Tuesday 16th of August 2022


The riveting story of an ex-prime minister, the travails of his successor's government, and what that bodes for the future of politics


Malcolm Turnbull's campaign against Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party is one of the greatest acts of political disloyalty in Australian history. Through the pursuit of causes close to his heart, Turnbull destabilised a government he was once part of and courted forces openly hostile to it. 

This account explores the egos, alliances and thwarted power that have left a trail of personal destruction across the political world. Friends have been turned into enemies, loyalties eroded and reputations shattered. Time will tell whether Turnbull's response to his own political party sets Australia on a different course, but the discourse has changed forever, helped by social media, single-issue stances and a sense of virtue.

Aaron Patrick reveals the stories behind the Morrison government's biggest scandals, from the shocking allegations against Christian Porter to the scandalous treatment of women inside the Liberal Party - stories with profound implications for Australian politics, media and society.




But apparently, in terms of political ego (in our cartoons we often referred to "him, I, moi, himself, etc") Malcolm Turnbull was an amateur. El Supremo of EGO was Sir Henry Parkes:


... His oration was remarkable for its egotism and absence of aspirates. Two newspapers flourished in a country town, and faithfully reported the speech and proceeded to set it in typography, before the days of linotype — thus composed from already cast individual characters found in cases (Thus UP and lower case).

Half-way through the setting the proprietor of one paper found that he had — due to the Parkes' egotism — exhausted his supply of capital I's. He went across to the other newspaper's office to ask for the loan of some Capital I's. "CAPITAL I's?" said his rival. "I haven't any either. For the last hour I have been splitting CAPITAL H's to turn them into I's. I don't need the H's."


Story found in E H Collis, Lost Years (published 1948) — adapted by Gus Leonisky.....


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the republic project…...

The Republic: A Vote of Confidence in Australia

By Malcolm Turnbull*

In November this year, all Australians will have an opportunity to say what we believe about our community. We will have a choice to vote to retain the British monarch as our nation’s Head of State or to vote to have an Australian citizen, chosen with the support of both sides of politics, as our Head of State. That decision will be the most important political choice most of us have ever made.

In February 1998, the Constitutional Convention concluded with a recommendation, overwhelmingly carried, that the ‘bipartisan appointment of the President model’ be put to the people in a referendum pursuant to s. 128 of the Constitution

The Convention was held to deliberate on and recommend a republican model to be put to the people in a referendum. By the end of the Convention, 133 of the 152 delegates voted in favour of the bipartisan appointment model being put in a referendum. Of the 76 delegates who were elected by the people, 58 (more than three quarters) voted in favour of that resolution. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition committed their parties to put that model to the people.

Whether you consider the Convention’s outcome by reference to all the delegates or just those that were elected, it is clear that there was overwhelming support for the people being presented with a clear cut choice between the monarchy, on the one hand, and an Australian citizen as our Head of State appointed by a bipartisan super-majority of parliament, on the other. 

But is the bipartisan appointment model a good one for Australia? Would a variant have been preferable? Most relevantly of all, can it carry the day?

The changes proposed by the bipartisan appointment model are, in fact, very modest. A President would be Australia’s Head of State, replacing the Queen and her representative the Governor-General. The President would have the same powers as the Governor-General does today.

To arrive at a list of candidates for President, nominations would be sought from the public. These nominations would be considered by the 32-member Presidential Nominations Committee. This committee would be made up of members of the Commonwealth, State and Territory parliaments and the general community. As such, the committee would be representative of the diversity of Australia in terms of ethnicity, age, gender and geography. (In short, it will not be comprised solely of middle-aged gentlemen from Sydney and Melbourne). Once the committee has considered the nominations for President, it would devise a shortlist of candidates to be presented to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, who will choose a single candidate from that list. The motion of appointment of the President would be moved by the Prime Minister and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. The President would then need to be approved by a two-thirds majority of a joint sitting of both houses of the Australian parliament. 

The powers of the President would be handled in this way: in those circumstances where the Governor-General has conventionally acted on advice, which is in all cases but those involving the use of the reserve powers, the Constitution will state that the President will act on advice. However, this will not be so in those areas where the reserve powers are, or can be, applicable: the appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister, the dissolution of parliament and the issuing of writs for an election.

In this area, the Convention decided not to codify the constitutional conventions, and instead resolved that the Constitution should state that the existing conventions, which govern the office of Governor-General, should continue to apply. Advocates of codification, myself included, had to face up to the fact that the overwhelming majority of delegates did not share our passion for ‘spelling it out’.

In terms of dismissal of the President, the Convention resolved that the Prime Minister should have the power to dismiss the President. Within 30 days the Prime Minister would be required to bring his or her action before the House of Representatives for ratification. If it were not ratified, it would constitute a vote of no confidence and, consistent with convention, he or she would be obliged to resign. It should be noted in this context that following the removal (or indeed the resignation, death or disability) of the President, the office would be filled, pending a formal new appointment by the joint sitting, by the senior State Governor, which is consistent with current convention.

It can be seen that this model is essentially a republican facsimile of the status quo with four significant innovations. The first is that the President is appointed by a bipartisan parliamentary process instead of an hereditary, sectarian procedure governed by British law in the case of the Queen, or by the decision of the Prime Minister in the case of the Governor-General. The bipartisan appointment model offers an opportunity to improve the quality of our public life. It is an opportunity to say that at least one public office in this country shall be the result of cooperation between the two leaders in our parliament. It is also an opportunity to say that the person who fills this office will be a constitutional umpire - a person who is above politics. It is an opportunity to say that the person who fills this office will have the bipartisan support of our parliamentary representatives and through those representatives, the support of the majority of Australians.

The second is that public consultation will be injected into the process of determining Australia’s Head of State where it has never existed before. The idea is that the sifting through and assessment of nominations should be done by a group of people who truly represent our Australian society; our diversity of gender, culture, ethnicity and geographical diversity. 

The third is that while the reserve powers remain the same, with all of the attendant merits and vices of the current dispensation, the non-reserve powers are to be stated to be exercised on advice, thereby making the Constitution a more accurate reflection of how the system actually works.

The fourth is that while the President can be dismissed by the Prime Minister, thereby preserving the current arrangement as between the Prime Minister and the Governor-General, the Prime Minister cannot, in a republic, sack the President and appoint a new one in his or her place. The casual vacancy so created will be filled by the senior State Governor in office, over which the Prime Minister will have had no influence at all. Then within a specified interval the parliament would convene in a joint sitting to appoint a new President - a process that, as we have seen, will require the concurrence of the Opposition Leader.

The model has been attacked by monarchists, who say it goes too far, and direct electionists, who say it does not go far enough. The monarchists’ case is really an emotional one. If you were to analyse the Convention model as being, in fact, the status quo minus the Queen and plus a bipartisan mode of appointment, it is hard to see how it could be anything other than an improvement. Would anyone not applaud John Howard if, for example, he were to undertake that the next vice-regal appointment would be made with the support of the Opposition?

The advocates of a directly elected President are, in most cases, equally emotional. With only a few exceptions, none of the direct electionists favour a United States system with an elected President, who is both Head of State and of government, and a completely separate legislature, also elected by the people. Our Australian direct electionists want to give the people the right to directly elect a President who will have the same largely ceremonial duties as the Governor-General. It would be a fraud on the people and a temptation to the incumbent. 

We would be saying to the people of Australia: “You may directly elect just one public official, not the Prime Minister who heads the government, nor any member of his Cabinet, not the Chief Justice who heads our highest court nor any of the other judges, but the President who has almost no political power.” 

To the incumbent we would be saying: “We want you to run for national political office, we want you to raise the campaign funds and the support of political parties and other organisations. We want you to win the people’s support knowing that in victory you will drink the intoxicating brew of popular endorsement ... and then we want you to spend five years doing what you are told by the Prime Minister, receiving ambassadors, welcoming guests, awarding medals and opening fetes.” 

“But wait, there’s something else. Every now and then there may be a constitutional crisis, perhaps an impasse between the Senate and the House of Representatives. If that occurs we want you to act as a constitutional umpire. We want you to forget your political partisanship and forget that more Australians have voted for you than for any other public official. We want you to act as though you were the figure of impartiality, immune to the transitory shifts of public sentiment. We want you to act like a judge.”

I am sure there are a few saintly souls who could be directly elected and then passively play the part of ceremonial Head of State and occasional constitutional tie-breaker ... but I have not met any yet.

We spend a lot of time reflecting on how the Olympics will put Australia in the global spotlight. But the real spotlight will be on this referendum. We cringed when the world reacted to the rise of Hansonism in Australia. We were embarrassed that a substantial minority, but a minority nonetheless, could embrace the divisive and intolerant nonsense of One Nation. But what will the world say if, on the verge of the millennium, the centenary of our life as a nation, Australia signs up for another 100 years of the British monarchy? 

What will it say about our belief in a tolerant, multicultural society if we reaffirm that our Head of State must be a member of the British ruling family and must, by law, be a member of the Anglican Church?

What will it say about our belief in ourselves, our confidence in our own people, if we reaffirm that no Australian, not the best or most brilliant, is good enough to be our Head of State. In 1930 it took a great struggle by Prime Minister Scullin to persuade King George V that an Australian, Isaac Isaacs - one of our greatest jurists - was good enough to be Governor-General, the monarch’s viceroy or representative. Nearly 70 years later, have we come no further? Do we still believe that Australians are only good enough to have the second ranking post?

Finally, what will it say about our commitment to a society of equal opportunity if we reaffirm that there will always be one office in our society to which no Australian may aspire, an office the occupant of which is defined by heredity, not ability, by sectarianism, not tolerance, and by the laws of the United Kingdom, not the laws of Australia?

Whether we have the Queen as our Head of State or not, we are a tolerant and independent country. Those who are nervous and unthrilled by republicanism should bear in mind that even John Howard is of the view, expressed to the Financial Review on October 15, 1998, that if we do become a republic “the fabric of the Australian community is not going to be, in any way, damaged or hurt by the process”.

The reality is that in February last year something remarkable occurred. One hundred and fifty two delegates from all over Australia gathered in Canberra for a Constitutional Convention to consider Australia’s future. In the 97 years of our Federation there has been far too little public involvement in the Constitution and its reform. We believe that the principal obstacle to constitutional change in Australia has been ignorance and a lack of popular involvement. The republican cause is, apart from the 1967 amendments, the first occasion where there has been genuine popular movement for constitutional change, and the Constitutional Convention was testament to this.

Coming out of the Constitutional Convention process, two things became clear: Australians want an Australian as Head of State and an even larger percentage of them want to be able to vote on this issue at a referendum. 

The Australian people expected us at the Constitutional Convention as commentators, advocates and opinion leaders, to present them with a republican alternative that they felt confident enough to vote for. Our role was to frame the question and to present the case for change, so that they may give us the final answer. In response to this, the Constitutional Convention concluded with a recommendation, overwhelmingly carried, that the ‘bipartisan appointment of the president model’ be put to the people.

The goal of republicans now is a clear one. Australia’s Head of State should be an Australian citizen, representing Australian values, living in Australia, chosen by and answerable to Australians. The Australian people clearly support this change. Our task is now to offer them the means of doing so. If we fail to mobilise behind the bipartisan appointment model, we may deny the people the opportunity to achieve an Australian Head of State at the turn of the century.

In November this year we will be faced with a vote of confidence. We must not fail to carry this amendment. We cannot allow ourselves to fail this test. We cannot carry a no-confidence motion in ourselves.

* Malcolm Turnbull is Chair of the Australian Republican Movement.







TURNBULL FAILED..... see also: