I find it necessary to counter three arguments perpetuated by the Australian Republican Movement. These arguments are relied upon to mount a case for an Australian Republic, thereby the removing The Crown from our constitutional system.
(1) WE NEED AN AUSTRALIAN “HEAD -OF-STATE”:
It is a falsehood that the HM Queen Elisabeth II is the “Head-of State,” and not the Governor-General.
(i) “Head-of-State,” is not a term that arises from the written words of the Australian Constitution, rather it is a term that enjoys currency at international law. With this status comes various diplomatic duties and immunities, The Head-of-State is said to be par in parem non habet jurisdictionem.
(ii) The High Court in R v The Governor of South Australia 1907, unanimously described the Governor-General as the Constitutional Head-Of-State.
(iii) Sir David Smith argues that the legal affect of the 1926 Balfour Declaration and the Imperial Conference of 1930 neuters any argument that the Queen is the Australian Head-Of-State. The Balfour Declaration 1926 provided, inter alia, that the dominions were equal in status and distinct from the UK in respect of external affairs. Making it impossible for the monarch to represent any Commonwealth nation other than the United Kingdom!
(iv) The 1953 Royal visit to Australia of HM Queen Elisabeth II. The Menzies government sought legal opinion in 1953 as to constitutional implications of the royal visit; the advice supported the case that the Governor-General continued to exercise his statutory powers during the Queen’s visit. Further, that the Queen may not exercise the powers of the Governor-General, these statutory powers may be exercised solely by the office of Governor-General! The Menzies government enacted the Royal Powers Act 1953 to the Queen when personally present in Australia to exercise any power exercisable by the Governor-General.
(v) The Governor-General is repeatedly granted Australian Head-of-State status during visits abroad, whereas the international community has never afforded HM Queen Elizabeth this status.
(2) REPUBLICANS CLAIM: THE CROWN IS BRITISH, AND NOT AUSTRALIAN.
Although we have a personal union with the British Crown the High Court case of Sue v Hill (1999) dismissed the doctrine of indivisibility of the Crown. At the time of federation the accepted view was that the Crown was “indivisible” and reigned over the United Kingdom and all other Realms, including self-governing colonies.
(i) Municipal Council of Sydney v. Commonwealth(1904) 1 CLR 204 Griffith CJ at 231 observed: “It is manifest from the whole scope of the Constitution that, just as the Commonwealth and State are regarded as distinct and separate sovereign bodies, with sovereign powers limited only by the ambit of their authority under the Constitution, so the Crown, as representing those several bodies, is to be regarded not as one, but as several juristic persons, to use a phrase which well expresses the idea”.
(ii) Imperial Conferences of the 1920s: The governing colonies sought a revaluation of their status after World War I. Consequently, the Report of the 1926 Imperial Conference stated that the Governor-General ceased to be, “the representative or agent of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain or of any Department of that Government.”
(iii) 1930 Imperial Conference: South Africa argued that the Members of the Commonwealth were united by common allegiance to a King in whom were united several separable Crowns.
(iv) The Statute of Westminster refers to “common allegiance” as distinct from common Crown. Arguably the Crown became “separable” by at least 1930, when it was held that The King had to act on the advice of Commonwealth Ministers in performing acts concerning the Commonwealth of Australia.
(v) Sue v Hill 1999 HCA: Case concerned the eligibility of One Nation candidate, Heather Hill, to hold her seat in the Australian Senate by reason of her dual UK –Australian citizenship. Sue asserted that as the United Kingdom was a separate nation to Australia Section 44 (i) of the Constitution of Australia applied, “Any person who – (i) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power: shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.” The court found ruled that Senator-elect Hill had not been duly elected to the national parliament because at the time of her election she was a subject and citizen of a foreign power. Thus, the court rejected the doctrine indivisibility, and adopted a doctrine of divisibility.
(VI) It follows that The Queen of Australia, is distinct from, The Queen of the United Kingdom; The Queen of Canada; The Queen of New Zealand. etc. The same can be said of the States: The Queen of Queensland; The Queen of NSW; The Queen of Tasmania etc.
(3) BECOMING A REPUBLIC WILL INCREASE OUR INDEPENDENCE:
This is arrant nonsense. Australia is a sovereign and independent nation in respect of all judicial, executive and legislative functions:
Prior to federation Australia consisted of six largely self-governing colonies. The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 limited the legislative power of the colonies by virtue of the “repugnancy doctrine.” This held legislation of the colonies invalid if it was repugnant to the acts of British Parliament.
(i) In 1885, Imperial Parliament passed the Federal Council of Australia Act which allowed for a council with legislative power in areas of common concern. This did not work largely because NSW refused to be a participant in the Federal Council
(ii) During 1891 and 1897 -98 the colonies held constitutional conventions to work towards forming one federation. The Commonwealth of Australia was born on January 1 1901 by an act of Imperial parliament, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900.
(iii) Commonwealth v Limerick Steamship Co Ltd (1924) 35 CLR 69, High Court upheld the validity of a provision of the Judiciary Act 1903 which sought to exclude the possibility of appeals to Privy Council from State Supreme Court cases.
(iv) The Imperial Conference of 1926 resulted in the Royal Titles Act 1927, and the Balfour Declaration 1926 granted equal and separate status of the Dominions in respect of their domestic and external affairs.
(v) The Statute of Westminster 1931 (UK) repealed the operation of the Colonial Laws Validity Act and the repugnancy doctrine. However, two restrictions remained: (i) The United Kingdom could legislate for the Commonwealth, albeit only at the Commonwealth’s “request and consent”; (ii) the states were still bound by the doctrine of repugnancy and extraterritorial.
(vi) While the British government reserved these powers they did not in practice exercise them. This is demonstrated by the decision of West Australia in 1933 to leave the Commonwealth of Australia. The British Parliament refused to enact legislation to recognise WA as a separate Dominion with the Commonwealth on grounds that this was a constitutional matter for the Commonwealth of Australia.
(vii) Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 was enacted by Federal Parliament. It upheld the Statute of Westminster 1939 (UK), and deemed the operative parts of the Statute had gained effect since 3 September 1939.
(viii) In 1986, the British and Commonwealth Parliaments each passed virtually identically-worded legislation called the Australia Acts. It signaled the end of the repugnancy and extraterritoriality doctrines so far as they applied to the states.
(IX) In Sue v Hill 1999, the High Court finally resolved the issue of divisibility of the Crown.