Doorstop Interview: “Conservatives for an Australian Head of State” Launch

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Address to The Age Vision 21 Millenium Series
October 28, 1999

Doorstop Interview: “Conservatives for an Australian Head of State” Launch

Transcript No. 99/81

Transcript of
Andrew Robb, Malcolm Fraser, Michael Lishman, Peter Costello

“Conservatives for an Australian

Head of State” Launch

4 Treasury Pl, Melbourne
10.00 am
Wednesday, 27 October 1999

SUBJECT: Republic


Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to issue a very warm welcome to the official

launch of the campaign by Conservatives for an Australian Head of State.

Our organisation was formed in January this year to provide a genuine and

unambiguous voice to those millions of Australians who are very cautious

about change, and in particular are cautious about constitutional change,

yet would like to see an Australian citizen as their Head of State. In their

hearts they want to see an Australian as our Head of State.

Our organisation is not a mass movement, it is a group of like minded Australians

who share those objectives. And thats the template weve brought to bear

in assessing the model that were going to vote on next week. And we are

confident, we are very confident that the model that we have got before

us does in fact deliver us an Australian Head of State without any other

significant change to the way in which we govern ourselves. And Id like

to welcome a lot of our friends of Conservatives for an Australian Head

of State, committee members, and parliamentary friends who have joined us

today. Its been a very encouraging development over the months. Lots of

people put in a lot of time to satisfy themselves about the model, that

it met those objectives, that it met the objectives of truly conservative

minded people.

And the support from a lot of people in this room and others, and weve

got lists out there of all those who were involved with our organisation,

weve got lists there, they really have given a lot of consideration to

this model and I think they will, by their presence, by their support, I

think provide a lot of comfort to millions of other Australians who are

cautiously minded.

John Howard has consistently said that every Australian should have a free

vote on this issue. And hes right. Hes right. Because whether we keep

the Queen as our Head of State is not an issue of party philosophy or party

politics. Its not a left or right issue. And those who suggest that a Yes

vote is an act of disloyalty to John Howard, I think in many ways is simply

insulting the intelligence of millions of Howard supporters like myself.

It wont wash. We wont be bullied into a No vote. We are able to think

for ourselves.

For me recent events in East Timor have further increased my resolve to

see the adoption of an Australian Head of State. The world looked to Australia

to take a lead in East Timor and we did. We did. Australias subsequent

handling of events confirmed that we are a truly independent nation, long

responsible for our own destiny. And I think this is a powerful argument

for moving to our own Head of State and certainly not an argument, as some

would furiously claim, for clinging to the British monarchy. We have shown

once and for all by, I think, the very adroit and sensible leadership in

East Timor that we can stand on our own two feet.

To launch our campaign weve got three important speakers this morning.

Firstly a member of our group of friends, former Prime Minister, Chairman

of Care Australia, former Chairman of Care International and elder statesman,

the Right Honorable Malcolm Fraser. Secondly the founding Member of our

committee. Hes objecting to the elder bit, hes certainly a statesman,

a younger elder statesman. Secondly, the founding member of our committee,

Perth businessman, Michael Lishman. And finally a member of our group of

parliamentary friends, Australias Treasurer, Deputy Leader of the Federal

Liberal Party and a former lawyer of some repute. I employed him at one

stage in that capacity he did a good job, the Honorable Peter Costello.

Firstly Malcolm Fraser. Hes lost none of his incisiveness and presence.

He holds strong and considered views on the question of an Australian Head

of State and hes put these views forcefully and cogently. It gives me great

pleasure to invite Malcolm to begin proceedings.


Andrew, ladies and gentlemen, Im glad were having this launch the day

after the Prime Ministers comments yesterday and the day after he quite

clearly expressed his own views. Because I really do believe when his full

speech is analysed that we can find that it gives a great deal of support

to our republican cause. It is quite clear that the majority of Australians

want an Australian Head of State. The model is safe, it preserves the practical

workings of our Constitution, it preserves our institutions, it preserves

the substance of the way were governed and it does it in a very real and

sensible fashion.

John Howard yesterday and in this mornings Australian has said,

that if this model is accepted it will be there forever. And theyre his

words. It will be there forever. Now that is saying it is safe, that is

saying it can work, it will work, because clearly if it wasnt going to

be there forever there would be other amendments modifying it at some later

point. So that admission on behalf of the Prime Minister is something which

I was very grateful to see in his own speech. And quite apart, you know,

one would expect this to be the case, because his Attorney General, Daryl

Williams, a conservative lawyer was responsible for the preparation of the

legislation and bringing it all forward.

Theres two or three aspects in particular I want to comment on. The Prime

Ministers power to dismiss a President under the Government, under the

republic model. Now again, the Prime Minister yesterday said that in his

judgement, on balance, a Governor General would be more secure, on balance

more secure, than would a President under the proposed model. I dont really

believe this is correct because in the speech yesterday one particular argument

was omitted. Today the Prime Minister, or in my time, or in Menzies time,

the Prime Minister could write one letter to Her Majesty and that one letter

would say the present incumbent displeases me. I want to have him dismissed

or removed and, at the same time, I want you to put somebody else, naming

somebody else, in his place.

There is no need for the press to hear of this. There is no need for the

Cabinet to be advised of it. There is no requirement for consultation. It

can all happen of the Prime Ministers own volition. And the Queen, as the

speech yesterday indicated, must accept the advice of the Prime Minister.

And that is only reiterating what Sir Robert Menzies had said on earlier

occasions, going back to the time when Isaac Isaacs was appointed he said,

commenting on that, the monarch had no option but to accept the advice and

much more so than Sir William (inaudible) was appointed many years later,

but after the war. If the Queen then had to accept advice, she obviously

has to accept that advice in todays world. And while some people have suggested

that she could delay and that could have a political impact, that is just

what she could not do. Because delaying would have a political impact and

the Palace would be absolutely determined to see that the monarchy played

no role in Australias affairs. And the only way you can play no role is

by acceeding to the Prime Ministers request pretty promptly. You might

delay for a few hours, but not to days and certainly not for any significant


But the one point that was omitted in the Prime Ministers speech as reported

in the Australian was that under the republican model, the Prime

Minister cant get his own man, cant get a “yes man”, somebody

who will do just what he want in case. And if you cant do that, the purpose

of dismissing a President or a Governor General is removed. The purpose

of dismissing Sir John Kerr would have been to put a “yes man”

in place. And thats what John Kerr feared and as I have written and said

in other places that had a significant impact on his actions and what he

did or did not discuss with the Prime Minister. Under the proposed model

even (inaudible) because he would have known that a “yes man”

could not replace him and therefore he would have felt able to discuss matters

and Im sure thats an accurate interpretation of John Kerrs attitude and

his mind.

Were told also that the Governor General is effectively our Head of State.

Well he isnt and I hope the Prime Minister will forgive me if I say that

he also has told us that he is not. Because if he were he would be opening

the Olympic Games. John Howard is a traditionalist, he would not want to

break the tradition of the Games over many long years, he would want our

Head of State to open the Games. The fact that Bill Deane is not opening

the Games indicates quite clearly that in the Prime Ministers mind he is

not our Head of State, which of course is accurate.

A word about direct elections. Do we really want American politics in Australia?

I think all those who want a direct election, want a bipartisan person,

somebody above politics in the job. Now the model before us all for vote

will provide that. And the sad thing about it is, that many people who support

a direct election believe that is the only way theyll get somebody who

is above and apart from politics. Unfortunately for them the very reverse

is the truth. Because who would run the election? The political parties.

Who would stand for election? A politician or an ex-politician, not a Chief

Justice, not the head of a great university and we would have American style


Quite apart from the political parties theres one other option, somebody

who has enough money to try and buy the office for himself and we dont

want that either. So a direct election is out; its not on, if we want to

resolve this issue we need to vote Yes on November the 6th, otherwise

it will worry us as a nation for many long years into the future.

So I hope that were all going to respond to what a clear majority want

and support this republic. Whatever love many of us have for the Crown and

for old traditions, they dont belong in the Australia of the next century.

And we need to understand that increasingly in this modern world Her Majesty

does many things for the United Kingdom, which as Head of State she is not

able to do for us. So its not an equal partnership with the United Kingdom;

it hasnt been for a long while. We only get the bit thats left over and

thats not good enough. We want a full time Head of State, full time Australian

as a Head of State.

Symbolism is important, the reality of Australia for the future also carries

with that reality important symbols about where were going and what were

going to do, what we think of ourselves, what kind of esteem we have for

ourselves or for this nation. We do need an Australian Head of State as

we move into the next century and staying with the ideas which were appropriate

for Menzies time to the fifties is not appropriate for 2001 and beyond.


Thank you very much Malcolm. I think you would agree with me the voice of

experience. Michael Lishman is the managing partner of Mallesons in Perth

and hes a founding member of the Committee for Conservatives for an Australian

Head of State. Together with another Perth based committee member Professor

Greg Craven, Michaels carried the message and our views most effectively

in many forums in Western Australia over many months and I warmly welcome

Michaels contribution today.


Thank you very much.

My decision to vote Yes on 6 November is heavily influenced by the fact

that I was born in England and emigrated to Australia when I was young and

have since spent time working in London. Australia provided an opportunity

for us as kids to grow up in a country less constrained by class and position.

Australia is a very different society to England. It is a better society.

Part of our strength is that by and large we are still a country where people

are judged on character and by their actions and not by what social class

they belong to, as in England, or by how much money they earn, as in the

United States.

I find the problems that SOCOG are having over the ticketing fiasco to be

reassuring. The publics reaction is typically Australian. The Australian

public do not expect tickets to be allocated on an English model based on

connection, position and privilege or on an American model by being sold

for the highest price. And yet these are the choices that the No case offer

in their schizophrenic argument – England or America. An English model where

our Head of State is not only the Head of State of England but gets her

title on the basis of inherited privilege, or an American model of a popularly

elected President. I like the fact that under this model the Prime Minister

can dismiss the President. Our history, an English history, has been about

the triumph of Parliament over the Head of State. This model that Australia

has been asked to vote for on 6 November retains this key and important

feature of the Westminster system. And yet it allows Australia to have a

Head of State who barracks for Australia and who symbolises our independence.

I am deeply concerned at the line being pushed by the No case that you cannot

trust politicians to appoint a President. Lets look at the facts. Australia

is a successful country of 20 million people; it enjoys one of the highest

standards of living in the world. Its economy is strong. Australians enjoy

greater personal freedoms than just about anyone else. We resolve our political

differences peacefully. Our institutions, in particular our courts and parliaments,

operate free of corruption. We have, as a country, embraced a major program

of micro-economic reform over a long period of time which has left our economy

one of the strongest in the region. We consistently box above our weight

diplomatically, culturally and in our sporting success. None of this has

come about by accident or by God-given right. It has come about because

the rule of law applies in Australia, because our parliaments and our politicians

work well for the common good. For Australians to continue to enjoy the

economic prosperity and personal freedoms that they do they must have confidence

in the integrity of the institutions of this country, including our politicians.

To use a populist assertion that politicians cannot be trusted is dangerous,

particularly when the statement is made by people who ought to know better.

In some of the talks I have given in Western Australia and the debates I

have participated in, I have been asked the question what will voting Yes

do for the economy? The answer is that it isnt possible to quantify any

monetary benefit from voting Yes. A Yes vote will not lift the stockmarket

but it will lift the spirit. However I do have concerns about a No result.

Firstly, the way in which the No case has been conducted, certainly at least

until the Prime Ministers intervention today, has created an expectation

amongst the Australian community, a false expectation, of further Constitutional

Conventions and debate. A prolonged, unresolved, ongoing and possibly increasingly

divided debate is not good for the country.

Secondly, in the unlikely event that a directly elected model got up, Australia

would have imposed on it, on its law making processes yet another layer

of political power. Democratically elected Governments need to be able to

govern. They do need to be able to continue the reforms which are necessary

for Australia to continue to have a strong economy and be a fair society.

Presently the power of the Commonwealth is limited by the Senate, by the

Constitution and increasingly by minority parties. To have the power of

the Commonwealth Government limited further by another layer of political

power that a directly elected President would have, be that moral, political

or legal, is not a positive development. So ladies and gentlemen thats

why I will be voting Yes.

Thank you.


Thank you very much Michael. I think Michael very clearly exposed some of

the major contradictions and risks of the No case and confronted with a

strong business perspective and again I repeat, I really am grateful to

the long list of very senior business people who have taken the time over

the last several months, many of them with endless exchanges of correspondence

in order to satisfy themselves that the model weve got in front of us is,

is a safe one and can preserve the great strengths of our country while

giving us the great advantage of an Australian Head of State. So the business

perspective I think is an important one because they are people who do not

act on a whim and have got where theyve got because of proper consideration

of issues.


The advocacy of Peter Costello on this issue has been thoughtful, its been

measured and its been persuasive. In the last ten days of this campaign

as Australians come to decide how they will vote, Peter will need all of

the persuasive powers that he can muster to counteract the scaremongering

and the trickery in many cases, theres some clever tricky campaigning going

on the other side and the natural tendency, the natural tendency of people

to resist change. I applaud Peters leadership on this issue and Ive got

much pleasure in asking Peter Costello to make the final contribution to

our proceedings this morning.


Thank you very much Andrew. And to those of you who have come today we appreciate

very much your support. I want to just explain why Ill be supporting the

“Yes” vote in the referendum which is on Saturday week and how

I came to this position. I dont think I thought much about our Head of

State, or about the monarchy, or indeed about republics before the Constitutional

Convention. And as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, for the

first time I had to – in a considered way – think of my position in relation

to these issues. I guess like most Liberals before that, up until that Constitutional

Convention, I had seen the republic debate as a political distraction. Something

which if it had been raised by Mr Keating must have been a bad idea and

worthy of opposition. And I think there are many Liberals who still think

that way today.

But when I went to the Constitutional Convention and I had to think about

my own views about monarchies and our Constitution, I thought carefully

and I came to the conclusion that monarchy was not a symbol for Australia.

It was not a concept for me and it was not a symbol for Australia. I didnt

have difficulties with our Queen. I didnt have difficulties with our particular

kind of monarchy. But my view was, that monarchy generally was not a symbol

for an egalitarian nation like Australia.

And the truth of the matter is, I dont believe positions should be settled

on bloodlines. I dont believe that people should hold public office because

of hereditary. I believe unashamedly in people being rewarded for effort,

and talent, and creativity. As I said at the Constitutional Convention,

the temper of the times is democratic and in a democratic society you will

not convince people that an institution which works on non-democratic lines

is an institution whose symbolism will represent the nation. And there are

people who say today, what benefit would this country get from having a

President elected by the people, or indeed a President appointed by the

Parliament? And the first benefit that I would say is, we would get a symbolic

presence which echoes the values of our society and the values that I hold

dearly – merit, work, integrity – rather than the values that are enshrined

in monarchy. People say, what other benefits would we get? Well, the second

thing we would get is we would have a ceremonial Head of State able to perform

ceremonial functions.

The Prime Minister in his position which is set out in the paper today –

and I want to congratulate him, I think he has elevated the debate absolutely

with a well-reasoned piece in the papers this morning – makes the important

point, that in our system of government we have separated the ceremonial

position from the political position. And he says, rightly, the ceremonial

position of Head of State must be above politics, able to unite the society

as a whole. And the traditional defence of monarchy is that it is above

politics, able to unite society as a whole. But in our society monarchy

doesnt unite. In our society we have difficulty allowing the Monarch to

perform those ceremonial functions because something gnaws at its credibility

and its believability in our society. And the proof is in the pudding. If

this were a unifying symbol, above politics, able to perform the ceremonial

role, the Monarch would be performing the ceremonial role in Sydney – our

Olympics, our Head of State, our Queen. But we know, dont we, that something

is wrong? Something jars. It didnt jar in 1956 when Prince Philip performed

the opening of the Melbourne Olympics.

In our society in that time it was a unifying concept, but it isnt today.

And to say, that because we have a problem we will somehow define away the

symbol of Head of State, rather than fix the problem – with a ceremonial

Head of State who can perform ceremonial functions – is really just to close

our eyes to what is a problem. A problem that we know deep down will only

be addressed if we can move through this constitutional change.

And the other argument thats put of course is, if its not broken dont

fix it. And I for one would say in a machinery sense, our parliamentary

system works and works well. But I would argue that the ceremonial function

is broken. Is broken. And if there wasnt a genuine or general public belief

to that effect, we wouldnt be going through these arguments. I was in London

recently and I spoke to a Conservative Member of the House of Lords who

said to me – as a great monarchist he said – “I am a great monarchist

but if I were an Australian I dont think I would care to have my Head of

State living in London SW1.” And I thought about that. Its a problem,

isnt it? And because we know its a problem, we know that it needs fixing.

Now its a respectable argument to say, something is working well dont

interfere with it. Its an argument that could have been used against Federation.

Responsible Government had been working in Australia for 50 years, why threaten

it with Federation? Its an argument that could have been used for continuing

English Governors General. With the exception of Isaac Isaacs, up until

1947 the tradition of an English Governor-General had led to political stability.

It wasnt broken, why fix it? Its an argument that couldve been used against

abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. Appeals to the Privy Council were

working up until the 60s. They werent broken, why fix it? Its an argument

that couldve been used in relation to the National Anthem. It wasnt broken,

dont fix it. Its an argument that was used against me and the Government,

mindlessly, over the wholesale sales tax – if it aint broke, dont fix

it. But we know as we look back over the long sweep of Australian history

that by modernising and renewing these institutions and these symbols, we

gave ourselves opportunities for the future which otherwise would have been

denied to us. And I think thats what a “Yes” vote can do.

I want to make one point about “No” voters who are arguing for

radical change. A directly elected presidency, in my view, will open the

way to money politics in a way that we havent yet seen in our country.

We have seen in the United States – its sometimes held up as a model for

direct elections – Elizabeth Dole has just retired from the race because

shes only been able to raise $1 million against another challenger whos

now got $56 million. You dont even get into that race until you have tens

of millions. You don’t get the right to run.

And then people say, well, we could always ban money or ban political parties

from direct elections. The last time, as I recall, that the Commonwealth

Parliament decided to ban political advertising for elections it was struck

down as unconstitutional. But the direct electionists ought to tell us if

it’s their plan, not only to have a direct election but to ban parties or

money, how they’re going to get that through the current constitution. They

ought to explain that very clearly to us. In fact the direct electionists

ought to do us the decency of producing their model. It’s the one thing

that they studiously refrain from doing, is actually producing a model with

codified powers rebalancing the Senate and the House of Representatives,

announcing the electoral system, indicating how the ban on political parties

or money would work, how that would square with the Constitution and giving

us a real look at what’s being held out as a promise down the track.


And I make this prediction now. That the moment they start working on such

a model, the differences between them will be so great that if it ever got

to the electorate half of the direct electionists would still be saying,

vote “No” to the proposal for another one further down the track.

And it’s the classic position where people may be able to agree on what

they are against but not able to agree on what they are for.

I want to make one other point. Conservatives believe that institutions

which are important to preserve should from time to time be reformed and

renewed. Times change. To conserve the best you must make sure that it is

apposite to the times. And look at the parliamentary history of the Westminster

system. The true conservatives were those that were prepared to reshape

and remake their institutions to preserve them.

And I said at the opening of this debate, that if it was important to preserve

the parliamentary system we ought to preserve the parliamentary system with

a modernised arrangement for a Head of State, rather than try and hold on

to an out-of-date Head of State which could undermine confidence in the

Parliamentary system. I made it entirely clear, I thought the important

institution here was not the monarchy but the parliamentary system. And

as this debate has worn on, in order to preserve something with which we

now have difficulty, a monarchy, I have seen an increasing tendency to undermine

the parliamentary system.

In order to oppose the “Yes” vote some campaigners are now prepared

to bring into disrepute the whole parliamentary system. The ads that you

can’t trust politicians don’t just apply in relation to the Head of State.

They undermine the whole parliamentary system. And if one were to look at

this “No” booklet signed off by politicians on how you can’t trust

politicians one wonders whether or not they’ll be putting that out on their

election brochures at the next election.

The Constitution which the “No” case is pledged to support is

the parliamentary system. And there is no point in the name of defending

the Constitution undermining the parliamentary system which it enshrines.

Undermining the parliamentary system which it enshrines. True conservatives

would be defending that parliamentary system and modernising the symbol

in a way which will give it security and enable it to preserve the best

for the future.

And I have no trouble at all in saying, that a conservative can with an

absolute clear conscience, go into a ballot box to preserve the best of

our current constitution and to modernise it in the way in which we have

seen the sweep of history modernise institutions over the last 100 years.

I think that when conservatives come to look at this and look back on it,

they will see this was an opportunity to preserve the best of the past and

modernise for the future. An opportunity which may not come again. To give

us the opportunity to keep the institutions which really are important while

modernising those which are not of the same significance. And I would say

to conservatives on Saturday week that a “Yes” vote can be done

with a clear conscience. There are people that will say, hold out until

you get every dot and every line. The same argument could have been run

at Federation. The federal document is full of political compromises as

the Federation fathers worked towards the big issues by getting agreement

in relation to the machinery.

There’s no skin off anybody’s nose in saying, that a Constitution involves

compromises. It does. Our current one involves compromises. You wouldn’t

have got Federation without it. This idea that once you put a Constitution

in place it assumes holy writ, you know, and is perfect in every respect.

Constitutions are always framed in this particular manner.

And a Constitution which will give us a parliamentary system which is important,

an Australian as our Head of State, which is important, a ceremonial presence

to perform ceremonial duties, which will give us modern symbolism for the

future is in my view something well worth saying “Yes” to on Saturday



Thank you very much Peter. A very powerful and very compelling case put

by Peter and again I thank you for your leadership on this issue.



Can I ask the Federal Treasurer is he disappointed that Labor has made this

a political issue when his party hasn’t?


Well we have a free conscience vote in the Liberal Party and I think that’s

right and that’s appropriate and if the Labor Party were minded to do the

same I’d certainly welcome that. But I don’t know that this is the kind

of time to make political points one way or the other. The truth of the

matter is that in constitutional reforms in the past, and Malcolm will tell

you this, there has been no skin off the nose of anybody for having a Government

and an Opposition cooperate. In fact if you have the Government and Opposition

cooperating on the rules of the Constitution it’s probably a very good thing,

it probably secures bipartisan support. It’s one of the points that’s made

about the two-thirds election model, that you will secure bipartisan support.

I’m not in the business of making the political points one way or the other

except of course to congratulate the Liberal Party for its stance.


Mr Costello could you comment on Mr Howard’s point that that he believes

the dismissal power will make a president less secure than the Governor-General?


Well I don’t agree with that because, and I’ve already written to that effect.

The truth of the matter is that a Prime Minister today can dismiss the Governor-General

without reasons, and instantaneously. I’ve made this point. Its said, “well,

Buckingham Palace can wait for two weeks?” What if a Prime Minister

advises the Queen to act immediately? Is she bound to act on that advice?

I would have thought in constitutional theory she is. But in any event the

proposition that there’ll be time delays between Australia and Buckingham

Palace and somehow that gives greater security of tenure, this is a theory

that the single thread that holds our democratic tradition together is the

two weeks of delay between Canberra and Buckingham Palace. Now what you

can do under the current system is not only sack the Governor-General but

secure your replacement immediately. Without reference to anybody else the

Governor-General can be sacked Maam I advise you to sack the Governor-General,

Maam I advise you to appoint Mr X or Mrs X. What you can’t do under this

model which is going to a referendum is you cannot secure your replacement,

which is going to make you much more wary about an instantaneous dismissal

because if you dismiss the President you don’t get your President as the

next person in. And I actually think that this is a much greater protection

for a president than enjoyed by a Governor-General. In fact if you were

really a strict constitutionalist I think you’d be arguing it the other

way, the reason you’re against this model is it give more tenure to a President

than is enjoyed by the Governor-General. That would be a much more legitimate

criticism of the model than the other one. Why is that criticism not made?

Well that criticism is not made because it doesn’t gel with the populist

position that you want to take powers away from politicians rather than

given them to politicians. It’s one of those classic cases where they’re

following the research opinion rather than the strict constitutional theory

in this “No” booklet.


Mr Costello, what about the other limb of the Prime Minister’s argument

which deals with the appointment process which he suggests is a claytons

appointment process, that in the end it’s the Prime Minister who will decide

who the nominee would be and also that the process would inhibit people

like for instance High Court judges Ninian Stephen and so on and so forth

from taking part because number one, it would impact on their ability to

do their job while the process was under way and number two, that they wouldn’t

want the possibility of it being know that they’d been knocked back?


Well the President will not be appointed on the say so of one person. Plainly

the President can only be appointed with the agreement of the Leader of

the Opposition and with the two thirds majority of the Parliament. Now Tim

Fischer’s done the arithmetic on this and I forget the precise figures but

it means you’ve got to have something like 200 people agreeing to the nomination

rather than one, which is the current system. And we should be comparing

it with the current system. The truth of the matter is when compared with

the current system you have to have much greater bipartisan support and

much wider support in order to appoint the Head of State. Now in relation

to people who hold sensitive positions, they can all either come up through

the republic process or they can allow their names to go forward generally.

But I’ll make one point, you are much likely to get people, more likely,

to get people who hold sensitive positions, such as High Court judges and

senior businessmen, into the presidential office under this model than under

a direct election model. Can you imagine a High Court judge saying I’d just

like leave of absence to go and campaign for President? In fact go back

through our Governors-General and ask yourself which of them would have

become President under a direct election model? You couldn’t have had a

Bill Deane, you couldn’t have had a Ninian Stephen, you couldn’t have had

a Zelman Cowen. This couldn’t occur under a direct election model, they

wouldn’t have the time, the resources or the inclination to submit themselves

to the electoral process. So I think this model gives us the ability to

attract people of stature and gives us the ability to keep them out of the

political fray.


(inaudible) tell us how concerned you are about the misinformation in this

campaign, in particular is there a risk that the Australian people might

be conned or hoaxed into thinking that if they vote no they get a directly-elected



Well look I make this point to conservative voters; if the day after the

referendum Australia has voted “No”, there will be an unseemly

row as to what that “No” vote meant. On one side the argument

will be it means we are a happy constitutional monarchy and on the other

side it will be that we want radical change to our constitution. Both sides

of the “No” camp can’t be right. One of them is wrong. But the

one thing you can say is that there’s going to be continuing dislocation,

continuing dislocation, and I’m not sure how that’s going to work out and

that’s why I’ve said that there are reasons to vote “Yes” for

people who believe that they want to preserve a safe, secure constitutional

system, a “Yes” vote can deliver it.

I’m not sure a “No” vote can because it will lead to endless recrimination

and argument about what it actually meant and I say to people who say oh

we’re “No” voters because we want more radical changes a “No”

vote means no. A “No” vote means the day after the referendum

Australia is and will continue to be a constitutional monarchy and the one

thing I will say and I think the Prime Minister has, as I said, elevated

the debate, and he’s made that point. This idea that a “No” vote

somehow means Australia shortly will be transformed into a radical direct-election

republic I think is quite fanciful.


Treasurer, Kim Beazley is making the point though if we get a “Yes”

vote we might have a follow-up constitutional convention which might deliver

a directly elected President. Is that a helpful nudge and a wink from the

Labor leader?


Penultimate question


Well I could go into who’s given helpful nods and helpful winks but I make

this point; how often do we have referenda in this country? It’s now 1999,

when was the last one? 1988, that was eleven years ago. Maybe we have a

referenda every ten years. How often in this country do we have referenda

on the same question? That’s a very interesting proposition. How often has

the same question come again in Australian referenda history? It has happened

incidentally and I believe every time it’s come up on a second time it’s

been defeated as it was on the first time. So if you want to look at Australian

federal history the whole sweep of history tells you you don’t have regular

referendums and you certainly don’t have them regularly on the same question.

To get a referenda in this country you’ve got to get it through the House

of Representative and through the Senate and send it off to the people and

you have to have a Government that wants to facilitate it.


Can I just ask you to comment on the statement that the Governor-General

is effectively the Head, of State?


Well I think the key word there is effectively isn’t it? Once you see a

word like effectively interposed, what it tells you is he is not the Head

of State and that is true. Now I’ve been out at Government House and I was

out there recently with the Korean President and our Governor-General gave

a toast to the Korean President, the Korean President gave a toast to the

Queen of Australia and somebody who was sitting next to me said, oh the

Governor-General’s the Head of State and I said, oh good heavens, the Korean

President should be informed, he made the wrong toast. And what’s more the

Governor-General has advised him to make the wrong toast and the poor Governor-General

was sitting there all the time being the Head of State but not knowing it.

Now the truth of the matter is that the Head of State is the Queen and we

shouldn’t shy away from that and a “No” vote means keeping it

that way.


But what more would a President do than a Governor-General isn’t (inaudible)


I’m sorry, I apologise (inaudible). I’m sorry we only had ten or twelve

minutes. I apologise for that but (inaudible) the speakers have got some

other important commitments so I’m sorry we can’t go on but we cant. Could

I just conclude by saying that it’s been an important opportunity for us

to have a chance to have such eminent spokesmen put our case this morning.

I do thank Malcolm, Michael and Peter most sincerely for putting our case

in a most astute and powerful way and I would like you all to thank them

on our behalf. I’d like to thank the media for your attendance here this

morning and I’d also like just to take this opportunity to thank my committee

members for their commitment to this issue. Almost without exception they’ve

all got other full time jobs and it’s been a big item through this year

but we’ve got another ten days to go to try and to really make a difference.

I’d like to thank all those eminent Australians who’ve signed on as friends,

a number of whom are here this morning and I’d like to thank similarly the

many parliamentarians who’ve signed on as parliamentary friends, again many

of whom here this morning and some who’ve travelled quite a long distance.

I’m very grateful for that. All of these people are advocating a “Yes”

vote on Saturday week, they’re not people who act on a whim, without exception

they’ve given very serious consideration to the proposed model and its implications

and I think their support of all of these people should give millions of

cautiously-minded Australians great comfort that the proposal is safe, that

it will deliver an Australian head of state, a relevant symbol for the 21st

century without wider changes to our great institutions. So on that note

I would ask if our friends, parliamentary and friends and committee members

who are here with us to come up, we just might have a group shot, photograph

and then we’ll adjourn across the corridor. Thanks very much.