Presentation: "An Australian Republic - Future Prospects"

7 May 2018

The challenges of constitution building are real in Australia, as well as in the rest of the world. As elsewhere, they require careful thought to be given to process, as well as to the substance of constitutional change. Cheryl Saunders, Co-Convenor of ConTransNet emphasised the former when speaking to a recent forum on an "Australian Republic: Future Prospects", hosted by Monash Clayton Republic Club, Melbourne University Republic Club and the Progressive Law Network.

There are many design options for an Australian republic, if and when a decision is taken to replace the Queen as Head of State. They include, for example, questions about what a republican Head of State should be required to do and how those functions should be expressed in the Constitution itself (link to earlier article). The most pressing issue on this front at the moment is not which options to choose but how that choice should be made.

The Australian history of referendums suggests that the people should be involved earlier rather than later, in a way that is real and not merely symbolic and that attracts public interest, attention and trust. There is plenty of international as well as Australian experience with processes of this kind. Developing and explaining these will be a priority for ConTransNet in the period ahead.

Questions of process are relevant and important for any significant proposals for constitutional change, of which a republic is only, potentially, one. Others also on the public agenda include, most significantly of all, the proposals on Indigenous recognition that emerged from the Uluru Convention and, in the wake of recent events, possible change to the dual citizenship provision in section 44 (i) of the Constitution.

For more on this topic, you may wish to read Cheryl Saunders, ‘Beyond Minimalism’ in Sarah Murray (ed) Constitutional Perspectives on an Australian Republic (Annandale: Federation Press, 2010), 54.