SUBJECT: Republic debate.
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC NEWS RADIO BREAKFAST WITH MARIUS BENSON
FRIDAY, 12 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT: Republic debate.
DREYFUS: Good morning Marius.
BENSON: Bill Shorten says it’s time to renew the debate on the constitutional change to allow the Republic. Is that Labor policy to start the debate anew or is that a captain’s call from Bill Shorten?
DREYFUS: It’s been Labor policy for very many years that we should move to a Republic and of course Bill is right that we have to keep talking about this. It is 16 years since the Republic was defeated at a referendum and I think we are saying that we are now in a position where a new generation deserves the chance to have a say, which is what Bill said in his speech last night.
BENSON: And specifically what he said was that we don’t need to wait for a change of monarch, for the current Queen’s reign to end - to start this debate afresh. Is that the Labor view: that it is time now to have the debate rather than waiting for that to occur?
DREYFUS: This is an Australian constitution. It is for Australians to determine what is the right time to have a debate about our Constitution. I don’t think we should it set it by reference to a change of monarch any more than I think that we should have a hereditary ruler in the first place. I think you only have to state it to see how problematic it is and would be for most Australians that our head of State is something that should be inherited by a family on the other side of the world. And I do think it is long past time that we should have another go. Bill laid out a very good process in the speech last night. Having a constitutional convention first, then a plebiscite to gauge public support and then a referendum to enact the change and I think we should make a start on this again.
BENSON: Is this the start of a real campaign for Labor or is this Bill Shorten just throwing it out there and see who salutes?
DREYFUS: As I say, this is very clear Labor policy -
BENSON: Sure, but it always has been.
DREYFUS: It has got be started again always by someone saying something. I can think of no-one better than the Leader of the Opposition to start of that debate again. Let’s see what the responses are, in particular, he rightly said we were all prompted to this, at least on our side of the parliament, by having to vote earlier this on a bill for the succession for the British monarchy. The reason we had to do it was because the British monarch is our head of state. So we were asked to vote on removing 300 year old laws and I think if most Australians had paid any attention to the Bill they would ask what in 2015 is our parliament doing passing a law about the succession for the British crown to make sure that a woman could sit on the throne of Britain as part of the succession? None of this should be any part of a modern Australia.
BENSON: But do Australians care enough about the Republic enough, because the polls seem to indicate that interest in and support for it is fading?
DREYFUS: That’s the old argument that we should be concentrating on other things. And again, Bill Shorten dealt with that very well with that in his speech last night. He said there were people who said that the National Disability Insurance Scheme could wait. Or people who said that Medicare was unworkable or going back further that the minimum wage was unaffordable. There are always arguments that could be raised but those of us who want Australia to own its constitution; those of us who want Australia to own our system of government; who want a modern, fair, smart Australia will say that it is long past time that we should be working again on the Republic.
BENSON: Mark Dreyfus, thank you very much.