School Students reject "Politician's Republic"

George Bougias addresses the students at the Western Region Constitutional Convention

George Bougias addresses the students at the Western Region Constitutional Convention

An aquaintance of mine, George Bougias, who belongs to Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy (an organisation which I myself have not joined – not because I do not agree with their ideals but because, as I think I have said before, I am not by nature a “joiner”), sent around an email report of schools “Constitutional Convention” held recently in which he participated as a speaker. This is his report:

Dear all

Just to let you know that, this month, I once again participated in the ‘Western Region Constitutional Convention’ (in Melbourne) where students from 3 schools get to hear 2 speakers (for and against a politicians’ republic).

There were also other speakers including from local government, the AEC etc.

Student groups are divided into ‘States’ and then vote on whether they want Australia to remain a Constitutional Monarchy or become a Presidential Republic

In a mirror result to last year, our Constitutional Monarchy was victorious with NO State voting for a politicians’ republic and the referendum question being massively defeated in a landslide.

The main arguments for rejecting a politicians’ republic by the students were:

1. Australia functions well at the moment and there is no reason to change; and
2. There are serious questions over whether a President be trusted.

I note that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) conducted the formal vote (so republicans cannot complain about any ‘rigging’ etc etc etc)!!!

I attach some photos from my presentation.

God Save the Queen!


Interesting, no? Two questions (which I will put back to George also):

1) What precisely does he mean when he says that the students rejected “a politician’s republic”? I assume he means one where the politicians do the appointing. Were the students open to some other kind of republic?

2) Why was “trust” an issue with a proposed president? Surely whether or not any “president” can be trusted will depend on what powers the President is given?

Of course, in my own model (see sidebar), the Elected Monarch has only the power of appointing the person whom the Premier/Prime Minster chooses as Governor/Governor General, so the issue of “trust” doesn’t come into it. Also my model changes nothing at all about how Australia functions except to have a resident Australian Citizen as Head of State. (I remind readers as I have before, that my own preference is to retain the Monarch of Great Britain as the Monarch of Australia.)

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5 Responses to School Students reject "Politician's Republic"

  1. Matthias says:

    The politicians’ republic is the appointment by them of a head of state,whilst most Australians do not trust Them with that task.
    I would venture that the issue around trusting a president may pertain to whether a model of any future Presidency is a French or USA version,rather than the same powers as the GG and just the name changed.
    I should ask a former acquaintance who is a Junior Federal Cabinet Minister -our wives nursed together,and if he had not been elected,we joked that we would set up ourselves up as financial consultants to the Royals.

  2. Peregrinus says:

    I’m also curious to know what he means by “politician’s republic”. I notice that he also uses the term “presidential republic”. Is “politician’s republic” intended as a contrast to “presidential republic”? Or is it a particular kind of presidential republic? Or is it – the thought is an unworthy one, I confess – intended as a slightly derogatory alternative term for presidential republic? For that matter, what does he mean by “presidential republic”? The term seems almost tautologous, if you overlook the rather small number of republics with “collective presidencies”.

    The trust issue is a serious one. When Ireland had this debate in the 1930s, one of the concerns about a directly-elected president was that he could oppose a prime minister (elected by parliament) with the plausible claim that he had a stronger democratic mandate. This being the 1930s, the potential for a populist coup d’etat by an elected leader was all too obvious. Because of these concerns, the constitution contains quite strict restrictions on the president (can’t address the people without the approval of the government; can’t address parliament except by invitation, etc). In the event, though, the problem has never arisen.

    FWIW, to my mind the only argument in favour of a president chosen by parliament/politicians/some kind of unelected electoral college is the one which points to the danger of undermining parliament, and the executive accountable to it, if the president has a direct democratic mandate.

    But the trust issue is not avoided by not having a republic. Why should a Governor General be any more trustworthy than a President? We may limit the danger from an untrustworthy president by ensuring that he has no democratic mandate, as we currently do for the GG, but that doesn’t – as we know – always stop him from decisive interventions in the nation’s political life. It seems to be that the best protection here lies not in a preference for monarchy over republicanism, but in a strong separation of powers, and a strong federalism – and, as you point out, in carefully defining the powers of the president. And that can be done whether we have a directly or indirectly elected president.

    • Schütz says:

      But this is the point I have been making all along. The GG is not our head of state, he is the active representative of the head of state, and we would not be replacing the GG with a President, but the Queen withy a President. The GG is restrained in the exercise of his powers because he is under the authority of the Queen, our true Head of State. The Queen is restrained in the exercise of her powers because practically speaking she exercises no power except the appointment of her representatives. That’s what still, I think, makes the current Australian situation (and my proposal if you really want an Australian Head of State) so beautiful.

      • Peregrinus says:

        Well, it depends on what you mean by “head of state”. If you mean “person whose name or image is from time to time invoked for ceremonial purposes”, then the head of state is the Queen. But if you mean “person who actually takes such head-of-state decisions and actions as arise under the Australian constitution”, then the head of state is the GG. Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, whom you haven’t quite joined, are in fact very strongly of the view that our head of state is the GG.

        Another way to look at this is to see Australia as having a divided head of state, with certain aspects of headship (some of what Bagehot would have called the dignified aspects) exercised by the Queen, and others (including all of what Bagehot would have called the efficient aspects) exercised by the GG.

        In a fully republican model, a President would likely replace both the Queen and the GG in the Australian constitution. But, in terms of the exercise of political power and influence, his replacement of the GG would be everything and his replacement of the Queen practically nothing.

        It is, of course, perfectly possible to have a divided headship under a republican model, and in fact Ireland was in this situation from 1937 to 1949, with the British King exercising some limited head-of-state functions (accrediting and receiving ambassadors, for example) while the great bulk of head-of-state functions (e.g. granting a dissolution of Parliament) were performed by the President (and not as the King’s representative, because he wasn’t).

        I don’t advocate this particular model for Australia, of course. My point is simply that a President need not wholly replace the Queen and the GG, if it is desired to retain some role for either of them, or if either of them currently exercise powers or functions which it is though best to keep out of the hands of a President. But a President who did not substantially replace the GG would not be the head of state; the GG would.

  3. George says:

    Thanks David – my responses:

    1. A republic in the common understanding is, by definition, always a “politicians’ republic” because it always has a President. A President will always be a politician who will act like a politician (to gain and retain office etc). At a practical level, whether elected by Parliament or through a direct election, the politicians choose from amongst themselves who will be President (or their friends) and it is a matter for them. I only look at Greece (a country whose politics I follow closely) to see that ‘former’ politicians become Presidents.

    The students overall supported our current system of Government which is a Constitutional Monarchy or a “Crowned Democracy.” There is also a view that we are “Crowned Republic.”

    2) Trust is an issue because in a republic all power of the Crown is transferred to the politicians (see above). In addition – and this is a finer point – in a Constitutional Monarchy people place their loyalty in the Crown. In a republic, who / what will they choose? The President who is a politician? In times of instability and Constitutional crisis this loyalty to an institution above politics is priceless.

    In terms of the resident ‘Australian Citizen as Head of State’ debate I remind readers that we already have – the Governor General. This matter has now been conclusively settled.

    Some more info on the day below:

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