Presidential Nomination Process
What happened to the Presidential Nominations Committee Bill?
"The Presidential Nominations Committee bill was introduced into the House of Representatives in mid June along with the other two referendum bills - one to alter the Constitution for the Republic, the other on the Preamble.
There was a Second Reading Speech. Then the matter was suspended without debate. The reason why this happened is because the bill does not need to be dealt with until the vote for the republic is successful. If the YES vote wins on 6 November, debate will recommence to make this process law (with possible amendments in the Senate) for the selection of the first President of Australia in time for 1 January 2001.
If the YES case wins, women's groups including WfaAR will assume their lobbying in earnest to ensure that women are properly involved in this process and can participate equally in the Public Nominations Committee's operations and deliberations."
This process has its foundations in the recommendations made at the 1998 Constitutional Convention about how the President should be selected, given that the Convention did not support direct election of the President.
This process is of particular interest to womens groups to ensure that all women can make nominations for the President and that at least half of the 32 member Presidential Nominations Committee are women.
It will be important to ensure that the latter, in fact, happens as the Government did not heed the extensive lobbying that took place before the Constitutional Convention that half the appointed Convention delegates be female. In the final event, about one third of the Convention delegates, both appointed and elected, were women.
See Hot Topics for general information about the provisions of the Presidential Nominations Committee Bill 1999 and how the process will operate.
Letter to the Referendum Taskforce from the Australian Women's Constitutional Network, of which Women for an Australian Republic is a member,(16 April 1999) - about the process for nominating the President set out in the first draft of the Presidential Nominations Bill:
WOMEN'S CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION STEERING COMMITTEE
16 April 1999
PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS COMMITTEE BILL 1999 EXPOSURE DRAFT
Further to the Government's release of the exposure draft of the Presidential Nominations Committee Bill 1999, the Women's Constitutional Convention Steering Committee submits the following comments which it urges the Government to take into account in the further drafting of this important piece of legislation.
The Women's Constitutional Convention (Women's Con Con) preceded the Government's Constitutional Convention (Con Con) in 1998.
One of the outcomes of the Women's Con Con was that:
"the selection/appointment process for the Head of State must involve women at least to the same extent as men and the selection/appointment process must guarantee that women's chances of occupying the position of Head of State be substantively equal to those of men"
The submissions below seek to ensure that this outcome be implemented, which would also be consistent with the Con Con communique. Moreover, as the Explanatory Statement to the Presidential Nominations Committee Bill 1999 explains, the Convention communique recommended that the Committee be composed and operate as follows:
- the committee should be of workable size and should have a balance between parliamentary and community members;
- all parties with party status in the Commonwealth Parliament should be represented on the committee;
- the composition of the committee should take into account so far as practicable, considerations of federalism, gender, age and cultural diversity;
- the committee should be mindful of community diversity in the compilation of a shortlist of candidates for consideration by the Prime Minister;
- no nomination should be disclosed without the consent of the nominee.
AMENDMENTS TO PART 3 OF CURRENT DRAFT
We submit that the current bill does not satisfy the communique of the Con Con, nor does it satisfy at all the outcomes of the Women's Con Con. The explanatory statement says at 3.11:
"The Convention also recommended that the composition of a Presidential Nominations Committee should take into account so far as practicable, considerations of gender, age and cultural diversity. The fact that a committee has 16 community members will permit these factors to be taken into account."
With respect, this statement does not ensure that the committee will fulfil the requirements as outlined above and the current drafting is inadequate to achieve these objectives.
We urge the Government to also include in the legislation, the requirement that the committee be made up of equal numbers of men and women. Therefore, one of the guidelines to the Prime Minister, in making those appointments, as outlined above, should be that the Prime Minister ensure that the committee is made up of 16 men and 16 women. So, for instance, if it evolved that out of the 16 parliamentary appointments, 10 were men, then the Prime Minister would have to ensure that 10 women were appointed in the community component to ensure the equal numbers for the entire committee.
This amendment could occur in various ways -
Section 6 of the current draft could be amended to include at the end of the current section:
"so that the entire committee is made up of 16 men and 16 women"
Section 9 of the current draft could be amended to read:
"Taking into account so far as is practicable, considerations of federalism, gender, age and cultural diversity, the Prime Minister must appoint to a Presidential Nominations Committee, 16 persons who are not members of any political party, non members of the Commonwealth Parliament.....and in selecting the community members, the Prime Minister must ensure that the entire committee is made up of 16 men and 16 women."
This amendment is also consistent with the Con Con outcomes.
Finally, we recommend that Section 14 be amended to include:
14(3) If a vacancy arises, the Prime Minister must ensure that the gender of the person vacating is the same as the new appointee.
AMENDMENTS TO PART 4 OF CURRENT DRAFT
Section 20 of the current draft provides for a written report to the Prime Minister which includes a short list of nominees whom the Committee considers to be the most suitable candidates to be appointed as President. However, it does not go far enough to ensure the outcomes of the Women's Con Con and the Con Con are fulfilled.
We urge that the legislation include amongst the responsibilities outlined for the committee, the responsibility to submit to the Prime Minister, a list made up of an equal number of men and women, from which the Prime Minister would nominate the President to be approved by Parliament.
This amendment could occur in the following way -
Section 20(2) could be amended to read:
"The report must include a shortlist of nominees, made up of an equal number of men and women, whom the committee considers to be the most suitable candidates to be appointed as President."
We also recommend that Section 20(3) be amended to read:
"the diversity of the Australian community, including diversity of gender, age and culture...."
Moreover, we submit that the current draft of Section 20(3) should be amended as there is an imputation that taking into account the diversity of the Australian community would somehow affect the committee's ability to choose persons who would command the respect and support of the Australian community. This is an offensive imputation.
The requirement "of respect and support of the Australian community" is implicit in Section 20(2) which requires a list of persons who are deemed to be "the most suitable candidates to be appointed as President", and , if it is not implicit, then it should be included in Section 20(2) so that the offensive imputation is not generated.
We submit that Section 20(3) should be deleted.
FURTHER OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT
In conclusion, the Women's Constitutional Convention Steering Committee strongly advocates that the above changes are necessary in order that the Constitutional change that occurs with a move to a republic ensures that women have the same opportunity as men to be involved in the selection process for President and that women are guaranteed an equal chance of being chosen as President.
One only has to look at the list of Governors General to realise that the absence of women as effective Head of State is a serious blight on our political and constitutional development. This cannot continue to occur in the 21st century, and these changes to the legislation will ensure that the system better allows women their rightful equal involvement.
The Women's Constitutional Convention Steering Committee would be happy to enlarge upon the above submission through its representatives and seeks an opportunity to make a verbal submission to further explain and support the above amendments.
National Women's Justice Coalition
Women Into Politics
YWCA of Australia
Women's Electoral Lobby (Australia)
An Equal Say - Women for a Representative Democracy
Women for an Australian Republic
The Women Lawyers of WA (Inc) have made the following submission about this bill:
I. WLWA supports and endorses the views expressed by the Australian Womens Constitutional Network.
II. In particular, we submit that the bill does not satisfy the communique of the Womens Constitutional Convention or the Constitutional Convention in that it does not include mechanisms whereby:
1. Women will be involved in the nominations process at least to the same extent as men;
2. To guarantee that womens chances of occupying the position of Head of State be substantively equal to those of men; and
3. The composition of the committee should take into account so far as practicable considerations of federalism, gender, age and cultural diversity.
III. In our submission, the Nominations Committee should be made up of equal numbers of men and women, so that if, for example, there are more men appointed from the ranks of the parliaments, the appointed community members should balance any gender equity.
We note that in nominating non-parliamentary delegates to the Constitutional Convention, the Prime Minister has stated that he was cognisant of the need for gender balance. We are pleased to note that he nominated excellent, well-qualified women and men from a diverse range of backgrounds in the community. This example demonstrates that in taking into account the diversity of gender, age and culture in our community, the quality of the outcome is significantly enhanced. In our submission, the precedent set in actively selecting women from a diversity of backgrounds in equal numbers, set in that selection process should be followed.
IV. Furthermore, WLWA submits that the Nominations Committee should be required to provide to the Prime Minister, a shortlist of equal numbers of men and women whom it considers to be the most suitable candidates for appointment to the office of President.
WA Women Lawyers Inc.
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Last modified: May 11, 2002