Saturday, 26th January, is Australia Day.
But what IS Australia?
The correct answer is:
Australia is whatever the
Majority of Electors
says it is!
The Majority of Voters was the original power in 1900 that created The Australian Constitution and is still, to this day, the only power in Australia that can change it.
The Prime Minister cannot change it. The Governor-General cannot change it. The Queen cannot change it.
For example, Australian voters are currently engaged in the following thought experiment:
‘What if we were to change Australia from a Monarchy to a Republic’?: Whether or not to change Australia from a constitutional monarchy to a republic is being thought through and discussed by Australian Electors.
Currently, Australia is a constitutional monarchy created by the Majority of Electors of 1900. The Governor-General is Head of State and Elizabeth II is Sovereign. The Prime Minister is the head of government.
Since the creation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia by the people in 1900 the Crown of Australia has been worn by six monarchs: Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II.
Peoplepower: the Majority of Electors
200 years ago Napoleon’s master, Prince Talleyrand, said, “There is someone more intelligent than Voltaire, more powerful than the emperor–and that is the people.”
100 years later in 1900, this became true in Australia. Today, ‘peoplepower’ is still one of the enduring truths of our Commonwealth.
The Majority of Voters was the original power in 1900 that created The Constitution and is still the only power in Australia that can change The Constitution.
In contrast to other political realities like in Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Fiji or even the Vatican, the USA, India and China, the fact is that the Voters of Australia have been able to hold, without interruption, the ultimate constitutional power in Australia for over a hundred years!
This continuous record of peoplepower and political stability is unprecedented in modern world history.
Australia is the name given to an agreement between the Majority of Electors of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia to unite in one federation under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia.
So who really created what we now know as ‘Australia’?
On July 5, 1900, Australia was legally created by an Act of the Westminster Parliament known as the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. The Act was proclaimed to commence on January 1, 1901.
At that time, the population of Australia was under four million and consisted of a number of colonies which regarded themselves as British. This Act was the product of a vision which began fifty years earlier in the self-governing colonies. The Constitution of Australia is also internationally regarded as one of the cleverest agreements ever designed.
It was crafted in Australia by our own people. It was a product, not of war nor of revolution, but of many years of business discussion, political debate, legal argument and peaceful referenda.
The First Convention
Two Conventions were held in 1891 and in 1897-98. Delegates to the 1891 Convention were appointed by the colonial parliaments and met in Sydney.
The Convention President was the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes, whose image can be found on Australian five dollar bills. The draft of a Bill for a Constitution was approved by the Convention.
This Bill was drafted with the help of Sir Samuel Griffith, Premier of Queensland. Griffith later became the First Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.
The Second Convention
The second Convention was held in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in 1897 and 1898. Delegates to this Convention were elected by the Majority of Electors.
The document produced at this Convention became the new Constitution and many features coming from the first Convention were included.
In 1899, the draft of the Constitution was approved by the Majority of Electors in a state by state referendum–each held in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. New Zealand which was represented at the first Convention did not join the Federation.
Western Australia voted to join in 1900. Thus, the Constitution was designed, not at Westminster at all, but in Australia and by our own electors.
Reflecting on these founding events the Eleventh Chief Justice of the High Court, The Honourable Murray Gleeson AC explains: “The Commonwealth Constitution was not drafted by civil servants in London, and presented to the colonies on the basis that they could take it or leave it. Its terms were hammered out in Australia in a process of public debate, and political and legal negotiation, by the leading figures of the day.”
The Senate of the Parliament of Australia offers an online copy of The Constitution here and a picture of the founding document can be seen here.
The Third Convention
One hundred years later, in 1998, a third Convention was held. From 2-13 February 1998, 152 delegates from all over Australia met at Old Parliament House in Canberra to discuss whether Australia should become a republic.
Seventy-six of the delegates were elected by the Majority of Electors in a voluntary postal ballot. The other seventy-six were appointed by the parliament whose members were also chosen by the Majority of Electors.
The delegates come from every State and Territory and had a wide diversity of backgrounds and interests. The Convention was chaired by the Rt Hon Ian Sinclair MP, with the Hon Barry Jones AO MP as Deputy Chairman.
It was finally resolved at the third Convention that a republican model of an appointed president be put to the people in a constitutional referendum.
On 5 November 1999, the Electors of Australia were asked:
“Do you agree with A proposed law to alter the constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a Republic with the Queen and Governor General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament?”
The result of the 1999 constitutional referendum, as decided by the Majority of Electors, was: NO.
Your PFC is your fourth brain.
For instructional purposes, the human brain is often called the triune brain because it has three layers that evolved over many thousands of generations.
The reptile brain runs the automatic body systems.
The mammal brain is the emotional brain.
The human brain is the thinking brain.
(The ‘triune model’ is not literal but is metaphorically useful)
Your inner-most, smallest and most ancient reptilian brain may well be your most treasured possession. It controls everything you value most, your life systems. It runs your body temperature, blood sugar levels, heart rate and blood pressure, your respiration, releasing hormones for all the daily house-keeping and maintaining homeostasis or balance. Your reptile brain regulates deep evolutionary maintenance and self-healing. It’s hard-earned digital wisdom has been curated over the course of a million successful generations. It’s IP value in dollarized terms is simply priceless.
Your life systems reptilian brain is in constant conversation 24/7/365 with your emotional mammalian brain. Your wide repertoire of emotions ranging from the big one – fear – and the others like shame and anger to sexual longing to surprise, joy, sadness, trust and disgust. These are all triggered and/or switched in the mammalian brain also known as the limbic system. These mood changes and emotional switches are in sync with high speed parallel processing in the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain can stimulate the mammalian brain … and, of course, vice versa.
Enter your BIG human brain! This newest brain, the neocortex, is also in conversation 24/7/365 with both the older brains. As you would expect, their conversations can stimulate responses in the human cortical brain … and, again, vice versa. All three evolutionary brains are in constant digital engagement up and down the neuronal layers of the triune brain (reminder that this is not literally accurate but is practically so, metaphorically).
But wait! There’s more …
The Fourth Brain is the PFC. The PFC is the “better brain for better thinking” and better thinking is all about reappraisal.
Reappraisal is about doing the harder thing when it’s the better thing to do. It’s called willpower. It’s also called wisdom.
Wisdom and willpower are the specialised work of the PFC (pre-frontal cortex).
The three layers of the triune brain (reptile, mammal, human) are all developed genetically. However, the fourth brain is different. To develop the PFC requires more than genes. To assemble the PFC brain requires real life experience–lots of successes and lots of failures–and therefore it is the last part of the full human brain to develop. That’s why I call the PFC … the Fourth Brain.
Problem: In the adolescent brain the PFC is not yet developed. The PFC doesn’t fully come online until the midtwenties.