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A. INTRODUCTION. This introduces the topic and the approach I am taking to it.

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things
"of shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings."

Since talk of an Australian republic is much in the air these days, and I have been lucky enough to have had a wide if shallow exposure to a number of countries and their histories, it seems proper to give this background knowledge to a wider audience. My purpose is to inform and widen the republican debate. My plan is to summarise the objective successes of republican and monarchical forms, then to describe - with a very broad brush - how we got the legacy we now have (with reference to the Australian character) and to try and point up any lessons for Australia's future (with reference to aspects of democracy that need special attention and some immediate issues like oaths and misunderstandings). Does the republican issue matter at all? if you think it does, it does. Even if you don't, if enough other people do and they disagree, the turmoil will upset important, everyday things, and that will matter. I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's, but unlike Blake I will reason and compare.

Most history for Australians is full of interpretation, and you cannot back it up with the underlying material - the historian assumes you know the background already and you are only coming to him for insight. I do not believe this is an area where the reader will always be familiar with the material, so to support the summary of republican and monarchical forms I shall cover some different countries' constitutional experiences of them in a few paragraphs each, as an appendix.

Throughout, this is a comparative study because we are faced with a choice between options and it is unnecessary - and harder - to seek absolute values; it is enough to know the greater good or lesser evil, without discovering if our choice is actually good or bad. (Of course, this is only an analytical technique - it does not at all mean moral relativism.) However, that does not justify selective coverage or inconsistent standards, so I shall draw attention to other people's errors or omissions where they touch on this material - I hope they will understand there is nothing personal in this, and I trust they will return the favour if they should notice any such defect in mine. (Tom Paine for one was extremely selective in his writings.)

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B. SUMMARY OF SUCCESSES AND FAILURES OF MONARCHIES AND REPUBLICS. This draws general conclusions regarding the success or otherwise of the different approaches, and draws out possible lessons.

Whether monarchies or republics, western countries have been more successful than others in modern times. This is probably because the modern world is very western in its underpinnings, so being western helps a country to fit its surroundings. On the other hand, being a monarchy - and especially a constitutional monarchy - seems to help a country more than being a republic, whether the country is western or not. In fact, there are only two definite successes among modern republics, the U.S.A. and Switzerland, and both of these are western countries. There are quite a few successful monarchies, although of course these are also usually western - but not always. Thus there is some evidence that being a constitutional monarchy is the stronger factor contributing to stability. Ireland comes close to being a successful republic, but on the other hand Norway comes close to being a successful monarchy - they aren't left out on the grounds of actual failure, but on the grounds of its being too early to tell yet. Even if a slightly different assessment is made, the same broad picture emerges. Even where monarchy is recent, as in Spain, or where it failed, as in Brazil, there is obviously a constructive element which is being built on. Equally obviously, republics can sometimes succeed, but it is also obvious that they have a price: it takes a lot of work and commitment, and often a large body of common experience - tradition, if you will - to make them work. Right now, there are three republics experiencing discomfort directly attributable to their republican forms - Russia, France and Italy - and no monarchies are. (Come off it, I hear you say, what about the trouble the British Royals are having right now? but that is the whole point: the Royals are having the trouble, and it is compartmented off from the country.)

It does seem that monarchies are less vulnerable to military coups and the like; where they are vulnerable, it seems to be that the monarchy is not a living thing by then, or has compromised itself - which is exactly why monarchies should be constitutional ones in the first place. Monarchies seem to have special strengths in binding together disparate parts to make a whole; these parts seem usually to arise from a pronounced class structure, geographical divisions, or unassimilated groups. Currently Australia has no significant class structure, but it does have pronounced geographical divisions and the potential for unassimilated groups. This potential is not so much from migration, since migrants arrive in a thin stream with the intention and capacity to be assimilated multi-culturally; rather, an entire functioning group might arrive with its own institutions, such as the Boers - these would be harder for Australia to assimilate than for the U.S.A. because of the smaller population to assert and maintain existing values. Look at Brazil - monarchy plays a valuable role in holding a country together under such divisive pressures even where it is only a transitional arrangement.

Looking over the republics that have failed but have a fairly long track record before going off the rails, we also see a common theme to their failure: they lock in certain issues, which are not conveniently accessible for democracy to work on. This gives them the rigidity to avoid the short-term difficulties that might otherwise give them trouble but also means that where something real comes along in the forbidden area, something that doesn't blow over, the republic collapses. We can even see this theme in Switzerland, one of the two successful republics.

On the whole, it looks like an Australian republic would be asking for trouble - but that does not mean that the present arrangements are perfect. Remember, this is a comparative study; if people have rejected the present arrangements because they are not perfect, they may very well be right in their criticisms. It is just that they are being very arrogant if they suppose they can do better in designing a republic. Or do they think there is something about an Australian that is somehow superior to, say, an Italian in these matters?

There is one feature worth noting about the Italian republic, as it crops up in a number of places. A large part of the push for that republic came from the American occupation forces at the end of the second world war; the U.S.A. was fighting to make the world safe for democracy, which naturally translated into making the world over in its own image, although they did not perceive that. In fact, if they had, they would not have been so parochial and would not have unconsciously pushed in that direction; nevertheless, it was true then, and it is true now, that Americans have always sought to impose democracy on other people. This is like someone throwing you in a swimming pool and not appreciating that it is the throwing in you object to; people like that think you object to water, and then they think they have a duty to throw you in - a dubious proposition in itself. The Americans had a similar set of assumptions in Belgium, and the results in both places staggered them; in Italy they were shocked by the narrowness of the republican victory, and in Belgium they were horrified by a monarchist victory. Unfortunately, the U.S.A. learned no lasting lesson from this; their preconceptions won out, as they always will, and they still cannot believe that anyone, anywhere, can have a real and rational attachment to any form of government but a republic, and they assume that that republic is naturally a large grouping because they cannot conceive of its parts having any natural identity. More unfortunately still, they do rather tend to elbow anything else aside, which is why they applied the particular pressures they did in Indonesia. This does not mean that the Americans override the principles of self-determination according to nationality, rather that they have a blind spot about what those nationalities are; they automatically assume that any grouping oppressed under colonialism is the natural grouping, and amounts to a nation. Sometimes this is absolutely correct.

This makes a very real and practical current issue, quite apart from general matters. There have been puppet kingdoms and puppet republics, and very often the puppet republics have been ghastly failures. As we have seen, in the modern world the U.S.A. has often been involved with the creation or attempted creation of republics, intervening to a greater or lesser extent. Almost without exception, even if the eventual result was happy - which it usually was not - the intervention was misguided and brought about great pain. Considering this behaviour and the fact that Americans remain vulnerable to temptation, it would be wise to inspect every development in the republican debate for American involvement. Given the suspicions of American involvement over the end of the Whitlam government, it seems possible that the U.S.A. may keep more than just a watching brief over the Australian republican movement - not out of malice, of course, just their usual well-meaning thoughtlessness. We would do well to keep a watching brief on them watching us. I am not talking paranoia, rather I am saying look at their track record. Since the republican movement is about asserting Australian independence in a symbolic way, it would be a vast irony if republicanism worked out in practice as yet another way of following the U.S.A.

Since there is also some concern about the role of the states in any future changes, it is worth looking at two historical parallels: the U.S.A. and France. In the U.S.A. - indeed, buried in the very concept - the states were preserved, and proved to be components that propped up the republic; they were inheritors and transmitters of older customs, traditions and institutions that provided a real life for the new republic. In France, on the other hand, that option was not available; in fact the French Revolution went out of its way to obliterate the older regional divisions through which the monarchy had expressed its power. It replaced them with departments, a term which in those days had a military connotation; the reorganisation was necessary because many of the older regions like the Vendee were actually opposed to the republic and tried to thwart it, and the reorganisation needed to be of a military character because of the specific requirements of the revolutionary wars (like the reorganisation of the Byzantine Empire into themes). All the same, because the departments were an emanation of the republic they derived their strength from it; in the U.S.A. the states were pre-existing entities from which the republic could draw strength. It is at least plausible that this was a significant contributing factor towards the stability of the U.S.A., conspicuously lacking in France. This shows that, if at all possible, a republic would be better maintaining the states and keeping them on side; but, if they could not be kept on side, it would be better to eliminate them (looking at things from the perspective of a republican).

Let us not be pessimistic without cause, and most of all let us not be mindlessly obstructive. Let us turn our attention to seeing what other options there might be, and how best any of the options can be implemented. We have at least seen one new danger to watch out for in a republic, over and above the obvious things like military coups - locking in issues, just because we think they are carved in stone. The current arrangements might still be the best available - a lesser evil - and they are certainly better than a republic, but it is also possible that there are some other options that have not yet been considered that might turn out better than either. A later part of this working paper considers:-

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C. AUSTRALIA'S CONNECTIONS WITH THE U.K., AND TRADITIONS DERIVED FROM IT. This brings out circumstances specific to Australia that affect those institutions now in place and how they work, and which are likely to affect the working of any new institutions and transitional arrangements.

These connections are of two kinds: continuing ones such as common law and parliamentary government under the Westminster system; and old ones, real in their time, like the British Empire itself.

Let us take the old ones first. These are still important, because knowing where we have been will tell us a great deal about where we are and about where we are going (also, sometimes part of this is not completely dead). Not so very long ago, a reporter in the Melbourne Age wrote about an Australian politician of the early part of this century; the politician had made a speech saying he was proud to be Australian and British, and the Age reporter claimed this showed that bygone politician had a confused sense of identity. With all due respect, I put it to you that the reporter had misdirected himself. True, if someone today stood up and saw no problem with being at one and the same time British and Australian, that man would be confused. But suppose someone today stood up and said he was proud to be Australian and Jewish? or Australian and Irish? you would understand that man to be making a statement on two different levels, with no inconsistency. So it was in the old days, with being British; the reporter had forgotten that the past is a foreign country, and they do things differently there. So what, you may say; so long as what the reporter wrote is valid for the present, it does not matter. In the ordinary way that would be true because journalism is a thing of the moment, but this republican debate is dealing with issues that go beyond today. The big lesson for us is that not only is the past a foreign country, so also is the future. The task before us is to help not only ourselves, but also our descendants; if we come to this task with the attitude of that reporter, thinking of today as forever, we will inadvertently bind our descendants. This is all very well in ordinary political terms, where the mistakes of today's government may be put right tomorrow, but we have to tread a fine line between locking things in, and leaving things so fluid that making a constitution work requires all our efforts all the time - and we only have to take our eye off the ball once for everything to go wrong. We have a hint in the study of dynamic systems controlled by a human operator, bicycles or electric motors and the like; these work "best" where they are mildly unstable, like a bicycle. This means that most of the time you just keep going with your eye on the road, with most of your attention free for whatever you are using the bicycle for and only the occasional involvement in keeping the bicycle upright. On the other hand, every so often you want to do something different, turn a corner or swerve away from an obstacle; then the mild instability comes in handy, allowing you to change without there being a built-in stability fighting you just at the very moment when you need an instant response. (This is exactly the desirable behaviour missing from the locked-in patterns of most republics.)

Well, just what was being "British", in those days? Britishness started as a sort of Platonic lie which became true, an inclusive concept to help unite England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland (and some odd bits) during the eighteenth century - rather like the concept of multi-culturalism in Australia. When the British Empire flourished, say from 1760 to the end of the nineteenth century, it was only the greatest of several maritime empires; these existed in the way they did because of technological shifts that meant the corners of the world's oceans were "closer", in practical terms, than many places on the map in a purely geometrical sense; when the technology came along, places that had previously had nothing to do with each other suddenly amounted to a power vacuum, which got filled more successfully by the British than by anyone else. One of the main reasons for British success was that the French under Louis XV were still mostly thinking in terms of as-the-crow-flies distance, and many a mid-nineteenth century Frenchman thought bitterly of Louis XV in the same breath as being jealous of the British; but the British - Pitt apart - had mostly just drifted, and things had gone their way (the French had had a plan and a sense of direction, and headed steadfastly in the wrong direction). Being British helped unite everyone under the British flag, and so reconcile them to the reality that there was a natural unity at the corners of the oceans, and if it wasn't going to be filled by the British it would only be filled by someone else. The result was various maritime empires that interleaved, but the British one had the cultural toolkit that was flexible enough to allow it to come into existence, grow and consolidate fastest. For instance, one of the most famous early times the British sent a gunboat for gunboat diplomacy was when someone of mediterranean extraction was threatened; but he had a British passport, so Palmerston sent a gunboat and everything got sorted out. For us, the point is that "being British" meant something, over and above place of residence or ethnic extraction.

Technological changes made land powers improve relative to sea powers from the mid-nineteenth century on, but they had a long way to go to catch up. In fact, one reason Germany took the attitude it did in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century is that they fully realised the new equilibrium that new transport technology meant, and thought that they had actual power that corresponded; they forgot that it takes time to reach equilibrium, and that the maritime powers still had a lot of reserve stored up. In two world wars Germany discovered this, but ironically these wars used up all those reserves; paradoxically, the world we have after those two Pyrrhic victories is close in form to what advanced German thinkers thought had arrived ninety years ago. The U.S.A. has now and had then the same world view, but luckily for them acting in accordance with it helped it come true, and they benefitted instead of suffering thereby. We get a better picture of what the world was really like ninety years ago by looking at what people actually thought and wrote at the time, here in Australia. Here in Melbourne there is a large war memorial, the Shrine. If you turn and cross the road, you will see a smaller one on a more human scale: a Boer War memorial. This is what it says:-

Erected by the people of Victoria in memory of the Australians who fell in the South African War
fighting for the unity of the Empire which is our strength and common heritage

If you come to this today, you may very well come to it with the eyes of that Age reporter, and look at the "reality" of 1902 that the Germans saw but which still lay in the future. Those Victorians knew what they were doing, though - they knew they were British, and that it gave them a common heritage. We must not forget, we have it still.

But what of that "strength"? that, too, was real in those days. The British Empire did have a real function, just as being British conferred a real identity. As far as Australia goes, it is fashionable to point out that it was little help against the Japanese, but to say that is to come in at the end. Quite apart from creating Australia in the first place, the British Empire was faced with threats to Australia about every two generations:-

There are two things we should learn from this. Firstly, the British Empire really did contribute to Australia while it could, and you deceive yourself if you think otherwise. Three successes out of four is a good record, and the fourth one only failed after the tide of technological change had very definitely turned. Secondly, this technological change - first steam ships, then steam turbine powered ones, then aircraft, as well as improvements in land transport - is not necessarily over. It had its effect by making sea transport easier, but at the price of needing logistical support, coaling stations and such, which meant you could reach short distances easier but you had great trouble reaching all the way around the world - by sea; but by land it all got easier together. Much of the later phases of the British Empire consisted in attempting to arrange for these coaling stations and in backfilling, occupying hinterlands with the new and improved forms of land transport. Actually, that was what all the business with Fashoda, Aden and Djibouti was concerned with. Rail united the two ends of Canada and made Federation possible there, even as it did in Australia. It got to the point where colonies were justified in terms of their providing resources that were only necessary to hold an empire together, like arguing in a circle. Oh, they knew what was happening even then, some of them:-

"The Tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart...
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!"

We must never make the mistake of thinking them foolish or chasing after rainbows. By the same token, we should not think what we have now will last forever. We cannot predict technology, and it is theoretically possible that one day maritime empires will again make sense. Oh, that does not mean a British Empire will ever come back, any more than the Roman Empire came back for Mussolini, but it does mean that if we lock in a single unitary Australia we may have trouble later. In the old days there were some British who could not see that Britain had a future outside one little island; they were called "little Englanders", in a derogatory way. Now the world has changed, but if it should ever change again it would be too easy for Australia to have its own "little Australians", either thinking of Australia on its own or as just an appendage to Asia. It would be very easy to lock that in in any changes to the constitution. If the world ever changes again one of the strengths of the U.S.A. would also go, so the world would be different in that way as well.

Oh, and one more thing we should not forget: Australia's needs may no longer be met by the British Empire, but that does not mean that it no longer has needs. Do you suppose that New Zealand could have been bullied into releasing those French saboteurs after the Rainbow Warrior business if the British Empire had still been a living thing? the British Empire is one with Nineveh and Tyre, but the Rainbow Warrior showed that New Zealand, at least, is not viable on its own - and not being viable is the formula the British are using to justify handing Hong Kong over to China. Is Australia viable? probably not; it would need at least twice the population, other things being equal, to be able to defend itself properly. We should not let our pride fool us into thinking that, because the British Empire cannot help us now, it never could, nor into thinking that, because we cannot have that help, we no longer need any help at all from anyone. We are in a very exposed position.

What of that continuing connection, the part that is still active today? A lot of it is in the form of people. Until very recently Australia didn't just import finished goods from the U.K., it imported professionals: doctors, policemen, public servants, even bolshy shop stewards from the Clyde - these all provided a sort of pacing for Australia, like reactive volt-amps in an electric motor, and many of these are still in place today. The supply thinned to almost nothing ten years ago, and in ten years there will be none left, but now - they are still having an effect, shaping Australia. You can think of them as just another strand of being multi-cultural, or you can think of them as the last of an old way. Apart from that, there are institutions. Funnily enough, Royal Commissions are held in greater esteem here than in the U.K., so at any rate the monarchy is that much more alive here.

Most important of all, there are the old institutions of parliament and the jury system; these are not British, but mediaeval survivals that did not last on the continent and evolved into something different in the U.K. They form what is called the "Westminster system". A lot of what makes this work is the spirit with which it is handled; where this spirit is missing, as in so many African countries, these institutions did not take root. One thing these institutions need is the concept of the "loyal opposition". I recall a presentation at school given by one of the Australians who had advised in Malaya and later in Vietnam; he pointed out that one cultural difficulty in establishing democracy was this very concept: in South-East Asia, if you were someone's enemy you were trying to kill him, and no shilly-shallying. One problem with multi-culturalism - which depends on tolerance - is the risk that this very spirit of tolerance will be lost in the new cultural changes; the task we face on this front is not to keep out other cultural influences - that would defeat the object - but to keep key values from the British legacy alive, since that is also part of multi-culturalism. Since the institutions of the Westminster system do work here, we may take it that the spirit still exists here - or at any rate did until very recently. There is no point in exploring this in depth, since you are better placed to know it than I am, but there is one aspect worth looking at in detail: tolerance. In Europe many people accused the British of apathy; if you really care about something, you care enough to put it into practice, and that means to enforce it, they said. They said you can only be tolerant about another point of view if you are apathetic about your own. There was some justice in the accusation; probably a great many British really were only being apathetic. But there is a real difference: true tolerance is not a purely negative quality like apathy, but includes a positive quality - respect. Not the aggressive respect of Voltaire with his overblown and overemotional "I may disagree with what you say, but I shall fight to the death for your right to say it", but a quiet sort of respect that lets things calm down, diminishing any vicious circles of antagonism until they vanish.

At the risk of being personal, consider the fall of Gough Whitlam. At the end he called on Australia to "maintain the rage". This was one of the worst possible things, for if Australia had, it would have lost that quality of quiet respect. Luckily for Australia, while Whitlam lacked this quality Australia still had it; we do not now have to live in an atmosphere of rage. This is not just a matter of taste, either; I recently saw a documentary on Whitlam, and at one point it mentioned the people he most respected in the history of Rome. Even before they were named, I knew who they would be, because I knew many of the particular mistakes he made were parallels of some in ancient Rome, and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when they named the Gracchi. What were the mistakes? in general, they took clever political solutions out of context - they were Greek ones - and applied them regardless of fit in a not-quite-comparable Roman context; and, worse, when they didn't fit they tried to force them. Over and above that, although Rome survived the Gracchi, all Rome on both sides of politics maintained the rage; until then, that had been a hallmark of Greek politics, and that was the one achievement that the Gracchi really left Rome. Maintaining the rage cost Rome generations of bloody civil war and the collapse of the very freedoms the Gracchi tried to uphold. Gough Whitlam achieved a great many things through having a personality that allowed him to do them: he was a man of high and unyielding principle. Of course, that also meant that he was completely and utterly indifferent to the ordinary, everyday concerns of those directly and personally affected by his actions. He had the virtues of his vices, but the vices of his virtues. (Not an uncommon type in history - Woodrow Wilson was much the same.) And, luckily, he did not leave the legacy of the Gracchi: Australians had too much tolerance.

Unfortunately we cannot be sure how long this will continue. The example our current politicians set - on both sides of politics - is one of hatred. We cannot tell if Paul Keating really means it or if it is just histrionics, but if the next generation of politicians follows his example their opposition will really mean hatred, and they really will believe that defeating the opposition means destroying it in every sense. For this reason the recent business with the speaker of parliament was dangerous; the right wing attacked him for their own convenience, when the institution of speaker is one of the vital parts that makes the system work. Most worrying of all, no-one seemed to care that a vital supporting branch was being sawn through - no-one on the right who was sawing, and no-one on the left, even of those who were defending the speaker. It is just precisely because the office is greater than the man that we should overlook the foibles of the man; after all, the man will pass and the office will endure. Or we can compare Lord Mayors; in the U.K., these are above politics, while in Australia the Lord Mayor of Melbourne is (or was) politically active - descending from a position of respect destroys respect, and we have seen how crucial a quality that is. That is the point: the Lord Mayor of Cork in the twenties was extremely political, and he did the right and proper thing - in the circumstances. It is not being political that is the problem, the problem is when you damage the respect that is needed to make the system work. I fear the respect may be fading in Australia.

That brings us round full circle to monarchy. A republic is more of an abstraction than a monarchy, and a loyal opposition is a simpler concept to understand in the context of a monarchy. Rather than having two sides arguing over who is boss, you make it quite clear that neither is: both are subordinate, and the only question is who is doing the work and who is doing the checking. You may not like it, but many aspects of human nature are like this and allow a dominance to build up, rather like pack animals such as dogs but more complex because people are more complex and less fully adapted to that way of life. That requires a "top dog", and - since we are not really dogs - it is better that this top dog be nominal. We can achieve this with a constitutional monarch or with a president, an abstraction who is an elected person who stands for all and not just those who elected him. When I put it like that even I have difficulty believing it; and that is exactly why constitutional monarchies are more workable than republics. Of course, that is only comparing with a minimalist republic. The Americans have a presidency of this sort, and they make it work through familiarity with the abstractions involved; since they have grown up with it, to them it seems perfectly natural whereas in fact it is only an example of the great flexibility of human behaviour. Strictly speaking, this is only a criticism of a system of presidency, not of republics in general. Even so, I have little respect for "the people", not through any special contempt, but because "the people" are just you and me - I don't have a terribly high opinion of myself, and I don't even know you. There are probably a great many people who have more natural respect for monarchy than for republics - yet most of the discussions I have seen republicans put forward think of respect for monarchy as artificial, and take it as an axiom that of course "the people" inspire respect. There may be other forms of republic that have a more complex design but which use abstractions that put less of a strain on the credulity, and later on we shall look at them, but the straightforward one with an elected president is the minimalist one, and it is the one which is hardest to make work.

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D. SOME DIFFERENCES OF THE AUSTRALIAN CHARACTER FROM THE BRITISH. This draws out some aspects that work against direct adoption of British institutions, since these differences necessarily mean differences between the workings of present and future Australian institutions and past and present British ones - they must necessarily affect any planning in this area.

Sometimes people deceive themselves. Australians think they do not respect authority, but in fact they do; they just disrespect it in conversation, but when it comes to practice - they respect it more than the British. Oderint dum metuant, let them loathe so long as they fear. You don't believe this? consider: many Australian states have laws against public drunkenness, the U.K. does not (you have to be drunk and something to get into trouble in the U.K.). Not only is there more respect for Royal Commissions, there is more respect for magistrates - whenever such creatures are mentioned in the media, there is a noticeable tone of awe lacking in the U.K. Australia has an income tax system which adds insult to injury, making you jump through hoops of paperwork just to pay your own money to the government; in the U.K. only exceptions need massive paperwork. Australia has more regulations of all sorts than you can shake a stick at, and more all the time; and furthermore, they change if you so much as blink. Things change more slowly in the U.K., and if they did not - if laws and regulations were jammed down people's throats like that - the system would break down. In point of actual fact, Australians like regulation; they do it all the time. (You may feel inclined to reply that all these are good things, and Australians are quite right to want them. Very possibly, but that is not the point we are bringing out here; the point is that, if that is the price, then Australians are the sort of people who are willing to pay that price.)

There is another side to this. In the U.K. bureaucrats are conscientious but impersonal; they think they are there to serve you, but they think they can serve you best by making the system work. Queueing is almost part of the British mentality, and to the bureaucrat his task is like that of the queue; only let everyone work according to the idea of the queue, and the queue will work well for everyone. This works, but only because the system is a good system, by and large. Here in Australia, the politicians are wishing a totally unworkable system on everyone all the time, and changing it before anyone can get used to it. Here, the bureaucrats are personal and helpful; they help make the unworkable work. In some four years of exposure to Australian bureaucracy I have repeatedly hit problems from the system, and I have repeatedly found helpful Australian bureaucrats who - quite unsolicited - helped me out. There was the man behind the desk at Australia House who had the new set of migration papers for those caught short by the previous day's change in regulations. There was the man who found a cancellation in the driving tests so I could take one before my British licence lapsed (three weeks before I arrived the rules were changed to make it impossible for me to convert my licence in the old way). There was the woman who very kindly telephoned me on her own time to let me know how things were going with legal requirements over training. There was the customs man who looked up an exemption for me late at night, when I arrived with a bicycle that had just been reclassified so as not to be exempt from duty. In fact, Australian bureaucrats aren't bureaucratic and faceless at all, they are real people who are doing their best in a personal way to help other real people, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. But I do wish the Australian people would tell the politicians where to get off - they are making things unnecessarily difficult. I know it isn't necessary, because they order these things better in the U.K.

For the sake of completeness, I should mention that there is one group of Australian public servants which lets all the others down. This particular group is discourteous and throws its weight about, and generally thinks it is in charge; perhaps you can guess which group this is.

All in all, these differences in the national character may make a difference to how forms of government work out in practice; so far, it seems to be that the politicians know they have a willing horse, so they flog it.

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E. IMMEDIATE ISSUES: OATHS OF ALLEGIANCE, AND SOME MISUNDERSTANDINGS. Since there is a lot of current dishonesty, intellectual or otherwise, and a fair amount of jumping the gun, certain matters that are relatively unimportant in themselves have acquired a certain urgency and are covered here.

Quite apart from all the issues of general interest, there are some matters which are under way right now, and which won't wait. This business of oaths is one such.

I must declare an interest. I have just taken Australian citizenship, oath - or rather, affirmation - of allegiance and all. I put in the paperwork in December 1992 when I heard that Paul Keating was going to pull a fast one on this matter, partly because I did not know what other changes to the commitments he might be about to add and partly because I felt that the new one was too much of an empty abstraction; I did not want to make an empty commitment. Why had I not put in that paperwork before? because I was still trying to get the necessary paperwork to establish Irish citizenship, my grandfather having been Irish. I wanted that in turn because the British are turning their backs on Australia, and any descendants I might have would find it easier to visit any part of the E.E.C. on the back of an Irish connection than a British one. If I can have British and Australian nationality, why not Irish as well? vote early, vote often, as they say. What has that to do with holding off on Australian citizenship? because the way they have structured it, I can be Irish and become Australian, but if I am Australian and become Irish then - without very special exemptions - I cease to be Australian. If Mr. Keating's intentions in this republic matter are related to any concept of Irishness, it is fair to say that in at least one case they have been a hindrance.

With that out of the way, let us consider this business of oaths, both for naturalisation and for various offices of state. The first thing is, Keating is deliberately trying to remove such props of the monarchy as he may without changes of the law (for ministers) or the constitution (for naturalisation). Frankly, this is poor behaviour, quite regardless of whether his objectives are legitimate; he is trying to jump the gun. Over and above that, precisely because he does not have his republic in place, he is having to use rather empty forms of words in his new oaths, and an oath is supposed to be a real thing taking its place in the mind of its swearer; what he is achieving is not so much a new oath as a non-oath. This would not matter, except that the purposes of the oath - the needs it is supposed to meet - are still there. He is taking away the scaffolding before the foundations are secure, and though you may sometimes get away with it this is never wise. This is the very reason I was reluctant to take the new form; after all, I would not have been giving up any existing loyalties, being British already. Let me show you some of the emptiness of the new form of naturalisation. The swearer is asked to uphold the principles of democracy, yet the oath itself arose through skirting the spirit of the constitution (and there are other areas of sailing close to the wind in this republican debate, as will be plain later). The swearer is asked to uphold principles of liberty, and this new form has eliminated the old form; it would certainly have shown those principles better if, as well as allowing the choice between swearing and affirming, it had allowed a choice between the old form of words and the new. If Keating truly believes the new form superior he would have risked nothing by allowing the old one to remain as an alternative; this is exactly the way the old Anglican marriage ceremony was phased out. That had words getting the woman to promise to obey her husband, but enough people were attached to it for reasons of tradition - it was a "proper" marriage - that it was difficult to change. The cleanest way to make the change was to allow both forms, and let time work out most of the change itself. If a new oath was appropriate, that is the way it should have been done, both to show some genuine respect for the principle of liberty it purports to express and to reduce any personal anguish people might have felt at not having a "proper" oath. After all, that is exactly what I was worried about.

You may feel this is all a fuss about nothing (but if so, why bother to make these changes at all? they are psychological milestones, and well the politicians know it). It is worth showing a couple of modern examples of oaths that had very practical results. One involved Hitler, and one involved de Valera. As you might expect, Hitler's was an abuse and Dev's was legitimate; but Dev sailed close to the wind himself, and it is instructive to observe where the line may properly be drawn.

Hitler came to power constitutionally, and he set about undoing the Weimar republic with its own constitution. As he rebuilt the German army, he changed its name and its allegiance; it became the Wehrmacht, and the whole army had to swear allegiance to Germany as expressed in its fuehrer, Hitler. He made this change early on, just after the president died; that president had been Hindenburg, a war hero, and Hitler had been chancellor, which is more or less prime minister. Hitler abolished the presidency, creating the new office of fuehrer, and then he changed the oath that the army had earlier sworn. Of course, this oath was ambiguous; if Hitler had left the constitution unchanged it would have had no practical effect. What he did was to redirect the commitment to a new and not fully defined channel, and later, when he redirected that channel the commitment changed with it. This has parallels with what may well happen with the Australian oaths; they mean what Keating wants them to mean. One difference is that Hitler's version was not an empty one; it very definitely made a real commitment, to and through the fuehrer. This oath had a very real effect; it was one of the things that kept the Wehrmacht loyal in the closing stages of the war. It did not override any conceptions of self-interest, rather it meant that anyone who contemplated overthrowing the new order knew he was breaking ranks, which meant he would be highly exposed; no-one wanted to be first, so no-one went at all - at least, no-one except a very few, who were not enough. That is the sort of thing oaths do.

De Valera, on the other hand, found himself in an invidious position. The British only withdrew from Ireland slowly and by degrees, and when Dev had his chance at power he found himself faced with an oath of office that obliged him to swear loyalty to the British crown within the Empire. What was he to do? His position was very like that of someone who finds himself with an unconscionable contract forced on him; the law allows such contracts to be set aside - but first you have to prove it. What de Valera did was repeatedly to deny the authority of the crown and refuse to take office while anyone might think that meant he accepted that authority; all the while he kept announcing that the oath was an empty thing not binding on him if it was placed in his way as a barrier against anyone with his republican principles. Finally, he swore the oath, at the same time saying that it was unconscionable and therefore not binding. All this was sailing very close to the wind, but let us look closely at the differences in this case. For one thing, he was not forcing oaths on others, he was trying to avoid having one thrust upon him. For another, by his very actions he showed respect for oaths in general; if he had not, he would simply have sworn and got on with things (the way Keating did when he took office under the crown), but as it was de Valera showed that he realised the force of oaths and that he recognised that the burden was on him to show that this was an unconscionable oath. He fulfilled the requirement, because he showed he had taken all reasonable steps to look for realistic alternatives.

In this particular area I yield to none in my respect for de Valera, and for that very reason his conduct is something Paul Keating may be measured by. See for yourself if he measures up. He is forcing others to sign a blank cheque, for all he may not intend to abuse it. He is not exploring alternatives the way Dev did; he is pushing things through to suit himself at the earliest opportunity. Simply, he is being unconscionable to others who might wish to show loyalty to the crown without first showing that he has no practical choice himself. As I said, he is jumping the gun. Which is better, Keating or Dev?

STOP PRESS: Keating is doing just the same jumping the gun as I write, with instructions not to let organisations apply to be "Royal"; surely, if he respected the Australian people, he would have allowed them to decide for themselves in individual cases? that is a rhetorical question, of course.

All that is hard on Paul Keating, but that is all part of keeping the bastards honest. It does not reflect on the republican cause in the slightest. I do not feel this republican debate is well served by dishonesty or selectiveness on either side, whether deliberate or not, and I intend to highlight a few such errors and omissions on both sides. Regrettably, more have come to my attention from the republican corner, but I believe that is more because they have so far been the ones making all the running and not because they and their cause are of a different quality. I shall omit names where practical, but I suppose people will recognise who I mean. I shall start with one piece of selectiveness on the monarchist side.

One of the more strident of the Liberal senators tried to deflect the republican debate. She said that it was a diversion, that with the current state of the economy people were more concerned with unemployment and Mr. Keating should not try to distract them with this republican stuff. Well, to give him his due, Mr. Keating did not make this a major issue during the recent elections; since I shall shortly be holding that omission against him, it would be unfair to accuse him of using it as a diversion. Also, it may be true that people are more concerned with employment; then again, it may not. I strongly suspect it depends on the individual, and it is grossly insulting to think that someone who has pressing personal needs is incapable of thinking beyond his belly; I fall into exactly that category myself. The only way to find out what people are thinking is to ask them, and that particular senator's helpfulness in saving us the bother of being asked is not precisely the kind of help I find palatable.

Here is one to hold against the republicans. By way of sugaring the pill, a prominent member of the Australian Republican Movement recently said that while he had the greatest respect for the Queen as a person, he didn't like having the Queen for Australia. Recently this same republican pointed out that there was a certain irony in the similarities between some current objections to a republic and some objections to Australian federation a century ago. There is a similar irony in the similarities between his respect and something Tom Paine wrote about Louis XVI of France two centuries ago:-

"The Monarch and the Monarchy were distinct and separate things; and it was against the established despotism of the latter, and not against the person or the principles of the former, that the revolt commenced and the Revolution has been carried.

"Mr. Burke does not attend to the distinction between men and principles; and, therefore, he does not see that a revolt may take place against the despotism of the latter, while there lies no charge of despotism against the former."

I took the opportunity of checking our modern republican's quotation with him the other day - I caught him after a speech - and I mentioned Tom Paine's remarks and how little comfort they must have been to Louis XVI, considering what was just about to happen. "You mean just before," and our modern republican made a throat-cutting gesture, "Couiic!", and he laughed. There is a certain irony in the similarity of his remarks and Tom Paine's, and I fear there is as little nourishment in his respect for the Queen as there was in Tom Paine's respect for Louis XVI. Very possibly Mr. Burke did attend to the distinction, but with the reservation that such nice distinctions are not always made by those who should put them into practice; in which case they are empty distinctions. Nobody ever cut off a principle's head.

The other day I heard the opinions of a republican Liberal; in the circumstances his views must have been sincere rather than a political subterfuge, so they are worth looking at as an example of mistakes rather than potential dishonesty. He felt:-

  • The monarchy was British, which was wrong for Australia. Dead right. But that does not imply a republic, only repatriating the monarchy. And if the world changes again, it might be worth having a larger connection than a purely Australian one.

  • The monarchy was prejudiced, deliberately excluding Catholics, Methodists, females with younger brothers and the like. Dead right. But those aren't prejudices, just anachronisms that no-one has bothered to tidy up since there is no immediate need; when those restrictions were put in - and probably as late as the middle of the nineteenth century - they were constitutional safeguards, useful in the circumstances of that age. If it is an immediate issue, it can be fixed.

  • An unelected head of state is undemocratic. Well, yes and no. If democracy for you is an objective, then there is no arguing with this. If it is a means rather than an end, then there is nothing wrong or undemocratic about it, any more than about any unelected public servant. The point is, is the system as a whole democratic? in Australia it is, and partly because having an unelected head of state prevents that position from being politicised while in no way interfering with any of the democracy's actions - the actions are all thoroughly democratic. In fact, barring politicians from the top job helps remind them that they are there to serve, not to rule - it makes parliamentary government easier by making loyal opposition more workable, since the government is in no sense "over" the opposition.

    On two points out of three, the republican Liberal was coming to an over-hasty conclusion. On the third, either he had an emotional commitment - and we can never argue with that, only respect it - or he was confusing the form and substance of our democracy.

    There is a piece of sloppy thinking that the monarchists are prone to, which in fact comes up as a temptation for all people of a conservative leaning, whatever the issue. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a piece of folk wisdom, and it is accurate as far as it goes, but it needs interpreting. Consider another piece of folk wisdom: if it isn't raining, the roof doesn't leak, and if it is raining, you can't fix it anyway. The error there is in not recognising that the roof is broken even when it is not leaking; you need to interpret properly whether or not things actually are broken. The best and easiest time to fix anything is before it gets too far gone, and it will always be a matter of judgment to recognise the damage early. It is my belief that monarchy is in fact mildly damaged, but mainly due to the efforts of the republicans themselves; it is effrontery to argue that a republic is a good thing from a situation they themselves are creating, and it begs the question of whether the right approach is to fix the problems by abolishing the monarchy - it may be more appropriate to fix the monarchy. Having said all that, we must not let "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" be an excuse for intellectual sloth - we really must ask whether things are broken, and ask it honestly.

    There are two types of potential dishonesty worth looking at, again one from each side of the issue. These are of more general application, and in fact they happen every once in a while whenever democracy is practised. One is that democracy can quite easily be rigged to produce a desired result, and the other - the opposite side of the coin - is that it can quite easily be delayed to suppress an undesired result. They have not yet happened in this republican debate, but there is every reason to watch out for them; they are worth exploring under a heading of their own.

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    F. PRACTICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS OF DEMOCRACY/AREAS OF A DEMOCRACY NEEDING SPECIAL ATTENTION. On the other hand there are certain longer term issues of no immediate practical significance that need to be covered. This is because if they are not attended to, there never will be a right time to cover them, and also because they are concerned with techniques rather than objectives; it is important that the right means be used as well as having the right ends pursued.

    As the old saying has it, democracy is not a particularly good system, it is just better than anything else. That is a joke, granted, but it is also true. Even if democracy is superior, that does not remove all the work. It still isn't perfect, and we have to remember that. It is very easy to forget that, but if we do we are in the position of being good men doing nothing, and evil might triumph. So, when I outline some problems with democracy I am not knocking it, rather I am drawing attention to some things we have to stay on top of, just to keep things working.

    Any democracy has problems all its own, the way Australia has minor problems arising from its system of compulsory preferential voting. These are practical difficulties, in the sense that if they ever get too burdensome reforms can be made, and they are philosophical ones in the sense that any reform will only switch one set of problems for another (which is why it is usually worth living with the current set). These are rarely allowed to become big problems because a reform will always provide a temporary fix - in fact, that is just exactly why Australia's previous voting arrangements were changed for the current ones.

    There are middle-size problems that come up quite a lot: for instance, the results of a poll can be misrepresented; when a poll asks if you think a republic will happen, and you say "yes, at this rate", you may find the results presented as having you saying you were in favour of a republic. But that is not an integral part of the political system. A more important one is the way that, in the U.S.A., it seems that it doesn't matter who you vote for, you will almost certainly get a lawyer. In Australia, it seems that it doesn't matter who you vote for, you will almost certainly get a politician. It is getting like that in the U.K., but the British class system still throws up M.P.s who don't fit the pattern - the "knights of the shires", and former factory workers and such. So these are not built-in problems of democracy (perhaps they are problems of a classless society?). Politicians often point out, correctly, that they do a lot of hard work in their jobs, as though that was an excuse. What they overlook is that their workload is all self- inflicted, and so deserves no sympathy, and that much of the result of their efforts is a bloody nuisance we would all be better off without, and so deserves no respect. We would be better served if they got things going and then settled back to a watching brief, so they had their hands free to respond to events and did not disturb things that were looking after themselves - but they feel the need to justify themselves by works. (This is all related to the proper function of a committee, discussed below in the section on "magisterial republics".)

    Related to this - because it is related to the ethics of politicians - is the fact that democracies have no built-in "honour". This "honour" is a technical thing to our modern culture, but we get a glimpse of it from literature that links us to an earlier age: the plays "Coriolanus" and "Il medico y su honra", and parts of Montaigne, for instance. As a democracy cannot bind itself for the future, it cannot make binding promises; its promises have no more value than the promises of the politicians themselves, and if their honour has degenerated - if they think a change in circumstances justifies their going back on their word, the way Hawke did in not handing over to Keating - the country's honour is no stronger than that. Yet the whole point of keeping one's word in changed circumstances is that people can rely on it, and by extension on you; circumstances always do change, and if that alone justified breaking one's word, how could it ever mean anything to give it? The politicians drift into their way of thinking by taking their standards from each other, and the only corrective is the will of the people; if it is lax the people's error of omission becomes the politicians' error of commission. This is the sort of thing that led the French to describe Britain as "perfidious Albion". Quite apart from any impropriety in this lack of honour, there is the possibility that this present abuse of democratic freedom is short-sighted, and will adversely affect the democracy's future freedom of action - a point touched on by Montaigne, referring to the Turkish keeping of faith in their incursion into Italy. This remains a practical rather than a philosophical difficulty for democracy however, because it can be allowed for by the will of the people, properly instructed and keeping the bastards honest. (This also presents the practical problem that a democracy may drift into being short-sighted, because of the short time horizon between elections; yet longer periods mean less control over the system - but it is still a practical matter, a trade-off, not an underlying philosophical problem.)

    However, there are three big areas where democracy has great difficulty, and changing the system does not help: democracy cannot answer the question "who are we?"; democracy can easily be rigged to produce any desired result; and democracy cannot justify, that is, it cannot make wrong right. Whenever one of these problems comes up, it is rarely in a pure form but is more often mixed with elements of the other problems and with practical problems from current circumstances. It is probably worth clarifying these areas with some examples:-


    Let's look at the Irish. In 1918 the vast majority of the population of the U.K. was English; if there had been a referendum over the whole U.K. about Irish independence, it would probably have rejected it. This is almost hypothetical, yet it had been working out in a small way throughout the nineteenth century. No-one supposes that the Westminster system was deliberately designed to oppress the Irish, yet throughout the nineteenth century, no matter how elections turned out, Irish M.P.s were always in a minority. One argument people put when someone complains about a problem is, "well, why don't you do something about it? if you don't care enough to work through democratic channels, you have no right to do anything outside them". This is usually a perfectly valid argument, but this is one of the times it breaks down. The problem comes about because you start with a prejudgment and you build it into the test - naturally it comes out with the answer it presupposes. Here, the system presupposed that the U.K. was one country, and the averaging-out provided by democracy would give everyone a fair deal on the whole. It didn't. The Irish were a permanent minority, and as such their interests were never served unless they happened to coincide with the interests of some other group. A permanent minority is not a minority, it is an outside group and as such deserves to be handled separately.

    Gradually but inevitably, Ireland recognised itself as being separate from the U.K. - but the question was being asked of the U.K. as a whole, so it was the wrong question being asked of the wrong group. Ulster complicates the matter even further; if in 1918 you had asked Ireland as a whole what it wanted, the answer would have treated the Ulster protestants as just such an overlooked non-minority. Only, by the above definitions, they were not a separate group - they were Unionists, part of the U.K. So, how in all justice do we work out the right questions, work out who to ask? who are "we, the people"? Only one thing is certain, democracy itself can never tell us.

    This is not just a coincidence. This business of making a democracy apply to whoever is appropriate was the basis of South African apartheid - it is thoroughly democratic. If you are one of the people, you can vote, and if you are not you cannot - the injustice comes in in allowing that group to dominate its outsiders. Equally, it cannot be cured by declaring everyone an insider. What if they don't want to be? or what if they then become oppressors in their turn, on the model of the English over the Irish? that is just exactly what the right-wing South Africans fear will happen to them under black majority rule. The truth is, there is no way to separate or keep together these Siamese twins to create well-formed individuals, so it comes down to a choice of injustice (which is why Northern Ireland is not part of Eire now).

    Again, look at the histories of how Texas, California and Hawaii came to be part of the U.S.A.: gradually, as they got the hang of things, the Americans got more and more manipulative, but Texas was a fair democratic rebellion against Mexico on the part of the Americans who lived there; then California was a bit more rigged, taking itself almost directly into the U.S.A. and overriding the Mexican minority; and Hawaii even more so, taking about half a century to change the facts on the ground so it could apply "democratically" to join the U.S.A. as a new state - there was absolutely no real justification when the American interlopers overthrew Hawaiian independence and turned it into a de facto colony. Some people feel that Puerto Rico is another example of being assimilated into the U.S.A., only incomplete. If you think I am slamming American hypocrisy as a cloak for oppressing outsiders, don't - they apply just exactly those methods to themselves: it was the democratic feeling of the people of California that they should take all the water out of the Owens river and give it to the cities of the plain, even if the people of the Owens river community felt otherwise; another example of picking and choosing "the people".

    There are examples of this going on right now, in Israel: they speak of "creating new facts" when they bring in Jewish settlements in Arab areas; the idea is precisely so a "democratic" vote will come up with a Jewish result. There, they are acting deliberately; but the same thing can happen inadvertently. In Switzerland part of the canton of Bern, the Jura, is French- speaking where the majority is German-speaking. This is a result of the area being taken over by Bern centuries ago, and that area wanted to be a canton all its own. Only, did it? one of the big arguments in setting up a referendum to determine that very question was who to ask: those who lived there? but they included large numbers of Bernese public servants, brought in from the German-speaking area; those who were born there but had left because of the economic difficulties of being a permanent minority? "New facts" had been created, and it was nobody's deliberate fault.

    Democracy is a valid tool to use once you know what your groups are, but it is no way to determine who they are. For instance a referendum (plebiscite, rather) was once held to determine whether Savoy should become part of France. The result was "yes", but unlike normal democratic procedures the question was only asked once - it was intended to be binding on future generations, like the old joke about democracy African style being "one man, one vote, once". Yet Savoy clearly had enough separate identity to start up the Kingdom of Italy. At best, democracy can determine who people are not, say by asking some group if it wants to be independent - if Tasmania does not want to be independent, obviously it should not be, and if a putative Czechoslovakia thinks it does not exist, obviously it does not (although that does not by itself prove that independent Czech and Slovak states do; you have to add in the fact that once you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth - and if you are lucky enough, there is only one option remaining). Woodrow Wilson's principles of self-determination were a gallant attempt to address this very point, with only limited success - and even then, these principles only looked at the cases of states and countries, not other important cases where democratic issues might be expected to arise (like questions of Church government, for instance). The downside of this approach is the way everyone now thinks in terms of "nations" rather than "countries", which gets in the way of the older usage. The older usage lacked the dimension of geographical contiguity and the implication of sovereignty, as in "the Indian nations", and its unavailability forces people into such contortions as "multi-culturalism". It also tends to deny the right to exist of those few genuine entities which do not happen to be nations in themselves: states for instance, or the U.S.S.R as was, or Switzerland and Belgium.

    There are two reasons for describing this scenario at such length, apart from completeness: it can happen very easily even without being set up deliberately, and the reaction of the Irish to being treated like this is very relevant to the tactics available against all the abuses of democracy. For instance, someone recently suggested that in any referendum on a republic, only those with Australian citizenship should be allowed to vote; British and New Zealanders with voting rights should not. Fair enough, you may say, except that this is exactly one of the questions where we are determining "who are we?"; by suppressing those voting rights you are building in an assumption on that very question - and it is just as unfair the other way around, because by allowing those voting rights you are building in the opposite assumption. In this case, I doubt very much that it will make much practical difference, but the man who made the suggestion must have thought it would - although he probably did not realise he was proposing an abuse. The whole republican issue is a question of "what are we?", which is dangerously close to "who are we?"; if, that is, you take a descriptive view of things. The prescriptive view asks the question "what would we like to be?", and is a very dangerous approach to take in constitutional matters, because it presupposes that achieving that change is within our grasp.

    As regards the Irish M.P.s at Westminster, they deliberately set out to frustrate the workings of the system. When they realised they were being abused by being a permanent minority in an otherwise workable parliament, they said to themselves "very well then, if this will not work for us we shall make sure it works for nobody - they will have to give us a fair go then!". And that is exactly what they did. In fact, this tradition continues into modern times - an Ulster catholic M.P. who won his seat at several elections only stood to prevent a protestant getting a free ride in; but he never went to Westminster, and so never got paid. Until, one day, there was a very important issue, so he went. He went, and then he abstained. When asked why, he replied "I came to abstain in person". That is the boycott, itself very Irish; why couldn't it have been used throughout?

    Unfortunately, democracy is self-reinforcing: if you boycott it, you give your enemies a free hand, and if you participate, you are compromised and your very participation helps give effect to the consensus of the democracy. You think this is good? certainly, it meant the U.S.S.R. lost out by boycotting the U.N. when it agreed to sending in troops for the Korean war. But now we come to the tragic bit: there is no way of stopping it. It works against the good guys too. In the early twenties the anti-fascist parties boycotted the Italian parliament over a political murder attributed to Mussolini; but the only result of this Aventine secession was to give the Fascists a free hand. This mechanism is entirely morally neutral. So boycotts are rarely appropriate, but other forms of sabotage remain and are justifiable - provided nothing less will serve. Indeed, in the Australian system, voting is compulsory which means boycotts are impossible; Australian democracy would extract a spurious basis for consensus and support if a situation ever called for a boycott. This means that "join and sabotage" is more likely to be a justifiable tactic in Australia.

    In ways like this the Irish M.P.s sabotaged the workings of a democracy. If I just tell you that, without first letting you see that historical context that shows you that the democracy itself was unfair, that looks as though they were misbehaving; but the truth was, they had exhausted the alternatives, like de Valera taking his oath. You should not be expected to play fair if the other fellow doesn't - although it is incumbent on you to give him a chance to play fair and not just think the worst of him; you have to exhaust those other options first. This is very relevant because these same tactics are justified in resisting the other abuses of democracy which I shall cover next.


    In some ways, democracy is like random chance; that is, just as the only way to find out the result of a race is to run the race, so also the only way to find out what the people want is to ask them. In the exact same way, just as you can get any desired hand in a game of cards by repeatedly drawing and discarding, so also you can get any desired result in a democracy by repeatedly asking until you get the right answer. This is an old trick, and there isn't any way to stop it except by staying alert - because the will of the people isn't truly random, except in a specialised philosophical sense. What happens when someone tries it is that his repeated discards get spotted and he gets stopped from trying it again, at least for a while. But you have to stay alert; there are rules of parliamentary procedure for just exactly this sort of thing, but you can't rely on everything working out - you have to watch them to keep the bastards honest. Theirs is an old trick, using proper powers improperly until everything comes right. For instance, there was absolutely nothing wrong in the Governor-General sending Gough Whitlam to the people for another mandate; in the right circumstances, as part of the checks and balances, it was part of the Governor-General's duty. What would have been wrong would have been, his repeatedly sending Whitlam back for a mandate until he got the "right" answer. (He did? you astonish me.) Funnily enough, left wing Australians usually pick up the wrong point on this, probably because they are fond of using this tactic of try, try again themselves; they do not want to criticise the Governor-General for doing the sort of thing they might want to do themselves.

    I say the left wing parties do this, because they are trying for change; right wing parties have no more integrity, but they usually work by means of delay. Right now, in the U.K., right wingers are resisting the encroachment of the E.E.C. by delaying tactics.

    There is nothing wrong with asking repeatedly, and there is nothing wrong with delaying tactics, provided that is all there is to it; the other side is there to play the political game too. The problem comes in when you work democratically by asking (or delaying), and then stop when everything suits you. In the case of the British right wingers, they hope to take advantage of there being only one key moment for the future of the E.E.C.; if they can delay past that moment they win. In the case of the republican movement, they only have to keep asking; if it comes right for them just once, they win - because there will be no going back. The right way to conduct a democracy is by making choices freely available both ways; if you want a new traffic light you can keep campaigning for it until the public likes it, because if they don't like it the next year they can always change their minds. With African- style democracies in the sixties, one man one vote once, they didn't get that chance; that is an obvious abuse.

    The republican issue, by itself, is not an abuse, and the republicans have a perfect right to put the question. However, since it is a one-way decision, they do not have the right to frame the question the way they are framing it. A question of the form "should we be a republic?" is dishonest because they can keep asking it until it comes right. An honest question would be of the form "should we have a republic? but we promise not to do it without a massive majority or unless you say yes now and again when we ask you if you are sure in five years time; and furthermore we promise not to ask you again for at least twenty years if you say no now".

    It is my belief that since the republican issue was on Paul Keating's agenda before the latest election, and he downplayed the issue during that election, the effect was to put him in the position of being able to ask the wrong kind of republican question as often as he wanted; it would have been more honest of him to put the issue before the people at the time, rather than claiming to have a mandate to push the republican question as he himself chooses to frame it. Keating has also announced that he will not push the republican issue any faster than the public mood will allow; this is very good of him, but it is also another way of saying that while he will take no for an answer, he will keep asking; just exactly that try, try again tactic. He is sending out his republican committee to go up and down and to and fro in the world, eliciting feedback on how Australia should become a republic, and not at all on whether it should; this is also just such an abuse, because if the answer is no all the committee need say is - "more time", i.e. let us try again. Again, this committee rejects any participation that is not geared to a "yes" answer, like that of Professor Blainey, on the grounds that that is an abuse of its terms of reference; so it is, but we have established that those terms of reference are themselves iffy, and from the Irish precedent last century we see that "join and sabotage" is not an abuse when this happens, but perfectly legitimate. None of this means that the committee itself is deliberately distorting things, it is simply open to being manipulated. Nor does it even mean that Paul Keating himself is deliberately manipulative; it is simply that this particular approach is very open to abuse, and the committee would certainly command more trust if a different approach had been chosen.


    I mention this partly to complete the picture, as there is no current risk of trouble in this quarter; after all, most issues that a democracy faces are not deep moral ones, and the republican issue is not one either (although Mabo probably is). But this topic is also worth mentioning because some people think that if an issue has a democratic mandate, that makes it right, so anyone who challenges it must be wrong, even wicked, and should be stopped. People who feel like this get so worked up that they do not realise they are denying free speech and the workings of the democratic process. Such people would deny me the chance to put the views expressed above, that there are occasions when it is right to thwart the democratic process; but they should really hear me through, and hear me point out how very restricted those circumstances are (really, only when all else has failed or can be seen to be useless in preventing the forms of democracy being used to abuse the substance of it).

    Really, democracy can only express issues of right and wrong, it cannot create them. Lawyers will recognise parallels with old constitutional questions of lex (legem?) dicere and lex dare. Used wisely, democracy allows mistakes to be rectified and changing circumstances responded to; but would you argue that because slavery was the will of the American people a century and a half ago, it was therefore good? say rather, that American democracy allowed a necessary evil to be rectified when once it had ceased to be necessary. Unfortunately, as I have shown above, some decisions are irreversible; the wise statesman avoids such situations if he can, following the advice to mariners caught in a gale off a lee shore ("don't be"). When something irreversible happens, all the democracy in the world won't make wrong right - the ancient Athenians once democratically decided to kill all the inhabitants of the island of Melos. What democracy does allow you to do is to express issues of right and wrong once you know them; the Athenians realised what they were doing and reprieved the Melians, and luckily the reprieve got there in time. (There is actually a common situation where democracy has the appearance of creating right and wrong: where the issue really is the business of "the people" and nobody else; then to do anything else must be wrong, not because it is undemocratic but because it is none of anyone else's business, so by elimination doing the democratic thing must be right. But that is not just because it is democratic - the same would apply to make my wishes right if you interfered with my personal liberty in a matter which was none of your business. This case, although common, begs the question of "who are we?", because that defines what is "our" business.)

    Did I put Melos? My mistake, I meant Mitylene - the Athenians were concerned with both. But for Melos there was no reprieve.

    Again, it comes down to staying alert. If you watch what is going on and participate in the democratic process (assuming it has not been corrupted and you are just lending it a spurious legitimacy), then if you follow your conscience what is right usually will prevail in the long run - if there is a long run. On the other hand, if you just assume she'll be right, that's like taking your hands off the steering wheel of a car; you might get away with it, but that's not the way to bet. Furthermore, politicians who have grown up in the habit of thinking in terms of mandates tend to think that they are justified; that, since they were put there democratically, anything they do is ipso facto right: whereas they should have more humility and recognise that they were put there to exercise their wisdom and discretion - and, yes, their consciences - in circumstances that were not entirely foreseeable; that it is incumbent on them to strive for the right and attain it as best they can, just so others can safely take their bearings from the politicians. They face the constant temptation to believe in what they just happen to be doing, just because they take their bearings from each other rather than any independent source. This is a form of "groupthink" - it is also what leads them into breaking promises and reducing the "honour", the trustworthiness, of the democracy.

    Roughly speaking, democracy works best in support of individual liberty, where appropriate, so allowing the action of individual consciences; politicians are all too apt to pre-empt the action of individual liberty, under the misapprehension that since the law overriding it was passed democratically, it must necessarily be right. In fact, overriding individual liberty can never be right as such; it can only be at best a necessary or a lesser evil. ["Democracy" and "Liberty" are no more synonyms than "Law" and "Justice", and of course "Free" and "Right" are not synonyms either - but I digress.]

    Unfortunately this begs a whole lot of questions about the nature of right and wrong, which would take far more space to address than I can afford here. I need only point out that there are very different ethical systems which can clash; look at the world's Islamic republics and how they differ from western value systems. Algeria recently had its democracy suppressed by the military, who were paradoxically defending western ideals in the face of Islamic repression of personal liberty (simplifying a little). Since both value systems lay claim to universality, I don't even have to take sides; I only have to point out that they can't both be right, and here we have democracy saying they are both right. Of course, they could both be wrong.

    What this comes down to is that I have not answered the question of what it is right for a democracy to do (because it does not confront us immediately), but it is such an important question that I would have been less than honest not to draw it to your attention.

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    G. WHAT CAN BE DONE? Here I outline certain realistically possible outcomes, as well as options as such. It is all too common to achieve something other than we intend, so I am looking to see what else is around on the firing range - I readily concede the republicans mean well, but I am at least as concerned with the damage they may do inadvertently as with that they deliberately intend.

    First of all we should consider what options are really before us; they are not what the republicans would have you think, and some of the options may come as a surprise even to them. After all, none of us has full control over these options - we may propose, but other people and other groups also have input. My final recommendation will be a strategy built up from the components explored here. The first two are obvious:-

    Then there are a few more that are less immediately obvious, but which make sense once you consider them:-

    Of course, there may be yet other options; I am only trying to broaden the republican debate, not to define and constrain it. Over and above this, there are questions not only of what to move towards, but also of how to get there from here; indeed, some of the significance of the above options lies in their value as transitional arrangements, even if they are not wholly realistic as end objectives. Let us go through some of their advantages and disadvantages:-

    G.1. NO CHANGE

    This would be ideal, to my way of thinking, but the matter is not wholly under our control. For one thing, the U.K. is steadily moving away from Australia and all the rest of the old empire, steadily moving towards Europe. There is no certainty, indeed not even any particular likelihood, that Australia could keep the old arrangement absolutely unchanged even if it wanted to. For another, the republicans are quite sincere; there may be some of them who have ulterior political motives, but there are others who really mean it and others again who feel it is inevitable and want to see it done properly. That means that the republicans most probably would remain a significant element, even if this round of republicanism does blow over; we could never go back to the old way because the old way did not have a republican movement active within it. Even if they cannot have their republic, they would undoubtedly make it difficult to keep the old constitutional monarchy working. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" - but I greatly fear that just having the republicans around will make it stop working. Indeed, one of the republicans as good as admitted this in a recent TV debate, when he challenged the monarchists who were supporting the crown for reasons of affection. He asked them if they really thought they would be doing the Queen a service by trying to keep her in a country where there was an element so hostile to her. That could even supply the republicans with a tactic: they need only make monarchy unworkable and put it to Buckingham Palace that the crown would be better off jumping than being pushed. That would completely bypass the democratic process and give the republicans what they are after. Why not - the announced decision to end knighthoods came out of Buckingham Palace in just this way.

    We shouldn't fix it, but we should tidy it up and reinforce it. This comes down to saying that merely conducting a passive defence, just standing pat on the intellectually irrefutable grounds that there is no good reason for change, may give the republicans a lever to work with - being right never convinced any opponent whose mind was made up. The aim of any outright monarchist should be more flexible; even if the objective is to come back to where we started, the tactics should include either leaving the republicans a realistic hope for the long term (so as to keep them less disruptive in the short term), or reducing them to insignificance: converting them, making our enemies our friends. Simply ignoring the issue is a very risky approach, even if it does seem wrong that the republicans could be rewarded for deliberately pushing further than is justifiable; it leaves the way open for the republicans to try, try again.


    Most republicans are so convinced that their position is right that they have never looked at it critically, and in particular they have not often looked at the problems of putting it into practice. The Republican Advisory Committee is looking at these matters, and discovering that there is rather more to it than they first thought. One thing they thought of early on was having all-party support. That opens up a whole can of worms:-

    Actually, a republic, if it were ever achieved, would be more divisive than a monarchy in another respect: republics have an almost irresistible tendency to politicise the head of state. Every election, whether direct or indirect, would tend to arouse damaging pressures. The method the republicans currently favour for electing a head of state is indirect, with a vast majority of a combination of parliamentary chambers needed to elect one. Their reasoning is that this is a compromise, since the Australian people want two conflicting things: democratic election and a head of state who is not a politician. The republican formula manages to avoid both - it is neither democratic, being funnelled through an electoral college, nor does it exclude politicians. It is almost a recipe for getting a politician, since the only person with a hope of getting elected has to be acceptable to a consensus of politicians. It does avoid the divisiveness of party political elections, but that is not what the Australian people most wanted to avoid - they wanted to avoid getting the wrong calibre head of state. (For an alternative approach, see below under "magisterial republic".)

    Over and above that, the republican movement has rather nailed its colours to the mast on certain details of implementation already. It is fairly obvious why they have done some of that; if they hadn't put concrete proposals like "a republic by 2001", they would have remained vague wishful thinkers and they would not have had a fixed position to which they could rally support. There is nothing wrong with that, but in certain respects they rather overlooked that they were biting off rather more than they could chew. Let's look at some of the statements in a recent flyer they circulated:-

    There is absolutely nothing in any of this that actually says a republic is a good idea. It may suit some people's tastes, but that stops it from being universally applicable precisely because tastes vary. Most of the other statements in the flyer are aimed at reassuring people's worries about being railroaded into a republic, but they amount to saying that any change will be after consent is obtained; and we have already seen that their formula allows consent to be manufactured. They would only reassure me if their formula also said that a rejection will be respected - that they really would take no for an answer and not try again for a decent period.

    Speaking personally, I believe some constitutional changes will be necessary, even if only to secure some new position that retains the essentials of the old. There are those who believe that republicanism will prevail and who also feel - quite sincerely - that whatever happens is always for the best; people like this are at least always satisfied, but they never give themselves a chance. I sincerely believe that, even if it were conclusively proved that a republic would come about, I would still be under a moral obligation to resist it because I have reason to think it harmful. (Just as you would be under a moral obligation to push it, if you thought it would be harmful to resist it.) I believe that the bulk of this working paper has shown a straightforward republic would be harmful for Australia, in its particular circumstances, and that no change would be better. I have acknowledged that - through no fault of its own - a no change position would be difficult to sustain. I believe that the remaining options show variations that are more tenable and/or meet at least some of the underlying aspirations of the republicans, and point the way to easier transitional arrangements to whatever may finally emerge.


    A more tenable option is not necessarily a better one or a more comfortable one. Secession - the break-up of Australia - is a realistically possible outcome. You may think this is a remote and unrealistic possibility, but such things always are until suddenly they happen - look at East Pakistan and the U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. More men have been accidentally shot by unloaded guns than by any other kind. Let's follow this through.

    Some republicans I have met like to consider theirs the "rational" position. There is such a thing as being too rational for your own good. Once I was in a crowded bar with a girlfriend, and she looked around at the mainly male gathering and decided to tell us some things for our own good. She was little but she was fierce, and when she saw how scruffy the vast majority of us were, nothing would do but that she told us all about it. She told us that we were not being very rational. If men were only rational beings like women, she said, we wouldn't hang on to our old things; in fact, the moment anything was a bit worn and past its best, we would get rid of it.

    At that moment an uncomfortable thought seemed to strike her, for she spluttered to a halt and fell silent. She turned a funny, reddish colour too, and she sat down rather suddenly.

    What does that have to do with the matter at hand? only this, that the rationality of the republicans is of the same rather self-destructive sort. If you start pressing for a republic on "rational" grounds, you make it more likely that people will start looking at everything else on "rational" grounds. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander - getting rid of the states to eliminate a layer of government might be rational, but getting rid of the Federation achieves the same rational result even more conveniently. Since the Australian states have a real existence of their own, a real place in the hearts of the people, the states are not just an emanation of central government, a mere administrative convenience, and it could quite easily happen that there should be unresolvable differences between republicans and even one state. For instance, the Federation would find it embarrassing if even one state held out and remained a monarchy itself with its own governor - look how awkward India found its Rajahs. One leading commentator stated that this situation would be a "monstrosity", and he was perfectly correct, but he slid seamlessly to the conclusion that a republic would (and therefore could and should) eliminate monarchical forms among constituent states. With all due respect, this is not so: it implies either that, or that the Federation should not move to a republic while this situation persists, or that there is no basis for those states remaining within the Federation - rather like one of the grounds for winding up a company, failure of substratum. What we do not have is any way of telling which of these three cases applies, and it might not be wise to push things this far - we might not like the answer.

    What rational basis is there for the Federation, anyway? self-defence? but Australia is not self-sufficient in defence terms anyway - it relies on outside support. What good reason is there for Western Australia not to secede? none. What good reason is there to secede? well, at the moment, Mabo - but they can probably live with it. But, come the year 2001, if there is any chance that states' rights might be reduced, this state or that might think of 2001 not as the opportunity to join a republic but as the last opportunity to maintain any real identity; a matter of use it or lose it. This is where the republican issue merges from being a "what are we?" kind of question into being a "who are we?" one, trying to see if the states still have a real identity or if they are actually fading away into being historical survivals, just emanations of central government. What would be important would be whether they had faded, not whether they were in the course of fading, so it would be very hard to get an accurate answer. This is the very kind of question that democracy cannot get to grips with.

    We saw earlier how having states that transmitted a real life of the country helped the U.S.A., providing it with a fully functioning set of customs, traditions and institutions that gave the new nation a sort of starter stock, so if anything the republicans would wish to keep the states. But we also saw how France found it necessary to get rid of its own regional groupings, and how this may have contributed to the lack of a built-in prop for the first republic when it was overthrown; they had a tactical necessity to get rid of the groupings, not a built-in agenda that required it. We have also seen how easy it would be for spoilers to damage a republican push, even if it had full support in other respects. The Australian system of preference voting encourages people to think in terms of tactical preferences and not just of what they really want; as well as a republican pot simmering over, there is always a secessionist one, and if disgruntled monarchists think in terms of monarchy first, secession second, republic third, the republican push just might deliver the break-up of Australia rather than the republic they are after. The republican push might create a coalition of secessionists without much feeling for monarchy, monarchists without much feeling for central government, and people who have real regrets but would rather have a clean break than a botched republic. That could easily create a tactical requirement for the republicans to eliminate the states first, before spoilers had a chance to operate through them. The republicans should be after getting the states on side as well as the political parties, but a purely rational approach will not help them - their mistake is forgetting that there is not just a choice between a republic soon and no change ever. Secession may be what they achieve.

    The republicans can be quite sincere about saying they do not have a hidden agenda to eliminate the states, while the states can have a well-founded fear on this very point. [If the states ever are abolished, we would be well advised not to unify the police forces, or to disarm them even if that does make their job more dangerous. They have only a little respect for the public as such - they consider themselves apart from it - and history is full of examples of how dangerous police forces can become to the people if they lose that respect entirely. Look at South America, look at the support the police gave to overthrowing the Iraqi monarchy. On the other hand, Australian police have given the constitution great support in the past - look at that Queensland policeman who very properly refused to obey the orders of a federal politician to disperse a Queensland crowd. But I digress.] The republicans ought to be trying to get the states on side; however, if there should be a spoiler with ulterior motives, either with the states or with the republicans, that might be impossible. That leaves the realistic possibility that, even if the majority on each side should wish to retain the states, there might be a tactical requirement to eliminate them. It doesn't even need there to be a "hidden agenda" on the part of the republicans; there might arise simple tactical reasons why a republic should need to restrict the role of the states, reasons which are not yet apparent. So any fear on this point is a well-founded fear, even if the republicans are quite sincere - all the states know is that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain, "rationally" speaking. Secession might really be a case of use it or lose it for the states.

    We can best clarify this with an example, setting up tables of realistic example values to show the desirability of various outcomes to pure states- righters and pure republicans - that is, people without mixed motives:-

    value to states-righters
      no action by republicans republicans squash states' identities
    no action by states-righters 5 -10
    attempt to secede 3 -2

    value to republicans
      no action by republicans republicans squash states' identities
    no action by states-righters 5 0
    attempt to secede -10 -2

    The states-righters might be willing to compromise on no action provided they trusted the republicans not to squash the states, but if they could not trust them, they would be better off trying for secession. Similarly, the republicans would be better off with a compromise, but if they themselves could not trust the states-righters they would be better off trying to squash the states. The presence of spoilers might tip the balance away from trust, so you end up with a tactical requirement for the republicans to squash the states, even though their actual desire - their "agenda" - might not include it. This is a realistic scenario.

    At about this point some people I have spoken to react like this: they say, with puzzled incomprehension and righteous indignation, "but they can't do that! the Federation is indissoluble, so the states can't secede". And the Governor-General can't dismiss the government either. The point is that many people were brought up in a stable political environment, so they simply cannot imagine that the rules might not be followed; they suppose that if the law says something, it must happen, forgetting that the only reason that there is a connection between the law and reality is that something puts the law into effect. Here, we are looking at exactly those underpinnings which do that, exploring the circumstances in which we might be asking too much of them. Just as a car can stall if you go up too steep a hill, so can a constitution - even if the car and the constitution are both "supposed" to do what the driver and the controls ask of them.

    It's not often remarked upon, but through most of the last three centuries, and possibly even today, the geographical position of Argyllshire and the loyalties and numbers of Clan Campbell meant that Scotland was not governable without at least the tacit consent of the Dukes of Argyll; they could not rule it themselves, but they could stop anyone else ruling it. That led to the real recognition those Dukes received; the class structure was not giving them power and authority emanating from the U.K. - it was recognising the power they had, and bringing it on side in the fabric of the British establishment. They were not unique in the structure of British society, just one of the easiest examples to demonstrate. Much the same applies to bringing the Australian states on side, because they could very easily break through the fabric of the constitution. They are not emanations of Australia; they support it, not the other way about. Judging from Paul Keating's recent remarks about the states "running home to Mama" when in difficulty, he supposes them to be just such emanations; what he overlooks is that they could do other things than ask for help from the Federation, only they are kept from some of them because the moment they tried, the federal government would stop them. He probably supposes that this holds up because of the Australian constitution, but if so he overlooks the fact that nothing holds up the constitution - it relies on consent. I was not brought up in a stable political environment, but at least I haven't been shot at since I was six; I can very easily imagine the whole structure breaking up, and I have no desire to repeat the experience.

    Australians and the states have nothing to lose in breaking Australia up by any purely "rational" measure, and it is not safe to take it for granted that there cannot be a break-up. But there is more to Australia than rational links; there is shared history, shared experience, common goals, common affections - all that sentimental stuff. But the moment you admit that - and you should, for it is all real - you let in as arguments a whole body of common tradition and ties of sentiment that relate to the monarchy, for the plain fact is that some people do have genuine attachments to it, and the only affection people have for a republic comes from talking about it.


    One of the biggest problems with trying for a republic comes from doing it with as few changes as possible, the minimalist approach; like eating just one peanut or painting just one wall, it is nearly impossible. Yet it is clearly desirable because we would want to pay as little as possible for any change. Another big problem is how to square the circle, how to reconcile new republican institutions at the federal level with the older monarchical ones at state level - particularly as we have seen that the old customs, traditions and institutions would be valuable to a republic (because they are old, alive, accepted and respected, of course, not because they are monarchical). How can you have your cake and eat it?

    There are ways, at least if we broaden our search for models beyond those we are familiar with. When we think of a republic we almost automatically think in terms of modern practices of representative government. These days, if various people gather together to carry out some common purpose, they almost invariably think in terms of forming a committee. In point of fact, a committee is a terrible way to do things. It is a good way to provide a base of authority to delegate to those who do things, and a good way to provide a pool of skills to delegate to, either as individuals or as small teams, but in itself it can do very little. The reason it has become so popular is that it is geared to providing those two things, so very necessary in the modern complex world; done properly, a committee hands out the work to be done, decides what to do - but not how to do it - and keeps outside interference off the backs of those who actually do it while supplying them with their needs; but the committee does nothing itself. In the modern world it is almost impossible to resource activity in any other way.

    That representative, delegating, not actually doing anything way is not the only approach, and even today it is sometimes not the most appropriate one. Church government - bishops and such - evolved from the pattern people took for granted in the late Roman Empire, and that in turn evolved from that which applied in the Roman Republic. There, authority - "imperium" - was given to a person by virtue of the post he held, and it derived from the Senate and People of Rome; but if you had the job, you were it, not a faceless bureaucrat. As far as that particular job went, you were absolute and unquestioned monarch - while it lasted, and as far as its imperium took you. You weren't answerable to anybody while you had the job, and you didn't have to keep looking over your shoulder to see if you had approval - you were it, and you got on with things. Because the world was a smaller, simpler place, this worked for each job so filled; and because the world changed more slowly, the jobs could be set up and the structure did not need to be changed for decades, even centuries (where we need ad hoc committees all the time). There was one more feature that lent the system stability while the underlying assumptions remained valid: the posts that had to be filled, and the amount of authority that went with them, formed a pyramid structure. This was not an authority hierarchy as you might guess - that was what it evolved into under the Roman Empire when the earlier version became unworkable - but simply a distribution of powers to create an informal pattern of seniority. Junior positions were numerous, and filled by nominees of more senior magistrates, and derived their imperium from the imperium that went with the senior positions; but even the next most junior ones were directly elected by the people. These magistrates were also quite numerous. In practice, no-one had a realistic chance of being elected unless he was experienced, and he could only get experience by being elected to a more junior position, and he could only get his start by being nominated to one of the most junior ones of all. This made the executive business of government almost a closed shop, which gave it stability, but not totally; there was a real safety valve, and it wasn't rigged. This came in two parts: first, as each more senior position was being fed by several experienced people coming out of the more junior positions, there were real elections with several candidates - so there was at least a real choice of candidates; second, if there was ever an overriding issue where policies counted and not just the experience of the candidates, an outsider could stand for a post where he could carry out his policies and still stand a chance of getting in - but only if the people really did think the value of the issue outweighed the value of experience. The closed shop which in practice usually resulted was no more unfair than the Australian democratic process which means that it doesn't matter who you vote for, you will almost certainly get a politician. In the end, the people decided (just as Australians sometimes decide on a Phil Cleary).

    This is called a magisterial republic because the republic is structured around a collection of magistrates with authority derived from the people, but which is all theirs to exercise as they see fit (apart from the most junior ones, who were nominated but still had a fairly free hand). It was not only the Romans who used it, of course, but they probably carried it to the highest level of refinement before it broke down. This whole method is thoroughly inappropriate for the complexities of a vast modern state, yet when the circumstances arise it is still useful. It is appropriate where the sphere of authority is well defined, the office holder is faced with varying circumstances that require his initiative and action, and the offices can be graded in this filtering pyramid pattern to let the cream rise to the top via democratic elections. At each stage of promotion there is no very big increase in power and authority, so there is no discomfort in gradually building someone up to a very high office. And it does occur today in many situations, although usually informally - after all, the safeguard of having someone elected who hasn't come up through the ranks means that the system of promotion cannot be a formal requirement. Let's look at some cases.

    One common case is the way political parties themselves select candidates for elections. Why should a candidate try for an impossible or a marginal seat? the party wants him to so it can put a drain on their opponents' resources in the no-hopers, and prevent them consolidating the marginals; but why should any prospective candidate play along with this? because the no-hopers are the junior posts from which he can get promoted to be a realistic prospect to be selected for a marginal, which he will either win or stand a chance of being promoted from to be a prospect for a safe seat. In fact, one of the greatest personal tragedies for a rising politician is to win a no-hoper, because he cannot easily move on to a safe seat. Here, the central party machinery effectively nominates prospective candidates for the no-hopers, since the local party is glad to take what it can get; safer seats are under no obligation to take what the central office offers, but their only real choice is restricted to those who have come up through the no-hopers, so the central machinery at some point gets the chance to vet every potential politician.

    Another case is one I came across some twenty years ago at Cambridge: the Cambridge Union Society. (And I believe they have something similar at the other place as well.) The Union has three important offices on the career path: secretary, vice-president, and president. The span of time between elections means the structure corresponds well to a three-year university generation (which means that no-one has a realistic chance of a Union career unless he arrives at Cambridge with ambitions - a year late is too late). It also shows how the distribution of responsibilities puts unglamorous hard work on the shoulders of the junior, yet giving him real experience. Someone who gets his foot on the ladder at the very beginning of his university career is almost a shoo-in for President of the Union, and fame and fortune in the British establishment in later life. Not quite; by chance, when I was there I observed one of the upsets: a woman who had been vice-president lost a contested election for the presidency due to a genuine issue arising (as I recall, she had raised it herself). During the speeches one of her supporters spoke in terms of it being "unfair" that she should not just step into the job, even though she had very properly stated that each candidacy should be handled on its own merits. This is an example of the safety valve in action.

    Well, what has all this got to do with the price of fish? simply this, that the office of head of state and its relationship with the office of governor in each state seem tailor-made to be supplied on this basis in any republic. The head of state must have all the reserve powers and so on to allow all the rest of the constitution to keep going as before. Separating out gradual increments of prestige - governors and perhaps more junior officers of states, before the highest level of president - would allow appointments and elections to each level to be as uncontroversial, as little political and divisive, as possible. Combine it with a legal impediment to stop parliamentarians crossing over to governorships or vice versa (at least for a reasonable period - the Romans had provisions like this), and you have a workable democratic system that supplies the needs for an impartial yet competent head of state, without significant disruption to all the committee-style, representative government arrangements that are currently in place. A true magisterial arrangement, free of outside pressure the way judges are supposed to be, would have no way for a president to move on to parliamentary position, or from it, or to get posts within the gift of parliament; furthermore, it would be nearly impossible for any impeachment mechanism to be applied by parliament, if these magistrates were truly not to be under constant oversight. Even so, the magisterial arrangements would be workable because they would only apply to a few offices with limited and specific powers, unrelated to the main business of government; the powers would be too limited to allow any serious consequences to develop before one first magistrate had been succeeded by another. American experience shows that it works there to some extent, considering the number of governors and vice-presidents who go on to become president. The only failure of the arrangement as seen in the U.S.A. is that it does not always build up experience in one key area: foreign affairs (perhaps economics as well). But that does not matter for the powers and responsibilities of an Australian non- executive head of state. If a combination of central government and state parliament selected the governors as junior posts, and the senior office of president was elected by the public, there would be the necessary combination of safeguards according to the pattern of the magisterial republic (juniors nominated, seniors elected, bias applied to favour seniors being supplied from juniors, but no actual requirement and always a real choice as between candidates).

    There are additional features that a magisterial republic would supply in relation to the transition. There would be no question of states remaining monarchies while the Federation was a republic, because this approach requires the states becoming republican first. (The republicans might consider this a case of unfair delaying tactics, but it is not because delay would not be harmful to their cause; rather they should consider it a valid test, being asked to put their principles where their mouths are and abide by the will of the people in stages.) It would also supply republican customs, traditions and institutions with a chance to take root in a nursery, and not be something rickety relying on fair weather to get through a republic's infancy. What is more, any moves towards this arrangement would demonstrate a visible commitment to the states that would keep them on side during the transition to a republic, and preserve those pre-existing customs, traditions and institutions which support the Federation far more than it supports them.

    All in all, I believe that this would be the best form of republic if republic there must be, because it is the most minimalist, the most likely to be stable and workable, and the least abrupt and uncertain in its implementation. I still maintain my earlier position that republics usually do not work, and since I do not claim to be clever enough to have identified the causes with any degree of confidence - recall, I suggested that this might have to do with locking in topical issues - I do not claim that this proposal avoids them. However, I do combine this approach with something else as part of my recommended strategy.


    Nearly all the arguments for a republic - psychological independence from the U.K., the perceptions of foreigners and so on - would be met equally well by Australia being a constitutional monarchy in its own right. There are really only two obstacles - but they are big ones: monarchies are no longer fashionable; and, there is no obvious way to achieve it.

    The only way around the first problem is to wait for the fashion to change, and give it a real chance to change - that is, refrain from deliberate spoiler tactics. We should also remember that whatever republics may be in the rest of the world, there is no fashion for them here; the entire republican movement is based on speculation.

    Could an independent monarchy be achieved here? there is ample historical precedent: Norway; Brazil; and, in earlier historical times, nearly all the independent states of central Europe and the Indian subcontinent. The Brazilian situation most closely matches the Australian. All that need be done is for the Australian rules of succession to be changed to have a different heir to the throne, and then wait. If that heir could be present in Australia in an official capacity, perhaps even as Governor-General, then there would be that much more natural acceptance when the transition finally occurred; he would have a real connection with Australia, and there would be no grounds for objecting to him as an outsider.

    As a historical aside, it is worth looking at how valuable this transition would have been if it could only have been achieved twenty years ago. Suppose the current Duke of Gloucester had been made heir, not only for Australia but for New Zealand, New Guinea, and Fiji as well - for all of them had the Queen as head of state then. The Duke already had a connection with Australia from his father's once having been Governor-General, and he would have had all the necessary connection with royalty from his grandfather having been George V. Not having been brought up with any great expectations, he would have been more acceptable to Australians in their classlessness. He would still be heir now, and perhaps Governor-General too, and the immediate connection would probably have lent greater stability to Fiji and New Guinea; perhaps the diplomatic effect would have made the French behave better towards New Zealand too. When the Queen finally died there would have been no internal change, yet the ability of monarchy to bind disparate parts would have kept all four countries connected; none of them would accept this in the form of a republic, as it would amount to three being under the effective control of the fourth. This connection would have been vital as forming a diplomatic regional group, even the probability of a defence grouping based on real ties rather than fluctuating patterns of interest; even Australia is not self-sufficient for its own defence. This kind of transition - retaining all the links that were once real and relevant for the British Commonwealth, but in a region that still had a natural existence - would have preserved not only the best of the old constitution, but also much that was valuable from the old British Commonwealth. This is in some ways the historical background Nevil Shute constructed for his imaginative novel "In the wet", so it was plausible enough a generation ago.

    Well, it never happened. But at least the mental experiment shows the scope and potential that a monarchy has that a republic can never deliver; and a monarchy shared with New Zealand, at least, would provide a real self-respect that an Australian republic with a cultural cringe towards Asia could never give its citizens. If you are considering the feelings of Asian countries, just think what significance monarchy has for Thailand, Cambodia and most of all Japan; would a republic particularly impress them? We should also remember that we have seen how constitutional monarchies make a much more natural framework for introducing people to democratic concepts like the "loyal opposition", especially useful in a multicultural society.

    This is my second favourite option, considered in isolation, after no change at all; but I think its greatest difficulty would be providing that new heir to the throne. After all, if the republicans could make life awkward for the monarch under the existing system, think just how much more awkward they could make it for a new monarch coming in under a new arrangement.

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    H. WHAT SHOULD BE DONE? Having regard to the possibilities outlined above, here I suggest possible choices/strategies that try and minimise final and transitional damage, while attaining as much as possible of the conflicting horns of the dilemma.


    All these are, or should be, concerns of the Australian people and (to a lesser extent, at least as a matter of courtesy) those of the U.K., New Zealand and the rest of the former British Commonwealth. Any intrusions on the part of the U.S.A. should be observed with grave suspicion, considering their track record.

    Throughout, all necessary constitutional changes should only be carried out after referenda that put the right kind of question. That is, any irreversible changes need to be after results that are:-

    This is to avoid any possibility of rigging that might be contrived by trying repeatedly for a desired result until it happens.

    Why this combination of options?

    We should start by remembering that many of our options include the chance of spoiler tactics being applied by either side, and that spoiler tactics might be quite legitimate - particularly if any of the abuses of democracy occurred first or seemed likely to occur, either deliberately or inadvertently. So we should choose our path very carefully to avoid manu facturing consent or rigging in any form. Anything else would be fatally divisive. Controlling transitions from one stage to the next by key events such as a new reign is far smoother and less personally hurtful than by doing them by the calendar, as no-one gets shoved aside; and since it is unlikely that even the most respected monarch will live indefinitely, the monarchists cannot contrive an indefinite delay by deferring a new reign indefinitely.

    The first stage aims at a separate monarchy. If there is not even sufficient support for that, we keep what we have now and the republicans should recognise that their aims are well beyond what Australians will wear.

    The second stage aims at introducing republican customs, traditions and institutions. It can happen before, during or after the separation of the monarchy so the republicans should have no reason to complain about delay; from their point of view the delay will be serving a constructive purpose, letting the dog see the rabbit and getting the states on side, showing by deeds that they have a real commitment to retaining the states without material change. Again, if they cannot obtain popular consent for this stage they should recognise that they cannot go to any more extreme position.

    The third stage aims at bringing in a magisterial republic as being the most minimalist, most workable and most acceptable, but only after having at least one all-Australian reign. This is partly to show willing by giving monarchy a chance to take root as a local institution, and partly to give the republicans a chance to show good faith about not hurrying beyond the climate of opinion; it would be very easy to create a nominal monarchy and starve it of resources so that it died "naturally" (but Australian politicians are honourable men who would never do any such thing). If a local monarchy does not take root, it really will die naturally; but the possibility of its surviving, the fact of the throne being offered in good faith, should make it possible to persuade some suitable and acceptable candidate to be willing to become the heir. But if the monarchy does die naturally, at least a transition like this allows the living institutions to support the new ones, and minimises the shock of transition, as the examples of Egypt and Brazil becoming republics show us; even a skin graft which is bound to be rejected may be of medical value, in allowing the natural part to come to full vigour before being called into action. The republicans might complain of delay, but on the one hand it allows them time to complete the second stage satisfactorily and on the other this sort of delay is not the rigging kind of delay, as it is not a delay past a crucial moment which they cannot afford to miss - the republican door always remains open. It further allows the older generation to leave the stage of history quietly without being hurried off, if the republicans are truly correct about republicanism being the wave of the future.

    Doing all this in stages has wider advantages. First, if a monarchy is really as valuable as we suppose, we can stop the process at any desired stage and keep any benefits that may have arrived as we went (in theory, too, if it ever became proper to reunite the monarchy with that of the U.K., it could be done the same way by changing the succession or by dynastic marriages). We would be able to see the value of our position when we reached it, rather than just speculating about where we were going. Second, both sides - monarchists and republicans - can keep hope alive; it will never be a question of one side being defeated and being turned into a dangerous element within Australian society, and the hope will never be a mockery, a false hope. Third, if republicanism really does turn out to be appropriate (although history strongly suggests otherwise) we won't have it rammed down our throats for the very good reason that by then we will all be safely dead.

    Having a monarch or a figure closely associated with monarchy in place to preside over the transition has other precedents: Hindenburg was president of the Weimar republic and was himself a monarchist. His support helped the Weimar republic last as long as it did, when it only had a smallish majority in its favour. In an Australian republic, if republic there must be, a smallish majority in its favour would not be good enough - Spain in the thirties teaches the same lesson. If the attempt were made without universal support - not just a majority - it would have a greater chance of success if it were ushered in under some symbol of monarchy, a Hindenburg as first president or a Mountbatten as last Governor-General.

    To repeat, if an Australian monarchy failed there would be nothing to prevent moving on to a republican form; indeed, an interregnum of this sort is what helped Egypt manage its transition from monarchy to republic as smoothly as it did, and clearly the Brazilian experience shows how valuable its phase as a monarchy was. An Australian monarchy might well not work, it might only be a transitional arrangement, but even as limited as that it would still be worth having. For instance, if an Australian monarchy moved on to being a republic, there would be that much less difficulty with the states as they would already have made the crucial psychological separation from the U.K. As well as that, a multi-stage process would have advantages in avoiding abruptness and in allowing public opinion to shift.

    If this strategy does not take us some way to reconciling our conflicting objectives, please let me know in what way it falls short; and if you have any better suggestions, either as to ends or as to means, please let me know those too. If there are other changes to Australia you would like to see, we cannot be blamed for not targetting them if we do not even know what they are; indeed, that is exactly what some people have in mind when they say "hidden agenda", for all that omitting it might be a simple inadvertent oversight. After all, the republicans aren't really after a republic, not really, not underneath. It's the old clash between the prescriptive and the descriptive view of things:

    They want to see the world new made and all the men and women made new in it.

    But then, where are the old, familiar things, the faces that we know?

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    Since it is customary in these matters to accuse one's opponents of all sorts of bias and prejudice, resorting to abuse when argument fails, I should state where I am coming from:-

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