Republic Now

There is absolutely no reason why our government should answer to a foreign monarch, writes Matthew Hatton.

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Photo: The Queen poses with an Australian flag and bouquet of flowers at a luncheon with then Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 2006.

You know those moments when you read something and you have to stop, take a deep breath and contemplate for a moment how you’re going to respond because what you’ve read is just so abjectly, categorically and utterly wrong that you’ve suddenly lost all ability to process thoughts in your usual manner?

I had one of those moments reading an article on this very site detailing some reasons why Australia should remain a constitutional monarchy.

Now, I like Liz. I have a big soft spot for Phil as well. Charles, well, he has an Aston Martin that runs on wine which I guess is pretty cool but otherwise he’s a rather large bucket of meh.

But for Australia (to borrow and oft-quoted line from an oft-quoted film), watery tarts distributing swords are no basis for a system of government. This is even more so for a modern country in our modern times. (Where the hell is my hoverboard? Clock is ticking, science).

Let me be blunt: there is absolutely no reason why our government should answer to a foreign monarch. Zero.

Has there been any sovereign states created since Australia’s federation in 1901 that have adopted our “revered” system of government?

Why should we remain ruled over by a person whose only claim to the job is that they happened to be born to the right parents who also happened to be born to the right parents who also happened to be born… etc, etc.

What could you possibly argue in favour of this?

“Australia’s system of government, constitution and set of laws are revered by the rest of the world”? Citation needed.

Has there been any sovereign states created since Australia’s federation in 1901 that have adopted our “revered” system of government, which places a foreign national as our head of state? I’m drawing a big goose egg.

South Sudan? Nope. What about all those Balkan states that broke up in the mid-1990s? Nope. How many constitutional monarchies came out of the Soviet Union’s collapse? Oh look. Not a single one.

Hell, even India gave the monarchy the flick when they gained independence in 1947.

Basically, no one is lining up to copy our system of government.

(As an aside, once you get past Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom in the list of states with Liz as their head, the remainder comprise assorted Caribbean and Pacific Islands. Rule Britannia.)

To suggest that any particular bill, or bill to amend the constitution, would cost excessively more than any other bill is a nonsense argument.

The next issue raised is one of cost.

Yes. Drafting legislation costs money. People need to do it, preferably smart people, and those people should be paid for their work. Indentured servitude, thankfully, is not a thing in this country anymore.

However, drafting amendments to the constitution – it wouldn’t have to be “rewritten” in its entirety – would likely cost little more than any other law that goes before the parliament. And plenty of legislation goes before parliament each term of government.

To suggest that any particular bill, or bill to amend the constitution, would cost excessively more than any other bill is a nonsense argument.

If we wanted, we’ve got draft amendments to the construction left over from 1999. So really that work has already been done and that money, if any, has already been spent.

You would have to pay for the cost of an election, assuming your referendum was not held at the same time as a normal federal election. According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the 2010 federal election cost a shade over $161 million. Not exactly budget breaking stuff.

Further more, removing references and symbols of the monarchy would not occur instantly. These things can be phased in over time, thereby rolling transition costs into the usual spending that occurs when things are replaced. Bank notes, for example, are taken out of circulation and replaced with new ones constantly. All you have to do is come up with a new design and over the course of a note or coin’s lifecycle you would phase in new ones. Simple.

England is fundamentally changing their banknotes soon and the cost of doing so is not part of the discussion at all. It’s a non-issue.

In any case, it would be a better use of taxpayer money than the $2 million-odd it is costing us for a couple and their kid to celebrate their second wedding anniversary by having a holiday here.

If there is no practical reason to have the Queen as our head of state – if she performs no real functions – why keep her?

Finally, we come to the argument about the “Australian identity”.

It is asserted that the Australia Act 1986 severed legislative ties with the United Kingdom, and it did.

What the Act didn’t do, however, is revoke any of the constitutional powers vested in the Queen – which is the important bit.

The Governor-General, and every state Governor, is appointed by the Queen. Every bill passed by our parliament is sent to the Governor-General to obtain the royal assent before it is made into law.

Yes, in practical terms, these people are appointed by the government of the day and they are the ones that sign laws of the Queen’s behalf. But if there is no practical reason to have the Queen as our head of state – if she performs no real functions – why keep her?

If “[t]he crown hasn’t influenced Australian politics in decades”, why still have them? What’s the point?

It is time Australia was looked after solely by Australians.