Public should choose head of state – not politicians

January 14, 2022 — 12.04am
Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

Illustration: Cathy WilcoxCredit:

Good to see the Australian Republic Movement moving forward by offering the “Australian choice model” (“‘No Trump, no Warne’: Hybrid plan for republic up for debate”, January 13). If nominations are to be left to state, territory and federal parliaments, it should be up to those MPs to seek input from the whole community via online suggestions or, better still, a citizens’ assembly, which could precede each Parliament’s nomination. Only then will Australians believe they have had a genuine say in their head of state and not a reward for a friend of the governing political party.
Lyn Carson, Ocean Shores

The ARM model for presidential nomination is hardly a “choice” for voters because political parties will control who gets on the ballot paper. What is wrong with the model used for all other elections in Australia, i.e. open nominations for all citizens followed by a popular vote? ARM says that no one in their or the political establishment opposes their hybrid model – why would they when it gives them everything they want, but leaves the taxpaying electors out in the cold? ARM says it doesn’t want Trump or Warne – the pollies could instead give us Barnaby Joyce, George Christensen, or Mark Latham. The electorate are all adults – we are old and wise enough to decide who to nominate and vote for. Andrew Elder, Ashfield

I commend the ARM for proposing a new model. It is important, though, that the position of head of state is inherently apolitical and attacks from monarchists such as “politicians’ republic” be neutralised. That is why the model should preclude any politician, former or prospective, from the role. Simon Daniels, Sydney

The least pressing issue facing our country is renewed talk of a republic. What we need is good governance to address today’s concerns which include health, economy, rule of law, climate management and our place in the world. We don’t need a complicated and lengthy election process; we need unity not division. The process proposed resembles the worst kind of reality TV show and I cannot imagine anyone worthy of this important role wishing to be part of this circus. Kath Maher, Lidcombe

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt GoldingCredit:

While I would love nothing more than to see Australia become a republic, the model suggested has a serious flaw: by putting too much power in the hands of a single person, it would expose us to a Trump-like narcissist.

An elected president could claim a mandate and veto laws in defiance of an elected parliament, mimicking all that is wrong with the US system. It would be far better if a future president was “selected” by Parliament, either in the same way that our governor-general is selected now or, better still, by a parliamentary committee with equal numbers of members from the government and the opposition benches. Tom Orren, Wamberal Heights

I used to want Australia to be a republic. I used to think our politicians were mature enough to govern wisely and for everybody. But that was then. Now, I’ve changed my mind. Better to have a foreign head of state who rules by benign neglect than to elect one of our own who would effectively be a political appointee. There are always favours owed and promises to be kept. Graham Beirman, Lane Cove North

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This proposal misses the elephant in the room, which is the dysfunction of the current constitution – the powers and responsibilities of states v federal parliament. In a country with a small population, do we really need nine separate parliaments? The dysfunctionality of the current model has become especially evident in the mismanagement of the pandemic. To focus attention on the head of state, or the flag, distracts from the reforms we should be addressing. Roger Pratt, Avalon Beach

There is no need for a head of state. This is a carry over of the monarchical system from which we are trying to escape. Any role that a head of state would have, can and should be determined by the High Court. The next referendum should be a simple issue of monarchy or republic with no other matters involved. Andrew Smith, Birmingham Gardens

It’s not that I don’t like the plan, but it’s hardly a new model. Judging by the ineffectual performances of recent incumbents, every election, state and federal, already offers me the opportunity to elect someone pre-vetted by political parties to perform a job that is “largely ceremonial”. Col Burns, Lugarno

Pro-life Premier condemns the elderly to no life at all

Through his reckless approach to the spread of this virus “pro-life” Dominic Perrottet has orchestrated a “no-life” existence on our increasingly lonely and confused relatives, including my 98-year-old mother, locked in their rooms in aged care (“Aged care facilities swamped by virus”, January 13). My mother donned a uniform in World War II and this is the thanks she gets at the end of her life. Shame on you, Perrottet, for your hubris. Sally Spurr, Lane Cove

What a brilliant reminder of the essential role of humans in the economy, and the non-negotiable need to keep them healthy as top priority (“It all begins with healthy humans”, January 13). Contrast this to the continuing sop from Perrottet and Scott Morrison, amid their major policy shortcomings. And a big lesson to those who believe in the open slather capitalist model treating labour just as dispensable units. Duncan Cameron, Lane Cove

What do you do if you are a young girl at a supermarket checkout and you are confronted with an ill-looking man who claims to have COVID, is not wearing a mask properly, and uses cash for payment? Then, a couple of days later, he turns up again, looking worse and vomits at the back of the shop. Do you turn to your employer, who doesn’t want to deal with difficulties? No, let the cleaner deal with it. Do you turn to your union? No, the boss doesn’t like to employ those who belong to a union. Do you turn to the government for advice? No, they would only tell you that everything is just fine. Is the customer an anti-vaxxer or senile? Whatever he is, he is a loose cannon. There seems no way of avoiding risk, despite the ever-increasing and incomprehensible verbiage pouring out of politicians’ statements, saying how well we are opening up to business. Name withheld

The Coalition’s hands off approach at state and federal levels will go down in history as a lesson in the abject failure of governance. There is no proactive planning based on foreseeable scenarios, they have a “gunna” approach to managing crises, only to end up missing in action and not taking responsibility for poor decisions.

Given the last few years of drought, fires, floods and a pandemic, they should have had plenty of practice managing crises. But they push the responsibility onto the underfunded public service, individuals who need to take personal responsibility and business. They don’t hold a hose, like to let it rip and decide it’s not their responsibility to acquire sufficient vaccines or RATs until we are in a crisis. They don’t seem to give a RATs’ derrière. Laura Beaupeurt, Callala Bay

Lack of RAT cunning

What does the government need from our positive RATs (Letters, January 13)? Will it follow up each one? Will it give us advice on places where we were exposed and help us make appropriate decisions? The guide to how well we are going is the numbers in hospital and ICU? Case numbers are meaningless. This is bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake, it is burdensome and punishes individuals and not the politicians who have created this mess. Gerald De Gabriele, Toormina

Surely, the Premier and Police Minister can rely on a call for assistance from the public to dob in non-complying offenders. Dobbing could be included in the Service NSW app (Letters, January 13).
Eugene Simpson, Narara

From not being able to report a positive RAT to being fined if you don’t. Instead of empathy and compassion, the NSW government has chosen punitive punishment. Hopefully, the voters follow their lead. Christian McGregor, Mosman

New Aussie sport for those that don’t like the tennis. Dob in a RAT. Bob Harris, Sawtell

We’re making Johnson look good

I feel quite relieved about my offspring heading over to the UK soon. Only 130,000 cases daily in the whole country. Who’d have thought Perrottet and Morrison would make Boris Johnson look good.
Marie Healy, Hurlstone Park

Narrow view of nation’s history

I was surprised to read John Howard’s hearty endorsement of the national archives given the chequered history of his government when it comes to First Nations people, refugees, weapons of mass destruction and his “agnostic” position on climate change (“Archives vital to understanding nation’s history”, January 13). It all fell into place at the end as he fell into lock-step with contemporary revisionists like Alan Tudge, where his government’s many failings might be hidden behind a more optimistic but less detailed reading of our records. Colin Stokes, Camperdown

Howard rightly applauds the collection of archival material to create historical narratives. However, his mantra that Tudge should be encouraged to push the Australian achievements section of any history curriculum document is a narrow view. Howard does acknowledge the “blemishes in our history” which would make a great, if understated, heading in a syllabus when dealing with Aboriginal massacres, dispossession, stolen generations and other too hot to handle topics which have been sticking points for those who wish to only promote the value of democracy. Brian Thornton, Stanmore

The man who gave us “children overboard” and the “never-ever GST” continues to display his ignorance publicly. Howard ignores 60,000 years of First Nation people’s achievements by implying that our “history” began with our imported democracy a century ago. Howard’s prime ministership was punctuated by many outrages with his political interference in the school curriculum being just one. And the Liberal Party tradition of a myopic vision of education continues under the current federal minister. Don Carter, Oyster Bay

Deliberate error

Novak Djokovic’s spin doctors are calling the provision of wrong information on his visa application “an error of judgement” (“Immigration looks at Djokovic’s unforced errors”, January 13). Others might call it “breaking the law” or simply “lying”. Enough of this farce. Send him home. Rob Phillips, North Epping

If Australia “wrongly” deports Djokovic, I hope he’ll accept an apology that it was an “administrative mistake” and merely “a human error and certainly not deliberate”. Barry Lamb, Heidelberg West (Vic)

Does personal responsibility trump “human error”? Adam Liberman, Randwick

Into bat for boycotts

As a member of the ALP, I am appalled that a Labor politician could call for punitive action against people exercising their democratic right to boycott an action they regard as objectionable – in this case accepting a grant from Israel to the Sydney Festival (“Boycott outrage is misplaced”, January 13). Boycotts have always been part of workers’ rights, usually, against those in power. In this case, my belief is this issue will never be settled until the two sides stop abusing each other and actually listen to the other side. But none of that is relevant to a person’s right to boycott. Ron Pretty, Farmborough Heights

For those of us caught in the middle of the dispute – namely those who support the Palestinians’ right to their own country and the right of Israel to exist – the boycott of the Sydney Festival is meaningful only in respect of those people who, as a matter of principle, boycott all other events funded directly or indirectly by other regimes that behave as badly as or worse than Israel.

The discussion about Israel’s failure and oppression never seems to move on to a discussion about Indonesia and the people of West Papua, China’s treatment of the Uighurs or its occupation of Tibet, the treatment of the Kurds by the Turkish state, Iran, Syria and Iraq or the discrimination by “democratic” Eastern European regimes of the Roma, to name a very small number of the oppressors and the oppressed. Truth is, many of the boycotters are simply hypocrites or haters (perhaps both), only willing to make a principled stand when it suits. John Balazs, Randwick

Of course, amid all the fervent debate and gut-wrenching decisions about funding from Israel, we need to ask why one of our premier festivals has to rely on a foreign government for appropriate funding. Isn’t that what we pay taxes for? Stein Boddington, St Clair

Landlords lose, too

Rents are influenced to some extent by supply and demand but in the present circumstances with significant rent increases, renters would be mistaken in thinking landlords are living high at their expense (“Record rent prices leave many in the cold”, January 13).

A significant expense for most properties is state government-imposed land tax. With property values increasing significantly, a rapacious state government increases the annual tax accordingly, which can approximate 25 per cent of the gross rental. Obviously, all other expenses also increase and the final net income is taxed by the Commonwealth government.

It can be practically impossible to increase rent at a rate which provides an annual few per cent increase in net income which most workers expect in their pay packets. However, more importantly, the state government could surely use more of this windfall land tax revenue to subsidise the rent of needy individuals and families. Geoff Harding, Chatswood

Rock of ages

I eagerly started reading the article about music to listen to, with a view to cheering myself up during these challenging times (“22 songs to instantly improve summer of ’22”, January 13).
I didn’t recognise one of the songs. Even the Beach Boys entry and Harry Nilsson’s Coconut weren’t familiar. Being the age of a Beatles song – 64 – I thought I might still be relevant. Alas, no, I’m now officially ancient. Lyndall Jones, Killcare Heights

Word up

Early nomination for word of the year: furlough. Richard Mason, Newtown

The digital view

Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au
NSW records 92,264 COVID cases as positive rapid antigen tests added to daily tally
From HWGA: ″⁣92,000 cases (almost certainly an underestimate) and 22 deaths are the ultimate evidence that personal responsibility is no substitute for governments doing what they should do; govern.″⁣

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