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Date: Wed, 14 May 97 11:10:04 CDT
From: "B.Romeril" <romeril@minyos.its.rmit.EDU.AU>
Organization: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.

A just republic, not just a republic

From the Committee for a Just Republic
14 May 1997

Our Federation, now 100 years old, faces great challenges in the next century, such as:

  • globalisation of the economy and erosion of the nation-state
  • unresolved claims by indigenous peoples for the most basic rights
  • an economy based on destruction of our natural habitat and biosphere
  • discrimination against gays, women, the young, the unemployed and people with 'different' backgrounds and colours
  • an alarming chasm between rich and poor, powerful and powerless.
The debate about a republic is an opportunity for everyone to discuss key directions for Australia to take, and to have a majority view expressed in the Constitution.

We need a Constitution which sets down the basis for a truly just and democratic society which all Australians would want to live in and be proud of.

So far, we haven't heard any sort of larger constitutional discussion about what kind of republic we want, resulting in a deep cynicism about the current limited debate.

Prime Minister John Howard has announced a Constitutional Convention to be held in December 1997 in Canberra, to discuss "the head of State issue".

But the issue is far bigger: what kind of society do we Australians want to be? We believe there is support for discussion on the Constitutional framework for an ecologically sustainable economy and a democratic, participatory society giving high priority to social justice.

A larger constitutional debate - before, during and after the 1997 Constitutional Convention - should embrace these issues. If we can create that space, then the chances are much better of having a=20 constitution that promotes a wider-based popular democracy to meet the=20 next century's challenges.

So we have issued this CALL FOR A JUST REPUBLIC.

It puts forward ideas as a basis for debate and agreement at a proposed national Convention for a Just Republic.

A final document would then be the platform for candidates in the election of citizen delegates to the Government's proposed Constitutional Convention.

The impact this could have on a possible referendum for constitutional change would be as great as the number of people who become involved. If you support this wider debate, we ask you to sign the attached form, contribute funds and become involved in creating a just and democratic future for all Australians.


A Commonwealth of Australia based on the sovereign will of the people, with a popularly elected Australian head of state

  • The Australian Federation is based on the sovereignty of the British Crown, an Act of the British Parliament and the agreement of the six States. Now is the time to affirm that the destiny of this country is in the hands of its own people, and that legitimate political power can flow from their democratic will. The principal symbol of the Commonwealth should be a popularly elected office of the President, with a symbolic role codified in the Constitution, to act on the advice of the Prime Minister.

A Preamble to the Constitution that embraces all Australians and their right to liberty and equality:

Since Australia is established as a democratic Commonwealth, subject to the rule of law, and embracing the values of equality, liberty, justice, ecological sustainability, and the human dignity of all people;

and since the peoples of Australia are united in an indissoluble Commonwealth;

and since Aboriginal people have a distinct status as indigenous peoples, with traditional laws, customs and ways of life that have evolved over thousands of years;

and recognising that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were progressively dispossessed of their lands and resources from 1788;

and since Australia includes the indigenous peoples, together with peoples drawn from many cultures, who live together in a multicultural society;

agree to be bound by the provisions of the Constitution.

A Bill of Rights to enshrine the liberties of the Australian people

  • freedom of speech
  • freedom of assembly
  • freedom from discrimination and oppression on the grounds of race, national origin, age, sex, sexual preference, disability, marital status, religion and political beliefs
  • freedom to organise trade unions and business associations and to=20 collectively bargain
  • the right to be treated equally before the law
  • the right to adequate education, health care, housing, employment and income support.

And do you agree that these other issues need to be on the agenda for democratic constitutional reform?

Genuine reconciliation with indigenous Australian peoples

  • Once we have embarked on the course of the reconciliation with indigenous Australians for the invasion and dispossession of their lands, there can be no turning back without dire moral and social consequences. The process of reconciliation should continue under its own dynamic to reach an agreed form of reconciliation in documents or a treaty. The agenda of constitutional change must remain open to the outcomes of this process.

A guarantee of 'one vote - one value' and proportional representation for all the Houses of Parliament in Australia

  • The 'first-past-the-post' preferential voting system denies representation in most houses of parliament to individuals or parties that win up to 35% of the primary vote. This is less than full democracy and is now closing off policy ideas that our society urgently needs if it is to return to full employment, eliminate poverty and create an ecologically sustainable economy.

After 2001, a review of the federation itself to consider our federal system of government

  • The present Commonwealth has restricted Constitutional powers because it is the creation of the colonial governments of 1900, the State governments of today. Many pressing national issues such as full employment, ecological sustainability, the rights and needs of indigenous Australians, national standards for health, education, information, privacy, consumer standards and justice, cannot be met because of the State vetos. It is time to review this structure and reassess the roles of the Commonwealth and State governments.

Fixed four year terms for all Houses of Parliament

  • Australia has too many elections, often called by the governing party for reasons of political expediency rather than a clear choice for the people. Fixed, predictable terms will reduce this danger and make governments more responsible to the people. Elections for all Houses of Parliament should be held at the same time to reduce costs.

Recognition of local government in the Australian Constitution

  • Local government directly affects Australians by regulation of the physical environment and the provision of important services.=20 Yet local government has no national constitutional status, no secure access to federal funding, and is vulnerable to dismissal at the whim of State governments.=20

A new flag

  • While not a constitutional issue, a new flag is needed to express the aspirations of all the people of an independent, democratic republic.

It is time to act for a JUST REPUBLIC!
You are vital!

If this is the kind of vision you have for Australia, then we urge you to join with us to make sure it is enthusiastically projected into the developing republic debate. You can:

  • be an initial sponsor of the Call for a Just Republic
  • join the Committee for a Just Republic
  • promote the Call for a Just Republic in your community / workplace / sports association / trade union
  • take part in the Convention for a Just Republic this year
  • rally support for candidates who support these ideas for a Just Republic in your state when the citizen delegates are elected to the Constitutional Convention
  • rally support for a People's Convention for a Just Republic to take place in Canberra alongside the government's convention in December
  • fill in the form below and return to the Committee for a Just Republic

PH: (w).........................................................
FAX: ............................................................
EMAIL: ...........................................................
_ I sponsor the next printing of the Call for a Just Republic
_ I enclose $..................... as a donation to the Campaign for a Just Republic
_ I wish to join the Committee for a Just Republic. Please inform me of the first meeting
_ Send me a copy of the 'Just Republic - Not Just a Republic' posters.
Signature: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Make cheques to: Committee for a Just Republic
Return to: Just Republic, Rm 610, 3 Smail St,

Sponsored by:

Eric Aarons, Richard Archer, Max Bound, FILEF (Fed of Italian Migrant Workers & their Families), David and Judy Gillett-Ferguson, Tom McDonald, Audrey McDonald, David McKnight, Peter Murphy, Portuguese Democratic Group, Patricia Ranald, Sid Spindler, Hon Ann Symonds MLC, Beverley Symons, Keith Welsh

The government's arrangements for a Constitutional Convention

'The Convention'

  • 152 delegates will attend the Convention which will meet for up to 10 days in Canberra in December 1997
  • Half of the delegates will be elected and half appointed
The Agenda
The Convention will examine:
  • whether or not Australia should become a republic
  • which republican model might be put to the electorate to consider against the status quo, and
  • considered.
Public Information Campaign
  • Balanced and easily understood information on the issues - with input from leading groups in the debate - will be prepared and distributed widely before the election of the delegates.
The Election of Delegates
  • 76 delegates will be directly elected by the people through a non-compulsory, secret postal ballot to be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission - NSW 20, Vic 16, Qld 13, WA 9, SA 8, Tas 6, ACT 2, NT 2.
  • Depending on the outcome of the Senate debate on the Bill for the Constitutional Convention, nominations will open on June 23 and close at noon on July 2, 1997. Posting of ballot papers will begin on July 28, going through to August 8, and the ballot will close at 6 pm on September 2, 1997.
  • The method of voting is called optional preferential voting, and has been modelled on the system used in Senate election; that is, electors will be able to vote either above-the-line or below-the-line.
  • The election will be open to Australian citizens who are 18 years of age or older and who are entitled to vote.
  • The non-refundable nomination fee is $500
Appointed Delegates
  • 76 delegates will be appointed before the election.
  • 40 of them will be parliamentarians (20 from the States and Territories, 20 from the Commonwealth).
  • The 36 non-parliamentarians will be appointed having regard to the objective of achieving a broad geographic representation.
  • Appointments will include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. people and young people. Local government will also be represented.
  • The government will ensure that the appointments reflect a proper balance between men and women.

Authorised by: Peter Murphy, Rm 610, 3 Smail St, BROADWAY NSW 2007.
Ph: (02) 9211 4164. Fax: (02) 9211 1407. email: search@magna.com.au

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