Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"You don't vote for kings" - but perhaps you could?

I’m a monarchist, not because of any attachment to the English monarchy, but because I believe constitutional monarchy is a better option than republicanism. Australian Republicans need to sort out what their beef is: is it with the fact that our head of state is a foreigner, or is it with the fact that the head of state is chosen through chance of birth rather than through a democratic election?

Here’s a suggestion that may fix both without losing the stability that comes with our established form of government. It’s loosely based on the old Holy Roman Empire model of elective monarchy.

  1. The Head of State will be an Australian citizen.

  2. The Head of State will replace exactly the position and duties currently occupied and carried out by the Governor General, but without any reference to any foreign authority.

  3. The Governors of the States will be retained in their office serving as viceroys of the Federal Head of State and continue to be chosen as they currently are but with reference to the Head of State in Canberra rather than to the British monarch.

  4. The Governors of the States will form a Council of Electors (not unlike the College of Cardinals in Rome) responsible for choosing the Head of State (perhaps from a list of candidates who could be proposed by any number of methods).

  5. [Nb. This is the clincher:] The Head of State will be elected FOR LIFE rather than a limited term in office.

Yeah, I thought that last one would get you worked up. But think about it: What real benefit is there in changing one’s Head of State every four or five years? Isn’t such a temporary system precisely the way to politicise the office? Life-time office means stability and distance from day-to-day political issues. It also allows time for respect, familiarity and fondness to grow among the citizens for their Head of State. It causes the minimum disruption to the day-to-day business of government.

Of course, voluntary retirement should be allowed, and there could be measures put in place for extraordinary circumstances should the removal of the head of state be required (eg. unanimous agreement of the Council of Electors). I can’t imagine a more cost-effective, non-partisan and non-disruptive way of choosing and maintaining an Australian, non-hereditary Head of State.

And, if we like, we can even call the Head of State “Your Majesty.” Monty Python aside, who says you can’t vote for a king?

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