Australian Constitutional Crisis
IN 1994 the Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating,
commenced a personal campaign to transform Australia into a Republic.
Until 1901, Australiaís six states, New South Wales
(settled 1788), Victoria (settled 1834), Queensland (settled 1823),
Western Australia (settled 1826), South Australia (settled 1836), and
Tasmania (settled 1804) were self-governing colonies of Great Britain. On
January 1 1901, the six states federated to form the Commonwealth of
Australia. A monarchist system of government was adopted. The British
monarch maintained vast prerogatives as head of state, including the
constitutional right to abrogate any law enacted by parliament within one
year of its passage through the Senate, and the command of the military
forces of Australia; and was accorded executive, legislative, and judicial
rights. In practice, these enormous powers have never been exerted.
Indeed, today, no monarch of Britain would dare to interfere in these
matters. Thus the British crown serves limited constitutional and
ceremonial functions. The monarchís powers and functions are exerted
through a Governor-General who, while appointed by the monarch, is always
nominated by the Australian government.
Until 1930, the post of Governor-General had been held
by a succession of British peers. But in 1930, upon the insistence of the
Australian Government, a reluctant King George V agreed to appoint the
first Australian-born Governor-General, Sir Isaac Issaas, a member of the
first Federal Parliament of 1901, a former Commonwealth of Australia
Attorney-General, and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the
nationís highest court. Newspapers of the day reported that the
opposition United Australia Party, a conservative party, labelled Sir
Isaacís appointment by the Labour Party Government of Joseph Scullin, as
practically republican. It was not, of course. Subsequently, British peers
were once more appointed to this vice-regal post. In the thirty year
period until 1965, only one Australian-born Governor-General, Sir William
McKell, was appointed. However, following the appointment of Australian
peer, Baron Casey, in 1965, only Australians have been accorded the honor
of appointment as Governor-General.
Moves toward the federation of the Australian states
were commenced in the 1860s, but it was not until 1891 that the first
National Constitutional Convention was held. During the subsequent decade,
careful consideration was given to the formulation of articles in the
proposed Commonwealth Constitution. Fortunately the Australian States
possessed a number of men of the day who were statesmen, rather than mere
politicians. Men such as Sir Henry Parkes, Sir Edmund Barton (who became
Australiaís first Prime Minister), Alfred Deakin (a later Prime
Minister), Richard OíConnor, and Charles Kingston stood out. These
statesmen evidenced a purpose to place the welfare of the nation, and each
of its individual citizens, before their own self-interest. Further, they
carefully scrutinized the proposed articles of the Constitution, as they
did legislation, to ensure that they contained nothing, however
unintended, detrimental to the welfare of the nation.
Additionally, in the 1890s, there was a relatively
stable society in Australia. While Australians, like their parliamentary
representatives, were not saints a century ago, there was a general
agreement that it was in the best interests of all, for people to live the
principles of Scripture. This assessment will never, validly, be made of
the era of the 1990s, when future histories of Australia are prepared.
Indeed, the 1990s is a period of uncertainty, indecisiveness, and
aimlessness. For many Australians, Christianity is not even a footnote to
Clearly, Australia is presently in no position to make
wholescale alterations to its current constitution. To do so would be
unsafe, for neither parliamentarians nor citizens are adequately prepared
for such momentous decisions. The 1997 revelations of wholesale travel
expense enhancement by members of both houses of parliament certainly fill
no one with confidence. Ministers of the crown, together with leading
public servants, were dismissed, and some members of parliament
prosecuted. No less than sixty-three percent of members of the House of
Representatives and Senators were investigated for travel torts.
Americans will wonder at the resistance of a large
class of Australians, especially those defending religious and civil
liberties, who are expressing opposition to the establishment of a
republic. For Americans, it was the severing of ties with the British
monarchy which ushered in their enlightened Bill of Rights, which
guaranteed these liberties. Further, the British monarchy represents a
nation which has an established religion, the Church of England, and a
monarchical system ensures the presence of a head of state who is not
democratically elected, but assumes the role on the basis of hereditary
qualifications. In addition, the monarchís role is not open to citizens
of all faiths, since the monarch is the designated head of the Church of
England, and Roman Catholics, or those married to a Roman Catholic, are
specifically precluded from sitting upon the British throne, even though
they meet the hereditary qualification.
If these true issues were the central reason for the
call for an Australia republic, then there would be a strong case for the
establishment of a republic. But Australians who oppose the republican
concept base their opposition on altogether different reasoning.
Australians have experienced the present Constitution for almost a
century. It has a fine track record in the provision of religious and
civil liberties. On the other hand, there is no track record for the
proposed Republican Constitution. It is well understood that both
Monarchist and Republican systems of Government are capable of upholding
the inalienable liberties of mankind. Similarly, both systems are well
able to deprive their citizens of their religious and civil liberties.
Examples of all four situations abound. Australians well recognize that no
system of Government is, of itself, a guarantee of freedom. Thus they are
bound to weigh the advantages of maintaining or altering their present
system of Government, an alteration which would inevitably lead to a
wholesale reconstruction of their constitution.
The proponents of the Republican move have offered
three major grounds for entering into the potentially perilous course of
such a major alteration of Australiaís constitution, which has served it
so well for a century. Three grounds that have been enunciated areó
1. That it is time for Australia to "come of
age," and exhibit to the world at large that it has finally broken
away from its "motherís" apron strings and possesses full
sovereignty over its national affairs.
2. The rhetorical question is asked, "Is there not
a single Australian good enough to be the head of state?"
3. A second question posed is "Do Australians
desire an Australian head of state or a foreign head of state?"
To these "reasons" many concerned Australians
1. Australia "came of age" in 1901 when the
Commonwealth was formed. The "apron strings" of Britain are tied
loosely about the mother country and do not extend half-way around the
world to Australia. The government of Australia makes its own decisions
without regard to the wishes of Britain. No monarch would dare to
implement the prerogatives which, in a titular manner, are accorded to him
or her. In any case, by Referendum the Australian citizens could greatly
reduce the prerogatives of the monarch.
2. It is quite certain that Australia does possess
individuals who could, with distinction and honor, serve as head of state,
but it is also quite unlikely that those persons would rise to that rank.
Rather would someone who possessed political cunning, a silver tongue, and
a winsome television presence, be likely to be accorded the honor, either
by a national election or some devised form of parliamentary nomination.
Such qualities rarely ensure that the most appropriate citizen receives
the highest national office.
3. Australians desire a fair and impartial head of
state. The members of the Parliament, from which, in the Australian form
of government, both the executive and legislative arms of government are
derived, make full use of the political process. The judiciary is
nominated by the government, often with political interests paramount.
What Australia requires is an impartial head of state selected from
outside the political arena. Even in the present Monarchist system, this
is not achieved in the nomination of the Governor-General, but most
certainly the "foreign" monarchs hold the post of head of state
perfectly independently of the political process. There is a surfeit of
politics in all nations. To add yet another politically appointed stratum
would ensure that the elected head of state would be an individual who had
political dues to repay. Such would place the office-holder outside the
scope of an even-handed arbiter, so necessary when constitutional crises
Of course, individual republicans have proffered other
reasons to support their inclinations towards a republic. But these have
all provided less than cogent arguments. Sir Owen Mason, retired Chief
Justice of the High Court of Australia, was interviewed on the "Four
Corners" television program in early November 1997. He claimed that
he had been convicted that Australia required a republic since 1932, when
he was eight years of age. In that year, he explained, the English cricket
team toured Australia. Sir Owenís father took him to the Sydney Cricket
ground in order to watch an international match between the English and
Australian cricket teams. Such contests are always fiercely fought. In
1932, the English team, which had been soundly beaten by Australia in the
1930 series in England, devised a new form of bowling which aimed at the
batsmenís body rather than their bat. This led to many injuries, and
even some batsmen being knocked unconscious by balls striking their heads
at great speed. The methods employed by the English bowlers were regarded
as unsportsmanlike and were eventually banned by the International Cricket
Board. Sir Owen stated that it was this unsportsmanlike conduct by the
English team which convinced him that Australia should become a republic.
This conviction, however, did not deter him from receiving a knighthood
from Queen Elizabeth II. Surely Australians are entitled to more telling
reasons to discard their present constitution.
Australians have always greatly valued their religious
and civil liberties. They do not take them for granted. Further, Christís
commission is greatly hampered when these liberties are withdrawn. That
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am
with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:19, 20
Sensing the danger inherent in the gathering momentum
to alter the Australian Constitution, Russell decided to nominate as an
independent candidate in the election of November 1997, which voted
delegates to the National Constitutional Convention held in Canberra, the
National Capital, December 2Ė13 1998. Colin, who is domiciled in the
United States, was unable to stand. We had commenced writing this book
well before the Convention was voted, therefore this, and the following
two chapters, were not anticipated.
Russell had never stood for such an election
previously. He recognized that his chances of election were negligible,
since he was unknown throughout the state of Victoria and was standing as
an independent. Yet he had very strong reasons to do so. The Australian
Government formulated a convention consisting of one hundred fifty-two
delegates. Of these, seventy-six were nominated by the Government. The
nominated delegates included a number of Federal politicians, including
the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition and ministers of
state; the Premier of each of the six states and the leaders of the
opposition in those states; representatives of women, youth, and
indigenous peoples; and other citizens, including the Roman Catholic
archbishop of Melbourne and the Anglican archbishop of Brisbane.
The remaining seventy-six were elected on a state
basis, the number being determined, roughly, by the population of each
state or territory. New South Wales elected twenty delegates, Victoria,
sixteen; Queensland, thirteen; Western Australia, nine; South Australia,
eight; Tasmania, six; the Australian Capital Territory, two; and the
Northern Territory, two.
Victoria, the state in which Russell stood for
election, had the lowest ratio of delegates to candidates. In Victoria,
one hundred fifty-eight candidates stood, with only sixteen to be elected,
thus determining that there would be one hundred forty-two unsuccessful
candidates. Of the one hundred fifty-eight candidates, one hundred
eighteen belonged to groups, and forty stood as independents. Each
independent candidate was limited to fifty words in which to describe his
policy and inform the electorate of his qualifications. Those in groups
were permitted to provide a group policy of fifty words for the first
candidate, plus twenty-five words for each subsequent candidate. Thus,
groups which nominated sixteen candidates had the privilege of a policy
statement of four hundred twenty-five words. The election was held on a
complicated preferential voting system. In order to achieve election, a
candidate had to reach a pre-determined quota. This quota was derived by
dividing the total number of valid votes cast by the number of delegates
to be elected, plus one, and adding a single vote to the resultant. Thus,
in the case of Victoria a candidate required the number of valid votes
recorded divided by sixteen plus one equals 17. To this resultant, one
vote was added.
Any candidate exceeding the quota was duly elected and
his excess votes beyond his personal requirement were then distributed to
the candidates who were accorded second place on his ballot papers, on a
devalued basis determined by the percentage of votes in excess of the
quota which the successful candidate had polled.
When the excess votes of successful candidates were
exhausted by a series of distributions, the candidate with the lowest
number of votes was eliminated and his votes distributed to those
candidates who were placed second in the preferences of those voting for
this unsuccessful candidate. This process was repeated until one hundred
forty-two candidates were eliminated, and thus the sixteen delegates
determined. If this system appears complicated to the reader, rest assured
The election was conducted as a postal vote over a
period of four weeks in November and December, 1997. Unlike Australian
elections for parliament, which involve compulsory voting (with exceptions
for those with conscientious convictions against voting), this election
was non-compulsory. Only Belgium and Luxemberg, among the other nations of
the world, have adopted compulsory voting regulations.
Victoria, of all the states and territories, had the
highest percentage of electors votingófifty-two percent. Northern
Territory had the least with thirty-eight percent.
Russell discovered that the process of registering his
nomination was a most interesting one, to say the least. Over one hour was
required, and it involved five interviews with officers of the
Commonwealth Electoral Office. First, the officers had to check that he
was not excluded from nomination. Thus they checked if he was registered
on the electoral roll. These checks were understandable. But Russell was
rather bemused and not a little flattered, when they consulted the records
of birth in Australia to ensure that he was at least eighteen years of
age! Since we were born in 1933, we would have thought that one glance at
his white hair and general appearance would have confirmed the fact that
Russell amply fulfilled the age criterion.
Special care was taken to read the fifty word summary
of Russellís policy in order to ensure that it contained no obscenities,
and did not denigrate any other candidate. Since Russell was at that time
unaware of the names of any other candidates and, as a Christian, does not
use obscenities, he passed that criterion without a hitch. Eventually his
candidature was accepted.
The great challenge was to inform the citizens of an
entire state of his policies. Russellís purpose in standing was not
confined to gaining election, an eventuality he recognized was remote, but
also to provide a platform for him to arouse the voters to the perils
inherent in a large-scale dismantling and reconstruction of the Australian
Constitution, together with an arousal of understanding of the priceless
measures of religious and civil liberties, which most of our countrymen
take for granted. The danger of this mental set is that there is little
focus upon the detection of any subtle erosion of our liberties.
The following two chapters detail a little of the means
Russell used to fulfill his aims, and the measures of success attained.
We have included this personal experience since we
believe that in a number of nations, various ploys are being invoked,
aimed at altering significant articles in national constitutions, while
falsely proclaiming altruistic motivation. It is essential that all lovers
of freedom remain alert to the plans which are afoot, which inevitably,
unless stayed, will lead to the decimation of our liberties.
Globalism is making inroads into the thinking of
influential leaders worldwide. Global political movements, seeking a
political union of all nations, are growing. The expanding European Union
is their prototype. Many advanced nations of Europe are voluntarily
forfeiting their sovereignty, a sovereignty they fiercely defended in
numerous bloody wars fought on that continent. Many optimistically
proclaim that such a union will lead to a cessation of hostilities around
the world. Those gulled into accepting such manifestly false reasoning
possess no sense of history. The bloodiest wars of all have been civil
wars. Americans, above all people, should be aware of this fact. Make no
mistake, there are devious, non-stated agendas held by those who promote
such spurious arguments for political union.
Globalism has expanded also into economic policy. The
GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Treaty, NAFTA (The North
American Free Trade Agreement), and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic
Co-operation) are offspring of economic global policy. Once more,
admirable aims are attached to these names. It is stated that a single
world economy will banish want from the earth. It will do no such thing.
India possesses a single economy, yet an extraordinary range of financial
levels are to be found in the country. Both affluence and poverty abound
side by side. Global economics, rather than equalizing incomes, is placing
in the hands of the few, a powerful instrument for social control. With
the expansion of the utilization of computerized financial transactions,
central control of the right to buy and sell is potentially present.
The ecumenical movement is fueled by the thrust for
religious globalism. It is proving to be a most successful concept,
adhered to by a large majority of Christian churches and rapidly expanding
beyond Christendom. But its proponents seldom give pause to consider the
fact, amply attested by history, that the ultimate aims of the ecumenical
movement can never be achieved without coercion of the convictions of
sincere believers who dissent from the views of the majority in spiritual
Legal globalism in the form of judicial bodies such as
the International Court of Justice and the European Court, are steadily
imprinting global laws upon the nations of the world. The London Daily
Telegraph of July 10 1997 reported that Cherrie Booth, a British
barrister, was appearing before the European Court on behalf of a lesbian
who was suing the British government for discrimination against her on the
basis of her sexual orientation. Here was a British woman, suing
the British government and represented by a British employment
barrister, having her cause tried, not by a British court of law, but by
the European Court. What an abrogation of British sovereignty! The case
was even more remarkable in that the lawyer appearing for the woman was
the wife of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Mrs. Blair uses her
maiden name professionally. Thus she was appearing for a litigant against
her own husbandís government.
Moves toward educational globalism are not as far
advanced as in other areas, but are present. Globalism, supported by the
machinations of the United Nations, presents an ever-increasing threat to
our liberties, and must be forthrightly resisted if these liberties are to
be accorded, as they ought, to all mankind. United Nations Conventions are
frequently accepted into national laws without full parliamentary debate.
The United Nations as a body falls far short of providing safe guidance
for the social, legal, and economic welfare of the nations of the earth.
These and many other matters rested in Russellís
thoughts, as he decided to stand in the Australian Constitutional
Convention election, not the least of which were the dire scriptural
prophecies pertaining to the forfeiture of religious and civil liberties
prior to the return of our Lord. The issue in Russellís mind was not the
monarchy versus the republic, but rather, the maintenance of liberty in
Australia and a distrust of the wisdom and integrity of the nations today
to incorporate successfully such liberties, devoid of dangerous loopholes,
in a new constitution.