Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 1784 ..
MR WHITECROSS (11.50): I want to enter the debate in principle to broaden the confines of what has been said so far. It seems to me that people on the Government benches are rather keen to talk about this as if it is purely and simply a de facto debate on the merits of the republic, and it simply is not that. This debate is about the most appropriate form for us to express our commitment to our responsibilities as members of this Assembly when we are elected and are sworn in or affirmed. If the issue was, as some of the people on the Government benches wish to make out, purely a matter of republicanism versus constitutional monarchy, presumably we would be wanting to have some sort of oath or affirmation swearing allegiance to the constitutional head of Australia - to the president of Australia or something like that. This is not the case at all. What we are talking about here is a reflection of what our form of government really is.
The notion of swearing allegiance to a monarch comes out of a period when a monarch ran the United Kingdom, the parliament was there to assist the monarch in doing that, and their allegiance was to their monarch. That is not the system of government with which we are familiar today. Democratic thinking has moved on a great deal since those early days of parliaments. We are elected by the people. We canvass for support from among the people. It is the people of the ACT who elect us. Each morning when we come into this place we pray or reflect on our responsibilities to the people of the ACT. They are the people who will judge us at the next election on whether we have performed our job; they are the people who pay our wages; they are the people to whom we have a responsibility. What this form of oath or affirmation does is reflect the fact that we are representatives of the people. We were elected by the people and we are accountable to the people. That is what this is about.
I am not going to disguise the fact that those among us who would prefer that Australia was a republic find it strange that we have to swear an oath or make an affirmation to the Queen of England, but this is about much more than that. This is about what our real form of government is. It is a representative democracy and our allegiance is to the people we represent. That is what this Bill is about and that is why people should be supporting the Bill. If people are going to oppose this Bill because of some misguided notion that somehow they are being disloyal to the cause of constitutional monarchy, they are misguided. That is not what this is about. It is about us properly acknowledging where our duty lies, and our duty lies to the people of the ACT.
This is in accordance with democratic principle around the world. You can look at other democracies and you will see that, more often than not, people swear allegiance to their country and to the people of the country, not to the constitutional head of the country. We are proposing here that we swear allegiance to the people of the Territory we represent, and I would urge people to put out of their minds these diversions about the republican debate. Let that debate go on, but that is not what this is about. This is about acknowledging whom we are here to serve, whom we represent. We are not here to serve the Queen, we are not here to represent the Queen; we are here to serve the people of the ACT and to represent them, and for that reason the Labor Party has proposed this Bill.