Elaine Thompson

From the Opinion Page in The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2006

If the people want their independence, itís their move (extract)

Of course, itís time to become a republic. That needs to happen because of its symbolic significance. Symbols are far more than mere cosmetics. Think of the importance that people give to the flag because it has a deep emotional meaning to them in terms of their identity.

The breaking of the link to the British monarch similarly involves a statement about our identity as an independent democracy.

To make that statement we need to know what sort of a democracy we are, to revisit the whole constitution, not just fix it up the bit to do with the monarchy and the governor-general.

Others have done it. Why canít we call a real constitutional convention where all the issues are debated and deliberated on? We need to talk responsibility and accountability.

Are we happy with a system where the majority is everything?

Do we want a constitutional bill of rights to protect certain civil rights from attacks by government, as well as massive private corporate interests?

Can the constitution help make governments more responsive and accountable? Should the Senate have the power to bring down the government by blocking supply?

What constitutional checks should there be on the executive? Should citizens have the right to citizen-initiated referendums and citizen-initiated recall of bills?

Should we have some sort of impeachment process for members of the executive? For judges as well? Should we scrap state governments?

Australians have never really had a debate about the nature of our democracy, a debate that should have happened at federation and regularly since.

However, with a bit of luck when we have a prime minister and leader of the opposition committed to a republic we can use the opportunity to debate all the important democratic issues.

For those in power the system isnít broke because it serves them so well.

I suggest that for the rest of us if it isnít broke, it sure isnít working so well.

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Last modified: Jan 26, 2006

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