Albo’s blank cheque

Features Australia

Labor is rigging the referendum

David Flint

Getty Images

David Flint

10 December 2022

9:00 AM

Perhaps the best way to compare prime ministers is by their respect for the constitution. Three are in the news these days, Anthony Albanese, John Howard and Gough Whitlam.

While Whitlam, a QC, knowingly played the constitutional delinquent in a vain endeavour to hang on to power, Anthony Albanese has already earned the worst record of any prime minister for trying to rig referendums.

The prime minister who allowed the Australian people the freest choice ever in determining their constitutional future, John Howard, is unsurprisingly also among our greatest.

The sense of propriety in relation to constitutional affairs he demonstrated is surely indicative of the virtues essential to good government.

Whitlam’s great fault is that he knowingly flouted the constitutional principle that a government that cannot obtain supply, that is, parliamentary permission to  access taxes and other revenues, must resign or advise a general election.

Informing the House in 1970 that Labor would seek to withhold supply in the Senate, Whitlam declared, ‘This bill will be defeated in another place. The government should then resign.’

He even had his shadow attorney-general, Lionel Murphy, table a list of Labor’s previous 169 attempts to deny supply to a government.

In 1973 and now PM, Whitlam responded to a Coalition threat against supply by advising an election, which he won. But when the Coalition repeated this in 1975, when his electoral prospects were grim, Whitlam unsuccessfully sought bank loans and then proposed a half-Senate election, pointless because new senators could not take their seats until 1 July 1976. When on 11 November 1975, he refused to advise a general election, Sir John Kerr dismissed him. In the subsequent election on 13 December, the Coalition won by a landslide.

Contrast Whitlam and Albanese with Howard. To dispose of that then-fashionable issue, fake republicanism, he called a constitutional convention. Despite support for their preferred model falling short of the required absolute majority, Howard decided, to republican applause, to put it to a referendum.

But when the republicans lost, they pushed the following lies for years in the mainstream media just to turn the blame on Howard.

He rigged the convention, they lied. But only 36 of the 152 delegates were in Howard’s gift. He allocated them to the eminent and the under-represented, the indigenous and the young. Of those 36 in his gift, 26 supported a republic. Some rigging!

Then they claimed Howard rigged the model. Turnbull’s work, it was overwhelmingly preferred in every convention vote by the elected republican delegates.

The third lie was that Howard imposed the question. Not so, it came from the large republican parliamentary majority, whose representatives ignored the ACM’s proposal that the question also show the extraordinarily unlimited power the PM would have to dismiss the president.

Australians should appreciate that this was the very first constitutional convention with elected delegates since federation, the elected delegates’ preferred model was put to the people, the official Yes/No booklet,  approved by MPs and senators on either side, went to every voter and, for the first time, the Yes and No campaigns were publicly funded.

This was the fairest exercise ever held to allow Australians to determine their constitutional future. But instead of following Howard’s gold standard, Albanese has stooped to rigging the vote both in the Voice and the republic referendum.

In the meantime, the constitutional aberration of a funded republican portfolio has been filled with the incumbent campaigning even now for some as yet unknown politicians’ republic. What is going on?

As to the Voice referendum, the official line is that there is to be no funding for either side. This is manifestly untrue. The Budget surreptitiously provides that gifts through a Yes case entity, will be tax deductible. So if one of Albanese’s wealthy mates wanted to indulge in some virtue-signalling by giving, say, $5 million to the Yes case, he wouldn’t actually pay $5 million.

With Albanese’s sleight of hand, poor, hardworking taxpayers in Labor-held electorates will unknowingly contribute $2.25 million with Albanese’s wealthy mate getting the credit for $5 million but only paying slightly more than half.

What a racket!

In the meantime, annoyed by the way the 1999 No case ran rings around Turnbull’s mediocre Yes case, a previous Labor government set out to weaken the impact of the Yes/No booklet. This was despite it being a jewel created by the Fisher Labor government over a century ago.

But by the 2013 ‘garbage tin amendment’, instead of it going to every elector, only one copy is to be shared at each address.

So where else does an envelope addressed ‘To the Householders’ go but to the garbage-tin? It’s unlikely to be passed around. And that, of course, was Labor’s clear intention.

Not content with this and determined to gag the No case and its superb leader Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Albanese has introduced legislation both to ‘suspend’  (meaning abolish) the Yes/No booklet and give his government a free hand to dish out vast sums from the $235 million referendum allocation for a so-called ‘educational’ campaign to ‘counter disinformation’. Has any Australian government ever been this shonky?

Australians should remember three things. First, while elites look down on Australians for saying No, they never remind you federal referendums were usually put by Canberra to get more power or to monkey around with something that works.

Second, if you wonder why we don’t have many these days, it’s because the High Court has given Canberra just about any power it wants.

Third, if the Voice gets up, neither you, nor even the people you elect, will decide what it means. It will be the same High Court that has handed over so much power to Canberra. Just how many Australians know that in the coming referendum, and in the second if there is one, they will be asked to sign a blank cheque?

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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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