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Monday, 9 August 1999
Page: 8150

Ms ROXON (9:06 PM) —It is a very funny world that we are in up here, isn't it! Before I was elected in October last year, my friends and family all said to me, `You're going to a funny old world up there.' I thought that they were right, but not for the reasons that I have heard tonight. I never expected to hear all the constitutional monarchists refuse to mention the Queen. I feel like we are in a Basil Fawlty movie or something, `Don't mention the Queen.' Anybody who wants to keep the constitutional monarchy in place does not want to mention the Queen.

I wish that we could have this debate with the people who are opposed to my personal view at least prepared to argue on the issue of substance—at least prepared to say, `We want the Queen to stay because we reckon she's all right. We don't mind if the next monarch we have is King Charles. We don't mind if the next monarch is King William. We think Lizzie has had a few problems but basically they have served us well.' Argue at least the substance, because I did not expect to be in this place having a debate about what I believe in, and what other people believe in, with everybody refusing to deal with the issues that we are talking about. It becomes very important when we are debating this long title.

As a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Republic Referendum, I was very impressed with the committee's capacity—across parties and across houses—to come up with a sensible proposal which would fairly describe and put a question to the people which makes clear the fundamental change that will be proposed when we vote on 6 November. I was disappointed that the Prime Minister, despite having said that his personal view will not interfere with his public office and that he will allow this question to be put fairly, was not prepared to accept the recommendation of that committee and has made some significant changes which make the question substantially worse.

One of the important recommendations that the committee made was that the words `Queen and the Governor-General being replaced by an Australian President' be added to the question. This is the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It is important that it does say `an Australian President'. For all of the anger and confusion that the direct electionists and the constitutional monarchists want to argue about—whether the Queen is the Queen of Australia or whether the Governor-General is an Australian—they need to look at the Constitution. There is nothing to stop the Governor-General from being Chinese, a New Zealander, Latvian or English. There is nothing in our Constitution that requires our Governor-General to be an Australian.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The same admonition that applied to the member for Griffith applies to the Minister for Aged Care.

Ms ROXON —Further, we can look at the very interesting concept—and I love it when constitutional monarchists get into this, but I notice that both ministers were not prepared to today—of this notion of divisibility of the Queen. Although the Queen is the Queen of Britain, there is some concept that she can be the Queen of Australia and, when she is the Queen of Australia, she is a different person from when she is the Queen of Britain. I love this. We had a fantastic witness in Melbourne who was an old cricketer, English born, who had become an Australian citizen and played for Australia against England. He said, `Look, it just doesn't make sense to me that the Queen of Britain can be the Queen of Australia. It is like saying that the English cricket captain can be the Australian cricket captain when they are playing in Australia. It just doesn't make sense that they can bat for both teams.' I thought that that was very persuasive.

It is very unfair to say that we cannot refer to this change as one that converts us to a republic with an Australian President because, if we say that, we have to say that we have an Australian Governor-General and we have the Queen in right of Australia. It defies logic. It is the right of those on the other side to not agree with me but I wish that they were prepared to argue this on the facts rather than the scaremongering that has been going on.

I also would like to ask the Prime Minister, when he is determined to have the process of the nomination and final approval by the two-thirds majority of the parliament, what he thinks is the most important step in becoming elected as a Prime Minister of this country. What would he describe as the most important step? Is it when the party room supports him? Probably in his seat it might be when his pre-selectors support him. Is it when he is elected by the people in his electorate? Or is it when he gets sworn in by the Governor-General? Unless we are going to use the comparable process for this President, we should not put part of the nomination process in and leave the other part out. It is quite misleading. I think that the Prime Minister really needs to look at his own position. What is important? When the community elects him? When there is a public nomination process? When he gets sworn in? Let us be consistent about the way we deal with these issues. I commend the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. (Time expired)