Direct Representation

Direct Representation is True Democracy

Our primary goal once we are elected to form a government is to bring in Citizens Initiated Referendums (CIR). Then we will reform the electoral system as shown in this illustration:

Each electorate will comprise 5,000 voters, and 50 electorates will make up the Regional government.

One representative from each electorate will sit at a round table whenever the Regional Government meets.

The representatives will be chosen from voters in their electorate and voted in with one man one vote. No preferences. No backroom deals. Simple and clear.

Voting for Federal Representatives

One more representative from the Region will be chosen and elected to sit in Federal Parliament. We have calculated about 98 to 100 Regions. The number or regions will be determined by the number of people in Australia divided into regions.

All representatives will be directly accountable to the voters.

There will be no need for political parties, as they will become irrelevant.

Electing a National Leader

The People have made it abundantly clear in numerous polls that our Head of State should be an Australian Citizen, and that he should be elected by the People…not appointed by politicians or anybody else.

Today we call our national leader Prime Minister. But after we reform the electoral system the people will be able to decide by voting in a referendum what sort of leadership they want.

We propose that all Australian citizens vote in a separate election to elect the Head of State. We may continue to call him Prime Minister, or we may decide to call him President. For the purposes of this article we will call him/her President.

What will be the President’s job?

The President’s Role

The following lays out the functions we propose the leader of the nation should fulfill.

The President is the Head of State. His role is to be the National Leader of Australia and Head of the National Executive.

Functions of the President
Subject to this Constitution the President is accountable to the Parliament for the efficient and effective implementation of policy decided by the Parliament and shall fulfil the following functions:

  1. Guardian of the Constitution.
  2. Ceremonial Head of the Nation.
  3. Spokesperson for the whole of Government.
  4. Chief Executive of the Government.
  5. Commander in Chief of the Armed Services.
  6. To Receive visiting Heads of State of other Nations.
  7. Appoint Australian Ambassadors and Consuls (taking advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs).
  8. Appoint Chief of the Defence Force, Chiefs of Navy, Army and Air Force, and officers of the Defence Force (taking advice from the Services).
  9. Appoint Chief Executive Officers of Government Departments (taking advice from the Public Service Board).
  10. Appoint the Chief Justice and Justices of the Constitutional Court (taking advice from the Law Commission and the Society of Judges).
  11. Appoint Justices of the Appeal Court (on advice as above).
  12. Appoint Justices of the Supreme Court (on advice as above).
  13. Appoint Commissioners, Ombudsmen, etc (subject to veto by the Parliament).
  14. Appoint Chairpersons of the National Parliament (on advice from the Public Service Board).
  15. Sign Legislation into Law.
  16. Address the Parliament at least quarterly and as required by the Parliament.

Powers of the President

Subject to the provisions in the Constitution the powers of the President will be as follows:

  1. To speak on behalf of the Nation both domestically and in the international forum. (In consultation with the Parliament.)
  2. To negotiate with other nations. (In consultation with the Parliament.)
  3. To deploy the Armed Services within Australia in time of emergency. (Subject to veto by a 75% vote of the Parliament.)
  4. To declare war and the cessation of hostilities. (following a ‘yes’ vote at a referendum)
  5. To ensure legislation is in accord with this Constitution before signing it into law. (The President shall seek advice on legislation from the Constitutional Court.) The President may return Bills to the National Parliament with or without recommendations. On being presented with a Bill passed by the National Parliament a second time without amendment the President shall sign the Bill into Law or submit the issue to a referendum.
  6. To initiate referenda.
  7. To authorise the conduct of Referenda initiated by Citizens.
  8. To respond to petition by the People and by one or more Regional Assemblies. The President is the ultimate ombudsman.
  9. To initiate parliamentary agenda items.
  10. To establish such Government Departments, Commissioners, Ombudsmen and Offices as considered necessary for the good governance of Australia. (In consultation with the Parliament.)
  11. To hold CEOs of Departments, Ombudsmen, Commissioners, and Officers of the Commonwealth accountable for their performance.
  12. To hold the Chairpersons of Parliament accountable.
  13. To dismiss a Member of Parliament for misconduct, malfeasance or dereliction of duty (in consultation with the Parliament.)
  14. To ensure all appointments by the President are published in a daily (or regular) update of the President’s website.

The effect of the above is to amalgamate into the position of President much of what is currently undertaken by both the Governor General and the Prime Minister.

Checks and Balances

Today, much of the power exercised by the Governor General is referred to as ‘reserve powers’. These powers are not codified and are therefore vague and imprecise. There are very few ‘checks and balances’.

Furthermore the current Constitution makes no provision for a Prime Minister at all, let alone spelling out his powers or any limitation on his powers. Nor does it provide any checks or balances.

The idea with the above proposal to appoint a President is to spell out exactly what the President is empowered to do and the limitations on that power. There would be no ‘reserve powers.’

The role, function and powers of the President will provide a system of government consistent with the theory of parliamentary democracy. The ‘checks and balances’ incorporated will ensure that the will of the People prevails and that neither the President, the Parliament nor the Executive can operate contrary to the views of the other two elements.

Under a Constitution with these provisions there would be no Ministers and no Prime Minister. The whole of the Parliament would decide what is to be done; and the Executive would have the task of implementing those decisions.

Election of the President

General

The election process for a new President shall commence four months before the expiration of the incumbent’s term of office at which time the Chief Electoral Commissioner shall call for nominations.

The People shall elect the President in the following manner:

Any Australian Citizen eligible to vote at a Regional election and having no criminal record or record of bankruptcy shall be eligible to nominate or be nominated as a Presidential Candidate. Nominations shall require a seconder and shall be endorsed by 10 other Citizens. Nomination forms shall be available from Electoral Offices.

Candidacy shall be conditional on fifteen-year residency in Australia and five-year residency in the Region. (Residency criteria may be waived if the Electoral Commissioner is satisfied recent relocation was not connected to the presidential election.)

Citizens required by their employment to move to and from countries overseas or from one region to another should not be disadvantaged.

Citizens elected as President shall be required to relinquish direct responsibility for businesses, etc but shall not be required to divest businesses, farms, shares or other interests.

Presidential election nominees shall submit to the Electoral Commissioner the results of a medical and psychological examination and shall be required to make Statutory Declarations that they know of no matters that, if found proved, would damage the Office of President should they be elected to that position.

These provisions are considered necessary to ensure that presidential candidates are fit in every sense of that word, to hold the office of President of Australia.

Currently all persons aspiring to join the Armed Services are required to undergo medical and psychological examinations so this requirement of Presidential candidates is seen as reasonable to ensure the confidence of the People.

Presidential election nominees shall pay a non-refundable nomination fee of six times Average Weekly Earnings (AWE).

In 2007, six times AWE was approx $6,000. This provision is designed to discourage frivolous nominations from cluttering up the electoral process.

Three months before the election, the Chief Electoral Commissioner shall declare successful nominees as Presidential Candidates and start the election process.

Voting in Presidential elections shall be compulsory.

Political parties, professional institutes, trade unions, and other groups with memberships across Regional boundaries are precluded by this Constitution from any participation in presidential elections.

Our Constitution should ensure that the office of President must be filled by an apolitical Citizen; a Citizen who is elected by the People on his merits and not because he has been endorsed or promoted by one particular section of society.

The President shall be elected for five years.

A President’s term of office may be extended to a maximum of one more term of five years by a 75% majority of the People voting at referendum. Such a referendum may be initiated

  1. by the Parliament,
  2. by five Regional Assemblies or
  3. by petition signed by 1% of the voting population.

The President shall be elected using an optional preferential voting system in a three-round election process over a maximum period of three months as follows:

Round One

Round one shall be an election held to select a maximum of one Presidential Candidate in each of the Regions.

Currently, many worthy potential candidates for election to national office are deterred by an abhorrence of being subject to nation-wide, intrusive media bombardment. Suitable candidates are less likely to be deterred by an election conducted only in their own region as they might otherwise be in a wider election.

There shall be no limit to the number of candidates in Round One.

There shall be no limit to the funds an individual may spend in support of his regional candidacy and any local organisation may support the candidacy of any individual provided such an organisation does not have members who reside outside the Region.

It is considered that any citizen with presidential aspirations would be able to conduct a successful campaign in a single Region of less than 250,000 people regardless of financial resources.

Furthermore, because national radio and television would be relatively unimportant media in single region elections, the effect of disparity in financial resources of each candidate would be minimised.

However, it is considered essential that the voters in a region be allowed to select the person from their region that they would most like to be their President without pressure from powerful national or international organisations.

The conduct of Round One in a local area would give The People intimate involvement in the election of the President and a chance to vote for “one of us”.

Successful candidates in these elections (a maximum of one from each Region) shall progress to Round Two.

Round Two

For the purposes of Round Two, 12 contiguous Regions shall be grouped to form eight Combined Electorates. Consequently, a maximum of 12 candidates shall contest Round Two in each of these eight Combined Electorates.

Campaigning in Round Two shall be funded solely from the public purse and shall be strictly controlled by the Chief Electoral Commissioner to ensure that each candidate has an equal opportunity to present himself to the Combined Electorate.

It is considered that public funding will allow the election to be conducted equitably and with the dignity thought desirable in the process of selecting our President. Furthermore, public funding will eliminate any perception of advantage accruing through private or corporate donations to campaigns. Any advantage a wealthy candidate might have over a less affluent candidate will be reduced to a minimum and good candidates will not be deterred by the hurly-burly nature of current election campaigns.

A maximum of eight successful candidates from Round Two (one from each group of 12 regions) shall progress to Round Three.

Round Three

The President shall be elected in Round Three in an election conducted across the whole of Australia.

The candidates shall be the eight successful candidates from Round Two.

Round Three would also be funded solely from the public purse and would be strictly controlled by the Chief Electoral Commissioner to ensure all eight candidates had equal opportunity to present themselves to the People.

It is considered most unlikely there will be more than 12 presidential candidates in a 5000 person electorate. Consequently, throughout Presidential elections voters will be required to choose between a maximum of 12 candidates and in the final round between a maximum of eight candidates. And yet every Australian Citizen has the opportunity and the right to stand for election to the highest office in the Nation.

This model will be facilitated and enhanced by the employment of electronic voting thus reducing the necessity for voters to attend polling booths.

Alternative models involving the use of some sort of nomination committee to select a short list might appear simpler on the surface but in fact would be quite complicated. There would be the problem of nominations for such a committee. Then there is the problem of electing, selecting or appointing the committee. There are the problems of nominations for the position of President, confidentiality of the nominees, the problem of refining and forwarding a short list and finally, the problem of electing, selecting or appointing the President. Certainly some such model could be cheaper than what is suggested here but, even if the procedures are scrupulously fair, there will always be the perception that the People will be told who their President is to be rather than electing him themselves which is clearly what numerous polls have indicated the People want.

Inauguration of the President

Upon confirmation of election results by the Electoral Commission, the candidate securing the most votes shall be sworn in to the office of President by the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court and shall take the oath in Schedule 2 to this Constitution.

Dismissal of the President

The People can dismiss the President with a 75% majority vote at referendum.

Such a referendum may be initiated by 1% of the voting population in accord with Schedule 3 to this Constitution, by the Parliament, or by ten Regional Assemblies consisting of five metropolitan and five non-metropolitan Regional Assemblies.

The President can be dismissed for misconduct, malfeasance, incompetence or incapacity by a 75% vote of the National Parliament.

A President dismissed for misconduct shall forego Presidential retirement benefits.

The President’s Consort

The President shall appoint an official consort who may be his spouse or another person.

The Vice President

The presidential candidate receiving the second highest vote shall be invited to accept the title of Vice President. Should he not accept, the candidate receiving the next highest vote will be invited until one accepts.

The Vice President has no day-to-day role but may be called upon to perform ceremonial duties.

The Vice President shall undertake the duties of President in the event of a prolonged absence by the President on duty or due to illness.

Should the President be dismissed, die in office, or be permanently incapacitated; the Vice President shall become the President and shall fulfill the role for the duration of that Presidential term. At the end of that term, the Vice President is eligible to have his term extended for another five years by referendum as applies to a first term President.

A Vice President shall have the right to stand for election at subsequent Presidential elections.

 

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NOTE: The above ideas are inspired by A Draft Constitution for Australia written and published by Lt Col (Ret) Charles Mollison.

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