There has been a number of marriages of convenience in the campaign for this Constitutional Referendum, with some Republicans campaigning with the Monarchists for a "No" vote because they believe that the only acceptable form of republic is one where the President is elected directly by the whole Australian electorate.
I used to think the direct election of our head of state was a sensible democratic idea, and initially I supported it at the Constitutional Convention in February '98. But standing for election as a representative for that historic gathering made me see, in retrospect, that only those with big public profiles have the money, publicity and organization to be successful.
The ARM chose to have Eddie McGuire and Steve Vizard at the head of their Victorian ticket, but would they have done this if they were not both high-profile and popular? Although outstanding in their own fields they would not have been necessarily the most qualified to speak on constitutional issues. Electing a President would be similar to the election of delegates to the Convention, so I think that it’s unlikely that such a process would elect a Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue or a Sir William Deane. Yet these are the sort of people that come to my mind as ideal Presidents of Australia.
I also think that most Australians would want to avoid any celebrity-razzamatazz American-style presidential election, but this would be inevitable with any popularly elected President. So I have come to support in the first instance, a model which allows the universal nomination of presidential candidates, followed by a vote requiring a two-thirds majority of parliament for success.
As part of the ‘Yes – and More’ campaign, I am working to keep the government to its Convention promise of another constitutional convention within the next three to five years.
This referendum is not a once-and-for-all event. We need an ongoing opportunity to monitor our decisions and to go on to consider important possibilities like the introduction of an Australian Bill of Rights,and that is the goal of the ‘Yes – and More’ campaign. All that a supporter needs to do is to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum, and then write ‘AND MORE’ somewhere on the ballot sheet.
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