Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Hawke's Nest Fouled

It really still is the silly season!

So after his visit to one of those funky festivals during the Christmas/New Year period, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke has come to the conclusion that the states should be abolished. Bob Hawke, for one, should well know that getting a referendum up is not an easy task. Mr Hawke organised two referenda in 1984 and four referenda in 1988. The people of Australia delivered a big fat NO to all six of the Hawke sponsored referenda.

Furthermore, his desire for a "stateless" Australia will have a higher benchmark for approval. Normally, approval by a majority of people Australia-wide (including the territories) and approval of a majority of people in a majority of states (not including the territories) is required to get a referendum up.

However, the penultimate paragraph of section 128 of the constitution, which deals with the way in which the constitution is altered, states:
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.
What this means, is that the second part of the "double banger" requirement for referenda would require a majority of people in all of the six states rather than approval of just a majority of people in a majority of states.  This is hardly the road to travel unless you had something else up you sleeve to make constitutional change.

Now, Mr Hawke oversaw the the introduction of the Australia Acts (UK and Commonwealth) back in 1985-86. Section 15 (1) of both of the Australia Acts allows for the Federal Parliament, with the concurrence of the six state parliaments, to repeal or amend the Australia Acts and the Statute of Westminster. Section 8 of the Statute of Westminster denies the Federal Parliament from amending or repealing the Constitution Act of the Commonwealth of Australia or the Australian Constitution itself.

Queen Elizabeth II signs her Assent on 2 March 1986 to the Proclamation to bring the Australia Act into operation both in Britain and throughout Australia. With the Queen at Government House, Canberra, were David Reid, Secretary to the Executive Council (left) and Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Given that Section 15(1) of the the Australia Acts allows for the repeal or amendment of the Statute of Westminster, their is a strong view that the Constitution Act and/or the Constitution could be amended or repealed without a referendum.

The late Richard McGarvie (former judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria and former Governor of Victoria) believed that the Australian Parliament, at the request of or with the concurrence of all the State Parliaments, can now amend or repeal the Constitution Act or The Constitution.   This assertion is confirmed in Mr McGarvie's book "DEMOCRACY - choosing Australia's republic".

So is this your agenda Mr Hawke?

The Australian people wouldn't be wanting what Mr Hawke is having anytime in the future!
That said, and if there is an extant need to reduce the amount of governance within Australia then how about this proposal using New South Wales as an example.

Currently, there are 50 federal electoral divisions for the state of New South Wales. What the New South Wales government could to do is to reduce its number of electoral districts to 50 and align the boundaries of those districts with the federal electoral division boundaries - this would reduce the number of NSW politicians by 43!

Additionally, the number of councils could also be reduced to 50 with their boundaries also aligned with the federal division boundaries. The NSW constitution should also be altered to allow for specific roles for councils e.g. roads, rubbish, libraries etc. Councils should not be allowed to make laws or resolutions on international and national matters.

The number of state electoral districts and councils would increase/decrease in number in conjunction with any change to the number of federal divisions. The other states may need a different formulae.

Oh for a hasty retreat from the silly season!

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