Republic YES — Preamble NO
The overwhelming majority of the Australian people want Australia to become a republic. The monarchy is a relic of the past and is irrelevant to most Australians. Yet the pro-republic forces have been divided creating the possibility that the proposition for Australia to become a republic could be defeated at the referendum on Saturday November 7. The campaign has become extremely dirty and dishonest on the part of those advocating a NO vote. Key issues are being buried in a barrage of emotive propaganda. Hackers, using the title "Underground Empire Loyalists" brought down the Australian Republican Movement's website on the internet. Another website, using the address "aec.referendum.com.au", appears to be passing itself off as the official Electoral Commission's website which is "referendum.aec.gov.au". The Australian Electoral Commission has referred the matter to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission. One No Committee advertisement using the words, "Let the people keep their say" was found by the Commercials Advice Pty Ltd (CAD)* to involve a factual claim that could not be substantiated. The implication is that we, the people, do have a say now in selecting our head of state. This is a big lie. The Queen is Queen by birth, and the Prime Minister chooses the Governor-General. There was a similar misleading implication in another commercial, "If you want to vote for the President, vote `NO' to the Politician's Republic". The implication is that a "NO" vote will deliver a directly elected President. It won't. It ensures that Australia's head of state remains an unelected, foreign monarch. A "NO" vote will prevent Australia becoming a republic for possibly many years to come and this is exactly what the monarchists want. To achieve their aim, they have hijacked the arguments of those republicans who do not accept the model of a republic which will be voted on in the coming referendum. The monarchists know that the great majority of the Australian people do not want an unelected Queen Elizabeth, or the future King Charles III, as head of state with an Australian deputy (Governor-General) selected solely by the Prime Minister. The debate has been diverted from the key question of whether or not Australia becomes a republic in the year 2001. Differences over the method of election of the President are being fostered and played up to defeat the pro-republican vote and maintain the monarchy as head of state. The facts A "YES" vote means Australia becomes a republic with an Australian head of state appointed by Parliament. A "NO" vote means Australia does not become a republic, and the head of state remains an unelected foreign monarch with a Governor-General chosen by the Prime Minister. If the "NO" vote is successful, then the next constitutional convention will again be about the same issue — whether or not Australia is to become a republic. And it may be some years away. The "NO" voters say: "A puppet for President! — Vote NO", that the President will be the Prime Minister's puppet. But will it? The appointment of a President with the agreement of the leader of the Opposition as well as a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament is hardly likely to be the Prime Minister's puppet or a party politician. But a the person directly elected as President would more likely be party political. The major political parties would have their candidates backed by massive amounts of money. Genuine independent candidates would have neither the financial backing nor receive the media coverage of candidates backed by major parties. Playing on the fear of change and on ignorance, the "NO" voters use the slogan: "When in doubt, throw it out. Vote `NO'". The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) recognises that the minimal changes being put forward in the referendum do not go far enough. But a YES vote for a republic is an important, first step forward in the struggle towards Australia becoming an economically and politically independent and democratic republic — which should be the subject of the next constitutional convention. There are a number of ways in which the constitution could be strengthened for the benefit of the people of Australia: * the inclusion of a Bill of Rights based on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights; * recognition of the rights (including land rights) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; * inclusion of environmental protection; * reform of the electoral system including proportional representation; * provisions for Australia's economic independence. Preamble fails The proposed preamble does little to improve the Constitution. It is both inadequate and in parts inappropriate. It starts with "With hope in God". Given that 20 percent of Australians are non-believers and the long acceptance of separation of church and state, a secular preamble, with no reference to God, would be more appropriate. The proposed preamble honours Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, "the nation's first people, for their kinship with their lands...". The CPA believes that "kinship" is an inadequate term to describe the prior ownership and occupation traditional relationship of the indigenous communities with their lands. It eliminates any concept of land rights. It serves the interests of the pastoralists and mining corporations but denies history and justice. The Northern Land Council (NLC) has recommended that the Top End's 28,000 Aboriginal people vote "YES" for the republic and "NO" to the preamble. "We are saying YES only on the basis that the federal parliament honour the recommendation to re-establish the Constitutional Convention to make real and positive changes in the Constitution and that it includes adequate Indigenous representation", said NLC Chairman Galarrwuy Yunupingu. The NLC unanimously rejected the preamble because it does not recognise Aboriginal people as landowners and diminishes the rights and status of Aboriginal people. "These changes must go beyond reconciliation and include recognition of Aboriginal law and protection of Aboriginal rights." "It is just not good enough. It denies us our identity", said Mr Yunupingu. The CPA recommends a "NO" vote on the question of a preamble to the Constitution. *CAD is the body to which advertisements on commercial free-to-air television are submitted for approval. CAD advises on their compliance with laws and voluntary codes and guidelines.
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