Sir John Kerr with a portrait of the Queen
You may have heard about the kerfuffle over recently published letters between Australia’s Governor-General Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace back in 1975.
In one sense they reveal nothing new – confirming that Sir John dismissed then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on 11 November before he informed the Queen.
The events leading up to that dismissal have been described many times. They include the books “Matters for Judgment” by Sir John Kerr and “Head of State” by his private secretary Sir David Smith.
In October 1975, the Whitlam Government was in trouble. The Senate was refusing to pass the supply bills needed to authorise payment for Whitlam’s controversial spending program.
The Australian Constitution (s 57) wisely provides a way to resolve stalemates of this kind between the two houses of federal parliament. Prime Minister Whitlam could have asked the Governor-General to dissolve the entire parliament and hold elections for both the House of Representatives and the full Senate – a “double dissolution”.
If Whitlam had won such an election, he could have convened a joint sitting of both houses to pass the supply bills. But he refused to follow the constitutional process, possibly fearing an election loss.
What started as a political problem for Whitlam then became a constitutional problem for Kerr. Whitlam was seeking to govern without supply, in breach of the Constitution. Kerr’s duty as Governor-General was to ensure that parliament operated in accordance with the Constitution. A clash was inevitable.
The events that followed throw considerable light on the “reserve powers” of the Governor-General.
The Governor-General’s “ordinary powers” include assenting to laws passed by both houses of parliament and acting in accordance with the advice of Commonwealth ministers. In a small number of matters, the Governor-General exercises “reserve powers”, acting without ministerial advice.
The two most important reserve powers are to appoint or dismiss the Prime Minister (s 64). Ordinarily, by convention, the Governor-General will appoint the leader of the party or coalition with a majority in the House of Representatives. In unusual circumstances, the Governor-General may dismiss or appoint a Prime Minister on his own initiative.
On 11 November 1975, John Kerr was faced with a situation that needed to be resolved by the Australian people in a general election. Since calling an election is an “ordinary power”, Kerr could only do this on the advice of the Prime Minister, which Whitlam refused to give. The only way an election could be called was for Kerr to dismiss Whitlam and appoint Malcolm Fraser as caretaker prime minister, on condition that Fraser would advise him to call an election.
Fraser agreed. The election a few weeks later gave him a landslide win, endorsing the Governor-General’s action.
The correspondence with the Palace confirms that the Queen could not tell Kerr what to do, since the reserve powers of the Crown under the Australian Constitution can only be exercised by the Governor-General.
These events, and the Palace letters, confirm that the Constitution makes the Governor-General the effective Australian Head of State.
Those who are campaigning for “an Australian Head of State” ignore the fact that the past eleven Governors-General have all been Australians – from Sir Paul Hasluck in 1969 to David Hurley today.
Australia has one of the oldest constitutions in the world. Drafted by leading Australian statesmen, many of whom professed a Christian faith, it has given us stable government for nearly 120 years.
FamilyVoice has defended the Australian Constitution for nearly 50 years, and will continue to do so with your help and support.
Peter Downie - National Director
The opposition and minor parties have jointly expressed alarm that Premier Daniel Andrews’ new Crisis Council of Cabinet will hand Andrews and seven of his ministers almost unchecked powers for six months.
In late April, the Labor government used its numbers to quash a Greens motion to set up a cross-party committee to scrutinise the decisions of the Crisis Council, which will operate until at least September 30.
The Labor government instead handed oversight to the Labor-chaired Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, which has a majority of Labor members.
A new omnibus Bill in Victoria has passed after just three days of scrutiny, even as the Bill made unprecedented amendments to statutes addressing the health system, courts, prisons, local government and the rental market.
The Bill has troubled Australian Lawyers Alliance Victorian president Jeremy King, who said, “The proposed new laws will impose detention conditions that amount to full-time lockdown and isolation for some prisoners.”
Criminal Bar Association of Victoria chair Daniel Gurvich, QC, has told the Sydney Morning Herald that about one third of the bill altered a wide range of criminal justice issues, like judge-only trials and the placement of prisoners, but industry experts and MPs were given no time for consultation.
The Bill gives the Crisis Council the power to change justice system regulations without having to pass legislation in the Parliament, “so that justice processes can be quickly adapted to changing public health requirements”.
The majority of the amendments expire in September, except several environmental and rental market changes, which will be reviewed in 2021.
Before the Bill was passed in full, Victorian Liberals Leader Michael O’Brien said the 305 page bill was not adequately scrutinised, with just three days of examination.
“The Opposition was only provided with the Bill on Monday night, leaving little time for consultation with the many Victorians whose lives will be affected by it before it is debated on Thursday.”
FamilyVoice Victoria State Director Peter Stevens said, “It is inappropriate to sacrifice the oversight of power for temporary safety. As U.S. President Benjamin Franklin warned, ‘Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ ”
This week Bari Weiss quit the New York Times with a sensational resignation letter.
It provides a fly-on-the-wall look at why Left-leaning companies are fighting over the same market and becoming more extreme, more emotionally-driven, with every passing page.
She writes, “...a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”
In her assessment, “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor.”
Worse still, this enlightened NYT elite felt empowered to make racist remarks about their own colleague. It is self-evident in their attitude that their in-group must shrink in size.
Weiss said, “My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’”
She admits that this led to self-censorship by her and others, which further perpetuated the rigid orthodoxy.
“If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets,” she wrote.
Weiss ironically concludes her letter with Adolph Ochs’ famous 1896 aspiration: “to make of the columns of The New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”
This orthodoxy from the old mass media corporations happened due a constrictor-like squeeze in revenue.
There was a multi-sided revenue collapse due to loss of advertising exclusivity and loss of readership size. This squeeze motivated them to abandon “all shades of opinion”.
Most of the old mass media of newspapers, TV and radio are now politically and ideologically driven to attract highly emotionally invested, paid-up readers, who want opinions that affirm their ideology.
When the rivers of gold that were printed classifieds disappeared and TV lost eyeballs to social media, the old mass media lost to new online platforms in the race to match up customers and advertisers. Advertising income collapsed.
In a crowded market for news, slow-moving print-first mass media needed to convince readers to pay more for a product they can get cheaply or even free, according to Chris Berg of Cryptoeconomics.
This has driven many mass media companies to extreme specialisation.
According to Berg, “Newspapers now seek readers who have more emotionally invested in that particular newspaper brand. They’re the ones more likely to pay the higher subscription fees.”
“Ideology is a specialisation. Partisanship is a specialisation.”
“In other words, multi-sided market collapse explains the dominance of ideologically driven media outlets in the digital age,” Berg concludes.
In the end, the old mass media platforms are fighting over the same extreme-Left readers, a clear minority.
At the same time, Facebook is lapping up the advertising dollars of the political right, centre and left, while banning content creators who dissent from “the Silicon Valley bubble of omniscience”.
The Left preaches a lot about diversity, but cancels all opinions that dissent from its orthodoxy.
Twitter is increasingly being treated by media organisations overseas and in Australia as if it is representative of the general population.
What these organisations do not realise is that the end-game in chasing a cocooned minority that wants to shrink in size, rather than grow in membership, means the Left can only cannibalise itself.
Darryl Budge - FamilyVoice WA
The city of New York agreed to pay $100,000 in legal fees and nominal damages to a Jewish psychotherapist this week after the city council repealed a law which cracked down on professionals assisting individuals to accept their biological sex or overcome unwanted same-sex attraction.
The city council passed the law in 2018 making it unlawful for any person to provide services for a fee that “seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or seek to change a person’s gender identity to conform to the sex of such individual that was recorded at birth.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist Dr Dovid Schwartz in the case, said that the law unconstitutionally censored private conversations between counselling professionals and their patients.
According to the ADF, “the law only prohibited counsel in one direction—assisting a patient who desires to reduce same-sex attraction or achieve comfort with their biological sex.”
Penalties of up to $10,000 applied.
Inconsistently, counselling that steers a patient towards a gender identity different than his or her physical body was permitted, according to ADF.
Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers requested a federal district court in June 2019 to halt enforcement of the city’s new ordinance that they say violated Schwartz’s freedom of speech and infringed on his religious faith and that of his patients.
Due to the lawsuit by ADF, the city voted to repeal the counselling ban in September last year and the ADF is no longer pursuing its lawsuit on behalf of Dr Schwarz.
“All New Yorkers and all Americans deserve the right to private conversations, free from government control,” said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks.
“New York City directly violated our client’s freedom of speech by trying to regulate and censor private sessions between an adult and his therapist. While the city eventually saw the writing on the wall and reversed course, it needlessly cost the taxpayers of New York tens of thousands of dollars for enacting its unconstitutional policy in the first place, because Dr. Schwartz was forced to go to court to protect his rights.
“Other cities should not repeat the same error. We’re grateful that New York City is no longer threatening to censor Dr. Schwartz’s conversations and impose government-approved orthodoxy on him or his patients.”
According to the ADF, Schwartz has practices for over 50 years and has regularly encountered and served patients who want his help overcoming same-sex attraction.
“Because of their religious beliefs and personal life goals, clients who seek his counsel often desire to experience opposite-sex attraction so they can marry, form a natural family, and live consistently with their Orthodox Jewish faith.
“A number of patients have pursued and achieved those goals with the aid of his psychotherapeutic services. Schwartz uses no techniques in working with his patients other than listening and talking—yet the 2018 law claimed to forbid even that.”
William Wilberforce battled for 20 years to abolish the slave trade
Some of you may remember Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. Ten years ago he spoke to FamilyVoice supporters across the nation on the theme Courage in a hostile world.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali was born in Pakistan to Muslim parents who had become Christians – an act that today would receive the death penalty.
Michael himself came to Christ as a teenager. As an Anglican priest and later bishop, he worked among the poor in southern Lahore. However, increasing assaults and death threats against his children forced him to flee to the UK with his family in 1986.
Earlier this month he wrote an article about the history of slavery and the current campaign to destroy statues of past heroes who also owned slaves.
“Slavery is a stain on humanity,” he said (in part). “It existed in the Arab world before the rise of Islam and continued to be practised right up to modern times. The Arabs were pioneers in the slave trade with Africa, and European slavers learnt much about their business from them.”
But when it comes to tearing down statues, he said: “Where do we start and stop?”
He pointed out that Plato and Aristotle were slave owners. Abraham and Sarah had slaves, as did King David. Jesus himself healed the slave of a Roman officer. He said of the latter that he had not found such faith even in Israel.
Nazir-Ali said we erect statues of people because they have been part of or leaders in some historic event we wish to remember, such as war memorials. No one would claim that such people were exemplary in every aspect of life.
Unlike Islam, the Bible does not portray its heroes as flawless – except for Jesus.
Abraham hid the fact that Sarah was his wife. David committed adultery and murder. Moses doubted God. The apostle Paul even sent Onesimus, a runaway slave, back to his Christian master –with a plea for Onesimus to be treated as a beloved brother. Paul says male and female, slave and free, all are “one in Christ Jesus”. But we all have sinned. We all need to repent and turn to Him.
The early Christian church was a powerless and persecuted group that was in no position to oppose the institution of slavery. It did try, however, to improve slaves’ conditions and often bought slaves to set them free. Nazir-Ali said, “It is notable that wherever Christianity advanced, slavery retreated.”
As the Middle Ages progressed in Europe, both church and state began to take action against slavery. The French king Charlemagne was against it. In 1102, the Council of Westminster penalised slave trading with excommunication.
But slavery flourished again when Europeans wanted free labour to work on their sugar and cotton plantations in the Americas. William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian, was among those who opposed this horrendous trade in human lives.
William Wilberforce battled for 20 years to abolish the slave trade
After a 20-year battle, his bill to abolish the buying and selling of slaves passed the British parliament in 1807. Days before he died in 1833, the parliament also banned owning slaves. Over 800,000 were freed.
So what should we say to those who want to trash statues of heroes who have flaws in their past?
Bishop Nazir-Ali reminds us that commemorating past historical leaders “does not necessarily mean celebration of every aspect of a person or a group … history is about what actually happened, not what we wish had happened.”
Peter Downie - National Director
FamilyVoice Australia upholds Christian values and the family: permanence of marriage, sanctity of human life, primacy of parenthood and limited government.
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