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.