The decision over whether Australia should stay a monarchy or become a republic is raging, especially around Australia Day. In Australia, republicanism is a movement to convert the country’s government from a constitutional parliamentary monarchy to a republic, with the monarchy’s monarch being replaced by a president. Before the Federation in 1901, Australia was the first country to embrace republicanism. After a period of decline following Federation, the movement resurfaced at the turn of the century, when successive legal and socio-cultural reforms severed Australia’s links with the UK.
Many individuals are concerned about the implications of such a shift on our political system. The questions and answers that follow, on the other hand, demonstrate that Australia’s predicament is not unique and that the issues that must be addressed are not particularly complex.
● Who is Australia’s current leader?
The potential answers to this question range from “no one” to “the governor-general” to “the Queen,” depending on your definition of “head of state.”
There is no such position because the term “head of state” is not stated in the Constitution. The Queen is granted executive power under Section 61 of the Constitution, which is exercised “on her behalf” by the governor-general. Even though the governor-general exercises executive authority, it is indisputable that the Queen is the source of executive authority. As a result, there would be no Governor-General if there was no Queen. As a result, the governor-powers general’s are entirely derivable.
If you define “head of state” as “the person who possesses ultimate executive authority,” you might refer to the Queen as such.
● What would be the advantage of Australia becoming a republic?
Such a move would be merely symbolic in the sense that it could be implemented without affecting how functions are apportioned under the Constitution. An Australian president would take the role of the Queen and the Governor-General.
It would imply that any Australian might aspire to be the one who embodies Australia’s ultimate source of governmental authority. It would also communicate to the rest of the world that we are fully independent, both in appearance and in truth, because we would no longer have a foreign ruler.
● What are the rules and how do they work?
There is a difference between a legal standard and a convention. A legal rule is enforced by the courts, but a convention is a norm whose effectiveness is completely based on customary compliance.
The confusion comes from the fact that what the governor-general is allowed to do under the law may differ dramatically from what they are allowed to do by convention. For example, the governor-general has the ability under Section 58 of the Constitution to decide whether or not to pass legislation “at his discretion.” In reality, the governor-general is required by convention to approve all acts enacted by parliament.
Almost all of the powers granted to the governor-general by the Constitution are specifically declared to be exercised only on the recommendation of the administration or on the suggestion of convention.
The governor-general, on the other hand, has four authorities that he exercises autonomously — that is, without consulting anybody. These are the following: appointing a prime minister, dismissing a prime minister, dissolving parliament, and refusing to dissolve parliament. Convention governs the circumstances in which these functions should be employed. That is the issue that precipitated the 1975 constitutional crisis. There was no debate that the governor-general had the legal authority to fire the prime minister under Section 64 of the Constitution. What was at issue was whether, according to the convention, failing to acquire a supply passed by the Senate warranted the use of that power.
● Is a democratically elected president consistent with our parliamentary form of government?
Ireland and Germany are both parliamentary democracies with an elected head of state who serves in the same restricted capacity as Australia’s governor-general. Presidential candidates cannot make campaign pledges since the way these presidents wield their powers is fully regulated by the constitution.
Campaigning for president in these nations is centred on who people believe would best personify and represent the country on the global stage, rather than on party politics or political ideas.
● Is having a popularly elected president a risk?
Some claim that a popularly elected president may believe they have the same authority as the government and hence flout the norms that regulate the position now performed by the governor-general.
Legislation enacted by elected officials is intended to be equitable. If people believe the laws are unjust, they can elect new leaders who will amend the laws. A republic provides more liberty and prosperity. The pursuit of economic goals helps the entire country, and individuals are able to live comfortably. The advantages of a republican government include extensive civic virtue development, enhanced liberty, and just laws, while the disadvantages include widespread corruption and administrative inefficiencies.