On the Road

Talking About The Proposal

 

As this website makes clear, the author has a vision about moving or ‘relocating’ Australian’s federal Constitution from its current location - as part of a United Kingdom Act of Parliament - to an Australian document.

 

This website is primarily concerned with explaining and justifying the relocation proposal, strictly speaking anything else is irrelevant. Yet it seems appropriate to say something here about the steps taken to promote the proposal.

 

Since August 2016, the author has been giving informal talks in libraries and schools, as well as community groups including Rotary and Probus clubs, U3A and Mens Sheds. Some talks have been given in private homes, one or two to Church groups. Audiences have varied in size from as little as two or three to about 100.

 

But very few Australians know much about our Constitution, let alone that it forms part of a UK Act of Parliament. To provide a context for his vision, the author has to give at least an outline of the Constitution and the federal system that it creates. This takes the form of a talk about how Australia came to have a federal constitution. And it is only in the last few minutes of his talk that the author can briefly sketch out his vision. In a sense the relocation proposal is the tail that wags the dog (and in talks at schools, the proposal is only outlined to the most senior years). Bearing in mind that his time is so limited, and that he is not likely to see members of the audience again, the author distributes a set of printed ‘handouts’ to each member of the audience. The handouts provide further information that members of the audience can take away (further details of the handouts are given below).

 

The main difficulty about explaining the relocation proposal is that its core is a rather abstract idea about something little known to most Australians, namely the Constitution. On hearing about the proposal, even those sympathetic to the idea sometimes find the notion of relocation difficult to grasp. The idea of relocation is sometimes confused with the written text of the UK Act. In other words, the mistaken notion that to relocate the Constitution (‘bring it home’) all we need to do is to obtain the Assent copy of the UK Act (something that has already occurred). Relocation, properly understood, involves transferring the powers and functions conferred by the UK Act, not the document that contains the words conferring the powers and functions.

 

Although people may be hazy about the core idea of relocation, the author has found audiences in several States quite receptive to the idea. As the author explains it, relocation would represent the completion of a process begun by Australians who devised its content. Although drawing on foreign sources, the Convention delegates - Australians - crafted the Constitution in this country. The final step of giving their draft legal effect was beyond them because of the limited legal capacity of the Australian colonies. It may also be that there was a certain prestige in cloaking their draft in the language of a UK Act, the supreme form of law in the Empire at the time.

 

At a practical level, the process of explaining and discussing the proposal has helped the author clarify his thinking. Bearing in mind the involvement of the community in the development of the Constitution (especially through elected representatives at the Second Convention of 1897-98), it seems appropriate to be speaking about the relocation proposal directly to members of the community.

The Road Now Travelled

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