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The republic: dismissal.

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Media Release

Robert McClelland MP

Shadow Attorney-General

Federal Member For Barton


23 August 1999






Shadow Attorney-General Robert McClelland today strongly backed statements by the Attorney-General Daryl Williams that the dismissal procedure proposed for the President was effectively no different to that for the Governor-General.


“But this is not just the view of two pro-Republican lawyers and politicians,” Mr McClelland said. ‘The same conclusion was reached by the Joint Select Committee on the Republic Referendum which contained Members and Senators from all sides of politics and all shades of opinion on the Republic.


“After considering the evidence from over 122 original submissions and receiving evidence from witnesses all around Australia, the Committee reached the following conclusion:


5.15 The Committee considers that the proposed dismissal procedure would not bring about significant, or undesirable, change to the present arrangements for removal of the Governor-Gen eral, and that any deficiency identifiable in the procedure set out in proposed s.62 is equally a deficiency of the present system....


5.16 In addition, the Committee notes that the proposed model, while effecting instant dismissal, imposes a form of accountability upon a Prime Minister who dismisses a President to which a Prime Minister who dismisses a Governor-General is not presently subject, that being the obligation upon the Prime Minister in proposed s.62 to bring the matter before the House of Representatives within 30 days of the dismissal.


“It is about time that those advocating a ‘NO’ vote in November started being honest with the Australian people and told them that the Republic Bill will actually improve our Constitution by establishing for the first time accountability mechanisms that will apply if a President is dismissed.


“The fact that they are not prepared to be honest shows that they are prepared to use any tactic available to prevent Australians from understanding the ultimate consequences of a ‘NO’ vote in November, namely to keep the Queen - and not an Australian - as our Head of State.”


Mr McClelland also dismissed as fanciful claims by the Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy that Labor was being hypocritical in supporting a Republic with a President that could be instantly dismissed. The ACM’s claims followed the decision in Barratt v Howard in which Justice Hely of the Federal Court stated that the Secretary of the Department of Defence was entitled to natural justice before being dismissed.


“If the ACM had actually bothered to read Justice Hely’s judgment,” Mr McClelland said, “they would have seen that His Honour distinguished Mr Barrett’s case from one in which the office was held at the ‘pleasure’ of her Majesty the Queen. Under section 2 of our Constitution, the Governor-General holds office at ‘pleasure’.


“In his judgment, Justice Hely stated at paragraph 7 that:


At common law, and apart from statute, Crown servants hold office at the pleasure of the Crown, and may be di smissed at any time without notice, and for any reason, or for no reason. There is no right to be heard before dismissal.


“Accordingly, the Barratt decision only confirms that the dismissal procedure proposed in the Referendum Bill is effectively no different from our current arrangements.


“The real question is not why the Labor Party is supporting this model - we will support any reasonable model that will see an Australian as our Head of State. The real question is why do the Monarchists feel that they have to misrepresent the current state of our constitutional arrangements in order to win? Obviously they fear that if Australians knew the truth about our current Constitution, they would be more than happy to vote ‘YES’ on November 6.”




Simon Banks Ph: (02) 6277 4323 or 0419 638 587



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