How much do you know about our Constitution?
If you’re like most Australians your answer would probably be, “not much”!
We all know there is something called “The Constitution” and we know that the Constitution has been a good thing, yet we know very little about what’s in it, or how it works in practice.
The Constitution is in fact the keystone of our parliamentary and legal system. It protects our democracy and our liberties.
From time to time, assorted prominent people suggest that Australia’s Constitution is “badly in need of reform” and that we should now embark on a large scale process of “constitutional review”.
These comments have set alarm bells ringing in the minds of many Australians who regard such attempts to “reform” our Constitution with great reserve, if not suspicion.
Written constitutions exist in many countries and have been established for very good reasons – maintaining law and order and protecting citizens from abuses of power and authority – including, particularly, abuses by governments.
It is difficult for many Australians who, if native born, have never experienced serious domestic turbulence, or civil wars, or openly oppressive government regimes, to appreciate fully the benefits of such civil quietness. Nevertheless most of us would agree that we should always be alert against any attempt to undermine the liberties we currently enjoy.
With these thoughts in mind The Samuel Griffith Society was formed in 1992, and the fact that hundreds of Australians have since joined the Society indicates the general concern to uphold a Constitution which has served us so well for so long.
Sir Samuel Griffith was, from 1903 until 1919, the first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. It is widely accepted that he was primarily responsible for writing the first constitutional draft of 1891.This document became the basis for our Constitution, under which the six Australian self-governing colonies came together to form a Federation. The proper roles of federal and State governments under the Constitution are of continuing and vital importance.
The Samuel Griffith Society’s prime role is to ensure that proposals to change the Australian Constitution will be subjected to the most intense scrutiny. Constitutional change may well be desirable from time to time, but it should only occur after exhaustive, community-wide debate, leading up to consideration by the Australian people under the referendum provisions of s.128 of the Constitution.
The Society now appeals to all Australians to join in upholding their Constitution – not only because it has served us well in the past, but also to ensure it continues to serve well future generations.