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The Model Republic?

Australia, a former penal colony for the British Empire established during the reign of King George III, stands as an independent and thriving nation which still holds strong ties to the Monarchy through our laws and customs.

Canberra, ACT at night

Canberra, ACT at night

Like in the United Kingdom all new laws must follow processes to reach the stage of Royal Assent; Royal Assent is when the Monarch or their Constitutional Representative consents to the passing of a law. In Australia Her Majesty is represented at two of the three tiers of Government in Australia, those being State and Federal.

At State/Territory level Her Majesty is represented by a Governor, except in the Northern Territory where she is represented by an ‘Administrator’ who, unlike their State Governor counterparts, is appointed on advice from the Federal Government and not the State they will represent, which is the case for a Governor. The only further exception to these rules is the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which is the independently governed territory that houses capital city of Australia, Canberra. The ACT Government is not represented by a Governor or an Administrator, so how do their bills become law with no one to give Royal Assent? Good Question.

The ACT still follows the standard Westminster system which is common throughout the Commonwealth Realms. As the ACT uses the Westminster System, the process of law making is relatively unchanged: a bill is presented to the Legislative assembly, which is the lower house, like the House of Commons, for debate. It is then voted on and, if passed by the Assembly, it does not progress to an upper house. A true copy is presented to the Clerk of the Assembly who certifies it as a true copy of the bill as passed, and the Speaker asks Parliamentary Counsel to notify the act on the ACT Legislation Register. Once an act is notified it becomes law. Thus the only laws in Australia that do not have Royal Assent are laws of the Australian Capital Territory.

Federal Senator Kate Lundy with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Federal Senator Kate Lundy with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

While the ACT has no dedicated Vice-Regal Representative like all other states and territories the Governor-General who is the Queens Representative at a federal level serves as a representative of the crown for the ACT. The Governor-Generals powers in the ACT are all but gone; previously the Governor-General could exercise an executive veto and quash any such law the ACT Government passed. This has only ever happened once in the ACT Governments history since its establishment in 1988, with the Self Government Act.

So there you have it, Australia has its own ‘Model Republic’, as the Chief Minister described it in a tweet, operating within Australia. The current Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, is a Republican and would like to see Australia transition away from the Australian Monarchy to a Republic, but support for such a movement is still widely rejected by the Australian People.
photo credit: Senator Kate Lundy and VikasDN via photopin cc

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