Last week we witnessed a rare sight: bipartisan agreement on a national issue. Leaders of the major parties spoke movingly in favour of a referendum on recognition of indigenous Australians in our Constitution.
Such oratory and good works rarely get the attention they deserve, let alone the votes.
President Obama’s State of the Union address last week was also a marvel. It had everything: gun reform, Burma, increasing the minimum wage - yet, the oratory that moved me left the Republicans cold.
Latest 2 of 115 commentsView all comments
Throughout history there have been defining events that have changed the character of a nation and challenged the prevailing mindset of a society.
The horrific mass shooting of twenty children aged between 5 and 10 years along with a number of their teachers at a school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut must be such a moment for the United States.
While the nation grapples with the loss caused by this senseless tragedy, lawmakers must also confront the need for greater gun control.
Latest 2 of 240 commentsView all comments
Last night, ground-breaking band Yothu Yindi was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
Their music has had a huge impact in raising public consciousness of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It’s fitting that they seized the opportunity – being recognised by the music industry – to talk about the importance of Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Latest 2 of 54 commentsView all comments
We are about to embark on the final parliamentary sitting week of the year, and it promises to be ugly. Speaker Anna Burke will earn her money.
The complete collapse of the Government’s measures to discourage boats loaded with asylum seekers from reaching our shores has the Coalition even more fired up than usual.
Julia Gillard no longer seems to have any defence against the charge that Labor opened our borders to people smugglers when it dismantled the Howard government’s policies.
Latest 2 of 130 commentsView all comments
During the negotiation stage after the 2010 election, one demand from the Greens was a referendum to incorporate indigenous people in the Constitution before the 2013 election. Julia Gillard signed up.
Now she has stated that the referendum will not be held, as she feels the people are not yet sufficiently in support. Whose fault is that? In essence, it is the task of a government which is seeking to change the Constitution to devote resources necessary to convince the public.
It is no easy task to get enough support to satisfy the requirement of a double majority. Only eight of the 44 referendums put to the people since 1901 have passed. Obviously, the voters need to be convinced. Apparently they haven’t been, so the promised referendum is postponed.
Latest 2 of 53 commentsView all comments
A common response to any suggestion that the Constitution needs reform is “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”. But the fact is that the document is broke, and increasingly so.
The latest example concerns the School Chaplain program, started by the Howard government, and retained and extended by the Rudd and Gillard governments. This clearly offended one Queensland parent, who managed to find sufficient support for a High Court appeal against the whole program.
He put two arguments against the Chaplain program funded by the federal government. He claimed it interfered with a principle of separation of church and state. The High Court unanimously rejected this.
Latest 2 of 99 commentsView all comments
It will be a shameful day for Australia if it does not change its Constitution to both prohibit racial discrimination and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The proposed changes are, individually, both worthy and overdue. But together they become complex enough to threaten the success of any referendum.
The recommendations are to remove the “race power” section, prohibit racial discrimination, but allow positive discrimination “for the purpose of overcoming disadvantage, ameliorating the effects of past discrimination or protecting the cultures, languages or heritage of any group”, to recognise indigenous Australians in the Constitution itself (rather than in a preamble), and to acknowledge indigenous languages.
Latest 2 of 358 commentsView all comments
It is likely that the 2013 federal election will be accompanied by three referendum questions. The last 110 years have not been very successful in terms of changing the Constitution; only eight of 44 referendum questions have received the required double majority.
One likely question concerns local government - the third attempt! Referendums in 1974 and 1988, on whether local government should be recognised in the Constitution, were soundly defeated.
The third attempt, planned to allow the Commonwealth to directly fund local government, deserves to be passed. It has bipartisan support, and unless state governments fight to retain their power over the local sector, it may be successful.
Latest 2 of 102 commentsView all comments
A debate about GST distribution in Australia is a debate about our future as a federation. Some states – notably Western Australia – contribute far more than their fair share to the national purse. Others – notably South Australia and Tasmania – take far more than they give.
For example, WA gets about 68c in the dollar back from the Federal Government, while SA gets around $1.30.
It’s obvious that horizontal fiscal equalisation is unfair, and that the GST has moved beyond an Australian ‘fair go’ and more towards an inequitable redistribution of wealth.
Latest 2 of 126 commentsView all comments
On April 29 this year, Prince William will marry Kate Middleton. In October, the Queen will visit Perth for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
As the person responsible for media at the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), I predict that these will be my two busiest times of the year. Whenever anyone mentions royalty in an Australian context, the media then thinks “republic” and more often than not gives me a call.
This is as it should be, since the media knows that the majority of Australians want Australia to be a republic now or at the end of the Queen’s reign - at least 60 per cent, according to most polls. On the other hand, it means that the ARM sometimes spends more time talking about royal personalities and personages rather than the things that really matter to us - why an Australian Republic is so important to Australia. The fact is, we have nothing against the personalities - it is the institution that is the problem.
Latest 2 of 196 commentsView all comments
A brief glance at Australia’s history shows that changing our constitution is never easy. Only eight of 44 referendums held since Federation have been successful.
But I am optimistic that we can achieve nation-wide consensus on the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.
Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people will be a significant step towards building an Australia based on strong relationships and mutual respect.
Latest 2 of 50 commentsView all comments
Earlier this year Tony Abbott warned us that we should be wary of taking seriously those comments he makes about policy when speaking off the cuff. Presumably, his suggestion in a community forum this week that Australia might consider moving to elect its judges falls into this category. We can only hope that is the case.
Anxiety over perceived leniency in criminal sentencing is never too far from the surface of public discussion and as a result we might expect that politicians have given the issue some thought before they express an opinion.
Certainly it is hard to credit that a political figure as senior as Mr Abbott would be caught off guard when quizzed about judges, sentencing and community values, as he was at the Brisbane forum.
What exactly did the Leader of the Opposition say? “I never want lightly to change our existing systems, but I’ve got to say if we don’t get a better sense of the punishment fitting the crime, this is almost inevitable. If judges don’t treat this kind of thing appropriately, sooner or later, we will do something that we’ve never done in this country. We will elect judges. And we will elect judges that will better reflect want we think is our sense of anger at this kind of thing.”
Latest 2 of 142 commentsView all comments
When I was in my first year of university I consented to attending some forum where politicians talk to young people about politics and spirituality. This was achieved through a combination of hassling by my parents, and an idea that I may be able to pick up some attractive young female leader type impressed with my attendance at such a deep thinking event.
Having entered the room and scanned through the earnest polar fleeced mini-lawyers, I quickly realised this was an asexual event more concerned with signing up for the Liberal or the Labor Right, and as such, planned to quietly head back down to the bar where the demarcation between male and female was more obvious and less sober. Unfortunately I was spotted by a friendly tutor who was happy one of his students had turned up, so I stuck around and we were introduced to that week’s guest speaker: Tony Abbott MP.
I can’t remember much of what was said, except for the fact that afterwards at dinner Tony and I got into an argument about the prospect of an Australian republic.
Latest 2 of 183 commentsView all comments
Some years ago the BBC produced a brilliant documentary series about the House of Lords which chronicled the strange existence of those hereditary peers who by dint of their birth had wound up being underemployed for life in this absurd parliamentary chamber.
There was one chap aged only in his 30s who was not only completely loaded, he was also completely smashed, living in the rundown country estate his late father had left to him where the only functioning room appeared to be the cellar. Every morning he would wake up, put on his tweed trousers and a silly cravat, and start working his way through bottle after bottle of 1950s French burgundy. His face was dotted with burst capillaries and he sat in his comfy chair like that Uncle Monty from Withnail and I, rabbitting about how one felt a sense of duty in maintaining one’s family traditions by serving as a Lord.
It now seems that even the Brits have realised their Upper House is an elitist anachronism and a waste of money.
Latest 2 of 32 commentsView all comments
Prince William’s coming visit seems to have resulted in the dramatic conversion of a republican celebrity. This is none other than the editor and media personality Ms. Ita Clare Buttrose AO OBE, who campaigned for the politicians’ republic during the 1999 referendum.
Readers of the Wentworth Courier, which circulates in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, were surprised then by her harsh dismissal of the No case and indeed of constitutional monarchists.
Ms Buttrose was the founding editor of Cleo which, with its nude male centrefolds, was aimed at young single women. She later edited the more conservative Australian Women’s Weekly and the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs.
Latest 2 of 45 commentsView all comments
Harry M Miller’s revelation that Prince Charles wondered why Australia remained a constitutional monarchy will come as no surprise to those of us who have been reporting on and watching the British royals for some time.
If there’s one thing that senior members of the royal family detest it’s the fawning and groveling of those they meet, and Australia heads the list of major offenders in that department.
As an example, some years ago the Queen decided that the last century habit of women dropping a curtsy was no longer necessary but the individuals could continue to bend the knee if it made them happy.
Latest 2 of 20 commentsView all comments
This Wednesday, as we commemorate the sacrifice of countless Australians in war, we will also no doubt be reminded that November 11 has other significance in Australia’s journey.
It will be the 34th anniversary of the Dismissal, an act of infamy against a democratically-elected Government that is burned into our national consciousness, and into the ALP’s soul.
So each year, in addition to the Last Post played at war memorials around Australia, we see the TV replays of the famous scenes on Parliament steps, which have become almost a mantra for an era of change and conflict in Australian politics.
Latest 2 of 79 commentsView all comments
We forget to consult history at our peril.
It is very relevant to the Rudd Government’s latest assault on the sovereignty of the people – that is the proposal of its hand picked committee, headed by Father Frank Brennan, to impose upon them a charter of rights masquerading under the title of a Human Rights Act.
The last time Labor tried for a bill of rights it was by way of a Constitutional amendment to insert a mini bill of rights with the aim of continual enlargement.
Latest 2 of 31 commentsView all comments
Yesterday we blew the froth off a couple in honour of our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, and observed her birthday with a package of pieces on the republic which, overall, concluded there appears to be no mass groundswell for another crack at constitutional reform.
Even the republicans are worried that our pollies are simply waiting for the Queen to die so that the issue can somehow resolve itself. Follow the links below to read the pieces.
The losers in 1999 have the utter gall to demand we abandon our oldest public holiday celebrating our oldest institution, one central to our Westminster system.
On almost every Queen’s Birthday republicans usually rush into the media. This year they’re saying putting republicanism on the political agenda will help the nation recover from the recession. Without a scintilla of evidence, they say the growing interest in Anzac Day is because of republican sentiment.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. In the nineties they were saying a republic would overcome unemployment, improve trade, free artistic talent, increase immigration, and enhance our standing in Asia.
Latest 2 of 21 commentsView all comments
The republic debate has evolved since 1999. Traditional approaches to the question still have bite, including general arguments for or against monarchy/republic as well as the nationalist appeal of a republic in Australia and the cost to the public purse of constitutional change.
But the recent Senate hearings into Senator Bob Brown’s bill to hold a republic plebiscite at the time of the next election displayed a number of new developments.
The inevitable first new aspect of the debate has been about the meaning of the 1999 referendum result. An important thread of monarchist argument, often tried in letters to the editor, has been that the matter has been decided because the people have spoken. Republicans have had their chance and should abandon their cause.
Here’s the worst political ad ever made in Australia:
It’s not a very good version, I know. It’s grainy, and the words don’t line up properly.
But you get the general idea: the two worst prime ministers of our modern history, delivering a boring and patronising monologue about something which should have been exciting and inclusive.
Latest 2 of 35 commentsView all comments
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…