The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 27/10/99

Transcript No. 99/81

Transcript of
Andrew Robb, Malcolm Fraser, Michael Lishman, Peter Costello

"Conservatives for an Australian Head of State" Launch

4 Treasury Pl, Melbourne
10.00 am
Wednesday, 27 October 1999

SUBJECT: Republic

ROBB:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to issue a very warm welcome to the official launch of the campaign by Conservatives for an Australian Head of State. Our organisation was formed in January this year to provide a genuine and unambiguous voice to those millions of Australians who are very cautious about change, and in particular are cautious about constitutional change, yet would like to see an Australian citizen as their Head of State. In their hearts they want to see an Australian as our Head of State.

Our organisation is not a mass movement, it is a group of like minded Australians who share those objectives. And thats the template weve brought to bear in assessing the model that were going to vote on next week. And we are confident, we are very confident that the model that we have got before us does in fact deliver us an Australian Head of State without any other significant change to the way in which we govern ourselves. And Id like to welcome a lot of our friends of Conservatives for an Australian Head of State, committee members, and parliamentary friends who have joined us today. Its been a very encouraging development over the months. Lots of people put in a lot of time to satisfy themselves about the model, that it met those objectives, that it met the objectives of truly conservative minded people.

And the support from a lot of people in this room and others, and weve got lists out there of all those who were involved with our organisation, weve got lists there, they really have given a lot of consideration to this model and I think they will, by their presence, by their support, I think provide a lot of comfort to millions of other Australians who are cautiously minded.

John Howard has consistently said that every Australian should have a free vote on this issue. And hes right. Hes right. Because whether we keep the Queen as our Head of State is not an issue of party philosophy or party politics. Its not a left or right issue. And those who suggest that a Yes vote is an act of disloyalty to John Howard, I think in many ways is simply insulting the intelligence of millions of Howard supporters like myself. It wont wash. We wont be bullied into a No vote. We are able to think for ourselves.

For me recent events in East Timor have further increased my resolve to see the adoption of an Australian Head of State. The world looked to Australia to take a lead in East Timor and we did. We did. Australias subsequent handling of events confirmed that we are a truly independent nation, long responsible for our own destiny. And I think this is a powerful argument for moving to our own Head of State and certainly not an argument, as some would furiously claim, for clinging to the British monarchy. We have shown once and for all by, I think, the very adroit and sensible leadership in East Timor that we can stand on our own two feet.

To launch our campaign weve got three important speakers this morning. Firstly a member of our group of friends, former Prime Minister, Chairman of Care Australia, former Chairman of Care International and elder statesman, the Right Honorable Malcolm Fraser. Secondly the founding Member of our committee. Hes objecting to the elder bit, hes certainly a statesman, a younger elder statesman. Secondly, the founding member of our committee, Perth businessman, Michael Lishman. And finally a member of our group of parliamentary friends, Australias Treasurer, Deputy Leader of the Federal Liberal Party and a former lawyer of some repute. I employed him at one stage in that capacity he did a good job, the Honorable Peter Costello.

Firstly Malcolm Fraser. Hes lost none of his incisiveness and presence. He holds strong and considered views on the question of an Australian Head of State and hes put these views forcefully and cogently. It gives me great pleasure to invite Malcolm to begin proceedings.

FRASER:

Andrew, ladies and gentlemen, Im glad were having this launch the day after the Prime Ministers comments yesterday and the day after he quite clearly expressed his own views. Because I really do believe when his full speech is analysed that we can find that it gives a great deal of support to our republican cause. It is quite clear that the majority of Australians want an Australian Head of State. The model is safe, it preserves the practical workings of our Constitution, it preserves our institutions, it preserves the substance of the way were governed and it does it in a very real and sensible fashion.

John Howard yesterday and in this mornings Australian has said, that if this model is accepted it will be there forever. And theyre his words. It will be there forever. Now that is saying it is safe, that is saying it can work, it will work, because clearly if it wasnt going to be there forever there would be other amendments modifying it at some later point. So that admission on behalf of the Prime Minister is something which I was very grateful to see in his own speech. And quite apart, you know, one would expect this to be the case, because his Attorney General, Daryl Williams, a conservative lawyer was responsible for the preparation of the legislation and bringing it all forward.

Theres two or three aspects in particular I want to comment on. The Prime Ministers power to dismiss a President under the Government, under the republic model. Now again, the Prime Minister yesterday said that in his judgement, on balance, a Governor General would be more secure, on balance more secure, than would a President under the proposed model. I dont really believe this is correct because in the speech yesterday one particular argument was omitted. Today the Prime Minister, or in my time, or in Menzies time, the Prime Minister could write one letter to Her Majesty and that one letter would say the present incumbent displeases me. I want to have him dismissed or removed and, at the same time, I want you to put somebody else, naming somebody else, in his place.

There is no need for the press to hear of this. There is no need for the Cabinet to be advised of it. There is no requirement for consultation. It can all happen of the Prime Ministers own volition. And the Queen, as the speech yesterday indicated, must accept the advice of the Prime Minister. And that is only reiterating what Sir Robert Menzies had said on earlier occasions, going back to the time when Isaac Isaacs was appointed he said, commenting on that, the monarch had no option but to accept the advice and much more so than Sir William (inaudible) was appointed many years later, but after the war. If the Queen then had to accept advice, she obviously has to accept that advice in todays world. And while some people have suggested that she could delay and that could have a political impact, that is just what she could not do. Because delaying would have a political impact and the Palace would be absolutely determined to see that the monarchy played no role in Australias affairs. And the only way you can play no role is by acceeding to the Prime Ministers request pretty promptly. You might delay for a few hours, but not to days and certainly not for any significant period.

But the one point that was omitted in the Prime Ministers speech as reported in the Australian was that under the republican model, the Prime Minister cant get his own man, cant get a "yes man", somebody who will do just what he want in case. And if you cant do that, the purpose of dismissing a President or a Governor General is removed. The purpose of dismissing Sir John Kerr would have been to put a "yes man" in place. And thats what John Kerr feared and as I have written and said in other places that had a significant impact on his actions and what he did or did not discuss with the Prime Minister. Under the proposed model even (inaudible) because he would have known that a "yes man" could not replace him and therefore he would have felt able to discuss matters and Im sure thats an accurate interpretation of John Kerrs attitude and his mind.

Were told also that the Governor General is effectively our Head of State. Well he isnt and I hope the Prime Minister will forgive me if I say that he also has told us that he is not. Because if he were he would be opening the Olympic Games. John Howard is a traditionalist, he would not want to break the tradition of the Games over many long years, he would want our Head of State to open the Games. The fact that Bill Deane is not opening the Games indicates quite clearly that in the Prime Ministers mind he is not our Head of State, which of course is accurate.

A word about direct elections. Do we really want American politics in Australia? I think all those who want a direct election, want a bipartisan person, somebody above politics in the job. Now the model before us all for vote will provide that. And the sad thing about it is, that many people who support a direct election believe that is the only way theyll get somebody who is above and apart from politics. Unfortunately for them the very reverse is the truth. Because who would run the election? The political parties. Who would stand for election? A politician or an ex-politician, not a Chief Justice, not the head of a great university and we would have American style politics.

Quite apart from the political parties theres one other option, somebody who has enough money to try and buy the office for himself and we dont want that either. So a direct election is out; its not on, if we want to resolve this issue we need to vote Yes on November the 6th, otherwise it will worry us as a nation for many long years into the future.

So I hope that were all going to respond to what a clear majority want and support this republic. Whatever love many of us have for the Crown and for old traditions, they dont belong in the Australia of the next century. And we need to understand that increasingly in this modern world Her Majesty does many things for the United Kingdom, which as Head of State she is not able to do for us. So its not an equal partnership with the United Kingdom; it hasnt been for a long while. We only get the bit thats left over and thats not good enough. We want a full time Head of State, full time Australian as a Head of State.

Symbolism is important, the reality of Australia for the future also carries with that reality important symbols about where were going and what were going to do, what we think of ourselves, what kind of esteem we have for ourselves or for this nation. We do need an Australian Head of State as we move into the next century and staying with the ideas which were appropriate for Menzies time to the fifties is not appropriate for 2001 and beyond.

ROBB:

Thank you very much Malcolm. I think you would agree with me the voice of experience. Michael Lishman is the managing partner of Mallesons in Perth and hes a founding member of the Committee for Conservatives for an Australian Head of State. Together with another Perth based committee member Professor Greg Craven, Michaels carried the message and our views most effectively in many forums in Western Australia over many months and I warmly welcome Michaels contribution today.

LISHMAN:

Thank you very much.

My decision to vote Yes on 6 November is heavily influenced by the fact that I was born in England and emigrated to Australia when I was young and have since spent time working in London. Australia provided an opportunity for us as kids to grow up in a country less constrained by class and position. Australia is a very different society to England. It is a better society. Part of our strength is that by and large we are still a country where people are judged on character and by their actions and not by what social class they belong to, as in England, or by how much money they earn, as in the United States.

I find the problems that SOCOG are having over the ticketing fiasco to be reassuring. The publics reaction is typically Australian. The Australian public do not expect tickets to be allocated on an English model based on connection, position and privilege or on an American model by being sold for the highest price. And yet these are the choices that the No case offer in their schizophrenic argument - England or America. An English model where our Head of State is not only the Head of State of England but gets her title on the basis of inherited privilege, or an American model of a popularly elected President. I like the fact that under this model the Prime Minister can dismiss the President. Our history, an English history, has been about the triumph of Parliament over the Head of State. This model that Australia has been asked to vote for on 6 November retains this key and important feature of the Westminster system. And yet it allows Australia to have a Head of State who barracks for Australia and who symbolises our independence.

I am deeply concerned at the line being pushed by the No case that you cannot trust politicians to appoint a President. Lets look at the facts. Australia is a successful country of 20 million people; it enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. Its economy is strong. Australians enjoy greater personal freedoms than just about anyone else. We resolve our political differences peacefully. Our institutions, in particular our courts and parliaments, operate free of corruption. We have, as a country, embraced a major program of micro-economic reform over a long period of time which has left our economy one of the strongest in the region. We consistently box above our weight diplomatically, culturally and in our sporting success. None of this has come about by accident or by God-given right. It has come about because the rule of law applies in Australia, because our parliaments and our politicians work well for the common good. For Australians to continue to enjoy the economic prosperity and personal freedoms that they do they must have confidence in the integrity of the institutions of this country, including our politicians.

To use a populist assertion that politicians cannot be trusted is dangerous, particularly when the statement is made by people who ought to know better. In some of the talks I have given in Western Australia and the debates I have participated in, I have been asked the question what will voting Yes do for the economy? The answer is that it isnt possible to quantify any monetary benefit from voting Yes. A Yes vote will not lift the stockmarket but it will lift the spirit. However I do have concerns about a No result.

Firstly, the way in which the No case has been conducted, certainly at least until the Prime Ministers intervention today, has created an expectation amongst the Australian community, a false expectation, of further Constitutional Conventions and debate. A prolonged, unresolved, ongoing and possibly increasingly divided debate is not good for the country.

Secondly, in the unlikely event that a directly elected model got up, Australia would have imposed on it, on its law making processes yet another layer of political power. Democratically elected Governments need to be able to govern. They do need to be able to continue the reforms which are necessary for Australia to continue to have a strong economy and be a fair society. Presently the power of the Commonwealth is limited by the Senate, by the Constitution and increasingly by minority parties. To have the power of the Commonwealth Government limited further by another layer of political power that a directly elected President would have, be that moral, political or legal, is not a positive development. So ladies and gentlemen thats why I will be voting Yes.

Thank you.

ROBB:

Thank you very much Michael. I think Michael very clearly exposed some of the major contradictions and risks of the No case and confronted with a strong business perspective and again I repeat, I really am grateful to the long list of very senior business people who have taken the time over the last several months, many of them with endless exchanges of correspondence in order to satisfy themselves that the model weve got in front of us is, is a safe one and can preserve the great strengths of our country while giving us the great advantage of an Australian Head of State. So the business perspective I think is an important one because they are people who do not act on a whim and have got where theyve got because of proper consideration of issues.

 

The advocacy of Peter Costello on this issue has been thoughtful, its been measured and its been persuasive. In the last ten days of this campaign as Australians come to decide how they will vote, Peter will need all of the persuasive powers that he can muster to counteract the scaremongering and the trickery in many cases, theres some clever tricky campaigning going on the other side and the natural tendency, the natural tendency of people to resist change. I applaud Peters leadership on this issue and Ive got much pleasure in asking Peter Costello to make the final contribution to our proceedings this morning.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much Andrew. And to those of you who have come today we appreciate very much your support. I want to just explain why Ill be supporting the "Yes" vote in the referendum which is on Saturday week and how I came to this position. I dont think I thought much about our Head of State, or about the monarchy, or indeed about republics before the Constitutional Convention. And as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, for the first time I had to - in a considered way - think of my position in relation to these issues. I guess like most Liberals before that, up until that Constitutional Convention, I had seen the republic debate as a political distraction. Something which if it had been raised by Mr Keating must have been a bad idea and worthy of opposition. And I think there are many Liberals who still think that way today.

But when I went to the Constitutional Convention and I had to think about my own views about monarchies and our Constitution, I thought carefully and I came to the conclusion that monarchy was not a symbol for Australia. It was not a concept for me and it was not a symbol for Australia. I didnt have difficulties with our Queen. I didnt have difficulties with our particular kind of monarchy. But my view was, that monarchy generally was not a symbol for an egalitarian nation like Australia.

And the truth of the matter is, I dont believe positions should be settled on bloodlines. I dont believe that people should hold public office because of hereditary. I believe unashamedly in people being rewarded for effort, and talent, and creativity. As I said at the Constitutional Convention, the temper of the times is democratic and in a democratic society you will not convince people that an institution which works on non-democratic lines is an institution whose symbolism will represent the nation. And there are people who say today, what benefit would this country get from having a President elected by the people, or indeed a President appointed by the Parliament? And the first benefit that I would say is, we would get a symbolic presence which echoes the values of our society and the values that I hold dearly - merit, work, integrity - rather than the values that are enshrined in monarchy. People say, what other benefits would we get? Well, the second thing we would get is we would have a ceremonial Head of State able to perform ceremonial functions.

The Prime Minister in his position which is set out in the paper today - and I want to congratulate him, I think he has elevated the debate absolutely with a well-reasoned piece in the papers this morning - makes the important point, that in our system of government we have separated the ceremonial position from the political position. And he says, rightly, the ceremonial position of Head of State must be above politics, able to unite the society as a whole. And the traditional defence of monarchy is that it is above politics, able to unite society as a whole. But in our society monarchy doesnt unite. In our society we have difficulty allowing the Monarch to perform those ceremonial functions because something gnaws at its credibility and its believability in our society. And the proof is in the pudding. If this were a unifying symbol, above politics, able to perform the ceremonial role, the Monarch would be performing the ceremonial role in Sydney - our Olympics, our Head of State, our Queen. But we know, dont we, that something is wrong? Something jars. It didnt jar in 1956 when Prince Philip performed the opening of the Melbourne Olympics.

In our society in that time it was a unifying concept, but it isnt today. And to say, that because we have a problem we will somehow define away the symbol of Head of State, rather than fix the problem - with a ceremonial Head of State who can perform ceremonial functions - is really just to close our eyes to what is a problem. A problem that we know deep down will only be addressed if we can move through this constitutional change.

And the other argument thats put of course is, if its not broken dont fix it. And I for one would say in a machinery sense, our parliamentary system works and works well. But I would argue that the ceremonial function is broken. Is broken. And if there wasnt a genuine or general public belief to that effect, we wouldnt be going through these arguments. I was in London recently and I spoke to a Conservative Member of the House of Lords who said to me - as a great monarchist he said - "I am a great monarchist but if I were an Australian I dont think I would care to have my Head of State living in London SW1." And I thought about that. Its a problem, isnt it? And because we know its a problem, we know that it needs fixing.

Now its a respectable argument to say, something is working well dont interfere with it. Its an argument that could have been used against Federation. Responsible Government had been working in Australia for 50 years, why threaten it with Federation? Its an argument that could have been used for continuing English Governors General. With the exception of Isaac Isaacs, up until 1947 the tradition of an English Governor-General had led to political stability. It wasnt broken, why fix it? Its an argument that couldve been used against abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. Appeals to the Privy Council were working up until the 60s. They werent broken, why fix it? Its an argument that couldve been used in relation to the National Anthem. It wasnt broken, dont fix it. Its an argument that was used against me and the Government, mindlessly, over the wholesale sales tax - if it aint broke, dont fix it. But we know as we look back over the long sweep of Australian history that by modernising and renewing these institutions and these symbols, we gave ourselves opportunities for the future which otherwise would have been denied to us. And I think thats what a "Yes" vote can do.

I want to make one point about "No" voters who are arguing for radical change. A directly elected presidency, in my view, will open the way to money politics in a way that we havent yet seen in our country. We have seen in the United States - its sometimes held up as a model for direct elections - Elizabeth Dole has just retired from the race because shes only been able to raise $1 million against another challenger whos now got $56 million. You dont even get into that race until you have tens of millions. You don't get the right to run.

And then people say, well, we could always ban money or ban political parties from direct elections. The last time, as I recall, that the Commonwealth Parliament decided to ban political advertising for elections it was struck down as unconstitutional. But the direct electionists ought to tell us if it's their plan, not only to have a direct election but to ban parties or money, how they're going to get that through the current constitution. They ought to explain that very clearly to us. In fact the direct electionists ought to do us the decency of producing their model. It's the one thing that they studiously refrain from doing, is actually producing a model with codified powers rebalancing the Senate and the House of Representatives, announcing the electoral system, indicating how the ban on political parties or money would work, how that would square with the Constitution and giving us a real look at what's being held out as a promise down the track.

 

And I make this prediction now. That the moment they start working on such a model, the differences between them will be so great that if it ever got to the electorate half of the direct electionists would still be saying, vote "No" to the proposal for another one further down the track. And it's the classic position where people may be able to agree on what they are against but not able to agree on what they are for.

I want to make one other point. Conservatives believe that institutions which are important to preserve should from time to time be reformed and renewed. Times change. To conserve the best you must make sure that it is apposite to the times. And look at the parliamentary history of the Westminster system. The true conservatives were those that were prepared to reshape and remake their institutions to preserve them.

And I said at the opening of this debate, that if it was important to preserve the parliamentary system we ought to preserve the parliamentary system with a modernised arrangement for a Head of State, rather than try and hold on to an out-of-date Head of State which could undermine confidence in the Parliamentary system. I made it entirely clear, I thought the important institution here was not the monarchy but the parliamentary system. And as this debate has worn on, in order to preserve something with which we now have difficulty, a monarchy, I have seen an increasing tendency to undermine the parliamentary system.

In order to oppose the "Yes" vote some campaigners are now prepared to bring into disrepute the whole parliamentary system. The ads that you can't trust politicians don't just apply in relation to the Head of State. They undermine the whole parliamentary system. And if one were to look at this "No" booklet signed off by politicians on how you can't trust politicians one wonders whether or not they'll be putting that out on their election brochures at the next election.

The Constitution which the "No" case is pledged to support is the parliamentary system. And there is no point in the name of defending the Constitution undermining the parliamentary system which it enshrines. Undermining the parliamentary system which it enshrines. True conservatives would be defending that parliamentary system and modernising the symbol in a way which will give it security and enable it to preserve the best for the future.

And I have no trouble at all in saying, that a conservative can with an absolute clear conscience, go into a ballot box to preserve the best of our current constitution and to modernise it in the way in which we have seen the sweep of history modernise institutions over the last 100 years.

I think that when conservatives come to look at this and look back on it, they will see this was an opportunity to preserve the best of the past and modernise for the future. An opportunity which may not come again. To give us the opportunity to keep the institutions which really are important while modernising those which are not of the same significance. And I would say to conservatives on Saturday week that a "Yes" vote can be done with a clear conscience. There are people that will say, hold out until you get every dot and every line. The same argument could have been run at Federation. The federal document is full of political compromises as the Federation fathers worked towards the big issues by getting agreement in relation to the machinery.

There's no skin off anybody's nose in saying, that a Constitution involves compromises. It does. Our current one involves compromises. You wouldn't have got Federation without it. This idea that once you put a Constitution in place it assumes holy writ, you know, and is perfect in every respect. Constitutions are always framed in this particular manner.

And a Constitution which will give us a parliamentary system which is important, an Australian as our Head of State, which is important, a ceremonial presence to perform ceremonial duties, which will give us modern symbolism for the future is in my view something well worth saying "Yes" to on Saturday week.

ROBB:

Thank you very much Peter. A very powerful and very compelling case put by Peter and again I thank you for your leadership on this issue.

QUESTION AND ANSWER

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask the Federal Treasurer is he disappointed that Labor has made this a political issue when his party hasn't?

TREASURER:

Well we have a free conscience vote in the Liberal Party and I think that's right and that's appropriate and if the Labor Party were minded to do the same I'd certainly welcome that. But I don't know that this is the kind of time to make political points one way or the other. The truth of the matter is that in constitutional reforms in the past, and Malcolm will tell you this, there has been no skin off the nose of anybody for having a Government and an Opposition cooperate. In fact if you have the Government and Opposition cooperating on the rules of the Constitution it's probably a very good thing, it probably secures bipartisan support. It's one of the points that's made about the two-thirds election model, that you will secure bipartisan support. I'm not in the business of making the political points one way or the other except of course to congratulate the Liberal Party for its stance.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello could you comment on Mr Howard's point that that he believes the dismissal power will make a president less secure than the Governor-General?

TREASURER:

Well I don't agree with that because, and I've already written to that effect. The truth of the matter is that a Prime Minister today can dismiss the Governor-General without reasons, and instantaneously. I've made this point. Its said, "well, Buckingham Palace can wait for two weeks?" What if a Prime Minister advises the Queen to act immediately? Is she bound to act on that advice? I would have thought in constitutional theory she is. But in any event the proposition that there'll be time delays between Australia and Buckingham Palace and somehow that gives greater security of tenure, this is a theory that the single thread that holds our democratic tradition together is the two weeks of delay between Canberra and Buckingham Palace. Now what you can do under the current system is not only sack the Governor-General but secure your replacement immediately. Without reference to anybody else the Governor-General can be sacked Maam I advise you to sack the Governor-General, Maam I advise you to appoint Mr X or Mrs X. What you can't do under this model which is going to a referendum is you cannot secure your replacement, which is going to make you much more wary about an instantaneous dismissal because if you dismiss the President you don't get your President as the next person in. And I actually think that this is a much greater protection for a president than enjoyed by a Governor-General. In fact if you were really a strict constitutionalist I think you'd be arguing it the other way, the reason you're against this model is it give more tenure to a President than is enjoyed by the Governor-General. That would be a much more legitimate criticism of the model than the other one. Why is that criticism not made? Well that criticism is not made because it doesn't gel with the populist position that you want to take powers away from politicians rather than given them to politicians. It's one of those classic cases where they're following the research opinion rather than the strict constitutional theory in this "No" booklet.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, what about the other limb of the Prime Minister's argument which deals with the appointment process which he suggests is a claytons appointment process, that in the end it's the Prime Minister who will decide who the nominee would be and also that the process would inhibit people like for instance High Court judges Ninian Stephen and so on and so forth from taking part because number one, it would impact on their ability to do their job while the process was under way and number two, that they wouldn't want the possibility of it being know that they'd been knocked back?

TREASURER:

Well the President will not be appointed on the say so of one person. Plainly the President can only be appointed with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition and with the two thirds majority of the Parliament. Now Tim Fischer's done the arithmetic on this and I forget the precise figures but it means you've got to have something like 200 people agreeing to the nomination rather than one, which is the current system. And we should be comparing it with the current system. The truth of the matter is when compared with the current system you have to have much greater bipartisan support and much wider support in order to appoint the Head of State. Now in relation to people who hold sensitive positions, they can all either come up through the republic process or they can allow their names to go forward generally. But I'll make one point, you are much likely to get people, more likely, to get people who hold sensitive positions, such as High Court judges and senior businessmen, into the presidential office under this model than under a direct election model. Can you imagine a High Court judge saying I'd just like leave of absence to go and campaign for President? In fact go back through our Governors-General and ask yourself which of them would have become President under a direct election model? You couldn't have had a Bill Deane, you couldn't have had a Ninian Stephen, you couldn't have had a Zelman Cowen. This couldn't occur under a direct election model, they wouldn't have the time, the resources or the inclination to submit themselves to the electoral process. So I think this model gives us the ability to attract people of stature and gives us the ability to keep them out of the political fray.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) tell us how concerned you are about the misinformation in this campaign, in particular is there a risk that the Australian people might be conned or hoaxed into thinking that if they vote no they get a directly-elected president?

TREASURER:

Well look I make this point to conservative voters; if the day after the referendum Australia has voted "No", there will be an unseemly row as to what that "No" vote meant. On one side the argument will be it means we are a happy constitutional monarchy and on the other side it will be that we want radical change to our constitution. Both sides of the "No" camp can't be right. One of them is wrong. But the one thing you can say is that there's going to be continuing dislocation, continuing dislocation, and I'm not sure how that's going to work out and that's why I've said that there are reasons to vote "Yes" for people who believe that they want to preserve a safe, secure constitutional system, a "Yes" vote can deliver it.

I'm not sure a "No" vote can because it will lead to endless recrimination and argument about what it actually meant and I say to people who say oh we're "No" voters because we want more radical changes a "No" vote means no. A "No" vote means the day after the referendum Australia is and will continue to be a constitutional monarchy and the one thing I will say and I think the Prime Minister has, as I said, elevated the debate, and he's made that point. This idea that a "No" vote somehow means Australia shortly will be transformed into a radical direct-election republic I think is quite fanciful.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Kim Beazley is making the point though if we get a "Yes" vote we might have a follow-up constitutional convention which might deliver a directly elected President. Is that a helpful nudge and a wink from the Labor leader?

ROBB:

Penultimate question

JOURNALIST:

Well I could go into who's given helpful nods and helpful winks but I make this point; how often do we have referenda in this country? It's now 1999, when was the last one? 1988, that was eleven years ago. Maybe we have a referenda every ten years. How often in this country do we have referenda on the same question? That's a very interesting proposition. How often has the same question come again in Australian referenda history? It has happened incidentally and I believe every time it's come up on a second time it's been defeated as it was on the first time. So if you want to look at Australian federal history the whole sweep of history tells you you don't have regular referendums and you certainly don't have them regularly on the same question. To get a referenda in this country you've got to get it through the House of Representative and through the Senate and send it off to the people and you have to have a Government that wants to facilitate it.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just ask you to comment on the statement that the Governor-General is effectively the Head, of State?

TREASURER:

Well I think the key word there is effectively isn't it? Once you see a word like effectively interposed, what it tells you is he is not the Head of State and that is true. Now I've been out at Government House and I was out there recently with the Korean President and our Governor-General gave a toast to the Korean President, the Korean President gave a toast to the Queen of Australia and somebody who was sitting next to me said, oh the Governor-General's the Head of State and I said, oh good heavens, the Korean President should be informed, he made the wrong toast. And what's more the Governor-General has advised him to make the wrong toast and the poor Governor-General was sitting there all the time being the Head of State but not knowing it. Now the truth of the matter is that the Head of State is the Queen and we shouldn't shy away from that and a "No" vote means keeping it that way.

JOURNALIST:

But what more would a President do than a Governor-General isn't (inaudible)

ROBB:

I'm sorry, I apologise (inaudible). I'm sorry we only had ten or twelve minutes. I apologise for that but (inaudible) the speakers have got some other important commitments so I'm sorry we can't go on but we cant. Could I just conclude by saying that it's been an important opportunity for us to have a chance to have such eminent spokesmen put our case this morning. I do thank Malcolm, Michael and Peter most sincerely for putting our case in a most astute and powerful way and I would like you all to thank them on our behalf. I'd like to thank the media for your attendance here this morning and I'd also like just to take this opportunity to thank my committee members for their commitment to this issue. Almost without exception they've all got other full time jobs and it's been a big item through this year but we've got another ten days to go to try and to really make a difference. I'd like to thank all those eminent Australians who've signed on as friends, a number of whom are here this morning and I'd like to thank similarly the many parliamentarians who've signed on as parliamentary friends, again many of whom here this morning and some who've travelled quite a long distance. I'm very grateful for that. All of these people are advocating a "Yes" vote on Saturday week, they're not people who act on a whim, without exception they've given very serious consideration to the proposed model and its implications and I think their support of all of these people should give millions of cautiously-minded Australians great comfort that the proposal is safe, that it will deliver an Australian head of state, a relevant symbol for the 21st century without wider changes to our great institutions. So on that note I would ask if our friends, parliamentary and friends and committee members who are here with us to come up, we just might have a group shot, photograph and then we'll adjourn across the corridor. Thanks very much.