Perils of a Colonial Heritage

Most of us leave home at some stage of our lives to find our feet in a brave new world, but Australia is unable to stop hanging on to the apron strings of dear old England.

At age 224, its time that we did, particularly as the majority of Australians are not of British descent and our continued fascination with Britain makes them feel as though they are house guests, not family.

Yet, for some totally illogical reason, a majority of Australians feel a need for Britain to have a continuing legal link with us that will provide a safety net in uncertain times. We give little thought to the reality that, if China invaded us tomorrow, the British would not help us. Indeed, why should they when they do not have either the military or financial capability of doing so. The inescapable fact is that we have to defend our way of life on our own forever more. After all, it was the Americans, not Britain, who helped us to turn back the attempted Japanese Invasion during the Second World War. Then again, we survived when Britain joined the European Common Market and ceased to import our primary products.

Perhaps we feel that it is disloyal even to think about severing the ties that bind us to the old Empire or is it that we are frightened to stand alone in a world dominated by Asia. Nevertheless, when we play England for the Ashes, we demand that our cricketers should trample them into the ground with cold blooded totality. More concerning is that our national suicide rate would have risen dramatically if Black Cavair had not won at Royal Ascot. The reality is that the  only cure for all of the above is to create a new life for Australia in a changing world. This is emphasised by the negotiations that Qantas is undertaking to replace its alliance with British Airways to one with Emirates. It shows what happens to old friendships with the passing of time.

We know that our destiny lies in Asia and the Pacific and, if we want formal allies, the Indians and the Indonesians are the guys to team up with as I have doubts about any American resolve to stick with us through thick and thin. It is time to grow up, have confidence in ourselves and carve our own destiny while fostering goodwill with all around us.

Which brings us once again to reconsider the long debated issue of Australia becoming a Republic. It is currently a favourite topic at dinner parties, mainly because our royalist friends love to tell us that a republic is a lost cause amidst the euphoria of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and our hopes that London will be able to stage a great Olympic Games which will overshadow the efforts of the Chinese at Beijing.. This is a strange state of mind and a very weak defence against the inevitability of change. My personal passion for a republic has nothing whatsoever to do with my attitude towards the Queen. I admire her as a person and I like the way she carries out her duties. She personifies stability, but it is demeaning to our national pride for us to assume that we cannot find an Australian Head of State who has those attributes.

Being a pragmatist, I reckon that it is unlikely that Australians will vote for our nation to become a Republic unless we link it to an issue that has benefits of depth and urgency such as abolishing State Governments in order to improve our efficiency, productivity and competitiveness as a trading nation. This action will be a necessity anyway as each State has a Governor appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Premier. This practice will have to cease as we can’t have a republic that is comprised of States that are still linked to British royalty.  At some time in our history, our States will inevitably fall anyway as they are in financial decline and have increasing irrelevance. They will be replaced by regional governments that are an amalgamation of existing local governments which will also cease to exist. These newly created regional governments will be constitutionally responsible to the President of Australia as they will not have their own governors.

The current situation in Western Australia gives us a valid reason to consider the virtues of regional governments right now. Many prominent Western Australians are saying that the economic and social development of their State is impeded by their constitutional attachment to the rest of Australia. Indeed, some of them say that WA is carrying the rest of Australia on its back – an allegation that is not entirely unfounded. However, when regional governments are formed, the Kimberly and the Pilbarra will gladly welcome their independence from Perth which in their view is an unnecessary chain around their neck. Back in the depression years of the 1930’s, WA did try to secede from the Commonwealth. A referendum was held and the separationists got one third of the vote. If they had been able to use the communications technology of today to get their message across the vastness of WA and had held the vote at a time of mining expansion such as they enjoy today, instead of having to convince a lot of unemployed voters, they would now be a separate nation.

As all of this creates a climate in which we can develop a long range plan to progressively bring these essential changes into being over the next twenty years. This will mean that the current politicians will not have to vote themselves out of job and they will become the statesmen who will be recorded in history as nation builders.

A referendum can be held at the time of the 2013 Federal Election at which voters can be asked a relatively simple question –

Do you authorise the Parliament of Australia to draft a new constitution which embodies an Australian Head of State and two levels of government throughout the nation, this draft Constitution being submitted to a referendum five years from now?

I will leave the constitutional lawyers to get the wording right, but this will get us moving steadily forward into a world that is rapidly changing before our eyes every day. We will create a decentralised nation which reduces the power of overcrowded capital cities. It will be geared for peace and prosperity without the heavy and costly bureaucratic burdens of over-government that we unnecessarily carry today and we will cease to think parochially and nostalgically. We will be proud Australians living in the world finest and most progressive nation.

(If you would like to do some more reading on this important subject, I suggest that you contact Charles Mollison, a distinguished Australian who lives on the Sunshine Coast. He has written a new constitution for Australia and an accompanying book that explains the issues involved. It may not be the final answer, but it is well worth reading and debating. His email address is cobbscrossing@bigpond.com)

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