The hoo-ha about a republic that periodically raises its head may only be a smokescreen for the real agenda and objective of the social engineers pushing it – the abolition of the states and the Senate or their reduction to impotence.
The logic is simple. At present the state governors, and therefore the state governments, are appointed by the Queen, not Canberra, and the state governors and the governor-general do not impinge on one another’s powers or spheres of influence. The Constitution is very clear about the division of powers between Canberra and the states.
In a republic, however, state governors will be appointed by, and presumably swear allegiance to, Canberra, putting the states in an even more obviously inferior position than a series of centralist High Court decisions has already left them.
I have run this past several very senior federal politicians, none of whom has been able to fault my argument.
Since its foundation the Australian Labor Party has been pushing to create a unitary polity, with the checks and balances to social engineering – the states, the Senate and, in its constitutional aspect, the High Court – reduced to impotence and eventually abolished altogether, leaving a government in Canberra free to regard Australia as a gigantic laboratory in which to carry out experiments in social engineering.
Gough Whitlam swore to smash the Senate and stated that the job of Labor state parliamentarians was to abolish themselves. Later Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating described the Senate as “unrepresentative swill”.
The present system, with the governor-general and the state governors both formally appointed by the sovereign, but with the state governors appointed on the recommendation of the respective state premiers, is a check on this program of abolition and unification under an all-powerful “Canberra Soviet”.
Already Western Australia is being treated grossly unfairly by Canberra over GST, simply because its relatively small population gives it relatively little political clout. Canberra gives WA about 30¢ for each dollar collected but rewards the ACT with about $1.20 per dollar and the Northern Territory with about $4.66.
Without the state governments in a position to put up some resistance (admittedly it may be argued that they don’t put up much anyway), things would be even worse. Constitutional law expert Professor David Flint has described the position as “appalling”. Don’t forget that before its mineral wealth was discovered, WA only got decent treatment from the loans council by threatening to secede.
The viceroys – governors and governors-general – have the power to sack premiers or prime ministers: NSW Governor Sir Philip Game dismissed Premier Jack Lang and Sir John Kerr dismissed Whitlam. The extent of the vice-regal reserve powers is non-judiciable.
If, however, the national head of state and the state viceroys were all appointed by Canberra, as would be inevitable under a republic, it would mean that Canberra would have the power, though the viceroys, to sack defiant state governments and to keep on sacking them until it had a full hand of states subservient to its wishes.
The independence of the state under the Crown, carefully written into the Australian Constitution, would be gone.
With the states reduced to impotence, or abolished altogether, they would probably be replaced by “regions” administered directly from, and completely dependent upon, Canberra.
The present three-tier system of federal, state and local governments would be replaced by a two-tier federal and “regional” system, which would in fact be a one-tier system, with the regions simply the agents of an all-powerful Canberra.
This is a characteristic of undemocratic and totalitarian governments. Something like it happened in Nazi Germany, where the old German states, or Lander, were abolished and replaced by regions, or Gaus, under Gauleiters, who transmitted orders one-way from Berlin.
Similarly, the French revolutionary totalitarians abolished the ancient French provinces – Gascony, Picardy, etc – and replaced them with new regions to carry out the orders of the guillotine-happy Committee of Public Safety.
Further, we could expect new mini- Canberras to spring up at taxpayers’ expense like a herd of white elephants to be the administrative centres of the new “regions”.
Another long-term Labor objective – abolition of the Senate – will be made a great deal easier. As the Senate was originally conceived as a States’ House, as well as a House of Review, in a republic a large part of its functions would be gone. A unitary state for Australia, with no checks or balances in lawmaking, is very long-standing Labor policy.
Gough Whitlam began to put this into action with the Australian Assistance Plan and other legislation, known collectively by some as “The Project”. The general and very ominous shape of “The Project”, with its sinister goal of “moulding minds to serve humanity”, is set out in a collection of essays, Towards a New Australia, written by senior Labor figures and published shortly before the Whitlam government came to power at the end of 1972.
It is analysed further in two brilliant books: the late Professor Patrick O’Brien’s The Saviours (Viking, 1977); and Don Veitch’s The Social Laboratory (privately printed). The latter showed how much of the planning for the abolition of the states had already been put in place by 1975.
The Whitlam government, of course, was falling to pieces over the feuding, incompetence and lying of its ministers before Sir John Kerr sacked Whitlam. But the first pieces of “The Project” – the transformation of Australia into a great social laboratory – were then already in place or being legislated for; and there is no reason to think that Labor has walked away from this treasured objective now.
Further, in Malcolm Turnbull it has a republican leading a mock-Liberal-conservative Party with no apparent interest in the wider metapolitical implications of all this, or of the great, centuries-long political and intellectual effort which has created one of the world’s most successful polities, and imposed real, if now threatened, limitations on state power.
He either naively believes or pretends to believe that replacing the apolitical British Crown with a Canberra-appointed sovereign (there is a strong argument that the governor-general is now the head of state, but that is not the point here) will be the end of the matter. It won’t be. It will be the first step on a road with a very uncertain ending. It will strike a huge blow at the checks and balances which are an essential feature of a working liberal democracy.