November 26, 1999 Halifax Herald
Majority's will denied in Australia referendum
Majority's will denied in Australia referendum
The headlines after Australia's November 6 Kingdom versus Republic referendum should have read: "Status-quo forces win referendum, England's Crown retained." If the Republican side had won, they could have read: "Status-quo forces win referendum, republic approved." Either would have been appropriate, because the proposal that Aussies were forced to vote on assured that Australia's version of the all powerful "King of the Commons Dictatorship" system of government would be the winner.
The only real change proposed under the republican proposal, in defiance of the majority' will, was that an appointed, powerless president would have replaced a foreign, powerless, hereditary Crown. Aussies wanted a democracy with checks and balances; it should have been on the table. Democracy is not served when the will of the majority is stymied because politicians manipulate a referendum to assure that their power source remains intact. Such manipulation is unbecoming, to say the least.
To assure that self-serving manipulation will not highjack the next referendum, and that the majority's will prevails, the republicans must adopt a different strategy. It needs to centre around two questions: 1) Do you favour retaining the status quo with England's Crown as head of State? 2) Do you favour a republican form of government?
And in the event of a republican victory, as a means to move matters forward, they must insist that this type of provision be included in the law authorizing the referendum: A Constituent Assembly shall be struck with a two-year mandate to hold countrywide consultations to determine the political system the citizens wish to be governed by. The results would need to be approved by the electorate via another referendum.
When pondering the manipulation used by Aussie politicians to retain their hold on power, one is reminded of the manipulation used by Quebec's separatist politicians to try to thwart the will of that province's majority. The questions asked the Quebec electorate when the independence referendums were held were so muddled that a great many actually believed that they still would be Canadians after the separatists won.
The questions asked in the next Quebec referendum must be clear: 1) Do you favour Quebec remaining a Canadian province? 2) Do you favour Quebec becoming a republic? The same type of rider suggested for the next Australian referendum must also be part of the next Quebec separation vote.
One further remark about Australia's political scene: Voting there is compulsory. This sort of compulsion belongs in the realms of such places as the former USSR, China, Cuba, etc. Forcing citizens to vote is not an option for a democracy. However, perhaps it is appropriate for a King of the Commons Dictatorship.
CORRESPONDENCE: Recently I've received several pieces of unsigned mail. To me, such letters, except in exceptional cases where identity might cause grievous mental or physical harm to someone, are the missives of cowards. If you have the courage of your convictions, come forward and debate them with me. I don't bite.
Several Americans and Canadians have sent my way their views about a previous column entitled "Canada should thank, not criticize, US." The most interesting came from Thomas H. Naylor, Professor Emeritus of economics at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Included with Naylor's correspondence was a book he and William H. Willimon (dean of the Chapel and professor of Christian ministry at Duke) penned, entitled Downsizing the USA The following is an edited version of the publishers description of the books contents:
"In this trenchant analysis of American society, Naylor and Willimon take an unabashed stance against the belief that ‘bigger is better’ and warn that size and technological complexity are not risk-free...
“...The authors argue that American government, cities, corporations, schools, churches, military and social welfare system are all too big, too powerful, too intrusive, too insular, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and local communities. They propose specific strategies for decentralizing and downsizing virtually every major institution in America, including America itself. The authors audaciously call for the peaceful dissolution of the United States through secession and provide a thoughtful game plan for achieving this controversial objective."
Naylor later phoned me from his Vermont residence and we had a long, congenial chat about politics, his book and his pet project "A New Atlantic Republic." The republic is a innovative idea. It would embrace Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI
He convincingly argues that because the big states and provinces call all the shots in the present federations, the six jurisdictions suffer economically from their associations. Naylor re-enforces his argument by stating that the six have nothing in common with the rest of the Canada and the US, and everything in common with each other. Conclusion: united they would enjoy greater self-reliance and prosperity.
Dr. Thomas H. Naylor is very interested in communicating with anyone who may be interested in debating constructive future political alignment options for North Americans. Address correspondence to: 202 Stockbridge Rd. Charlotte, VT, 05445
Daniel N. Paul