Imagine the scene.
Law and order has broken down, every evening hundreds of cars are torched, schools and hospitals burned down. You turn on the television for the evening news.
Instead of the presenter, the national anthem is played and the screen is filled with an announcement “The President of the Republic”, and the President is introduced.
The cameras move to a room in the Presidential Palace. The President addresses the nation. A central feature is his message to the youth of the nation: “Each one of you is a son or daughter of the Republic.”
He does not explain why the government, himself, the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Interior seem unable to act. He does not say, but the suspicion remains, that he wants to be re-elected at the next election and that the immunity the presidency gives is significant reason.
It has even protected him from investigation for alleged crimes in an earlier political office. And his Prime Minister and the Minister for the Interior are both rivals for preselection as the governing party’s candidate, and he can sack them both and dissolve parliament - if he wishes.
But he has to be careful. Last time he did that the opposition obtained a majority. He speaks for over a quarter of an hour, uninterrupted. But he says nothing of substance.
At the end, the presenter, deferentially, tells the nation what the President has just said.
This could be a nightmare, life in Federal Republic of Australia. It is actually happening in another republic - France’s Fifth. On the morning of Tuesday November 15, SBS repeated the previous evening’s TV news from Paris. This is from a major network, and intended for domestic viewing. It is not the equivalent of CNN or BBC World.
What viewers saw instead of the news was the President speaking platitudes for about 17 minutes.
The Fifth Republic is not working well, for at least three reasons.
First there is the structural flaw of having a political head of state with codified but considerable powers together with a parliamentary prime minister. Unbelievably, this is the sort of republic Mark Latham wanted and Mr Beazley now seems to favour. They actually want to replace our stable constitutional system with this?
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