The Liberal chair of a parliamentary group supporting a republic has backed a fresh proposal for choosing an Australian head of state and says now is the right time for the government to lead a renewed debate about leaving the British monarchy.
Liberal MP Jason Falinski was part of a two-year consultation on a hybrid model unveiled by the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) on Wednesday in which voters would choose their head of state from a shortlist of 11 people selected by politicians.
Each state and territory Parliament would nominate one individual, while the Federal Parliament would choose three, and the names would be put to a national election with the winner serving a five-year term.
“People don’t want a Trump-like figure and they don’t want Shane Warne”; Peter FitzSimons launches a new republic model.Credit:Kate Geraghty
Launching the proposal at the Federation Pavilion in Sydney’s Centennial Park on Wednesday, ARM chair Peter FitzSimons said it was important a suitable republic model was on the table before the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who is 95 and marks 70 years on the throne this year.
“This is a model ready to go that’s got the finest legal minds in the country behind it,” Mr FitzSimons, a columnist for the Herald, said.
The “Australian choice model” is designed to bridge a long-standing divide over whether such a person should be directly elected by the people or selected by the government, as is presently the case with the governor-general, who is recommended to the Queen by the Prime Minister.
In 1999 voters rejected a minimalist model in which a president would have been appointed by a two-thirds majority of the Parliament, and the republic movement has been fractured ever since.
But Mr FitzSimons said there were 5 million voting Australians who were too young – or not even born – to vote at the 1999 referendum, and it was time to put the question to the people again.
Early last year an Ipsos poll conducted for the Herald and The Age put public support for ditching the monarchy at 34 per cent, and 26 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds.
Mr Falinski, who chairs Parliamentary Friends for an Australian Republic, said the new proposal had “landed in the right place” without trashing the roles of either the Parliament or the people.
“This is a major advance on where we’ve been,” he said. “I’m very happy to stand behind it and I think the Liberal Party is at its best when it’s leading these debates rather than being forced into it.”
Divided: Liberal MP Tim Wilson said a republic was a low priority compared to other issues, but Jason Falinski said the time was right to restart debate.Credit:The Sydney Morning Herald
Asked how much support the idea had within the government, Mr Falinksi said: “As you know, the Prime Minister is a monarchist.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was contacted for comment.
The ARM produced polling it commissioned from market research agency Pureprofile which found 57 per cent of respondents said they would vote for the model. “It’s a model that has a chance of winning a referendum,” said ARM national director Sandy Biar.
Mr Biar said when uncertain voters were asked how they would vote at a compulsory referendum, support for the hybrid model rose to 73 per cent. He said the sample size of the poll was 2038.
The ARM warned the direct election of a head of state would risk “unsuitable candidates” being put forward, rather than those most qualified for the job. “People don’t want a Trump-like figure and they don’t want Shane Warne – they want an eminent person,” Mr FitzSimons said.
But divisions linger within the broader republic movement about the model, as well as the timing of any renewed push. David Muir, chair of the Clem Jones Trust and Real Republic Australia, said the ARM’s model echoed the “politicians’ republic” of the failed 1999 referendum.
“In essence it would be a case of politicians telling Australian voters who they were allowed to vote for as their head of state,” he said.
The ARM has an advisory body of constitutional experts who were part of a two-year process of finalising the new model. One of them, Kim Rubenstein, said an advantage of the model was it encouraged a more diverse field of nominees.
“There’s never going to be only one person who’s clearly the best person – there will always be a range,” said Professor Rubenstein, who is running for the Senate as an independent in the ACT.
In a statement, the federal Labor opposition welcomed the ARM’s announcement and affirmed its commitment to an Australian head of state, but said the recognition of Indigenous Australians and a Voice to Parliament were its priorities for constitutional reform, and the COVID-19 crisis was the nation’s immediate concern.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson, also a republican, said no matter the model, the issue was a lower priority than COVID, tackling the cost of living, cutting emissions, housing affordability, reducing public debt or tax and superannuation reform.
Mr FitzSimons said there would always be people who believed the time wasn’t right to discuss a republic but “we’re 250 years in, we’ve been here for 65,000 years, it is time to run our own show”.
Former prime minister and ex-ARM chair Malcolm Turnbull declined to comment. The office of Attorney-General Michaelia Cash was also contacted.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article