THE GILLARD government will go head-to-head with Queensland law-makers over changes to the royal succession, with the Newman government refusing to surrender their decision-making powers to the federal government at a Council of Australian Governments meeting later this week.
State and territory leaders will meet on Friday to discuss the approach that will be taken to change constitutional law in light of changes being made across the Commonwealth to abandon the ancient process of primogeniture, which places males higher in the royal succession regardless of age or birth order. The proposed changes would also remove restrictions on any royal who marries a Catholic ascending to the throne.
According to constitutional law experts the most efficient way to apply any changes to the royal succession in Australia would be for the states to refer the matter to a federal government authority, rather than invoking their right to make laws relating to the matter independently. Despite state and territory government’s agreeing on accepting the terms of the British legislation in Australia, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has claimed that his government will pass independent legislation “in accordance with our position as a separate sovereign state”.
The federal government is expected to take action to override Queensland’s refusal to refer its powers in the royal succession process if the Newman government continues to insist on passing separate legislation. Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus yesterday argued that national legislation was a necessary part of the legislative process.
Dreyfus said: “I don’t want to pre-empt COAG discussions, but I find it very strange that Queensland simply refuses to accept the overwhelming weight of advice on the best way to make these basic changes.”
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said that the Newman government intended on following the lead of the federal government in accepting the proposed alterations to the royal succession, and were asserting their right to pass the legislation through the Queensland Parliament as a matter of principle.
Bleijie said: “Given the longstanding historical ties and relationships between the Crown and each state from their origins as colonies, it is appropriate the states should preserve this relationship through their own legislation. Section 7 of the Australia Act 1986 (Commonwealth) impinged upon this general principle and the proposed implementation of succession rules should not aggravate this situation. We do not support the commonwealth model to refer the states’ power. Queensland is a sovereign state and at all times should look to preserve this status.”
Bleijie presented the Queensland Succession to the Crown Bill to Parliament on February 13, after which the proposed legislation was referred to a committee chaired by Ipswich MP Ian Berry for recommendations. The committee, dominated by Liberal-National Party members, questioned whether the legislation proposed by the Newman government was constitutionally valid.
The committee’s report stated: “The committee notes there has been a loss of cooperation with the other Australian jurisdictions and the other realms by taking this approach and considers it is disappointing that agreement could not be reached with the other Australian jurisdictions on a preferred approach. The committee considers it is difficult to reconcile the approach taken by the government as involving ‘separate, substantially uniform and coordinated state legislation’ when there has been no consultation with other Australian jurisdictions on the bill.”
The committee noted that Queensland’s ‘go it alone’ approach to altering the royal succession may have an impact on the efforts of Commonwealth leaders to apply the legislation as a collective. The British bill regarding the royal succession is currently before the House of Lords for its third — and final — reading.