The Guardian May 28, 2003


Time for a republic

"The departure of Peter Hollingworth as Governor General was long 
overdue", the Central Committee Secretariat of the CPA said in a statement 
issued last Monday. The statement went on:

Peter Hollingworth, who should not have been appointed in the first place, 
should have been dismissed by the Prime Minister when the report of the 
Anglican Church was released confirming that Peter Hollingworth had 
retained a priest in the church who had committed acts of abuse against 
children. Hollingworth hung on for many months after this exposure as he 
and his advisers, particularly Prime Minister Howard, cast around to find 
ways out of the public condemnation.

The Prime Minister's statement that Peter Hollingworth had resigned of his 
own accord, is palpably untrue  yet another of the lies that literally 
pour from the Prime Minister. His resignation, rather than dismissal by the 
Prime Minister, was to save the Prime Minister who had appointed him.

The removal of the Governor General is a blow against paedophilia which, 
however, continues to be covered up in "high" places in society.

Attempts are now being made in some quarters to whip up sympathy for Peter 
Hollingworth. As usual, the victims of paedophilia are ignored in the media 
and by conservative authorities. However, the overwhelming majority of the 
Australian people reacted strongly against the abuse of children and 
extended their sympathy to the victims.

Attention is now turning to a replacement Governor General.

The position should be abolished as Australia moves to become a Republic. 
Instead of a Governor General, a Head of State should be appointed who 
could be designated as President. The powers of a future Head of State must 
be strictly limited.

We propose that a joint sitting of both Houses of Federal Parliament choose 
a new Head of State and require at least a 75 per cent majority vote. The 
Head of State must be accountable to Parliament. This method of appointment 
is preferred to make clear the pre-eminence in our political system of the 
Parliament elected by the people.

It is desirable to make sure that two, possibly conflicting centres of 
power  Head of State and Parliament  are not created. If the Head of 
State is given more than ceremonial and procedural powers, this could 
undermine the role of Parliament and other democratic structures of 
society.

To reflect the democratic spirit in a Republican Australia, the Head of 
State should do his/her job with less pomp, ceremony and high living than 
in the past.

Some continue to assert that the position of Governor General is not 
political. This is a myth. The role played by John Kerr in the dismissal of 
the Whitlam Government in 1975 and the objections in conservative political 
circles to the many progressive statements made by Sir William Deane, the 
Governor General who preceded the appointment of Peter Hollingworth, 
confirm the political role played by Governor Generals.

Hollingworth was appointed by Prime Minister Howard for his conservative 
political and church views.

The powers at present held by the Governor General mean that in certain 
circumstances the person holding this position may decisively affect 
Australia's political processes.

It is time for a new referendum on the question of establishing Australia 
as a Republic.

We propose a referendum with three questions: the first to decide on the 
establishment of Australia as a Republic; the second to determine the 
method of appointment; and the third the powers to be vested in the 
position.

The Constitution has to be altered to ensure that the powers of a Head of 
State must be clearly defined and limited to ceremonial and procedural 
matters with all other powers being vested in the elected Parliament.

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