The Senate

Legal and Constitutional References Committee

The road to a republic

31 August 2004


  1. the most appropriate process for moving towards the establishment of an Australian republic with an Australian Head of State
  2. alternative models for an Australian republic, with specific reference to:
    1. the functions and powers of the Head of State
    2. the method of selection and removal of the Head of State
    3. the relationship of the Head of State with the executive, the parliament and the judiciary.


  1. The Committee recommends that constitutional reform needs to be underpinned by increased awareness and understanding within the community of our constitutional system. Such objectives can be best realised by an inclusive approach which engages as broad a cross section of the public as possible. To this end, the Committee is of the view that a new structure and program needs to be established on a permanent basis, with initial focus on general constitutional education and awareness.
  2. To this effect, the Committee recommends that a Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Constitutional Education and Awareness be established, with responsibility for overseeing and facilitating:
    1. education and awareness programs to improve the level of awareness and understanding of the Australian Constitution
    2. on-going education, involvement and engagement of the Australian people in discussion of constitutional matters and development.

    This Committee is to be adequately resourced to ensure it can meet its objectives.

  3. The Committee recommends an ongoing education program be implemented to ensure Australians become as informed as possible about the issues surrounding an Australian republic and to enable them to make informed choices. This education program should commence prior to the first plebiscite on the republic, and should continue throughout the proposed process for moving towards a republic.
  4. The Committee recommends that this ongoing education program recognise the ethnic, gender and age diversity of the Australian population, and be inclusive of all Australians.
  5. The Committee recognises that people receive information in different ways and recommends that in order to reach as many Australians as possible, an education program should use several methods to provide information, including printed material, television, radio, local discussion groups and the internet.
  6. The Committee recognises the capacities and experience of adult learning organisations and bodies, and recommends that such organisations and bodies be involved in an education process relating to an Australian republic, and be funded accordingly.
  7. The Committee recommends that all three tiers of government – Federal, State and local – should be utilised to educate, engage and involve Australians in the process of moving towards an Australian republic.
  8. The Committee recommends that, throughout the process of moving towards a republic, particular consideration should be given to engagement with Indigenous Australians.
  9. The Committee recommends a three-stage consultative, non-binding process for moving towards an Australian republic, followed by a fourth stage of a Constitutional referendum to amend the Constitution, and that such a process be enshrined in legislation. This legislation would spell out the future steps, in order to give Australians confidence that they will have a say in future decisions, and it would include provisions to make voting in plebiscites compulsory.
  10. The Committee recommends that the first step of the process should be an initial plebiscite, asking Australians whether Australia should become a republic with an Australian head of state, separating from the British monarchy.
  11. The Committee recommends that the result of this initial plebiscite should be determined by a simple majority vote.
  12. The Committee recommends that voting be compulsory.
  13. The Committee recommends that this initial plebiscite should be conducted separately from any further plebiscites relating to the form of a future Australian republic.
  14. The Committee recommends that the wording of the initial plebiscite question should enable Australians voting Yes to cast that vote ON THE CONDITION that a future plebiscite would be held, where the type of republic would be decided by a majority of Australians.
  15. The Committee recommends that should the initial plebiscite result in a majority vote for an Australian republic, the second step of the process should be a plebiscite to ask Australians what type of republic Australia should become, by indicating a preference for a model for selecting a head of state.
  16. The Committee recommends that this second plebiscite be conducted on a preferential voting basis, and that voting be compulsory.
  17. The Committee recommends that this second plebiscite include the following five alternative methods of selecting a head of state:
  1. The Committee recommends that prior to the second plebiscite, broad details of the options for these republic models be prepared by the proposed Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Constitutional Education and Awareness.
  2. The Committee recommends that the second plebiscite should also include other relevant questions, including a question asking Australians for their preferred title for a head of state in an Australian republic.
  3. The Committee recommends that the third step of the process should be a Drafting Convention to fine-tune the details of the preferred type of republic, based on the result of the second plebiscite, and to prepare drafting instructions for an amendment to the Constitution.
  4. The Committee recommends that members of the Drafting Convention should be appointed by Parliament, after agreement by both Houses of Parliament. The appointment process should involve recognised parties, including minor parties. The Committee recommends that membership of the Convention should comprise constitutional experts and others with recognised relevant skills and abilities to enable the best possible outcome of the Convention.
  5. The Committee recommends that in appointing members to the Drafting Convention, Parliament should make very effort to ensure that the Convention reflects Australia’s ethnic, gender and age diversity.
  6. The Committee is cognisant of the costs of conducting ballots, and recommends that wherever possible, the plebiscites and referendum should be held so as to coincide with Federal elections.
  7. The Committee recommends that the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 should be amended to allow the preparation and dissemination to voters of independent information, rather than partisan arguments for the Yes and No cases, and that such preparation be overseen by the proposed Parliamentary Joint Committee on Constitutional Education and Awareness.


Endnote: Chapter 8 of the Senate Inquiry’s report contains more explanation and text on each of the Inquiry’s recommendations listed above.

Go_up.gif (869 bytes)

Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: May 07, 2005