Constitutional reform draft policy

I’ve pulled this together so that it will be ready in time for Congress this year.

Feel free to discuss and fix any typos!

Although we can’t amend the Australian Constitution without a referendum, we can still take a position on and promote referenda on certain issues. The Abbott Government is considering a draft referendum by September on recognition of Indigenous Australians (we’ll see about that) and so hopefully one will appear in the near future! I’ve taken great lengths to avoid emotive language, and attempted to ensure it deals with facts, which has meant extensive research and referencing.

The draft proposal also deals with citizens’ initiatives, and may need tweaking, even though it is fundamentally a simple proposal.

The scope of the bit about repealed or rejected legislation is unclear to me.
Is that ANY legislation or just that raised by citizens?
Either way, should there not be a time limit on this non-reraising? The zeitgeist does slowly change and eventually may need to be retested on some issues.

Yes, I’ve re-read it and it could be much clearer.

“Repealed or rejected legislation (or legislation that is similar to repealed or rejected legislation) should not be permitted to be reintroduced without a referendum unless provisions objected to by the citizens’ initiative have been removed.”

This is an attempted safeguard to prevent a law from being repealed by referendum, then being reintroduced to Parliament, passed, and then having to be repealed by referendum again. The idea was that repealed legislation could not be reintroduced unless it was the subject of a referendum.

Perhaps the following would be a better statement:

“Legislation repealed as a result of a citizens’ initiative (or legislation that is similar) should not be re-enacted at a later date without the approval of a referendum unless the objectionable provisions or their effect have been removed.”

I would be personally open to including a time limit, but am not sure how to do that effectively.

There are a few additional points I’m adding in for the purposes of discussion:

Italy’s threshold for signatures is 500,000 (~1%) while Switzerland’s is 100,000 (~2%) and Hungary’s is 200,000 (~2.5%). The choice to use a fixed percentage means not needing to adjust the number over time, and 1% seems reasonable given our geographic and population sizes. It seems preferable to set a lower threshold for petitioning rather than anything similar to the ~10% in Latvia, ~11.4% in Lithuania, ~8.2% in Slovakia, and 10%–20% in the German states. Countries with “agenda initiatives” (dealt with by Parliament rather than the people) set quite low (0.1%–2.3%). Theo Schiller and Maija Setälä note that 10% has been very hard to meet. It seems generally that high thresholds are found in smaller geographic areas where the population is low (eg Lichtenstein is 5.3%). Hungary has binding citizens’ initiatives with 2.5% required.

Another issue is time: whether or not to include a time limit on the collection of signatures or to have “stages” — Latvia has two stages — 10,000 signatures and then ~10% of the population, leading to a referendum. Latvia also has a 12 month period in which to collect the first 10,000. 12 months seems like a reasonable time, but may require the threshold to be adjusted (this is what discussion and debate is for!) given that would equate to about 400 signatures per day required for a 1% threshold: ~15,000,000/100/12/30 = 416 1/3 per day. This is significantly higher than Latvia (30 per day) in the first round, but much lower than California (2,800) and NZ (650) and about double Switzerland (180).

Sorry for the detail.

Also just updated it to include a short preamble saying why the Constitution is broken and needs reform, and a line directing people to our Bill of Rights policy.

Would there be merit in looking at whether or not ISDS provisions can be blocked on a constitutional level, similarly to what Bolivia did?

That’s an awesomely drastic measure.