Monday, 3 May 2004


The report in the Sunday Telegraph of 2 May that NSW Premier Bob Carr will reintroduce a Bill to change the oath that our elected public servants will take in lieu of swearing allegiance to the Queen of Australia is a ruse to try and hide the mismanagement of the health, education and transport portfolios in NSW. A similar Bill didn't get off the ground when it was dumped in the Upper House in the mid 1990s.

The Report in the Sunday Telegraph alluded that our elected public servants swear allegiance to Queen Victoria. Of course, that is not the case as Section 6 of the Oaths Act 1900 provides for the substitution of the name of the incumbent Sovereign. This is consistent with the Australian Constitution in which a similar oath makes reference to Queen Victoria. The Oath contained in the Australian Constitution also provides for the substitution of the incumbent Sovereign's name in lieu of Queen Victoria!

However, a more disturbing issue about Mr Carr's proposal is that the Section 12 of the NSW Constitution Act 1902 may also have to be changed. Although that section states that an oath of allegiance will be taken in the form prescribed by the Oaths Act 1900, that section also provides for certain procedures relating to the demise of the Sovereign in respect of the Successor to the Crown.

The people of New South Wales do not own their constitution; in the main, it belongs to the elected public servants. Most of the NSW Constitution - including Section 12 - can be amended or repealed without reference to the people of NSW. If Mr Carr was serious about making our State more democratic he would make sure that no part of the New South Wales Constitution could be amended or repealed without a State referendum.

Mr Carr should take note of a statement made by Professor Cheryl Saunders in her article about the Australian Constitution in the Sydney Morning Herald of 19 January 2001 viz: "Fundamental rules about the acquisition of public power cannot confidently be left to those who presently hold power or who have regular prospect of doing so". Surely that premise applies to the New South Wales Constitution as well!

If Mr Carr really believes in democracy, the first thing he would do is have a referendum to allow the NSW people to gain ownership of their constitution. No changes to our State Constitution should be made until that happens!