What is the main purpose or justification for having an Australian head of state?
It’s interesting that Matt Thistlewaite mentions one of the main roles of an Australian head of state is to defend the Constitution. This can narrow the meaning for the role and also define who could be eligible, the method of selecting that person, and the term in office.
Many people are tasked with protecting the Constitution. The High Court and judiciary interpret the constitution and apply their interpretations through their considerations. They protect the law and defend the constitution.
The vice-regal representatives of the King/Queen have recourse to reserve powers to protect our system of government in the rare situations where a government acts unconstitutionally.
A view that our head of state is there to protect the Constitution would be consistent with a framework that tries to merge the two distinct roles of King/Queen and the Governor-General into the new role of an Australian head of state. This is the framework adopted by the ARM. It is usually based on imitating the way that nearly all other former commonwealth nations have become republics.
There is, however, a problem with that approach. While all other former commonwealth nations (bar one) had only one representative or Governor-General of the King/Queen before becoming republics – Australia is unique in that we have seven representatives of the King/Queen. We have a Governor-General for the Commonwealth and a state Governor for each of the six states respectively. Australia has a one-to-many relationship between the King/Queen and their representatives. Most other commonwealth republics, an example being Ireland, only had a one-to-one relationship. That approach will not work for Australia and our federal system with the Commonwealth and states. We can keep the Governor-General and State Governors as the representatives of an elected head of state for the Australian Federation.
I know there is a better way. I know that the Australian head of state can symbolize the unity and integrity of the Australian Federation within Australia and aboard. I know that the head of state can represent the diversity of the Australian people. We can replace the King/Queen with an Australian as our head of state and the nomination and election process can build our civic society and showcase our values of a fair go. We can share the office of head of state around all the six state and the territories equally. We can do better than what we have now. Australians can feel ownership and pride by taking part in the process of nominating, campaigning, and electing a person as head of state who will personally unify all seven divisible Crowns for Australia’s Federation as a constitutional republic. It will be a ceremonial role, and it will belong to the Australian people. We will own it.