Movement changed tactic and presented six republic options, of which three involved direct-election. Model 4 was developed from the Hayden model and Model 5 was developed from the Gallop model. Model 6 proposes a directly elected executive president, which would not retain the existing parliamentary system.

The 2004 Republican Senate Inquiry included models 4 and 5 in a recommendation that a plebiscite be conducted offering five alternative methods of selecting a head of state. According to opinion polls, if such a plebiscite were held, electors would be more likely to support direct-election models over alternatives.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vizard, Steve, Two Weeks in Lilliput: Bear Baiting and Backbiting At the Constitutional Convention (Penguin, 1998, ISBN 0-14-027983-0)

See also[edit]