Parliamentary appointment or popular election? Breaking the impasse on models for an Australian "Westminster Republic"

Michael Duffy, Steve Perryman, Anthony Cianflone

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The question of creating an Australian head of state is a symbolic, constitutional and governance issue that remains unresolved. The lesson of the 1999 referendum is that for the current constitutional arrangements to be modified, there will need to be some consensus on a model. Yet at present the movement is deadlocked between a direct election model and a parliamentary appointment model with substantively different implications. There is therefore a great challenge to create a model that satisfies both the desire for popular electoral input and the desire to retain an essentially ceremonial and politically neutral non-executive head of state. After reviewing extant models (including relevant overseas models) and historical and conceptual issues, the problems of a full popular vote are discussed. The article then responds by introducing new concepts to the debate. These are: (1) “Tri-partisan Endorsement” (or “Three-way Support”) being a three party endorsement of a single candidate to face the voters along with any other nominees in an open popular election; (2) “Fifty-Fifty” being a method for appointment of an Australian head of state which involves aggregating the results of a parliamentary and a popular vote. The first seeks to achieve a politically neutral candidate while the second seeks to moderate the parliamentary vote for such head of state with a popular vote and vice-versa. The two concepts are separate but might also be utilised in combination in a single model. Finally, the article proposes a partial response to the unresolved “1975” dilemma through “Concurrent Expiration” where a head of state who removes a Prime Minister against the will of the House of Representatives will see the formr’s own tenure expire 75 days after the holding of the ensuing election (subject to possible re-election). The article concludes that such concepts offer hope for the development of a judicious consensus model capable of achieving the support of the Australian people at a referendum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-172
Number of pages26
JournalPublic Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2018

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