the australian constitutional thingy

rc-am rcollins at
Sat Nov 6 11:43:45 PST 1999

rob wrote:

> One thing (it has occurred to me) that we should inform interested
> Americans about, is that the Australian constitution (the effective focus
> of today's expensive embarrassment) is unknown to all but a dozen lawyers
> and a handful of lonely academics. Our system is the product of a sorta
> common-law process - entirely run on convention, and almost entirely
> without recourse to the actual (and astonishingly dated and incongruent)
> constitution - only almost no-one knows that either.

yes, it seems to be an entirely irrelevant document: there's not even provision for a Prime Minister, but we seem to have one. which begs the question as to why we don't just toss it in a bin. and i don't mean that rhetorically at all. howard, costello, even beazley before he realised that it was working class voters who'd voted 'no', have acknowledged their fear of the masses: "Howard said last night he had refused to hold a simple plebiscite on whether Australia should be a republic or monarchy because it could have left the country 'in a constitutional no-man's land'. " ha. we're already there, it's been the case since federation. it would just be a case of admitting it, and we can't have that.

but as an aside to the thread on working class identity:

just look at the referendum result in australia. most people voted 'no' to the republic question. only 9% of people in australia are monarchists. rob noted that the people at the end of the scale voted 'no', but even he couldn't bring himself to say that overwhelmingly it was the working class who voted 'no'. and we didn't vote 'no', those of us who did, because we wanted a monarchy, but (as well as many other reasons), the kinds of representational structures and organisations of working class aspirations are not in place in australia that would have asserted itself as an _identity_ within the framework of the referendum. to put it another way, the working class existed only as a resounding 'fuck you'. there is no identity, there's only a barely audible negation and a strongly-felt (as the pundits keep calling it) chasm between 'leaders' and 'led'. and there's no 'identity' because the prior forms of working class identity have proved themselves to be little more than mechanisms of integration and subordination. which explains why traditional Labor Party electorates voted overwhelmingly 'no' -- as did National Party (rural) electorates (which in Victoria are strangely heamorraging to Labor Party-aligned independants) -- and Liberal Party electorates voted 'yes'. you can't explain that without pondering the history of the collapse of traditional forms of representation, organisation and identity, and indeed without thinking a little of the ways in which working class identity is being re-shaped.

tarrying with the negative,

Angela _________

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