Australian republicans keen to restart head of state debate

The Australian Republic Movement (ARM) has stepped up its campaign to shed the Queen as the our head of state with the release of its preferred parliamentary model.

And while ARM wants an Australian head of state to replace the Queen and governor general, it does not propose a US presidential-style post with separate executive powers.

The ARM’s preferred model is for a ‘head of state’ with limited political punch.

“We would make sure there’s no overlap between the responsibilities of the prime minister and the head of state,” ARM director Sandy Briar told AAP.

The ARM wants the head of state to be “ceremonial in nature” with restricted powers to safeguard and maintain constitutional order and “solve political gridlock”. The incumbent could be removed from office for misbehaviour or incapacity.

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ARM chair Peter FitzSimons said under the proposed model, Australia’s head of state should in most cases be exercised ‘in council’ – that is, acting on governmental advice.

“Our view is that the head of state should rarely exercise power independently, without, or contrary to, the advice of an elected government,” he said.

The ARM proposes that candidates would be nominated by federal, state and territory parliaments for a shortlist of 11 and, once elected, serve for a fixed five-year term.

Every state would nominate one candidate and the federal parliament would be able to nominate up to three candidates. The post would be filled after a national election.

Eligible nominees must be a citizen, be eligible to be elected to the House of Representatives and not a current sitting member of any Australian parliament.

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“With the Queen’s reign drawing to an end, we’re about to see some dramatic change in Australia,” Mr Briar said.

“We’ll have Charles as King of Australia and that’s something that Australians clearly don’t want.

“Despite 70 years as our head of state, almost two-thirds of Australians are totally unaware of the Queen’s role in Australia’s system of government.

“It’s time that Australians had our own head of state.

“Our head of state should live here, be a proud Australian, be able to unify our nation in times of celebration or crisis, something the King or Queen of the United Kingdom could never do or be.”

More than 10,000 Australians took part in the ARM’s public research.

Read: Can we truly trust the opinion polls?

Mr FitzSimons said more than two years of consultations went into the report and it represented the most credible proposal for an Australian republic yet.

“After deep consultation we are confident they reflect what Australians have told us what they want,” he said.

The ARM also took advice from some of Australia’s most experienced constitutional law experts.

The issue of making Australia a republic was last put to a national vote in 1999. Polling by The Age in January found just 36 per cent of voters were in favour of becoming a republic, 27 per cent were against and 38 per cent were unsure or neutral.

YourLifeChoices members were asked for their thoughts on who should be our head of state in a republic and the answers covered a spectrum of candidates.

Celia suggested science communicator Dr Karl Kruszelnicki or comedian Anh Do, and why not? A comedian seems to be doing a pretty good job in Ukraine.

Ronloby’s first choices aren’t even human, or alive. He nominated Red Dog or Skippy, second choice “one of our two mining magnates”, so we suppose Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest. 

Tom Tank was thinking along the same lines and said mining magnates would want to run the country and “two of them” – probably Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest again – were already “heavily involved in politics” anyway.

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Written by Jan Fisher

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