The Samuel Griffith Society
The Twelfth Conference of the Samuel Griffith Society was held in Sydney on 10-12 November 2000. This Society, which is concerned primarily with the preservation and proper operation of the Australian Constitution, has gained a position of significant influence since its commencement in 1992.
The Conference commenced with an address by Sir Harry Gibbs on "The Erosion of National Sovereignty", in which he voiced a general concern at the manner in which Australia's sovereignty is being steadily diminished by entry into numerous international treaties and agreements. This theme was continued by Mr. John Stone in his paper "Setting the Sovereignty Scene: Use and Abuse of the Treaty Power", by Mr. Peter Walsh in his paper "The United Nations Convention on Refugees and its Implications for Australia's Sovereignty", by Mr. Ray Evans on "The Kyoto Protocol: The Fast Road to 'Global Governance'", and by a New Zealand Shadow Minister, Mr. Max Bradford, on "National Sovereignty and the Claims of International Bodies".
These papers confirmed that the gradual erosion of Australian sovereignty that has been taking place, largely at the behest of public servants, has brought about a serious position, and there is an urgent need for a proper system of screening international treaties before they are entered into by Australia.
A number of other matters were considered at the Conference. The merits and demerits of mandatory sentences were discussed by Ms. Ruth McColl S.C. and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Mr. Denis Burke. The history of the Republic Referendum was discussed by Sir David Smith, and documentation as to newspaper bias on that Referendum was provided by Dr. Nancy Stone. In particular, Dr. Stone presented a careful analysis of reporting and opinion bias in "The Age" and "The Australian", based upon a counting of column centimetres over a thirteen week period. Professor Malcolm McKerras presented a paper dealing with detailed voting trends.
A dinner address prepared by Mr. Peter Ryan on "The Whitlam Years: A Retrospect" contained a valuable examination of the failings of that unfortunate and mis-directed government, and the final two papers were presented by Professor Blainey and Professor David Flint. Professor Blainey's paper ("The Black Arm-band and the 20th Century") discussed the regrettable manner in which aboriginal history has been distorted so as to demean Australia, and Professor Flint's paper ("A Century of Achievement") provided a balanced view of Australia in the 20th Century, which was a period during which, despite the criticisms of special interest groups, the nation has progressed in many important respects.
The Samuel Griffith Society fulfils an important role. The standards of analysis that prevail in the ordinary media are unfortunately low and have not been assisted by the influence of Mr. Rupert Murdoch or by the main capital-city broadsheets. Political correctness, on the one hand, and a disposition by too many Australians to concern themselves only with their own personal immediate interests and to permit miscellaneous pressure groups to carry various fields largely unopposed, on the other hand, have led to many difficulties that otherwise could easily have been avoided.
The President of the Samuel Griffith Society is Sir Harry Gibbs. Enquiries in regard to membership, publications and conferences that are held by the Society should be directed to Dr. Nancy Stone, Post Office Box 178, East Melbourne, Victoria 3002.
I.C.F. Spry, Q.C.
National Observer No. 47 - Summer 2001