David Flint The Spectator Australia 13 August 2022
The crucial constitutional issue for Australia, the one demanding immediate attention, does not appear on the government’s referendum agenda. This is how to stop the nation from ever again falling under the control of potential tin-pot dictators, something which so easily, surprisingly, and unjustifiably occurred during the pandemic. This is what a delegation of mainly young ambassadors from Australians for Constitutional Monarchy told the Assistant Minister for the Republic, Matt Thistlethwaite, last Tuesday. Heard most courteously, they were calling not only for the closing of this path to dictatorship, they also asked, after 12 official votes and inquiries conducted over three decades, and millions spent on how to impose a politicians’ republic on Australia, why even more taxpayer funds are to be poured into this wasteful and divisive exercise?
Surely, three decades is enough.
In calling for the strengthening of constitutional government, the delegation pointed out that over those same three decades, the quasi-official Australian Republican Movement had been working hard, producing three republican models. That’s it, three models in thirty years.
All of these, including the latest, would destroy what we have long enjoyed; leadership beyond politics and constitutional guardianship, which is absolutely necessary at the heart of our Westminster system.
And as explained below, don’t believe for a moment the lie that the quasi-dictatorship the nation endured under Covid secured a better result for Australia.
Equally importantly, don’t think that this will never happen again. As long as such gross abuse of power is possible, it will happen again, probably sooner than we expect.
Already, the Beijing-preferred, non-medically educated WHO Director-General Tedros has declared monkey pox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, overruling his own expert committee of medical and scientific advisors.
In the meantime, while the commentariat typically rails against Australians for rejecting most referendums, they rarely concede this to be a rational reaction to the fact that most referendums are about giving Canberra more power. And notwithstanding what politicians and elites may think, the average Australian is not stupid. When they say ‘No’ they mean ‘No’ even when asked up to five times.
Incidentally, you may wonder why referendums are less common these days. That’s because the High Court, sadly, has too often granted Canberra some disputed power, even where the people have previously said ‘No’.
You may also wonder why, as befits our old democracy, Australians can’t do what the Swiss do regularly – initiate their own referendums. Australians should be able to do this if, say, one per cent of enrolled voters sign a carefully verified petition to this effect.
We must end the situation where the monopoly to initiate referendums is vested only in government, especially one that has received under one-third of the vote, and that under an electoral system where the ALP has long done everything to block the most elementary precautions against voter fraud, precautions considered entirely normal in most comparable countries.
And now to return to the argument that authoritarian rule was justified because Australia did better in responding to the pandemic. This is poppycock. As pointed out here from the very beginning of the pandemic, Australia, like New Zealand, enjoys a rare advantage, that of being a remote island nation. Yet under shocking authoritarian rule, Australia recorded 472 deaths per million and New Zealand recorded 478 deaths per million. Both nations were outperformed by Japan, which had no lockdown and recorded only 268 deaths per million. Per capita deaths were also lower in Taiwan, 386 per million, even though they were right next door to the source and also had no lockdown.
For this shocking policy failure, we had power-drunk premiers cruelly denying children from being with and comforting their parents in their last moments on this Earth. News broadcasts across the world showed a 28-year-old pregnant mother in Ballarat being handcuffed and taken away, in front of her children, all over a mere Facebook post. The construction industry was closed down in NSW at a cost of $1.4 billion even though the chief health officer said she didn’t advise it.
Jobs were lost, businesses destroyed, children not educated, reasons for actions hidden, and the nation landed with a massive inflationary debt which has already become far more expensive to service.
Much of this was done under regulations and other delegated legislation made by a conflicted minister or even a bureaucrat, without any of the checks and balances considered normal even in colonial times. In those days, regulations were made in the Executive Council and the governor or governor-general had to be satisfied as to his legal powers to act as advised and the fulfilment of all the conditions precedent to the exercise of power. The regulation so adopted was then open to disallowance by either house of parliament, another reason for Queensland to restore the upper house notoriously and improperly abolished against the people’s express wishes. On that, don’t fall for the argument that this will produce more politicians. The solution is simple, reduce the size of the lower house. And make it easier, where people wish, to establish a new state.
In the meantime, across the nation, the traditional safeguards against authoritarianism and dictatorship have been under attack for no good reason by power-hungry politicians. According to a Senate committee, nearly 20 per cent of all regulations and other delegated legislation made in response to the pandemic between January and July 2020, allocating $2.1 billion of public funds, were wholly exempt from disallowance.
It was worse in some of the states.
Pointing out that if men were angels, no government would be necessary, James Madison stressed the need to place strong constitutional controls on government. And Acton’s eternally wise warning on power is apposite. We have seen the wreckage which is the result of uncontrolled government. This will be repeated until we ensure, constitutionally, that this can never happen again.