Women Say...on the Republic

Women Say...on the Republic

JOINT PROPOSAL FOR EFFECTING CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE AND SELECTING AN AUSTRALIAN HEAD OF STATE.

from

Women Into Politics and Women's Electoral Lobby

7th November 2001

The purpose of this proposal is for women to be fully engaged and full participants in the process and in the process outcomes of Constitutional change.

Women's voices are frequently absent from major political and decision-making events. These events are usually based on invited lists of eminent persons from which women are in general omitted because of past discrimination against them in holding high-level public and private positions. This practice must not continue.

The proposal is cognizant of (1) the Outcomes Statement and the papers read at the Women's Constitutional Convention, (WCC) Canberra, 29 & 30 January 1998. Approx. 280 women from all around Australia, from many non-government organizations attended the Convention and (2) the processes and outcomes of the Australian Constitutional Convention 1998.

The Outcomes from the Women's Constitutional Convention were supported by the majority of women attending. The Women's Constitutional Convention covered a wide range of matters such as the introduction of changes to the Constitution, a preamble to the Constitution, the introduction of a Bill of Rights, Electoral Reform, etc. Those interested in viewing the full document may visit the website: http://www.womensconv.dynamite.com.au.

Principles of any Constitutional Change

"The principles which must be adhered to . in all constitutional changes are:

Selection of the Head of State

"The selection / appointment process for the Head of State must involve women at least to the same extent as men. This means, for example, that if selection / appointment involves an advisory or determinative college that women must be represented at least to the same extent as men.

"The selection / appointment process for the Head of State must guarantee that women's chances of occupying the position are substantively equal to those of men. For example, the selection process should address and overcome matters such as women's disadvantaged status in political parties, women's inferior financial power, women's restricted access to the media." (WCC Outcomes statement)

Powers of the Head of State

"The powers of the Head of State should be no greater than those of the current Governor-General.

There should be strong emphasis on the importance of the ceremonial role as a source of social cohesion and unity" (WCC Outcomes statement)

We are in agreement with these principles and recommendations from the Women's' Constitution Convention. They are important considerations when effecting Constitutional reform.

Method of electing and/or selecting a Head of State

Any referendum on methods of electing and/or selecting a Head of State will need to be workable, allow voters to participate in the process, be cost effective options and minimise the role of the somewhat discredited political parties.

Therefore we recommend that:

Nominations and candidature for Head of State

For selection or election as Head of State, we recommend that a person should:

Changing the Constitution by Referendum

The Australian Constitution requires that any constitutional change be put to referendum.

Subsequent to the 1998 Referendum on the question of a republic, it was clear that the Australian public were dissatisfied with the questions put and further that they wanted to participate in the selection of a Head of State.

Therefore we recommend that any referendum or referendums should include options and these options must be expressed simply and require definitive answers. Quoting parts of the Constitution by section and number in a question is elitist and irrelevant and a means of confusing and disenfranchising many voters.

Example:

Should Australia become a republic? YES or NO

Should Australian voters participate directly in the election of a Head of State? YES or NO

If NO,

Should Australians vote to elect 2 persons from their electorate to represent them in selecting select a Head of State? YES or NO

Full and effective participation

We also propose that the process should include civic education as outlined in this Women's Constitutional Convention's Outcomes statement:

"That in order for the whole community to participate effectively in considering whether additional constitutional reform occurs, there must be an active, effective and immediate process of civic education which fully addresses diverse community needs including accessibility issues related to literacy and language.

"That the government facilitate and assist to resource women's participation in constitutional change and broad awareness of women's concerns following on from the Women's Constitutional Convention."

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This proposal is made on behalf of women by Women Into Politics and the Women's Electoral Lobby.

The purpose of this proposal is to offer a model for selecting an Australian Head of State that ensures that Australian voters, especially women, are full participants in the constitutional change process, and also that they are equally considered for the position of Head of State. Any process, which the conference proposes, must address the serious undervaluing of women's expertise and contribution.

Our proposal requires a process of community education and offers an open, transparent and relatively inexpensive process for nomination and election/selection of a Head of State. Our proposal puts forward a process that we consider will have the respect of Australian voters.

We appreciate the opportunity of being able to submit this proposal.

Joan Bielski, AM For Women Into Politics E: bielski@bigpond.com T: (02)9437.6916

Anne Barber for Women's Electoral Lobby E: annebarber@bigpond.com T: (02)9212.4374

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Last modified:
11 May, 2002

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