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Government denies charges by the Opposition that it has stacked the Constitutional Convention with monarchists

PETER THOMPSON: The Federal Government has denied as ludicrous Opposition charges that it's stacked the Constitutional Convention with monarchists. As we reported yesterday, three of the eight youth delegates are conservative Liberals who have previously supported the monarchy. This is despite opinion polls which show only 10 per cent of young people strongly oppose a republic.

Catherine Job asked the Federal Government's architect of the convention, Senator Nick Minchin, if he thought having three monarchists among eight youth delegates is an accurate reflection of the sentiments of young Australians.

NICK MINCHIN: Can I say, in relation to the eight young people that we've appointed, one was nominated by the Australian Republican Movement, one nominated by the ALP, one by the Democrats, one by the Northern Territory Government-which is not opposed at all to Australia becoming a republic; two by the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and two others. This is a ludicrous attack.

We are all in favour of young people nominating for election to the convention. What we are talking about here is eight people out of 152 delegates. Now, for the Labor Party to attack us because three of the eight-out of the 36-support a constitutional monarchy, is utterly ludicrous.

What we are seeing from the Labor Party is a slanderous and disgusting attack on the personalities that we've appointed to this convention in their desperate attempt to discredit the convention which they failed to prevent going ahead, despite every attempt on their part to prevent the convention proceeding.

CATHERINE JOB: Is it slanderous to talk about one of your youth delegates to the convention as being disciplined by the Liberal Party for electoral rorts in Queensland?

NICK MINCHIN: Senator Bolkus, in the Parliament today, tried to discredit our convention by slandering delegates that we have appointed to the convention. He accused one delegate of being a condemned rorter. The President of the Queensland Liberal Party has today confirmed that he is an outstanding and exemplary young man who has served the community of Queensland extremely well and will be a very good delegate. But now, his name has been dragged through the mud by Senator Bolkus ....

CATHERINE JOB: But it is true.

NICK MINCHIN: ... He has never been found guilty of anything. It is an outrageous slander as part of a Labor Party attempt to discredit this convention. They insist on playing the man and not the ball.

CATHERINE JOB: The delegate in question was reprimanded by his party for ballot rorts, wasn't he?

NICK MINCHIN: No. He was not found guilty of anything ....

CATHERINE JOB: He was reprimanded by the party.

NICK MINCHIN: ... and he has been endorsed and commended by the Queensland Liberal Party today.

CATHERINE JOB: Seven out of the eight young people you have appointed to the convention are lawyers or law students. What kind of a world do you live in, Senator Minchin? Are seven out of eight young people you know lawyers or law students?

NICK MINCHIN: One of the criteria for appointment to the convention was a capacity to make a constructive contribution to the debate of a very complex issue ....

CATHERINE JOB: And only law students can do that.

NICK MINCHIN: That is not true, but obviously, they were not appointed because they were law students. But the fact is that, inevitably, an interest in and a participation in the debate about whether or not Australia should become a republic does tend to gravitate towards those with an interest in the law. They were not chosen because they were law students, and it certainly wasn't a criteria. The only criteria was that they were outstanding people in their communities and that they could make a constructive contribution in a very big forum of 152 people, with Premiers and Prime Ministers present, to the question of whether or not Australia should become a republic-a very complex question.

CATHERINE JOB: Indeed-perhaps a question too complex for a 19-year-old who works in McDonald's, for instance, or someone who is unemployed or works in a rock band?

NICK MINCHIN: I'm not saying that. I just believe that the ....

CATHERINE JOB: Shouldn't you have gone out and looked for young people like this if you wanted these delegates to be truly representative?

NICK MINCHIN: Any young person can nominate for election to this convention and I encourage young people to approach the Republican Movement, the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and seek nomination. In terms of the appointed delegates ....

CATHERINE JOB: Shouldn't you have looked harder for a real cross-section of young people rather than a whole bunch of law students?

NICK MINCHIN: We are very proud of the fact that we have eight out of the 36 who are young people; that we have one from every State and Territory who is a young person. I expect these eight young people to go out in their communities, go out to the young people of their States and Territories to seek the views of young people in their States and Territories, and bring those views forward to the Constitutional Convention, and I'm sure they'll all do that.

PETER THOMPSON: Senator Nick Minchin, last night, with Catherine Job.