More on the Elusive Republic
I was expecting more opposition to my simple minimalist proposition that the Governor-General be Australia’s head of state. No Augean stables task of codifying the reserve powers – and, in any case, drawing attention to them, would only alarm the public and arouse opposition to some of them being distributed to the Prime Minister (commanding the armed forces for example).
People seemed to understand – at least in the feedback I got – that an elected president would be a new and potentially destabilising element in a parliamentary or Westminster constitution. I was heartened by that because there is an easy appeal in saying, let’s elect the president.
Nick Minchin argued that the Queen is not Australia’s head of state. I quoted the document that installed me as Minister for Planning and Environment. I said the relevant document making Amanda Vanstone and Nick Minchin ministers used the same language. They are the words of the Queen, not the Governor-General (or, in my case the Governor of NSW). Here is the beautiful antique language:
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. To Our Trusty and Well-beloved The Honourable Robert John Carr, M.P., Greeting. Know You, That We, reposing great trust and confidence in your ability, zeal, industry, discretion and integrity, Do, by these presents, appoint you to be a member of Our Executive Council of Our State of New South Wales, and to perform and be responsible for the functions and enjoy the privileges of such Office.
In any case, to rebut Nick Minchin one last time, this is what the Queen’s own website says:
The Queen is the Head of State of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms.
That includes us.
And there is a moderate, reasoned case to modernise this arrangement.