Politics Should Australia become a Republic?

Should Australia become a Republic?

  • YES

    Votes: 76 62.8%
  • NO

    Votes: 45 37.2%

  • Total voters
    121

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Caesar

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Well, you have to ask the question as to what happens to the reserve powers of the Executive that are currently vested in the Head of State. Do you really want to give Cabinet the power to (say) sack Parliament?

The monarch (or some equivalent) doesn't have a big job, but constitutionally they're still very important. It's hard to eliminate without putting the whole system of checks and balances at risk.

What you're saying is a very interesting idea, and something I have pondered myself, but I haven't quite worked out how it could be done effectively.
 

Admiral Byng

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At the risk of returning to the topic, I've encountered no overwhelming argument which convinces me of the need for a head of state. I'm quite happy to be persuaded otherwise, but is it an imperative to have one? I'm sure there must be ramifications of not having one. What are they?
We have a head of state (effectively) in the G-G. The system has worked perfectly well for 100 years.

However, that person is still officially a representative of the Queen. All I'm after in a republic is to stop calling the G-G the Queen's represntative and call them something else that reflects that we are no longer a colony of England. It would still be the same office doing the same job, just the name would be changed so that they would no longer be linked to the Monarch.

I think it is a very low-risk proposition.
 

Caesar

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I've explained a number of reasons why there is a huge difference between the GG as a representative of the head of state, and having the position as the actual head of state. So has Roylion in previous threads.

It's not really "change the name, business as usual".
 

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Admiral Byng

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I don't find your reasons convincing. On your point about the prestige of the office, I said earlier I would simply call it "Australian Head of State" rather than "President" especially to avoid the problems you outlined. It is perfectly possible to make the change symbolic only whilst keeping the rest of the system intact.
 

Caesar

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I don't find your reasons convincing.
Two questions:

  1. How many modern non-hereditary HOS roles have had their powers decrease over time?
  2. How many modern hereditary HOS roles have had their powers increase over time?
The answer to both is 'not many'. Hereditary monarchs have tended to gradually cede most of their power to the legislature. Presidents and the like have tended to accumulate more.

Why? The reality is that the minute you make the HOS a selected position, there suddenly becomes a very strong push to make that selection more democratic. The more democratic the position comes, the more of a public mandate the person can claim to exercise power and challenge the will of the legislature.

You see it everywhere. History has shown that the greatest internal threat to any democracy is the creeping centralisation of executive power - usually around the head of state.

The fact that a hereditary HOS is such a patently anti-democratic institution perversely makes it the best possible repository for those very dangerous reserve powers. It means that people will always want the HOS tightly controlled and will be very opposed to giving them any more influence.
 

Subprime

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Ireland has an elected President, a country that has just had a massive financial crisis and has had an ongoing civil war for decades. I don't recall anyone complaining about Mary Robinson or her predecessors / successors taking over the army and enslaving the populace in peat-farming gulags.

Australia wouldn't change for the worse if we made the change to a republic. Same towns, same roads, same beaches, same people, different title for the Head of State, thats it. We don't become Argentina or Mexico or the USA upon changeover.

There wouldn't be any creeping power grab by the President because their powers would be well understood and defined to be the same as they've always been, a glorified ribbon-cutter who gets to call an election on the PM's say-so or in the event of a constitutional crisis.
 

Caesar

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Ireland has an elected President, a country that has just had a massive financial crisis and has had an ongoing civil war for decades. I don't recall anyone complaining about Mary Robinson or her predecessors / successors taking over the army and enslaving the populace in peat-farming gulags.
That's extremely silly. I am not saying it happens to every country, and I am certainly not saying it has to happen over years or even decades. What I am talking about is historical trends.

Again, history shows - hereditary heads of state tend to lose power over time, non-hereditary ones tend to gain it.

I am struggling to think of many instances in history when a hereditary monarch has effectively usurped power from an established, democratic legislature. King Gyanendra in Nepal is just about the only one I can think of. Almost uniformly, their roles continue to shrink.

By contrast, few countries have a non-hereditary HOS that is less powerful today than when the role was created. The vast majority that have been around for any length of time are far more powerful than initially envisioned. Consequently history is littered with non-hereditary heads of state who have turned themselves into dictators.

There wouldn't be any creeping power grab by the President because their powers would be well understood and defined to be the same as they've always been, a glorified ribbon-cutter who gets to call an election on the PM's say-so or in the event of a constitutional crisis.
Sure, now. Maybe tomorrow. But what happens when your children's children are the elderly, and nobody remembers what the role of a GG 'should' be?

Talk to an American citizen from 100 years ago and they would be flabbergasted at the idea that the President could wage war without the permission of Congress. Yet here we are.

The history of democracy is the history of shifting power structures. To be blase about the possibility because "everyone understands how it's supposed to work" is a very dangerous attitude. Particularly when you're talking about changing a system that works so well already.
 

Subprime

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That's extremely silly. I am not saying it happens to every country, and I am certainly not saying it has to happen over years or even decades. What I am talking about is historical trends.

Again, history shows - hereditary heads of state tend to lose power over time, non-hereditary ones tend to gain it.

I am struggling to think of many instances in history when a hereditary monarch has effectively usurped power from an established, democratic legislature. King Gyanendra in Nepal is just about the only one I can think of. Almost uniformly, their roles continue to shrink.

By contrast, few countries have a non-hereditary HOS that is less powerful today than when the role was created. The vast majority that have been around for any length of time are far more powerful than initially envisioned. Consequently history is littered with non-hereditary heads of state who have turned themselves into dictators.


Sure, now. Maybe tomorrow. But what happens when your children's children are the elderly, and nobody remembers what the role of a GG 'should' be?

Talk to an American citizen from 100 years ago and they would be flabbergasted at the idea that the President could wage war without the permission of Congress. Yet here we are.

The history of democracy is the history of shifting power structures. To be blase about the possibility because "everyone understands how it's supposed to work" is a very dangerous attitude.
I don't agree with your reading of historical trends.

The world has become more democratised in my lifetime and I don't put that down to the goodwill of constitutional monarchs.

There seem to be less dictators around nowadays than there were when I was growing up.

I don't agree with your premonitions of disaster should Australia become a republic either.
 

Caesar

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The world has become more democratised in my lifetime and I don't put that down to the goodwill of constitutional monarchs.
Neither do I. I put it down to the way they are treated by the populace.

Hereditary monarchs are completely anti-democratic and anti-meritocratic in every conceivable way. As a consequence, people do not trust them in the slightest and they do not want to see them given more power.

Because of this their role remains very restricted and they are isolated from the political process. As such they fulfil the job of custodian of reserve powers admirably.

People are much more trusting of heads of state they put there themselves. Although this is a quaint attitude, history shows it is often also a very dangerous one.

I don't agree with your premonitions of disaster should Australia become a republic either.
I'm not making premonitions of disaster. I am pointing out a heightened risk. IMO it behooves us to be circumspect when talking about significant constitutional upheaval.
 

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Im more in favour of anarcho-communism, but hey if it means we can rid our identity of the putrid british symbolism, its a step in the right direction.
 

jonoman89

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I've explained a number of reasons why there is a huge difference between the GG as a representative of the head of state, and having the position as the actual head of state. So has Roylion in previous threads.

It's not really "change the name, business as usual".
I think for once we may agree on something Caeser!

To import republican ideals into our "current" system could open the floodgates entirely. Seeing as so much of the whole thing is based on convention, to import republicanism (with it's strong leaning towards codification, strong legal principles etc.) would be a pretty conflicting action.

I dare say a "President" would want a lot more say in matters than a Governor-General due to conventional republican ideals, not to mention they would probably be elected politicians rather than public administrators.

I don't think the current Constitution could adapt properly. They'd have to do a lot more work than simply rename the GG as "President". There's a long history of "constitutions" being distorted to suit the needs of some shrewd lawyer, judge or politican. A republican constitution would need a lot more fail-safes in it than our current one.
 

Subprime

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Neither do I. I put it down to the way they are treated by the populace.

Hereditary monarchs are completely anti-democratic and anti-meritocratic in every conceivable way. As a consequence, people do not trust them in the slightest and they do not want to see them given more power.

Because of this their role remains very restricted and they are isolated from the political process. As such they fulfil the job of custodian of reserve powers admirably.

People are much more trusting of heads of state they put there themselves. Although this is a quaint attitude, history shows it is often also a very dangerous one.


I'm not making premonitions of disaster. I am pointing out a heightened risk. IMO it behooves us to be circumspect when talking about significant constitutional upheaval.
The heightened risk you speak of is a movement from 0.000001% to 0.00001% of something bad happening.

I repeat when Australia becomes a republic it won't turn into Argentina or some such.

It will most likely have a similar experience to Ireland which for the best part of a century has had a popularly elected president who has managed to cut ribbons and perform the odd constitutional duty without seizing power and enslaving the population.

The people of Ireland know what they are voting for and the Presidential candidates know what their role is.
 

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Where's c) Yes, BUT... ?

  • Must be popularly elected (the lack of this is what screwed things last time)
  • Ideally, holds only the powers of today's GG - at most, has direct power to make laws affecting the functioning of parliament and nothing more (wording of that power in the Constitution to be read narrowly, unlike the progressively expansionist reading of today's s51).
  • The transition will cost money and chew up government resources. It doesn't need to happen immediately while the government has far more pressing issues to deal with.
  • Can be booted by a super-majority of both houses.
 

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Caesar

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The heightened risk you speak of is a movement from 0.000001% to 0.00001% of something bad happening.
Well that's okay then. Can you give me next week's Lotto numbers while you're at it?

Hyperbolic references to slavery aside, as you inadvertently point out, the Republic of Ireland is an incredibly young country. It has only had a President as HOS for a little over 60 years. What will that role be 60 years from now? 100? 300? 500? We do not write constitutions for the next few decades.

Put it this way - who is in a better position to convince people to give them more power in the future? The democratically-elected, mandate-holding President of Ireland? Or the Monarch of England - undemocratic, unmeritocratic, and the direct descendant of despots?

I LIKE that nobody likes the monarch. I LIKE that people consider hereditry a horribly unfair method of determination. I LIKE that the job is held by inbred morons. All these things mean that nobody in their right mind would tolerate them abusing their power, nor would they be tempted to give them any more than the absolute minimum necessary.

That's a better safeguard than a few words on a page. History, from Greece & Rome to the United States, shows that rules and regulations will not stand between a politician with a mandate and more power.
 

Subprime

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Well that's okay then. Can you give me next week's Lotto numbers while you're at it?

Hyperbolic references to slavery aside, as you inadvertently point out, the Republic of Ireland is an incredibly young country. It has only had a President as HOS for a little over 60 years. What will that role be 60 years from now? 100? 300? 500? We do not write constitutions for the next few decades.

Put it this way - who is in a better position to convince people to give them more power in the future? The democratically-elected, mandate-holding President of Ireland? Or the Monarch of England - undemocratic, unmeritocratic, and the direct descendant of despots?

I LIKE that nobody likes the monarch. I LIKE that people consider hereditry a horribly unfair method of determination. I LIKE that the job is held by inbred morons. All these things mean that nobody in their right mind would tolerate them abusing their power, nor would they be tempted to give them any more than the absolute minimum necessary.

That's a better safeguard than a few words on a page. History, from Greece & Rome to the United States, shows that rules and regulations will not stand between a politician with a mandate and more power.
The Australian President would have a mandate to cut ribbons and perform the odd constitutional duty, the Australian Prime Minister would have the mandate to form a government, the mayor of my local council has a mandate to get my rubbish picked up and so on.

As far as the odds of bad things happening goes, personally I'm more worried that our inbred English head of state will send nuclear ships to liberate the oppressed people of the Pilbara (whilest annexing the entire region for safe-keeping) in the next few hundred years than I am about the posible actions of elected Australian Presidents, but that's just me.
 

Caesar

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The Australian President would have a mandate to cut ribbons and perform the odd constitutional duty, the Australian Prime Minister would have the mandate to form a government, the mayor of my local council has a mandate to get my rubbish picked up and so on.
But it doesn't stay like that, does it? Like I said, 100 years ago the US Congress had the mandate to wage war - not the President. How times change.

This is my point. Politicians parlay a popular mandate into influence in order to acquire more power - and a head of state selected and installed through the democratic process is very visible and has a very tangible popular mandate.

How do you think that the role of Roman Consul went from a Senate functionary to Emperor in less than 700 years? It certainly wasn't because the role wasn't clearly defined and limited.

As far as the odds of bad things happening goes, personally I'm more worried that our inbred English head of state will send nuclear ships to liberate the oppressed people of the Pilbara (whilest annexing the entire region for safe-keeping) in the next few hundred years than I am about the posible actions of elected Australian Presidents, but that's just me.
I'd say that's not a very measured view.
 

Subprime

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But it doesn't stay like that, does it? Like I said, 100 years ago the US Congress had the mandate to wage war - not the President.

This is my point. Politicians parlay a popular mandate into influence in order to acquire more power - and a head of state is very visible and has a very tangible popular mandate. How do you think that the role of Roman Consul went from a Senate functionary to Emperor in less than 700 years? It certainly wasn't because the role wasn't clearly defined and limited.


I'd say that's not a very measured view.
Nor is your view that someone elected for a very defined and limited role is somehow a possibility to take over the country.

Its a complete furphy.

Our proposed republic is not the same as the USA so I don't know why you continue to refer to it as some sort of an example. All I'll say is that George Washington would never have issued the emancipation proclamation.
 

Caesar

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Nor is your view that someone elected for a very defined and limited role is somehow a possibility to take over the country.
That's not my view. Reread, comprehend.

Our proposed republic is not the same as the USA so I don't know why you continue to refer to it as some sort of an example. All I'll say is that George Washington would never have issued the emancipation proclamation.
I'm making a general point about power tending to gravitate towards democratically-appointed heads of state at the expense of the legislature - despite ostensible constitutional limitations.

It is one supported by many, many examples throughout history - of which the USA is one.
 

Subprime

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That's not my view. Reread, comprehend.


I'm making a general point about power tending to gravitate towards democratically-appointed heads of state. It is one supported by many, many examples throughout history - of which the USA is one.
So how does this power shift happen?

Your point about the USA doesn't apply to the proposed Australian republic because the Australian President won't hold exectutive power. They'll be a glorified ribbon-cutter constitutionally like the President of Ireland. The Taoiseach still runs Ireland despite Mary Robinson's popularity.

Unless and until the Australian people decide to give the President more power any attempt to usurp it will be met with blank stares.
 

Caesar

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So how does this power shift happen?
Told you. Political mandate -> Political influence - > Political power.

The great advantage and the great threat of a democracy is that power comes from popular support. You are creating a democratic position based on popular support - indeed, more popular support than any other individual politician in the country will be able to command - but you expect that position to be (and remain) basically powerless.

Surely you can see the dissonance here?

Your point about the USA doesn't apply to the proposed Australian republic because the Australian President won't hold exectutive power.
Que? Of course they will, otherwise you don't need a President at all.

I thought you were talking about transferring the role of the monarch to a President? You're aware that the monarch holds executive power, right?

Unless and until the Australian people decide to give the President more power any attempt to usurp it will be met with blank stares.
Which is, ironically, my precise point. A President with a mandate - involved in the political process - is in a much better position to convince the Australian people to give them more power than a decrepit old monarch. And they are in a much better position to abuse any power they obtain.

It's why Presidents make such good despots.
 

Subprime

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Told you. Political mandate -> Political influence - > Political power.

The great advantage and the great threat of a democracy is that power comes from popular support. You are creating a democratic position based on popular support - indeed, more popular support than any other individual politician in the country will be able to command - but you expect that position to be (and remain) basically powerless.

Surely you can see the dissonance here?


Que? Of course they will, otherwise you don't need a President at all.

I thought you were talking about transferring the role of the monarch to a President? You're aware that the monarch holds executive power, right?


Which is, ironically, my precise point. A President with a mandate is in a much better position to convince the Australian people to give them more power than a decrepit old monarch. And they are in a much better position to abuse any power they obtain.
The Australian President would 'exercising power' on the basis of advice from the Prime Minister, same as the current GG, we're sticking with the Westminster system so the President acts on advice from the PM.

Its a ceremonial position.

The President won't have a political mandate to do anything other than cut ribbons and exercise their constitutional duty and every one in the country will be fully aware of that fact

(Reread - Comprehend).
 

Caesar

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The Australian President would 'exercising power' on the basis of advice from the Prime Minister, same as the current GG, we're sticking with the Westminster system so the President acts on advice from the PM.

Its a ceremonial position.
So they have power, they just exercise it under convention. That's fine. But you realise that the main force behind convention is that the PM has a democratic mandate and the monarch doesn't?

What happens when the head of state has their own democratic mandate? Their own agenda? What happens when you have a wildly popular President and a wildly unpopular Prime Minister?

The President won't have a political mandate to do anything other than cut ribbons and exercise their constitutional duty and every one in the country will be fully aware of that fact
Well, it's very nice that you think so, but extremely naive. That may work for 10 or 20 or 100 or 200 years, but the reality is that in all democratic systems the power eventually and gradually gravitates to where the popular support is.

The idea of a powerless yet popularly-elected President in a democratic system is swimming against the tide of political Darwinism.
 

Subprime

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So they have power, they just exercise it under convention. That's fine. But you realise that the main force behind convention is that the PM has a mandate and the monarch doesn't?

What happens when the head of state has their own mandate? Their own agenda? What happens when you have a wildly popular President and a wildly unpopular Prime Minister?


Well, it's very nice that you think so, but extremely naive. That may work for 10 or 20 or 100 or 200 years, but the reality is that in all democratic systems the power eventually gravitates to where the popular support is.

The idea of a powerless yet popularly-elected President in a democratic system is swimming against the tide of political Darwinism.
Popular support is with the Parliament, not the President. The President will be in no doubt about that and nor will anyone else.
 

Subprime

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If you say so.
You know its true.

I just thought of Italy for some reason, maybe its your nickname or your references to ancient Rome, but I googled it up and they have a parliamentary republic.

They've had all sorts of political turmoil over the years, they were a running joke with the way they replaced governments, not to mention the Mafia and the strains it put on their political systems.

Yet who could name Italian President, not me, everyone's heard of Berlusconi the PM, but the President is a ceremonial head of state who cuts ribbons for a living and signs the odd bill into law.

This despite the Italian President being popularly elected.
 

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