An Australian Republic? 2. The Constitution

Changing the Australian Constitution is necessary if Australia is to become a republic. In fact, the Constitution may be one of the aspects of Australia’s democracy that is most affected by any change. In order to change the Australian Constitution, a proposal agreed by the Commonwealth Parliament must be accepted by a majority of people and a majority of state (four out of the six).

Gathering Information

  1. Examine the Powers of the Governor-General and make a list of the powers of the Governor-General that you think a president should retain.
  1. Read the following summary of changes that might need to be made to the constitution. Which of the changes resemble those on your list, and which don't? A Venn diagram might help in this comparison.

Analysis

  1. Re-read the above article summarising the main changes to be made to the constitution, or consult your Venn diagram. The summary recommends the appointment of the president by the parliament. Do you agree on the method of appointment of the president? State your reasons for or against.
  2. What would be some of the advantages and disadvantages of having an elected president?
  3. Would electing or appointing the president make a difference to the powers you would change? Why?
  4. In a group, complete the Presidential Powers table. Place a check or a tick in the method of appointment column if you agree that the corresponding power should be retained with the respective method of election.
  5. In a fishbowl exercise, consult with other groups that completed the table, and record their views on their choices.

Hint: In a fishbowl exercise, one group form an ‘inner circle’ where they discuss their findings with each other, while the other forms an ‘outer circle’ (with their backs towards the inner circle) and records the discussions of the first group. The rule is that those in the outer circle can only listen, and cannot contribute to the discussion in the inner circle. The groups then swap.

Reporting your findings

  1. Create a model for a republic in which you balance the power of the president with the power of the parliament. Your model should deal with the powers of the president, their method of appointment and the relationship between the president and the parliament. If you are working with a group of students, each student should develop and present their model (diagram or flowchart) for consideration and appraisal by the group.
  2. Complete a Plus, Minus and Interesting chart for each of the models. Using the charts, construct a group model using the best features of the presented models. Remember to keep the features consistent with each other.