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 Chapter 31

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 their lives.

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 sensibly argue,

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 arise.

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 commission states,

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 it is.

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 matters.

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.

 


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