The Australian Constitution Essay

1234 words - 5 pages

The Australian Constitution


Will Australia become a republic in the next twenty years? This is a difficult question to speculate on. The main area of law governing this issue is section 128 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (U.K). Other issues in this debate are regarding appointment, termination and the powers to be awarded to the proposed Head of State, and the impact the change will have on the States. Examining the history of Australian Legislative powers, and reasons why Australians would want to change, is also useful when speculating on this issue.

The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 emphasized self-government in the colonies, although denying them the power to amend or repeal British law. (Enright et.al 1995, p.14) It wasn’t until Australia became a Federation with the enactment of the Australian Constitution Act 1901(U.K.) on 1 January 1901, that Australia had their own law making powers. However, these powers were still limited by the Constitution. (Waller et.al 2000, p.71) When the Statute of Winchester 1931 invalidated the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 the Commonwealth gained the power to pass their own Acts, irrespective of whether they were consistent with British Law. However, this power did not extend to the States. Remaining restrictions were removed with the enactment of the Australia Acts 1986. Australian Parliaments and Courts now had full control of Australian Laws. (Enright et.al 1995, p.p. 16-17 and Carvan et.al 1999, p.p. 25-26)

Although the Monarch ceased to be active in government, the Queen still remains as the Constitutional Head of State, with Monarchial power being exercised through the Governor-General. With the exception of ‘reserve powers’ the Governor-General acts on the advice of the government. (Enright et.al 1995, p.19 and Brown et.al 1995,p.16)

Opinion polls show that the majority of Australians would prefer a Republic system of government. (Chisholm et.al 1997,p.68) There is a feeling that for Australia to be truly independent, the ties with England would need to be severed. (Mack, K., in Corkery et.al 1998, p.34) One view would be to simply abolish the Monarchy. (Winterton, G., in Stephenson et.al 1994, p.17) However, others might say that our current system is already mostly Republican with the only Monarchial elements remaining being the concentration of Royal powers in the Ministry. (http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/general/republic.htm#aussie)

In any event, ‘severing the Royal ties’ is not that easy, as amendments to the Australian Constitution Acts 1900(U.K) can only be passed in Parliament in accordance with section 128. (Chisholm et.al 1997, p.61)

Section 128 prescribes that changes can only be implemented by referendum. To hold a referendum a Bill needs to be passed through the Commonwealth Parliament to authorize it. Once authorized, a majority of votes, as well as a majority of States is required. This dual criterion has proven difficult to achieve, with...

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