Wednesday 27 October 1999
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray) took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
Mr Speaker offered the Prayer.
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
Mr Speaker announced, pursuant to the Ombudsman Act 1974, receipt of the report entitled "Report of the Ombudsman for the year ended 30 June 1999".
RETIREMENT VILLAGES BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr WATKINS (Ryde - Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Sport and Recreation) [10.02 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The bill represents the most significant reform of the laws regulating the retirement village industry ever undertaken in New South Wales. In this International Year of Older Persons the New South Wales Government is leading the way with this package of initiatives. People living in retirement villages have lived through the Great Depression and have fought in the Second World War. Many residents are war widows. They are our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, our grandmothers and grandfathers. They have worked to build our communities, to protect our way of life, and they deserve security and peace of mind.
The majority of the 50,000 residents living in the 900 retirement villages across New South Wales are able to enjoy the retirement village lifestyle, and the number of retirement village residents will only grow. We all know that with the ageing of the population the provision of housing for retired people will become even more important. Since becoming Minister for Fair Trading I have been disturbed by the exploitative practices of some operators. For many residents and their families the practices of some retirement village operators have caused great distress. In one case, a man purchased a retirement unit for approximately $120,000 and lived in the unit for three years until his death. During that time, the monthly fees rose from $650 to $1,000 despite commitments made by the operator that fees would increase only in line with the consumer price index.
The operator had exclusive selling rights, and took almost three years to sell the unit for, eventually, $84,000. He also took $37,000 in management fees and $24,000 for outstanding monthly fees, which included fees for meals, cleaning and other services for three years after the resident had died. That is but one example. I am sad to say that many others have come to the Government’s attention. As a result of instances such as this, the Government conducted an extensive review of the regulation of the retirement village industry in New South Wales.
The honourable member for Penrith must be commended for starting the process which has culminated in this bill. As Minister for Fair Trading, she first brought the plight of residents into public focus. The work of previous Ministers - the Hon. Brian Langton and the Hon. Jeff Shaw - must also be acknowledged. The retirement village industry is currently regulated by the mandatory industry code of practice. However, the review found the code to be ineffective in providing adequate protection for retirement village residents, many of whom are the most vulnerable people in our community. The majority of residents are over the age of 70, many residents receive the pension and 80 per cent of residents are women.
In the eyes of consumers, the industry code of practice became a toothless tiger. This was confirmed when the code was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court by the operator of the Heritage Retirement Village. Such problems saw older people steer clear of retirement villages, leaving many units empty and undermining the investment of residents, their families and operators. Certain unfair practices by a small number of operators have been largely to blame for the poor public perception of the industry. Practices such as
charging dead residents for meals or fleecing retirees out of their entire life savings are abhorrent to all fair-minded people.
Fortunately, most retirement village operators do the right thing and are genuinely concerned with providing quality care and accommodation. This is particularly true of the non-profit organisations, which represent 80 per cent of the industry, such as the Uniting Church, the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and others. The Government looked closely at the way those organisations operate and incorporated their best practices as much as possible into the bill. It is only those operators who seek to exploit and abuse older people who need fear the introduction of these reforms.
The problems this bill addresses are not new. The Coalition when it was last in government commissioned its own review of the regulation of the retirement village industry in 1991. Its report, released in 1992, came up with 55 recommendations. Many of the recommendations sat on the shelf gathering dust. Those that were acted upon did little to address the major concerns of retirement village residents and their families. In contrast, this Government is committed to ensuring that older people living in or contemplating moving into retirement villages enjoy their retirement years with dignity and respect.
Consultation is the foundation of this bill. Indeed, there has been some criticism of the time taken from the commencement of the review to the introduction of this bill. I strongly refute that criticism because every effort has been made to get it right by consulting as much as possible. I will briefly outline the consultation that the Government has undertaken. Consultation began when an interdepartmental steering committee was established to conduct the review in 1997. Each department which has an ongoing interest in the development and operation of retirement villages has been involved from day one. The Department of Fair Trading, the Ageing and Disability Department, the Health Department, the Department of Local Government, and the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning were all represented on the committee.
Preliminary consultations were undertaken with the Retirement Villages Consultative Committee to assist in identifying issues of concern to residents and village operators. The consultative committee comprises representatives of all the major groups involved in the industry. These include the Aged Services Association, representing church and charitable operators; the Retirement Village Association, representing private operators; and the Retirement Village Residents Association, representing residents of retirement villages.
Also on the committee were representatives from the Law Society, the Legal Aid Commission, the Australian Consumers Association, the Aged-care Rights Service, the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, the Council on the Aging, the Housing Industry Association, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, and the Australian Nursing Homes and Extended Care Association. The consultative committee remained involved throughout the entire consultation process. I commend its members for their valuable contribution to the process of reform.
In November 1997 an issues paper was released for public comment by the former Minister, the honourable member for Penrith. More than 4,000 copies of the issues paper were distributed, including at least one copy to every retirement village in New South Wales. Written submissions were sought and almost 300 were subsequently received. Meetings between the steering committee and key interest groups were held to discuss their submissions in more detail. Eleven public discussion forums were then held in Sydney, Shell Harbour, Gosford, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Ballina, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga. More than 1,100 people, predominantly residents of retirement villages, attended.
Submissions and feedback received during consultation was incorporated into a report on the review that was released for public comment by the Attorney General in December 1998. The Department of Fair Trading then held meetings with the consultative committee and with key groups representing operators and residents to discuss the report’s recommendations. More than 5,000 copies of the report were distributed and a further 60 submissions received in response to the report. Further opportunities have been provided for constructive input into the development of the bill.
As honourable members would know, an exposure draft bill was released in July of this year. Officers from my department met with all the main industry, consumer and other interest groups, following the release of the draft bill. I have also found it valuable in recent months to meet with 15 individual operators, industry groups and resident groups. Their input has helped us refine the bill. In total, approximately 700 written submissions were received on the draft bill. Over 500 of these were from residents urging that the reforms be introduced as soon as possible. I would like to read just one example of a letter I received from a resident of a retirement village:
My husband and I are in our 70's, but many frail elderly people cannot take the pressure that is upon them. We are both really anxious to see a really fair and just deal for folk who live in these villages . . . Thank you for looking into the Retirement Village Industry. I feel this is the right way to go so our lives will be a lot happier.
There can be no doubt that the views of all parties involved in the retirement village industry have been widely canvassed and given close consideration in the final development of the bill. Let me now turn to the details of the bill. At present the term "retirement village" is loosely applied to a whole range of complexes that cater for older people. The bill includes a much tighter definition of what a retirement village is. In addition, it will be an offence to advertise or promote a complex as a retirement village if it does not meet the definition. In the past some caravan parks, for instance, have claimed to be a retirement village simply so that they can make a greater financial return. The bill will put an end to this practice. Buildings providing residential care under the Commonwealth Aged Care Act have been excluded from the bill.
Previously these premises, commonly known as Commonwealth-funded hostels and nursing homes, were covered under both Commonwealth laws and the New South Wales retirement village laws. The Government recognises that this dual system of regulation created unnecessary duplication, potential areas of legislative conflict and additional compliance cost for operators. These premises have been excluded on the understanding that the Commonwealth maintains its consumer protection provisions in the Aged Care Act. Should the Commonwealth move to reduce these rights in any way, this issue will be revisited.
One of the problems faced by prospective residents is to be able to make an informed decision in choosing a suitable and affordable retirement village. They are often presented with an array of glossy sales and promotional material. Some operators have perfected the practice of hiding costs and fees in small print or ambiguous language. Residents have often indicated that if they knew at the time of entering the village what they know now, they would never have agreed to move in. The bill will put an end to this unfair practice. All operators will be required to fill out a prescribed disclosure statement form, outlining information such as all fees and charges, and give one to each prospective resident.
Operators will also be required to supply a booklet produced by the Department of Fair Trading. The booklet will outline the rights and obligations of residents and operators, and give a general overview of how the industry works. These measures will, for the first time, allow prospective residents to compare different villages and to make an informed choice. If a disclosure statement is not provided or contains information that is false or misleading, residents will have the right to apply to the Residential Tribunal for an order allowing them to rescind the contract.
During the course of the review it was found that some operators and sales representatives, in their haste to attract new residents, were acting like shonky used car salespeople. Some were pressuring prospective residents to sign a contract on the spot, at times when they had only visited the village to look around. Our older members of the community deserve better treatment than this. Under the bill, operators will be required to give prospective residents a copy of any contract and give residents at least 14 days before it can be entered into. This will enable the person to thoroughly read the contract and to seek advice from an independent solicitor, a family member or somebody else before signing. A seven-day cooling off period will also apply.
Unfortunately, some operators were found to have promised all sorts of services and facilities that never materialised. It will now be an offence to claim that proposed services or facilities could be supplied unless they are set out in a village contract. The contract will need to specify a date from when the service or facility is expected to become available. If the service or facility is not provided or made available, the resident will have the right to seek compensation from the operator. In addition, residents will have three months to rescind a contract if the disclosure information provided by the operator is false and misleading.
A practice that causes me great concern is the way in which some operators go about pressuring their residents into signing amendments to existing contracts or terminating contracts and replacing them with new contracts altogether. Some threaten to evict residents or to close down the village unless residents agree to sign. There was even one case where a resident was approached in her hospital bed by an operator, not with a get well card and flowers but with a pen and a new contract in hand. Such unscrupulous tactics must end. Any amendment or proposed termination of a contract, initiated by an operator, will now be void unless residents obtain a certificate from a legal practitioner of their own choosing stating that the change has been explained to them and that they consent to it.
The reasonable cost of obtaining the certificate must be paid by the operator, as the proposed
change to the contractual arrangements will usually be in the operator’s interests. Residents are often required to pay significant amounts of money to secure the right to occupy premises in a retirement village. The general range is between $70,000 and $250,000, although amounts of up to $500,000 are charged at some Sydney north shore villages. Generally, residents do not receive any title or legal interest in the premises in which they reside. At present the return of their capital is solely reliant upon the solvency of the operator. Unfortunately some village operators have gone broke. This has left residents in the perilous position of unsecured creditors.
The bill addresses this problem by providing that any village contract is enforceable against any operator for the time being of the village. This will mean anybody purchasing or taking over a retirement village will be bound to honour all payments that must be made to existing residents under the terms of their contracts. A prospective purchaser of a retirement village would take account of existing obligations in determining a fair price. It is a condition of entry into some retirement villages that residents sign over their rights by giving the operator an irrevocable power of attorney or proxy. This practice must come to an end. Residents should have autonomy and freedom of decision-making at all times.
The bill gives residents the freedom to form residents committees in order to have input into the running of their villages. Residents will have the freedom to choose the extent to which they wish to participate and will not be compelled to attend any meeting or vote on any matter. Operators will be required to seek the consent of residents on a range of matters, including any changes in services or facilities. Failure to seek or obtain consent will give rise to a range of remedies. For instance, if services or facilities are reduced or withdrawn without the consent of the residents, the residents can apply to the Residential Tribunal for compensation, reinstatement of the service or facility, or a reduction in recurrent charges.
One of the main concerns of residents is the amount they pay in recurrent charges. Residents are either pensioners or self-funded retirees. They have little capacity to adjust to excessive increases in recurrent charges. One operator was found attempting to increase charges by some 350 per cent, asking residents who were paying $20 per week to pay $70. If the operator discloses that fees will only rise according to a fixed formula, such as a percentage of the single aged pension, or in line with the inflation rate, and the residents therefore know their future liability for fees, the operator is required to give residents 14 days notice of the fee increase. Consent of residents will not be required as residents have already agreed to the formula when entering into contracts.
If operators wish to maintain the flexibility of determining recurrent charges and fees at the discretion of the operator, residents must be given at least 60 days notice of any proposed increase. More importantly, the consent of residents to the proposed increase will be required. If the residents do not consent, the operator will have the choice of reducing or withdrawing the request or taking his or her case up with the Residential Tribunal. A range of factors of equal weight have been included in the bill for the tribunal to consider. These include the general market level of recurrent charges at other similar villages and the cost and level of services and facilities within the village. It will be a matter for the tribunal to decide which factors are important in determining what is a fair amount payable by residents, on a case-by-case basis.
All retirement village operators will be required to seek the consent of residents to the proposed expenditure of recurrent charges each financial year. If consent is given, the operator will be required to adhere to the statement of approved expenditure, unless residents consent to changes arising from unforeseen circumstances. In the past we have seen outlandish situations in which operators have spent in excess of $100,000 over budget then sought to recoup their losses from residents at the end of the year by way of a lump sum payment or special levy. The accounts of each village will be required to be audited annually. This is an important accountability measure and will show residents where their money has gone each year.
Significant reforms have been made in dispute resolution, providing residents and operators with a more inexpensive and accessible adjudication process through the Residential Tribunal and the Fair Trading Tribunal. Village disputes committees, established under the code, proved to be an unsatisfactory and ineffective way of handling disputes. Many residents have indicated that they did not have confidence in such committees. Residents and operators will now be able to apply for a wide range of orders from the Residential Tribunal. The Residential Tribunal Act has a range of mediation provisions appropriate to retirement village disputes. The Residential Tribunal already has a specialist retirement village division.
The bill also gives the Fair Trading Tribunal
jurisdiction to hear claims by residents of harsh, oppressive, unconscionable or unjust contracts under the Contracts Review Act 1980. Previously, such claims could be heard only in the Supreme Court. Despite having legitimate claims, many residents were precluded from challenging their contracts because they simply did not have the means to fund court action. Importantly, the bill enshrines the right of residents to security of tenure. The last thing residents should need to worry about is the possibility of being unwillingly evicted from their homes. A penalty of up to $22,000 will be imposed on anyone who illegally evicts a retirement village resident.
Unless a resident and operator agree to terminate a residence contract, an order will need to be obtained from the Residential Tribunal before a residence contract can end. Either party will be able to seek termination for persistent or serious breaches of a village contract or village rules, or if the premises become unsuitable for occupation by the resident because of his or her physical or mental incapacity. The tribunal will need to be satisfied that there is no other reasonable course of action before terminating a residence contract for these reasons.
During the course of the review it became clear that the single issue causing the greatest concern to residents is the way they or their families might be treated by operators after they die, move to a nursing home or otherwise leave the village. I am sure all fair-minded people will find it abhorrent to learn that older people and their families are being charged for meals, cleaning and other personal services years after they have died or otherwise left the village. But this is precisely what is happening in certain sectors of the retirement village industry. The review uncovered cases in which residents, or their estates, were still paying for meals, cleaning, laundry and other services five years after they had died or left the village. And we are not talking about trifling amounts. Some operators charge upwards of $1,000 per month for the provision of these services.
In one particular case the operator actually increased the charges after the residents had left the village. Under the bill a resident who dies or moves out of a village, either temporarily or permanently, will cease to be liable to pay recurrent charges for personal services after 28 days. Residents and operators can apply to the Residential Tribunal if a dispute about fees arises. The Government recognises that savings are rarely made on general services, such as staff costs, council rates and insurance, when residents die or move out. It is, however, unjust that residents who no longer get the benefit of living in the village should pay for general services indefinitely.
The bill places a six-month maximum limit on liability for general services unless the resident owns the premises within the village. The liability for general service fees for residents who own their units will cease as soon as they sell their units. The provisions in the bill relating to the liability of fees after a resident leaves or dies are examples of the consultation undertaken by the Government. The Government received submissions from residents suggesting that we further reduce the six-month cap on liability for fees after a resident has left, which was proposed in the draft bill. Some residents indicated that they were concerned that if the liability for fees was too restrictive and onerous on operators, the burden of the fees would be shifted to the residents still living in the village.
Operators told the Government that the contracts they enter into with suppliers for the provision of services may not easily be changed. Some operators indicated that many of their contracts with suppliers are month to month. The provisions in the bill represent a compromise of the interests of former residents of retirement villages, current residents and operators. They will put an end to the unsavoury practices that have given the industry a bad name. At present residents who own their premises in a retirement village, such as under strata title or company title, are treated differently from all other home owners in the wider community. They are often required under the terms of their contract to give a share of any capital gains to the operator.
If this is not bad enough, the operator also has the sole right to act as selling agent and to set the asking price for the unit. This means that an operator can sit back and wait for the highest bidder to come along, safe in the knowledge that the resident, or his or her estate, is still paying all the fees and charges on the unit. These practices would not be tolerated in the general community and should not be tolerated when it comes to retirement villages. The bill gives residents who own their homes the right to appoint a selling agent of their own choosing, who may or may not be the operator. They also have the right to set the sale price of the premises. The Government has not decided to interfere with contract terms requiring capital gains to be shared. However, the costs of selling must be shared in the same proportion as any capital gains.
If residents are having trouble selling they will be allowed to rent out their homes on a short-term basis. Presently, homes for sale in retirement villages are simply left vacant. This is a waste of
resources when one considers the large number of older people looking for affordable and suitable rental accommodation. Departure fees, or what were known as deferred fees or deferred management fees, remain a big problem within the industry. Many residents simply do not understand the purpose for these fees. All they or their families see is that large amounts - up to 25 per cent or 35 per cent - are taken by the operator once the resident dies or moves out.
The industry needs to improve the public’s understanding of what these fees are all about, otherwise departure fees will continue to cause older people contemplating moving into a retirement village to turn away from retirement villages as a housing option. The Government has chosen not to put caps on the amount of departure fees that may be charged at this time. Operators have indicated that departure fees are fundamental to the financial viability of the industry. The bill does, however, require that for new contracts departure fees cease to accrue when a resident permanently vacates. This will be an added incentive on operators to find a new resident as soon as possible.
In situations where a resident does not own the premises it is inappropriate that payment of the refund entitlement be delayed indefinitely until another resident is found. The bill places a six-month limit, from the date the resident permanently vacates, in which all moneys owed to the former resident must be paid. This is a common practice in the non-profit sector of the industry. Provision has been made for genuine cases of hardship on the part of an operator. The tribunal will have the power to extend the six-month limit if the operator has not found another resident and does not have the capacity to repay the money owing.
In response to concerns of residents about non-compliance with existing laws the bill includes a number of offences attracting penalty provisions. Residents will have the right to apply to the tribunal for an order that the operator comply with the legislation. Any monetary penalties imposed on an operator will not be able to be passed on to the residents in any way. A practice in the industry recently uncovered is the way in which some operators use high-priced lawyers to battle against residents in endless court proceedings. Regardless of the outcome of the case, the operator cannot lose because, under the terms of contracts with residents, if the court does not award costs to the operator, any legal fees are simply recovered from recurrent charges to pay for the legal expenses.
Services and facilities in a village may suffer simply so that the lawyers can be paid. At one village in Padstow residents have received bills for in excess of $20,000 to pay for the operator’s legal costs. The bill clears up the issue as to who pays for legal fees. If the courts award costs against residents clearly they must pay. Otherwise residents must consent to the payment of expenditure on legal costs. If residents do not consent, the operator has the right to apply to the tribunal for an order that the residents pay. The tribunal must be satisfied that the legal costs were incurred wholly in the interests of residents and the costs are reasonable in the circumstances.
The bill provides for the establishment of a Retirement Villages Advisory Council as a ministerial advisory council under the Fair Trading Act to enhance industry and resident input into government policy concerning retirement villages. I believe that the bill will greatly improve the rights of retirement village residents for the long-term benefit of the industry as a whole. While this bill will provide significant new protections for residents, I am aware that the significant change that this reform represents may concern others. That is why the Government will make sure that there will be an extensive campaign to inform residents of their rights under the new legislation.
I would like to thank the many people who have been involved in the preparation of the bill and who have participated in the consultation process, including: John Schmidt, Terry Downing, Kel Nash and Adam Heydon from the Department of Fair Trading; Mr Jack Allen, President of the Retirement Village Residents Association, Mr Neville Carnegie, Secretary of the Heritage Residents Committee; the Aged Services Association; the Retirement Villages Association and the many operators who gave up their time to meet with me to discuss the bill. I also thank Ms Agnes Yi from my ministerial office who has been shepherding this bill through to this point for many months. She has the respect of all parties involved in the consultation. I thank her for her efforts. In conclusion, I look forward to the second reading debate. I assure honourable members that, if any further improvements are put forward, the Government will carefully consider them. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
ROAD TRANSPORT (DRIVER LICENSING) AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Smithfield - Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads) [10.36 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to enable the storage of photo images of licence holders. At present the Roads and Traffic Authority does not store photo images of licence holders once a photo licence has been produced. Subsections (2) and (3) of section 32 of the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Act prohibit the retention of any record of a person’s image; require the destruction of all photographs, negatives or similar means of producing photographs immediately after a licence is issued; and make it an offence to reproduce the photograph used on a photo licence. Public opinion about photo identification has shifted towards acceptance of this concept.
The media has reported incidents of fraudulently obtained licences and there is public opinion about the integrity of licences being undermined through these actions. There is a recognition that there are commercial crime implications that impact adversely on innocent people. Honourable members would be aware that photo licences have become a primary means of establishing identity in the community. While this was not the intent and purpose of the licence, it has become more common for checks to be made on customers’ identities when doing business with organisations as diverse as financial institutions, government departments, licensed premises and department stores.
The existing prohibition on requiring the production of a driver licence in section 11AD of the Traffic Act will continue. Photo storage is vital to counter fraudulent applications for driver licences using another person’s proof-of-identity documents. A replacement licence will not be issued unless the applicant matches the facial image stored in the system. This will significantly enhance the integrity of the licensing system in preventing fraudulent transactions. Preventing the use of fraudulently obtained identities will provide the community with considerable benefits in terms of the prevention of serious fraud and accountability of licensees, vehicle operators and owners.
The types of fraud that will be prevented include credit or financial institution fraud, social security fraud, rebirthing of stolen vehicles, under-age purchasing of alcohol and tobacco, or entering into licensed premises. So far as this concerns the primary purpose of the licence - driver management - the bill enhances the integrity of the licence record and aims to frustrate those who would evade their responsibilities. While meeting community expectations on the security of photo licences, photo storage will also lead to better customer service. The Roads and Traffic Authority will be able to positively identify the genuineness of a customer efficiently without imposing series of checking procedures that could be seen by some customers as unduly onerous and time-consuming.
Storage of photo images of licence holders is not new. The technology is available in New South Wales and is already operating in other places. In Australia, the Victorian authorities have used the system since 1996, and in countries like the United States of America and Canada, many States and provinces store photo images. Technical deficiencies about licence cancellation have also come to light. When Parliament enacted the Traffic Amendment (Penalties and Disqualifications) Act 1998 it was intended that the licences of drivers who speed in excess of 30 kilometres above the speed limit should be cancelled or suspended. Inadvertently, the provision, as drafted, did not reflect that intention. Schedule 2 to the bill cures that defect. Schedule 2 also corrects an error in terminology and makes consequential amendments to other laws. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
TOW TRUCK INDUSTRY AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Smithfield - Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads) [10.40 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Tow Truck Industry Amendment Bill seeks to clarify elements of the Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 in order to provide effective tow truck regulation and the legislative basis for the Tow Truck Authority [TTA] to manage for the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] the removal of vehicles that are obstructing clearways. As honourable members will recall, in May last year the Hon. Peter Anderson was appointed to undertake a thorough review of the industry and recommended comprehensive reform. Mr Anderson’s review found that dishonest tow truck operators were intimidating vulnerable motorists and other honest operators at accident scenes to get extra business, and were being paid illegal drop fees to take damaged vehicles to unscrupulous smash repairers.
In November last year comprehensive reforms to the tow truck industry - in the form of the Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 - were passed by this
Parliament with bipartisan support. The Act introduced more stringent penalties; tougher character requirements to prevent people with a criminal record entering the industry; a self-funding Tow Truck Authority to replace the Tow Truck Industry Council, which will be responsible for policy development, enforcement priorities and licensing improvements; an advisory council to give the industry groups, the police, the Department of Fair Trading and the Department of Transport, a voice in the reform process; and a more effective disciplinary process.
The Act and new regulations are now in place. The current Act also allowed for the introduction of an allocation scheme for towing. An allocation scheme will stop reckless tow truck drivers racing to accidents and intimidating motorists and other tow truck drivers. In February this year the Government released Mr Anderson’s second report, which set out the preferred model for an accident towing allocation system in New South Wales. Extensive consultation with the industry was initiated. All tow truck operators and drivers were sent a number of surveys and asked to focus group meetings in order to get the industry’s input into ways to provide the most effective allocation system. The new Tow Truck Industry Advisory Council was also asked to provide recommendations.
The response from the industry has been overwhelming and I thank it for the valuable contribution and commitment to eliminate intimidation and violence in the industry. In response to the industry’s input the original model for the allocation system has been expanded to cover private cars, trucks, police and ambulance tows; operate statewide; and co-ordinate the removal of vehicles from clearways for the Roads and Traffic Authority. The new allocation system will co-ordinate accident towing through the Tow Truck Authority, removing the environment for violence that currently pervades the industry. The Government will call for tenders for administration of the system’s call centre and commence the new allocation system in early 2000. The centre, will be a one-stop shop for the efficient processing of smash towing jobs.
The bill that I bring to the House does not introduce any major change to the reform strategy. It seeks to clarify the Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 and ensure that it continues to provide a solid framework for industry reform. The first of the proposed amendments that I should draw to the House’s attention are the amendments to the administration of the Tow Truck Authority. The Tow Truck Authority’s existing structure and staffing arrangements - which had been carried over from the 1989 Act - are inconsistent with the new authority’s intended functions. While those arrangements had been appropriate for the former Tow Truck Industry Council [TTIC], which was an industry-governed body, the proposed amendments emphasise the governmental nature of the TTA’s role and its status as the industry regulator.
The proposed amendments will make the TTA a statutory body that represents the Crown; and provide that, in the exercise of its functions, the authority will be subject to ministerial direction and control. These changes will ensure that the TTA is an effective and responsible regulatory authority responsive to the public interest. The bill makes minor amendments to the Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 to improve the administration of the allocation scheme and to enshrine in legislation key provisions currently in regulation. The bill enshrines in the principal Act key provisions - currently in the regulation - that deal with the relationship between the TTA and participants in the job allocation scheme and makes it clear that job allocation prevails over any other arrangements for towing work. It combines division 1, which requires tow truck drivers to obtain towing authorisations before towing a vehicle from an accident, and division 2, which permits the establishment of a job allocation scheme to make the link between towing authorisations and job allocation clear.
The bill will give increased force to the prohibition in section 62 and section 63 to provide further consumer protection. Sections 62 and 63 of the current Act make it an offence for a person to attempt to obtain an authorisation for the repair of a motor vehicle at the scene of an accident. In addition to existing penalties, the bill proposes a 48-hour cooling off period, which will allow a motorist to revoke any agreement, verbal or otherwise, that was obtained in contravention of section 62. The new provisions expressly protect motorists from any liability for costs when the authority for repair was illegally obtained at the scene of an accident and revoked within the cooling off period.
The bill proposes a number of miscellaneous amendments to streamline the administration of the authority’s licensing function. First, it is proposed that the authority have the flexibility to adjust licence and driver certificate fees by way of an order published in the Government Gazette
. This will allow the authority - which is a revenue-neutral, self-funded agency - to conduct regular reviews of fees. Proposed amendments to provisions governing the investigation of applications for tow truck operators’ licences and drivers’ certificates will also help to streamline the processing of renewals.
The Tow Truck Industry Amendment Bill also makes amendments to strengthen the tow-away provisions in the road transport legislation, and in particular sections 75 and 76 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999. By strengthening the tow-away provisions in the Act, the bill will enable the RTA to improve its traffic management services. The Tow Truck Authority will work closely with the Roads and Traffic Authority’s state-of-the-art Transport Management Centre to ensure that illegally parked vehicles are removed from clearways as quickly as possible. This will help clear traffic around an accident site and help in reducing traffic delays.
The key amendments in the bill to assist with removing vehicles from clearways will clarify the powers of the RTA to cause a vehicle that is obstructing traffic on a major road or a clearway to be removed; and strengthen the RTA’s ability to recover the costs of removing vehicles that are illegally parked and causing an obstruction to traffic or threat to public safety. The bill also allows the RTA to create special tow-away areas to help cater for special events, and increases the penalty for failing to pay the prescribed tow-away charge. The bill will also ensure that motorists who can show that their vehicle was stolen and left in a clearway will not be liable for obstructing traffic.
Under the proposed amendments tow truck drivers who are authorised by the RTA to remove vehicles that are causing an obstruction will be permitted to use any reasonable means to move the vehicle. At the moment, for example, tow truck drivers must either resort to breaking into a vehicle left unattended on a clearway in order to release the handbrake, or they must drag the vehicle in full lock, potentially doing serious damage to the vehicle’s transmission, tyres or chassis. The proposed amendment will allow tow truck operators and drivers to take the course of action least likely to damage the vehicle, and protect them from being liable for any damage that is caused not by their own negligence.
Similarly, the bill amends the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 to protect the roads authority or other person or body authorised to remove vehicles that are causing an obstruction to traffic from claims for compensation if the vehicle is damaged while being towed. There are also amendments to the evidentiary provisions in the Road Transport (General) Act 1999 to make records of the towing of a vehicle under job allocation certificate evidence in any proceeding against a person who commits an offence under section 75 or section 76 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999.
I thank the tow truck industry and members of the Tow Truck Industry Advisory Council for their input into the reform process. I also thank Ms Fran Marshall, General Manager of the Tow Authority, and her staff for their hard work in implementing the Government’s reform agenda. Finally, I acknowledge the vital efforts of the Hon. Peter Anderson and Mr Paul O’Sullivan, chairperson and deputy chairperson of the Tow Truck Authority Board. Their skill and expertise have been invaluable in delivering for the motoring public, and the honest majority in the tow truck industry, comprehensive and timely reform. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Private Members’ Statements
Motion, by leave, by Mr Face agreed to:
That private members’ statements be now taken up to 11.00 a.m. at this sitting.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ STATEMENTS
BONDI BEACH RAIL PROPOSAL
(Vaucluse) [10.50 a.m.]: I am delighted that the Minister for Transport is in the Chamber because I shall be talking about the Bondi Beach rail project. I am sure he will respond by adding a little about the Government’s real intentions. The Bondi Beach rail project has been a sorry saga and a farce. It is worthy of a script written by Bob Ellis, but it has been written by the Government. For the past two years we have been trying to get the Government to state exactly what it is trying to do with the Bondi rail project. The Government was simply going to railroad the project through the Bondi Beach community and construct a station in the middle of the beach park or slightly to the southern end of it.
After much community concern, the proposal - which would have involved knocking down a few trees - was rejected in favour of moving the proposed station further towards the centre of Bondi Beach Park. As I have expressed to the House several times during the past few years, the community is still very much concerned about placing that facility in the beach park, mostly because half of the drawing area for passengers would take in the fish and not the residents! It will
simply become a tourist tunnel - and that is not acceptable to the community. In recent years a number of other locations have been happily considered as options for the location of the station.
One such alternative location is the present construction site of the new Bondi Beach police station. It is a shame that this rail project has been delayed for so long that it now appears the site on the corner of Gould and Roscoe streets is no longer an option. If the Government is seriously considering that site it should come clean on its intentions for the rail project as quickly as possible. The only other alternative site for the beach station is Hunter Park, which is at the bottom of the hill off Bondi Road. Residents immediately either side of that park have expressed concerns about the station being constructed at that location. However, I am aware that the Government has considered that site as a serious alternative for a number of years.
We are now at the end of 1999 and this project has been under way in the Minister’s portfolio for the past three years. Almost four years ago the Premier pushed this project as a personal initiative to bulldoze it through to fruition. However, the community expects more involvement and consultation. During the past two to three years I have made a number of private member’s statements calling on the Government to come clean on its intentions for the Bondi Beach rail project. I say again that the outstanding point appears to be the Minister’s selection of the site for the Bondi Beach station. As far as I can tell there are only four alternative sites: the southern end of the beach park, the middle section of the beach park, Hunter Park or the current police station construction site.
Will the Minister indicate to the House where the Government is headed with the project? Which site will have to accept the Bondi Beach railway station? If it is the police station construction site, what will the Minister do about the current construction on that site? At the estimates committee hearing in response to a question about the location of the Bondi Beach railway station and the Government’s commitment to the project, the Minister simply said, "I would expect an EIS to be put out on the project in the future."
I thank the Minister for that information, but the message we have been receiving for three years is, "Don’t ring us, we’ll ring you." This project is extremely important to the local community. Communities are not something in which the Carr Government is interested. This project will have massive implications for the people of Bondi Beach. It is time the Carr Government came clean and put its intentions up front. If the project is to continue, the Government should issue the environmental impact statement and allow the community to be involved in the process.
(Smithfield - Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads) [10.55 a.m.]: I am happy to talk about the Bondi Beach railway project. I was questioned about the Bondi Beach railway extension at the estimates committee hearing. The honourable member for Vaucluse is correct in that I said that the railway extension was the subject of detailed assessment and consideration by the Government. If the honourable member for Vaucluse had bothered to read the Action for Transport plan he would have seen that the Government has made a commitment for the construction of that rail link. I regard it as an important part of this Government’s post-2000 jobs plan.
The Bondi Beach rail link project will commence during this term of office. Over the next few months we will complete the environmental impact statement [EIS] and put it on public display during the first half of next year. What we are doing is no surprise. The honourable member would expect me to respond; he cannot have it both ways. He expects the Government to be co-operative, inclusive and join with the community in taking on board as much of their concerns as possible. We are doing that. We are considering a range of things put to us by the community and assessing them to take the EIS forward. We are proceeding with the project and expect an EIS to be available in the next few months.
ASSOCIATION SAN VITTORIO
(Liverpool) [10.56 a.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House the admirable charitable activities of the Association San Vittorio, which is a well-known organisation. This year I had the honour of attending two of the association’s functions. On Friday 23 July I attended the association’s annual ball, which was held - as it has been for some considerable time - at the Conca D’Oro Lounge. This year the ball was a Christmas in July festivity. While the function obviously aimed to entertain people, its primary objective was to raise money. The association wrote to me as follows:
The association aims to raise funds for those less fortunate than most by actively conducting functions and events and donating these surplus funds to worthy causes. Our principal benefactor being the Scalabrini Villages, who provide aged care and hostel accommodation for the elderly and sick . . .
This year we have selected the Ageing and Alzheimer Research Foundation based at Concord Hospital. As you more than likely are aware, Alzheimer’s is a crippling disease affecting a vast cross section of the community and the work conducted by Sandra Forster and her team at the foundation is a long and arduous process without significant reward and funding.
A substantial amount of money was raised for the foundation on the night of the ball. This is in keeping with the long and charitable tradition of the Association San Vittorio. In previous years the beneficiaries of its generosity included the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, the Royal Blind Society and Raise a Smile Foundation. Present as special guests at this particular evening in July were Sandra Forster from the foundation and Father Nevio from the Scalabrini Villages. Those at the association responsible for organising the event deserve special praise. In particular I acknowledge Joe Demasi, the association’s president, and Joe Nesci, the association’s secretary. I mention also Sam and Lorna Frasca and Lucy Demasi.
Apart from the specific objects of the association’s charitable donations the principal beneficiary over a lengthy period of time has been the Scalabrini Villages. These villages provide aged care and hostel accommodation for the elderly and sick, especially amongst the Italian community in Australia. Sydney has a number of Scalabrini Villages, including one at Chipping Norton. The one with which I have had the closest connection over a period of time is at Austral. The Austral Scalabrini Village was the venue for the second function, which was the thirty-ninth annual festival of the Association San Vittorio and was held on Sunday 19 September.
The day’s festivities commenced with the celebration of a mass at 1.30 p.m. which was followed by a procession around the village and along part of Edmondson Avenue. This was followed by the official opening speeches by President Joe Demasi and me, and then by musical and variety entertainment. As the title of the event suggests, this was the thirty-ninth successive year of the festival, and reflects the 39 years of the association’s existence. It is a tremendous tribute to the commitment of those who have been involved with the association over such a long period.
The association consists mainly of people who came from Italy, or whose families came from Italy. The vast majority come from the Calabria region, and specifically from the town of Rocella. The association is named after the Patron Saint of Rocella. It embodies the generosity of the Italian, Calabrian and Rocellese communities who, for 39 years, have raised money for deserving and charitable purposes. As I have said on several occasions, the example of this association and the Italian community could be valuably emulated by many others in Australia.
The association’s activities in placing the good of others above personal advancement are not only desirable at the charitable level; the association also maintains a cultural tradition that is very important not only to the Italian community but to the whole of south-western and western Sydney. One of the distinguishing features of my electorate is its tremendous cultural diversity, which makes it vibrant and interesting. That is one of our strengths as a community. We obtain strength through the different cultural and ethnic diversities that are exhibited in our region.
The Italian community is a significant element of our cultural diversity. The activities of the Association of San Vittorio add not only to the richness of life of the Italian community but to the richness and diversity of western and south-western Sydney. Those who rant and rave and criticise the policy and philosophy of multiculturalism do not understand that it is not simply a theory, it is in fact a description of the reality of our communities. Multiculturalism will be abolished only if western Sydney is abolished. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to draw to the attention of the House the public-spirited activities of the Association of San Vittorio and its members, who have raised money for charitable purposes and enriched the cultural fabric of our region. It is an honour and pleasure to be involved in the association’s activities.
Private members’ statements noted.
Order! I remind honourable members that today the House will hold a discussion on the Constitution referendum to be held on 6 November. That discussion will commence at 11.00 a.m. I wish to inform members of some procedural matters for the conduct of today’s discussion. The Serjeant-at-Arms will escort the Hon. Neville Wran, AC, QC, and the Hon. Sir James Killen, KCMG, into the Chamber. The Hon. Neville Wran will take his seat in the place normally occupied by the Premier on the Government front bench and the Hon. Sir James Killen will take his seat in the place normally occupied by the Leader of the Opposition on the Opposition front bench.
I will introduce the Hon. Neville Wran, who will then speak for 20 minutes. I will then introduce
the Hon. Sir James Killen, who will also speak for 20 minutes. The Serjeant-at-Arms will then escort both speakers from the floor of the Chamber, and they will then sit together on the benches normally occupied by Government staff. I propose to then give the call to the Premier, who will move the motion standing in his name on the business paper. The Premier will be followed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party. I will then give the call to the member first seeking it, rather than calling upon members from alternate sides of the House.
[The Hon. N. K. Wran and the Hon. Sir James Killen were conducted by the Serjeant-at-Arms onto the floor of the Chamber.
The Chair recognises the presence in the Chamber of the Hon. Neville Wran, who was born in Balmain and was elected to the New South Wales Parliament in 1973. He was Premier from 1976 to 1986. He was elected National President of the Australian Labor Party in 1980 and held that position until he resigned in 1986. The Hon. Neville Wran was a founding member of the Australian Republican Movement. He is a member of the movement’s campaign committee, and is a member of the YES Committee for the Republican Movement.
The Hon. Neville Wran has been a committed republican for many years. His work with the Australian Republican Movement over the past eight years has brought him to the belief that there are many reasons why Australians should vote yes on 6 November. I once again welcome the Hon. Neville Wran to the floor of the Legislative Assembly Chamber.
The Hon. N. K. WRAN:
Thank you, Mr Speaker, Premier, and members from all sides of the House for giving me - and I am sure I speak for my learned lord on the woolsack, James Killen - the privilege to address this historic Chamber at this historic time. More than 10 years ago, when a few of us met and formed the Australian Republican Movement, our ideals may have been lofty, but to us our objective seemed quite modest. We thought that the time had come for Australia to cast off the last vestiges of colonialism and become a republic - a republic with an Australian head of state. We were not unaware, of course, that to achieve our objective we needed a change to the Australian Constitution - a process notoriously and historically difficult, as the record of referendums in this country testifies.
We were equally not unaware that the same people who advocate a no vote have consistently supported the status quo at every stage of Australia’s development: no to Federation, no to an Australian as Governor-General, no to removing the power of the British Parliament to legislate for Australia, and no to ending the Privy Council as Australia’s final Court of Appeal.
The proponents of the status quo have neither surprised nor disappointed us. They are no more amenable to change today than they were almost 100 years ago during the Federation debates. At that time the most dire consequences were predicted if Australians and the Australian States joined together in Federation. Now the monarchists threaten Sodom and Gomorrah if we take the rather modest step and decide that at last an Australian - one of our own - should be the Head of State. I am sure that Sir James will not mind my mentioning that he is a proponent of the status quo. I remember, because I took the trouble to read the transcripts, that at the Constitutional Convention Sir James urged delegates to come with him and walk along the road to support the status quo.
The status quo-ites have preached across the length and breadth of Australia the message, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." Our Westminster system ain’t broke, and it don’t need fixing. Republicans have never suggested that it does. What does need fixing is having Queen Elizabeth II as our Queen - and the prospect of having Charles III as our King, with Queen Camilla as his consort. The fact is that our democratic parliamentary system remains exactly the same with the change to a republic with an Australian President as the Head of State. Indeed, in a address to the Constitutional Centre of Western Australia, the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams, made that abundantly clear. Under the heading "A Safe Model for a Republic" the Attorney-General said:
The Republic model that we will be voting upon on 6 November will not result in any dramatic change in the day to day operation of our system of national government.
The Commonwealth Parliament would continue with the same powers.
The Cabinet and Federal Executive Council would continue with the same powers.
The Government would remain responsible directly to the Parliament.
The court system would not change.
The relationship between the Commonwealth and the States would not change.
The only significant change is in the Head of State.
The Republic bill would substitute an Australian President for the Queen and the Governor-General.
So let us put to rest this nonsensical inference sought to be drawn from the "If it ain’t broke" catchcry and look at some of the real arguments relevant to the forthcoming referendum. The basic arguments as to why Australians should vote yes to Australia becoming a republic are as clear as they are logical. We are Australians. Our head of state should be an Australian. Every Australian should be entitled to aspire to be the country’s Head of State.
Indeed, honourable members will recall that, according to the recent ruling of the High Court, the United Kingdom is a foreign power. That makes the Queen of the United Kingdom the Head of State of a foreign power. Yet, under our present constitutional arrangements, the Queen of the United Kingdom is Australia’s Head of State. Australia’s Head of State should represent Australia and Australians. Only an Australian can do that. The Queen, when she travels abroad, does not represent Australia. She does not pretend to represent Australia. She represents the United Kingdom, the manufacturers of the United Kingdom, the producers of the United Kingdom, the people of the United Kingdom, but certainly not the people of Australia.
Only a few weeks ago I was watching the great World Cup cricket final between Australia and Pakistan. While I was watching, the camera panned around, and there was Bob Hawke, Foster’s in one hand, Blanche in the other. A few minutes later the camera panned in another direction, and there were the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. I thought to myself, "I know how Hawkey would be barracking." I don’t know whether a royal person should barrack or not but, whatever the equivalent in royalty is, I thought to myself, "I know how Hawkey would be barracking if Australia was playing England, and I’m equally certain how the Queen would be barracking; she would be barracking for England, and so she should." It is small examples like that that ram home to us the absolute irrelevancy of British royalty to the Australian situation.
A yes vote would replace the Queen and her representative, the Governor-General, with an Australian President who would possess the same powers as the Governor-General. I repeat: our present system of parliamentary democracy would remain completely intact. On an occasion such as this, when the special privilege of addressing the Chamber has been so generously extended, it is probably not possible, within the time frame allowable, to articulate a complete comparison of the present constitutional position and that which would exist if the yes vote is successful. However, to get things in some perspective I propose to attempt, as best I can, a meaningful comparison of the current system and the system that would exist if the yes vote is successful.
At present the Governor-General is appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister. Under the republic model the President would be chosen by a far more democratic process. Any Australian citizen could be nominated, whilst politicians and members of political parties would be disqualified. A committee would invite and consider nominations from the public. The Prime Minister would consider a report from the committee before putting forward, with the approval of the Leader of the Opposition, a single nomination to a joint sitting of both Houses of the Federal Parliament, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority. So the appointment process under the yes model is transparent, it involves the people and the people’s duly elected representatives, and it ensures that a politician will not be President.
I turn to the powers. The powers of the Governor-General and the President are exactly the same. Consider the oaths. The Governor-General makes an oath of allegiance to the monarch. Why? The President would make an oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Australia and the Australian people, which is as it should be. The Governor-General may be removed at any time by the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Under the republic model, the Prime Minister could remove the President by written instrument, and then would be required to seek approval for the dismissal from the House of Representatives. The process ensures that a dismissal would have intense public scrutiny, and a Prime Minister who acted arrogantly or capriciously would suffer the political consequences. If we have any doubt about the sort of political consequences that being capricious or arrogant can bring about, just look at what happened to Jeff Kennett. Look what happens to governments of all persuasions who get out of touch with the people.
The monarchists, the no-vote lobby, point to the fact that the Prime Minister could dismiss the President as easily as he could sack his driver. First of all, they do not know much about industrial relations; it is very difficult to sack a driver! But, that aside, that argument ignores the political reality. It treats the Australian public as if they are fools. It treats the Australian public as if they will countenance arrogance and unfairness, and will take no retaliatory action when ballot box time comes around again. So all of those arguments need to be put within the context of some sort of reality and judged in the light of our political experience.
I repeat: the Governor-General can be removed by the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister. No Governor-General has ever been removed. Why should it be that, because we have a President, an Aussie, somebody who has been put there by Australians, the monarchists immediately assume that a President will be removed? After all, that person will be a person of distinction, a person of great reputation and someone who has the support of the Australian people. Yet the monarchists say: Be very careful, because the Prime Minister can dismiss him.
The Prime Minister, at the present time, can advise the Queen, and off goes the Governor-General. Immediately, taking the example to the extreme, the Prime Minister can appoint one of his mates as Governor-General. Under the system on which we will vote on 6 November, if, by some chance, the President were removed, then the whole process of the appointment of the President must be started again - nominations would have to be called for, it would have to go through the committee process, the Prime Minister would receive a report from the committee and talk to his colleague the Leader of the Opposition, and finally there would be the bipartisan approval of a two-thirds majority of the House of the Federal Parliament. That process would ensure that a dismissal would have, as I mentioned, intense public scrutiny.
The yes model, replacing the Queen and the Governor-General with an Australian as the Head of State, is a significant improvement on the system that we have today, with the Queen as the Head of State and the Governor-General as her representative. A no vote would shut the door upon a republican proposal being submitted to a referendum for years, probably generations, to come. After all, Mr Howard is a declared monarchist and a declared supporter of the status quo. And Mr Beazley, whilst he supports the present republican model, would need exceptional circumstances to submit the issue again to an electorate that has rejected the proposal already.
A no vote is a vote for Prince Charles as Australia’s next Head of State. Indeed, as I wrote in the Australian
newspaper a day or so ago, I can hear the master of ceremonies now intoning, "Ladies and gentlemen, charge your glasses, be upstanding. I propose a toast to His Majesty King Charles III of Australia." That does not sound right any longer. It does not sound right in this day and age to have anyone but an Australian as our Head of State.
The monarchists recognise that. That is the reason that all last week and into this week they have run deceptive and misleading advertisements urging electors: "If you want to vote for the President, vote no." The reality is that a no vote will mean the end of the drive for an Australian republic for many years, probably for generations, to come. Far from delivering to electors the right to vote for the President, a majority no vote would ensure that electors will not have such right to vote, and for obvious reasons. If the no vote succeeds, there will be no republic and, consequently, no President.
The campaign leading to the referendum is unique in a number of respects. Party political enemies have linked arms to support the common cause of their choice. During this campaign I frequently appeared on the same platform as my old political opponent and prominent National Party member Wendy Machin in support of the yes case. Despite all the twists and turns of a Mississippi cardsharp caught in the act, Peter Reith seems comfortable espousing the direct election case with Phil Cleary. The most extraordinary feature of the no campaign is the way in which the monarchists have hidden the Queen in the broom closet - out of sight, out of mind. Remember the old Fawlty Towers
line, "Don’t mention the war"? We do not hear much from the no supporters about the Queen.
The monarchists, having apparently come to the conclusion that the present arrangement with the English Queen as Australian Head of State is indefensible, have linked up with the direct electioneers, some of whom advocate an American presidency - which would result in the end of the Westminster system, our present system of parliamentary democracy. That is a perfect example, if I might say so, of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
This bizarre coupling has produced the extraordinary situation whereby the monarchists, who, over time, have condemned and ridiculed the direct election proposal, are conducting a campaign with the slogan "If you want to vote for the President, vote no." A majority no vote will not give electors the right to vote for the President. On the contrary, a majority no vote makes certain that they will not have such right, and for obvious reasons. I repeat: If the no vote succeeds, there will be no republic. Consequently, there will be no President or candidates for the presidency to vote for.
I would like to take a few minutes to speak on the issue of the direct election. Most people here today are politicians of sorts. I correct that for Hansard
to politicians of some sort. Therefore, we would be expected to know the ramifications of elections. Direct electionists, who never really put a
proposal to the Constitutional Convention, and still have not produced a workable and understandable model for a direct election - certainly not a direct election model which would preserve our Westminster system - have a fanciful idea that with a direct election there will be nominations and a campaign. At the end of the campaign one candidate will win.
They believe that the winner will become objective, non-party political, unbiased, unprejudiced and non-aligned, and in the transformation will become the perfect President. In reality, the only people who could hope to win or even participate in an election of that kind are the extremely rich, such as occurs in the United States of America, where tens of millions of dollars are poured into presidential campaigns, or candidates nominated by the major political parties. Obviously, the Australian Labor Party would nominate a candidate, as would the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Greens. One Nation would nominate a candidate, but we have to draw the line somewhere. All the parties would nominate candidates.
There would then be a full-blooded election campaign and the candidates would be supported in their resources, both financial and policy, by their respective parties. At the end of the day, the candidate who wins would be expected to divest all that political baggage, become independent and objective and pay no regard to his or her allegiances. That is absolute nonsense. Jim Killen, who would make a fine President, could not abandon the Liberal Party any more than I could abandon the Labor Party. I would never do so, nor would he. That is the position of most people who have thrown in their lot with the causes of the great political parties of this country.
It would be like believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden to believe that a direct election will somehow work itself out, and that instead of a politician being elected, a bishop will become the President of this country. We all know that bishops have no prejudices. To give one other example of where the country stands at the present time, the Olympic charter requires that the Head of State of a country in which the Olympic Games is being held should open the Games.
Even John Howard was not prepared to have the Queen of England open the Olympic Games. He said that it would be inappropriate for her to open what is undoubtedly the greatest, most significant national event that this country will host this century. Instead, Mr Howard himself will open the Games. That is fair enough; I will not argue or worry about that. What I do say is that in the heart of conservatism the view is taken that the Queen is now irrelevant in terms of symbolism, stature and status for Australians.
For the life of me I cannot understand why, in the light of that attitude, the monarchists and those who want to keep the status quo hang onto these thin threads which link them to the British Crown and British imperialism. Finally, I would like to emphasise that the changes to the Australian Constitution contemplated in the referendum question are not great. The differences between the Governor-General and the President’s appointment, dismissal and so on under the republican model are not great. I think in the case of the republic they are fairer and more democratic. Our system of parliamentary democracy will remain unaltered. There will not be any significant changes to basic government and political arrangements.
The flag will not change, neither will the national anthem. Australia will continue as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. We will still compete in the Commonwealth Games. The change of significance is the replacement of the British monarch by an Australian as our Head of State. A yes vote will give Australians the opportunity to achieve full and complete nationhood. A yes vote will be a stimulating and dynamic force throughout the length and breadth of our country. It will enhance the perception in which Australia is held by the countries of the regions in which we live. At last and forever we Australians will be standing on our own two feet.
The Chair acknowledges the presence of the Hon. Sir James Killen. Sir James was elected to the Federal Parliament in 1955. He was Minister for Defence from 1975 to 1982. He was Leader of the House until his resignation in 1983. He has written extensively, including two well-known books. He was the highest polling candidate in the Queensland election for the Constitutional Convention. A man of strong views, he has been an active campaigner for the no vote. I welcome Sir James to the New South Wales Parliament.
The Hon. Sir JAMES KILLEN:
I would say at once that I acknowledge the singular honour that this House does to me in inviting me to be here today to put a case against that expressed so felicitously against me by my old friend the Hon. Neville Wran, one of Her Majesty’s counsel learned in the law. This is not the first occasion I have spoken in this Parliament. Indeed, some 20-odd years ago when I was at Defence I had occasion to
ring the then Premier of this State, the Hon. Neville Wran, to ask him if I could see him concerning a trivial matter about Defence land.
At the meeting he said, "Killen, why on earth did you want to take up time about this? Why didn’t you simply put it in the Gazette and the thing would have been over and done with?" I said, "I have an anxiety to come here to have a chat with you and to express the hope that you may take me to lunch because, after all, with you I don’t think I would need a food taster." When I received the invitation from the honourable the Premier of this State to come to lunch today I thought, well, Killen, there it is, New South Wales hospitality is in continuance. So I accepted readily, but whether I will need a food taster after I have delivered my speech is an open question.
On the last occasion I was in this Chamber I was the Whip for the Commonwealth Constitution delegation. When I asked my distinguished friend the Hon. E. G. Whitlam, QC, another of Her Majesty’s counsel learned in the law, why he appointed me as Whip, he said, "Killen, you’re one of the few I know in the Parliament who can crack one." So I had some experience at the whipping business. At the end of the convention I sent around a small sheet of paper headed "Whip’s Testimonial Fund", asking the various delegates from the Commonwealth if they would acknowledge the services I had given to them.
For example, the late Senator Gair wrote "A bottle of whisky". Billy Snedden wrote "Viceroy of the new State". My late honourable friend Lionel Murphy, the then Attorney-General, wrote "Superior court", to which the Hon. E. G. Whitlam, QC, added the two initials "CJ". Whitlam wrote against his name "Spain", and thereby hangs a story. As Prime Minister he had always undertaken that I should go to Madrid as Australia’s ambassador. At the beginning it was something of a joke and at the end it was very serious. I said, "Why Spain?" He said, "Because, comrade, you and Franco would get on famously."
I have experienced all sorts of perils in this historic Parliament, which has a singular grace and charm about it, although looking at the badges with "Yes" on them I feel I have a better understanding of the apostle James when he records in his epistle something to the effect of: if people err in truth the greater the difficulty of converting them. Listening to the speech of my honourable friend this morning, I now realise what a formidable task I have in seeking to convert him. But being possessed with fierce, uncompromising Irish optimism, I have not given up hope.
I will start by expressing my astonishment to the honourable gentleman that he has invoked today as one of his singular authorities in this debate the present Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, the Hon. Daryl Williams. The Attorney-General was described by the lucid legal mind of Lord Halsbury as the first law officer of the Crown. This would be the first occasion in the history of our peoples that one has witnessed the first law officer of the Crown asking not for a diminution in the powers of the Crown but for their total dismantlement.
In this country Chief Justice Knox described the law officer of the Crown in kindred language. But there, honourable gentleman, I suppose we pass over centuries of history. Let me presume, sir, to remind this Chamber and those who sit in it that when the first law officer of the Crown, the present Attorney-General, put out the exposure draft of the republican bill for consideration the nomination, however that surfaced, was to be moved by the Prime Minister and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, if any. Let me ask every honourable member and my old friend, the Hon. Neville Wran, if they can imagine a political state in Australia where there was no Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament?
The Hon. Sir JAMES KILLEN:
I am under obligation to the honourable gentleman who interrupted; I thought I had sedated him. For my part, if I can encounter a mind where any person can seriously argue for an Australian Parliament to be in existence without a Leader of the Opposition, I would like to take him on my staff as a turf adviser to take me to Randwick to see if his talents could be put to good use there. That is the authority that the honourable gentleman has invoked today.
I find it incredible that any person sitting in any Parliament in Australia could take the view that we can have a Parliament without a Leader of the Opposition. How a person could be possessed with that sense of calm and detachment I find difficult. My honourable friend said the opposition to this comes from all of those people who have been opposed to all sorts of reforms in Australia. I would presume to remind the honourable gentleman that it was the State of New South Wales which, in 1936, voted against giving to the Federal Parliament power to legislate with respect to civil aviation.
Today that power rests upon an international convention. New South Wales voted against giving to the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate with respect to that. Again, sir, I do not wish to make my honourable friend too emotional,
but I was not present at the time of Federation. However, I would like to say this. I do not want to be present to see its disappearance, and that is where I believe that the substantial part of the opposition to this rests. In my judgment, it will grievously disturb the Federation, and I would presume to explain why. At the Constitutional Convention held in Canberra last year, a committee was set up to consider the impact of a republic upon the Federation.
I suppose this is the first time this Assembly has ever been used as a confessional - some might say it is a bit overdue - but I would describe to the House the activities of that committee. I was the chairman of the committee; I was the rapporteur of the committee; I was the sole attendee at that committee. The report of that committee was accepted without any dissent whatsoever. The communique asked that the Federal Government and Federal Parliament ask the State governments and State Parliament to consider the impact of a republic upon the respective State Constitutions. There was no dissent whatsoever.
In March of this year I wrote to the Prime Minister asking him what action had been taken with respect to that. I received a letter back from a Principal Adviser - Legal - to say that action had been taken but the Attorney-General had made it clear in the exposure draft that there was to be no disturbance to the existing political structure. I have already referred to one. I said to the Prime Minister, in the name of charity, that if he wanted to get respondents to reply offering fatuous, banal observations, get some Minister to do that, or even the Prime Minister himself, but do not leave it to civil servants to do it.
There are some 326 references in the Commonwealth Constitution to the State or States. I offer the view that at the time of Federation it would have been impossible to have got unanimity among the colonies of the day to subscribe to Federation unless they had something in common. The only thing they had in common was the Crown. My honourable friend this morning has adverted repeatedly to the British monarchy. Far be it from me to presume to offer this eminent jurist, this eminent Queen’s Counsel, any law reports to read, but I would invite him to read the case reported in (1982) 2 AER 118, The Queen v. The Secretary of State for the Commonwealth and the Indians of Alberta,
because a very significant decision was made by that eminent human being and great jurist, the late Lord Denning.
The Indians in 1763 were assured that their lands would be kept inviolate. When Canada’s constitutional arrangements were changed the Indians, particularly those in Alberta, were concerned as to what their fate would be, so they brought an action seeking a declaration that the agreement entered into centuries before would be respected. The matter got to the Court of Appeal, which was presided over by the great Lord Denning. Lord Denning and his brother judges were to find that the Indians had sued the wrong Crown. The Crown of the United Kingdom is quite different from the Crown of Australia and the Crown of Canada and the Crown of New Zealand and so on, and that is the case in Australia. The Crown was the one unifying influence that was available.
I ask my honourable friend what he would suggest would be the unifying influence today in the Commonwealth. It is all very fine to talk about the symbolism that we are all Australians. I invite my honourable friend to come with me to the next State of Origin football match at Lang Park in Queensland. I think he would find some very meagre assessments made of those who come from New South Wales. I try to practise charity throughout the year, not merely during Lent, but he would be left with the impression, listening to some of the assessments made in Queensland, that there are some grievous defects in the structure of those representing New South Wales. The Crown has been the one unifying influence, and if that is disturbed, in my view there will be grievous consequences so far as Australia is concerned.
The Crown is clearly entrenched in four States. It is entrenched in Queensland. In my humble submission it is entrenched here in the State of New South Wales. It is significantly entrenched in Western Australia. To disturb the position of the Crown in Western Australia, quite apart from the Australia Act, would need an absolute majority in both Houses of the Parliament and a referendum to be carried. Similarly, it is entrenched in South Australia. Sir, if you were to take the Crown away from the Commonwealth Constitution what would you put in its place? This is the difficulty that I point out to my honourable friend and his colleagues who sit opposite, colleagues of the past and colleagues of the present. This is not a case of symbolism; this is a very serious case as to what will be the unifying influence so far as Australia is concerned.
The honourable gentleman referred to the fact that the proposals will not change the existing structure. I contest that in the most explicit of terms. I turn to several considerations. First of all, there is the appointment. There is to be an appointments committee, made up of 32 people, 16 of whom will be nominated by the Prime Minister. The chairman of that committee, who will have a deciding vote, is
to be nominated by the Prime Minister. That nominations committee is proposed to be entrenched only in one particular in the Constitution. The rest of it is to be done by legislative form. If the honourable gentleman cared to read the Act he would find the language "until the Parliament otherwise provides", which will be the number of 32. I invite the honourable gentleman to point to the defect in that argument of mine. It can be reduced to 12, to five, to 10, so long as there is one in existence.
Then one comes to the rather curious position that if the nomination is arranged it needs two-thirds of the Parliament to be accepted. As I say, I seek to practise charity. Would my friends in the Labor Party alter the constitution of their great party to provide for a free vote of those who sit in the Commonwealth Parliament? I think that is a simple test. I respect and acknowledge the historic links of Parliament with the Labor Party caucus, but I find myself embracing a different political philosophy. I find myself, I suppose as I confess time and again, walking in the tradition of Edmund Burke. Parliament, to me, is a deliberative assembly. It is not an assembly to which people go to cast a vote according to some preordained decision. Take the proportion of two-thirds. I would hate to take a mob of sheep from the person who thought up that idea, because two-thirds of 224 works out at about 149_. It is arithmetically stupid. This is two-thirds of both Houses of the Parliament.
But then you come to the point about the Prime Minister’s power of dismissal. It is to be approved by the House of Representatives. I will come to what I describe as this palpably synthetic and shallow provision regarding the dismissal. Why is the Senate left out of that consideration? There has yet to be one spokesman for the yes case offering the slightest protest as to why the views of the Senate were accepted on the first instance and rejected on the other. But then one comes to the further proposal: the Prime Minister is supposed to meet the House of Representatives within 30 days to get its approval. There is absolutely nothing in the legislation proposed, let alone entrenched, where the Prime Minister, if he cannot secure the approval of the House of Representatives, resigns.
Now, it is a convention of Parliament, as we all well know, that if a Premier or a Prime Minister is defeated on the floor there are serious consequences. But I speak as one who led, and indeed secured, a vote against a Prime Minister and defeated him on the floor of Parliament over a procedural matter because a Minister treated Parliament as a rubber stamp. That former Minister happens to be an ardent republican today. To me, Parliament is not a rubber stamp; it is as Burke described it - a deliberative assembly.
No sanction is proposed to be imposed upon the Prime Minister of the day. But there is a further consideration which I invite my honourable friend and all other honourable ladies and gentlemen and the wider public to consider. What if the Prime Minister of the day says to the President, "I want the Parliament prorogued."? As we all know, the prorogation of Parliament means that everything on the notice paper disappears, all business comes to an end. Parliament is not dissolved but it does not come into existence. Do not tell me that it has not happened. It has happened 78 times in this country, ranging from nine months and six days down to a minute, when all business disappeared.
So the Prime Minister says to the President, "Mr President, I want the Parliament prorogued for two months", and the next day he hands the President his dismissal notice. Who calls the Parliament back? People may say, "The senior State Governor." The State Governor mechanism is not entrenched. Again you find the language "until the Parliament otherwise provides". So much in parliamentary life does not depend, and can never depend, on legislation but on strict conventions and their observance.
There is another consideration that I invite my honourable friend to consider. The dismissal procedure is a grievously ill-drawn one indeed. But there are other things which I ask all honourable members to reflect upon. My distinguished and learned friend observed this morning that the powers of the President will be the same as those of the Governor-General. The fact remains that the powers of the Governor-General are not known today. My authority for that does not come from yours truly; it is to be found in none other than the writings of Professor Laskey, who wrote that the mere fact that we do not know the limits of the royal power that remains to be invoked on one side or the other in the twilight zone of crisis is sufficient evidence of the difficulty of the position. One then turns to Dr H. V. Evatt who wrote of the Governor-General that surely it is wrong to assume that the Governor-General is a mere tool in the hands of the dominant political party.
It is proposed to be put into the Constitution that the powers will be the same, but no-one knows what those powers are. If those powers should be used, as they were used in 1975, for reasons that I find myself at odds with - but I will not weary the House with that - it would expose their use to litigation. In other words, they would become justiciable. No political crisis can wait for the safety
of litigation if it is to drag on for one week, two weeks or, indeed, two months. These are down-to-earth, practical considerations. I remind my honourable friend of my final presumption. There are two great powers at operation in any Federation. There is the centrifugal power pulling all power to the centre, and there is the centrifugal power seeking to blow the Federation apart, as happened in Singapore, Malaya, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and the West Indies. There are plenty of examples.
To keep the balance between the two is a matter of great difficulty. It calls for statesmanship and patience. Do not say that power cannot be pulled to the centre in this country. A couple of years ago the competition policy reform Act went through the House of Representatives in one hour and 42 minutes, and it reached out and destroyed community after community in the western parts of this country. There is the evidence today. I said to one State Premier - it was not my honourable friend the distinguished Premier of this State - "Why on earth did you sign this?" He said to me in a rather languid fashion, "Jimmy, in order to get our hands in the jam jar we had to sign it."
One great danger of a federation is all power being pulled to the centre. Australia cannot be run from Canberra. That is the great danger. I invite all honourable members to reflect earnestly upon the practical problems that are involved in becoming a republic. I referred to Edmund Burke, and I will finish with him. The year 1997 marked the 200th anniversary of the death of that distinguished gentleman. I talk to a number of people on the celestial Internet. I talk to my old friend Fred Daly, who tells me to heed the advice given to me by one of the holy orders years ago, "Tell him to cut his speeches in half; it does not greatly matter which half he leaves out."
I also talk to the great Mr Edmund Burke. His words of a couple of centuries ago are as strong in their application today as they were then. Men have sometimes been led by degrees, sometimes hurried into things which they would not have had a bar of if they could have seen the whole thing together. That is the advice I hand down today. Mr Speaker, I salute you and I salute all those who sit in this Chamber. I have always found throughout my life - be it in shearing sheds or mustering camps, during 28 years in the Federal Parliament, in the courts or on the racecourse - that the great emancipating force that human beings have at their disposal is hard and serious argument. I invite all honourable members to give this matter hard and serious argument, and to avoid the difficulties that I see all around the proposal.
(Maroubra - Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Citizenship) [11.56 a.m.]: I move:
That, recognising the importance of having an Australian as Head of State of Australia, this House commends a "YES" vote in the referendum on the republic on 6 November.
After hearing the address of the Hon. Sir James Killen, one can well understand why Menzies sent him a telegram in 1961 saying, "Killen, you are magnificent." For those of us on this side of the House there is a marvellous groundswell of nostalgia and affection when we sit behind the Hon. Neville Wran, who was a great Premier of this State. I thank both the Hon. Sir James Killen and the Hon. Neville Wran for honouring us with their contributions to this debate in this Chamber today. The motion will advance Australia in the great work of nation building that began here 108 years ago. This is where the first national convention met in March 1891.
From where I am standing now, Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, addressed seven principles set out in a resolution. It was a defining moment in the history of Australia. His foundational resolution fills a column of this Parliament’s Hansard
. It sets out the complete structure for the system of government under which we live today: the Commonwealth, the States, the Executive Government, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the High Court - the lot. However, not one reference in that great defining resolution set the process moving to the role of the monarch. That is, when the framers of the Constitution first defined the essential principles of governance for the coming Commonwealth of Australia they did not make the monarchy of the United Kingdom one of them. That is my first point.
Sir James Killen said that the Crown was the one thing that united Australians. With awesome respect for the man who saved the Menzies Government in 1961 and gave us columns of thrilling oratory during his 28 years in the House of Representatives, I submit that the Australian people are united by the English language, history and institutions that are as meaningful in Western Australia as they are in New South Wales, such as the Returned Services League, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or, in the past, the Australian Natives Association, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and values.
Virtually the whole of the no case in the referendum rests on a single, strident assertion: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is the argument sponsored by the Prime Minister in particular that he
reiterates as a mantra: the existing system has served us well so don’t change it. But the proposition is utterly irrelevant to the decision the people of Australia are being asked to make on 6 November because nothing in the proposal changes anything in Australia’s existing system of government. Nothing in the proposal effects in any way any of the seven principles of Australian Federal government set out by Parkes and adopted by the convention that met in this Chamber 108 years ago.
I make this point to emphasis the total irrelevance of the no argument about keeping the existing system of Australian government - the Federal system, the parliamentary system and the Australian democracy. I repeat: nothing in the proposal now before the people changes the existing Australian system of government. What it does do is to make the Australian system truly and entirely Australian. The question before the Australian people is a simple one but a grand one. It is simply this: Shall the Australian head of state be an Australian? Nothing more, nothing less.
The entire proposal is contained in the first clause of the alteration the people are being asked to approve. It states, "The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament which shall consist of a President, a Senate and a House of Representatives." In other words substituting the word "President" for the words "Queen" or "Governor-General" follows automatically every other change. In its essential meaning, this is the simplest of all 42 referenda this century. It is simple in its form but noble in its aspirations for Australia.
The most remarkable thing about the no campaign is the confusion on the part of the no campaigners. Sometimes they say that they want the monarch of the United Kingdom to be our head of state forever. Sometimes they say that they want it only until King Charles ascends the throne. Sometimes they say that the monarch is not actually our head of state after all, so do not worry about it. Some of them say no to all of the above but they want a different way of choosing the head of state. But in their official case they never mention the monarchy. They never attempt to explain why they want to retain it - not one page in nine pages, not one paragraph in 70, not one word in more than 1,000. There is not one word in defence of the monarchy, not one word to justify the role or relevance of the monarchy in Australia in the twenty-first century.
There is not one word to justify what Neville Wran said would happen some years from now, when there is a toast at an official function, "Please be upstanding, charge your glasses and join us in a toast to King Charles III, the King of Australia." Ultimately the toast could be to King William V, the King of Australia. That is what the no case means, that we would be doing that years from now. There was not one word to justify the role of the monarchy. Let the Leader of the National Party mount a case for the role of the monarchy in Australia in the twenty-first century. So much for the self-proclaimed, self-appointed monarchists! Most of their case is devoted to advocating a republic on a different model from the one proposed on 6 November.
I referred to that in my address at Tenterfield on Sunday and I think the House is familiar with the arguments. There would be nothing wrong with that argument if we were holding a plebiscite, some sort of grand opinion poll canvassing a range of options. It is possible at a plebiscite to give a range of options. That was how we changed the anthem in 1977. But the Constitution of Australia can only be altered by not a plebiscite but a referendum. And a constitutional referendum cannot of its nature offer options. Strict procedures are laid down in the Constitution itself.
In a referendum the question must be answered yes or no. The proposed change must be presented to the people in such a way as to permit a simple yes or no answer. That is the law of the Constitution. The referendum of 6 November does not offer a range of models for the republic simply because it cannot under the law do that. With all the earnestness at my command I urge all Australians who want an Australian head of state to realise this fact, particularly those who are republicans but who want the president to be directly elected. Other models are not before the people this time simply because the law permits only one model to be put to the people for their yes or their no vote.
Let us examine the consequences of a no vote. It would be an admission of failure, an admission that we are not confident enough, mature enough, independent enough to have an Australian head of state. A little over a week ago I was in London. A chief executive officer of a major company that invests big in Australia said to me, "Your country is punching above its weight." He meant it as a compliment. He would have had in mind our leading role in Timor, the healthy performance of the Australian economy reflecting the reforms that have been put in place since 1983, the highest growth rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, defying the Asian economic downturn, and the successful preparation for the Olympics.
But what sort of a message do we send by saying, "Oh, it’s got to be Charles III. It’s got to be William V. We won’t allow one of our people ever to be head of state."? That is the only issue that confronts us in the referendum on 6 November: that we as a confident people with 100 years of successful nationhood, making a real contribution to the world, successfully running this large country with a huge land mass and its diverse population, should be saying that we will have an Australian as our head of state and will update our constitution in this respect. That is what the proposal is.
The issue goes back to the first convention in this place. In 1891 Sir Henry Parkes, standing where I am now, set out the principles for the basis of an Australian federation. What we are proposing in this Chamber today where Parkes put that proposition is that we build on that nation building. Every step to better national self-definition, every step to independence, has been resisted and resented by the naysayers, doomsters and scaremongers. When Alfred Deakin invited the American Great White Fleet to steam into Sydney harbour in 1908, when Andrew Fisher set up the Australian Navy in 1911, when he insisted that the Anzacs remain intact as a separate entity from the British Army in 1915, there were royalist doomsayers in Australia saying that it was terrible.
When Prime Minister Jim Scullin insisted on an Australian, Sir Isaac Isaacs, as Governor-General in 1931 the doomsters were at it again. They said it was a terrible thing. When John Curtin called on the United States of America in December 1941 "free of any pangs as to our traditional links with the United Kingdom", when Ben Chifley appointed McKell as Governor-General, when Gough Whitlam abolished Australian appeals to the Privy Council and we opened Government House in Sydney to the people, our own initiative, doomsters cried that this was the end.
The naysayers and doomsters are at it again trying to retard the better definition of our Australian nationhood, another stage in our advance to independence. This motion asks the people of Australia, via the oldest Parliament in Australia, to take this next step - the inevitable next step - in our march to full nationhood, which was started in this Chamber 108 years ago. We ask them to say yes to an Australian Head of State for this great Commonwealth of Australia. We ask them to say yes to Australia’s future.
(Lane Cove - Leader of the Opposition) [12.10 p.m.]: I acknowledge the contributions of Mr Wran and Sir James Killen, two distinguished and eminent speakers, who have come to this Parliament to speak with great passion for their respective sides on the debate. I stand here today, in this the mother of Australian parliaments, with mixed feelings. I have mixed feelings because, whilst I am a republican and will be voting yes at the referendum on 6 November, I believe that this debate should be primarily taking place not within the confines of this Parliament, with a predetermined outcome, but within the community. As I have expressed constantly, I believe that this is a debate that should not be led by certain politicians.
I am deeply disappointed that the Premier failed at his previous undertaking to consult with me and the Opposition about the format for today’s debate. I am further disappointed that he ignored my request to consult about the wording of the motion that has been put to the House today. In characteristic style, the Premier’s public assurances were never followed through. There was no consultation, and thus we are in the unfortunate position whereby, instead of a debate that should have enjoyed bipartisan support, we have an ambush. Instead of a considered debate taking place in this House, the House has been highjacked - highjacked quite unnecessarily - by the Labor Party.
That worries me because I believe that this constitutional debate will suffer if the hand of party politics is seen to be driving the agenda - for either side of the argument. In fact, it is my view that the more strident our position as serving politicians the more likely it is that the Australian public will reject change - even the evolutionary change that is now on offer. Members of this House have no right to presume to tell the citizens of this State how to vote on 6 November. For that purpose I move the following amendment to the motion moved by the Premier:
That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after the word "That" and inserting instead:
(1) acknowledges the historic significance of the constitutional referendum to be held on 6 November 1999;
(2) endorses the right of each Australian citizen to cast his or her vote in a secret ballot according to their own conscience; and
(3) urges each citizen to cast their vote conscious of their responsibility to ensure Australia remains a free sovereign and democratic society."
Order! When the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party have completed their speeches, each member of the House will have an opportunity to contribute to the debate. In the meantime members will remain silent.
My amendment recognises the inherent wisdom of the Australian electorate. Having been among the first citizens to be given the right to vote freely, Australians are always sceptical about change when they perceive that that change is being promoted for party political advantage. I suspect that that may be one of the reasons why the latest published opinion polls indicate the distinct possibility that the referendum on 6 November may be lost - and lost convincingly. That would be a great pity, for I suspect that if the referendum is lost this time around it will be a long time before voters will have another opportunity to debate the issue.
My decision to support the yes case is born from a realisation that we are talking not about the immediate future but about the future of generations to come - indeed, the future of my children and their children. There has been no sudden conversion on my part. In fact, until recently I have said almost nothing on the republic-constitutional monarchy debate, believing - as I have said constantly - that this issue is one in which politicians should not seek to take a high profile. As I said in a recent speech to the Sydney Institute, I am, and have always been, a great supporter and defender of the values and traditions we have inherited from Great Britain.
These are important values, such as democratic governance, freedom of the press, freedom of association and tolerance. I am a great supporter of our democratic style of government, and I still feel a sense of pride about our British heritage. I am also an admirer of the Queen. It is difficult to think of anyone in public life who has performed so professionally for so many decades as Elizabeth II - who today is both Queen of Australia and Australia’s Head of State. But for me the time has come for Australia to have an Australian Head of State - one of our own - not because of any lingering disagreement with Britain or the British royal family, far from it, but because we are Australian.
When asked some days ago about my support for an Australian republic, I mentioned how my own children had acted as something of a catalyst in this regard, almost crystallising my views. The more I talk with my children and other young people around our State about this issue, the more I am convinced that we Australians should have our own Head of State as soon as possible. But, as members of this House know, within the Liberal Party there is no party line on this issue. My parliamentary colleagues in the Liberal Party, at both Federal and State levels, are free to vote as they choose on 6 November.
I note that successive leaders of the New South Wales Liberal Party have supported Australia having an Australian Head of State - John Fahey and Nick Greiner, in particular. As members of this House know, many of my Federal Liberal colleagues - including three members of the Federal parliamentary party leadership team, Peter Costello, Robert Hill and Richard Alston - have also supported such a proposal. In another context, I have welcomed the intelligent and moderate input into the debate of Andrew Robb’s Conservatives for an Australian Head of State. Mr Robb has enlisted the support of two of our most eminent and respected conservative statesmen - Malcolm Fraser and Doug Anthony - as well as many other Coalition supporters who believe that the time has come for sensible, cautious constitutional change.
I believe that the views of those such as Peter Reith on the need for the President of an Australian republic to be directly elected have merit. It may be that, at some time in the future, a suitable direct election model can be worked out. But, in my view, constitutional change is an evolutionary process; it takes place over a period of time. If the model now on offer needs to be changed in an additional referendum, there will be plenty of time in the twenty-first century to consider it. Australians such as the present Governor-General, Sir William Deane, would be most unlikely to contest a direct presidential election, as distinct from taking part in a nominated process. That is just one of a number of reasons why, in my view, it is wise to proceed to a nominated Head of State, involving both sides of politics and community participation in the first instance.
As I said earlier, I am disappointed that this debate has been hijacked by the Premier and those on the other side of the Chamber. I am truly saddened that crude, party political considerations have been allowed to mar what should have been a distinguished and open debate in this House, led by distinguished orators in the form of Sir James Killen and former Premier Mr Wran. I will vote on the amendment that I have moved but, if that amendment fails, I will not take part in the final vote on this motion.
Order! The Minister for Public Works and Services will remain silent.
As I said, I will vote yes on 6 November because I believe in my heart that the time has come for Australians to take the next step on our constitutional road to becoming a truly independent nation. But mine will be only one
vote, one solitary vote, on 6 November. This is not a debate for the politicians. This is a debate for the people of Australia. Their decision, I am sure, will be the right one.
(Upper Hunter - Leader of the National Party) [12.20 p.m.]: I state from the outset that I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The origins of this debate were couched in a spirit of bipartisanship. Unfortunately, the motion was not decided in consultation with the Opposition, and in its form is completely partisan. It is brazenly political and is a detraction from the ideals that had briefly characterised the intended debate. The amendment that the Opposition has moved seeks to establish a level of neutrality that would give all honourable members the freedom to speak if they chose and to vote how they chose.
What conclusion could be drawn from a partisan vote on a partisan motion? None whatsoever. If the amendment is not supported the outcome of this debate will be a political outcome. My colleagues and I do not see any merit in participating in a vote on a flawed motion. Every Australian citizen is afforded the sacred principle of a secret ballot. Use of the Parliament in this way pressures honourable members to give up their right. Some honourable members have decided how they will vote in a referendum; others are yet to decide; others have no intention of voting on the referendum here and now, and will preserve their privilege of secret ballot for the ballot box on 6 November.
There has been ample opportunity for honourable members to express their views on their intended vote, if they so wished, in the media and in a multitude of fora. What was the purpose, I ask, of writing to the Leader of the Opposition if the Labor Party, under the current Premier, was intending all along to force unnecessary partisanship? What might have transpired has been completely adulterated by the Carr Government’s stacked deck. Even so, we have been privileged to have heard addresses from former Premier Wran and Sir James Killen. I offer my thanks to them for their contributions.
The motion lacks the statesmanship that the Premier could have embraced. However, at a time when there are many important issues for the Parliament to be discussing - such as youth employment, population drift, the state of agriculture, health services in rural New South Wales, rural development and so on - the Premier has chosen to divert attention, just as Paul Keating used to do, from these important issues today. The way in which this so-called debate has been orchestrated makes a mockery of the purported open debate that had characterised its origins. Sir James Killen referred to the futility of expecting the Australian Labor Party to alter its constitution to afford a free vote for its members of Parliament in selecting a President. The ALP is not even allowing a free vote in this debate.
Accordingly, I have no intention of debating here the merits or otherwise of the proposition before the people of Australia at the referendum. I urge the people of Australia to cast their vote according to their individual conscience for the welfare and betterment of Australia. Without doubt this is the most important constitutional issue since Federation. We must all be sure that we consider the matter well and not be influenced by a phoney sincerity, a false bipartisanship and a locked-in Labor vote, and thereby trample the sanctity of the privilege that we compel our citizens to accept, that of a compulsory vote under a secret ballot. Accordingly, the Opposition will not be participating in a vote on such a motion. It will be a hollow victory indeed for the ALP.
(Marrickville - Deputy Premier, Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [12.24 p.m.]: Saturday 6 November will be an important day for Australia, a defining moment in our history as a nation. Unlike at Federation, all Australians will place their mark on our future as a nation. This time, women will have the ability to fully participate, and Aboriginal people also will have their say in the national referendum. As we all know, we must decide on a new preamble to our Constitution and on whether Australia should become a republic. On these questions I fully support an Australian republic, advocating a yes vote on 6 November.
However, I do not believe we should establish a republic with a preamble that was poorly formed by a few people, a preamble that will potentially divide the nation by alienating people who were shut out and ignored when it was drafted. I want the Australian public to send a resounding message to the Federal Government that they do not want a second-rate, inferior preamble, a preamble that does not reflect our national consciousness and our aspirations. The preamble proffered by the Federal Government and the Democrats is a poor example of participation by Australians. The fundamental issue is our recognition of Australia’s first people and the inextricable connection they have to land.
The current wording does nothing to further our partnership with indigenous people. The so-called compromise goes against the wording adopted
by the people’s convention and has been overwhelmingly rejected by Aboriginal leaders. Here was an opportunity once and for all to acknowledge what the High Court of our land and what other countries have already recognised: that indigenous people are custodians of the land. The current wording of the proposed preamble, namely, "honouring Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders", is in direct contradiction of the process employed to draft it. The beliefs of indigenous people have not been honoured; in fact, they have been disregarded.
Mr Gatjil Djerrkura, the Chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, says the word "custodianship" rather than "kinship" has become accepted amongst Aboriginal people as the English word most closely approximating their deep and enduring relationship with our country. When the new preamble was brokered Mr Djerrkura expressed his "profound disappointment at the proposed preamble". He said that the new preamble served to "weaken rather than strengthen recognition". Once again, we miss out. The chairman was supported by a statement released at the time by 13 prominent indigenous people from across Australia, calling for the preamble to be dropped from the referendum.
Let us not endorse a preamble that has excluded people from the process and, more importantly, offends what is at the very core of their identity. I ask honourable members to look at the first four words of the preamble, "With hope in God". That implies that if you do not believe in God you are not a true Australian. When honourable members are sworn in they do not have to swear to God. Why, when we as parliamentarians do not have to swear to God when we swear allegiance, must we have in the preamble to our Constitution "With hope in God"? I would like any preamble not to contain those words.
This unfortunate situation should not distract us from the opportunity for Australia to be recognised as a mature and proudly independent nation of people who are ready to hold up an Australian as our Head of State. A yes vote says that we are ready. I urge the citizens of New South Wales to join me and vote yes for an Australian republic. At the moment, an archaic system of heredity imposes on our country a Head of State who is not an Australian and who does not even live here. These facts prohibit one of the primary roles of the Head of State, which is to represent our nation and our people.
My portfolio responsibilities take me across the State. A yes vote and a republic will say to children in Aboriginal communities such as Brewarrina, or to children in housing estates in Glebe, that you are good enough but, more importantly, you are able to be the President of Australia. Only an Australian can unite our nation and represent the interests of our country. Partisanship is a concern for some voters, and it is a justifiable concern. I am confident that the current model addresses that concern and that those candidates who will be nominated will be Australians of impeccable character. The office will continue to enjoy the respect accorded to the Governor-General. Nominations will require bipartisan support, which will guarantee that the office is above politics.
The people of New South Wales should note that the proposed changes are minimal. The Australian President will not possess any more powers than those of the Governor-General. All of the important ceremonial and representational functions will continue to be carried out, but by an Australian as our Head of State. A President will perform the constitutional and legal duties on ministerial advice. I am confident that this change is in our country’s best interests.
Once again I say to voters that a vote for the republic will tell our children they are good enough. It will tell them that they can aspire to this position and that one day they may perform those duties. I ask Australians to vote yes for a republic that is founded on mature principles of fairness, equality and equity - qualities to which our children should aspire. However, let us not detract from this momentous occasion by endorsing an inferior, second-rate preamble. Vote yes for a republic, and no for the preamble.
(East Hills) [12.30 p.m.]: It is an honour to speak in this House after the former Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Neville Wran, has so eloquently put the case for a yes vote at the referendum to be held on 6 November. I enjoyed the Hon. James Killen’s speech, but I did not agree with virtually anything he said. He said that Parliament should follow established conventions. He said a great deal about the importance of parliamentary procedure. What did he say and do when parliamentary convention was torn up in Canberra in November 1975?
Australians will decide whether Australia will enter the twenty-first century with a Head of State who is the present leader of the British royal family, as we have had since 1788, or we will become a republic with an Australian Head of State. The question is essentially simple: Do we trust ourselves
to do bloodlessly what the East Timorese did several weeks ago? Given the chance, they placed an East Timorese as the Head of State of what will be a new nation, East Timor. They risked their lives to vote for separation from Indonesia, and no-one campaigned to bring back the Portuguese.
This nation is just on 100 years old. The greatest proof of the cultural cringe that many suffer from in Australia is the fact that our Head of State is the Queen of England. Those Australians who argue that we should maintain the present system are the shrinking remnants of the cultural cringe fringe. They fear that the sky will fall in and the seas will boil if we catch up with the rest of the world and leave the monarchy behind. Let us briefly examine some of the history of the British monarchy that proponents of the no case do not want the Australian public to be reminded of in this debate. The British monarchy is a mixed bag of personalities, characters, buffoons and clowns and the odd capable hereditary ruler.
It is interesting that when I used the words "buffoons" and "clowns" the honourable member for Coffs Harbour interjected. He is predictable, but we love him. The no case proponents do not want the Australian public to be reminded of the history of the British monarchy, nor does the honourable member for Coffs Harbour. He has some of the characteristics I referred to. The British monarchy, which is led by a pleasant lady, probably began in 1066 when William the Conqueror, a detested Norman - for that substitute French - won the Battle of Hastings, ending Saxon and Danish rule. For the next 400 or 500 years various kings murdered each other and various families replaced each other.
Bloody Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII, had hundreds of Protestants burned at the stake. Henry VIII, a devoted Catholic and later leader of the Church of England, had two wives executed. Queen Elizabeth I had Mary Queen of Scots executed. In 1649 the English, under Cromwell, executed Charles I. In 1688 Catholic James II skedaddled from England, and was replaced by Protestant monarchists William and Mary, who came from Holland. In 1714, after the death of childless Queen Anne, the British imported a German prince to take over the throne. George I could barely speak any English and did not bother to learn. He spent most of his life in Germany.
A relative of yours?
The honourable member for Coffs Harbour has a tribe of supporters to hear his useless and futile interjections! George III was often debilitated by mental disorder. His son plotted his overthrow. Queen Victoria suffered various mental disorders while indirectly overseeing the expansion of the British Empire. Edward VIII shamed the monarchy and abdicated to marry a twice-divorced American Catholic woman. I am sure that sort of thing does not happen in Coffs Harbour.
I have a sister-in-law who lives up north, and she is embarrassed by what the honourable member for Coffs Harbour gets up to. The problems of the modern royal family are well known to everyone. I do not propose to go through them item by item, because I do not have time. Those who argue for a no vote in the referendum should come clean. They say that this family has the right to provide our official Head of State. Do the monarchists still believe in the divine right of kings and that the earth is flat?
If the no supporters have their way, Queen Elizabeth II will not be replaced by an Australian Head of State. The Queen will be succeeded by her son, who will become King Charles III, and, as former Premier Wran said, Queen Camilla will be his consort. Is that really what Australians want as we enter the twenty-first century? That brief history shows that the British royal family is a multicultural and multinational creation. Those who continue to adhere to the belief that it has an Anglo-Saxon heritage have no understanding of the creation of the modern British monarchy.
If a referendum is not put to the Australian people, an Englishwoman will continue to be our Head of State. However anachronistic that may be, it will be a continuing reality. By voting no on 6 November Australians will confirm the British monarchy as our Head of State, and that will be the end of the republican debate. Monarchists will claim a mandate for the monarchy. It would be pointless for direct election purists to claim that a majority no vote was a result of their intervention to get what they see as a more democratic version of a republic later. This referendum, if lost, will not be revisited for decades. Only if it is carried can a direct election model be examined later.
Prime Minister John Howard has today urged a no vote. What a surprise! He believes the Queen should remain our Head of State. If that is really the case, why will the Queen not open the Sydney Olympic Games? If the Queen is conveniently
unable to do so, then the task should fall to the Governor-General. John Howard is usurping the Queen’s role and, by his own argument, acting in a traitorous fashion. If no-one has any objection to this usurpation of the Queen’s role, surely that is proof of her irrelevance now and the irrelevance of the monarchy in Australia’s future.
Today’s intervention by John Howard confirms only that he is a small man. Often derided as a man living in the 1950s, he wants to take us back to the 1890s. If he only lacked vision, that might be acceptable. However, he possesses retrovision: he wants to take us back. If the Prime Minister had been in charge of dog-breeding programs in the 1890s, the Australian cattle dog, our legendary blue heeler, would never have been created. He would have insisted that it was a threat to our British heritage and that all Australians should own a British bulldog.
No case supporters say that no Australian child or adult can ever be our Head of State. The Opposition, the group that has skedaddled out of here, should think about that for a moment. Not one of their children or grandchildren could ever lead this country. Only someone conceived in the bed of the ruling royal family in England can remain as our Head of State. A no vote will mean that no Catholic, Muslim, atheist, Aboriginal, native born or naturalised Australian of any background can aspire to be our symbolic leader. No-one in this Chamber, nor their sons or daughters, will have the chance to be our senior, most important citizen. It does not matter if a person comes from our great cities, regional areas, the bush, the outback, the Kimberley or Condell Park, he or she will never be President of Australia.
Anyone who walks into a polling booth and votes no will not be voting against the politicians’ republic or to get a direct election model on the agenda. Those who count the no and yes votes simply add them up. There is no ballot provision for no voters to qualify their position by writing that they want a direct model republic. We are asked to accept that Peter Reith really believes in this model. This man, who does not even believe in democracy in the workplace, cannot possibly believe in a popularly elected President of Australia. Reith’s posturing has more to do with positioning himself to take over from Howard.
By pretending to be a populist, he can urge a no vote to assist his hopeful anointer. It may well be that because of the constitutional requirements the no vote will win. History has taught us that any political division over a referendum proposal inevitably leads to the failure of that proposal. If a no vote is successful on 6 November it is certain that our present constitutional system will have contributed to its defeat, because very few referendums have been carried in Australia.
A yes vote will not change our flag or our parliamentary democracy in our States or in Canberra. Our anthem will not change. I would urge every Australian voter to show a minimum degree of courage - that is all that is required - and say that an Australian, not a British citizen, can be our Head of State. That may be more than one can expect from some honourable members opposite.
A no vote, for whatever reason, would be Australia’s single greatest electoral embarrassment as a nation. It would send a signal to our children and youth and to other nations that we are still tied to the apron strings of Mother England, unable to stand on our own two feet and unable to move as a genuinely independent nation into the twenty-first century. One of us should lead all of us. One of us who breathes our air, walks on our beaches, swims in our seas, shares our core values and beliefs and goes to sleep under the Southern Cross each night should be Australia’s President.
(The Hills) [12.40 p.m.]: This issue is unquestionably one of the most important to have come before this Parliament this century. It is impossible to escape from that judgment, hackneyed as it may seem. The outcome will determine the shape of our nation not only in the twenty-first century but possibly for centuries to come. There has been considerable interest in this issue in my electorate, as I am sure there has been across New South Wales. Most of my constituents are anxious for information.
They want to digest information at home and discuss the central issues with friends and family to make a considered judgment. That is evident from the very high level, as high as 26 per cent, of people who are undecided in recent opinion polls. I do not believe people want politicians to tell them how to vote. Most people would like to discuss issues at home with those who are near and dear to them, make a considered judgment, and vote in secret on 6 November. That is why the Government’s motion in its current form should never have been brought before this House.
It is appropriate to use the time of the House to debate the issue of a republic, but it is presumptuous in the extreme to attempt to force the House to support the republican cause, particularly when a recent poll gives only 33 per cent support
for that position. The people of New South Wales expect more of politicians, but under this Government they are unlikely to get more. I note that some members of the Government are wearing large badges, some are wearing small badges and some are wearing none at all. Are those with large badges direct-election republicans and those with small badges minimalist republicans? What does it mean if they are not wearing a badge? I wonder whether members of the Government were bound by caucus rules and are as divided on this issue as the rest of the nation.
For those reasons I do not intend to support the Government’s motion today. Rather, I want to place on record my concerns about the yes and no cases, both of which I believe are flawed in several important ways. I want to strip them of the hyperbole, sophistry, disingenuousness and misconstruction that seem to have dogged the whole republican debate, a debate which in no way emulates the intellectual effort and rigour that characterised the constitutional conventions of the 1890s.
It is not a good enough argument for the establishment of a republic for the yes case to simply say that all Australians should be proud of our country and committed to its values. I would hope that all Australians are already proud of their country and committed to its values and that the change to a republican model would not change that situation. Indeed, republicans say that our Head of State should be chosen on merit and not by the privilege of birth.
There is a solid and sustainable argument that that has been the case since the time of our first Australian-born Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs. Many would argue that the Queen represents the Crown. She is a symbol, a figurehead at the apex of our constitutional structure. The argument put forward by Justice Michael Kirby was that Australia is already a Crown republic and that "republicans in Australia are not dealing with practical realities of constitutional independence". Their concern is only with the symbolic link in the person of the Queen. It is the symbols, not the realities, that they want to eradicate.
This morning the Hon. Neville Wran spoke about King Charles III and Camilla as the Queen. His reference to King Charles III was insulting. A reference was made to King William V. It is irrelevant to the structure of the Australian Constitution who the monarch would be. The Hon. Neville Wran said that according to the recent High Court decision regarding Senator-elect Heather Hill Britain is now a foreign power. That decision should weigh heavily in any reasonable person’s consideration of how he or she will vote on 6 November.
The monarchists are equally guilty of misrepresentation. They describe the proposed republican model as being untried and unworkable. If it is untried how can it be said to be unworkable? Does that not involve one of the values to which Australians ascribe the ethos of a fair go? Many eminent constitutional lawyers and others would disagree with the proposition that the republican model is untried and unworkable. On the other hand the republicans suggest that this is a small, important and safe step. That statement would do credit to Di Fisher, whose famous line on The Inventors
20 years ago was, "Is it safe?".
I do not believe that any member of this House would suggest that it is a small step and that no-one can foretell its consequences. On Monday night I heard Senator Helen Coonan speak at a function. She said that she supported the notion of a plebiscite and that we could move towards a republic over 10 years. In effect, she said she supported the direct-election model, but that would require a complete rewriting of the Constitution.
It is extraordinary that monarchists and direct electionists have linked arms to oppose the yes case. However, it is the fear of the unknown - one small step, perhaps, for a republican but a giant leap of faith for Australia - that I suspect is causing the greatest concern amongst the uncommitted. The monarchists believe that the people will not choose the President; that the political deal makers will. That is a nonsense. Who elects politicians? Who elects us? Of course the people do.
The President would be chosen first by a nominations committee made up of people from all over Australia and then ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Commonwealth Parliament. The candidate would be nominated by the Prime Minister and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. The suggestion that the Prime Minister could in some way ignore the wishes of the committee and choose his own candidate is preposterous. Not only would that fly in the face of the composition of the nominations committee but it would not get the support of the requisite number of Commonwealth parliamentarians.
More serious are the concerns about the power that the revised Constitution would give both to the Prime Minister to sack the President and to the President to sack the Prime Minister. Those
concerns have been well canvassed by the Prime Minister in his letter to the electors of Bennelong. Section 59 of the revised Constitution states:
The President may exercise a power that was a reserve power of the Governor-General in accordance with the Constitutional Conventions relating to the exercise of that power.
Currently those reserve powers are implied, they are not codified in the Constitution. Their existence was borne out by the actions of Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975, when he dismissed Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister of Australia. Equally, under the new Constitution the Prime Minister would have the right to sack a President. Former Victorian Governor Richard McGarvie criticised the new arrangement because he said there would be no crucial component of a short delay in the dismissal of a Governor-General by consulting with the Queen.
It is easier for a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister than it is for a Prime Minister to dismiss a Governor-General, and that is a major strength of the current Constitution. Professor George Winterton made a number of telling criticisms of the proposed model, but he would not oppose the move to a republic on the basis of those concerns. That leads inevitably to the question: How real is the problem? Would the President, as monarchists suggest, be a puppet of the Prime Minister or would he have even greater powers, because they would be codified, than today’s Governor-General?
If a Prime Minister sacked a President - and Neville Wran made the point that no Prime Minister in Australia’s history has ever sacked a Governor-General - he would have to justify his decision to the House of Representatives. Why should he not have to justify it to a joint sitting of both Houses? If both the House of Representatives and the Senate have to approve an appointment at a joint sitting, they should both have to ratify a decision to sack the President, although perhaps not with a two-thirds majority, which might be impossible to attain.
Why cut out the Senate? After all, it is the States’ House, specifically incorporated into the Constitution to protect the rights of the smaller States. The other major issue that has not been addressed in the debate to any extent, an issue that is very relevant to this Parliament, relates to the position of the States. How could Australia as well as, perhaps, a majority of the States become republics while other States remained monarchies? That concept is too bizarre for words.
I listened to the words of Sir James Killen with interest. He suggested that that situation would grievously disturb the Federation. He said that there are 326 references to the States in the Constitution, and that the only thing they had in common was the Crown. If the Crown is taken out, what will be put in its place? That is a question that, once again, the voters must consider very seriously before they cast their vote on 6 November. These are the major issues that continue to perplex our nation as 6 November draws near. They will come no closer to a solution with today’s debate. Ultimately, each Australian must make the choice for himself or herself. I repeat my earlier words: it is presumptuous in the extreme for the Government, whatever the Premier’s views are, to attempt to force this House to adopt a particular position today.
(Strathfield - Minister for Police) [12.50 p.m.]: I wish to put to rest the concept of non co-operation between the Government and the Opposition. The Premier wrote to the Leader of the Opposition, who responded. The issue to be dealt with is simple. I cannot understand the reluctance of the Opposition in this Chamber to the text of the motion because all Australians who vote at the referendum on 6 November will be asked the same two questions that are reflected in the motion before the House.
Honourable members are not asked today whether they want to speak; there is no compulsion to speak or not to speak, and it is not known whether the House will divide. The basic tenet of the motion is the question that millions of Australians will answer on Saturday week when they make their decision. If it is good enough for all Australians, it is good enough for this House to make a decision and for members to be given an opportunity. There must be a positive resolution; there cannot be a negative resolution. Honourable members can vote against the motion if they wish.
The referendum on 6 November is an historic step in the evolution of our nation and an important step in an historic journey for all Australians. The significance of this moment in history underpins the importance of today’s debate in this Chamber. This should be another step forward, another step that signifies a young nation moving into adulthood. I firmly believe that Australia’s Head of State should be an Australian. The United Kingdom is a foreign country; its Head of State is the Queen. Under our current constitutional arrangements, she is the only person entitled to be Australia’s Head of State.
A yes vote in the referendum is an important step towards replacing the monarch and her representative, the Governor-General, with an Australian President. There is no more appropriate
time for this transition than the year 2000. It is 100 years since Federation, and there are enough constitutional cases to determine the meaning of the Constitution and to provide some basic tenets of the democratic and free society we have inherited and learned from other common law countries. No constitution is ever legally perfect, but the conventions of the Australian Constitution make it the best available.
I instance our parliamentary system, based on the House of Commons model. When this Parliament started in 1856 it took on board the standing orders of the House of Commons. No-one should be under any misapprehension in entering into this republic debate. There is a mistaken belief that if Australia becomes a republic it will cease its ties with parliamentary democracy and its principles. We will take the best from all nations. In fact, we have used that model to develop our own.
All the while we have been moving in the direction of maturity and individuality as a nation - change that is continuing and cannot, and should not, be stopped. Next year will be one of the biggest years in this nation’s relatively young life when Sydney hosts the 2000 Olympic Games. I remind honourable members that when Edmund Flack won a gold medal in Greece in 1896, and again in Paris, he was running for Australasia. In those days Australia and New Zealand sent athletes in the joint names. Things have since changed. There has been much ado about Australian athletes and the Olympics.
One of my favourite athletes is Cathy Freeman. I hope she wins gold for Australia in September next year. She will represent all Australians. I hope that if Cathy wins, she will represent all Australians and that we will have an Australian President. I do not believe that if Cathy won a gold medal she would be properly represented by the Queen of England as Australia’s representative. In my view, Australia has come into its own, and its prowess in the sporting arena is but one example.
Australia now has an international currency and is equal to the world’s best in the fields of science, the arts, education, technology and entertainment. We have status in the world as Australians. We are Australian. We stamp our achievements with our trademark, a particularly Australian style that mirrors the essential ingredients in this debate. We are Australians but we have to note that our constitutional position is shifting and it should reflect our history of giving a fair go to all.
We should all be equal before the law. We should all be equal in the eyes of the Constitution. Nothing about these two votes on 6 November will change that. We are taking ultimate responsibility from the Queen to the Head of State of Australia, which is an important step for the maturing of a young nation. Australia should, and wants to, stand on its own feet. I am strongly in favour of change in the proposed republic model. The British monarch as head of Australia, in my view, is not acceptable. She no longer symbolises Australia - independent, multicultural, egalitarian.
As a son of what were previously referred to as New Australians, I find it very difficult trying to explain to many of my friends who have come from other countries in Europe or in Asia when taking citizenship that they should swear their oath of allegiance to Australia, get on with their lives and not adopt the oath of commitment and loyalty to their former countries. I find it extremely difficult to explain to those people that what I want them to do is to adopt Australia as their home, swear their commitment of loyalty to Australia and, at the same time, know that the Queen of England is our Head of State. It is inconsistent.
A yes majority vote would boost confidence in the future of our country. Regardless of what happens on 6 November, some time in the future Australia will stand on its own feet. Australia will be a republic. The future of our nation, namely our youth, overwhelmingly want Australia to stand on its own. I, for one, would like that change to occur in my lifetime. I am not in the least bit concerned about the so-called legal inconsistencies referred to by Sir James Killen, a man whom I respect, but I do say that any leader of any political party who attempts to do something contrary to the goodwill of all Australians will do it only once because the Australian electorate will make up its mind very quickly to remove that Prime Minister, that political leader.
As a lawyer, I believe that the no case detractors have drawn a long bow in legal principle to try to find some constitutional reasons why the no case should be given preference. As I said, our constitutional law is not pure. No-one will ever devise a perfect constitution and set it down in writing, but Australia has had 100 years of Australian constitutional law.
One cannot forget, and I do not forget, that until Privy Council appeals were abolished the Privy Council was instrumental in defining and refining Australian constitutional law. The abolition of
appeals to the Privy Council and the enhancement of the role of the High Court of Australia have led to it being acknowledged as a High Court of world significance, much akin to the American Supreme Court. As part of the evolutionary process the constitutional position of Australia is now determined by High Court judges. We do not have to think about the old days. The ultimate avenue of appeal was formerly the Privy Council - and honourable members should not make anything of its judgments - but the High Court of Australia and no-one else now determines constitutional issues. As Australia has become a mature but young nation and moved into the international marketplace and as we have our own legal, constitutional and economic systems, surely it is time this nation had its own Head of State chosen by Australians.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Kerr.
PROTECTED DISCLOSURES ACT REVIEW
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
I report the receipt of the following message from the Legislative Council:
The Legislative Council desires to inform the Legislative Assembly that it has this day agreed to the following resolution:
That the review under section 32 of the Protected Disclosures Act 1994 be referred to the Joint Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission.
The Legislative Council requests that the Legislative Assembly pass a similar resolution.
Legislative Council Meredith Burgmann
Consideration of message deferred.
27 October 1999 President
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Mills) left the chair at 1.02 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
In the absence of the Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism the Minister for the Environment will answer questions on her behalf.
: Pursuant to standing orders I table a list of legislation unproclaimed 90 days after assent, as at 27 October 1999.
Petition praying that the establishment of heroin shooting galleries be opposed and that consideration be given to the introduction of legislation for drug reform, received from Dr Kernohan
Queanbeyan Federal City Committee Centenary
Petition praying that the centenary of the formation of Queanbeyan’s Federal City Committee be acknowledged, received from Mr Webb
Wagga Wagga Aquatic Centre
Petition praying that an indoor aquatic centre be built at Wagga Wagga, received from Mr Maguire
Petitions praying that a committee be established to review the Firearms Act, received from Mr Fraser, Mr George, Mr Piccoli, Mr Slack-Smith, Mr Souris
and Mr R. W. Turner
Petition praying that the House take note of the lack of police presence on the Alstonville-Wollongbar Plateau and seeking increased funding to enable the maintenance of existing services, received from Mr D. L. Page
Camden Haven High School Staffing
Petition praying for the appointment of Carmel Thew as Principal of the new Camden Haven High School, received from Mr Stoner
Pro-rata Long Service Leave
Petition praying that consideration be given to amending the provision in the Long Service Leave Act relating to eligibility for pro-rata long service leave, received from Mr Greene
Senior Citizen Equitable Travel Concessions
Petition praying that holders of pensioner concession cards and the Seniors Card receive equitable travel concessions on transport, received from Mr Fraser
Windsor Road Upgrading
Petition praying that Windsor Road be upgraded and widened within the next two financial years, received from Mr Richardson
Countrylink Staffing Arrangements
Petitions praying for the reinstatement of staff at Countrylink stations and travel centres on north coast rail services, received from Mr Stoner
and Mr J. H. Turner
Maria River Road Upgrade
Petition praying that the Maria River Road be upgraded as a matter of urgency, received from Mr Stoner
Compulsory Competitive Tendering
Petition praying that the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering for roadworks in regional and rural areas be opposed, received from Ms Hodgkinson
Septic Tank Inspection Fees
Petition praying that septic tank owners be exempted from inspection and registration fees, received from Ms Hodgkinson
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Reordering of General Business
(Oxley) [2.24 p.m.]: I move:
That the General Business Notice of Motion (General Notice) No. 29 ("Unequal in Life" study) have precedence on Thursday 28 October.
A cartoon in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald
shows the issue clearly in depicting the relocation of the Great Dividing Range to Sydney. If it was not such a serious issue, it would be very funny. My motion is about the electorate of Oxley, particularly the Nambucca shire, and the implications for it of this Government sitting on its hands following the closure of the Midco Abattoir. As the cartoon effectively illustrates, the issue is of enormous importance to regional and rural New South Wales in general. The Vinson report entitled "Unequal in Life" dramatically depicts the serious social and economic disadvantage being felt by the people of country New South Wales.
The charts in the report referring to the Sydney metropolitan area show blue and green areas illustrating social advantage, whereas the charts referring to regional New South Wales show orange and red areas illustrating social disadvantage. It is interesting to note that almost the entire regional New South Wales area is shown in either orange or red.
Order! I am aware that the Leader of the House is becoming a little agitated. The honourable member for Oxley has a limited time in which to explain why his motion should be reordered. He should not debate the substance of the motion.
It is important that my motion be reordered because the incidence of child abuse in socially disadvantaged areas is 4¼ times greater than that for socially advantaged areas; in disadvantaged areas there are 3¼ times more requests for emergency assistance than there are in advantaged areas; the number of court convictions and the incidence of long-term unemployment are three times greater in disadvantaged areas; and there are twice the number of low-income households in socially advantaged areas. This issue is of enormous importance to the whole of New South Wales. The Government’s post-2000 jobs plan merely provides funds for infrastructure and development in metropolitan areas. That is why this House must debate this matter urgently, and why I have asked for this matter to be brought forward for tomorrow.
Motion agreed to.
Order! I draw the attention of the House to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Sir James Killen, a former Minister for Defence and Leader of the House in the House of Representatives. I welcome Sir James to the Parliament. I acknowledge the presence also of the former member for Wyong, Harry Moore, who is accompanied by members of the executive of the Wyong Rugby League Club.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
OLYMPIC GAMES TICKET ALLOCATION
My question is directed to the Minister for the Olympics. How does the Minister reconcile his assurances in this House yesterday welcoming the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] inquiry into the ticket scandal with the view expressed today by the International Olympic Committee Vice-President Kevan Gosper that the inquiry is unwarranted? Will the Minister now give a guarantee that all the relevant documents will be made available to the ACCC investigators, including details of his secret premium ticket packages?
Some people within the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games [SOCOG] and some legal advice suggest that the ACCC does not have a valid jurisdiction in this area. That may cause some people to take a view about whether or not the inquiry should occur. However, as I said in the House yesterday, SOCOG will co-operate fully with the inquiry by the ACCC, and I understand that the first meeting is to take place tomorrow. However, in fairness to Mr Gosper, I heard Mr Gosper’s interview this morning in which he was being critical of the fact that Mr Fels expressed a view on what had happened when he had not yet made an inquiry. Indeed, there is a degree of inconsistency in some of the things that Mr Fels has said.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order.
But, as I said in the House yesterday, we look forward to presenting the facts to him.
AMBULANCE SERVICE DRIVER SAFETY
My question without notice is to the Minister for Health. What is the Government doing to assist ambulance drivers?
Honourable members would be aware that every single day ambulance drivers and ambulance officers around the State visit thousands of accident scenes; in Sydney alone, there are 1,300 call-outs every day. Getting to an accident scene quickly and safely is, of course, the priority and an essential component of the ambulance officer’s daily work. But ambulance officers are often obstructed by drivers who simply will not move out of the way of an ambulance that is travelling to the scene of a trauma. Those drivers either do not know the rules, or they just do not care.
For example, last month an ambulance driving along the Great Western Highway near Blacktown got trapped behind a Range Rover for more than three kilometres. The Range Rover driver took almost every opportunity to obstruct the ambulance as it was trying to get past. The ambulance was under siren and flashing lights. It was, of course, sounding its horn, trying to let the driver of the Range Rover know that it was trying to overtake. The ambulance eventually did get past, made the scene of the accident and delivered the appropriate care.
What added insult to injury was a subsequent complaint from the Range Rover driver that the ambulance officer had harassed him along the Great Western Highway. That shows an ignorance of the rules that is just breathtaking. But that was not an isolated case. Investigations and survey work done by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales discovered that on any given day more than 50 such instances of obstruction occur. About 54 per cent of those incidents occur on a main road, and 64 per cent are caused by motorists simply failing to get out of the way. It is sad, but true, to say that this is particularly the case with young male drivers.
The main problems reported by ambulance officers include drivers failing to pull over; drivers stopping in the middle of traffic without warning; drivers passing through red lights in an attempt to clear a path for the ambulance; and tailgating, perhaps the most dangerous of all of the various illegal activities. There is evidence that motorists have not only been getting right behind ambulances, literally ambulance chasing, but that they are now crossing over onto the wrong side of the road and following ambulances through red lights. That is not only illegal but is highly dangerous for the motorist concerned. Of course, there is no excuse for that sort of abuse of what is clearly an emergency situation.
The Government’s response to these growing concerns has been thorough and has been considered by all participants in the emergency services industry. Work done on the obstruction of emergency vehicles by the Ambulance Service, the police, Fire Brigades, the Roads and Traffic Authority, the Department of Health and the Health and Research Employees Association has recommended that both driver education and tougher penalties should form the basis of an effective response to the problem. As a consequence, I advise the House that the Government will introduce a package of measures to support our emergency services personnel, to minimise the risk to our police, fire and ambulance officers and to assist them in their work of saving lives. The package will include a doubling of the penalty for failing to give way to an emergency vehicle, to $272.
Point of order: This is a matter that the Coalition would be happy to support in the form of a ministerial statement, which is what it is. I ask that the answer be ruled out of order as a response to a question without notice.
Order! No point of order is involved.
"Ambulance chaser extraordinaire!", as the honourable member for Blacktown indicated. I repeat: there will be a doubling of the penalty for drivers who fail to give
way to an emergency vehicle. There will be a change to the Australian Road Rules, commencing 1 December, requiring drivers to move to the side of the road when they hear a siren or see flashing lights, as opposed to the present system of a siren and flashing lights. A community education program, which will commence immediately and will include radio community service announcements, will educate drivers on what they must do in the case of an approaching emergency vehicle.
The program also will target driving schools and driving instructors as well as the general public. In addition, there will be a roll-out of blue-red lights on ambulance vehicles, to make ambulance vehicles consistent with other emergency services vehicles. The message is a simple one: If you obstruct ambulances or other emergency vehicles, you are putting lives at risk. It is as simple as that. Those lives could be the lives of your own family. If an emergency vehicle is approaching under sirens or lights, simply pull over to the side of the road and let it pass.
[Questions without notice interrupted.
I draw the attention of the House to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Michael Lee, shadow minister for education and training in the Federal Parliament.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
[Questions without notice resumed.
OLYMPIC GAMES TICKET ALLOCATION
My question is addressed to the Minister for the Olympics. Has the Minister or the ticketing committee chair, Graham Richardson, received any advice by SOCOG that SOCOG has not breached the Trade Practices Act? If so, will the Minister table the advice?
What I have been assured of by the SOCOG legal department is that before the ticketing brochure went out it was vetted by its officers in terms of the requirements, whether they were binding or not, of the trade practices legislation.
CHARITY CLOTHING BIN COLLECTIONS
My question without notice is to the Minister for Gaming and Racing. What is the Government doing to ensure that charities receive a fair deal from clothing bin collections?
The Department of Gaming and Racing has just completed a review of the charity clothing bin industry throughout the State. It is a big industry, though most people would not think so. Clothing bins are part of the street scene everywhere in New South Wales. The honourable member for Kogarah, who has brought this matter to my notice previously, obviously has in her electorate many worthwhile charities that use these bins. Following the review, I decided that new rules were required to control the industry. Many overtures were made to me by organisations such as the Samaritans - particularly in the Newcastle diocese of the Anglican Church, which uses these facilities - also St Vincent de Paul, the Red Cross and the Smith Family.
The survey revealed the alarming situation that charities receive as little as 5 per cent of the proceeds of clothing bins. The survey showed that charities were being grossly exploited by clothing bin operators throughout New South Wales. Put simply, the survey showed that charities that operated their own bins made an average of $194 per bin per month. Charities that allowed private companies to use their names on bins received an average of $7 a month from each bin. Quite clearly, charities are being robbed.
It is disgraceful that many clothing bins purported to be operating for the benefit of charities are in fact operated as lucrative private business undertakings that have been bloodsucking the genuine charitable organisations of this State while giving the public the impression that the bin operators are benevolent and are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. I inform the House that the situation is to the contrary. Such private businesses provide only a very small profit to the benefiting charity. An average of only 5 per cent of the gross proceeds go to the charities.
It is important that the community is aware of the difference between charity operated and commercially operated bins. The new rules will make the distinction clear. For many years the use of clothing bins by well-known charities has contributed to the public perception that all clothing bins are purely for the benefit of the charities. That assumption is wrong, as the honourable member for Kogarah has obviously discovered.
The new rules will require particulars to be disclosed on the bins. Those particulars include information about what is done with clothing collected, the average dollar amount per bin given to
a charity and the average overall percentage to that charity expressed as a percentage of the commercial trader’s gross income from the conduct of the appeal and new signage stating "Commercially Operated" where a trader conducts the appeal on behalf of a charity, or "Charity Operated" where an appeal is conducted by a charity.
Commercial operators are legitimate businesses, but the public is entitled to know how much of the money or clothing goes to the charities. The bins will disclose the percentage of the clothing value that goes to charity, which is a mere pittance. For the first time placement of "Commercially Operated" and "Charity Operated" stickers on clothing bin chutes should clearly define the difference between charity operated and commercially operated bins. I have met with the charities throughout the State and the national body about this issue. I hope that other States and jurisdictions will follow the example set by set by New South Wales.
A clothing bin that does not have a label on its chute means that it is operated purely for commercial gain. A "Commercially Operated" sticker on the chute means that any clothing placed in the bin is generally the property of the collector, and the amount the charity receives is dependent on contractual arrangements. I urge the public to closely look at the information that must now be disclosed on these bins. People must ask themselves whether the amount and the percentage given to the charity is acceptable. In my view, it is not.
Order! I call the honourable member for Swansea to order. I call the honourable member for Fairfield to order.
If members of the public are unhappy with the return that commercial operators give to charities, do not donate garments to those bins. They should compare bins in the near vicinity before making a decision. The placement of bins may add to the deception. The Government regards non-compliance as a serious matter. A maximum fine of $5,500 will apply for failure to comply with the new rules, and in serious cases offenders will be prosecuted under the Crimes Act. As this is a significant move forward, the industry will be given time to adjust. I have decided that the new rules will apply after 1 January next year.
OLYMPIC GAMES TICKET ALLOCATION
My question is to the Minister for the Olympics. Given the comments by Olympian Ron Clarke, who carried the torch at the Melbourne Olympic Games, that the Minister had treated the public as absolute suckers by keeping the best tickets for his mates and off-loading the rest to the peasants, will the Minister finally apologise to the families he has misled?
Order! I call the honourable member for Epping to order.
I dealt with the gist of the question yesterday. On this occasion I will add that no-one has more respect for Australia’s great athletes such as Ron Clarke than I do. That is precisely why, as part of the ticket allocation, we made sure that a significant number of tickets were sold to the families of Australian athletes, so that they would be at the Games to give their support.
RURAL AND REGIONAL DRUG AND ALCOHOL COUNSELLING SERVICES
My question without notice is to the Minister for Health. What is the Government doing to improve drug and alcohol counselling services in rural and regional New South Wales?
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order.
At the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition I will thank the honourable member for Murray-Darling for his question and commend him for his personal interest in the issue. However, I have to disagree with his suggestion that counselling should be made compulsory. There was one very clear message from the Drug Summit. That message was that the drug problem is not based in Sydney or urban areas. It is a problem for all communities throughout the State, particularly among young people.
Honourable members will recall the vivid accounts from rural and regional delegates who spoke of the blight of drug abuse in their communities and towns. Who could forget Kristine French and her testimony to the Drug Summit? She told of her life in the Illawarra, and her long fight against, and eventual triumph over, drug addiction. Only a month ago I had the great pleasure of opening Kristine’s drug summit in the Illawarra. She continues her work to help others to recover from the addiction that she once experienced.
Who could forget Joe Latty who, in his own words, lived to use and used to live? Joe described how his years of substance abuse commenced at the age of 13 and lasted for 20 years. He overcame his addiction and lived to tell his story. Sadly, too many
people - more than 800 a year Australiawide - do not have Joe’s good fortune. They die as a result of drug overdoses.
The commitment and the contributions of those at the Drug Summit have helped develop a comprehensive policy in response to what can only be described as one of the most difficult issues confronting any community. No-one pretends that there are any easy solutions. However, in response to the Drug Summit, the Government is already delivering on a broad range of initiatives to become tougher on those who deal in drugs and, at the same time, to boost treatment services for those wanting to conquer their addiction.
Today I announce the implementation of a substantial phase of the Government’s response to the Drug Summit specifically targeted to rural and regional communities. The initiatives include eight new drug and alcohol counsellors, one for each of the eight rural area health services, who will provide support services to drug users and their families. The counsellors will refer users to appropriate treatment programs and provide special assistance to young people experiencing problems with cannabis. Each of those positions is being advertised now for immediate placement.
The second part of the package involves the placement of eight new clinical drug and alcohol nurses in the same rural area health services. Two nurses have already been appointed to the high-priority areas of need - the Greater Murray Area Health Service and the Southern Area Health Service. These nurses will design and manage treatment plans and introduce early intervention programs for people with drug problems.
The third initiative will be to expand drug and alcohol services on the mid North Coast, which has the largest rural population in New South Wales. Honourable members who represent electorates in that area will appreciate that. The Government is delivering those long overdue services. As part of the funding, this area will receive an additional area drug and alcohol co-ordinator to fully integrate drug and alcohol services across the region. Three additional staff will be employed to provide home detoxification services, and another three staff will be employed to provide early intervention services for at-risk populations.
In the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, the Government will expand outreach services. Two new mobile teams will act as initial points of entry to treatment services and provide ongoing case management. They will also provide support for home and ambulatory detoxification services. Finally, the New England Area Health Service will receive additional funding to significantly expand current drug and alcohol services. I pay tribute to the members representing the New England area for their advocacy on behalf of their region. The honourable member for Tamworth and the honourable member for Northern Tablelands do a great deal of good work in their constituencies which should be acknowledged. The Government is meeting their needs.
Order! I call the honourable member for Swansea to order for the second time.
The services will be based at Moree, Tamworth and Armidale and will employ seven new clinical staff, together with a visiting medical officer to assist local doctors in assessing and treating drug users. That is part of the $93 million health component of the Government’s response to the Drug Summit which will be delivered over the next four years. Today’s announcement shows that the Government recognises the message from the Drug Summit. People like Kristine recognise that the problem does not stop at the city limits and services need to be put where the problems are: in places such as Armidale, Tamworth, Moree, the Illawarra and the mid North Coast.
These are structured policies that respond directly to the calls of the community to have services proximate to where they are needed. This is a fundamental part of the Government’s response to the Drug Summit and will be welcomed by honourable members across the State. I commend the provision of those services to the House. At the Drug Summit one only had to listen to the stories of people being dislocated from their homes to realise that they want to get off drugs but have nowhere to detoxify and have to either relocate to Sydney or miss out.
The Government is putting services back in the bush. Like the honourable member for Tamworth and the honourable member for Northern Tablelands we can appreciate the work that has been on the structured response to the Drug Summit. I pay tribute to those who have put in the effort to have the recommendations implemented and to get the dollars flowing behind them.
SERRATED TUSSOCK CONTROL
My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation. Will the Minister
move immediately to investigate and alleviate the acute shortage of the chemical spray Frenock, which is used to control serrated tussock, which is listed a weed of national significance and devastates much of the pastoral land in New South Wales, including that in the Southern Tablelands?
I will be kind. I thank the honourable member for Burrinjuck for her question. I will be kind today; I will not attack her. I will go easy. I understand if I attack her once more she will lose her sponsorship from Winchester, and we would not want that to happen. The Government stands on its proud record of funding for the control and eradication of noxious weeds. In 1990-91 the former Minister for Agriculture, the honourable member for Lachlan, increased the funding for noxious weeds control and eradication from about $2.5 million or $3 million to about $5 million. However, by the time the Government came to office in 1995 the $5 million allocation had not changed by one cent.
Many people involved in local government and county councils argued that in the four years since that increase the real value of the allocation for noxious weed control and eradication had been reduced by inflation and increasing costs. The Government accepted that argument and in its second budget added $1 million to the allocation to make a total of $6 million. Since that time the Government has kept the allocation of funding for noxious weed control and eradication across the State in line with the increases in the consumer price index. New South Wales is the only State to protect the level of funding for noxious weed control and eradication.
Members of this House representing different rural electorates would probably argue that the noxious weeds in their parts of the State constitute a greater problem than serrated tussock. The honourable member for the Northern Tablelands would probably claim that parthenium weed is the major problem in his area; others may claim that the major problem is Bathurst burr. However, I would argue that serrated tussock is probably the most difficult noxious weed to control and has the greatest potential to take over agricultural land in the southern parts of the State. The concern is that it is spreading north at an alarming rate.
Stay calm! I am trying to give the honourable member for Burrinjuck some credit for her question because I believe it is an important one. The second part of the honourable member’s question related to the control of serrated tussock by Frenock. Frenock was obviously the best chemical available to New South Wales - and Australia, in fact - for the control of serrated tussock. I confirm that New South Wales Agriculture continues to liaise with companies that may be interested in distributing Frenock to ensure that they appreciate the importance of the continued availability of that herbicide.
New South Wales Agriculture has produced an updated Agnote outlining the options for land-holders now that Frenock is not available. Officers of New South Wales Agriculture continue to seek alternative suppliers to manufacture Frenock in Australia or overseas. An Australian manufacturer may possibly establish a plant. However, the key problem in relation to Frenock is that there is no guarantee that any product will be approved by the national registration authority.
That is one reason the Japanese manufacturer stopped manufacturing Frenock in the first place. There were also commercial reasons. The Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment is implementing a program to review and evaluate a wide range of herbicides that land-holders may be able to use if Frenock is not available. For the information of those members representing electorates in the northern part of the State, a separate series of trials for the control of giant Parramatta grass will be conducted in northern New South Wales.
Techniques are available to prevent the spread of problem grasses such as serrated tussock. If Frenock is not available for the more difficult areas to control, early action to prevent further spread is essential. The Government has dealt with the problem so far as the issue is concerned. In a nutshell New South Wales Agriculture has no control over the supply of Frenock, which is manufactured by a private company in Japan. The company claims, for commercial reasons, that it is no longer a viable product. Certain components involved in its use are of concern to the national registration authority and that may have scared off the Japanese company.
Just as it always does when farmers get into difficulty, New South Wales Agriculture is scouring various industry groups of companies in Australia and other parts of the world to obtain a product similar to Frenock, or perhaps to reproduce it. At the end of the day its production must be commercially viable for the company which manufactures the
product and the environmental safeguards must be such as to satisfy the national registration authority.
I have been somewhat frustrated by the lack of Frenock in New South Wales. The lack of supply is the most pressing problem facing those in charge of controlling noxious weeds. I commend the honourable member for Burrinjuck for raising the matter because serrated tussock is a major issue that affects her electorate and other areas in the southern part of the State. New South Wales Agriculture will continue to look for alternatives and for companies that may be able to assist in the supply of the product.
FILM INDUSTRY LEGISLATION
I direct my question to the Minister for Local Government, Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs. What is the Government doing to create jobs and investment in the film industry?
The honourable member for Auburn has a great interest in job creation and, obviously, an interest in the film industry. The Government is committed to increasing New South Wales’ share of the Australian, the Asian-Pacific and, indeed, the world television production market. Overall this year the film industry has contributed some $3 billion to the New South Wales economy and helped to create some 45,000 direct and indirect jobs. That is why I am pleased to announce a new step in the Government’s support for the development of a vibrant film industry in New South Wales. The Government will introduce new measures to streamline the council approval process for filmmakers and to encourage more film-making in New South Wales.
Order! The Leader of the National Party will remain silent.
I am pleased that the Opposition has an interest in the film industry and everything artistic and not only in movie stars and Cadillacs, because the measures to be introduced by the Government does mean more jobs and investment for New South Wales.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time.
The Department of Local Government recognises the concerns of the industry. One of the most frustrating aspects to come to light has been the approvals process. Currently, filmmakers are required to get several approvals for one project, and that is because commercial film activity may include several different activities, such as closing off a road, diverting traffic, filming in a public reserve, and building temporary structures. Film-making is not restricted to one suburb. Different councils may have different approvals processes. This inconsistency can become a headache, time consuming and complex.
The Government does not want filmmakers to go elsewhere because of frustrations caused by local councils, so it intends to introduce amendments to the Local Government Act to allow for a single application to address all requirements of councils. The proposed legislation will also be supported by protocol, which is currently being developed in partnership with the film industry, local councils and relevant government agencies. The Premier’s Department and the Department of Local Government will also work with other relevant government agencies to ensure that all these issues are addressed when the protocol is being developed.
These changes will not create any new power for local councils but, rather, will incorporate into the one approval process all the issues that councils currently consider under the Local Government Act, other legislation and under delegation from other agencies. They are sensible and measured changes. They will not affect the approval processes under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, which is used for activities that are long term and substantial, and they will not affect minor commercial activities like weddings and still photography. Current affairs and news will also be exempt.
Amendments that will be made to the Local Government Act will include provisions for the adoption of the protocol; the definition of commercial film-making activity, including exemptions, as I have already mentioned; commercial film-making on community land; and allowing the construction of temporary structures for commercial film-making. In essence, it will make film-making a whole lot easier in New South Wales.
The accompanying protocol to the legislation will set out the requirements for approval, including time dealing with applications, schedule of fees and charges or an agreed means of calculating them, insurance requirements and the like. It will also include a code of practice for filmmakers setting out standards of behaviour and how to minimise disturbances to the community. Film-making is an important and proven job generator. The value of film-making in New South WaIes has increased from $109 million in 1995 to $300 million in 1998.
More recent statistics show that the film industry employs 15,000 people a year directly and a further 30,000 in related work.
When the Labor Party came to office, New South Wales was losing ground to other States. Today, I am pleased to report that New South Wales, under this Government, accounts for close to 60 per cent of Australia’s entire film and television production, compared with Victoria, which has put up with seven years of Liberal government, at 21 per cent, and Queensland at 16 per cent. A significant amount of New South Wales production can be attributed to the Government’s decision to secure Fox Studios for New South Wales.
The Opposition is interested only in one form of artistry, and that is the form it exploits so well, the bull artistry side of it. The biggest film made in Australia so far, Mission: Impossible II
, has injected some $80 million into the New South Wales economy. It has provided for 8,000 extras and up to 400 full-time set builders, technicians and crews.
Order! I place the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on three calls to order.
Honourable members should also remember that film-makers, actors and crews stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and they go shopping as well.
Order! I remind the Leader of the Opposition that she is on two calls to order. She will refrain from interjecting.
Rural and regional New South Wales is also sharing in the growth in the film industry. In the past four years at least $7 million has been spent in regional areas, with at least two films shot in country New South Wales. That is on top of hundreds of commercials.
Where? In my own electorate - Clarence. The cast and crew of Oscar and Lucinda
spent some $750,000 in Grafton during its 13-week shoot. Some of those involved came from a wider area of the Clarence. Divers and fishermen from Yamba were all doing work and making a few bob. Other recent examples include $450,000 spent in Griffith for the Aussie film Doing Time for Patsy Cline
. The Premier announced as part of the State Government’s post-2000 jobs plan a $500,000 Regional Film Assistance Fund to help encourage film-makers to shoot outside Sydney.
In other words, the Government is again supporting jobs in the bush as well as prosperity and growth. But the Government wants to strike a balance. It wants to encourage film-makers and employment but wants to keep the inconvenience to a community that can be caused by film-making to a minimum. The changes the Government has announced today are part of its strategy to maintain the position of New South Wales as the leading job-generating State. It will continue to work in partnership with local government, the community and the film industry to guarantee the growth of this important industry.
NEW SOUTH WALES FISHERIES DIRECTOR DISMISSAL
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Fisheries. Will he advise the House of the whereabouts of the Minister for Fisheries and explain how in the past 24 hours in his absence from his ministerial duties he was able to dismiss the head of the fisheries department?
If the Opposition has a question, which I understand is about the dismissal, I will refer it to the Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries. I am aware that the Minister is in hospital and I am advised by the Minister that he will be kept there until about Friday. I am advised that the Minister will resume full duties next week, subject to medical advice.
I ask a supplementary question. In light of the Minister’s answer, and as he is the sole Government representative on fisheries, why was the head of New South Wales Fisheries sacked?
Order! That is not a supplementary question. The Minister has already answered the honourable member’s question.
My question is addressed to the Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Sport and Recreation. What is the Government doing to make New South Wales beaches and waterways safer?
The honourable member’s question raises an extremely important issue, especially as we move towards the summer months. The Government recognises that there are no quick fixes to water safety problems. Too many people still continue to ignore basic water safety rules, risking their own lives and those of their rescuers.
That is why, over the past few years, the Government has implemented a comprehensive co-ordinated water safety campaign to ensure that the community is getting the water safety message. Today I send that message to the community once again: Please take care at our beaches, on our waterways and rivers, or when involved in any form of aquatic activity. We all need to take a few simple precautions. All people, particularly children, should learn to swim. We should always supervise children, particularly toddlers, near water.
Order! I call the honourable member for Cronulla to order. I place all members who have been called to order on three calls.
We should never allow children to swim alone. Indeed, adults should not swim alone. People should remember to swim only between the red and yellow flags at the beach. All swimming pools should be fenced. Everyone should beware of fast flowing water, submerged objects and deep water. Swimmers should never mix alcohol and water - do not swim after drinking alcohol. These simple precautions can make the difference between life and death. Yesterday the Australian Royal Life Saving Society released the 1999 national drowning report.
The society found that 305 people across Australia drowned in the 12 months to 30 June this year. Today I can inform the House that, of those 305, 103 people drowned in New South Wales. Although we must be grateful that this is a reduction of 16, or 13 per cent, over the previous year’s results, we would all agree that this figure is still too high. These figures confirm that we must continue to work hard to save even more lives. We need to continue to raise awareness in every section of the community to reduce drownings further. That is why I am pleased to announce the release of a new "SafeWaters" brochure as part of the Government’s SafeWaters campaign.
Water safety experts have advised me that there is a special need to inform and teach people from non-English speaking backgrounds about water safety. The brochure has been specifically developed to target people from those communities, particularly those communities with the highest number of recent arrivals to Australia. That is why the brochure is being released in Chinese, Vietnamese and Arabic, as well as in English. The brochure sets out the simple steps I outlined earlier to help people stay alive near water. The brochures are being distributed through migrant resource centres, community organisations, peak water safety bodies and my department’s regional offices, amongst others. That will be followed up by radio community service announcements.
This is another step in the Government’s commitment to making our waterways safer. It follows initiatives such as the Premier’s $1 million water safety 10-point plan announced in January 1998 to encourage safer swimming on our beaches and in our waterways. It is part of the Government’s commitment to continue the work with the community, with a continuation of our water safety campaign. But there are no quick fixes to water safety problems. We must all play our part in ensuring that a day at the pool or the beach does not end in tragedy, and that when we are in or around water with our families and friends safety and fun go hand in hand.
Questions without notice concluded.
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Cronulla) [3.15 p.m.]: It is regrettable that this motion has come before the Parliament. The motion states:
That, recognising the importance of having an Australian as Head of State of Australia, this House commends a "YES" vote in the referendum on the republic on 6 November.
It is regrettable because it is a matter for the people of New South Wales and Australia to determine. The people who hijacked this debate -
I am glad the honourable member for The Entrance has interjected, because the last State election was not about the republic or the Constitution. No honourable member in this House has a mandate to vote on this matter. The people who have hijacked this debate are the same people who hijacked the people’s Olympic dream and made it the Olympic scheme. The distinguished British author and satirist G. K. Chesterton asserted that no-one could rationally say, "My country right or wrong." He said that such a statement was equivalent to saying, "My mother, drunk or sober." That is the soundest advice that could be given to anyone contemplating the referendum on 6 November. No-one could reasonably agree to support a republic, right or wrong, good or bad.
Today the House heard from Sir James Killen, a man of Irish ancestry. Another man who had Irish blood flowing through his veins was Edmund Burke, who said, "The science of government, so practical in itself and intended for such practical purposes, is a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person, even a former premier,
can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be. It is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society."
In addressing the amendment moved by the Opposition, I shall speak about Australia’s independence, the method of selecting a Head of State, the reserve powers and the role of governors. In 1988 the Hawke Government established a Constitutional Commission. One of the commission’s terms of reference required it to report on the revision of our Constitution to adequately reflect Australia’s status as an independent nation. In its final report the commission traced the historical development of our constitutional and legislative independence, reported that at some time between 1926 and the end of World War II Australia had achieved full independence as a sovereign State, and concluded that the development of Australian nationhood did not require any change to the Australian Constitution.
Therefore, the argument that we can have greater independence as a republic is wrong. It should be noted that the commission and the advisory committees contained a number of prominent republicans. A cartoon in "Stay in Touch" in the Sydney Morning Herald
the other day was so good it should be repeated. A father was telling his son a bedtime story. The father said, "Look, we have sold so many of our industries to foreigners it has affected our independence. But we are the clever country. We have a solution. The solution is an Australian Head of State. We will become an independent nation." The son, lying in bed, said, "Yes, it’s all in the head."
This morning it was argued that we would like an Australian Head of State and that we must get rid of the Governor-General and replace him with a President. This President would have exactly the same powers as the Governor-General, including being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, appointing judges and dissolving Parliament, together with the Crown’s reserve powers. He or she would perform exactly the same duties as those performed by the Governor-General now. One Australian would replace another Australian to do exactly the same job. Of course, there would be a few changes. The office stationery would change, and Government House would become the presidential palace.
I turn to the method of selecting the Head of State. At present the Governor-General is chosen by the Prime Minister of the day. We have a Crown republic. Obviously, the position of Governor-General is not a hereditary one. Having a group of Federal politicians electing a Head of State is clearly an inferior arrangement. If the Parliament by a two-thirds vote elects the President it will be at best a compromise choice in which an Opposition and/or Independents collectively, with one-third of the votes plus one, can force a result. Then the President, who should be the umpire of Parliament, will be the captive of Parliament. Many eminent people would not put their name forward if the appointment were to be the subject of debate and publicity.
One has only to look at the procedure for the United States Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court judges to see what can occur when politicians are responsible for approving appointments. Of course, the position of a Supreme Court judge is non-partisan and non-political. Yet that has not stopped the great bunfight that has occurred in the United States Senate. Under the two-thirds majority system any group numbering one-third plus one of the Parliament could, by solidarity and caucus and persistence in rejection of other nominees, greatly influence the outcome.
The names and history of the nominees would become newsworthy. The nomination system, giving a false pretence of community participation, would be another media first. Imagine the scene. Any one person, just one person, can nominate another. Even the smallest social clubs require more nominators. And parliaments certainly do. It seems that the nominee could determine whether his or her name was published. The nomination committee of 32, selected by parliamentarians, may visit each State and make inquiries, but not in public. The committee will submit to the Prime Minister a short list. How short it will be is not identified and the names of those excluded and the reasons are not to be given. After all of that the Prime Minister can ignore the whole procedure and bring forward another. This is a very unsatisfactory arrangement.
The yes voters assert that the existing balance of powers between the Governor-General and the Parliament will be preserved. They do not and cannot support that statement with cogent argument. A President being elected by the Parliament must strengthen the powers of the Parliament and greatly weaken the President’s vital independence. The Governor-General in effect is the umpire of last resort, the people’s shield against possible breaches by the Government or Parliament. A President elected by two-thirds of the Parliament must be compromised by the voting system, and doubly so by the proposal that the Prime Minister alone would be able to dismiss the Head of State arbitrarily and instantly.
Had the President been elected by this method before 1974 Sir John Kerr would have looked a great candidate. He was the friend of Gough Whitlam and Opposition leader Bill Snedden, who would have seconded his nomination. He was an eminent jurist and a former member of the Labor Party. We know the Labor Party view of that person’s actions as Governor-General. But appearances in politics can be deceptive.
Leaving national security concerns aside, suppose Government members opposite were elected to Federal Parliament and the time came to elect a President. There are three candidates. Candidate A associates with crooked politicians and consults astrologers. He has had two mistresses, he chain- smokes and drinks eight to 10 martinis a day. Candidate B was kicked out of office twice, sleeps till noon, used opium in college, and drinks a quart of whisky every evening. Candidate C is a decorated war hero. He is a vegetarian, does not smoke, drinks an occasional beer and has not had any extramarital affairs. As members who read "Caringbah Rotary News" know - I do not think any member would admit to not reading it - candidate A was Franklin D. Roosevelt, candidate B was Winston Churchill and candidate C was Adolf Hitler.
I turn to the reserve powers. The Constitutional Convention failed conspicuously in its central responsibility to provide a model republic with majority support from the convention. Incredibly, the central issue of future powers was dismissed with glib responses suggesting that there would be no change and that this is a minimalist approach. I urge honourable members to read The King and His Dominion Governors
by Dr Evatt. I also seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard
a very scholarly work of two pages by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library entitled "The Reserve Powers of the Governor-General".
What happens with native title if the Crown is extinguished? Does it become Commonwealth land? If so, how and why does that occur? It has been pointed out that if the referendum is passed section 126 of the Constitution will give complete power to the Commonwealth and the States could just about close up shop. When Voltaire was dying a priest asked him, "Do you renounce the devil and all his works?" Voltaire said, "This is no time to start making enemies." Supporters of the yes case would create a republic in which millions of Australians, not just one being, are opposed to it. That is not the way to go.
If there is a no vote it will not be the end of reform, it will be the end of the beginning. Do your homework. Provide a reform that we can all work towards and you will be supported by the majority of the Australian people. There is an advertisement that says, "Who was Australia’s first Prime Minister? Not many people know because Australia was created through goodwill and not through war and anger." If we are to have a republic, let us have one that safeguards the liberties of all Australians, and a constitutional reform that has the goodwill of all the citizens. [Time expired.
: Order! The honourable member for Cronulla has sought to incorporate a document in Hansard
. The document is publicly available and may be laid upon the table for the information of members.
(Cabramatta - Parliamentary Secretary) [3.25 p.m.]: I am excited to participate in this debate, not only as a youngish Australian but also as the member for Cabramatta, because it is my very firm belief that the monarchy and the present Australian system do not really reflect the hopes, values and cultural diversity of my electorate. I am sure that the yes campaign which is currently being promoted in my electorate with the assistance of local councillors such as Nick Lalich, Lou Costa, Bob Watkins and Federal member Julia Irwin will be successful. However, I wish to speak on the referendum ballot paper. I draw to the attention of the House a serious issue that has been raised with me in recent weeks.
The ballot paper as it is currently structured requires people to write either "yes" or "no", indicating their preference on a change to our Constitution, rather than simply marking a box to show a preference. This referendum ballot is therefore different from Australian elections, at which the voter has only to make a clear preference rather than write a word. The decision to adopt this practice will prevent thousands of Australian citizens from non-English speaking backgrounds from having their say on the future of their country. The structure of the ballot paper was contained in special legislation passed in April this year by the Federal Parliament.
Every effort was made by the Federal Government to make sure that one group of migrants in this country would be able to have a vote in the referendum. I am referring to the 300,000 migrants from the United Kingdom who moved here before 1984. John Howard has said that they can have the vote. The Federal Government has knowingly disadvantaged non-English speaking voters because it knows that they are more likely to vote for a republic. The legislation introduced in
April has placed a language filter on the ballot paper.
The referendum procedure is governed by the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984. The April Federal Government legislation authorised the Australian Electoral Commission [AEC] expenditure to conduct the referendum. But the bill did not spell out any other instructions to the AEC apart from the different questions having to be on different coloured pieces of paper. It was not specified that the ballot paper should have a box for a yes indication or a no indication. Instead, the voter was required to write either "yes" or "no".
The Government has committed the AEC to include votes of migrants if they are written in another language provided the local returning officer understands that language. That means that every returning officer in Cabramatta would have to speak more than 100 different languages in order to assess the formality of votes. I consider this situation to be biased and unfair. I researched how the word "yes" is written in many of the different languages used in my electorate. The word "yes" is written differently in Arabic, Khmer, Pakistani, Chinese, Vietnamese and so on. I do not think that many returning officers would have a working knowledge of these languages. It would be biased and unfair for a returning officer to decide whether a ballot paper is formal based on his knowledge of particular languages. I was concerned that this was the case, so I went directly to the Australian Electoral Commission to seek its advice on the matter. The commission advised:
Although the instructions on the ballot paper state you must write "yes" if you approve the proposed change to the Constitution or "no" if you don’t approve . . . written in a language other than English (as long as the returning officer can understand what it says) may also be considered formal.
It is extremely unfair that the votes of Vietnamese Australians who became Australian citizens when they came to this country - they wear the badge of Australian citizenship with honour - may be put in the bin at 6 o’clock because the returning officer cannot read Vietnamese. Yet an English migrant who never showed the same commitment to the values, culture and aspirations of this nation will be entitled to vote without even being an Australian citizen - merely because he speaks English as a first language. That vote has been facilitated by the way the Federal Government has structured the ballot paper.
What kind of sleight of hand is taking place in the way this Government and the Federal Government have approached the issue of the referendum? It is no secret that John Howard is a monarchist and he wants this referendum to fail. Vietnamese Australians, Chinese Australians and Cambodian Australians who live here and have worked hard - perhaps in a couple of jobs on minimum wages - so they are able to give their children a better opportunity, who have identified with this nation and its future, and who have taken out Australian citizenship are proud to call themselves Australians. Their vote may be thrown in the bin because Joe Bloggs the returning officer cannot understand what is written on that ballot paper. Where is the fairness in that?
I realise that it is too late to call on the Federal Government to scrap those ballot papers, reprint them, restructure them, and make them fair so that ordinary Australians who do not have English as a first language will have their voice heard in this referendum. However, I have called on the Federal Government to ensure that the Australian Electoral Commission issues a direction to local returning officers to set aside any ballot paper that is not written in English, and to ensure that people who are trained in languages will be called on to determine the formality of that vote and to determine whether it is a yes or a no vote.
I have campaigned in Cabramatta for the yes vote because I believe that a republic best reflects the aspirations of Australians as we move into the next century. What I am extremely committed about today and wish to bring to the attention of the House is that every Australian is entitled to have his or her say in this referendum; every Australian is entitled to have his or her voice heard. I am disappointed by this sleight of hand by the Federal Government; it is a language filter. The Federal Government has basically said, "We are going to lock you out from having a voice in this country’s future because English is not your first language." That is extremely disappointing.
I believe that the Federal Government should take immediate action to ensure the Australian Electoral Commission is properly resourced to set aside those ballot papers and go through them thoroughly after the referendum. Migrants who have made their homes in Australia and who are committed to working hard and educating their children here, and who have identified with the values and aspirations of this country, deserve to be heard. They deserve to be heard even if they have not had the opportunity to spend their Saturdays or Thursday nights attending English language classes. What is more, it would be a very sad state of affairs if, after they write either "yes" or "no" in their own language, a returning officer were to say to them, "I
cannot understand it, so it is informal. We are not counting it. It is going in the bin."
The Federal Government has the responsibility to take immediate action on this matter. However, I do not hold out hope that much will happen. The Federal Government’s insistence that United Kingdom migrants have been allowed to vote because they speak English as a first language is extremely disappointing. I believe that the secret to this issue lies in the 1996 census figures. The 1999 census figures show that people from non-English speaking backgrounds are the ones who are most likely to take up Australian citizenship. The figures further show that about 60 per cent of United Kingdom migrants take up citizenship in this country. A closer analysis of the figures shows that 97 per cent of Egyptians and 92 per cent of Cambodians take up Australian citizenship.
I believe that these are the people who are more likely to favour a republic, and more likely to endorse and embrace change. But these are the people whose votes will be excluded because there has been a sleight of hand in the structure of this referendum and the Federal Government has applied a language filter to exclude non-English speaking migrants. It is a disappointing shadow that hangs over the head of the referendum. I would like to see the Australian Electoral Commission immediately address a mechanism whereby these people can be guaranteed that they will have a say in shaping our nation’s future.
(Canterbury - Parliamentary Secretary) [3.35 p.m.]: I support the motion. I fully support the yes vote on 6 November. I have always held the view, for tribal reasons one might say, that the Head of State of this nation should be an Australian. My support for an Australian Head of State might be termed as learnt behaviour. For as long as I have been able to talk I have been told by those closest to me that it is an absolute disgrace that the leader of this nation happens to be the English monarchy. A good argument has been put up in this debate by those who support the yes vote. They say that because we are now a multicultural society the monarchy is less relevant. Of course, there is a lot of truth in that. However, I remind the House that there are millions of Australians who were born in this country and have lived here for generations.
I do not refer only to the Aborigines; I refer to old Australians such as myself. I am a seventh-generation Australian, and I have English ancestors. Many of us have never considered the monarchy to be relevant in terms of being head of this nation. In fact, my first two Australian ancestors were English. However, as they were both convicts, given the way the British system treated them I doubt very much whether they had any great love for the Crown. There is a feeling within the community that seems to imply that any person who is a migrant, a second-generation Australian, or of non-British descent is likely to support the referendum. However, millions of families who have lived in this country for generations have never considered the current system to be relevant.
Another reason for my support of the yes vote is that it will give every Australian the opportunity to aspire to be the head of this nation. Not only should we have an Australian Head of State, but every Australian should have the opportunity to aspire to that position, and that will be possible under the system proposed. The present system is an absolute disgrace. In this day and age no Australian has a right to be the head of this country. That lack of opportunity flies in the face of democracy as far as I am concerned. Our present Head of State is imposed on us by heredity.
In the case of British authorities, the Head of State is determined by a patriarchal system, so while Australians pride ourselves on being democratic, the leader of Australia is imposed on us. She is not chosen by Australians. She is not an Australian. She is installed by hereditary right. The present leader happens to be a woman simply because she has no brothers. It is an absolute joke that we are in this situation. However, there are some in our community who claim that no person is better equipped to lead this country than the Queen of England.
Earlier today Neville Wran referred to the proponents of the status quo, who are heard to claim that our system of government will collapse if ever anything changes. A number of countries that used to belonged to the British Commonwealth have not collapsed despite severing their ties with England. The perfect example is the United States of America. Some 12 years before white settlement occurred in this country a certain event in Boston ensured that the King of England would no longer be the head of the United States of America. America has not chosen since that time to change from a democracy. Ireland took several hundred years to become a republic, and it remains very much a republic today.
The largest democracy in the world, and a democracy for more than 50 years now, severed its ties with England. That is, of course, India. So those who think that somehow our system of government
will crash about us when the Queen ceases to be our Head of State are either ill-informed or more than likely are royal grovellers. I want to refer briefly to the powers proposed for the President. Those powers are the same as the powers now vested in the Queen and the Governor-General, nothing more and nothing less. In fact, the Queen has very little power. She formally appoints the Governor-General, on the advice of our Prime Minister. She can grant royal assent to legislation where considered appropriate. I dare say that happens very seldom.
The Governor-General’s role is to assent to legislation, on behalf of the Queen. He has power to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister, and, as a consequence, the Government. He has power to refuse to follow advice to dissolve the House of Representatives or both Houses of the Federal Parliament. That is about the limit of the powers of the Governor-General. Those powers are precisely the same as the powers that would be given to the President. The Keating Government established the Republic Advisory Committee in 1993. Amongst other things, that committee resolved:
. . . it is both legally and practically possible to amend the Constitution to achieve a republic without making changes which will in any way detract from the fundamental constitutional principles on which our system of government is based.
That is precisely the proposed model. It presents no threat whatsoever to our system of government. The President would have the same functions as the Governor-General and the Queen. No changes are necessary to our Constitution as a result of these changes. Many feel it is undemocratic that the people do not directly elect the President. Neville Wran covered this point very well this morning when he said that popular elections would lead to the election of a politically motivated person, a person supported by the political parties, or a millionaire.
I would go further and say that not even a millionaire would have a chance. The effort of Ross Perot in the United States of America to become President a few years ago is a good example of that. One really would need the backing of a political party to win an election in this country. About two years ago Paul Keating said that nobody conducts elections better than the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition. If we have a general election, nothing is surer than that the President would be selected from a candidate proposed by one of those two political bodies.
Nothing in the current proposal is undemocratic. A committee would be established by the Federal Parliament to consider nominations. That committee in turn would report to the Prime Minister putting forward nominations. The Prime Minister would make his decision, obtain the support of the Leader of the Opposition, and then put his recommendation to the Parliament. In other words, the Leader of the Opposition must second the Prime Minister’s motion, and therefore must support the Prime Minister’s selection. Of course, as has been said in the debate, the President must be elected by two-thirds of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Some people say, "No, we should have the right to elect our leader." Ask those same people whether they should have the right to elect the Prime Minister. Bear in mind that the Prime Minister is elected a member of Parliament but is chosen as Prime Minister by parliamentary colleagues. Anyone who supports direct election of the President, if asked whether they would prefer to elect the Prime Minister, would tell you such a system would be over the top, too cumbersome and totally unnecessary. So, too, is it unnecessary that there be such a system to elect the President. It is not appropriate that the President be directly elected by the people.
Earlier it was said that the Prime Minister could sack the President. Of course, that can occur in today’s political climate; the Prime Minister could ask the Queen to terminate the commission of the Governor-General. I must emphasise that not only can the Prime Minister approach the Queen, but the Queen has no discretion in the matter; the Queen must act on the Prime Minister’s advice and has to terminate the commission of the Governor-General.
(Davidson) [3.45 p.m.]: As a proud Australian with British origins, I believe now is an appropriate time for Australia to demonstrate to the world that it is a modern, independent country. We can do that by voting yes to the referendum on 6 November. Many Australians have a great affection for the monarchy, and will retain that affection if Australia becomes a republic. Many Australians who have great respect and love for the Queen will be amongst those who vote yes. They do not wish to show disrespect for our current monarch, but will be asserting that our nation has come of age and that it is time we had an Australian Head of State.
The symbolism of the monarchy providing our Head of State is no longer appropriate for this free and independent nation. It has been argued that if the system is not broken, don’t fix it. I have a different view. I contend that it is broken. It is not broken in that it fails to work, but it is broken in
terms of its symbolism. It no longer reflects the aspirations and values of contemporary Australia. The monarchy is characterised by images of ruling classes, elites and power derived of birth. All of these are concepts that are remote to a modern egalitarian society.
The change to a republic is a symbolic change, and it is inevitable. This change, though symbolic, is important. To have an Australian Head of State gives us a clearer sense of our own identity and independence. It demonstrates to the rest of the world that we know who we are. I would prefer, on future visits by United States presidents, to have a toast not to the Queen but to the people of Australia. Such symbolism is very important.
I recently decided to support the referendum, having weighed up the competing views at length. On balance, I believe that Australians should vote yes. As a Liberal, I commend the Prime Minister for facilitating this referendum, and the Liberal Party for enabling members of Parliament and members of our party to take positions freely. The strength and character of a political party is not measured by its ability to enforce a unity of opinion; it is measured by its capacity to embrace a diversity of views. There is a great diversity of views within the Liberal Party. That strength enables my party to reflect the views of Australians.
The proposed model has become the subject of much debate. I consider that it is a substantial improvement on the current system of appointing the Governor-General. Specifically, the model, in which a two-thirds majority of the Federal Parliament has to support the nomination for President, ensures that a politician is not made our Head of State. As previous speakers have said in this debate, a direct election of the President will ensure that a politician is made President. It is up to the people’s representatives to select a nominee with a two-thirds majority of the Federal Parliament. I say to those who criticise that model that the representatives themselves are elected by the people.
Under the proposed model it would be unlikely that Bill Hayden would have become Governor-General of Australia. As we all know, his appointment was made solely by Bob Hawke, and he would not have received the support of a two-thirds majority of the Federal Parliament. To contrast that with the direct election system, Sir Zelman Cowen would be unlikely to be elected to the post. The proposed model is the best one. It is not perfect, but neither is our current system. However, it is an improvement.
Many people who consider themselves Liberals are unsure of how to vote. I say to them that they are free to do as they wish. If they agree with the proposed change, they should vote yes; if they do not, they should vote no. However, we must all respect those who hold different views to our own. My electorate is evenly divided on the question of Australia becoming a republic. I do not pretend that I can represent all the constituents in my electorate. For that reason I will not cast a vote on the substantive motion moved by the Premier. I will support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition which, amongst other things, urges citizens to cast their vote conscious of their responsibility to ensure that Australia remains a free sovereign and democratic society.
In conclusion, I support change because I consider it is in our national interest. I believe that by becoming a republic we will not surrender our heritage, our history, our place in the Commonwealth of Nations or our flag and all it represents. We know where we have come from. Through this proposed change, we can become a nation with a much clearer sense of where we are going.
(Blacktown) [3.55 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Premier and the yes vote in the referendum on 6 November. The main reasons are simple. I have always believed that no public office in our country should be denied to an Australian. The position of Head of State has been so denied for a long time. I also believe that the proposed model is superior to the current system. It delivers an Australian Head of State and ensures that no politician will be nominated to that position. Also, the President’s position is more accountable to Parliament.
Most importantly, I support the yes vote. Over the past few months people have asked me what changes will result from the yes vote. The answer is that there will be no tangible changes. But it will change Australians within and give us a sense of belonging. That is the greatest reason to vote yes at the referendum. What a great reward it would be for all the migrants to this nation, who made a decision to come to live in Australia. If we become a republic we will truly become one nation. All who live here, including the migrants who have taken up citizenship and those who have not, will become part of the fabric that makes Australia a republic.
Those who are thinking about voting no should consider what they will tell their grandchildren in 10 or 15 years time when they are asked how they
voted in the referendum. If I am still alive, I will be very proud to tell my grandchildren that I voted yes. I wonder what the people who vote no will say to their grandchildren. They will say they voted no, but when they consider that King Charles III, with Queen Camilla, is head of this nation they will wonder why. If we do not vote yes on 6 November we will not get another crack at it in our lifetime. If we do not take the opportunity now, we will not become a republic for many years.
Sir James Killen spoke in the Chamber today about the role of the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams. I would like to put on record what the Federal Attorney-General said about the new proposal, and in particular the legislation that would follow. The Federal Attorney-General addressed the Local Constitutional Conventions Forum on 29 April. His address was not in support of either position, simply a factual assessment of the impact of the bill, if legislated. The Attorney-General’s statement could not be clearer. He said:
It is important to be quite clear about what the Bill would not do.
It would not alter the day to day operation of the Commonwealth Parliament.
It would not alter the current federal balance between the Commonwealth and the States.
It would not give the president powers different to those of the Governor-General.
It would not alter the Australian flag or the national anthem.
It would not mark a break with our tradition of stable, parliamentary democracy.
It would change some titles, but not the basic operation of our system of national government.
The object of the Bill is simply to give Australia an Australian Head of State who can fit into our current arrangements in place of the Queen and her representative in Australia, the Governor-General.
The doomsayers say that if we become a republic we will be removed from the Commonwealth and major changes will occur to our fabric of life. We know that is not true. The doomsayers and monarchists have always said no. The history of this nation shows that very few referendums have been successful. The doomsayers and monarchists said no to Federation, no to an Australian Governor-General, no to more power in the British Parliament, and no to the Privy Council.
Many members have contributed to this debate. The only argument of the speakers against a republic is the old adage, "If it is not broken, why fix it." Not only will becoming a republic not result in those changes, it will not change our system in any way, shape or form. Our system of local governments, State governments and the Federal Government will not change. The real argument is whether an Australian should be our Head of State. There is no doubt about that.
Former Premier Neville Wran said in this Chamber today that the Queen does not represent Australia abroad. The Queen represents the United Kingdom, as one would expect. There is great rivalry at rugby league matches between England and Australia. There is no way in the world that the Queen, Prince Charles or any member of the royal family would support Australia rather than the United Kingdom.
Currently the Prime Minister can choose the Governor-General. Bob Hawke said recently on the ABC that he alone made the decision to appoint Bill Hayden as Governor-General. He also said it is possible that if it had been a Cabinet decision Bill Hayden may not have been appointed. Under the proposed system two-thirds of the Parliament would decide on the President. Today one person, the Prime Minister, can make the decision. The new system would be more transparent and acceptable to the people of this great nation. Under the present system the Governor-General swears allegiance to the Queen. A President would swear allegiance not to the Queen or any monarchy but to the Australian people.
The Governor-General can be dismissed at the whim of the Prime Minister, but that will not be possible under the new system because Parliament will make the decision. The Australian people will be the watchdog over the Parliament. At the next election they will have the right to support or not support the actions of the Prime Minister and the Parliament. A no vote will close the door for Australia to become a republic, probably for decades to come. With a yes vote for the republic we will have our own Australian President.
It is ironic and significant that the Opposition and supporters of the no vote never mention the Queen or the monarchy but talk about direct elections for the position of President. One would have to be the richest man in this nation or be supported by one of its big political parties to be even considered for election. We would have as President someone who is very rich or very popular, and that is not what the people want.
We all know that the Olympics, the greatest sporting event in the world, should be opened by the
Head of State. John Howard recently said that he did not think it was appropriate for Queen Elizabeth to open the Games. On the one hand he supports the Queen and the present system because he is a monarchist, and on the other he does not want the Queen to open the Olympic Games. I support an Australian opening the Olympic Games. It would be a travesty of justice if anyone but an Australian were to open the Olympic Games held in our nation.
It was stated today that Sir Henry Parkes started the republic debate in 1891 in this very Chamber. Even in those days they were referring to what we are talking about today, because there was no mention of the monarchy in any resolution in 1891. If Australians vote yes, we will see a great change in the Australian people. This nation will be united as never before. Migrants will walk hand in hand with the generations of Australians that were born here. For the first time in our history we will become a nation; we will become the Australian Republic. In 10 or 15 years I will be proud to tell my grandchildren that I voted yes to Australia becoming a republic.
(Baulkham Hills) [4.05 p.m.]: The question of a republic has ignited the passions of Australians for many generations. It is entirely fair to say that people from all walks of life and all political persuasions have passionate views on this somewhat emotional subject. It is emotional because whichever way one looks at it, it is a fundamental change for the people of Australia from the present system, commonly referred to as the monarchy, to a republic.
It is impossible to have a minimalist change because the argument of those on the yes side is to substitute the Governor-General with a President. That entails a lot more than changing printing and stationery. There will be changes which I believe those who argue the yes case have neither explained to the people of Australia nor thought out for themselves. The main argument advanced by republicans is that our Head of State should be an Australian. As I understand it the expression "Head of State" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution.
The Queen is Queen of Australia and under our present Constitution the Governor-General is effectively Australia’s Head of State. The only constitutional duty performed by the Queen relates to the appointment of the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day. Since 1965 every Governor-General of Australia has been an Australian. It is possible, and indeed very likely, that that will remain the same even if the present system is retained.
No-one doubts that the present Governor-General is an Australian. In fact, it was an Australian subject, not the Queen, who, rightly or wrongly, sacked Mr Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister in 1972. I do not propose to argue that matter because I understand that people hold passionate views about whether it was right or wrong. As I understand it, when the Governor-General sacked Gough Whitlam and appointed Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister, the House of Representatives passed a vote of no confidence in the caretaker Fraser Government. The text of that resolution was sent to the Queen with a request that she intervene. The reply on her behalf was as follows:
. . . The Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the Crown in the hands of the Governor-General . . . and the Queen has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the Constitution . . . it would not be proper for Her to intervene in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the Governor-General by the Constitution Act.
In other words, the matter was to be resolved by Australians under the terms of the Australian Constitution which, incidentally, had been assented to by Australians before its adoption in 1901. We, of course, have been told that if we have a republic we will all be united behind an Australian Head of State. I suggest that we have an Australian who, for all effective purposes, is our Head of State.
The referendum proposes to officially change the ultimate constitutional referee or umpire. I would suggest that the present system is probably the best in the world. Sir Garfield Barwick said that we have the best republic in the world. Not everyone would agree with Sir Garfield Barwick’s opinion, but his reputation as a constitutional lawyer is beyond doubt. The Governor-General is the ultimate constitutional umpire who exercises reserve powers of the Crown without interference from anyone.
In 1972 a request was made to the Queen, and the Queen said that because it was a local issue it should be dealt with locally, and that is exactly what happened. The Governor-General’s powers flow from the Australian Constitution, not from the Queen. He acts in accordance with the Constitution of Australia, which was passed by Australians. Although he is the Queen’s representative, he does not take instructions from her.
A stumbling block for many people in the republican movement is that they find it difficult to accept that the Governor-General does not take instructions from the Queen. The Governor-General acts in accordance with the powers given to him by
the Constitution as well as the conventions of the Crown which have been developed and distilled through hundreds of years of constitutional practice.
If the change is made, these conventions will go out the window and there will be no constitutional conventions as such that have existed and stood the test of time for so many generations of Australians and given us stable government. In substitution thereof will be the constitutional arrangements relating to the powers of the President. Let me examine some of the situations relating to the President. First of all, the Australian President, being elected by two-thirds of the Parliament, will be a President elected by the Parliament and not by the people.
Many people, for very good reasons, say that a President should be elected by the people. It is difficult to oppose that argument. Under the Australian model the President’s constituency would be under the parliamentarians in Canberra. The independence of that President concerns me. A President elected by two-thirds of the parliamentarians will, I believe, be in a situation of potential conflict between his duties as President of Australia, administering certain constitutional functions to the whole of the Australian people, while being utterly dependent and never forgetting the fact that he was appointed by two-thirds of the elected parliamentary representatives.
Even worse, the President can be sacked and dismissed by the Prime Minister - not sacked or dismissed by two-thirds of the Parliament, but by the Prime Minister. Honourable members might well ask what would happen then. The Prime Minister would go back to the Parliament and, providing he has a simple majority of the parliamentarians in the lower House only, the act of sacking the President is ratified. So there are two sets of rules: the rules that provide that to be elected a President needs the vote of two-thirds of all parliamentarians, and that process does not seem unreasonable, but to be sacked needs to have invoked anger and distrust or might be administering the Constitution in an entirely different way from that of the Prime Minister. The sacking is then ratified by the Parliament.
What kind of parliament, in which the numbers are controlled by the Prime Minister, would repudiate his act of sacking the President? This is no simple matter. The people of Australia are being asked to take a fundamental step and make a fundamental change - to sacrifice the present system under which there is a completely neutral umpire. That system has served the Australian people well. It has brought stability to this country that many countries in the world envy. In its place Australia will have an elected President elected by two-thirds of the politicians and, worse than that, a person who can be sacked by the act of a Prime Minister. Obviously that right to sack should be repudiated.
This is a difficult decision for the people of Australia. There are many reasons why people would say, "Yes, it is a modern world, let’s have a change." It is fundamentally wrong to talk of King Charles and Queen Camilla, just as it would be fundamentally wrong to talk about X as President. Let us not talk about personalities but instead about principles. The present system has served Australia well. It is not broken and should remain intact. People say that if we do not accept this model we are lost forever. That is the old travelling salesman’s ploy: "Sign tonight or the price will go up tomorrow," or the overzealous evangelist’s cry: "Come out the front, the meeting is going to finish soon." Do not fall for that line because the reality simply is that the people of Australia took 10 years to work out their Constitution; the people who are responsible for this motion today took less than 10 days.
(Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, Minister for Western Sydney) [4.15 p.m.]: On 6 November we as a nation will have a choice. We can choose to look forward and embrace Australia as the nation that it has become, or we can look back and cling to a rapidly receding past. This is a once-in-a-generation chance. It has taken the republican movement 20 years to reach this point. If we do not seize the day now, another generation may well pass before we have the opportunity again, if we ever have the opportunity again.
As a longstanding and proud republican, I believe that our future lies in having one of our own as the Australian Head of State. As Minister for Western Sydney I know that a republic will honour and recognise the culture and the people of western Sydney. Western Sydney is a region that exemplifies the benefits of multiculturalism. It is a diverse and exciting place in which to live and work. The report "1998 Social Indicators of Western Sydney" revealed that 60 per cent of Sydney’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population lives in western Sydney, about 25 per cent of western Sydney’s population was born overseas in non-English speaking countries, and 30 per cent of western Sydney’s population aged over five years speaks a language other than English at home.
Western Sydney’s multicultural community is the face of Australian society. It is a tolerant community that celebrates difference and personifies the role that Australia plays in the modern world. Every man, woman and child in western Sydney, no matter what their background, should be able to aspire to be our Head of State. Our Head of State should reflect our democratic system, not some distant, unelected dynasty. Australia has matured as a nation and as a region, and it is time to embrace its unique history and culture and to do it with the symbolism of one of our own as Head of State. But the symbolism of a republic is not only important for us as a nation internally to express our pride and our confidence; I believe it is profoundly important for us as a symbol to the rest of the world.
Other speakers in this debate have said that we have not come to the question of nationhood through war and violence and external pressures, and that is very true. However, I believe at this time that the external context is an important one for Australia as we move into a globalised world. Those external pressures and external forces exist, and it is extraordinarily important that Australia has its own national symbols, its own Head of State to engage in this ever-increasing world of globalisation and information evolution.
So at this time in our evolution it is appropriate that we pick up these symbols of a republic, of a new and modern Australia, to connect with and engage in a revolutionary world, and it is important that honourable members understand how quickly that external revolution, that global revolution, is occurring. I am sure honourable members have heard some of the figures on the new emerging information technology, but it is important to reiterate them. To use the statistical benchmark used by statisticians, when a particular technology is used by 50 million people around the world, it has reached a critical mass; it will go on to be a worldwide phenomenon and one that will be necessary for people be able to access if they are to operate and engage in the world.
It took 38 years for radio technology to reach the statistician’s point of critical mass and 14 years for television to reach the same point. It took only four years for the subset that is the worldwide web of the Internet to reach that critical mass, and that is an indication of how rapidly our world is moving. Honourable members and the people of Australia simply will not believe the rapidity with which this change will occur over the next five to 10 years.
It is vital that we engage this revolutionary emerging world with the right symbols, the right approach, the right amount of confidence and the right desire. That is why it is absolutely fundamental that we move to a republic. One key issue - and unfortunately, this issue is muddying the debate - is the various models proposed for a republic. The choice we face now is simple. We must vote yes and not squander this opportunity on the back of the misinformation that has dogged this campaign.
The idea that the model being put in the referendum is inferior is simply a furphy. It is a red herring that has been tossed into the debate by the monarchists. Our Head of State should be a fellow citizen of whom all Australians can be proud. The proponents of the no case are not interested in direct election; they are only using this and any other means within their grasp to knock off our republic because they want to cling to the outdated and elitist system that is currently in place. Some people, like Peter Reith and Ted Mack, argue that the proposed model does not go far enough. Others, like Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott, say that the system works so it should stay the same.
Perversely, all agree that they would prefer an unelected, unrepresentative Head of State, rather than a Head of State elected by a representative Parliament, and one that is a significant and superior improvement on what exists at the moment. Under the current system the Prime Minister alone determines who is the subHead of State - and it is a subhead of state. The Governor-General is an agent of the Queen of Great Britain. We should make no mistake on this issue. Republicans must stand up to the scare tactics by standing together.
We are merely asking for the natural evolution of our political system in keeping with the democratic traditions that we all cherish. The reality is that a majority of Australians want an Australian to be our Head of State. The monarchists simply will not acknowledge that, so they are using a divide and conquer strategy to hold back the tide of the republican movement and sentiment. It is hypocritical and desperate, and it is an obvious ploy. In 1996 the archmonarchist, the Prime Minister, John Howard, claimed that his election victory was for all of us. There is no question that our current Constitution is not for all of us. In fact, it is not for any of us.
By voting yes in the republic referendum we can ensure that our future is for all Australians. A republic will not dishonour our Diggers. It will not dishonour our flag or insult those who, like me, are descendants of the peoples of the British Isles. A republic will celebrate everything we hold dear in our past and take us into a new phase of nationhood.
In 1901 Australia celebrated the new centenary as a Federation, a new nation taking its first steps on the world stage. Those who had long argued for Federation wanted Australia to grow out of colonialism and become a nation of free citizens.
We have the opportunity to celebrate the centenary of Federation with another great leap in Australia’s history. In 1891 the Australian Labor Party was founded by shearers who wanted a fair go in a system that was stacked against them. I want to honour the memory of those founding members of the Labor Party. I want to honour our indigenous peoples. I want to honour all the communities that have come here since 1788. I want to honour those who were cast out of what they believed was their home and shipped to the other side of the world to make a life for themselves. I want to honour all the people of different cultural backgrounds who make Australia, and western Sydney in particular, an exciting place to live and - in the case of western Sydney - an honour to represent.
I want to honour future generations who deserve to be represented by their own Australian Head of State. We are a people who have come from many different places, and our Head of State should represent us all. It is time to formally recognise that our history is not solely that of a British colony. We cannot sit back and let this historic opportunity pass us by. If we wake up on the morning of Sunday 7 November to find that the republic referendum has been lost I wonder how we will feel. We will cringe because it will be worse than the current situation. It will not be the case of simply evolving to the point we are at now; it will be an explicit endorsement for the head of another nation to be the head of our nation, which I will find almost unbearable.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training) [4.25 p.m.]: I shall reflect a little on what a unique privilege it is to stand here and participate in this debate at this watershed moment in Australia’s history. Australia is a great country, young and forward-looking, which affords the sort of privilege we as members of Parliament and as citizens of this country are enjoying as we participate in this great debate and vote in the referendum on 6 November. I am uniquely aware of the fact that as a migrant to this country and as the son of migrants to this country I have been afforded a great privilege to bear Australian citizenship and to participate in the future of this country. Whenever I speak on behalf of many millions of migrants to this nation who have not had the same opportunities as me, I am aware that becoming a member of Parliament and a Minister in this State has enabled me to put into effect the equality which Australia offers to all its citizens and the great opportunities which come our way.
Obviously, as a member of the Labor Party I hold some strong ideals about what citizenship means and about our Constitution. I strongly support our Constitution, which recognises that both it and the Government derive their authority from the will of the Australian people. I hold strongly to the concept of the need for respect of the rule of law. I uphold the ideal of equality for all Australians, irrespective of their origins. I uphold also the traditions, values, unity, diversity and aspirations of the Australian people and look forward to a future Australia that continues to emphasise citizenship in that regard.
As many speakers in the debate have said, millions of people have come to this great nation from many parts of the world. Of course, the Australia of the future must reflect the expectations and attitudes of its people. It must respect their cultures and heritage, which become uniquely Australia’s culture and heritage. That is not to take anything away from the heritage and culture of the past. As honourable members know, Australia’s origins have a British background; the new settlers in Australia came from Britain. It is only right and just that we should have great respect for that heritage and history.
Our system of government and rule of law are based on the Westminster system, which is based on that heritage. Of course, the British Head of State has been Australia’s Head of State since the inception of nationhood in this country. But those are things of the past. While not detracting in any way from the great benefits Australia has derived from that heritage, we must look to the future. By having a republic, by looking forward to an Australia that recognises the contribution of all those who make up this great country, we are in no way detracting from our British heritage.
We must also take into consideration the great contribution of the indigenous people of this country. After all, they were the country’s guardians for about 40,000 years before people arrived from Europe and other places. The Australia of the future must not only recognise that background but also reflect the people’s aspirations for the future. When people made the choice to come to this country as migrants they made the choice to be future Australians - and for no other reason. By making that decision they wanted for their sons and daughters, their grandchildren and all their descendants the opportunities that this country can provide.
My parents were among those people. I was very fortunate that they chose to come to Australia. They could have chosen the United Kingdom, Canada, South America and other places. But, having chosen to come to Australia, they are now proud Australians. Their son is also a proud Australian and my children are proud Australians. My wife is a sixth generation Australian of Irish and British heritage. I am Maltese born and of Maltese heritage. Therefore my children are very proud Australians of Irish, British and Maltese heritage. They are looking forward to the future.
No-one is going to tell me that any one of my children or grandchildren - or the children of any other migrant - is not good enough, as an Australian, to be Head of State. That is fundamentally what that whole issue is about. It is not about cutting ties. It is not about insulting anybody. It is not about telling Her Majesty that we do not love her any more. It is about the future and telling everyone that we as Australians are good enough to have an Australian as Head of State. The future of this country is fundamentally rooted in the aspirations of the people who have come here and who are born here.
Becoming a republic will not mean the end of the earth. As I understand it, 31 nations within the British Commonwealth are republics. Among them, the country of my birth, Malta, went from a period of limited self-government to full sovereignty as an independent nation in the British Commonwealth. From 21 September 1964 it took only 10 years to work its way through to becoming a republic within the British Commonwealth of Nations on 13 December 1974. I had the privilege of being born in a country with limited sovereignty which, after my migration to Australia, became a fully independent republic. Today it is a very proud nation within the British Commonwealth. Of course, it recognises its links with the United Kingdom, but it has one of its citizens as Head of State. All Australians should have the right to become Head of State of this nation.
We have heard a lot about the model of the republic that is to be adopted. Again, this is a furphy. The issue is not so much about the model; it is far more fundamental. Do we become a republic or do we stay tied to a foreign monarchy? Do we have a foreigner still as our Head of State? That is the basic question we need to respond to. That is basically what the referendum is all about.
Supporters of the no case keep looking back to the past. Australia has a very proud past, heritage and tradition. I uphold the concept within the Constitution honouring the development of the Federation of our nation. But Australia, as a young country, very much looks to the future. On 6 November we have a responsibility, individually and collectively as a nation, to ensure for future Australians that an Australian can become the Head of State. In other countries unless one is born in that country one cannot become the Head of State. Someone not born in America cannot become President of the United States. Yet only a monarch born overseas can become the Australian Head of State. It is a ludicrous anomaly which needs to be corrected. We have the responsibility on 6 November to do that and to vote for a republic so that at some time in the future one of our sons or daughters can become Head of State and proudly lead this country as an Australian.
(Manly) [4.34 p.m.]: I support the Premier’s motion. It is an anachronism for us to continue with a bloodline monarchy, a feudal institution. It is time we stopped looking over our shoulders and moved into the future. We have come a long way since 1788 when, in essence, we were a military dictatorship. The Governor had all the power. He was the representative of the Crown but he was the rule of law in the colony.
Since those days there have been many milestones along the way to evolving to the fully fledged democracy we are today. We are a democracy to be proud of. Few countries in the world have the same kinds of freedoms which we enjoy. But that is not to say that we should not continue our evolution and the process of nation building. Between 1788 and today the milestones have included the change from having appointments by the Governor to a democratically elected Legislative Council, the establishment of the Legislative Assembly, and Federation.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, in 1865, the Imperial Parliament passed the Colonial Laws Validity Act. This followed the South Australia Parliament passing a bill on the Torrens land title system and the South Australia Governor refusing to sign it. In essence, the Imperial Parliament said that the colonies could pass whatever legislation they deemed fit for the good administration, management and governance of their respective colonies provided that the legislation was not repugnant to imperial legislation. So even back in 1865 representatives of the Crown in the colonies were attempting to limit the kinds of legislation that colonial governments could pass.
The Colonial Laws Validity Act was repealed under the Statute of Westminster, which was enacted in Canberra in 1941 and backdated to 1939. That
freed the Federal Government from the inhibitions of the Colonial Laws Validity Act in the sense that the Federal Government, and the governments of all dominions, could pass laws which altered, amended or repealed earlier imperial legislation, but the States could not. That was changed by the Australia Act of 1986. In essence, it repealed the Colonial Laws Validity Act and stopped all appeals to the Privy Council.
There had been a reduction in the kinds of matters that could go to the Privy Council but all appeals from Australia to the Privy Council ended with the Australia Act. The point is that until 1986 in theory the Westminster Parliament could enact legislation for New South Wales. The last time it had done so was in the early part of the twentieth century and it involved a matter dealing with the remuneration of the Governor. It is a total anachronism that the Westminster Parliament, the old Imperial Parliament, could in theory pass laws for the State of New South Wales up until 1986. That shows how slow our evolution to full sovereignty has been.
I would argue that the Australia Act was the penultimate act in our full sovereignty. The last step - it is not a big step but it is highly symbolic - is for us to have an Australian Head of State. That is the issue to be decided on 6 November. I cannot even begin to understand how that can be argued against. The no campaign is dishonest when it asserts that the Parliament electing the Head of State is somehow not democratic or somehow threatens the democratic process, when the existing system is far less democratic. Working up a scare campaign on the notion that we cannot trust politicians is a highly dishonest approach. Whether people like politicians or not, the nation entrusts the business of state to politicians, and it can call them to account by electing different ones next time around. That is the fundamental democratic process.
The argument that we cannot trust the elected representatives of the people - the sovereign House of the people - to vote simply undermines the whole parliamentary process. It must be a two-thirds majority vote; all sides of the political equation will have input. Such an argument indicates either an unhealthy mistrust or total cynicism. I believe that it is total cynicism because it is an attempt to hoodwink the public, to scare people into maintaining the status quo. I can respect people who say, not necessarily in intellectual terms, that they have a commitment to the present system because they like it and they think it has served us well.
I would not argue with the fact that the present system has served us well. At the moment as a nation and a State we are quite outstanding. However, I totally dispute the intellectual argument that we cannot move to a republican model because it threatens this. I believe that it is an outrageous misrepresentation of the situation. Until the mid-1960s, with one exception, the Crown’s representative in Australia was an Englishman. The last English Governor-General to Australia was Viscount De L’Isle. There was a bit of a to-do when the Governor-General to follow him was to be appointed; it was thought that an Australian should be appointed Governor-General.
The notion that we have an Australian Governor-General is fairly recent. Viscount De L’Isle was a deeply conservative member of the Monday Club of the Tory Party. Until the mid-1960s the notion existed that a representative of the Crown whose values, ideals and ideas were quite foreign to the values, ideals and ideas of the average Australian should be appointed to the position of Governor-General. We have moved beyond that point. An Australian now holds the position of Governor-General. The next logical step is for Australian governors-general to become the Australian heads of state.
This minimalist model is not threatening to the current system - in fact, it is a democratisation of the process. That is not to say that that is the be-all and end-all as far as reforming the Constitution is concerned. Constitutions should be living documents. They should evolve with the times, represent the spirit of the times, and be able to be altered with the times, as we do through referenda. I believe that we should be looking at the Bill of Rights, for example, and entrenching the rights and recognition of local government in the Constitution.
Many other reforms could be made with regard to the Constitution. It is not a dead document and it should not be preserved in aspic, as the monarchists suggest. In summary, we should acknowledge the past and the great institutions we have inherited - the Westminster system, the common law and all the various institutions that have gone with it and given us strength - and move forward from there. We should take our place in the sun and move forward with confidence.
(Camden) [4.43 p.m.]: I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this debate and indicate my position on this issue. In 1992, just prior to Anzac Day, the then Prime
Minister, Paul Keating, took the first step in making Australia a republic, I made a statement about the issue at the Anzac Day oration at Macarthur Park, Camden, as it was the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Australia. I pondered long and hard about whether I should make the statement. However, I spoke about what the people of this country fought for: our freedom, our way of life and our democracy.
At that time I looked at the definitions of "democracy" and "republic" and pointed out to the people that the terms are not synonymous, that they are different. I hope now that the people of Australia have now learned a lot from the information that has been circulated prior to this referendum. At that time I pointed out that two of the strongest republics of the last 60 years were Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. I pointed out also that the most stable democracies were monarchies - namely, the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries.
Only 21 countries have been continuously and fully democratic since World War II. Four of those countries were former colonies of Great Britain and the fifth is the United Kingdom. One-quarter of the long-term stable democracies in this world have been developed by the United Kingdom. It might be said that that was seven years ago. This time I was not going to stand up and be counted publicly because I believed that each individual should consider and talk about the issue and not be led by the nose by politicians. However, on 18 October I issued a press release headed "Liz Votes ‘No’!" I did this because my Federal Liberal colleague issued press releases supporting the yes vote. I believe that my local community should be informed that, first, the Liberal Party has a right to be different and to think differently on such matters and, second, that there is another side to such issues. There are too many unanswered questions on a subject that has been rushed through to meet a deadline that has emotional value only. This almighty rush to have the issue decided before the centenary of Federation is a push by the republicans to get their proposal through.
It took many, many years to set our Constitution in concrete and to get it right. There should not now be a race to get it done. We should be looking at the questions that are raised. The first question is: Will a change of leadership give Australia, with its very small population, any greater role on the world stage or any greater benefits in world trade? I am not sure that it will. We know how much the constitutional convention and referendum have cost the Australian public. But what will be the cost to the community of changing every law and regulation, and of replacing references to the Queen and the Crown, and other similar words and phrases? What about our passports? They are legal documents. Our passports state:
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, being the representative in Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, requests all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely . . .
Will other countries refuse to recognise our passports if they are not changed? Who will pay for such a change and all the other changes that will come about? What are the hidden costs of the proposal, apart from the financial cost of the President and his entourage, which I am sure will end up greater than the cost of the Governor-General? How many schools and hospitals could be built or upgraded with this money? The only benefit of the republican proposal will be to make some people feel good. I feel good about being an Australian now. I am a proud, staunch Australian. I could be Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who has the power.
You can’t be Head of State though.
That does not matter; the Head of State has no power in this country. I am a staunch nationalist. I cringe when I hear people say that because we have a Queen they are not proud. If people do not have enough self-confidence in themselves and their country to be proud of that, I am disappointed in them. We have the best country in the world, and it has been developed by a constitutional monarchy, under a system of absolute stability and freedom.
Australia is a very different place from the one I was born into. I was born in a country that had the white Australia policy and British accents everywhere. It was only after World War II that I heard English spoken in other accents, when European refugees came to Australia. We now have a multicultural society. But why did the migrants come here? Why did they want to come to Australia? Because they wanted our freedom, our way of life, what we have to offer. They wanted the stability of this country. I do not believe that most of our migrants are worried about having a Queen of Australia, because she does not affect their day-to-day lives at all. The constitutional monarchy gives us stability.
Those who come from dictatorships do not want a change. I think republicans who use the argument that our ethnic people want a yes vote
might get a bit of a shock, because those who come from countries that have dictatorships do not want to see any changes in our system. Any proposal to change a country’s constitution should be made in response to a groundswell of public discontent, not originally be started by a politician who wants to have his name written in history, supported by a very vocal minority, and promoted by the media to make a good story. The irony is that if the yes vote is carried - and I do not believe it will be on 6 November - history will show that the architect of the Australian republic is Paul Keating’s archenemy, Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.
Some Liberal politicians support the yes vote; others support the no vote. But the Labor Party has decreed that its members must vote along party lines. Surely this is an issue on which the party should allow a conscience vote. The phrasing of the motion of the Carr Labor Government is designed as a political tool to cause a split in the Opposition. That demeans the very serious topic that we are debating. The Labor Government has emphasised its party-political push for a republic, despite the sugar-coated emotionalism of former Premier Wran’s reference this morning to a toast to King Charles III and Queen Camilla in a very demeaning tone.
There is a political agenda behind the republican push. This morning Sir James Killen showed the loopholes in the proposed constitution and how changes can be made to it. I believe that the Fabian Society has a tortoise as its symbol. The idea is to travel slowly and change things legally, bit by bit. I am not worried about a dictatorship in this country of either political party or of any other person occurring in my lifetime. I am not worried because we are so used to freedoms that we would not stand for a dictatorship. I am worried for the children - not for my children or grandchildren because I do not have any - of other Australians. I will not take part in the final vote on the motion. I have made my position clear. I will not give credence to this Labor ploy. I say this to the people of our community: If in doubt, don’t.
(Port Stephens) [4.53 p.m.]: I support the yes, yes vote in the coming referendum. Our Head of State should be an Australian, not a British monarch. I am extremely proud to be here in this Chamber debating this issue, reflecting on what has occurred in the constitutional history of Australia and the part this Chamber has played in that constitutional history. It is a very great privilege, an honour, to be participating in this debate. Apart from the Head of State, whom I believe should be an Australian and not a British monarch, the preamble, amongst other things, should recognise our original inhabitants and be a statement of values backed by the majority of Australians. The yes, yes vote will indicate a coming of age on a number of matters for the Australian nation.
Australia is a country to the south of Asia, yet in 1999 it is tied to the British monarchy. Geographically, we are in Asia. Historically, we still have an umbilical cord to the United Kingdom. The referendum sends a signal to the rest of the world that this is an appropriate start to enable Australia to properly position itself in the new millennium. Obviously, other changes to the Constitution will come in the future. A no, no vote will show a lack of maturity and a lack of confidence. I ask: What message do we want to send to the rest of the world? I have been chairman of the Port Stephens City Sisters Committee for the past 10 years. During that time the committee has developed a series of relationships around the Pacific Rim under the logo "A ring of friendship around the Pacific Rim". During the past 10 years I have spoken to a lot of people around the Pacific Rim.
Next February Port Stephens will host the fifth Pacific Rim yacht challenge, an event that occurs every two years. The six sister cities of the Pacific Rim will sail in Port Stephens. We are expecting between 110 and 150 people to come from around the Pacific Rim. The six countries that I refer to are Russia, Japan, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. I have had considerable contact with Americans over the past few years because of the sister city relationship. Americans find it absolutely amazing that in this day and age Australia still has a British monarch as its Head of State. My first contact with the Americans was in 1988, when as part of a scholarship I went on a constitutional tour of the United States of America. Ten American teachers subsequently came to Australia to spend time with 10 Australian teachers, and we talked about the constitutional development of Australia.
Where do we want to position our country in the world for the next millennium? I relate to the House a story about a friend of mine, Sunai Tachibana. In 1994 Tateyama, Japan, was the venue for the Pacific Rim yacht challenge, hosted by Tachibana and his friends. During the yachting challenge I asked Tachibana San, "How do you feel about America’s relationship with Japan?" Tachibana, who has a 30-foot yacht, one of the six yachts in the Pacific Rim yacht challenge, thought for some time about the question before answering, "I was sailing on Tokyo Bay one afternoon and the USS Enterprise
sailed into Tokyo Bay. And, John, it did not give way to me."
The conversation continued. The question arose as to why Australia continued to accept a British monarch as Head of State when we claim we are part of Asia, both geographically and economically. That was a difficult question to answer. Basically, I answered in terms of the traditional conservatism of Australians and of our tradition of British heritage. That was my summary of the reasons we had not moved from a constitutional monarchy by 1994. I mentioned then that maybe 2001, the centenary of Federation, would make a nice and neat chronological transition from our past to our future.
If the referendum is passed, 1 January 2001 will be the date for the birth of the republic of Australia, just as 1 January 1901 was the birth of the Commonwealth of Australia, a Constitution that has served us well but was never meant not to be changed. Even though only eight of 42 previous referenda have passed to law, the question to go before the Australian people on 6 November is where we will position ourselves in Asia and in the world, as a logical step towards a world view of ourselves. It is a major symbolical change to the Australian Constitution. The practical effects will be minor because "President" will replace "Queen" or "Governor-General" in the Australian Constitution.
To my way of thinking, the message we send to Asia and the world if we vote no, no is one of insecurity and a lack of confidence. The rest of the world will greet our decision with amazement if we vote against becoming a republic in which the ultimate power lies with the people and not with an hereditary monarch. If we vote against becoming a republic and the inclusion of a preamble, that will show the world that Australia, in 1999, has decided to retain as its Head of State a person from another country, another continent, who is an hereditary monarch by fluke of birth. That person is not elected, yet half of the no proponents seem to say that we need an elected president. There is a great deal of irony in that. In conclusion, it will show where Australia stands in Asia and in the world. I commend to my electorate that a yes, yes vote is the only way to go.
(Southern Highlands) [5.00 p.m.]: One hundred years ago Australians stood on the threshold of a major decision. Would we abandon our colonial structure and become a federation of States? There was no crisis, no civil war, no violence. It was about Australians deciding that it was time to move forward with the confidence that, despite the challenges and uncertainties ahead, we were ready, capable and strong enough in our resolve to make it work. Next year we celebrate the vision and courage of our founding federationists.
Sir Henry Parkes - in full length portrait only 20 metres away from this Chamber in the Speaker’s wing - would no doubt be listening to all that is said here today and perhaps be feeling a sense of deja vu. When we learn of the concerns expressed by those who wanted to keep the status quo then, many of us wonder how on earth our forebears could have thought that way. They were concerned about issues such as the right of women to vote and the right of Aboriginal people to have citizenship and to vote. Although they are uncontroversial notions to us, they were matters of earnest debate at that time.
It was the strength and genius of the Australian people who decided to change and to make that change work. Now we stand on a different threshold and all of us, as individual Australians, contemplate a different proposition of similar proportions. This proposition should be beyond politics and partisan positions. The Prime Minister has ensured correctly that the referendum not be turned into a party political issue. The Leader of the Opposition has correctly sought to protect the right of all Australians to make a decision on 6 November free of party political interference.
I commend the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, which seeks to endorse the right of all of us to vote freely on 6 November, after examining the yes and no arguments, talking to each other and our families, and discussing the issue in our communities. The amendment acknowledges the importance of the question and the seriousness with which all of us must approach it. It respects the fact that many Australians have different views and that those views, whether they be for the status quo or constitutional change, are genuinely and fervently held.
That is not the case with the Government’s motion, which seeks to divide and create partisan positions. I cannot support that motion if I am to honestly represent the views of my constituents, which is my fundamental role in this place. The Premier in his motion seeks to pre-empt the decision of the Australian people. What arrogance! By asking this House to support the motion, the Premier is asking representatives to abandon and dishonour their views and wildly guess at the majority view of their electorate. I do not know the majority view in my electorate. The referendum has not yet been held
and I have not polled all 42,000 of my constituents on this question.
If the Premier were honest about his intentions he would survey all 93 members in this place about their individual views. That is a different question, and not one for this House. It is dishonest and dishonourable to seek to use a Parliament of elected representatives to turn a referendum of the people into a party political stunt. I welcome the opportunity to speak to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, which truly reflects the spirit and intentions of this referendum. I am an Australian who wants to see an Australian Head of State. My republican views have been a matter of public record for some time. To me, this is about being Australian, pure and simple.
I want to know that our Head of State, whoever he or she might be, is focused 100 per cent, 24 hours a day on the interests and wellbeing of Australia and Australians. I do not want to see us coming second or third or further down the list in someone’s priority list. I do not want our interests to suffer in the inevitable conflict of interest when a foreign sovereign is required to go in to bat for us. I want my 3½-year-old daughter to have the opportunity, should she wish, to be eligible to be our Head of State. Every Australian should be able to aspire to that role, but at the moment they cannot.
In this Chamber we subscribe to the notion of equal opportunity, merit and democratic institutions. We would all be appalled at any notion that the son or daughter of any of our past or present Prime Ministers or Premiers would assume the right of succession based on genetic inheritance. It is a ludicrous proposition for Australians. In this place and in other roles in my community I have stood up and fought for equal opportunity, the best person for the job and the importance of accountability of individuals in public life to the people they serve. The notion that our Head of State is an inherited title, and occupied by someone whose first responsibility is the welfare of another nation, is a view that we have long outgrown.
We have heard the lawyers debate the intricacies of the Constitution and wrestle with the definitions and semantics in smaller and smaller circles. I am less interested in what lawyers say we can or cannot do than I am in who we are and where we, as Australians, want to be. I support the yes case. However, my vote is no more or less important than the vote of every other Australian who casts a preference on 6 November. It is not my right or role as the member for Southern Highlands to impose my view on my electorate. I am one of 42,000 people in that region, each of whom has a view worthy of respect.
Having said that, I have immense confidence that if we cast a vote for change we will make a great success of it. We will embrace a republic with the same determination and sense of fair play with which we embraced Federation. We will unite, as we always have, to meet common challenges in peace. I support the Leader of the Opposition’s amendment, which seeks to cast this debate in the non-partisan framework it must and should be. I reject the efforts of the Labor Party to disrespect the people of New South Wales by using the Parliament of New South Wales as an instrument of opportunistic political division. The people of Australia will be the ones who decide our future on 6 November. They, not this Parliament, are the source of authority for our constitutional future.
(Miranda) [5.07 p.m.]: Australia’s great tennis star John Newcombe recently spoke about the day he became a republican. He was 17 years old and playing his first Davis Cup tie in Paris against an impressive French side. For a 17-year-old there can be no greater occasion than to represent his country in front of a world audience. Newcombe was a proud Australian, up against an equally patriotic and fiercely determined French side. With the expected dignity of a visiting side, the Australian team stood as La Marseillaise
was played to a receptive French crowd, which roared its approval at the stirring French national anthem.
Young Newcombe then waited for Australia’s national anthem to be played. The French crowd also waited to hear the tune, which many in the crowd thought would be unfamiliar to them. As the band began to play the French crowd, to its surprise, recognised the tune. It was God Save the Queen
. Newcombe recalls that one of his French opponents leaned over and disparagingly asked, "So who are we playing today - Australia or England?" To Newcombe it was not what the French thought about him and his country that mattered; it was how it made him feel about himself - that Australia was somehow less than a complete country and merely a colony of a once great empire.
I feel that this story goes to the heart of the referendum question. How do we as Australians see ourselves? In other words, it is not about how others view us or about how we would like others to see us; it is about our self-esteem. The referendum is our chance to ensure that our system of government reflects how we feel about ourselves. I believe that Australia, per head of population, has produced more great sportsmen and women, more great
diplomats, more scientists, more great legal minds and more great artists than any other country on earth.
We are a nation built on achievement. We are a nation in which every young boy or girl is encouraged to be the best they can possibly be, to overcome obstacles and to aspire to the highest international standard. Consider some of the achievements of Australians on the world stage. When Don Bradman’s Invincibles returned from their famous 1948 tour, what young Australian did not want to be captain of the Australian cricket team? Here was a side which, through achievement and merit, lifted the Australian spirit out of the war years and filled the nation with hope for the future.
At the 1960 Rome Olympics, it was Herb Elliott’s 1,500 metres run in world record time that showed every nation on earth the quality of Australian athletes. Pat Cash’s stunning victory at Wimbledon in 1987 marked a new era in Australian tennis - the results of which are now apparent through the emergence of Rafter, Philippoussis and the members of our successful Davis Cup team, who will again do battle with the French in Paris for the title.
In 1982 the Australian rugby league team went undefeated on a Kangaroo tour. The 1984 Wallabies team, led by Mark Ella, won the grand slam by defeating England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Australian women’s hockey team - the Hockeyroos - under the leadership of Rechelle Hawkes, delivered Olympic gold in 1996. More recently, the Australian netball team had a stunning win in New Zealand to secure back-to-back world championships, led by the brilliant Vicki Wilson.
In the diplomatic field it was an Australian, Dr Evatt, who served as the President of the Assembly of the United Nations in those difficult years when all the nations of the world came together to build the framework that would deliver lasting peace. In the area of artistic pursuits, the number of our world-recognised authors and artists are too many to mention. Just recently the literary world mourned the passing of our best author, Mr Morris West. With role models like these, every boy or girl in this country is encouraged to aspire to be the best they can possibly be.
Every boy can aspire to captain the Australian cricket team, the Wallabies or the Kangaroos. Every young girl can aspire to lead the Opals, or to win Olympic gold or a world championship. Every young boy or girl can aspire to become Secretary-General of the United Nations. We produce great champions and leaders because we teach our children to believe that nothing is beyond their reach if they work hard and remain committed. Maybe one of us here today is the mother, father or grandparent of the next Don Bradman, Herb Elliott, Vicki Wilson or Morris West.
My point is that young Australians can aspire to every position of leadership in this country, except one. There is just one job that no Australian boy or girl can ever have. It is one position to which they cannot aspire, no matter how good, intelligent or talented they are. For unless they are the eldest male heir of a foreign monarch, living in another country, they cannot be the Australian Head of State. I, for one, do not accept that among 18 million Australians there is not one person who is good enough to fill the top position - the head of our nation.
The current situation is unfair and discriminatory. It does not allow equality of opportunity and is not in my view in keeping with the best of our Australian traditions. Monarchists are fond of saying, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it". The current system is broke, and it needs fixing. The referendum on 6 November is our opportunity to correct that wrong and to ensure that in future one of our sons, daughters or grandchildren will be able to hold Australia’s highest constitutional position.
A republic gives women the right to become Australia’s Head of State. Under the present system and under the laws of succession a woman can only become our Head of State by default. A yes vote means that every child, regardless of privilege, status or religion, can aspire to be the Australian Head of State. A yes vote says that it is not appropriate to have the monarch of another country as our Head of State in this day and age. A yes vote says that we have evolved and matured as a nation.
The debate concerning this referendum has focused more on the appropriateness of the model we have adopted to choose the Head of State. It is proposed that first and foremost the symbolic and constitutional Head of State will be an Australian citizen. The Head of State will be known as the President of the Commonwealth of Australia, chosen and appointed by Australians who will live in Australia and who will represent the Australian nation and its people both at home and abroad.
The Australian republic will retain the current separation of roles. The Head of State will be a non-executive President, a largely symbolic position above day-to-day politics, representing the nation rather than a political party or a government. The
Australian office of President will retain the powers that the Governor-General currently uses under the conventions that have developed over this century. The President’s non-reserved powers are clearly defined.
The President will have reserve powers to act against the advice of the Government in certain circumstances. The office of President will be held by an independent person who will represent all Australians. The President will not be permitted to be a member of any political party. The term of office will be five years. Anyone who examines the proposed model will see that it is more fair and democratic, and is completely compatible with our stable parliamentary system.
A number of well-respected Australians have endorsed the proposal, including former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam, and former Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony, and former Chief Justices of the High Court, Sir Anthony Mason and Sir Gerard Brennan. On 6 October in an open letter the former Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, stated:
I think the proposal is good, I support it . . . I believe it can be safely recommended to our fellow citizens as giving us an Australian Head of State without radical change to our parliamentary system.
It is clear that the proposed model will only strengthen our stability and democratic traditions. The central theme of the no campaign by the monarchists is not to vote no to save the Queen but to vote no if they want to vote for the President. The campaign theme of the monarchists implies that the defeat of the referendum proposal will lead to another referendum on the popular election of a President. It is simply an attempt to mislead the Australian people.
Monarchists have stated that no matter what proposition is put to the Australian people they will oppose it if it removes the Queen. The monarchists are only willing to push the case for direct election in a crude political effort to secure their current position. They do not support the Australian people having a say - they never have and never will. They continue to stand steadfast by a system in which the head of our constitutional system is designated by birth and her representative in Australia is selected by just one person, namely, the Prime Minister.
There is no doubt that under the system of direct election a partisan and political figure will be the Head of State. Make no mistake, there are only two organisations in Australia with the capacity, resources and skill to run a successful Presidential campaign - the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal-National Coalition. Under our proposed model candidates will be endorsed by both parties, and therefore the independence of the office of President will not be compromised or political.
Throughout the debate on the referendum for an Australian republic I have been reminded time and again of the battles and arguments of the authors of the Australian Constitution almost 100 years ago. The move to make Australia a nation took about 10 years, but on 1 January 1901 a disparate group of colonies came together to form the Australian Commonwealth. I rather fancy that Sir Henry Parkes, former Premier of New South Wales, would share the views of the current Premier in supporting a republic. Sir Henry Parkes argued in his famous speech at Tenterfield in 1889:
The great question which they had to consider was whether the time had now come for the creation on this Australian continent of an Australian Government.
Sir Henry Parkes went on to say that the only argument that could be advanced in opposition to the views he had put forward was that the time had not yet come. Today we have another great question to answer, namely, whether the time has come for the creation of the republic of the Commonwealth of Australia, where an Australian can be elected as our Head of State. To answer that question I look not to the Founding Fathers but to one of the great voices of the French republic, Victor Hugo, who wrote:
An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.
The Australian republic is an idea whose time has come.
(Northern Tablelands) [5.17 p.m.]: Sunday 24 October marked the 110th anniversary of Sir Henry Parkes’ famous Federation speech, which was delivered in Tenterfield in 1889, as alluded to by the honourable member for Miranda. Tenterfield is in the electorate of the Northern Tablelands. I attended the celebration to which the Premier referred earlier today. I place on the record my thanks to the Mayor of Tenterfield Shire Council, Lucy Sullivan, and all those associated with the tremendous weekend, including Ken Halladay, who worked hard with the celebrations. Just to the north of Tenterfield is a reminder of the follies of the past, when Australia was six separate colonies. I have had the opportunity to visit and walk through the Jennings-Wallangarra border railway station, where one can see a New South Wales style of architecture on one platform and a Queensland style on the other. There are different gauges on the railway lines.
It is not so tremendous.
It is not so tremendous. Passengers had to change trains at Jennings to get across the border. That monument to the folly of the past could not be changed with Federation, but many other anomalies were, and it is clear that Australia has prospered as a unified nation. It is not long since we established an Australian rather than a British representative to fill the post of Governor-General. All those changes met with resistance, but all of them the Australian people worked through and worked towards their objectives.
We are now faced with taking another step towards realising our national identity by becoming a republic with an Australian Head of State. I believe that most Australians feel that the democratic Westminster system now operating has served them well and do not want it changed dramatically. I support the minimalist option to preserve all the best from the past, to retain the stability of the present system and to move forward into the future with our own Head of State.
It is the people who will finally decide this issue. I share the comments of the honourable member for Southern Highlands. I believe the people have been presented with a very confused debate in which the issues are not clear-cut and that some unreasonable fears have been engendered. Fortunately, the people are not stupid, and my hope is that at this historic time they will think of this as another measured step towards nationhood, enshrining our traditions and moving forward into the next century, retaining our strong relationship with the Commonwealth and particularly with Britain. The difference would be that instead of a Governor-General we would have a President, and instead of a monarchy we would have a republic.
(Menai) [5.22 p.m.]:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
As I am sure you are aware, Mr Deputy-Speaker, that is the very polite introductory sentence of the American Declaration of Independence - the product of a bloody revolution. Australia comes of age to symbolically express its independence almost 225 years later through a more gentle and steady process of evolution rather than revolution. The next part of the Declaration of Independence refers to self-evident truths. It is self-evident to me that it is well and truly time that we as a nation recognised our modern-day place in the world and in this particular region of the world. In fact, it is long overdue.
It is an anachronism that the Queen of England should be the Queen of Australia in 1999. I reiterate for the benefit of less enlightened members opposite who are advocating a no vote that the year is 1999, not 1899 or 1799. It may come as a surprise to those honourable members that we are no longer a colonial outpost of the British Empire. With the passage of time, our circumstances and attitudes have changed. We have come a long way in every sense, as the Premier detailed earlier today. It is critical for electors to know that to vote yes on 6 November is not a risky strategy. I could understand people’s reservations if we were advocating radical changes to our stable and successful system of government.
Unlike the arguments put forward by the no proponents I intend to stick to the facts of the matter as outlined by none other than Daryl Williams, the Attorney-General, the first law officer of the Commonwealth and a highly respected Queen’s Counsel in his own right. My colleague the honourable member for Blacktown advised the House of this earlier, but it bears repeating because if we say it often enough it might get through. It is important to note that Mr Williams’ comments were not made in support of a particular position. In fact, as the Minister responsible for introducing the referendum bills into the Parliament, Mr Williams stated:
It is important to be quite clear about what the Bill would not do.
It would not alter the day to day operation of the Commonwealth Parliament.
It would not alter the current federal balance between the Commonwealth and the States.
It would not give the president powers different to those of the Governor-General.
It would not alter the Australian flag or the national anthem.
It would not mark a break with our tradition of stable, parliamentary democracy.
It would change some titles, but not the basic operation of our system of national government.
The object of the bill is simply to give Australia an Australian Head of State who can fit into our current arrangements in place of the Queen and her representative in Australia, the Governor-General.
On a lighter note, there is one very familiar aspect of everyday life not mentioned by the Attorney-General that will also remain unaffected by our change in national status. It should reassure the publishers and readers of popular check-out magazines to know that the lives and loves of British royals and rock stars can still be chronicled in the same sensitive and responsible manner that they are currently reported. In other words, day-to-day life will not be changed by the move to a republic, despite the scurrilous scare tactics of the no vote advocates.
The critical aspect of the referendum that will ensure that we have an Australian Head of State actually enhances the democratic process in this country. It has been said today that one of our own can aspire to be Head of State. At the very least, everybody will have the opportunity to nominate someone, a fellow citizen, within the set criteria, for the position of President - anyone they consider to be worthy. It should be noted that members of political parties and members of Parliament are specifically excluded from the presidency, highlighting another misleading claim by the no vote advocates.
The nominations will be considered by a special nominations committee made up of representatives of all Australian parliaments and all parts of our community. It will prepare a short list, and the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition will agree on one nominee. That person will then need to be approved by a two-thirds majority of a joint sitting of both Houses of Federal Parliament. In fact, the Prime Minister’s power is far more limited than is his existing power to appoint the Governor-General. On the question of dismissal, currently the Prime Minister can remove the Governor-General at any time and for any reason, and the Queen must act on the Prime Minister’s advice.
Immediate dismissal also applies in the republic model, but there must be a general election or endorsement of the Prime Minister’s actions by the House of Representatives within 30 days. The will of the people through their elected representatives would be heard in these circumstances. It should also be self-evident to everyone that the proposed changes are moderate, because so many prominent conservative organisations are actually advocating a yes vote. Andrew Robb, the Convenor of Conservatives for an Australian Head of State, and members of the Friends group, including Malcolm Fraser, Doug Anthony, Nobby Clark, Archbishop George Pell, Professor David Pennington and others, could never be tagged as radical risk takers.
Unlike the divisive and misleading tactics of the usual suspects leading the no case, the yes case has attracted and unified political foes and sports and media personalities. Unlike the claim made by Sir James Killen in this place this morning, it is not the Crown that has unified these disparate groups; it is the desire to remove the Crown and move on in the twenty-first century as an independent Australia. It is true, of course, that the conservative side of politics has to do a lot more soul searching than my side of politics.
To deflect attention away from their conflicting views, the Leader of the National Party earlier today dispatched a tirade of accusations that the Labor Party had locked in the outcome of this vote in the Parliament. He obviously could not see row after row of yellow yes badges worn by honourable members opposite. He must also have been unaware that almost every member that I know has already been surveyed by the local newspaper and expressed his or her views in support of the referendum.
The sentiments and accusations of the Leader of the National Party were not only inappropriate but they were hypocritical in the extreme. On the first day of the five-day historic Drug Summit earlier this year, this honourable member in his opening statement before any of the debate, testimonies or site visits, proudly declared that his diminished party would not support any initiatives that might arise from the deliberations. I was also astounded to hear the honourable member for Camden claim that this referendum has been a rush job.
The republican movement in this country has had a long and proud history. The republic has been a topic of popular debate for many years. Valuable time and money were spent on a full-blown constitutional convention to bring us to this point. The results of the deliberative poll last weekend clearly demonstrated the impact of giving factual information to electors, unlike the inadequate three-week government information campaign devised by the monarchist John Howard. I urge every Australian to make the most of our nation’s opportunity to resolve this matter in the best possible way. I urge every Australian to vote yes on 6 November.
(Hornsby) [5.30 p.m.]: I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate. It will be one of the most important debates in this Chamber in my lifetime and one of the most important debates Australia faced as its history is measured in centuries to come. In the past weeks I have become concerned about the shallowness of
debate on both sides of this question. In terms of the yes case, the Premier was shallow, which concerned me, when he said that the only question is whether we want King Charles III to be toasted at official functions. That level of debate is unbecoming.
For the no case, probably the most self-defeating argument was the shallow argument that we will get the politicians’ president. That certainly detracts from the important role of those of us in elected office in participating in these debates and helping to serve our communities. It is a self-defeating argument and it does not serve the no case well. As much as the structure of our Government and the nature of our Head of State matter a great deal, so, too, does this question: What kind of society do we aspire to be?
The debate, for me, is not only about what form our Head of State and the structure should take but also what qualities the structure will imbue and what values it will enhance, inspire, protect and bring forth in the Australian community as we approach a new century and, indeed, a new millennium. I shall raise some of those questions during the short time available to me today. First, in this debate we should be asking questions about the character of our society. How do we provide for the proper care and nurture of our children?
In particular, how do we value and support the role of families in our community? We need to say that there is no more important agency for the wellbeing of children than the family. We need to ensure that in the next millennium children in Australia can grow up free from harm, violence, abuse and intimidation; that they are free to grow up to be what they are capable of being. Secondly, I propose that we should measure the success of our nation not only by what form our Head of State takes but also by how we value communities in Australia.
In particular, how do we encourage all citizens to participate in the community? How do we value the ability of citizens to play an active role in their communities? How do we value their desire to do so? Those two questions are slightly different but they are both indicators of the wellbeing of our society and our democracy. We need to ask ourselves whether individuals are free to contribute to the life of the community and whether they do so. Do the disadvantaged have a voice?
Does the Government listen and respond to the voice of those who speak on behalf of the disadvantaged - people with disabilities and those who are oppressed, both economically and in other ways? We should be asking ourselves whether we are a society in which access to the means of personal wellbeing is restricted by personal circumstance. For example, we ensure that health care and social services are available to all.
We should be measuring ourselves as a society in which access to the means of personal growth and fulfilment of potential is not restricted by circumstance - in other words, that education is available to all. As we value our communities we need to ask ourselves whether corporations in Australia are contributing to the wellbeing of the community and what can be done to bring about a greater participation of companies in contributing to the lives of their employees and to the life of their community.
Indeed, can we broaden corporate attitudes and values about where companies see themselves fitting into society, not simply maximising shareholder value? I know that a number of ethical corporations are grappling with that question, and we want to encourage them to do so. We then need to ask ourselves how we value our democracy and how we measure that in our community. Do we do things to ensure that there is room for healthy dissent, the kind of robust debate that takes place in this, the mother of all parliaments in Australia?
Then we need to value participation in the work force for a number of reasons. Obviously, economic independence enhances the ability for self-determination in our people; by reducing poverty we improve social wellbeing. Another factor is that participation in the work force provides all citizens with a connection to the economy, and the link with the community that I mentioned earlier. Often unemployed people fall out of all levels of participation in the community. That means that they are less connected with others than they should be.
If the relationship between individuals in our society breaks down we are not doing our job; we are not serving them well. As we look to the next millennium and to the nature and character of Australia, the next question we should be asking in this debate is whether there is room in our public discourse for a good debate about values. Debates should not only be about the politics of the day. We must all take seriously our role in shaping the way values are given expression in the Australian community.
We all take part in that debate every day, as members elected to Parliament and as those who speak outside. We need to ask ourselves whether there is room to recognise the spiritual needs of
people, not just see them as economic or political units. Increasingly, individuals are asking themselves about how well policy makers actually know them. I hear people in communities saying, "But you don’t actually know me. You talk about me as if I am political fodder or an economic unit, but you aren’t saying things that satisfy the longing in my inner being, in my heart, in my soul."
There is a challenge for all of us to ensure that public policy, reflected in the life of our community, recognises, for example, the primacy of relationships of quality in determining our personal wellbeing. As the shadow minister for community services I am grappling with that public policy challenge at the moment. Recognising people’s spiritual needs also means that we must continue to be a nation of freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
My views as a committed Christian are well known. It is a position I have come to after careful thought, reflection and, indeed, prayer, and I earnestly desire that others will do the same. Crucial to that process is that people are free to begin a search for truth, and that our society encourages that search for truth. For example, in education policy do we encourage young people to ask serious questions about the nature of human beings and whether there is a supreme being in our relationship to others?
We must have a society that recognises that the search for truth has value in itself. We must have the freedom and encouragement to search for the truth. Undeniably, there is a link between the type of society we have and our form of government. One reason Australia is great among the nations of the world is that its form of government has served well the task of protecting some of the rights and values to which I have referred.
Our form of government has served that task relatively well, but we need to do better, particularly for those who are economically disadvantaged, disadvantaged through disability, disadvantaged through a lack of equitable opportunity or disadvantaged by background. Particularly acute is our need to find better ways to serve the needs of Aboriginal people. But it is a system based on great traditions about the rule of law, vigorous representative democracy, checks and balances, and a federation of States that seeks the common good of a nation and its people.
To many people that will sound like an argument for continuation of the constitutional monarchy, and I respect those who think that way. I think our current system works well and I am not an advocate of radical change. However, one thing about our nation that we should value is that we have reached the point at which people are asking questions about whether, in expressing what is uniquely Australian, we are hampered by a connection that no longer has relevance or real effect - a link to the Crown of another nation.
Australia is a mature nation that can have such a debate in peace. It will be a great achievement of the Australian people if we achieve it peacefully. As I reflect on this I come to the conclusion that our structure is robust enough that a minimalist change will do no harm. Moreover, in view of the role that it will play in continuing the Australian success story of a developing nation, a nation that values its people and the things I have mentioned, I think that the minimalist change being proposed will have a positive effect. I do not say that to persuade others; I say that to put my own views clearly on the record for others to judge in years to come.
Finally, one thing about this debate concerns me as a Christian: that is, if we make the change - I certainly hope we make the change - we must recognise that there is no authority except that which God has established. My authority for that is Romans 13:1. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Whatever form the president, monarch, Prime Minister or Head of State takes, as elected representatives and as members of our community we owe our accountability not only to each other but, indeed, to God himself, and that imposes an important onus on us all.
(Cessnock) [5.40 p.m.]: The idea of Australia being a republic has been around for many years now but again and again we, as republicans, have been thwarted by conservative monarchists who have argued strongly that Australia needs to hold on to its constitutional monarchy for little more than the wish to have the Queen as Australia’s Head of State. That argument is tiresome, outmoded and inappropriate for a modern Australia.
The monarchists have run out every argument they can dream up to maintain a constitutional monarchy for Australia except the real one. This is that the monarchists want to maintain the Queen as Australia’s Head of State. They believe that no Australian is good enough to lead this country. This is an idea that is both outrageous and patronising to Australians at large. The time has come for Australia to stand up and take its place in the world as a republic that is tied to the Southern Hemisphere and Asia rather than England.
I have not heard a conclusive argument for maintaining the status quo. The monarchists argue that the Prime Minister could dismiss the President instantly for no reason, which is totally inaccurate. Under the proposed model, the Prime Minister would maintain the dismissal power, as he does in the current system with the Governor-General, but this power could only be wielded under the most extreme circumstances. If in those circumstances the Prime Minister did find the need to dismiss the President, he would lose the power to appoint a replacement. The Prime Minister of the day who carries out this act must publicly justify the dismissal process to both the Parliament and the people of Australia within 30 days.
That would make it far less likely that a Prime Minister would dismiss the President rather than the Governor-General. If the truth be known, the model of the Australian republic reduces the power of the Prime Minister and confers integrity and independence to the office of President. The monarchists at the moment are also running around saying that the people of Australia will not have a chance to elect the President. They argue that it will be a political decision based on the government of the time. I believe the upcoming Australian President will have to be above party politics, be impartial and have regard for all levels of society.
The role of President is to be totally apolitical. Again, I cite the model on offer. All Australians will have an opportunity to nominate a fellow Australian for President. The nominations will be considered by the Presidential Nominations Committee, which will be comprised of representatives of all sections of the community. The committee will then present a short list of candidates to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. There must be a bipartisan approach to identify one candidate to take up the position of President. The process will ensure that the President will not be a political animal or someone chosen in a popularly contested jousting match.
Our conservative friends in the monarchist movement are also arguing that there is nothing wrong with the current system and, if there is nothing wrong, why change it? They argue that our system of government is stable and democratic. I do not argue that our system of government is not stable and democratic; what I argue is that a person from the British Isles - the Queen or King of England, because of that person’s peerage and position within society - has the right to rule Australia.
That is insulting to all Australians. Do we all not feel a bit ridiculous when we stand up in Parliament and give blessings to a Queen, our monarch, our leader, some 10,000 to 15,000 miles away, who has little or no interest in the future of Australia beyond some last grasping straws for an England in decline, struggling to hold on to its golden days of imperialism by maintaining the Commonwealth as a symbolic statement of greatness past?
I have heard many monarchists claim that there will be major changes to the Constitution without giving any direction to the results of these changes. Upon reading the Constitution, I note some 69 changes. Most simply remove the words "Queen" or "Governor-General" and insert the word "President" or they remove the outdated colonial provisions which were based on an era of imperialism and Britannia and the Empire long gone. Replacement of the Queen and her representative with the President will have no significant consequences for the day-to-day running of government and would not impact on the balance between the Commonwealth and the States. It would not create presidential powers that are different from those of the current Governor-General. It would not break Australia’s tradition of a stable parliamentary democracy.
The constitutional change as presented would unite us as a nation into the twenty-first century and beyond. The present situation, which places the head of another country over ours, is antiquated and belongs to an era long gone. The monarch, being the King or Queen of the time, must belong to the Anglican Church and cannot be married to a Roman Catholic, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a member of any of the orthodox churches, or anyone who believes in Confucianism. Where does that leave us, with our population as it now stands based on multiculturalism? The current constitutional monarchy in this way divides us. It is based on the principles of medieval hereditary privilege. That is interesting for history buffs, but not for contemporary Australia.
The biggest benefit of becoming a republic will be that we will finally have an Australian as a Head of State. That can only help us be a stronger, prouder and more committed nation. This will be important as we forge our way into Asia and stake our economic place in world markets. The world markets are changing and Britain is moving closer to Europe and the European Economic Community. It is moving towards the Eurodollar. It is time we
broke these links and made our own way in the world. There will come a time in the future when, if our Head of State is the King or Queen of another country, that country is in direct economic competition for our market. Thus the position will be compromised.
The Australian republic is about the future of all Australians. Australia has moved on, it has matured, it is now a truly independent nation. All Australians should be proud of our country and committed to its values. It is important that the Head of State be chosen on merit, not on privilege, as is the current situation supported by the constitutional monarchists. I see a day in the future when every child can aspire to be Head of State. As it stands today, that is impossible. It is time for a bipartisan approach to ensure that the yes vote gets up in the upcoming referendum. Peter Costello has stated:
The referendum will allow us to renew the symbolism of the head of state. The person to represent the nation on which principles we hold dear, chosen by ability not birth, resident and unambiguously Australian. What worries me about holding on to symbolism which has lost public confidence is that if you do it long enough, it will undermine confidence in other things. If confidence fades in the weak link, it can start to undermine the whole.
So there is a large split in the Coalition at the Federal level between Peter Costello and the Prime Minister, John Howard. Is Mr Costello putting forward those views for populist reasons or does he believe in a republic? One hopes his honour is true. The stance taken by our Prime Minister is indicative of his conservatism and lack of foresight in all political and economic spheres.
(Tweed) [5.49 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Premier. In doing so, I am reminded of some comments that were passed to me at a barbecue only last weekend by people who were celebrating in anticipation of Australia voting yes in the referendum on 6 November. Their comments essentially went to the heart of the debate and typified the way many people around Australia feel about the debate we are having today. They pose the question as to why we need such a debate after 100 years of Federation. Why have we not moved away from the symbols of the British Crown and adopted our own symbols and identity in the world community?
Like those people, I regard the referendum on 6 November as an occasion on which we can take one more small step towards an independent Australia. The history of Australia has taken a long time to evolve. It has moved from the dictatorship and patronage of the Crown to the various forms of parliamentary democracy we have today, that is, the bicameral and unicameral systems of Parliament. By now most Australians would be aware that there has been as much debate about the debate for a referendum as there has been about the referendum itself. That is regrettable because of the way in which some of the information has been disseminated.
Television advertisements have been challenged as misleading. Constitutional monarchists such as Garry Nehl, the Federal member for Cowper, and others have expressed opinions ranging from disagreement to abhorrence at some of the negative tactics being used by constitutional monarchists in this debate. Monarchists have walked away from the Queen and the Royal Family and Britain’s law of succession. Why are they not promoting those matters as reasons for voting no? Instead they are promoting the no case in negative and deceitful ways and encouraging people to vote against Australia becoming a republic. It is interesting that they do not promote the Queen and the Royal Family and Britain’s law of succession as positives for Australia and as matters that should be embraced. They know they are no longer relevant to Australia.
The proposed model is as conservative as it could be. Yet it is somehow portrayed as radical and something to be feared. The Prime Minister, John Howard, is on record as claiming that the proposed system is not as safe as the current system. In reality, the proposed system is as safe as the present system or, if it is not, it is even safer. Under the proposed model future Prime Ministers will have less power than the present Prime Minister. The conservative Federal Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, has made it clear that little in the present system would change. Incidentally, today he addressed the National Press Club on another topic and took questions on the republic. He was not advocating the yes case when he made the comments about the present system; he was simply describing the changes that would take place if the yes vote is successful and a referendum bill were to pass into law.
I served with Daryl Williams in Federal Parliament for three years between 1993 and 1996. I can assure the House that he is a very conservative man. Most people who have seen him, even in simple television grabs, would realise that he is a conservative man who would not make outlandish statements. Yet Australians for Constitutional Monarchy are now trying to grab voters to the no case with the deceitful claim that if they want to vote for the President they should vote no. That is
not a positive message about retention of the monarchy but a deceptive line that is unrelated to the question at hand, and could easily result in wider changes in the selection process for the President. The election of a President by popular vote could also have implications for the Westminster parliamentary system. John Howard has now scrubbed that by saying that there will be no second bite of the cherry; there will be no second referendum.
Our present Constitution Act was ultimately given to the people as an Act of the British Parliament. The articles contained in it were a compromise of the many views and aspirations of the people and the States involved. It is interesting to note that representatives of New Zealand were involved in the first round of negotiations but walked away because they were not prepared to compromise their principles. The Constitution Act was a compromise, but all those involved aimed for a national focus. Notwithstanding that, some wanted to break away from the then accepted symbols of the national focus: the British royal family.
It is now time for our national focus to be entirely Australian. It is time for all Australians to accept some compromise. Australia is mature enough to have built its own national symbols and to have put aside irrelevant considerations of what is in it for them. Considerations about standards of living and whether things will change or improve in some way must be put aside. Australians must show that they are prepared to measure things in some way other than dollars and cents in some selfish person’s pocket.
I turn to the reserve powers and how they have evolved. I shall refer to some of the history of democracy and its evolution from kingdoms via the executive government of the Magna Carta to the House of Lords. I am talking about evolution from the dictator or regal representative involved in the formation of New South Wales. I do not use the words "dictator" and "regal representative" in a derogatory sense. It is the simple fact that that is what Governor Phillip was in those days. The dictator or regal representative evolved to executive government, which in turn evolved to the Legislative Council which we have today. Initially people with enough land went to vote and, along the way, eventually all were allowed to vote. In the initial stages only males were allowed to vote.
What do all these forms of government still have in common after 500 years of movement to democracy? In one way or another they have all been retained as bulwarks against the lower House, the people’s house; they are a cap on the power of the people’s house. Today we still have the lot, with various powers as bastions of democracy. But not all are answerable to the people. As part of the maturation towards democracy, the powers must be removed from the Head of State or, at the very least, codified in some way and reduced to vest political and democratic power in the hands of the people’s Parliament.
The no case has been run on the deceitful claim that the republic will be a politicians’ republic. If Australians for Constitutional Monarchy cannot trust politicians who are advocating a yes vote and dismiss their arguments with the glib claim that they are only politicians and are thus contemptible and untrustworthy, why do they accept Howard, Reith and Abbott as being the decent chaps in this argument? In this debate we are either all in or all out.
The other argument that the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy have run strongly is: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I assure honourable members, and I could put forward the case if I had enough time, that it is broke! The fact is that Australia does not have a national focus for everything it does - from our parliaments to our sporting teams, our business people, our armed forces. At different times they have to pledge allegiance to the Queen. Over the years that has meant that our business people have paid false allegiance to other companies and to other countries. Our armed services have never had to stand up and pledge allegiance to Australia; they have pledged allegiance to the Queen. So the system is broke, and without that national focus we cannot forge ahead and compete successfully in the world today.
In the little time left to me I should like to pay tribute to the North Coast republican convenor, Mrs Judith Sutton, for the work she has done on the North Coast in promoting the yes campaign. I pay tribute also to her husband, Ron, who has provided support to her at home so that she has been able to undertake that work. If I had more time I would like to raise other matters. I have only 10 minutes in which to speak, and I find it difficult to refer to all the things that I would like to refer to. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the importance of Australia having an Australian as the Head of State. I commend a yes vote in the republican referendum on 6 November.
(Rockdale) [5.59 p.m.]: On 6 November the electors of Australia will have the chance to be part of a defining moment in our history as a nation. Only 10 days from now the
Australian people will vote on whether they want one of their own, an Australian citizen, as Australia’s Head of State or whether they want to keep the English monarch as a Australia’s Head of State. The choice is that stark: to have an Australian for Australia’s President, or to continue with Queen Elizabeth, then King Charles III, then William V, and so on into the future; a Head of State selected and elected from amongst the citizens of Australia, or one who gets there through heredity.
I most definitely will be voting yes for an Australian Head of State. In opting to voting to vote yes, I believe our time has well and truly come as a nation to stand tall and proud and demonstrably independent. Not for a minute do I cast any aspersions on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth or any of her family. I just think that they really do not represent much to me these days in relation to Australia or what we are all about as Australians. The British monarchy is certainly relevant to Britain; it is no longer relevant to us. We have grown up and grown away from the monarchy.
Britain’s priorities are no longer with her former colonies; they are with Europe. And if Britain’s priorities are not with Australia, then neither are the British monarch’s. The arch-conservatives of Australia pine for yesteryear, rather than look to tomorrow, to the future. This referendum gives us all the opportunity to show who we are, not who we were. A yes vote will be a demonstration of our confidence in the future - in our future. It will be a statement of confidence in our children and future generations of Australians. A yes vote will particularly stimulate young Australians to believe in our nation’s future. They will be able to aspire to the highest office in the land - Head of State, President of Australia.
Unlike the referendum of 20 June 1899, which approved Australia becoming a Federation, the 6 November vote will be open to all Australians. Women and Aboriginal people will be able to have their say. Of course, that did not happen 100 years ago. While I am enthusiastic about a yes vote on the question of the republic, I have reservations about the preamble to the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention said the preamble should include acknowledgment of the original occupancy and custodianship of Australia by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. In the draft released by the Prime Minister in March this was changed to:
Since time immemorial our land has been inhabited by Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who are honoured for their ancient and continuing cultures.
That is so typical of the attitude of the Prime Minister to Aboriginal issues. He simply cannot see - or more correctly, I think, refuses to see - the big picture. Finally, in a deal with the Democrats, the Prime Minister adopted a form of words that he felt he, at least, could live with. The notion of custodianship was dropped and kinship adopted. This might seem to some to be a minor issue, or even an irrelevancy. I can assure the House it is not.
The compromise wording is in fact an affront to many - I would say the majority - of Aboriginal Australians. Whereas the views of the majority, expressed through their leaders, were ignored, Mr Howard and the Democrats settled on a half-measure. The fundamental, most basic issue is our recognition of Australia’s indigenous people and the intimate and inextricable relationship they have with the land. The current preamble wording does nothing to further our partnership with Australia’s first people. The compromise wording goes against that adopted and recommended by the people’s convention. It has been rejected overwhelmingly by Aboriginal leaders.
Here was an ideal opportunity to further the cause of reconciliation and once and for all to acknowledge in a most profound way what the High Court and other countries have already recognised - that indigenous people are custodians of the land. The proposed preamble uses the words "honouring Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders" but it is in direct contradiction to the process used to draft it. The Chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Mr Gatjil Djerrkura said:
The word "custodianship" rather than "kinship" has become accepted amongst indigenous people as the English word most closely approximating our deep and enduring relationship with our country.
When the so-called compromise was brokered, Mr Djerrkura expressed his profound disappointment at the proposed preamble. He said the new preamble had served to weaken rather than strengthen recognition. He said "Once again we miss out." Mr Djerrkura was supported by a statement released at the time by 13 prominent indigenous people from right across Australia calling for the preamble as now proposed to be dropped from the referendum. I echo the sentiments expressed by the Deputy Premier, the Hon. Dr Refshauge, who said in relation to this:
Let us not repeat the same mistakes our forefathers made and endorse a preamble which has excluded people from the process and, more importantly, offends what is at the very core of their identity.
I believe this is a dreadful shame and a tragically lost opportunity to properly and honourably acknowledge the unique and intimate relationship that our indigenous people have with the land. As I said earlier, whilst I am not happy with what happened to the preamble, I am very happy indeed to support a yes vote for the republic, so that as we go into the twenty-first century Australia at last we can have an Australian as Head of State. It will be a sign of our maturity as an independent and proud nation and, as far as I am concerned, it cannot come soon enough.
(Bathurst) [6.06 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Premier. At the outset I place on record my thanks to the Hon. Neville Wran and Sir James Killen for their contributions. They respectively put to the House arguments for the yes and no cases. Both are eminent Australians who have given great public service. Though I support the yes case, I certainly respect the views of Sir James Killen, although I perhaps do not agree with all of them.
One of the well-aired statements in this whole debate has been, "If it’s not broken, why fix it?" I would put to the House that having a monarch as our Head of State is irrelevant. That is the whole point. It is nonsense to have a foreign monarch as our Head of State. We can live with our history and tradition of our Anglo-Saxon foundings, and it is important that they be preserved. However, nothing that we talk about when arguing for a yes vote in the referendum will change any of that. It would be a wonderful millennium present to give ourselves to have one of our own as our Head of State. We can do that without bloodshed. Neither the Americans nor the French were able to become a republic and have their own Heads of State without bloodshed. We are able to do so by having a simple democratic ballot.
We only have to look at East Timor and what its people have gone through by making their stand to achieve independence to realise that we should now seize the opportunity to assert our independence in a peaceful manner. A century ago one of the great debates of Australia was whether we would become a nation. Incredibly, at the time some people opposed that notion. Obviously they represented vested interests, probably having financial and other links to the old country. Sir Henry Parkes, whose ghost pervades this building, was Premier of New South Wales and one of the leaders in the debate and build-up to Federation so that Australia could become a nation. Unfortunately, some things set in place then have taken a long time to turn around. One of those is that Australia would have its own Head of State. In 1889 Sir Henry Parkes, in his Tenterfield oration, said:
The great question which we have to consider is whether the time has not now arisen for the creation on this Australian continent of an Australian Government and an Australian Parliament. I believe the time has come.
I echo his concluding statement because the time has come to invoke the spirit of Sir Henry Parkes. I am pleased that the Premier has followed the tradition and led the debate to have an Australian as our Head of State. The current system is discriminatory. For example, I cannot be the representative Head of State of this country for the simple reason that I am a Catholic. It is enshrined in the British Constitution that the monarch of England cannot be a Catholic. While our Head of State is the monarch of England - a foreign power, as decreed by the High Court of Australia - 30 per cent of Australians, those who are of Catholic persuasion, are barred from being our representative Head of State. That brings home the point very well.
Australia is a very different country today than it was 100 years ago. While we should retain our historical links, we have to accept that we are a cosmopolitan country and a multicultural, homogeneous people. The One Nation member, who last night made his inaugural speech in the other place, would perhaps rail against such a statement. However, I believe that it is one of our great strengths. As we move towards the centenary of our Federation, it is the people who bind us. Sir James Killen spoke in this House today about our need for the Crown. He said that if the Crown disappeared the system would suddenly fall apart. I do not agree with that.
Our nation has evolved over the past century, particularly our cosmopolitan nature. We have welcomed people from all over the world, irrespective of their colour, religion or creed. As we move into the next century our homogeneous race will be enough to bind us. The disappearance of the Crown will not be a major problem. I respect the views of the genuine people who argue the no case. However, the case has been riddled with red herrings. It is ironic that the official royal colour is red. One of the arguments has been that our flag will be at risk. For example, some people who are associated with the RSL take the view that a yes vote will put the flag at risk. That is not the case; the flag is not an issue. The two questions are whether we want a preamble to the Constitution and whether we want an Australian, one of our people, as our Head of State.
There is a great deal of respect for the Queen in this country. In my previous role as Mayor of Greater Lithgow City Council I was formally introduced to the Queen when she visited Bathurst with then Premier Neville Wran. I remember the 15-second conversation I had with her - although I will not bore the House by relating it now. I am sure that the present Mayor of Lithgow, Councillor Castle - who is in the public gallery - would also value meeting the Queen. Although the Queen is respected enormously, I do not believe there is any feeling within the Australian community that an English monarch should continue as our Head of State. Arguments were put forward about a change in symbols and whether we would lose the Westminster system. Those arguments ought to be seen for what they are: red herrings.
The issue of a popularly elected President has also been dragged into the debate. As Neville Wran said in the House this morning, the model has many built-in safeguards. A political figure will not become the Head of State. The President will be someone who has the general agreement of both sides of politics and the wider community. There is no doubt that the person who came through that process would be someone of whom we can be proud. In closing, it is relevant that I quote Neville Wran. He put a simple case, which was reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald
. His simple statement does not need to be embellished. I ask Australians to consider it reason enough to vote yes on 6 November. Mr Wran said:
We are Australians. Our head of state should be an Australian. Every Australian should be entitled to aspire to be Australia’s head of state.
I find it difficult to see how anyone could argue against that statement. Clearly, at the moment Australian citizens are disenfranchised from holding that high office. I support the motion moved by the Premier.
(Newcastle - Parliamentary Secretary) [6.15 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the Premier’s motion. The people of New South Wales should join their compatriots around Australia and vote yes for a change to the Constitution, the creation of a President and the recognition of Australia taking its place in the world as a republic. A republic would continue to operate under the Westminster system, with a clear process of nomination for the position of President being open to every member of the Australian community. Politicians would not be able to be nominated for the position; they obviously have another important role to play.
All other Australians would be able to nominate as that ceremonial head to represent Australia in the world community. We would be able to focus on that position and pay respect to the President, as we presently pay to our Governor-General, who carries out his role in a manner that would make him a wonderful representative of Australia in the position of President. In the lead up to the referendum on 6 November it is important for Australians to realise that they have to make a decision. However, the decision has been clouded by the type of campaign that has been run. There have been negative approaches - such as "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" and "It will be the death of Australia as a democracy" - to what is really a minimal change to our system of government.
The honourable member for Cabramatta - who represents a diverse electorate that depicts the fantastic multicultural basis of modern Australia - in her contribution to this debate said that the structure of the yes, no vote is almost a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise groups that have migrated to this country. By taking out citizenship they have made a commitment to Australia and to the Australian sense of fairness and values that we all share. They are committed to those values which unify us across the country. Yet it is unclear whether their votes will be counted. As I understand the honourable member, if an electoral official is unable to read a yes or no vote which is written in one of the many languages that exist in her electorate, the vote will not be counted. That is a detrimental situation. I join with the honourable member in saying that their situation should be taken into account and every valid vote cast should be counted.
The current questions before us in the referendum have come out of a Constitutional Convention that, in many ways, mirrored the convention that was held prior to Australia becoming a Federation. It is interesting that at that time a whole series of compromises were reached about the views of the various States and the people participating in that convention. From that came our Federation. There has been an enormous change in the make-up of Australia’s citizens and the development of our parliamentary system since Federation.
Australia has become a multicultural society. While we recognise and respect tremendously the Queen and the institutions that we have developed from the British system, it is time for us to clearly present ourselves in the world community in the next century. We should be an Australian Commonwealth with our own Head of State - not the head of a foreign power, as described by the
High Court - elected and nominated by Australian people. The Head of State should be elected through the process that has been clearly put together by the Constitutional Convention.
Like many members who have spoken in this debate today, I believe that on 6 November all Australians will think of our developing democracy when they vote. They will say that it is time for us to make that final decision, that we want to be an Australian democracy with our own Head of State and that we want to continue to be members of the Commonwealth with those other democracies that have a clear system of Government and share the same set of values.
The second referendum question relates to the preamble. I am concerned about the movement away from the preamble that was formulated by the Constitutional Convention, particularly as it relates to our indigenous people and the acknowledgment of their original occupancy and custodianship of Australia. That move away from custodianship to kinship, as has been pointed out very clearly by other speakers, is a clear moving away from the acknowledgment of that very deep and long relationship with the land, not only the kinship but a custodianship. It is important to note that it is a far deeper sense of contact, ownership and custodianship than just kinship.
Many members of the indigenous community were quite affronted by the change. We owe it to our original inhabitants of the land to recognise not only their occupancy but also their custodianship. In relation to direct election, it was pointed out very clearly by the Hon. Neville Wran this morning that our system is far less likely to lead to divisions in the future. If we have a popularly elected President that person will be automatically accorded a level of power that will potentially put him in conflict with the Westminster system, with the elected Parliament and particularly with the Prime Minister.
Under the proposed system it is quite clear that the person elected to the position will be nominated by the people, certainly with bipartisanship between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and placed in the ceremonial position and will hold the reserve power to have the capacity to represent all of the people of Australia - not a political party - both here and abroad. That is an important aspect of this process on which we will vote on 6 November. I have much pleasure in supporting the Premier’s motion.
(Liverpool) [6.25 p.m.]: Tonight I have pleasure in supporting the proposition that Australia becomes a republic. One of the most interesting and ironic aspects of the debate on the republic and whether Australia makes the transition to a republic, and on the broader issue of monarchy versus republic, is that it is the monarchist forces, the conservative forces, that have continually attempted to pretend that they have an exclusive use of our history, and that our heritage and tradition are theirs and not those on the republican side of the debate. Their argument is that we are a constitutional monarchy, we have always been like that and that our history demands that we continue to be that way. That conservative and monarchist argument suggests that republicanism is altogether foreign to Australia; it is opposed to our history and opposed to our tradition.
I want to take time tonight to argue that there is a very different bearing to that history. In fact, during the last 200 years there has been a very lengthy and honourable tradition of republicanism in this country. That element has been missing from this debate so far. From the very beginnings of European settlement in this country there has been a republican tradition. Some of the first convicts transported to the penal colony of New South Wales included republicans who were regarded as dangerous and seditious. They included the Scottish martyrs, William Skirving, Thomas Muir and Thomas Fyshe Palmer. English delegates to the Scottish Convention were also transported to New South Wales, including Joseph Gerrald and Maurice Margarot.
The histories of those people are well recorded in E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class.
The most prominent of those people in Botany Bay was Margarot, who had been a chairman of the London Corresponding Society which was regarded generally as a revolutionary and seditious organisation trying to model the English Constitution on the basis of the French Revolution. At least one historian regards Margarot as the first person to introduce radical thinking into Australia. He arrived here in 1794. Most interestingly, for the purposes of this debate, it should be noted that while he was in the colony not only did he keep his previous ideas but he continued to be a correspondent of Thomas Paine.
Thomas Paine through his writings - most notably The Rights of Man
- was one of the most notable exponents of republicanism in the English speaking world. The delightful thing about quoting Paine in this debate is that honourable members heard this morning from Sir James Killen about Edmund Burke. The great opponent of Edmund Burke in the intellectual debates at the end of the
eighteenth century was Thomas Paine. His great work The Rights of Man
, a defence of republicanism, was a direct response to Edmund Burke’s attack on the French Revolution. Paine was thought of and discussed in great detail in our early European history. He was well known to the Irish republicans who were transported to the colony, especially after the 1798 United Irishmen Uprising.
Eleanor Dark’s Timeless Land
, which many honourable members may have read, has a haunting passage about Irish convicts treasuring copies of pages of Paine’s work. The historian Anne-Maree Whitaker records the punishment of an English convict in Sydney in 1806 for having the temerity to quote Paine. Whitaker also notes that officers of the military corps were familiar with Paine’s ideas. There is an argument that some of his ideas had something to do with the Rum Rebellion. Paine’s The Rights of Man
All hereditary government is in its nature tyranny. An heritable Crown, on an heritable throne, or by what other fanciful name such things may be called, have no other significant explanation than that mankind are heritable property. To inherit a government, is to inherit the people, as if they were flocks and herds.
As he simply put it:
I have an aversion to monarchy as being too debasing to the dignity of man.
In his book Common Sense
he put the historical origins of the English monarchy in its place. He said:
A French bastard landing with an armed banditti and establishing himself King of England, against the consent of the natives, is, in plain terms, a very paltry, rascally original. It certainly hath no divinity in it . . . The plain truth is that the antiquity of English monarchy will not bear looking into.
Those sorts of sentiments did not disappear from sight in Australian history. Several decades later the furore on the goldfields, culminating in the Eureka Stockade in 1854, saw further republican calls. As early as December 1851 at Forest Creek the cries of dissent included republican calls. Raffaello Carboni’s history recalls establishment figures such as a doctor predicting an Australian republic.
The password for the Eureka Stockade was "Vinegar Hill", a name of undeniably republican origins. At about the same time as Eureka, James Dunmore Lang was writing of the inevitability of republicanism, as there was no other form of government that was either practicable or possible. At the same time in this city Daniel Dennehy was talking about exactly those sorts of issues and about the necessity to have a transition to republicanism. The discussion of progressive ideas generally, and republicanism in particular, stepped up particularly in the 1880s and the 1890s. Interestingly enough, the discussion of republicanism was partly promoted by the fact that Germany annexed New Guinea in 1884.
A number of people in this country noticed the British royal family’s connection with Germany and thought that perhaps there was a conflict of interest. Curiously enough, it has some similarities to some comments that were made in the not too recent past about Kosovo. At that time in Australian history, Labor movement journals such as the Tocsin
were equating royal powers and provisions with relics of barbarism. The most notable of the voices, of course, raised in support of republicanism was the voice of Henry Lawson. In A New Australia - Citizenship Radicalism and the First Republic
, historian Bruce Scates describes Lawson as the poet laureate of the Australian republic.
Lawson was well and truly in the Painite tradition. He was a member of the Republican League, founded by George Black, who was a member of the Labor Party in this place in 1891. Lawson had also published journals about republicanism, and his first major poem was about an Australian republic. I would particularly, however, in this debate like to quote from a poem of his published in the Truth
entitled The Australian Marseillaise
, which was subtitled A Song for the Sydney Poor
. It reads as follows:
Tyrants, grip your weapons firmer,
Grip them firmly by the helves:
For the poor begin to murmur
Loudly now among themselves.
Hear us dare to say that Heaven
Gave us equal rights with you,
Dare to say the world was given
Unto all but not the few
. . .
Then when Mammon Castle crashes
To the earth and trampled lies,
Then from out the blood and ashes
True Republics shall arise.
Then the world shall rest a season
(First since the world began)
In the reign of right and reason
And the dynasty of man.
Those sorts of sentiments had been not infrequent in our history, so it seems to me an appalling dishonesty on the part of the monarchists and the conservatives in this debate to suggest that they have tradition and history on their side. We had a very proud and noble republican tradition in this country, and many of us would look forward to its realisation come the referendum.
As for the referendum itself, there are three reasons why it ought to be supported. It is very much in the tradition of Thomas Paine, who is directly relevant to this debate, that a monarchy is fundamentally anti-democratic, and there is just no way you can get around that. One can say it is a constitutional monarchy and all the rest, but any system of Government that has as a Head of State someone who gets there simply because he or she was born into a particular family is anti-democratic, and I find it offensive.
The second major reason that a republic should be supported, in my view, is that England has absolutely nothing to do with this country now. It has no legitimate political or constitutional connection with us. In 1954 Australia had a population of about nine million people. Some six million people went out onto the streets to welcome the Queen, to see her as she went by. Menzies talked about the living unity of the Crown and the people. That might have happened in 1954, but anyone who suggested that it would happen today would be either a lunatic or a liar.
There is just no great feeling in the community to support the monarchy. There might have been in 1954, but the world has changed. Australia, in particular, has changed. A large part of that, of course, is to do with the development of our multicultural society. I go to functions celebrating Indian independence, Uruguayan independence and Chilean independence, and I have to apologise to my constituents that Australia still has not caught up with the countries from which they came.
The third argument is that the movement towards a republic is a complete statement of our independence. That has been talked about a lot in this debate, and I probably do not have to deal with it at any greater length here. Having said all of that, I should say that it is also the case that there are severe and legitimate criticisms of the republican model that has been proposed here. I certainly do not regard myself as a minimalist republican, and for that reason I was delighted to support the Just Republic ticket when the convention delegates were being elected. There are a range of things that can be done to improve the present model. My particular bugbear is the abject failure of the convention to deal with the powers of the President.
Much of the republican debate has been sparked by what happened in 1975, and in that context for us not to have a referendum dealing with the powers of the Head of State is just a bit breathtaking. But the other criticisms one can make go well beyond that, and I adopt the tradition of Paine and Lawson in the development of a republic as the sort of society in which we want to live. The movement towards a republic is not just about mere narrow constitutional arrangements; it is about the sort of society we have, about how egalitarian it is, about degree of equality, about the distribution of income. All those sorts of agendas ought to be pursued.
That, of course, is not to say that I advocate anything other than a yes vote for the republic. Anyone who understands anything about politics understands that those sorts of issues I have just raised are the result of a long-term social movement. If the referendum is not carried in the near future, it will be lost for a generation, and that means that the ongoing process to raise the other issues I have mentioned will be lost. For those reasons, warts and all, this is a replublic that ought to be supported.
(Maitland) [6.35 p.m.]: As you just mentioned in your own speech, Mr Acting-Speaker, the hereditary Head of State begs a lot of questions. Why should someone by virtue of his birth into a particular family automatically become not only the monarch of one country but of a number? In times gone by when it was necessary for the protection of sovereignty and property, there may well have been some reasons. A reading of English history shows that on a number of occasions portions of France were in the British Crown and the allegiances by marriage with all of the European nations, remnants of which still exist today. That has no relevance in Australia. Its relevance has passed.
Why cannot every Australian who wishes consider himself a possible President at some time? I suppose that is a fairly global statement to make. Nevertheless, it is one that I think we could adopt as an excellent reason for people pursuing their skills, abilities, talents, whatever, and one day perhaps aspire to be President of this great nation. We may be relatively small in number compared with other nations in the world, but we have a huge land mass, a wonderful lifestyle, an excellent climate and people who understand one another.
The Queen of England is currently the Queen of Australia. We quite legitimately and quite rightly under our law and Constitution acknowledge her in that role. She is also a woman, I believe, of considerable talent and understanding, and has raised no outward objection to this current debate. It is not treasonous; we have not broken the law. It is a natural evolution, and an important one. I will certainly be voting yes on 6 November, and I encourage anybody who is wavering to consider that there may not be too many opportunities to change
the course of Australian history in such a peaceful manner.
Who will represent us internationally? At the moment we are represented by the Queen. The debates in Europe, particularly those concerning agriculture, have certainly not demonstrated to me, and I am sure to anybody else, any preference to Australia. Britain fights for the United Kingdom. Her Majesty’s servants, Ministers and commissioners argue the case for Great Britain, not for Australia. In fact, the reverse is true. Some of its agricultural decisions make it almost impossible for certain of our products to be traded in Europe. I hardly think that that should be the role of the Head of State or, if it is not a role, it is a serious deficiency.
The consequential changes that would be introduced to the Constitution by a yes vote are not horrific. In the main they are consequential. Those that are of significance really clarify the situation to some extent. The constitutional document that we have and work by in this country is, by its nature, vague in some areas and silent in others. The constitutional changes as proposed will, in fact, improve that situation and improve it markedly.
We are not talking about convention or the removal of reserve powers. We rely on convention. This Parliament relies on convention, as do all Westminster parliaments. As has been said several times today, reserve powers were put into serious question by the action taken in 1975 against the Whitlam Government. Even Sir James Killen expressed concern about how that reserve power was used on that occasion and whether it was wise to take the action that was taken, because the people would probably have made the same decision in March of the next year. We saved five months, but we almost destroyed the nation’s integrity. The action was not terribly smart. If that is how reserve powers may be used, I would like to know what powers will allegedly be available to any Head of State.
The proposed election system for a President has been detailed many times today, but it is worthwhile enunciating it again. Thirty-six eminent persons must choose two names from the list of persons nominated for consideration by the Prime Minister; and the Prime Minister, after consulting the Leader of the Opposition, must decide on one of the two persons. That person will be presented to both houses of the Federal Parliament and a two-thirds majority vote will be required for that person to be elevated to the position of President of Australia.
I do not find the term "president" offensive, although some people have concerns about it. However, if we want a person who is not a politician as Head of State, the election of a President is probably the way to go. As proposed in the amendments to the Constitution, it will still be possible to dismiss a Prime Minister by convention or by reserve powers. Reserve powers have only been used twice in our history - once in New South Wales by Sir Philip Game in relation to Premier Lang and, of course, by Sir John Kerr in relation to Prime Minister Whitlam.
I do not think there will be a flood of dismissals of Prime Ministers. Equally, I cannot see any reason for a flood of dismissals of eminent persons who are nominated and eventually elected to the position of President. That type of person will not be elected to the position. For example, Governor-General Sir William Deane is a forthright man. I believe he is very honest. He has a point of view and expresses it; he does not interfere with the political process, but he leaves people with something to think about. That is the sort of President I would like to see in this country. I do not want a ceremonial President; I want someone who can give popular opinion some credence outside the political system. That is important.
Let us look at the popularly elected presidents of major countries in the world. Do we want the French system or the American system? Recently I was in the United States of America visiting my brother, and I observed the way the presidential race is going. As honourable members know, there are only two political parties in America and they both promote presidential candidates. Mr Bush looks like being the only Republican candidate; the preselection process will be blotted out because people think everyone else is a bit risky in this day and age. Mr Bush has already raised more than $US36 million for his presidential election campaign.
With all the laws in this country one can imagine what impact that sort of power and that amount of expenditure on an election campaign would do to the validity of the office and, ultimately, the corruption of this country. I do not think we deserve that. Incidentally, it would also destroy the Westminster system as we know it. As honourable members know, the American President delivers the budget, which is debated by the Senate and Congress. The Senate makes the difference. The American system is peculiar. It works but I am not sure that it would be the best system for Australia. Our system is acceptable and understandable, and I believe it has the credence we need.
I see no point in the argument that the States have a problem in terms of Governors. I accept that there may be some delay in abolishing the position of Governor, but New South Wales has already moved on this matter. The Premier introduced legislation based on the requirements of amendments to the Australia Act and a few other matters to ensure that when the time comes we will have the capacity to put to the people or, indeed, to this Parliament some revised form of Constitution that will allow people to determine whether to continue with a system that has a Governor appointed by the Premier and the Queen, or whether we should have a system with a Vice President or a Governor of the presidential style.
We have taken that step, and I suspect other States are considering it or may have already taken it. So that issue is not a real risk. If Western Australia wants to drag the chain, that is fine. But ultimately the community will drag the Western Australians into shame. The referendum is a positive step. We have not had this opportunity before. We should grasp the opportunity with both hands as it will launch us as a nation of some validity in Asia and the Pacific region, which is where we live.
(Swansea) [6.45 p.m.]: As I speak in this historic debate I am conscious of my heritage, the contribution of more than three million Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds and my duty as a member of this House to the communities I represent. I am proud that Australians have a unique opportunity to resolve in a peaceful manner what many nations have achieved in blood. What is this unique opportunity? It is simply to determine whether the Head of State of this nation should be a citizen of this nation or that of a foreign power. That will be the central issue before the Australian people on 6 November, and no amount of smoke and mirror arguments by the Empire loyalists can say that it is not.
Those opposed to the proposition are so terrified of the question that they have resorted to the shameless tactics of not mentioning that the British Queen is the Queen of Australia and, therefore, our Head of State. Paradoxically, unlike those people, I have no problem acknowledging Queen Elizabeth II as our Head of State. I have no problem acknowledging that upon her unfortunate demise the Australian people, including me, will be saddened at the loss to the world of a long-serving and competent Head of State.
Equally, I have no problem acknowledging that, if the status quo remains, the new King of Great Britain, King Charles III, will be enthroned 12,000 miles away and that a future Queen Camilla will be his consort. But those who vote no will have a problem. Neither the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Australian Parliament, the State Governors and their Houses of Parliament nor, more importantly, the Australian people directly or indirectly can utter one word of choice in who is to become our Head of State. Parenthetically, neither the British Government nor the British people will have a say at all as the matter is one of heredity based on male primogeniture, an archaic relic from a bygone era. But clearly that is their problem, not ours.
Nevertheless, the monarchists cannot escape defending that system - a system that imposes on Australians a Head of State who happens to be the Head of the State of Great Britain, which the highest court in this nation has decreed is a foreign power. In the past few weeks I have become increasingly appalled by the subterfuge, omissions, scaremongering and downright dishonesty of those who want to maintain a foreign monarch as our Head of State into the next millennium. The most appalling perpetrators of these tactics come from the front bench of the Federal Government. They have thrown their creative energies into perpetrating the big lie, and Tony Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop and Senator Minchin stand condemned in this regard.
They know that this matter has absolutely nothing to do with any dishonesty about the Australian flag. It has everything to do with having an Australian flag representing an Australian Head of State. On each occasion the Queen visits Australia as our Head of State she does not fly the Australian flag on her Rolls Royce; nor is the Australian flag the only flag used for ceremonial occasions. The Queen of Australia proudly flies the royal standard replete with all the symbols of the royal house of Windsor.
I have been encouraged by the strength of opinion of many people in the Swansea electorate who, when they cut away the distortions and omissions, find compelling the argument for having an Australian as our Head of State. People tell me that their children and grandchildren should have the unique opportunity and distinction of presenting themselves to become our Head of State. Today the tactics of the Coalition have been nothing short of sabotage of an important debate. In order to cover up the deep divisions and disaffection of honourable members opposite, the Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment in which she has indicated the Coalition will not be present in the Chamber to vote on this motion. And what is that amendment? Does it improve or embellish the motion moved by the Premier? The amendment states:
That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after the word "That" and inserting instead:
(1) acknowledges the historic significance of the constitutional referendum to be held on 6 November 1999;
(2) endorses the right of each Australian citizen to cast his or her vote in a secret ballot according to their own conscience; and
(3) urges each citizen to cast their vote conscious of their responsibility to ensure Australia remains a free sovereign and democratic society."
No, that amendment is a stalling tactic, it mentions that this matter is for the citizens of this State and nation to determine. It is as if the Coalition asserts that the people will not have a right to vote on 6 November and that this House has no right to assert its view. The leadership of the Opposition is debased by these tactics, which not even a Young Labor association would stoop to in presenting an argument.
It is not worthy of the leader of the second major party in this State to argue for the proposition but not allow her colleagues to vote on it. It is as if the apparent divisions in her ranks would become a permanent schism. The Tasmanian Parliament earlier this month overwhelmingly resolved the following motion:
That the House of Assembly believes that Australia must have an Australian head of state and that the Australian Constitution should be amended to establish Australia as a republic.
Mrs Napier, the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, did not trivialise the proceedings of the House by moving a wishy-washy assertion of the obvious as the Leader of the Opposition in this House has moved today; nor did Mrs Napier refuse to allow her colleagues to vote, no matter what views they held. On reading the debate in the Tasmanian Parliament I was struck by the fact that Mrs Napier was fair dinkum and possesses a maturity of judgment that the Leader of the Opposition in this House so sadly lacks.
I return to where I began. Australians have a historic opportunity to vote yes to an Australian as the Head of State; one of us. This House has an undoubted right to debate and resolve a properly constituted question before it. All honourable members have a duty to the communities they serve to vote in this House so that their communities can see where they stand on important issues such as this, because history will judge them harshly if they falter in that duty.
(Keira) [6.52 p.m.]: I support the motion and commence by reciting the following words:
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.
Of course, they are the words of our national anthem. They are words of identity, and vision; they are words of inclusion and of welcome; they are words of passion about the essence of Australia, and they are words of celebration. But the words do not mention England or the monarch. Why? Because we have slowly been moving away from a hereditary monarchy. In Australia we have abolished imperial knighthoods, moved away from the Privy Council and started appointing Australians as the Queen’s representative - not the Head of State but the Queen’s representative!
Slowly but surely we have asserted an independence and ability to stand alone, a courage to take responsibility for our own government, legal system and process of community. We have shaken off the shackles of being one of the colonies in the empire of the British monarchy. It is time to take another step in that growing-up process. It is time to vote yes for a republic; it is time to make sure that we have an Australian as our Head of State rather than someone born to the role in far-off England.
The change proposed by the referendum is not dramatic, or radical; it is measured and seamless. Basically I am concerned that we ensure that our Head of State is one of us, an Australian, with the title of President rather than monarch: Queen or King. Our structure of government, the Westminster system, will remain unchanged if we become a republic. Australia will remain a member of the Commonwealth. Relationships between the Executive, the Parliament and the Head of State will remain substantially the same.
A vote of yes will mean that the most substantial change will be that Australians will select an Australian as their Head of State rather than their Head of State come from the bloodlines of breeding and genetics through the House of Windsor. Debate and discussion in the community, especially the Keira electorate, has many people concerned that there will be a drastic change. But one only has to explain that John Howard wants a no vote and people are convinced that they should vote yes. People ask if John Howard’s promotion of a no vote is a never-ever position, a core promise or a non-core promise. But it does not really matter. As soon as people hear that John Howard will vote no they decide it is appropriate for them to vote yes.
It is easy to convince people, most people, that a yes vote is appropriate. People see the hypocrisy of Prime Minister Howard’s support for the British monarch as our Head of State - in all things except the Olympics - and his relegation of the Head of State to plain Mrs Betty Windsor for the opening of the Olympics. The position taken by the Opposition is pathetic and laughable. The Opposition just failed, again, the test of leadership. Not because it may not support the yes case - and I accept that many people generally do not want a change - but because it failed the test of leadership. It is appropriate to debate a motion of this nature and to take a position, to stand and be counted, and to vote.
As Australians we need to look forward to the challenges of the new century, of taking our place in the global community. We need to be confident in our identity. A measured change that is not radical but is provided by the model in this referendum will secure that confidence. Importantly a change will signal that confidence to the rest of the world. I commend the motion to the House. I am proud to support it and I commend a yes, yes vote to the community that I represent, and I will argue that position within my community.
(Lakemba - Minister for Public Works and Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [6.57 p.m.]: In supporting the motion I wish to address some of the comments made by the few members of the Opposition who have spoken in debate on the motion. The Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for The Hills seem to have a fundamental objection to this House expressing an opinion. They suggest that somehow or other the motion is undemocratic, unprecedented and unconscionable; that somehow the Legislative Assembly, the house of the people, is being used to direct people how to vote at the referendum. Yet the Opposition will not be voting on this motion.
The motion uses the word "commends". The Macquarie Dictionary
defines the word "commend" as "to present or mention as worthy of confidence . . . to recommend". The Opposition cannot bring itself to participate in debate on a motion that seeks to commend to the people of New South Wales the opinion of this House concerning the referendum. That is a matter of grave disappointment. I guess it shows where the Opposition is today - its leadership and the sorts of things it stands for.
Many Opposition members who purport to be yes supporters will not stand up to be counted in this House. They will not participate in debate and deliberate on a motion that merely commends to the people of New South Wales the opinion of this House. This is the House the people vote for every four years. They entrust their political representatives with the confidence to govern the State in a free and democratic expression of their will at every election. But Opposition members are suggesting that somehow it is wrong and unconscionable for us, the representatives of the people, to pass a motion recommending to the people a course of action. That shows the bankruptcy of those opposite. It also underlines the bankruptcy of the Opposition leadership.
I am pleased to participate in this debate and do so with great anticipation. It was an honour to sit here and listen to people such as Neville Wran and Sir James Killen. It is time for an Australian to be our Head of State. We owe it to our children and our children’s children to grasp the opportunity of 6 November. As the father of an 11-month-old daughter I feel it is my duty to do the right thing for her. I want my daughter and her friends to be able to be Australia’s Head of State. That is not possible under our current constitutional arrangements.
Many of my constituents have come to this country from Italy, Greece, the Middle East, China, Vietnam and elsewhere. They have pledged their allegiance to this nation. The monarchy does not represent what a multicultural Australia means to them. They want an Australian as their Head of State. The current system is broke. Under the existing system a fact of birth determines who is the current and who will be the future Australian Head of State. And it is a fact of birth that determines whether that person is an Englishman or an Englishwoman. That is not an appropriate system for Australia.
Can honourable members imagine an Englishman as the Head of State of Italy, where my parents come from? Can they imagine Douglas
Jardine as the captain of the Australian cricket team? Of course not. They are both ridiculous propositions. That is why the current system must be changed. Those who oppose an Australian becoming our Head of State - the Kerry Joneses, the Bronwyn Bishops and the Tony Abbotts - have raised a whole host of furphies in recent months in an attempt to ensure that King Charles becomes our next Head of State, along with his consort.
Let me assure the House that a decision by Australians to vote yes on 6 November will not change the flag or the national anthem, will not cost a lot of money, and will not change the way we are governed or hurt our rights and freedoms. We will still be a member of the Commonwealth. We will still have good relations with Britain. We will retain our system of parliamentary democracy. Having an Australian Head of State will not put at risk the stability of our nation. As the Federal Attorney-General, the Hon. Daryl Williams, has said, voting yes will not alter the day-to-day operation of the Commonwealth or State parliaments; it will not alter the balance between the Commonwealth and the States; it will not give the President powers different from those of the Governor-General; and it will not mark a break with our tradition of stable parliamentary democracy. It will change some titles but not the basic operation of our system of government.
I would like to think that all of us are capable of making a substantial contribution to our system of government. As Peter Costello said last week, politicians can be trusted to bring down a budget and make decisions to send troops to East Timor. Therefore, is it not possible that politicians are capable of recommending an Australian as our Head of State? Is it not possible for politicians in this Chamber to commend a course of action to the people of New South Wales on 6 November? Of course it is.
This year, 1999, is no year to be passing a vote of no confidence in ourselves. It is no year to be saying that, though East Timor deserves its independence and deserves our help in fighting for it, we in Australia are less deserving, less prepared, less politically mature, and less confident in ourselves than the East Timorese. They can have their freedom, but we will have to wait a decade or more for we are not yet grown up. That is not a proposition that I wish to have to explain to my daughter when she is a little older.
I am pleased that a number of key business people have recently expressed strong support for a yes vote. Stan Wallis, the chairman of Coles Myer, warned last week that if the no vote won "business people would have trouble explaining a decision which would seem an oddity to a lot of people around the world". Charles Goode, chairman of ANZ Bank, said that the monarchy was an anachronism and that the world would find it extraordinary if there were not a change.
As the Premier said in Tenterfield last Sunday, the time has come. It is time for an Australian to be our Head of State. I urge all Australians to do the right thing on 6 September and vote yes - a vote for the future, a vote of confidence in Australians making an Australian our Head of State. That can only occur with a yes vote. The campaign run by the monarchists somehow implying that if we vote no on 6 November we will get an opportunity to vote for a different form of republican model at a future time is deceptive. That just will not come to pass. If the no case wins, that will be it for a republican system of government for a very long time, if not forever.
(Mulgoa) [7.07 p.m.]: I support the Premier’s motion. I shall outline my beliefs and how I came to them. In the early 1960s my uncle arrived on the shores of Sydney as part of his national service in the British Army. He was kindly invited to serve at Maralinga. Of course, this would not happen today! When he went back to England he extolled to the rest of the family that Australia was the greatest country on earth and suggested that the family migrate. He promptly did so and a couple of years later, in 1966, my father and I and the rest of my family arrived at Sydney airport - on a very hot, stinking January day - to begin our lives as Australians.
In the ensuing years my father, having come from Liverpool, was often asked whether he would like to join Scouse organisations. He always said no; he was first and foremost an Australian. From the time he arrived here he wanted to be part of this country. The Australian Government of the time granted him the right that every other citizen has, to become a voter. He had the same rights as Australian-born citizens. After his passing, the rest of my family and many English friends decided to take out Australian citizenship. About 40 of us went together to the immigration office in Parramatta. We took every form that was available and passed them to and fro. A long line of us took the steps to become citizens on that day.
We arranged a private ceremony on Australia Day when Brian King, then mayor and a friend of mine, proclaimed me an Australian citizen. I admit there was a lot of consternation at becoming an
Australian citizen because we had to declare our loyalty to the Queen. That was something that disturbed us all and it caused much mirth. Some years later I became the Mayor of Penrith. I estimate that during my time as mayor I proclaimed many hundreds, if not more than a thousand, residents in my area Australian citizens.
During that time there was a change in the allegiance we had to swear. The Department of Immigration changed the oath we had to take. It removed the necessity to swear allegiance to the Queen - primarily because those people who came to our shores did so to become Australians. I believe the question before us is a simple one: are we going to have an Australian Head of State. It is clear and simple. It is easy for those who arrive on these shores to embrace Australian citizenship; to say that they want to become part of a country that does not have to swear allegiance to another country or to someone whose main concern is another country.
I believe the argument is simple and cannot be overcome by those monarchists who say in the devious nature of this debate that other forces are brewing. It is not true and does not bear scrutiny. By and large this argument has not led to huge party political fights, and the Australian people have been allowed to make up their own minds. If my father were alive today, having migrated here in 1966, I am sure he would be lining up at 8.00 in the morning to vote yes at the referendum. I hope the people of New South Wales and Australia vote to have our own Head of State and that we sever those last ties with Britain. We did so with the Australia Bill, which cut ties to the Privy Council. This country should take that one step forward in our evolution to republicanism.
(Bankstown - Parliamentary Secretary) [7.12 p.m.]: I am proud to support the Premier’s motion before the House today and also to speak against the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. During the past few months, if not years, a lot of information has been generated in debate on this issue - not only in this House but in the community. I do not want to further complicate the matter with additional information so I thought I would reflect, at least at the commencement of my comments, on something my son told me a couple of weeks ago.
My son Michael, who is 10 years old, has seen television and newspaper reports about the republican debate and he has heard about it at his school. For a 10-year-old this is an amazing time. Growing up as an Australian he sings Advance Australia Fair
and talks about Australian values and is intrinsically an Australian, yet there is this debate about whether we really are Australian. That is the way he has viewed it. He asked me, "Why are some people trying to stop Australia from growing up?"
Initially I was a little perplexed by that comment. When I asked him what he meant, he said "I am talking about the republic". I said "What about the republic?" He said, "The Australian republic, of course," and his explanation was that in his view Australia had reached maturity and that that is what this debate is really about. I thought for a 10-year-old that was an amazing evaluation of the current situation. His view is that for some time Australia has been a teenager and it is time it became an adult, and that is what this argument is about.
As a 10-year-old boy and future Australian voter he regards it as a foregone conclusion. It is tragic that this debate has become clouded in complexity that is simply not necessary. A child growing up can see it clearly but a no-case campaign has painted the issue in complex tones, and the hysteria attached to it has obviously unsettled many Australians. Many want to see Australia become a republic but they are confused in the labyrinth of information that has been put forward and the way it has been put forward, particularly by the no-case campaign people.
I could not help but reflect on when I was 10 years old. At that stage, in 1966, Australia had just converted to decimal currency. As school kids we had been told that the new decimal currency would be Australian coins and that it was part of us becoming more Australian. At that stage we were becoming more mature and no longer needed pounds sterling, because that was redundant, and we were moving to the future. I remember racing to the school canteen to cash in my pennies for cents, only to be disappointed to find that the British Queen was still featured on the coins.
I could not understand it. I remember asking my father, "If these are Australian coins, why is the Queen still on them? Is the Queen still in charge of our country?" I recall my disappointment at being told that was the case, that the Queen was the Head of State by virtue of her being the reigning monarch. As it was explained to me then, she made the final decision about government. Honourable members know that much of that is token, but the reality is that under the current system we never have had and never can have an Australian Head of State.
That is a pretty simple concept and I think more than 90 per cent of Australians would share that concern if it were put to them on that simple
basis. Growing up with God Save the Queen
was very confusing. Advance Australia Fair
gave us a fresh indication that inevitably one day we would assert ourselves as a republic, not breaking our ties with Britain but asserting our maturity. This debate never has been and never will be about breaking ties with a country that has been very loyal to Australia since colonisation 200 years ago. But, we have to grow up. To tie ourselves to an anachronism, the British monarch, is not the way to do that.
At long last, after some 200 years of white settlement, we are debating what should be an inevitable evolution of Australia’s political and social development, that is, becoming a republic. This move does not and should not mean breaking historical ties with Great Britain; rather, it should be viewed, as my son so aptly put it, as Australia’s coming to maturity. In this context, it is tragic that those advocating the continuation of the monarchy are doing so by clouding the issue rather than debating it on merit; by falsely removing the simplicity of the question and replacing that it with complexity and falsehood. Fundamentally, the issue is not complex.
The campaigners for the no case have put forward the emotive claim that under the republican model the world as we know it will change. Nothing will change, other than the fact that an Australian will be Head of State. It has been put to this House ad nauseam that that Head of State should be an Australian and not a British monarch. By voting yes we will continue with a system for Australia that allows little change constitutionally. We will fly the same flag, we will remain part of the Commonwealth, and we will continue to compete in the Commonwealth Games.
Some people say that that will not be possible, but it is. We will maintain the same system of democratic government, and there will not be any additional expense. Like the other 33 republics that are part of the British Commonwealth, we will continue to have a close relationship with Great Britain. Importantly, under the republican model being promoted a politician cannot become President. Our President will be a person who has earned the respect of all sides of politics and the wider community, and will have widespread community support.
The monarchist hysteria that has surrounded the issue of how a President will be elected is quite ridiculous. Our system for electing a President is truly democratic, practical and all encompassing. Every Australian will be able to nominate a person to be President. To become a President a candidate will need the support of both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and a two-thirds majority of the Parliament. That will be no easy ask, and it will obviously involve a lot of scrutiny to ensure that the right person gets the job.
In this context it is tragic that, instead of sensible debate on the issue, the central theme of the no campaign has been an attempt to frighten the Australian public through false and misleading representations aimed at complicating a simple and effective formula. The monarchists have not used the Queen in their argument at all. They are seeking to cloud the debate by using complexities that simply do not exist.
I conclude by expressing my disappointment with the Opposition’s stance on this issue. The Leader of the Opposition had an opportunity to show real leadership to this House today, but she squandered that opportunity by saying that while she agreed with a yes commitment she will not take part in this debate. I was perplexed by her argument that she does not represent the community in this debate. Such an argument is quite unfounded. This House has a responsibility to inform the Australian public about this country’s need to become a republic.
Mr W. D. SMITH
(South Coast) [7.22 p.m.]: It is indeed a privilege for me to be involved in this debate, especially after the fine words of former Premier Neville Wran in this House. Australia’s relevance to the British Crown has become inconsequential, and the monarchy of today is simply a token representation of the once-powerful British Empire. It is time for Australia, as a nation, to demonstrate to the rest of the world that it is a maturing culture which respects, values and acknowledges its dynamic history; that it is proud of its achievements, though mindful of its mistakes, but is now ready to leave the nest.
That is what it means for Australia to become a republic. Australia is unique in the world. It stands alone as a continent, one of the youngest nations in terms of the global state, with the oldest culture on earth, the oldest land mass, and the most unique ecology on the planet. It is these elements that have brought the nation, with its States and Territories and fewer than 20 million people, to the age we live in today, on the edge of a new millennium and exalted as a free and friendly society.
Australians are a people of great diversity, with more than eight generations of westernised culture, and thousands more of ancient culture, merging with accumulations of the new cultures brought to us from nations all over the world. We
can be proud of this, and proud that we are reaching a stage in our growth where differences are beginning to be taken for granted and are praised, instead of disparaged and condemned. I say this with complete faith because, despite attempts by certain media personalties and brazen individuals to damn with prejudice the status of foreign cultures, Australia has managed to exist as a relatively peaceful, unified nation.
We are ready to cut the ties that bind us to a monarchy, Crown and aristocracy that is being questioned within its own country, its political status almost completely irrelevant, standing as a figurehead and a reminder of the days when England ruled the world. Tens of thousands of Australian men and women gave their life under the British flag - for God, King or Queen, and country - and our people answered the call to fight foreign battles on foreign soil.
We are passing our adolescence and coming of age. It is time to become a republic, to stand as a nation, with our own Australian Head of State. The crux of the issue is: Do we want an Australian Head of State, or someone who is not Australian? Do we want someone who lives here, or someone who lives thousands of kilometres away? Do we want someone who listens and talks to Australians, or someone who does not? Do we want someone whose right to be our Head of State is based on genetics, with no input from any of us?
I should like to touch briefly on the three generations that I have had direct contact with - the generation before mine, that of my parents; my own generation of course; and that of my children. The generation before mine had many experiences with the monarchy as part of the old British Commonwealth. The people of that generation grew up with the monarchy and could relate to it. I ask those people to think about the relevance of the monarchy to our nation as we approach the new millennium. Surely its relevance as we approach 2000 is minuscule.
For my generation the messages that we received from the royals became fewer as Australia forged its own image on the world stage. The royal relevance was diminishing rapidly. For my children’s generation the monarchy is totally irrelevant. My children have never raised with me any issue or question about the Queen. Although I was a schoolteacher for more than 20 years no student of mine ever asked me anything about the Queen or made comment about her. This is because the present generation cannot relate to the monarchy and has little interest in it.
The trend is clear and obvious. We must make this decision to become a republic now, before it is too late. If we do not get it right this time, we will be embarrassed by England and once again shown as tied to the apron strings of the Crown - a Crown which is destined to follow the lot of royalty in every western culture, sharing a backseat in the nation’s affairs and becoming one of the most extravagant tourist attractions in the world. I wish I could generate the same tourist activity on the South Coast as Her Majesty generates for Britain.
As Neville Wran said this morning, this proposed change is a modest step. It is modest because it seems so obvious; it is a natural progression for this country to have an Australian Head of State. If the yes vote is successful on 6 November - and I hope that it is - I believe that 10 years from now people will be shrugging their shoulders and wondering what all the fuss was about in 1999. I will be voting yes on 6 November, and I urge all Australians to do likewise.
(The Entrance) [7.28 p.m.]: It is a great pleasure and honour for me, as the son of an immigrant to this nation, to speak to this debate. It was a greater honour for me to be present in this Chamber when one of the true greats of this Chamber, this State and this nation, the Hon. Neville Wran, argued the case for the yes vote. It was also a great honour to meet for the first time, and to hear the Hon. Jim Killen - one of the great debaters and legislators of the national Parliament - argue the no case. I believe that the presence and participation of such eminent figures in this debate gives substance and purpose to the motion before the House.
I congratulate the Premier on his leadership in the process - first, in proposing that the New South Wales Parliament debate this issue; and, second, in arranging the participation of two leading protagonists in the national debate and allowing them to put their respective cases. The Hon. Jim Killen argued that the unifying force in this nation is the Crown, in terms of the forming of the Federation of Australia. He went on to explain that the Crown is not the Queen, and that it is not the English Crown but a separate Crown - I presume, an Australian Crown.
He also explained that Canada and New Zealand had crowns but that they were indigenous crowns, and I presume they were the unifying force in those respective nations. The argument was forcefully and skilfully presented but, like the whole of the current no case, it was a mirage, a furphy, a nonsense; in plain English it was something not common to the Hon. Sir James Killen. His was no argument at all.
What was even more interesting to me was that he was attempting to separate Queen Elizabeth II, an adornment to Britain, from the Crown. In fact, to my recollection not once in his contribution did the Hon. Sir James Killen mention Queen Elizabeth II and her successors, the future Charles II or William V, or their role in the future of our nation. He said that the Crown was a unifying force at the turn of the last century for the formation of the Federation of Australia. He then went on to say that this crown was not actually the Queen; it was not the royal family; it was some entity.
The Hon. Sir James Killen then explained that that entity was somehow unique to Australia, and that each Commonwealth country had this unique entity. But he failed to explain how this unique entity related to the monarchy. All he said was that it somehow existed. I thought that his argument, eloquent though it was - his presentation was excellent - did not contain any substance. He did not prove the relationship between the monarchy and the Crown. He said, in essence, that Australia was an entity, irrespective of the monarchy.
The Premier pointed out in his address that, in the nine-page booklet distributed by the monarchists arguing the no case there was not one reference to the monarchy or its role in Australia’s future. In the argument presented by the Hon. Sir James Killen for the monarchy, and in the literature that has been distributed for the argument for the no case, there is no reference to the monarchy and the future role of the monarchy in Australia. Why was there no mention of the future role of British royalty?
I believe that the British royalty has no currency or role in the future of Australians. The Hon. Sir James Killen, in effect, conceded that Australians have already made that decision. If he did not believe that he would have raised the issue. If the monarchists believed that they would have raised the issue. But they have studiously separated themselves from the argument for a monarchy and they have separated the role of the royal family from the future of Australia.
In summary, the Hon. Sir James Killen and the monarchist organisation have conceded that the monarchy is a negative or - to use a phrase made famous in this Chamber by former Premier the Hon. Neville Wran - it is lead in the saddlebags of the monarchists’ cause. I am left with the view that the monarchists are not pro-monarchist at all. The opponents of the republic are in essence reactionaries - people trying desperately to prevent change. Why are they trying to prevent change?
Why are the conservatives in Australia so fearful of severing the umbilical cord with Great Britain and the monarchy? No longer are the courts subject to the Privy Council. No longer are knighthoods traded like stocks on the exchange. No longer is the Governor-General some retread British aristocrat or some retired serviceman. These fundamental changes have already occurred and the sky has not fallen in. Why the fear that all will be lost if Australia becomes a republic?
I am surprised that the conservatives have not injected the old commie bogey into the debate. However, I do not rule out that tactic, given the lack of cogent arguments for the no case. When one’s argument has no weight there is only one option: attack the argument of one’s opponent. When that does not work, resort to the last card in the pack - scaremongering. That is where the pro-monarchists are today - making ridiculous claims that the presidential proposal is somehow inherently more dangerous and more risky than the current system.
The paucity of argument and the campaign tactics of the monarchists totally and utterly demean those who genuinely support the status quo. I also believe that it demeans the monarchists. It is my view that the yes vote is a vote for our country’s future and the future of its people - especially our youth. I also believe that if Australians do not vote yes on 6 November the opportunity for an Australian republic, which nearly everyone including the Prime Minister agrees is inevitable, could be lost for generations.
Yes means a new future for Australia. Yes means we have finally grown up. Yes means Australians are finally Australians, not quasi-Brits. Yes means that as a nation we have finally arrived. Yes means that we, the Australians of 1999, have made the decision that has been in gestation for 108 years. It began with a seven-part resolution for the Federation of Australia - a resolution of Henry Parkes, the Premier of New South Wales - in this Chamber in March 1881. How long does a mature nation need to make up its mind? Is a century long enough? Will a no vote result in another 100 years of gestation before we become a republic? I support the motion.
(Wallsend) [7.36 p.m.]: It is time that we had an Australian as Head of State. I am proud to be able to speak in support of the motion moved by the Premier that this House recommends a yes vote on 6 November in the referendum on the republic. I said that it is time that we had an
Australian as Head of State. Other speakers have put the argument for the yes case, but I will state it as well. As Australians, each of us can aspire to be Premier of New South Wales, Prime Minister of Australia, the general manager of Telstra and even the Governor-General, who represents our Head of State.
But we cannot aspire to be Head of State as long as we have a monarchical system. What is more, we do not even have a choice as to who our Head of State should be. That is up to the genetics, the sex lives and the bedroom adventures of English aristocratic families. We cannot be a truly independent and free nation while our constitutional umpire and Head of State is a foreigner. The symbolism of the Head of State is important. The Head of State of any country portrays who we are. I reckon that we are not Poms.
The Head of State says something about our maturity as a nation. Almost 100 years after Federation I do not think we need an upper-class Pom as our constitutional referee. We are mature enough to have our own Head of State. One of the arguments referred to by the people opposed to a republic is that the system is not broken, so do we do not need to fix it. One important part of the system has broken down, that is, that part of the system relating to our Head of State. More than 70 per cent of the Australian population wants a change. That means that the system has broken down.
I believe that the monarchy has lost the respect that it once commanded in Australia. Some monarchists believe that the Governor-General is the Head of State. That was implied in some of the Prime Minister’s remarks in a newspaper article quoted in the media this morning. That is a remarkable confusion. That part of the system has broken down. What happens if we choose to become a republic? We stay in the Commonwealth. One of the questions that I am most commonly asked is: What will happen to cricket, the Commonwealth Games, royal tours and so on? We keep them.
The change will not be a big one. We will also maintain the acknowledgement of the heritage of many Australians and many institutions. As former Premier the Hon. Neville Wran said this morning, let us cast off the last vestiges of colonialism. Our parliamentary system is not broken, so we do not need to change it and the republican referendum proposal does not change it. Our courts are not broken down; we do not need to change them. We could ask the rhetorical question: Do we need a change? My reply would be: My oath we do. My reference to the oath reminds me of the oath that I am required to take as a member of Parliament.
The voters of the Wallsend electorate chose me in a free and democratic ballot to represent them in this Parliament. I was shocked when I came into this place and found that I was required to swear allegiance to the monarch of England, her heirs and successors, according to law, in order to take my seat. That was difficult for me to do but, as my loyalty is to the people I represent, of course I obeyed the law and took the oath. I look forward to the day when I can swear my allegiance to the people of Australia, and in particular the people of New South Wales, in the same way that people now going through citizenship ceremonies as new citizens after immigration are able to swear or affirm their loyalty to Australia and its people. That is what I would like to be able to do in this place fairly soon.
The monarchist Prime Minister was quoted as saying that it is inappropriate for the Queen of England to open the Olympic Games. Equally, I think it is inappropriate that the Queen remain as our Head of State. I am reminded of the attacks on Prime Minister Scullin in 1931 in regard to his thinking on the role of our Head of State. When the news leaked that Prime Minister Scullin wanted to appoint Isaac Isaacs as Governor-General, Scullin was attacked bitterly by the establishment on the basis that here was an Australian appointing another Australian.
In those days it was considered that only an Englishman of superior class could be above Australian politics and, therefore, the constitutional umpire. History records that Prime Minister Scullin insisted that the King appoint Isaac Isaacs, and the King duly did his duty and appointed Isaac Isaacs as Governor-General. I am indebted to Robert McClelland, shadow attorney-general in the Commonwealth Parliament, for a light-hearted moment in a session in the Legislative Council Chamber last evening. He told of an Englishman migrating to Australia. As the migrant was filling out forms, giving his name, address, occupation and so on, he reached the question, "Do you have any criminal convictions?" The Englishman answered, "Do you still need one of those to get in here?"
I want to pay tribute to the Australian Republican Movement, Hunter Forum, of which I have been a relatively inactive member but an enthusiastic supporter for a number of years. At the local Hunter level a cross-factional, cross-party group of supporters of the republic got together to attempt to persuade as many people as possible that a republic represents our future and the monarchy
belongs in the past. There was a volunteer staff shop during the election of candidates to the constitutional convention. Thomas Keneally was present to open the shop.
Matthew Johns from the Knights was also involved in that opening, putting his support behind the Australian Republican Movement. There were stalls at the markets and fundraisers at the Cricketers’ Arms Tavern. I congratulate Stephen Crowe and Jenny Hyde, who were co-convenors of the Australian Republic Movement, Hunter Forum, on the work they have done at a local level in the Hunter region to attempt to persuade people to support the republic.
I want to analyse briefly who may vote no. First would be supporters of the English monarchy, who say the Queen of England should be our Head of State, and refer to our links to the mother country, and so on. I respect that position. Those people are honest in their claims. Second would be the monarchists who are pretending to be republicans. They do not mention the Queen and criticise the so-called politicians’ republic. I believe they are deceiving and cheating people.
I particularly want to direct remarks at the direct electionists, particularly in the Hunter region, who had this all-or-nothing position. They, the third group of people who want to vote no, seem to be saying that voting no will get a directly elected President. They also make a false promise that no politicians will be elected President if there is a direct election. I want to refer briefly to the presidential systems of Ireland and Austria, which have non-executive presidents of republics who are elected by a vote of all the people but have restricted powers. These are the models to which a number of the direct electionists refer.
With the help of the Parliamentary Library, I have taken out some information. Of the seven presidents of Ireland - whose system, remember, is not supposed to produce politicians as presidents - six were former politicians who went on to become President. The only President of Ireland who was not a politician is the current President, Mary McAleese, who was a distinguished lawyer and academic. She was nominated by a political party but was not formerly a politician. However, Mary Robinson, Patrick Hillery, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, Erskine Childers, Eamon de Valera, Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh and Douglas Hyde were all aldermen, Senators or members of the Dáil.
In Austria, of the six Presidents elected by popular vote of the people, again only the current President, Thomas Klestil, was not a directly elected politician. The others - Kurt Waldheim, Rudolf Kirchschläger, Franz Jonas, Adolph Schärf and Theodor Körner - were aldermen, deputy chancellors, foreign affairs deputy heads, ministers, bureaucrats and foreign ministers. So I urge honourable members to support this motion, and I urge the people of New South Wales to vote yes for an Australian as our Head of State.
(Kiama) [7.45 p.m.]: It gives me a great sense of pride to speak in this historical debate in the oldest Parliament of Australia, the House of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. I have often been described as a yes man, and I am glad on this occasion to agree with that assessment. Should Australians vote in favour of this great country becoming a republic? The answer must be yes - yes for every reason that is sensible, fair and representative of what Australia should stand for.
I cannot believe that people could vote no for any reason other than that they want the House of Windsor to provide the only people who can head this country. Those entrenched monarchists will rue the day that they tried to muddy the waters on this issue. The main argument the monarchists are using is that the model is flawed and that a better republic model, such as direct election, is preferred. Should the republic debate get lost in the upcoming referendum, then the monarchists might one day have a directly elected President to be our Head of State. That is the worst scenario they could ever campaign for, especially when they describe the present system of government as the most stable there can be.
This sort of deceitful campaigning is confusing many Australians. It is irresponsible behaviour from the camp promoting a no vote. However, the real shame is on the alleged republicans, who have joined with the monarchists to present the no case. Who do these people think they are? They are the most arrogant group of people I have come across. Their little clique has done so much damage to the yes case that, if the referendum does fail, they should take the blame.
When I wake up on Sunday 7 November I want to wake up knowing that my fellow Australians had the courage and confidence in themselves to have voted in favour of letting one of us have the opportunity to be Head of State. Unfortunately, this may not occur. Australians might say to themselves that they are not capable of having one of us as head of our own country. If we can say this of ourselves, it really says something to
the rest of the world. It is embarrassing to think that we might wake up on Sunday 7 November and face a reality check that we have just said to the rest of the world that we do not trust that we are capable of choosing one of us to head our own country.
I have a son who is 2½ years old. Young Isaac does not yet understand this debate even though he has been campaigning with his mum and his dad on this issue since he was born. Neville Wran came to Wollongong when Isaac was only eight months old. He was sitting on my shoulders, shaking hands with Neville Wran, displaying a big badge saying "Vote 1 for Australia to become a Republic".
Only last Sunday he and I attended the ALP launch of the yes campaign in Blacktown. There, he won the hearts and imaginations of many, including the Leader of the Federal Labor Party, the Hon. Kim Beazley. Kim held Isaac’s arm in the air so that the words on his T-shirt could be read by many. The words on my son’s T-shirt were "One day I’ll grow up to be President". Well, maybe my son is a little bit presumptuous.
However, under the current system my son, like every other Australian, has no chance to be head of his country. When Isaac comes to understand this he will probably be as amazed as I was when I first understood that Queen Elizabeth II is the head of Australia. When she lets go of the reins they will be picked up by Prince Charles, and he will become King Charles III of Australia. When he hands over his reign, his son Prince William will become King William IV of Australia. This is not acceptable. I will continue to fight to ensure that the monarch is not enshrined in our Constitution and does not represent the way of life for Australians.
On 13 May, when I made my inaugural speech, I brought this same issue to the attention of the House. I said that there was nothing more Australian than a requirement that the only way to become Head of State in Australia was by birthright. A monarchy is a system based on class and is totally opposed to the values and beliefs of the Australian Labor Party. Although we do not have a party policy that we must vote yes, it is encouraging that so many ALP members are speaking in this debate and supporting a fair go for all Australians.
The monarchy perpetuates the belief of the born-to-rule mentality for those lucky to be born into the aristocracy or rich families; the born-to-rule mentality that so often comes from the other side of the House. On a sadder note, the monarchy perpetuates a condition of despair and hopelessness for those born into any other type of family - the more disadvantaged families, the working class, Catholic families or any family other than the aristocracy, and particularly one aristocratic family in the United Kingdom.
Last year the Australian people elected a number of delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The convention agreed that Australia should become a republic and that the method of choosing the Head of State should be by a two-thirds majority vote in the combined Houses of Federal Parliament. This form of selection of our Head of State would maintain the current and stable Westminster system and all our present political, administrative and judicial institutions and processes.
In effect, everything would remain and work as it does now but the Governor-General would be called the President of Australia and would not be the Queen’s representative. In other words, it is an evolution and not a revolution. The President would be one of us and would represent only us and would not have the conflict of interest that the present monarch has as Head of State of a number of nations. Constitutional change is difficult and slow. Only eight referendums out of 42 have been successful in the history of Federation. Those successful referendums had the support of both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
Unfortunately, we have a weak Prime Minister who does not support this change. Thus, the referendum will probably fail. It begs the question: Why would the Prime Minister commit so much of taxpayer funds to put the republic question to the Australian people and then not support it? It is embarrassing that the Prime Minister does not have enough confidence -
Mr R. H. L. Smith:
Point of order: The honourable member is drawing an inference about the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not here to have his say. If the honourable member wants to challenge the Prime Minister and make personal remarks about him, he should have the guts to do so in the Prime Minister’s presence. The vote on this motion is a free vote for everyone. People can vote in the secrecy of the ballot box. We do not need this fellow telling us what the Prime Minister should or should not do.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Mrs Beamer):
Order! I am sure the Prime Minister is able to defend himself in the House of Representatives.
It is embarrassing that the Prime Minister does not have enough confidence in
someone from this country to be the Head of State. Shame on him and his conservative view of this country.
Mr R. H. L. Smith:
Point of order: On the same grounds I ask that you direct this fellow back to the motion. The motion is not about the Prime Minister; it is about whether Australia should become a republic.
Order! I have listened carefully to the honourable member for Kiama. The terms of the motion permit him to express his opinion about the position taken by the Prime Minister in relation to the republic.
The time is ticking away and the honourable member for Bega refuses to acknowledge that the Prime Minister is doing everything possible to jeopardise a yes vote, though he is spending taxpayers’ money on the referendum. I should like to speak against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. Paragraph 3 of her amendment states that this House:
urges each citizen to cast their vote conscious of their responsibility to ensure Australia remains a free sovereign and democratic society.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke in favour of the yes vote, which would make us a democratic country. She obviously has little understanding of English. According to the Macquarie Dictionary
part of the definition of "sovereign" is:
1. monarch; a king or queen. 2. one who has sovereign power or authority.
The word "free" means enjoying personal liberty or independence as a people or country not under foreign rule. The Leader of the Opposition cannot put the words "free", which means not under foreign rule, and "sovereign", which means a monarch, which is a foreign ruler of this country, next to each other in that amendment and expect this House in all seriousness to vote for it.
The amendment is sloppy and shows that the Opposition does not take the debate seriously. This debate is one of the most serious undertaken by this House, that is, that we have the confidence in ourselves to have our own Head of State. I urge honourable members to support the Premier’s motion and reject the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition by voting yes in the coming referendum.
(Georges River) [7.55 p.m.]: I support the yes vote for the republic. I shall not try to influence anyone else to vote yes or try to force people in New South Wales to accept my point of view. I merely take this opportunity as a member of Parliament to express a strong belief that I hold: that as a nation we should have our own Australian Head of State. This is the key component of today’s discussion; a discussion that has been held nationally over a number of years and that will ultimately be determined in the 6 November referendum.
This is an important question for Australians. Certainly, this question is raised when we talk about the new millennium and the centenary of Federation. We are discussing not only Australia coming of age. Most importantly, we are talking about Australia taking responsibility for its destiny. In this debate many people have given history lessons and made emotional arguments for and against a republic. Ultimately it will come down to individuals making a determination of what they believe is right for Australia and its future.
I agree that if we do not take the opportunity on 6 November to vote yes, a long time will pass before this question is again put to the Australian public. It is appropriate now that we have the opportunity to decide whether Australia should become a republic, to take that opportunity and make the most of it by voting yes. Much history has been quoted today in this debate and much emotion has been expressed, but one of the most unfortunate aspects of the republic debate is the emotional argument.
The discussion has had many red herrings thrown into it, along with many misnomers, non-facts, attempts to get away from the real issue and attempts to muddy the waters. We have heard discussions about Crown land, whether States will secede, the authority of the Head of State, and who - the Prime Minister or the President - would have the greater power. The model proposed in this republic debate is undoubtedly a minimalist change, as I have heard said often today.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, the aim of the exercise is to give an Australian responsibility as President of our nation. That is a minimalist change. We are giving Australians the opportunity to be the Head of State. We have had great discussion about the authority of the Queen and the position of the British monarchy within Australia. It cannot be denied that the British monarch is currently the Queen of Australia. I believe, as do many others, that that is most inappropriate. In discussions on this matter people talk about the no position being supported by monarchists. That is not true. If the so-called monarchists were so keen to push the monarchy, in
presenting their case they would strongly push the role of the Queen. However, that is not the case.
The so-called monarchists have done everything in the no case except discuss the role of the Queen. They are trying to keep the debate away from the role of the Queen. I am not sure why honourable members refer to the so-called monarchists and their support, because those so-called monarchists seem loath to mention the Queen. They recognise that deep down the great majority of Australians want an Australian Head of State.
Unfortunately, because there have been so many furphies in this debate, a number of people who deep down want an Australian Head of State will not be prepared to vote that way because of the muddied waters. One argument that has been put is the so-called desire of a group of people for direct election of a President. That would be most inappropriate. We continually hear in the muddy waters debate that politicians are forcing the political debate onto the people. I can only say that the ultimate political involvement in a republic would be by direct election of a President.
With a direct election model we would end up with a politician as President. I believe that the people of Australia want a President who is above politics. As has been said repeatedly in this House today, the reality is that with a direct election model the major political parties would be the only ones able to resource the candidates. That would be most inappropriate. The proposed model, with two-thirds of Parliament ultimately making the decision, is a fair and just method of determining the right person to assume the role of President of this great nation.
I treasure the opportunity to speak in this debate. Most importantly, whatever model we choose - whether we keep the Queen as our Head of State or have an Australian as President - one thing that will never change in this country is the democratic right of people to proclaim their views in this House, in the Domain or in the electorates. No matter who our Head of State is, that will not change. Australia is a great democracy. There is no argument about the fact that we have inherited that democracy and the Westminster system from Britain, as have many other countries. We should be grateful to Britain for that inheritance.
However, that does not mean we cannot now set our own course of destiny. Each of us at one stage in our lives was guided by our parents. At another stage we chose to go our own way and left the nest. That is the best analogy I can use. Australia is a nation that for almost 100 years has guided its own destiny. It is now appropriate that we leave the nest. We will maintain our institutions. As the Premier said, the institutions and the people of Australia bind our great nation. We will always maintain those institutions, our great history and our great traditions. But, hopefully, we will go forward with an Australian Head of State. It gives me great pleasure in this fine example of an Australian Parliament to have the opportunity to put my case today, and I thank the House for the opportunity.
(Wentworthville) [8.05 p.m.]: I would also like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for the opportunity to participate in this debate. Apart from an interview with a local newspaper, it is the first opportunity I have had to put on record my views on this important matter. I congratulate former Premier Neville Wran and the leader of the Australian Republican Movement, Malcolm Turnbull, for the difficult campaign they have waged over the past few months to try to persuade the Australian electorate to vote yes at the forthcoming referendum.
The campaign has been a difficult one because of a great lack of interest by the Australian community at large and the views that have been developed through various polls. I would like to think that my constituency of Wentworthville is typical in that regard. This issue has not been a pressing concern for the tens of thousands of constituents whom I represent. However, it is an important one, and I will take the opportunity over the next fortnight and on 6 November to encourage my constituents to support the yes campaign.
I suppose that their attitudes are typical. At present life in the Australian community is pleasant and comfortable. As a result not a great deal of interest has been expressed at a local level on this issue. We read about it on a daily basis in the major metropolitan and national newspapers. The Australian
and the Sydney Morning Herald
has had no shortage of coverage of the issue. However, in the daily lives of ordinary Australians - and I would like to think that I represent those people in this House - there has not been a great deal of interest.
Therefore, I was not surprise to see a report earlier this week which indicated that as a result of an intensive exercise in Canberra last week a number of people who were previously opposed to the referendum have now decided to support the yes position. Good luck to those people. Unfortunately, the majority of Australians have not had that experience and have not had the chance to go through all the issues at stake. Therefore, I admit the recent polls which indicate that a no vote will
probably prevail do not shock me. I do not believe that most people have addressed this issue on a daily basis.
Despite the fact that I have not personally invested a great deal of time in the campaign until recently, I would like to think that when Australians go to the polling booth on 6 November they will do so with the express intention of voting yes. It is most important that they do so. My colleague the honourable member for East Hills gave an illuminating address and a history lesson about our role in the Commonwealth and the British monarchy generally. Many Australians take for granted the history of Great Britain, which we were taught as young children. We are the products of that education.
As a history teacher I listened attentively to what my colleague the honourable member for East Hills said. It reminded me of all those laborious lessons I undertook and later taught about British history and its importance to Australian society.
Despite that we are in a position to assert ourselves as a nation. Speakers on this side of the Chamber have made the point over and over again that 6 November is a real opportunity for Australians to take the first step towards developing our identity as a member of the Commonwealth with an Australian Head of State.
In August and September I had a great opportunity to meet and talk with my parliamentary colleagues from around the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Trinidad and Tobago. That was an interesting exercise because it was my first opportunity to meet with Commonwealth parliamentarians from all over the world. The latest poll information indicates that women will tend to vote no on 6 November because they do not like the concept of separatism; they certainly do not like to be alienated from the Queen.
During the next 10 days I would like to give female voters in the electorate of Wentworthville the message that even though Australia may vote on 6 November for an Australian Head of State that does not mean that Australia will suddenly cut all the Commonwealth ties it has had for so long. All a yes vote will do is keep us in the Commonwealth. We can continue to work with countries such as Canada, which has had a different model to ours for many decades, and other countries around the world that have changed their systems of government over the years to accommodate the more pressing concerns expressed by their constituents.
Merely because we may vote on 6 November to have an Australian Head of State to begin the inexorable process of developing a republic does not necessarily mean that we will turn our backs on the Queen or on everything that has made Australia such a great country. Australia will remain an active member of the Commonwealth, committed to ensuring that the aims and objectives of the Commonwealth continue to be realised. Those of us with an Anglo-Saxon heritage, of which I am merely one within the entire nation, will continue to appreciate that heritage.
The belief that a yes vote on 6 November will suddenly separate Australia from all those important aspects of our history is a fallacy which must be disputed. In the past couple of weeks I have taken heart from the growing amount of support for the yes campaign. The furphy that politicians cannot be trusted to elect a President of this country has been exposed. An increasing disenchantment has developed with the sort of people, other than politicians who might be elected - famous people such as John Laws, Alan Jones or Mark Taylor, whose names get bandied about as potential Presidents. It is now believed that they may not be all they are cracked up to be. They are human and have frailties like everyone else.
We are moving away from the focus in the campaign that we should not delegate the responsibility of electing a President to another group. I reassure my constituents that although they may never believe that politicians can always be trusted, the chance of a two-thirds majority of those politicians making a good selection is very sound. That is one of the useful safeguards in the framework in which we currently operate. I will actively support a yes campaign for the 6 November referendum.
Many people within my electorate will feel a natural impulse to vote yes in the referendum. They should not believe that that means they are abandoning the Commonwealth because it does not. It simply means that Australia is taking another step towards the maturity it has been seeking for many years. It does not mean that those of us with an Anglo-Saxon heritage will eschew that heritage. It merely means perhaps that we will appreciate it even more as the generations proceed. I look forward to a strong yes vote from Western Sydney in the republic referendum on 6 November. With a strong yes vote in western Sydney I believe we will be able to carry the national campaign.
(Ryde - Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Sport and Recreation)
[8.15 p.m.]: On 6 November at the referendum I will vote yes for a republic because it will be an affirmation of our hope in the future of this most beautiful and gifted land. I will vote yes for myself, for my neighbours and for future generations. I will vote yes because Australia as a republic will fulfil the promise of past generations of everyday Australian men and women who have believed in this nation, worked for its success and defended it against threat. I will vote yes because it is the right, proper, positive and hopeful thing to do.
I do not wish to argue legalistic details or weigh the constitutional pros or cons. I cannot bring myself to think that rational argument is needed to convince people in an intellectual way to vote yes. All those arguments have been put and, of course, they make sense intellectually, but for me this is an emotional decision. For me it is about where we want to go as a nation and what we want to be. In some ways I find it difficult to fathom why the debate has become so difficult, why there is any major dissent or questioning of the fact that we should take this next most natural step of becoming a republic. I cannot imagine the yes vote not succeeding at the referendum.
I wonder how I will explain it to my children if the yes vote does not succeed. What will I say to the new migrants to this land, the visitors from other nations? How will I explain that when asked we, as a people, turned our backs on an Australian Head of State, turned away from having a greater say in our destiny and gave in to fear of the future rather than embracing the optimism and hope that has always been part of the Australian ethos. I simply cannot imagine the yes vote not being successful. I do not care to think about what would cause it to fail. I like to think that if I went out into the streets of this great city and looked into the faces of my fellow Australians I would see hope for our future together as a free and confident republic.
Tonight I recall a glorious moonlit night earlier this year. I flew across this magnificent State and traced my way from Dubbo, far above Bathurst and across the barrier of the Blue Mountains towards Sydney. Below me lay the darkened fields, homes, schools and communities of New South Wales. At that height the lights of the cities and towns from the faraway north in the mighty Hunter Valley to the southern horizon of West Wyalong were visible in the distance. At that moment I felt an overwhelming sense of our unity as a people, a State and the nation. Far away under that same dark night sky were the people of our whole nation - every State, every city, every street and every town. In them all is an enormous untapped potential for the future, an overwhelming potential for hope in what unites us as a people.
On that night, just as on this night, there seems only one way forward for us as a people and that is towards a republic. Surely we have been working towards that point for the past 200 years. Surely this is our chance to stand forever independent as Australian people and to cast aside those links to an old world we no longer need and have forever outgrown. This is the time to be positive about our lives and experiences as Australians, to say yes to the future and to say yes to the Republic of Australia.
(Fairfield) [8.18 p.m.]: The British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli epitomised the attitude held by the British towards colonies such as Australia during a period when the dumping grounds for convicted victims of a receding British Empire began drying up. In a letter to Lord Malmesbury dated 13 August 1852, which is reported in a book called The Life of Benjamin Disraeli
written by Moneypenny and Buckle, Disraeli wrote:
These wretched colonies will all be independent . . . in a few years and are a millstone round our necks.
Australia was not slow in starting the process towards independence, with Federation following in 1901. It should now give effect to Disraeli’s vision almost one and half centuries later. During this period we have failed to see what Disraeli encapsulated so long ago, that although Britain features prominently in our minds and ways of life, through our institutions, language and culture, we have not featured much in the minds and ways of life of the British. Possibly we have worn out our welcome. Australia was never a great jewel in British imperial history. It was nothing more than an exit strategy to developments occurring in America where, through revolution and diplomacy, the States of America secured independence from the British Empire. Australia was needed for the empire as a new territory to dump its convicts upon and as land to reward loyal American colonists displaced by the political developments that had occurred.
Australia was established largely as a new dump for the victims of the failing social and economic arrangements in England and to make up for its most recent upset on its imperial agenda. Nonetheless, in Australia we have taken the very best that that British society and institutions had to offer - the Westminster system of democracy, the common law and the English language. At the same time we have discreetly rejected all its worst
characters - entrenched British society sustained through a class system that has generated a longlasting disparity between rich and poor and the consequent restraint upon social mobility and equitable prosperity generated through the suffocating burden of aristocracy and hereditary establishment.
The referendum is about completing the process of parting with the worst features of Britain through a means that is the best of British society - democracy. It is this concept of hereditary empowerment that is probably the worst element of British society, so much so that the British themselves are finally moving towards reducing the role it plays in their world. The role of hereditary peers in the House of Lords is finally facing a fate that it should have confronted many years ago - downsizing. The process is an interesting one, and really appears to be one of cannibalism. The hereditary peers will vote themselves on who will form the remaining 92. The arguments that each peer is forwarding his own recommendations really drives home the farce that monarchism constitutes.
Page 3 of the Times
newspaper of Saturday 16 October reported how Baroness Strange, aged 71, claims that she should be chosen for many fuddy-duddy type reasons because she brings flowers with her to the House of Lords. Some of the policies these candidates espouse also reflect their states of mind. Viscount Monckton of Brenchly, aged 83, wants to action taken against cruelty to animals, particularly fishing with rods. All cats are to be muzzled when outdoors to stop the agonising torture of mice and small birds. As honourable members can see, these are the burning issues of Britain in the late twentieth century.
The resumé that the Queen would put to the Australian people for the job as our Head of State would not be as removed as that of Baroness Strange and the viscount, but no doubt it would be of somewhat diminished relevance to us here in Australia. The Queen’s priority is Britain. Australia is less than an ornament. The recent military mission to East Timor has driven home to me the loneliness and real independence we must come to terms with. Apart from the gallant Gurkhas - who, unfortunately, because of the poverty of their home nation, have historically, much like Australians, been military fighters for British military imperialism - there has not been a flicker of concern or assistance from Britain about our role and risks in East Timor. Why should there be? We mean nothing to Britain.
Britain has its own priorities and its own agenda. Why should it place British lives at risk for conflict in a region that has almost no relevance to Britain, particularly now that Hong Kong has returned to the People’s Republic of China. Australia is alone. Australia has deluded itself into believing that it is smarter than the foreign affairs minds in London and Washington DC. Essentially, we have been of the view that if we make tokenistic gestures of alliance and of support to the British and the Americans, somehow we could trick them into providing us with defence assistance when we called upon it, as in East Timor, or when we needed it for ourselves. The only nation we have fooled is our own.
East Timor has made us realise, I hope, that we are alone, that if we are to form defence alliances they must be with our neighbours, and it is only our neighbours who have participated in a genuine sense with the United Nations role that we have played in East Timor. Washington knows that Australia’s words of support and military co-operation have been nothing more than words, since it can look at our defence spending commitments as a nation and note that we are of no value to any major United States initiative. We are trying to ride on the coat-tails of United States military dominance; we are, in effect, trying to have a free ride, believing that we have fooled the United States into believing that we are a genuine defence partner. East Timor has sent the message clearly back to us that we are alone, that the only military force that we can rely upon is our own.
The United States of America and the United Kingdom have returned to us what they believe we have been giving them all this time - tokenistic words. But at least this whole experience will drive home to us in Australia that we have only been fooling ourselves about our capacity to fool others and about how many real friends we have around the world. Britain is the same as the United States in that regard. It has its own fish to fry. Australia can do as it pleases, and whatever it does it can do alone. I believe that the British do not think about us much at all, so why should we draw our inspiration and sense of identity from them? Disraeli said in the British Parliament on 5 February 1863:
Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent.
The way Britain views us will not change if the referendum is successful on 6 November. Only the way we view ourselves will change.
(Auburn) [8.25 p.m.]: The cry that sounded around the world - "Give me liberty or give me death" - created one of the greatest nations
on earth, the nation called the United States of America. The tie I wanted to wear tonight had the first words, "We the people" on it. That is what this debate is about. In my opinion it is not really about the yes vote or about whether the Queen should be head of our nation or whether Australia should have a President. It is about the people themselves; it is about the stuff that human drama is made of; it is about every individual; it is about the 48 different nationalities outside the Scottish, Irish, Welsh and English that make up the constituents of the electorate of Auburn; it is about all of us. That is what the debate is about when one thinks about it in those terms.
A preamble has been created by our Prime Minister. Some people think it is a great preamble; others think it is terrible. I will vote no to the preamble - but a great preamble makes a great nation. We will work through all that because we have two types of people on this continent - those whose ancestors lived here for 40,000 years, our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, and those who settled here after Cook discovered the east coast and Phillip selected Sydney Cove. One of the better decisions the British made was to select Sydney Cove for the city of Sydney. Sydney Harbour is a beautiful area.
Let me turn to my family’s history. On my mother’s side there was Cecilia Cosgrove and Daniel Cosgrove - Daniel living in Galway; fighting the British for his free Irish State; going out to assassinate a person who was persecuting the people that he loved, his own Catholics; failing to execute that person and accidentally shooting the wrong individual but getting to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. Because he was a political prisoner sent out for a political crime he was permitted to bring one member of his family as a free settler to the colony of New South Wales. He was made an offer in Galway to take his son. He arrived in 1821.
His wife Cecilia with their four children betrayed the ribbon men in Galway to the British, and for that she was given a block of land at Rosehill, plenty of money, a one-way ticket to the colony of New South Wales for herself and her children and her husband as her bond servant for the term of his natural life. There are now 1,846 descendants on this continent of that family, including the man who now leads our troops in East Timor.
On my father’s side there was Michael Nagle. In 1837 he was walking between Rathcormack and Ballyhooly when he was picked up by the British, who alleged that he committed the crime of destroying a military bridge on the Cork-Dublin Road. He was taken into Cork, interrogated for two weeks, released, rearrested a month later in Rathcormack, brought back, and made an offer he could not refuse - £18 pounds and a one-way ticket to the colony of New South Wales or they would hang him. He was not stupid. He took the money. The rest of it, of course, is history. So that is the story of my family here, and every single family in this country has a similar story - those who vote yes and those who vote no. One of the descendants of Michael Nagle is a very prominent member of the Liberal Party, and he has told me that he will vote no. That is how the debate has progressed, and that is the division we see in our nation.
The debate is based on three elements. First, will changing the Constitution substantially change the basis of our society? The referendum question is simple: Should we replace the Queen and the Governor-General with a President? We must make one or two minor alterations to the Constitution to ensure that it flows freely. We must accept that the model for electing a President will be a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate and the House of Representatives. That will be better than trying to persuade the people to vote for a person endorsed by the Labor Party, a person endorsed by the Liberal Party, a person endorsed by the National Party or someone else. It is a better system.
I was here in 1974 when Gough Whitlam had a meeting of both Houses of the Federal Parliament to attempt to pass legislation to avoid a double dissolution. That was the first time that 4½ days of debate were televised continually. People wanted to see whether the Federal Government’s legislation would be passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is hard to get politicians to agree.
The person who would ultimately become the President of Australia, through the proposed two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate model would be a person agreed upon by everyone else. The person appointed may be a political operative, but I do not believe that will be the case. In real terms, the person will be agreed upon by all the political parties. The person may be an apparatchik, although he or she is likely to be a citizen of this country who has done great things. He or she will be a ceremonial head of this country.
People are afraid that if we move to a republic the Constitution will suddenly be changed, causing great problems in our society. Everyone has forgotten about the High Court of Australia and the legislation which sought to nationalise banks in
1949. The High Court held that the provision in the Constitution that trade between the States shall be absolutely free meant that the government could not nationalise the banks. Do people honestly believe that if we go beyond the aim of the Constitution referendum on 6 November the High Court will allow a government to go beyond what the people decide? The answer is no.
We are protected by another arm of government - the judiciary, that is, the High Court of Australia. The High Court would not allow anyone to abuse the process. The final question is whether we want to be an independent nation. In both the Daily Telegraph
and the Sydney Morning Herald
today the Prime Minister is reported as saying that in East Timor he was accepted as the leader of Australia. He said that removing the Queen or a monarch as our Head of State would not progress Australia any further, but it would not hurt Australia either. It would not cause the downfall of our democracy. John Howard went to East Timor as the Prime Minister of Australia, not as a representative of Queen Elizabeth.
An analysis of what the Prime Minister said in his letter to various people shows that it is not an argument against change but an argument for change. We are no longer here to be told, as Winston Churchill told Curtin in 1942, not to send the troops back to Australia but to send them to India so that we can fight the battle in Burma. That is no longer the case. Our future rests in Asia. Our future in terms of defence rests with the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America. Once again I hold up the tie and say, "This is where we stand."
There are few threats to Australia’s security. If the Prime Minister can make a decision about Timor and be held in high esteem as the Prime Minister of an independent country, why do people need to worry about whether they want to retain a monarch in Britain as Head of State? Everyone has debated the issue. I heard the Deputy Premier, Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing say that he will vote no for the preamble. I support his argument, which was overwhelming, and I will vote no as well. However, I will vote yes for a republic. If the referendum does not succeed, my children and grandchildren will probably make the decision about becoming a republic.
Wake up, Australia! We are an independent nation comprising many nationalities. The time has come to throw off what has been part of our lives for so long and to become a truly independent nation. At the same time we should not throw off those institutions that have served us so well, such as our democratic Parliament, our judicial system and our Executive Government. They are great things. The time for change has come. I commend the motion for a yes vote to the House.
(Bligh) [8.35 p.m.]: The democratically elected representatives of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly are participating in an important debate today. I commend the Premier for taking this initiative, and I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe this is an important debate for Australians as we enter a new century. I support previous speakers who said that our system of government has served us well. At the turn of the century it is important that we examine and debate what system will serve us well into the next century.
My regret about the process to date is that the debate has been limited and that we seem to be inching forward cautiously. I support other speakers who have put forward the view, as have many Australians, that it is no longer appropriate for an absent monarch to be involved, no matter how limited that involvement, in the affairs of a nation that is independent in every other respect. Indeed, the more limited or minimal the role, the fewer reasons there are for retaining an absent monarch as Head of State. Despite the claims by the constitutional monarchists that the Governor-General is Australia’s Head of State, section 2 of the Australian Constitution states:
A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.
That means that an absent monarch is responsible for formally appointing our Head of State, although by convention she acts on the advice of her Prime Minister. I agree with those Australians who say that this is no longer appropriate at the end of the twentieth century. It is appropriate that our Head of State be Australian, appointed by the Australian community either directly by popular election or indirectly by our elected representatives.
As I said, my regret is that the debate has been limited up to this point. There is only one model on offer. At no time during the process were the Australian people given the opportunity to directly choose their preferred model, and I sympathise with all those Australians who want the opportunity to directly elect their president. While I share these
concerns, I believe that, faced with a choice between becoming a republic or continuing with an hereditary monarchy at the end of the twentieth century, the only choice for any thinking Australian is that of a republic.
I acknowledge the passionate commitment to democracy of Ted Mack, who is a former member of this Parliament, and I support his stand and his commitment to democracy. However, this time I have chosen to differ from him in approach. Unlike Ted Mack, I believe that a yes vote for a republic must be seen as the first step in constitutional reform. I certainly identify as a supporter of the "Yes . . . and more" campaign. The Constitutional Convention overwhelmingly recognised the need for further discussion about the Constitution. On its final day the convention adopted the following resolution:
The Convention also resolved that, if a republican system of government should be introduced by referendum, at a date being not less than three years or more than five years thereafter the Commonwealth Government should convene a further Constitutional Convention.
Two-thirds of such Convention should be directly elected by the people.
The agenda of such Convention would be to:
Review the operation and effectiveness of any republican system of government introduced by a constitutional referendum;
Address any other matter related to the operation of our system of government under republican arrangements, including: the role of the three tiers of government; the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; whether the Commonwealth should have an environment power; the system of governance and proportional representation; whether the mechanism for constitutional change should be altered; constitutional aspects of indigenous reconciliation; equal representation of women and men in parliament; and ways to better involve people in the political process.
The Convention be preceded by an extensive and properly resourced community consultation process, to commence within twelve months of the passage of a referendum to establish a republic, in which ideas and responses on the above matters would be actively sought by the Government and Parliament.
I remind honourable members that the Constitutional Convention supported this resolution more strongly than it supported the model that was ultimately adopted. A constitutional convention which was held in accordance with this resolution would have to discuss the issues identified by the "Yes . . . and More" campaign. It should consider - these are some of the things we should be debating at this time - a bill of rights, direct election of the President, and the interrelationship of the tiers of government, including the place of local government. It is my personal view that we are overgoverned and that we should remove at least one tier of government. State and local governments should be replaced by regional governments so that there are only two tiers of government.
I strongly support the proposal for a second convention. Some argue that we do not need such a convention, that it would usurp Parliament’s role. I disagree. The Parliament continues to be dominated by tightly controlled political parties, which limits the opportunity for wide-ranging discussion. A second convention is a way of involving people who are outside the political process - because they are not part of the party structure or have other priorities - but who would like to contribute. Issues could be debated openly and freely without debate being restricted to the usual party lines. The model developed for the New South Wales Drug Summit and the 1998 Constitutional Convention should be adopted for the second convention.
A benefit of the present situation is that the Australian public is now becoming involved in the debate about how we are governed. People will want to continue that involvement in the development of the debate of how we should move into the next century. I turn to the implications of the referendum for New South Wales. I share the view that it would be untenable for New South Wales to retain links with the monarchy. It would no longer be appropriate for the Queen to appoint the Governor of New South Wales. Clearly, we would have to adopt a new method of appointment. The New South Wales Attorney General said in his speech to the Constitutional Convention:
I favour appointment by the president of the Commonwealth on the advice of the State Premier. However, in such an arrangement it would have to be crystal clear that neither the president nor the Commonwealth Government would have any discretion to decline to make an appointment or make it in any way other than in accordance with the wishes of the State Premier. The same would apply in relation to removal, although I have an open mind on whether or not the State lower House of Parliament should have the power to dismiss the Governor.
The Attorney supported "as little change as practicable". That is the only virtue of the position he took. Why should the choice of State Governor be a matter for the Premier alone? Why cannot other options be canvassed? If the model is appropriate for the Commonwealth why should it not be appropriate for New South Wales? Why should New South Wales not experiment with direct election, as was suggested recently by Professor George Winterton?
Assuming that the referendum is carried, why can there not be a public debate over the next 12 months to determine the best model for New South Wales, with the people of New South Wales ultimately deciding in a referendum? I ask the Premier to respond to these issues in reply to the debate. Notwithstanding the limitations of the current debate, I urge all Australians to vote yes and more on 6 November.
(Heffron) [8.44 p.m.]: I support the motion because I want to be on the historical record as one who supported a truly independent nation. It is important for my children’s children. I strongly believe that this is the way our nation must go. It is just another step in our progress. We have had a number. We go back to the days of Anzac and the Second World War when our leadership stood up for the interests of this country. In determining our identity, our future self-esteem and direction, we should vote yes in the referendum for Australia to become a republic.
The yes vote does not pose a threat to our Constitution. I am dismayed at the amount of misinformation provided to the community. Many mature, intelligent adults - people I have known for many long years - are totally confused, intimidated and fearful because of what has been said. It has been claimed that there may be some loophole that will allow our Constitution to be changed to do some terrible thing that has not been identified in the future of this nation. It is most disappointing.
I have been extremely disappointed at the role played by the Prime Minister. I forecast in the House tonight that he will go down in the history books as the person who made a strong attempt to confuse and mislead the Australian people in this debate. He has contributed to the great confusion and, along with those supporting the monarchy, he has allowed people to become threatened and frightened about what would happen if we became a republic. There is no need for confusion as there is great safety on this issue. I hope that many Australians who are still undecided on how to vote will make a sensible decision on 6 November and vote for an Australian republic.
The monarchists are so beholden to the monarchy - yet dare not speak their name - and have done us no favours in this debate. The forebears of all Australians, apart from our indigenous people, came to this country from somewhere. Many came not because they wanted to. My earliest forebear was a small boy of 16 transported for life to this country in 1827 from Manchester. It is a bit of a furphy that members of my family have entirely Irish blood running in our veins. My great-great-grandfather never returned to his native shores. I am very grateful that he was sent here, by the way. We came from that stock. Others came from many other parts of the world to make Australia their home. We have a right to have an Australia that is a free, independent nation.
I have to say that it galls me to have to take the oath of office as currently required. In the years I have been in the Parliament I have seen a change in attitude. There was a very different climate in Australia 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, at that time one expected a member of the monarchy or the royal family to come to this country for the opening of the Olympic Games. That was the 1950s. In the 1990s even our Prime Minister, despite his view on this issue, understands that we have passed that moment. I have no problem about the Prime Minister being made our Head of State. However, I believe that this country needs to have a Constitution that allows an Australian-born person the opportunity to aspire to lead this nation. I strongly support the motion.
(Hawkesbury) [8.50 p.m.]: On 6 November the people of Australia will be asked a deceptively simple question. Like so many other questions of its kind, the superficial simplicity hides a multitude of conflicting and confusing elements. In such an instance the people have little option but to respond with a resounding no vote - which I am sure they will. The referendum is the essential product of the Constitutional Convention which was held in 1998. The convention was asked to consider the wrong questions, and it inevitably came up with the wrong answers. In doing so, it produced an outcome which was contested when it should have been a consensus, partisan when it should have been impartial, and divisive when it should have been connective.
There is little doubt that, 100 years on, the constitutional document fashioned by our founding fathers needs to be revised and updated. It needs to be brought up to date not to satisfy the cultural idiosyncrasies of those who see monarchies as out of date, nor a Head of State who is a resident in another country as anathema, but to serve the citizens of Australia better. Does the referendum question address this goal? Certainly not! It firstly seeks our approval to establish a republic. But what form of republic? Australia is, by general definition if not by name, already a republic. The word "republic" is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary
, second revised edition, as:
1. a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them. 2. any body of persons, etc., viewed as a commonwealth. 3. a state, especially a democratic state, in which the head of government is an elected or nominated president, not a hereditary monarch.
While Australia may be said to fall outside the third element of the definition, the more important democratic criteria are clearly met. In contrast, many countries which carry the word "republic" within their name fail these important tests. If Australia is, to all intents and purposes, a republic, where are the benefits of establishing a republic in name alone? How will it improve the lot of the average Australian? In its breathtaking simplicity does the question conceal a hidden or, at best, undetermined agenda? Could anyone imagine that establishing a republic simply implies a name change?
To vote yes to the first arm of the question is to hand to persons as yet unidentified carte blanche authority to create a new structure of government. To vote yes to the second arm is to cede the power to Federal politicians to select a Head of State under a criterion that is as yet undefined. Whatever may have been otherwise spoken or written about the selection criteria, the referendum question gives the people neither guidance nor security. The politicians will be free to create their own criteria.
This is a most unsatisfactory situation. Any move towards a republic, or any other government structure, should only follow extensive community consultation and presentation to the community of at least the fundamental structure, if not all the minutiae, and the principles upon which that structure has been founded. The referendum question offers nothing but a blank cheque which will then be spent on the winds of chance. This is simply not good enough. The proposal is clouded by uncertainty and must be strongly rejected.
Our founding fathers enshrined a very important principle in the Constitution Act 1900 - that is, that any change to the Constitution should be by referendum, with the right to reject any proposal which is unclear or unacceptable. Australia is one of the very few countries where constitutional change can be achieved only by referendum. To ensure balance between States of different size, a referendum will succeed only if it is carried by a majority of voters in a majority of States. The people have a right to be consulted on a variety of issues which have emerged as needing to be addressed. But these are essentially housekeeping matters.
By world standards, our democracy functions very well. We have free elections which would meet any accountability test, our parliamentary deliberations are open to the public, our politicians are as accessible as any politicians in the world, we have a strong judicial system and a free press. There is no need for radical restructuring. Nor should we be swayed by the argument that a successful no vote will set back the process of reform many years. A responsible process of reform could commence the following day. Indeed, a strong no vote could well be the clearest indication that the people want a comprehensive, consultative and inclusive reform process, with perhaps a series of intelligent and intelligible referenda building the process of change.
Not the least of the necessary housekeeping improvements which should be considered is the relationship of the States to the Commonwealth. Very few people understand, and even fewer appreciate, the great value in having State governments. The real thrust of centralism is founded not in the desire to create a system which will provide better governments, but the simple and naked lust for power. The essence of democracy lies in its checks and balances, the constraint on any particular element of power gaining sufficient strength to either dictate its terms without a curb or to make decisions oblivious to the wishes of the people. Sir Winston Churchill said of democracy:
Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
The Macquarie Dictionary
defines the word "democracy" as:
1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. 2. a state having such a form of government. 3. (in a restricted sense) a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them rather than by elected representatives. See republic. 4. a state of society characterised by formal equality of rights and privileges. 5. political or social equality; democratic spirit. 6. the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.
The power of the people is based on consensus of thought and the will of the majority. It seeks to provide equality of opportunity to the able-bodied and succour to the weak. The push to a centralist government in a country as diverse in its nature, its needs and its distances as Australia is a push to strip from the people their political and social equality. The heart of the matter to which we should now be
addressing ourselves is the elements of a free and expressive electoral process, the formal acknowledgment of the equality of rights and privileges for all our people before the law, and the political and social equality of all our people as a community.
In examining the adequacy of our current Constitution we must ask three basic questions. Does it define the democratic principles and social justice aspirations which we hold as essential in a free and just society? Does it provide a system of fundamental principles for a governance which will deliver these principles and aspirations? Does it contain a guardianship which provides a basic guarantee that the system of governance remains democratic and responsive? The Constitution Act 1900 does not address the first question, it imperfectly addresses the second, and it partly addresses the third. Nor does it satisfactorily address the role and powers of the States within a Federation. This is not a criticism of the authors of the Constitution. They met the charter of their time. But it is the ninth-oldest Constitution in the world, and, although it has served us well, we live in a different time.
It is necessary to place the drafting of the Constitution in its historical context. At the time it was a mechanism to create an overarching sovereign entity which would undertake those elements of government better administered at a national political level without unnecessary intrusion into the sovereignty of the individual States. For this reason jurisdictional power was divided into areas exclusive to the Commonwealth - those of joint jurisdiction, with residual powers in unspecified areas residing in the States. Constant referral to the High Court for constitutional interpretation signifies a lack of clear definition as well as the need to reframe the Constitution, with the benefit of a century of experience, to make it a more clearly understood document.
In other words, we should now address those elements which today assume an importance which simply did not exist a century ago. We need also to reframe our State constitutions as companion documents. The process of evolving such a new constitutional framework requires a new sense of purpose, time, integrity, and extensive consultation as equal and intertwining elements. While some of these ingredients are present in part, the present debate and process have been flawed by their absence in full measure. This is why the referendum should be soundly defeated, the desk cleared and the process recommenced, without the millennium hype which is inconsequential to producing a result which will be lasting and meaningful to the people of Australia.
If democratic government is that form in which the supreme power is vested in the people, exercised on an ongoing basis by their elected representatives, it implies Parliament is openly accountable to the will of the people. Efficacious accountability, however, lies in the conscience of both the people and their representatives. No piece of paper will on its own safeguard the freedom, rights and privileges of the country’s citizens. It is essential that the people respect their Constitution and its first-born institution, the Parliament. It is this respect which fashions both the shield which protects and the sword which defends.
Our system of government is based on four elements which are variously defined by statute and common law as to their place and power. These are the Crown, the Parliament, the Executive and the judiciary. The Crown is more than recognition of the Head of State. The Crown is the embodiment of the sovereign State’s corporate identity, its property, powers, rights and obligations. It is a corporation sole which is the people. The Parliament is comparable to a shareholders’ representative group, the Executive a board of management, the judiciary its watchdog. No constitution in Australia clearly defines these roles. In today’s context the necessity for such definition has now assumed major importance.
(Wyong - Parliamentary Secretary) [9.00 p.m.]: Today in Melbourne, at about the same time as Sir James Killen and the Hon. N. K. Wran were addressing this Chamber, there was a meeting of conservatives for an Australian Head of State. The people who spoke at that meeting, I am reliably informed, included Mr Peter Costello, Andrew Robb, Malcolm Fraser and Tony Staley. They spoke of the need for a yes vote in the referendum to be held on 6 November. Refreshingly, the case that those people put was somewhat compelling. Malcolm Fraser spoke about the argument that our Governor-General is effectively our Head of State. This is a direct quote from what was said by Malcolm Fraser:
Well, he isn’t. And I hope the PM 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 PM’s mind he is not our Head of State.
That is a transcript of part of a broadcast of the World at Noon
heard on 2BL today. Peter Costello, who was at the same meeting, said:
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, don’t we, that something is wrong, something jars. It didn’t jar in 1956 when Prince Phillip performed the opening of the Melbourne Olympics. In our society at that time it was a unifying concept, but it isn’t today.
And to say that because we have a problem we will somehow define away this issue of a 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.
It is refreshing that conservatives are advocating the yes case on this occasion. In 1930 the Scullin Government proposed, for the first time, that an Australian be our Governor-General. The conservatives, in unison, opposed the appointment of an Australian as Governor-General. The arguments advanced then are instructive on the question that we face today. But it is good to see that some conservatives - I would argue they are not conservatives but rather liberal in the best sense of the word - coming out and supporting a yes case. Let me look back through some of our history books. In that respect I quote sections of Manning Clark’s A History of Australia
, volume 6:
Mr Deakin did not like him. To Deakin, Isaac Isaacs’ face was not handsome, his figure was ungainly and his nostrils quivered when men said unpleasant things to him . . . but the exclusion from ‘Yarraside’ and clubland . . . was one of the many qualities which commended him to a Labor Government.
He said of the conservatives:
On 24 April the Opposition returned to the attack. John Latham, the leader of the Federal Opposition, said the question was not whether an Australian could discharge the duties of the position, the question was whether it was wise or right to change, particularly at the present time, the relations now existing between the Empire and the Commonwealth. The conservatives did not wish to encourage any ‘strident and narrow Australian jingoism’. The conservatives, as ever, were ‘not now’ or ‘some other time’ men.
Thankfully, that is not so on this occasion; two political parties are not opposing the issue. Generally speaking, members of the Labor Party strongly support the yes vote, while a number of people on the conservative side of politics also support the yes case. I do not intend to traverse some of the issues that have been dealt with by other honourable members, such as the Second World War, but I would like to go back to the period just before the war. I quote from page 477 of Manning Clark’s publication:
In January 1935 the Lyons Government decided that for the first time the States would celebrate Australia Day in unison.
That was a conservative government, and that was a remarkable change. Manning Clark said further:
The Solicitor-General for Victoria, Ian MacFarlan, said . . . Australia . . . was in the Empire because London was a good market for Australian wool, wheat, butter, eggs and meat. He wanted every Australian to arm for defence, adding that there was no need for Australians to be either fascists or communists. That was something for nations in decline.
Manning Clark went on to say:
Create a federal constitution, and meat will be cheaper. Now the argument ran: remain within the Empire, become a butcher-boy or a dairy-maid, or a wool-gatherer for the British, and never be invaded.
Other honourable members have quite eloquently pointed out some of the problems that emerged with the Second World War. On the front page of yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald
the former Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony outlined the very reason that the yes case should be carried. Doug Anthony pointed out that since Britain joined the common market on 1 January 1973 everything MacFarlan said in 1935 no longer obtained, it had become totally irrelevant. The fact is that for nearly 25 years we have been struggling with a system that has become antiquated, and increasingly so. There is no reason for considering trade with Britain because it joined the common market, as it then was. People like Doug Anthony recognised this. I am pleased that they do because they are putting forward cogent and lucid arguments as to why the yes case as proposed should be successful.
During the debate we heard that if an Australian became Governor-General the world would cave in. We overcame that problem. Today, no-one in this country seriously considers that a non-Australian should be Governor-General. It is logical that we take the next step to formalise an arrangement so that our Head of State can be a unifying and binding force for our entire community. That would not be achieved if a directly elected President were the modus operandi for selecting a President. There are in the proposal put forward in the yes case sufficient checks and balances to ensure that we have a system of which we can be proud. In conclusion, I can do no better than reiterate the comments of Malcolm Fraser and Peter Costello. If the people on the no side of the argument are so convinced they are right, why will they not have the Queen open the Olympics next year?
(Dubbo) [9.09 p.m.]: I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the
Opposition. Like the Leader of the Opposition, I will vote yes to both questions in the referendum on 6 November. Australia is a great country that has been governed by excellent governments. But there comes a time when we have to look forward, a time for change. The Hon. Neville Wran said that about 10 years ago people considered that the time had come. I will not dwell on the word "time"; it carries certain connotations from a Federal election campaign slogan "It’s Time". That was a time for change, and the Whitlam Government was elected.
As the Hon. Neville Wran said today, the time has come. Australia has reached the stage where it should become a republic. Although we appreciate our Constitution, it is time for us to look forward. I listened to the debate and found that the monarchists’ arguments lacked substance. They raised various arguments about the election of a President and the power of the Prime Minister. They paint a picture that members of Parliament are a bit suss. Such an argument is ridiculous. We, as politicians, represent the people of Australia, both in the State and Federal parliaments.
A person will be selected for the office of President by two-thirds of the Parliament, and there will be a committee and consultation with the Prime Minister. That demonstrates the safeguards in the model. A politician cannot be made President. Members of political parties on both sides of this House and Independents cannot be involved in the race to become President of Australia. Australians look forward to entering a new era next year. We live in the best continent in the world and have a positive outlook and vision. It is disappointing to think that the monarchists have waged a fear campaign.
As I said in my opening remarks, I support the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition. It is up to the people of my electorate to vote as they wish. When I stood for election as an Independent I declared that I was a republican, and the people in my community accepted that. However, I do not want to impose my views on my electorate. Therefore, I will support the amendment.
(Londonderry) [9.13 p.m.]: Last Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Australian Labor Party launch of the yes campaign at Blacktown. It was an emotional day. Kim Beazley made an emotional speech and Gough Whitlam was in attendance. It brought back memories of that day in 1972 when I stood in the same place when Gough Whitlam launched the successful "It’s Time" campaign for the Federal election. The sentiments expressed during that campaign were expressed again last Sunday. I was pleased and proud to be a part of the campaign.
There have been many excellent contributions to this debate. I compliment the Hon. Neville Wran, who conducted his speech with great dignity. The Hon. Sir James Killen also made an excellent speech. Their contributions opened up the debate and set the guidelines for members to express their opinions on this most important matter. Many people will consider this debate more seriously than others. I certainly will.
Almost 34 years ago I left Belfast, Northern Ireland, to escape the problems of the province, which had culminated in violence on the streets. When I came to this country I was amazed to find that this advanced community still paid homage to the Queen of England. It is an anathema that on the two occasions that I was elected to Blacktown City Council I had to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen of Australia, hence the Queen of England. I was elected to this House and again on two occasions I have had to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen of England.
The Queen is a wonderful lady and performs great works for her constituency of England; I do not take that away from her. She is an outstanding citizen, but she is not an outstanding citizen of Australia. The people of this country - and immigrants make up a fair percentage - have a right to express their opinion. Their opinion on 6 November will be that the Queen of England should not be the head of Australia. They will make that decision and express that opinion. On many occasions today honourable members have tried to muddy the waters. That has been the tactic of the monarchists throughout their campaign. They have tried to muddy the waters because they will not win the issue on its merits. The way they have run their campaign has been downright deceitful.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order. Since entering the Chamber five minutes ago he has indulged in an unrelenting barrage of interjection. Such behaviour is intolerable. The honourable member will remain silent.
The monarchists have been deceitful. They could not win the argument on the merits of their case and have latched on to every opportunity to thwart the decision that will be made on 6 November. I have not been impressed by their many contributions that I have viewed live on television. They cannot and will not win their case on its merits. The case will not be muddied, and the constituents of Australia will win.
The Premier put it extremely well when he said it is a simple but grand question: Do we want an Australian to be Australia’s Head of State? That is it. There is no hidden agenda, nothing surreptitious about it. I believe the Australian people will give a resounding yes on 6 November. Of all the excellent contributions that were made, I was particularly impressed by the contribution of the honourable member for Miranda, who related the story of John Newcombe playing in the Davis Cup at the tender age of 17, and being asked by his opponent, "Who are we playing today?" We are a nation without an identity.
Unless we have our own Head of State, set our own agenda and direction we will miss out on what is important to us. We are voting for an independent free nation. In the creation of the Federation the people decided that Australia would be an independent nation. That day is close. I am proud and pleased that I will cast a vote to make my contribution to achieve an independent nationhood for Australia.
Question - That the words stand - put.
The House divided.
Ms Allan Mr McManus
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Ms Andrews Ms Meagher
Mr Aquilina Ms Megarrity
Mr Ashton Mr Mills
Mr Barr Ms Moore
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Black Mr Murray
Mr Brown Mr Nagle
Ms Burton Mr Newell
Mr Campbell Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Collier Mr E. T. Page
Mr Crittenden Mr Price
Mr Face Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Mrs Grusovin Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Tripodi
Mr Hickey Mr Watkins
Mr Hunter Mr Whelan
Mr Iemma Mr Woods
Mr Knight Mr Yeadon
Mrs Lo Po’ Tellers
Mr Lynch Mr Anderson
Mr McBride Mr Thompson
Mr Armstrong Mr Piccoli
Mr Brogden Mr Richardson
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr George Ms Seaton
Mr Glachan Mrs Skinner
Mr Hazzard Mr Slack-Smith
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Souris
Mr Humpherson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr R. W. Turner
Mr Merton Mr Webb
Mr Oakeshott Mr Windsor
Mr O’Doherty Tellers
Mr O’Farrell Mr Fraser
Mr D. L. Page Mr R. H. L. Smith
Mr Markham Ms Chikarovski
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Order! On behalf of the Minister for Education and Training I welcome His Excellency Mr Ives de Barro, High Commissioner of the Republic of Malta, Mrs Ann de Barro, Mr Lawrence Dimech, Consul-General for the Republic of Malta, and Mrs Marlene Dimech, who are present in the gallery.
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training) [9.32 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The State Revenue Legislation Further Amendment Bill contains amendments to five revenue Acts. The primary purpose of the proposed amendments is to abolish liability to the accommodation levy from 1 July 2000, as part of the national tax reform
proposals. The bill also contains significant anti-avoidance provisions for payroll tax, and improvements to the administrative provisions for other taxes, including stamp duties and health insurance levies.
I will deal with the amendments to each tax in turn. The accommodation levy amendments will abolish liability to the accommodation levy from 1 July 2000, as part of the national tax reform proposals detailed in the Intergovernmental Agreement for the Reform of Commonwealth-State Financial Relations. The bill contains transitional provisions to ensure that the levy is paid on all amounts payable for accommodation provided prior to 1 July 2000 and to allow for the lodgment of a final return. By putting these amendments in place now, the Government is providing taxpayers with time to prepare for abolition of the levy.
The Accommodation Levy Act currently requires a review of the Act to be presented to Parliament by 1 September 2003. It is proposed instead to repeal the Act with effect from that date to allow the Office of State Revenue and taxpayers time to complete refund applications and other outstanding administrative matters. The bill provides a number of additional concessions under the Duties Act. The first is to allow full deferment of duty payable on off-the-plan transactions.
Last year the Government provided deferment of duty to purchasers who acquired property off the plan. This allowed purchasers to pay only 5 per cent of the duty on an agreement, with the balance payable on completion of the purchase or within 12 months of the agreement. This scheme has proved popular, with approximately 100 purchasers applying for the concession each week. The bill will eliminate the need to pay 5 per cent of the duty up front, which will allow all of the duty to be deferred for a maximum period of 12 months. This change will benefit taxpayers as well as provide administrative savings to the Office of State Revenue.
Another new concession will be provided where joint owners of property are in dispute and a trustee is appointed to sell the property. If sold to one of the previous joint owners, duty is currently payable on the value of the entire property transferred. The proposed amendments will ensure that duty is not payable on an agreement for sale or transfer to the extent that the property is already beneficially owned by the purchaser. In addition, the Treasurer announced in this year’s budget a 50 per cent discount for early payment by participants under the deferred payment option of the First Home Purchase Scheme. The bill will validate that concession, with effect from 23 June 1999.
The bill also clarifies concessions for duty on instruments and transactions that occur as part of the conversion of managed funds to a managed investment scheme; the marketable securities duty payable on nomineeing transactions, including combinations of transfers between beneficial owners, trustees, nominees, custodians and subcustodians; the liability to duty of instalment warrants, which are a type of marketable security that is traded on the stock exchange; and the payment of mortgage duty under debenture trust issues.
These amendments merely confirm current administrative arrangements under existing concessions. The bill also includes provisions to streamline the administration of the scheme for exemption from duty for demonstrator motor vehicles. The bill provides that the chief commissioner may enter arrangements to issue exemption authorities for the registration of demonstrator motor vehicles. An agreement has been reached with the Motor Traders Association to issue the authority forms on behalf of the chief commissioner. This will reduce the administration costs of the Exemption Authority Scheme while providing a basis for improved service to motor dealers. The amended provisions also clarify the limits on the use of exemption authorities, and authorise the chief commissioner to recover any duty that would otherwise be payable.
In relation to health insurance levies, the State ambulance insurance plan is one way to obtain inexpensive insurance cover for the use of ambulances. The bill will effectively change the basis of calculation of payments under the scheme from a contributions basis to a membership basis, and will require returns to be lodged on the fifteenth of each month in the same manner as the health insurance levy. The bill contains a transitional provision to ensure that agents are not required to pay twice on members whose contributions were received prior to the commencement of these provisions on 1 February 2000.
The bill introduces two new anti-avoidance measures dealing with specific payroll tax avoidance practices. The first relates to the use of phoenix companies to avoid the payment of outstanding tax. These are companies that are wound up by the directors to avoid paying debts, including State taxes. However, in many instances the same directors or other persons associated with the business immediately start up another company to carry on the same sort of business. This practice has been a particular concern in the construction industry, where some subcontractors are obtaining a competitive advantage by not paying taxes and workers compensation payments. Furthermore,
several million dollars of revenue are at risk if this avoidance practice is allowed to continue.
The amendments, which are based in part on Commonwealth legislation, provide that when a company has not paid its tax as required in a notice of assessment, the Chief Commissioner of State Revenue may serve notice on the directors and certain former directors, stating that they will be jointly and severally liable to the tax if the default has not been rectified within a specified period. The default can be rectified by paying the tax, making an arrangement with the chief commissioner for the payment of the tax, appointing an administrator of the company, or causing the company to be wound up.
The effect of the proposed amendments would be to impose a greater responsibility on directors to ensure that the companies comply with their payroll tax obligations. The options available to rectify a default will ensure that there cannot be an unfair application of the provisions to the directors of companies whose businesses are in genuine financial difficulty. It should be emphasised that this is not a general anti-avoidance provision, but is aimed at increasing the amount of tax recovered from employers who deliberately default on their payroll tax obligations.
However, the proposed legislation does differ from the equivalent Commonwealth legislation to the extent that the liability only falls on directors who have been served with a notice. The provisions apply to current directors as well as persons who were directors at the time the tax default occurred. However, former directors who have ceased to be directors at the time of commencement of these provisions are specifically excluded from liability under these provisions. The proposed amendments include defences for directors who take reasonable steps to ensure that the company complies with its obligations.
The second new provision closes a potential loophole in the payroll tax exemptions for employment agents. Employment agents are liable for payroll tax on wages paid to contract workers who are provided to a client under an employment agency contract. An exemption applies if the client is not liable for payroll tax because total wages do not exceed the registration threshold. This exemption was introduced following submissions from small business. There is evidence to show, however, that employers and agents are abusing the threshold exemption by entering into arrangements whereby the employer’s total wages are maintained below the registration threshold, and additional workers are provided under one or more agency contracts.
The amendments in the bill will ensure that the exemption only applies when a written declaration has been provided by the client to the agent stating that the client is not registered, is not required to be registered or would not be required to be registered if all agency contract wages were considered in determining the threshold exemption. If a false declaration is provided, or if circumstances change at any time after a declaration is provided, the client, not the agent, will have responsibility for the payroll tax. These amendments provide greater certainty for employment agents, and ensure that employers do not abuse the exemptions provided to agents.
The Taxation Administration Act provides that a taxpayer may object to an assessment or decision within 60 days of receiving a notice of assessment or notice of decision. An increasing number of taxpayers who have not availed themselves of this provision within the time allowed are requesting a refund of tax with the intention of receiving a notice of decision against which they can lodge an objection. The mere refusal to grant a refund is not a statutory decision and was not intended to be subject to a right to object. A taxpayer’s right to a refund arises solely from having paid more tax than has been assessed.
To confirm this approach, the bill provides that the refusal to make a refund is not a decision against which an objection may be made. This does not compromise the overwhelming thrust of the Taxation Administration Act in which decisions, as a rule, are reviewable. Consistent with the Government’s long-established approach to revenue legislation, this bill has been developed in consultation with various industry and professional groups affected by the amendments contained in the bill. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING AND ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Marrickville - Deputy Premier, Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [9.43 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill is an example of good housekeeping. The House may remember that in 1997 the Government
brought forward the most wide-ranging reform of development, building and subdivision control in the past 20 years. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act 1997 integrated building, subdivision and development control in New South Wales, provided for private certifiers to compete with local councils, and integrated key State agency approvals within the unified system for development control. For me, the continuing implementation of these reforms remains a top priority.
This bill will make the system introduced by the 1997 Act work better. Since I became Minister I have been listening to councils, industry and other users of the development assessment system talk about the 1997 reforms. I will continue to listen to them. In this bill I am responding to some of their concerns. The bill does not make wholesale changes to part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. After the dramatic change in 1997, major changes now would be inappropriate. Improvements to the development assessment system must now be incremental and evolutionary. They must meet a demonstrated need. This bill focuses on a few key areas where the need for change has been demonstrated and where change will make the Act work better.
This bill also makes amendments in areas not covered by the 1997 amendment Act. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 has a broad scope and provides the structure for resolving complex issues. It is about planning for a better environment, jobs and livable communities. It is about delivering these outcomes. More than 200 State and local authorities and more than 100 accredited certifiers must comply with the Act as they undertake their statutory responsibilities. The Act deals with many issues outside development assessment. It remains a comprehensive system for land use planning and environmental impact assessment for this State. It must be updated from time to time to ensure that it remains an effective tool for the delivery of diverse outcomes.
Parliamentary Counsel has grouped the amendments into schedules according to subject matter and importance. Schedule 1 deals with affordable housing. Schedule 2 deals with development funds. These amendments augment those already provided for in the Act. Schedules 3 and 7 deal mainly with the modification of development consents, while schedule 4 contains substantive amendments to part 4 and other parts of the Act. Schedules 5 and 6 contain amendments by way of statute law revision and of a savings and transitional nature.
These amendments are more fully explained in the explanatory note attached to the bill. Finally, schedule 8 updates outdated references in the model provisions made under the Act. Local councils use the model provisions to assist them in preparing their local environmental plans. The explanatory note to the bill deals with these amendments comprehensively. The amendments in schedule 1 remove any doubt that the planning system is a tool that can provide for and maintain affordable housing through planning instruments. The bill will amend the Act to expressly recognise affordable housing as an object of the Act and a matter for the planning process.
The existing objects of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 already include the proper management development and conservation of natural and artificial resources for the purpose of promoting the social and economic welfare of the community and a better environment. Providing and maintaining affordable housing is one aspect of that broad object. Housing affordability is primarily a measure of housing costs, whether they be rents or mortgage repayments, against household income. Very low-income to moderate-income households generally have to spend a greater proportion of their income on housing costs than households that are better off. This often leaves those households unable to meet other essential costs for food, clothing, power and medical care.
All honourable members may know from their own experience over the past few years that housing affordability in Sydney is a real and increasing problem. It is a problem that also affects those in regional and rural areas. Honourable members will understand how difficult it is for households on very low, low or moderate incomes to meet increasing housing costs. During 1996 and 1997 a ministerial task force looked at declining housing affordability in New South Wales. It reported that an estimated 250,000 low-income to moderate-income households in New South Wales were experiencing difficulties in finding affordable accommodation privately.
There was increasing inequity in the location of the supply of affordable housing for lower-income households. Lower-income households were becoming increasingly concentrated in specific areas. Access to affordable and appropriate housing for all households is important to the welfare of the community. The planning process must deliver a housing supply that promotes housing choice; a housing supply that meets the needs of households with different incomes within the one community; and a housing supply that supports equitable access to services, facilities and employment opportunities
for all households. In this way the planning system can enhance the quality of life for both individuals and communities.
Planning instruments made under the Act have been dealing with housing affordability issues for the past five years. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 is already well equipped to deliver housing affordability outcomes, in targeted communities, through local and regional planning instruments. The Act has been doing this in Pyrmont for some time under the city west regional environmental plan. The proposed amendments raise the profile of affordable housing in the planning process but do not extend the scope of the Act or the power to deal with housing affordability in planning instruments. Raising the profile is an essential step to ensure that planning authorities consider housing affordability outcomes when preparing their planning instruments.
The amendments will also include a definition of affordable housing in the Act for the first time and confirm planning authorities can provide and maintain affordable housing through planning instruments or, for some limited definitional matters, by regulation. Schedule 2 will amend the existing provisions relating to development funds under the Act. Historically, the development funds have been used to purchase land in greenfields areas to encourage or provide social infrastructure for these areas. People who moved to these areas would often be confronted with few services or public amenities.
The development funds have been used to provide basic commercial and community centres for these suburban pioneers. The development funds have also been used to acquire and enhance open space in development areas to prevent overdevelopment and improve public amenity. The funds are also the source of compensation paid to landowners when their land is acquired under a local planning instrument. Development funds will continue to fund these important tasks. Current programs funded through the Sydney Region Development Fund such as Greening Western Sydney and the Parramatta River Foreshore Improvement Program will continue.
The amendments included in the bill are in many ways a natural progression for development funds. The amendments will allow the use of development funds for limited additional purposes, but only for programs that improve public amenity by enhancing open space and the public domain. In some cases the development fund may be also used to work with local councils to provide infrastructure or facilities at a neighbourhood level. The Government has already announced the Urban Improvement Program. The Urban Improvement Program will provide an opportunity for State agencies and local councils to form partnerships to deliver real improvements to public amenity at the neighbourhood level. The program will kick-start the revitalisation of smaller neighbourhood centres. It will help implement the Government’s metropolitan strategy: "Shaping Our Cities".
The Urban Improvement Program will deliver real public amenity gains for communities. It will demonstrate best practice planning and urban design. The projects funded through the development funds will provide models and build outcomes for other local councils and their neighbourhoods. They will also provide the opportunity to implement the latest developments in planning and urban design. The new purposes for which development funds can be applied are strictly limited. The amendments require the Minister administering the Act to consider all likely future calls on particular development funds before authorising expenditure for either of these new purposes. As an added control, the Minister cannot delegate his responsibility to authorise the expenditure from the fund to anyone else.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, implementation of the 1997 development assessment reforms is also continuing. Our development assessment system must be efficient, effective and balanced: efficient so that business and employment is encouraged; effective to ensure that development is controlled and that communities can protect the areas they need to protect; and balanced so that our communities can thrive. The implementation of the 1997 reforms continues as local councils begin to use exempt and complying development in their local areas. As the number of private certifiers increases we are beginning to see the start of true competition in the certification of development. These aspects of the 1997 reforms will lead to a faster, simpler assessment process for routine development.
As well as implementing the reforms, I am listening and responding to those that use the new system. Reform of the development assessment system is a continuing process of finetuning. The amendments proposed by schedule 3 and certain amendments proposed by schedules 4 and 7 take a good housekeeping approach to the 1997 reforms. The changes will improve the operation of the development assessment system, but only where a need has been demonstrated.
The amendments in schedules 3 and 7 are a balanced response to the concerns of users of the
development assessment system. They will streamline the procedures for modifying development consents. They will deliver an appropriate level of assessment for these applications. They will end "development creep". The amendments will give councils more control and responsibility for advertising or notifying applications to modify consents that they receive. Under the amendments to section 72 councils will be able to provide for the advertising and notifying of applications to modify existing development consents in their development control plans.
The amendments do not affect the notification or advertising requirements for the original development application for the initial development proposal. There will be no changes in the safeguards that continue to ensure public participation when the original development proposal is considered. The changes only concern subsequent modifications of development consents that have already been subject to a full environmental assessment. Nevertheless, the regulations will still continue to control the requirements for advertising and notifying those applications to modify development consents when they relate to designated and other major development where the impacts of a modification may be significant.
The amendments will allow each council to provide an appropriate regime for advertising or notifying less significant applications to modify consents according to the significant environmental impacts of the modification and local concerns. The amendments will allow councils to opt for a streamlined assessment process for applications to modify consents where less significant impacts are involved. Other amendments in these schedules will introduce a simplified procedure for applications to modify development consents, but only where the modification will be of minimal environmental impact. Under the proposed section 96 (1A) consent authorities will still have to conduct a full environmental assessment as they would for more significant applications. However, the amendments will give councils the responsibility for providing their own regime of notification or advertising of these applications in their development control plans.
These amendments will provide an appropriate regime of assessment for modifications that arise from minor design changes to development between the original approval and the completion of the plans and specifications for construction of the development. Councils and other consent authorities will be able to choose a range of advertising or notification requirements appropriate to the impacts involved in the modification. The amendments give consent authorities flexibility in determining appropriate notification and advertising regimes for modifications.
They will have to take responsibility for the choices they make with their local communities. Nothing in the amendments will reduce the obligations on consent authorities to undertake an appropriate environmental, health and safety assessment of the proposed modifications when they receive an application. Until councils take control of these matters, they will be required to advertise and notify applications to modify a development consent in the same way as they advertised or notified the original consent.
Item  of schedule 3 reverses the legal effect of last year’s Court of Appeal decision in North Sydney Council v Michael Standly and Associates Pty Ltd
. The amendment will require consent authorities to compare the development as the applicant proposes to modify it with the development for which the consent authority originally granted consent. The amendment will give consent authorities the power to prevent development creep through the lodging of successive modification applications. The amendment will provide new certainty to developers and to local communities.
Other improvements to make the development assessment system work better are in schedule 4. The amendment to section 109F will move the requirement to be satisfied that the building and construction industry long service levy has been paid to the time the plans and specifications of buildings are complete. The requirement had previously been at the development assessment stage. It has proved inconvenient for consent authorities to administer. The amendments will still ensure the payment of the levy before construction commences, but in a way that is easier for councils.
The amendment to section 109C will bring design and other aspects of the development into the system of certification and proportionate liability introduced by the 1997 Act. The amendment to section 109ZG will promote a competitive market for certification between councils and private certifiers. It will enable councils to compete effectively with certifiers in those local areas where the council is not the consent authority for all development. The amendment will not weaken the stringent conflict of interest provisions that protect users of the system. The amendment to section 109ZJ will ensure that the proportionate liability provisions introduced in 1997 cannot be circumvented by plaintiffs only proceeding against
those defendants with the deepest pockets. The amendments to sections 79(5), 80(9), 80(10), 83 and 109J all correct anomalous requirements and provide greater clarity for users of the system.
Schedule 4 contains housekeeping amendments outside part 4 of the Act. The amendments will also make the Act work better. The amendment to section 4 allows documents, maps and plans brought into existence under the Act to be kept electronically. The proposed amendments to sections 105 and 121B will enable consent authorities to deal more effectively with billposters, particularly in relation to bills posted on poles. The order power relating to advertising has been extended to include those who pay others to put up unauthorised advertising. I also propose to amend the regulations under the Act to create a new offence dealing with unauthorised advertising. Consent authorities will be able to impose a $300 fine for the offence by penalty notice. Combined, the changes in the Act and the regulation will give consent authorities effective control of the problem for the first time.
Section 118J will be amended to ensure that occupiers of residential dwellings cannot prevent councils from issuing building certificates for properties by denying them access to inspect the building. This will remove an obstacle to some residential conveying matters. Section 126 will be amended to increase the maximum penalties of the worst kind of offence under the Act to $1.1 million. The amendments will make commensurate increases to the maximum recurring daily penalty under the Act and the maximum penalty for an offence under the regulation. This will bring the maximum penalties for the most serious offences under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 into line with those for the most serious offences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and the Heritage Act 1977. Part 7A will be amended to extend the good faith protection from liability for contaminated land to consent authorities and certifiers dealing with complying development.
There are also two amendments to part 5 of the Act which I wish to deal with. New section 115BAA introduces into part 5 division 4 a streamlined way of correcting minor errors, misdescriptions and miscalculations in ministerial approvals for government infrastructure projects. The provision will apply equally to existing and future approvals. A similar power was introduced by the 1997 amendment Act in respect of development consents. I want to extend the administrative benefits gained under part 4 to the approvals of the Minister under division 4 of part 5.
The new provision is as tightly circumscribed as that in section 96 (1). The Director-General of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning is still required to give the Minister an independent report on the correction proposed by the proponent, before any modification correcting the approval takes place. The amendment to section 121 extends the resolution procedures for disputes arising out of the Act to disputes between two public authorities where neither public authority is a council or the Director-General of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill is a practical response to issues that have arisen in the last two years. The bill is a response to some of the concerns voiced by users of the development assessment system. The bill builds on major reforms of the 1997 amendment Act, but it only amends that system where the need has been demonstrated. It will make the development assessment system work better. By recognising the provision and maintenance of affordable housing as an object of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act the bill will give fresh certainty to planning authorities so they can deliver affordable housing outcomes in their communities. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Brogden.
GAMBLING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING) BILL
Consideration of the Legislative Council’s amendments.
Schedule of amendments referred to in message of 26 October
No. 1 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 3:
 Section 64 Training courses for employees
Omit "operations" from section 64 (1). Insert instead "operations and responsible practices in relation to the conduct of gaming activities".
No. 2 Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 3:
 Section 76 Junkets and inducements
Insert at the end of section 76 (1):
(c) the offering to persons individually of inducements to apply for review of exclusion orders.
No. 3 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 3:
 Section 80 Review of exclusion order
Insert after section 80 (5):
(5A) The regulations may make provision for or with respect to matters to be taken into consideration by the Authority in making its decision with respect to an application for review of an exclusion order.
No. 4 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 3:
 Section 82 Duration and revocation of exclusion orders
Insert at the end of section 82:
(5) The regulations may make provision for or with respect to matters to be taken into consideration by the person who gave an exclusion order before the person decides to revoke the order.
No. 5 Page 4, schedule 1 , lines 1-3. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 6 Page 4, schedule 1 , lines 4-6. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 7 Page 4, schedule 1 , lines 7 and 8. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 8 Page 5, schedule 1 , lines 4-15. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 9 Page 9, schedule 2 . Insert after line 10:
(4) It is the intention of Parliament that regulations under this section will be made as soon as practicable after the date of assent to the Gambling Legislation Amendment (Responsible Gambling) Act 1999.
No. 10 Page 9, schedule 2. Insert after line 10:
Insert after section 125E:
125F Industry codes of practice
(1) For the purpose of providing practical guidance for the promotion of responsible practices in the conduct of gambling activities at licensed premises, the Minister is, within 6 months after the date of assent to the Gambling Legislation Amendment (Responsible Gambling) Act 1999, to approve an industry code of practice that sets out the standards to be observed by licensed premises for the responsible conduct of gambling activities.
(2) The Minister may approve as an industry code of practice any code, standard or document relating to such standards prepared or formulated by the Australian Hotels Association (NSW) or any other body or authority.
(3) The Minister may approve any amendment of the code of practice or revoke the approval of the code of practice.
(4) The Minister is to publish in the Gazette:
(a) the approved code of practice, and
(b) any approved amendment of the code of practice, and
(c) the revocation of an approval of a code of practice.
(5) The Minister is to cause a copy of the approved code of practice and, if any amendment to the code has been approved, a copy of the amendment, to be made available for inspection by members of the public without charge at the offices of the Department of Gaming and Racing during normal office hours.
No. 11 Page 17, schedule 4 . Insert after line 16:
(d) without limiting paragraph (c), the inclusion on each entry or ticket for a public lottery of:
(i) a warning notice about gambling, and
(ii) the name and contact details of a gambling counselling service specified, or of a kind specified, by the regulations.
No. 12 Page 17, schedule 4 . Insert after line 18:
(4) It is the intention of Parliament that regulations under this section will be made as soon as practicable after the date of assent to the Gambling Legislation Amendment (Responsible Gambling) Act 1999.
No. 13 Page 19, schedule 5 . Insert after line 15:
(d) the inclusion on each ticket, coupon, token or other thing sold or issued to a person for the purposes of placing a bet by a licensed bookmaker of:
(i) a warning notice about gambling, and
(ii) the name and contact details of a gambling counselling service specified, or of a kind specified, by the regulations.
No. 14 Page 22, schedule 6 . Insert after line 19:
(4) It is the intention of Parliament that regulations under this section will be made as soon as practicable after the date of assent to the Gambling Legislation Amendment (Responsible Gambling) Act 1999.
No. 15 Page 22, schedule 6. Insert after line 19:
44D Industry codes of practice
(1) For the purpose of providing practical guidance for the promotion of responsible practices in the conduct of gambling activities at registered clubs, the Minister is, within 6 months after the date of assent to the Gambling Legislation Amendment (Responsible Gambling) Act 1999, to approve an industry code of practice that sets out the standards to be observed by registered clubs for the responsible conduct of gambling activities.
(2) The Minister may approve as an industry code of practice any code, standard or document relating to such standards prepared or formulated by the Registered Clubs Association of NSW or any other body or authority.
(3) The Minister may approve any amendment of the code of practice or revoke the approval of the code of practice.
(4) The Minister is to publish in the Gazette:
(a) the approved code of practice, and
(b) any approved amendment of the code of practice, and
(c) the revocation of an approval of a code of practice.
(5) The Minister is to cause a copy of the approved code of practice and, if any amendment to the code has been approved, a copy of the amendment, to be made available for inspection by members of the public without charge at the offices of the Department of Gaming and Racing during normal office hours.
No. 16 Page 28, schedule 7 . Insert after line 19:
(d) the inclusion on each betting ticket issued by or on behalf of a licensee of:
(i) a warning notice about gambling, and
(ii) the name and contact details of a gambling counselling service specified, or of a kind specified, by the regulations.
No. 17 Page 28, schedule 7 . Insert after line 19:
(3) It is the intention of Parliament that regulations under this section will be made as soon as practicable after the date of assent to the Gambling Legislation Amendment (Responsible Gambling) Act 1999.
(Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [10.04 p.m.]: I move:
That the Committee agree to the Legislative Council’s amendments.
The Gambling Legislation Amendment (Responsible Gambling) Bill was amended in the other place in a number of respects which I will now briefly outline. The first group of amendments, which were moved by the Government, relate to the Casino Control Act and have particular regard to casino exclusion orders. The first Government amendment is to the regulation-making power in section 79 of the Act. The amendment will allow a prohibition on the offering of inducements to a person to apply for a review of an exclusion order that is in force. It will provide an effective mechanism for dealing with concerns raised by the Hon. Dr P. Wong in relation to the possibility that the casino may put pressure on casino patrons who are subject to self-exclusion orders to seek to have those orders removed.
The second amendment moved by the Government proposes that section 80 of the Casino Control Act be amended to add a regulation-making power that will allow for matters to be taken into consideration by the Casino Control Authority in making its decision on an application to review an exclusion order. This amendment is very similar in its aim to the Government’s third amendment, which I will deal with shortly.
The Casino Control Act presently provides for two processes to have self-exclusion orders either reviewed, shortly after they have been made, or eventually revoked. The Hon. Dr P. Wong proposed that certain matters must be taken into consideration before removing a self-exclusion order. It is envisaged that regulations made under the proposed new provision may provide that a matter to be taken into consideration in making a decision to review or revoke an order is whether the person who is subject to the order has undertaken or is undertaking counselling to assist the person to avoid any financial, social or other harm that may arise from the person’s gambling activities. This would be a relevant consideration in circumstances where the person subject to the order has gambling problems.
The final amendment moved by the Government will amend section 82 of the Act in a way that corresponds with the amendment to section 80 to which I have just referred. This final amendment adds a regulation-making power that will allow for matters to be taken into consideration by the person who gave an exclusion order, before the person decides whether to revoke the order. I have outlined the background to this amendment in my discussion of the amendment to section 80.
The second group of amendments relates to the change in the name of the Casino Community Benefit Fund. The Government accepts the amendment, moved by the Opposition, which proposes that a change in the name of the fund will not be recognised in the Casino Control Act. I remind the House that the name of the fund has already been changed administratively by the trustees of the fund, with my support. The bill proposes a mere consequential amendment to the Casino Control Act. It is intended that the fund will continue to be referred to administratively as the Community Benefit Fund, despite this amendment.
The third group of amendments, moved by the Opposition to the Liquor Act, Registered Clubs Act, Public Lotteries Act and Totalizator Act, will indicate that it is the intention of Parliament that regulations be made as soon as practicable after the date of assent to the bill. The Government did not oppose these amendments. It is the Government’s firm intention that suitable regulations be made under the Casino Control Act, the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act, which take into account the comments received as part of the public
consultation process on the exposure draft regulations under these Acts, as soon as practicable after the conclusion of that process and the approval of the bill by the Parliament.
In relation to proposed regulations under the amendments in the bill to the Public Lotteries Act and Totalizator Act, it is also the Government’s intention to make suitable regulations which take into account the views of all relevant industry groups and others with an interest in these matters. This process will take time, and the Government will need to have regard to the final report of the Productivity Commission, which is due at the end of November. While it must be recognised that the development of sensible, detailed controls will simply not occur overnight, the Government did not oppose the amendment as it is an accurate reflection of its intention.
The fourth group of amendments, which were moved by the Christian Democratic Party to the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act, will enable the Minister to approve an industry code of practice, including a code formulated by the Australian Hotels Association [AHA] or any other body for the purpose of providing practical guidance for the promotion of responsible practices in the conduct of gambling activities. The Government has no difficulty with these amendments and supported them in the other place.
The AHA and the Registered Clubs Association have been working hard towards developing codes of practice which could serve as a useful guide to individual hotels and clubs. While this legislation will operate as setting the minimum standards which must be met by hotels and clubs, there is no difficulty in other documentation, which will have no legislative force, providing appropriate industry guidance.
The fifth and final group of amendments, which were moved by the Reform the Legal System Party, will allow regulations to be made under the Public Lotteries Act, the Racing Administration Act and the Totalizator Act, that would provide for gambling warning notices and the name and contact details of a gambling counselling service to be included on lottery entries and lottery and betting tickets. While these amendments suggest matters that the Government is currently looking at for regulations under the new regulation-making powers for each of the Public Lotteries, Racing Administration, and Totalizator Acts, the Government did not oppose the inclusion of these expanded regulation-making powers in the bill. I commend the amendments to the Committee.
(Coffs Harbour) [10.08 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the amendments.
Motion agreed to.
Legislative Council’s amendments agreed to
Resolution reported from Committee and report adopted.
Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolution.
House adjourned at 10.09 p.m.