A Cat at a Dog Show

Certain gay rights advocates are calling for what they call ‘marriage equality’, or same-sex marriage, writes Justin de Vere 

National governments in New Zealand and France, as well as certain other countries and states, have recently passed laws legalising this. In doing so, the governments of these places now consider a marriage of a man and a woman to be the equivalent of a similar ceremony ‘marrying’ two men or two women.

The desire for marriage equality, while superficially a call for justice and an idea whose time has come, is actually a hurtful, destructive, selfish desire which speciously defies logic, abuses ordinary people’s sense of justice, and will cause damage to an ancient social custom that predates government and civilisation and has nothing to do with homosexuality. The politicians who would effect this change would do so not in the best interests of the country they serve, but in the short-term interests of the party they serve.

Read More: http://justindevere.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/a-cat-at-a-dog-show/

On a Queensland House of Review

Rsz_1197515_108482069234461_1417439_n (1)March 24, 2012 was a historic day in Queensland's history, writes Michael Smyth

Not only due to the utter devastation for the ALP, but also due to its ushering in of "conservative" rule in this state; a sign that the Right in Queensland has shaken off the spectre of Joh.

Before the apologists of Joh get outraged by such a statement, I want to clarify what I mean.

Joh did some good things for Queensland, but his government was ultimately undone by the shortcomings of some of its members.

Whether you love or hate the memory of Joh is irrelevant. The reason that I cite this is that Joh would not have been able to do so much had there been an upper house.

In 1922, the ALP won a landslide victory and decided to abolish the Legislative Council, a move that was questionable from a constitutional point of view.

This led to the ALP holding government for decades, until the 1950s, when the Coalition parties finally won back the Legislative Assembly. This ultimately led to the Joh era, and the expansion of Queensland, but the issue here is the means by which it was expanded.

Due to the fact there is no Upper House, Joh was able to implement his reforms without any opposition from the parliament.

This sounds good in theory, except when you fast forward to the Beattie and Bligh years (1998-2012), where bad laws were made and such an appalling lack of transparency became so apparent that even Tony Fitzgerald complained about it.

Tony Fitzgerald, for those that don't remember is the guy who ran the Fitzgerald inquiry that exposed corruption in Joh's ministry.

So when the proverbial horses mouth comes out and says something along the lines of Labor makes Joh look vaguely translucent, you know you've got a problem.

Freedom of Information requests were frequently ignored by the Beattie government.

So how do you fix this problem? How do you prevent abuses of power – by either side – in the face of only having a unicameral parliament?

You can't really prevent it, once you've cleared the Legislative Assembly, it goes to Government House for Royal Assent, and under our conventions, it is signed into law.

To prevent Joh happening again, and to prevent Beattie from happening again, an Upper House should be restored as a check and balance of our Westminster system.

It is good for constitutional democracy to have the powerful kept in check by a proportional representation of the people.

QUESTION: Won't this mean that reforms don't get pushed through as quickly if they are obstructed by a recalcitrant Upper House?

ANSWER: Yes, but the payoff is that bad policy gets filtered out, or turned into good policy, by consultation with the other parties. It is not healthy to have one party controlling the political and policy agendas.

QUESTION: Why should we allow the Greens (or any other minor party) representation in the parliament if they don't have enough votes to gain a seat in the Assembly?

ANSWER: Because the way our system works in Australia, as a clone of the old Westminster system, is that the state (or country) is broken up into electorates with a roughly equal number of voters, and then to protect the rights of all citizens there is proportional representation for each State (at federal level), and each group of people who feel a certain way at State level.

QUESTION: Won't this cost us more money?

ANSWER: Everything costs money these days, but realistically speaking, we have not increased the number of State electorates for more than two decades. Surely, when we have the money again, we could easily facilitate a restoration of the Upper House, so that no group of voters can make the claim that the government does not represent them.

However, if money is a concern, and at this time it is, it would be feasible to reduce the number of MPs – even if only for a short time – in order to facilitate the restoration of accountability.

QUESTION: What about the Parliamentary Committee system that has been set up?

ANSWER: The Parliamentary Committee system that was set up merely serves to rubber stamp the government’s decisions. There is also the remuneration aspect of each Parliamentary Committee, and each MP sitting on each Committee. Finally, in regards to committees, it detracts from the representative work that each MP does for their constituents.

The 14 years of Labor government serve as a cautionary tale, to those of us who love liberty.

It is our civic duty as citizens, to ask for accountability from our politicians, instead of waiting every three years to undo any policy that could be put through in the night.

There are people with similar complaints about the incumbent LNP government. We need accountability from our politicians, and accountability that does not come just once every three years.

Michael Smyth is the Queensland Branch Treasurer of the Australian Monarchist League

More on the School Chaplains’ Case

Several weeks ago, Menzies House drew attention to the High Court's decision to consider a challenge to the Federal Government's National School Chaplaincy programme.  The challenge seems to be on the basis that the Federal Government has contravened s 116 of the Commonwealth Constitution by introducing a 'religious test' to be an 'officer of the Commonwealth'.  

The programme's origins lie in Western Australia, where the Richard Court State Government, introduced a chaplains' programme in the late 1990s into Western Australian schools. Following the Court Government's defeat in 2001, the new Gallop Labor Government abolished the programme. The WA Liberals then began pushing for the introduction of the policy at its state conference in 2001 or 2002. Of course, the Western Australian Government does not have the same constitutional limits as the Australian Government.  The motion supporting the policy became WA Liberal Party policy by a small margin.  The debate highlighted the internal division between social conservatives and libertarians on the 'separation of church and state'.

I suspect the majority position in Australia is that religion should be out of public schools.  I have no evidence for this conclusion other than a general sense that Australia has a more English (as opposed to American) approach to religious issues in public life.  


Why We Need a Constitution For All Australians

There is little merit in the proposal to recognise Aborigines in our constitution, writes Adam Murphy.

Recently, there has been talk of holding a constitutional referendum, the first since 1999. The object of this referendum would be to insert a preamble, which features an explicit recognition of the Aboriginal people, into our Constitution. Already the wheels of bureaucracy are turning, with the Government just yesterday announcing a consultation group to discuss the issue and reach a verdict. But is this a worthwhile ambition? Unsurprisingly, no. In fact, it is a ludicrous idea, for several reasons.

Firstly, one thing many people do not realise is that the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, an Act of the British Parliament in which our Constitution is contained, already has a preamble. Its first sentence reads as follows:

"Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one dissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established…"

Notice that this preamble contains no reference to Aborigines, Europeans, Asians or any other ethnic or social group. Instead, it recognises “the people” of Australia, regardless of their background. So therefore, it is clear that the Aboriginal people are already recognised in the ‘real’ preamble to our Constitution, and furthermore, they are recognised on the same level as all other Australians, that is, as members of the Australian people. So in that case, why should Aboriginal people be the only ones recognised in a ‘second preamble’? Why ought they to be separated from ‘the people’ of Australia? Why discriminate against every other Australian, who has contributed in his or her own separate way to the rich tapestry that comprises our history? None of these questions has a decent answer.

Please bear in mind that I believe in the special and valuable place of Aborigines in Australian history. I don’t seek to belittle them or the struggles they have endured since 1788. But what I do believe is that if we are going to recognise Australians in our Constitution, we must recognise all Australians, equally. Of course, this is already the case in the preamble to the Constitution Act, which does not need to be altered or marginalised in any way by the insertion of yet another preamble within the Constitution itself.

Secondly, the referendum, if held, will almost certainly be compared to the historic 1967 referendum. Unfortunately, any such comparisons will be erroneous. The 1967 referendum was a watershed moment because it was focused on practical change: it amended specific sections of the Constitution, s 51(xxvi) and s 127, to allow the Commonwealth more power to make laws relating to Aboriginal people and to recognise them as Australians. The insertion of a preamble, however, does not alter the Constitution in the same way. A preamble would have no effect on the wording, and hence judicial construction, of the particular Sections of the Constitution (such as s 51(xxvi)), which relate to Aborigines. It would not create any new legislative powers to assist Aborigines. In fact, it would have no affect on Indigenous affairs whatsoever! So instead of the 1967 referendum, a better comparison would be to the 2008 national apology, which was nothing but a tokenistic, symbolic load of hot air. If the Government is truly serious about improving the wellbeing of the Aboriginal people, why doesn’t it amend or repeal s 51(xxvi) of the Constitution, the ‘race power’? Better yet, why not repeal the ludicrous Wild Rivers legislation in Queensland which is, as we speak, prohibiting Aboriginal people from making use of their land as they so choose. The Government's lack of interest in these options reveals it as one which is only interested in the appearance of improvement.

So given that the explicit recognition of Aboriginals in a second preamble to the Constitution would ostracise them from the remainder of the Australian people, and would not have any meaningful impact upon Aboriginal communities, why on Earth should we be spending money on it? Referendums are inevitably a drain on the public hip pocket: as well as the cost of printing ballots, hiring staff, organising campaigns and so on, the Government is required by law to distribute a pamphlet containing 2,000-word arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’ the proposed amendment to every voter. None of this is worth the cost to the taxpayer in order to introduce a discriminatory and pointless preamble into our Constitution!

If I ever have to vote in this referendum, I will undoubtedly vote an empathic ‘NO’, and I would encourage every other Australian to do the same.

Adam Murphy is an Arts/Law student at the University of Newcastle.