BTRWe need to oppose Council Recognition, writes Brant Rippon

The Gillard Labor Government has announced a referendum on the recognition of Local Governments within the Constitution of Australia to be held in conjunction with the election on September 14.

As Michelle Grattan highlighted on Friday, there are those on both sides of politics that do not want to see the referendum held – at least, not on September 14. ALP power brokers think it is an ‘extra burden in an election where Labor has almost nothing going for it’.

Back on the ‘right’ side of politics, Tony Abbott has begrudgingly inherited backing for the change, which has been Coalition policy for some time. Many Coalition members and supporters have highlighted the fact that a referendum on September 14 will muddy the proverbial waters. For September 14, Coalition supporters should want the second Saturday in September to be solely a vote on Government. A vote to get the nation back on track. A vote of no confidence in this inept Labor Government that has broken so many promises and left Australians with a mountain of debt and increased costs of living. The Howard era certainly was the halcyon days.

Strategically, the Coalition will want the electorate focused on the negatives and broken promises of the Rudd/Gillard Governments, and not be distracted with a referendum. As Coalition campaign advisors have said, the Coalition should and will be 'campaigning at the election to change the government, not the constitution'.

To borrow a Boswellian phrase, the Australian Monarchist League will be 'manning the barricades' for the NO campaign. You might at first think, 'why would an organisation whose main ethos is to protect the Crown be involved in a referendum on council recognition?'

The League's mission statement is 'Australians protecting the Australian flag, the Australian Crown, and the Australian Constitution.' The primary purpose of the Australian Monarchist League is to educate and inform the Australian public on Australia's history and particularly on the Australian Constitution.

Established in Australia in 1943 as a pressure group for upholding the educational and cultural aspects of our constitutional monarchy, AML has today morphed into a significant and effective 'not-for-profit' voluntary organisation which lobbies State and Federal governments to reverse decades of 'republicanism by stealth'. We consider the appropriate recognition of our Sovereign, Royal Family and traditional institutions, the upholding of the principles of the Westminster System and the maintenance of the concept of competitive federalism on which the Commonwealth was founded, as essential aspects of our system.

The League will be opposing the referendum on two fronts:

(1) Lack of time: According to reports, the Australian Electoral Commission has indicated that it requires a minimum of 27 weeks to properly prepare the arguments for YES and NO cases. There are fewer than 15 weeks remaining to the election and the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 Bill, although drafted, has not even been introduced into the parliament. Our main hope is that the Coalition will conduct a well-funded NO case and this is what we are lobbying for. However, whatever happens, the League will be there doing its best to protect the integrity of our Australian Constitution.

We are also in touch with other organisations to co-ordinate our activities. With the shortage of time, every hand to the wheel counts.

(2) Centralisation of Power: There is clearly a divide over the referendum and whether to support it within the Coalition.   WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith said last week that recognition would "distort the federal structure, give rise to unforeseen and unintended consequences and will lead to an eventual eclipse of the states and their eventual irrelevance as a balance against the centralist power of the Commonwealth".

The Australian Monarchist League echoes Senator Smith's views. A YES vote could result in undermining the very existence of the States. It has long been Labor Party policy to erode the viability of the states by slowly centralising power to Canberra via years of scope creep, much like the 'republicanism by stealth' campaign that has existed over recent decades. It should be noted however that the Howard government was no better in regards to the 'Canberraisation' process.

The League has proceeded to lobby members of the Federal and State parliaments very successfully with a number of politicians coming out to pressure the Federal Coalition party to oppose the referendum. A leading member of the Coalition front-bench has written to the League to say: "May I take the opportunity of personally encouraging you in this campaign."

A member of the Newman Government wrote to AML saying, "I certainly note that there is divided opinion in the community on this issue. With respect, there are much more important issues at stake for the nation in this election. I cannot speak on behalf of the Coalition, however I know that I, and many others do share your view." Queensland Local Government Minister David Crisafulli said the state is not sure whether the wording would allow a federal government to go beyond simply funding. "If it comes with the ability to control, I'm scared".

At this stage, both the Western Australian and Victorian Liberal Councils have voted to incorporate a NO vote in their HTV cards on 14 September.

The League is in the process of setting up a referendum website which should be operative in coming days. We call on all conservatives to lobby their local Coalition member, Senator or candidate to not support the passage of the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 Bill through parliament.

Not only has there been a serious lack of public consultation from the Commonwealth Government over recognition of councils, but if there is one thing that this inept Labor Government has proven over the past six years is that the last thing Australians need is more power gifted to Canberra.

Brant Rippon is the State Chairman of the Australian Monarchist League’s Queensland Branch

The state of North Queensland?

The 'state of North Queensland' could turn into a front for the republican movement, writes Brant Rippon.


For Queenslanders the issue has arisen again! No, not Daylight Savings… It is again the proposal of the secession of North Queensland! On the front page of the Courier-Mail today (10/08/2010), it is alleged that the majority of North Queensland Mayors are in favour of the separation from Queensland proper. In fact, according to the Courier-Mail, only two of the 100 delegates at the NQ Local Government Association meeting were against the proposal – the two being Mayor Val Schier (Cairns) and Mayor Ben Callcott (Charters Towers). 

Of course, leading the charge is maverick Independent Federal MP Bob Katter (Former National Party Member, Member for Kennedy). The new state proposal has apparently been backed by local Indigenous leaders who feel that the current and previous State Governments have ignored Indigenous issues in these areas.

“The State Government is so busy governing the high growth areas of Queensland that they can’t govern us…We need to do something. It is in the Constitution to allow for a separate State” – Cr Wharton (C-M pg. 10/08/2010). Indeed it is. The Constitution makes provision for the establishment and admission of new States. Under section 121, a new State can be created by an ordinary Act of the Commonwealth Parliament: 

Section 121; The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such admission or establishment make or impose such terms and conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of parliament, as it thinks fit.

Section 124; A new State may be formed by separation of territory from a State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of the two or more States or parts of States, but only with the consent of the Parliament of the States affected.

The separation of NQ from the State of Queensland has seemingly (or accidently!) been given the blessing by the State's Treasurer, Andrew Fraser MP. In a radio interview at the beginning of this year with 612 ABC host Madonna King, the question of the separation of North Queensland arose. Mr Fraser stated that he believed the Federation was “always evolving”, and that with the growth of population over the nation, it was plausible that one day Australia could host “a number of States”. Perhaps a little bit of an embellishment by the Treasurer, but apparently becoming more and more of a reality – at least in Queensland.

According to the Courier-Mail, NQ Mayors will approach their state-wide counterparts to seek support for a referendum to be held with the next State Election in 2012.

So, although we acknowledge that the formation of new states is constitutionally viable (and the Queensland Chairman of AML, New Zealand born Tristan Rogers, is frequently on the receiving end of jibes from me that New Zealand should join the Federation), is the breaking up of Queensland a good thing? How do you think this could affect the Federation? There has not been a new State established or admitted to the Commonwealth since Federation in 1901. 

I believe the greatest threat for the establishment of a NQ State would be that the process could be hijacked by republicans. For example – what would the new State's flag look like – would the Union Jack be present? Will relevant Government departments still display the symbol of the Crown (e.g. the police)? Would politicians and other relevant officials make oaths and affirmations to the Sovereign?

“I,  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance, to HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND, as lawful sovereign of Australia, and her other realms and territories, and to her heirs and successors, according to law.
       SO HELP ME GOD”

I do not personally disagree with North Queenslanders that over the years they have been given a raw deal, and at times forgotten as consecutive State Governments focus on the growing pains that persist in South-East Queensland. I am worried though, that if republicans get their grubby hands on the issue, they will try and make the newly established State of North Queensland the flagship argument and symbol for an Australian republic. 

We have already suffered decades of ‘republicanism by stealth’ through constant revisions to State and Federal Oaths and Affirmations regarding references to HM The Queen. In NSW the State Government, under Premier (and President Abraham Lincoln impersonator) Bob Carr evicted The Queen's representative from Government House and attempted to implement a “part-time” Governor.

Victorian Attorney-General and raging republican Rob Hulls removed reference to the Queen in criminal proceedings – “Referring to the Queen is outdated…Substituting the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the Queen or Regina reflects the legal and political independence from the United Kingdom and its monarch that has been achieved by Australia.” 

There are many more examples of this. Republicans don’t give up, even after the Australian people overwhelmingly rejected a republic in 1999. If the NQ State issue is hijacked by republicans, then God help us! Monarchists are simply fighting the good fight – fighting for our freedoms and democratic rights that are protected under the Crown, where no one person holds absolute authority. Proof our system of Constitutional Monarchy works, and that the State Governors are not just overpaid “tea-sippers” as some republicans claim have been demonstrated in recent times. NSW Governor, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC admitted that towards the end of 2009 she sought legal advice from the Solicitor-General on whether she could sack the embarrassment that is the NSW State Labor Government. Earlier this year the Tasmanian Governor, His Excellency the Honourable Peter Underwood AC, weighed up his constitutional options in which side of politics he would ask to form a stable Government after the outcome of the election in the Lower House was 10 seats to Labor, 10 seats to the Liberals, and 5 seats to the Greens.

The Governor's primary role in regards to elections and the outcomes of elections is to commission a stable government – one that can pass supply and most likely withstand votes of no confidence (that is, to go the full term). Labor Premier Bartlett promised the Liberals that if they had won the popular vote (which they did), they could form government; the Governor rebuked Mr Bartlett, reminding him that he did not have the authority to offer government to the Opposition. That power lay with him. After seeking extensive constitutional advice, the Governor correctly commissioned the Labor lead Bartlett/Greens Coalition Government.  
Finally, if the Honourable Tony Abbott MP wins the election on August 21 and becomes our new Prime Minister, will we see a new era of “monarchism by stealth” under an avowed and unashamed monarchist and self confessed anglophile? Will we see the reinstatement of AK’s and AD’s and the term QC, portraits of HM The Queen in every school room in Australia, and the compulsory and unbiased teaching of our political system inserted into our national curriculum? One can only hope, as this I believe will secure the monarchy in Australia well into the future, if not forever. I believe that with greater understanding of our political arrangements, and surrounded by symbols of monarchy, Australians will grow to once again cherish our monarchy and Sovereign, our Constitution, our flag, and the protections the Crown provides.

Brant Rippon is the State Deputy Chairman & Treasurer of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Monarchist League. He recently graduated with a BA and is about to enter the Queensland Police Service as a Recruit, hoping for a career as a Police Prosecutor.