March 14, 2006

Horse 511 - Republic of Australia

HRH Queen Elizabeth II is in the country at the moment and whenever she sets foot upon this land that was once a gaol, there is always an uneasy torrent of grumbling that suggests that we should have our own head of state. Whilst I can see the aspirations of such people and take note of them, I tend to wonder about the whole situation and look at other countries with presidents, and think to myself that the idea aint all it's cracked up to be.

The inventor of the Republic was France; this grew out of the tyranny associated with the Emporers like Napoleon which for all intents were identical in character to the line of kings they deposed. Currently the French President (Jacques Chirac) is directly elected and holds similar powers to the Queen. The President signs off on legislation and frequently exercises their powers of veto as they see fit. They also have the power to rule on constitutional matters and can refer matters to a referendum.
The problem is that the President is not exactly a respected position. Chirac is not necessarily held in high regard with the airs that should come with head of state and is often accused of being incompotent.

If we move to the USA, the president there actually appoints the executive of the nation. None of the executive are elected by the people, so it would appear that with the election of an American President, there is a lot of faith that the person elected will be faithful to the American people.
Like the French President, the President of the USA isn't necessarily afforded the official respect one usually purports to a head of state. In times where the president is a puppet for the people below them, the voters are often too aware of this. Mind you, in cases where this person proves to be an elder statesman, they are idolised in the nation's history.

The Queen on the other hand isn't elected at all. She has virtually no say in the way the nation runs (save for the ability to sign off on legislation which for reasons of proximity she doesn't most of the time) and can not appoint the executive, nor does she have the ability to change even an iota of the legislation.

So why do I think we should retain what would seem like an utterly usless position. Think about this, if in France and the USA the president is not necessarily held in overy high regard, then how does this reflect on the nation? Would the Australian people for instance wear having John Howard as the head of state? It's just not very glamourous is it?

The Queen might not do anything, but it's a matter of what she is rather than who. As a link to our past the retention of the monarchy actually shows something quite interesting. The USA was created with a war as was France (though they called it a revolution) but Australia was created with a piece of legislation. Not only that, within the British Commonwealth it was affored uniquely the staus of "Commonwealth" which meant that at inception, all laws passed within the borders would take precedent over those of Britain.

Something else which is almost forgotten is this: where does the word "Republic" come from? Latin is our help here... res publica or common thing. Res being a word for thing or abstract wealth, or if you wish a Commonwealth. Therefore we're a republic anyway, which in practice is most definately the case, so why bother changing anything?

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