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Republic (Consultation on an Elected President) Bill 1999

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1999

 

 

 

 

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REPUBLIC (CONSULTATION ON AN ELECTED PRESIDENT) BILL 1999

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 



 

REPUBLIC (CONSULTATION ON AN ELECTED PRESIDENT) BILL 1999

 

 

Outline

 

 

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that, at the same time as the referendum is held under the Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999, the people of Australia are asked whether they wish to have a directly elected president as head of state in place of the Queen.

 

The Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999 will provide an opportunity for the people to determine whether they should adopt, as a change to the Constitution, the “bipartisan minimalist model” adopted by a simple majority (but not an absolute majority) at the February 1998 Constitutional Convention. Opinion polls have consistently shown that this model probably does not meet with the approval of a majority of the electors because they would prefer to have a directly elected president. Many electors, however, may feel obliged to approve of this model in the referendum because it may be the only chance for many years to determine whether Australia should become a republic. This bill will ensure that, regardless of whether a majority of the electors approves of the change to the Constitution to bring about the “bipartisan minimalist model”, the people will also have an opportunity to express their view on whether a president ought to be directly elected.

 

It would be a blatant violation of democracy to refuse the electors this choice, to ignore their preference and to deny them direct participation in the selection of the head of state. There is also no sound constitutional reason for excluding the option of an elected president.

 

The bill provides that, at the same time as they vote on the Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999 , and by means of the same ballot-paper, the electors will have an opportunity to vote on whether they wish to have an elected president. If a majority of the electors expresses a preference for an elected president, an elected convention will then be called to consider and to report to the Parliament on options for bringing about an elected president. The Presiding Officers of the Houses of the Parliament will then prepare draft constitutional amendments to give effect to the options canvassed in the report of the convention, including any option recommended by the convention. It will then be for the Parliament to put to the electors further proposed alterations of the Constitution to bring about an elected president. The Parliament would be free to determine which option it puts to a referendum, but, if the convention makes a firm recommendation as to a particular option, it is expected that the Parliament would put that option to the electors.

 

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

 

CLAUSE 1 - SHORT TITLE

 

This clause provides the title for the bill: Republic (Consultation on an Elected President) Bill 1999. The long title of the bill sets out its purpose in brief form.

 

 

CLAUSE 2 - COMMENCEMENT

 

This clause provides that the bill is to commence as soon as it is assented to by the Governor-General. The bill needs to come into force before the referendum at which the electors vote on the Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999.

 

 

CLAUSE 3 - CONSULTATION OF ELECTORS ON AN ELECTED PRESIDENT

 

This clause provides for the question of whether Australia should have an elected president to be put to the electors at the same time as they vote on the Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999 .

 

Subclause (1) provides that this question must be put to the electors at the same time as the referendum.

 

Subclause (2) provides for the question to be printed on the ballot-paper to be used for that referendum.

 

Subclause (3) provides that the way in which an elector votes on the question of an elected president, or failure of an elector to vote on that question, will not affect the validity of the elector’s vote on the Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) 1999 .

 

Subclause (4) provides that the law which governs the conduct of referendums, the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984, so far as it is applicable, applies to the putting of the consultative question on an elected president.

 

 

CLAUSE 4 - CONVENTION ON OPTIONS FOR AN ELECTED PRESIDENT

 

This clause provides for an elected convention to be held to consider options for an elected president if the majority of the electors express a preference for an elected president.

 

Subclause (1) provides that these provisions operate only if a majority of the electors vote in favour of an elected president.

 

Subclause (2) provides that a convention, directly elected by the people, must be held within twelve months after the electors vote in favour of an elected president.

 

Subclause (3) provides for the Parliament to prescribe by legislation provisions for the election and meeting of the convention.

 

Subclause (4) provides that the convention must consider options for an elected president and present to each House of the Parliament a report on those options. The convention may also make recommendations about the options, including a recommendation that a particular option should be adopted.

 

 

CLAUSE 5 - PREPARATION OF DRAFT ALTERATIONS FOR AN ELECTED PRESIDENT

 

This clause provides for the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives to prepare and present to each House of the Parliament draft alterations of the Constitution to provide for a president directly elected by the electors in accordance with the options reported on by the convention, including any option recommended by the convention.

 

 

SCHEDULE - CONSULTATIVE QUESTION ON AN ELECTED PRESIDENT

 

The Schedule provides for the question to be put to the electors on an elected president.