Head of State issue continues
Republicans tried much in the referendum campaign to build up
enthusiasm for a republican Head of State. Until then most Australians
were not much aware of the term, which is essentially diplomatic. It is
not used in any of our constitutions, state or federal.
What then is a Head of State? He or she is the person held out by our
government to other governments and the UN as our Head of State. The Head
of State receives, for example, a 21-gun salute. He or she receives the
credentials of foreign Ambassadors. He or she or they (you can have more
than one) may also be the Head of Government, as in the US. The Head of
State may be powerless or powerful, even a bloody tyrant, as Hitler was.
(Stalin wasn't, being merely the Secretary General of the Party and at
times, only, Head of Government). Where there is a separate Head of
Government, the Head of State usually, but not always, appoints the Head
of Government, usually called the Prime Minister.
The republican argument that we did not have an Australian Head of
State was undermined completely by the fact that the Governor-General is
treated internationally as our Head of State. The Keating government had
formally declared him to be precisely that. In other words we already have
a resident Australian Head of State.
(Mr Howard refers to him as the effective Head of State).
Some constitutional monarchists think the Governor-General should
actually be declared Head of State by legislation. This would not do more
than recognise what is already a fact. And anyway, can you imagine what a
frolic some MPs would have over such a bill, especially in the Senate?
It is fascinating to see that Bob Carr, Premier of New South Wales, (Daily
Telegraph 27 January 2003) wants the Governor-General to be
declared Head of State. Whether this would be by legislation or by
executive decision is not clear. He sees this as a first simple step
towards working for a republic, which he notes many see as inevitable.
He also suggests that instead of talking about a "republic"
we should use the word "Commonwealth", "that expressive
term used by republicans in the 17th century and adopted as the label for
our own democracy in 1901".
During the referendum debate, even republican newspapers made fun of
the ARM when it tried to ensure the words "republic" and
"president" did not appear in the referendum question. They knew
that both words have unfortunate connotations. Now that the nation's most
prominent Premier accepts that the Governor-General is the Head of State -
and wants a declaration to this effect - the arguments for constitutional
change are fast disappearing. Except the argument based on inevitability.
And if a republic is inevitable (which I don't believe for one moment.),
you don't have to do anything about it, do you?
The Abdication Crisis
Until recently, it was generally believed that the 1936 advice from the
Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments against the proposed
marriage of King Edward VIII to Mrs Wallis Simpson was given to the King
through the British Prime Minister. But constitutionally, each Prime
Minister was entitled to advise the King directly.
It was assumed that the full implications of the Balfour Declaration
and the Statute of Westminster had not been fully appreciated in 1936.
Documents released in London on 30 January 2003 now reveal that 24 days
before the abdication, on 5 December 1936, in a "most secret"
telegram, Australian Prime Minister Joe Lyons advised The King that the
marriage "would not be approved by my government".
According to The
Australian of 31 January 2003, Lyons said The King should abdicate
even if he did not marry because confidence in him and the Crown had been
This article is compiled from the newsletters of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, a member of the National Forum.
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