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An Australian head of state is just part of the reason for an Australian Republic

By Mike Keating and David Donovan - posted Thursday, 9 June 2011

In a recent ABC Q&A about the Republic, former New South Wales premier Bob Carr spoke about his “ultra-minimalist” model for a Republic, in which he would change a few words of the Constitution so that the Queen was replaced by an “Australian head of state”. Most Australians will have heard republicans talk about the need to have an Australian as head of state, not a foreign monarch. Of course, installing an Australian head of state is just a part of the reason why becoming a Republic is so important for our country.

An Australian Republic is, at its core, about the sovereignty of the Australian people and about taking the final step towards full independence and nationhood. A Republic will ensure we have an independent Australian Constitution, unconnected to any British legislation, which rests on the will and authority of all Australian people. By the people being at the top of our constitutional tree, we will preserve and strengthen our democratic system of government and ensure its continuing strength and stability.

Of course, the sovereignty of the Australian people in Australia will be enhanced by having an Australian head of state who embodies the sovereignty of the people, and who is chosen through a process that reflects values that are at the core of the Australian ethos, such as fairness and equality. Australians are diminished by having a foreign monarch as our head of state, appointed under an unfair and discriminatory process over which we have no control.


Unfortunately, when Republicans call for an Australian citizen to be our head of state, some monarchists – usually the ones from the group Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) – assert that, actually, the Governor-General is our head of state. But then spokespersons for the other main monarchist group in Australia – the Australian Monarchist League (AML) – insist that Elizabeth Windsor is, indeed, our head of state. In fact, the two groups disagree so violently over this issue that they refuse to even talk to each other. It is a confusing state of affairs.

Constitutional experts continue to line up to support both options, though by far the majority support the ARM’s (and the AML’s) position that the head of state is the Queen. In any case, most Australians don’t read the erudite opinions of experts and find the whole discussion pretty bland.

So, what’s the story?

The Australian Constitution, in Sections 2, 60, 61 and 68, makes it explicitly clear that the Governor General is the “Queens representative in Australia”. Remember how the Constitution ain’t broke?The monarchists can’t have itboth ways.

If you don’t read the Constitution often, have a look at page 2 of your passport. It clearly states that the Governor-General is “the representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second”. Can’t get much clearer than that! Why keep mentioning the Queen if the Governor-General is the head honcho? It doesn’t make sense.



If you want more proof, take a look at the Australian Government website. The DFAT Protocol Guidelines 15.1 (Head of State and Governor-General) state very clearly:

“Australia's Head of State is the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Under the Australian Constitution, the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister is Head of Government.”

The truth is that the Governor General acts as a sort of de facto head of state because the monarch – whom we share with about 15 other countries – lives and spends almost all her time in Britain, and hardly any in Australia. The Governor-General’s job is to represents this borrowed foreign monarch in her absence –– not us the Australian people. It is important to remember that the Governor-General’s power comes from the Queen, not from the Australian people.That makes the incumbent member of the aristocratic,Church of England, English-German, Windsor family our head of state —whether we want that or not. This is a matter about which we have no say — except by becoming a Republic, of course.

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About the Authors

Major General Mike Keating AO has been Chair of the Australian Republican Movement since 2006. He was born in Albury, NSW in 1945 and graduated from Duntroon Military College in 1967, being awarded the Sword of Honour. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and saw operational duty in South Vietnam. He was promoted to the rank of Major General in June 1994 and served in that rank as Commander 1st Division, Commander Training Command (Army) and Head, Strategic Command, Australian Defence Headquarters in 1999 and 2000 during the major ADF deployment to East Timor. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 1993 in recognition of his service as Commander 3rd Brigade and as an Officer in June 2000 for distinguished service to the ADF and to the Australian Army in high level command and staff appointments. Major General Mike Keating retired in January 2001 after 37 years service. He now lives in Brisbane and also works part-time as a mediator with the Queensland Department of Justice.

David Donovan, 40, is the editor of the online journal of Australian identity and democracy,, and a vice chair of the Australian Republican Movement.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Mike Keating
All articles by David Donovan

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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