Tony Abbott, the Minister for White-anting, has accused Bill Shorten of attacking Australia’s way of life by proposing a referendum on whether to become a republic1. Abbott seems to be miffed that the referendum would ask a simple question: Should Australia become a republic, yes or no? Of course, Abbott believes that the sky would fall if we became a republic. However, his main whine is the fact that the question would be so straightforward, with no suggestion of any particular model. Perhaps this is Abbott’s ham-fisted attempt at outmanoeuvring Shorten, in the same way that Howard outmanoeuvered Turnbull in the 1999 referendum, by including a model for the republic in the question, thereby splitting the republican vote. This is also Abbott’s attempt to stick the boot into republican Turnbull, something that he vowed he would never do, when he said: “There will be no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping” after being given the bum’s rush by his party in September, 2015. Since that time, he has been continually wrecking, undermining and sniping, and this presumably will continue. This was not unexpected, as Abbott has the worst record of any leader before an election, or during his tenure as Prime Minister, for telling lies3. Who can forget his promise that he would not cut funding to health, education, the ABC or SBS before the 2013 election4,5?
For a referendum, a bill containing the proposed amendment to the constitution must be passed by Parliament, then, in no less than 2 months but no more than 6 months, it must be put to a referendum6. Then if the referendum is carried, it must receive royal assent in the Monarch’s name, from the Governor General. It will not invalidate our system of government, as Abbott seems to indicate. There initially will be no change noticeable. If there is to be a change in how the President is to be selected, then that would take another referendum, and presumably would include the status quo, where the office-holder is selected by the Government: i.e. simply changing the name of the Governor General to President.
Tony Abbott must be awfully disappointed, as a monarchist, that his attempt to reinstitute knighthoods has failed. He presumably planned on garnering one for himself in the near future when his final attempt at preselection fails. However, the moniker Sir Tony is not to be.