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Scarce: “Time to look at the Republic we need"

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Former Governor and nuclear royal commissioner Kevin Scarce says the time has come for Australia to “stand up as a nation”, urging action towards taking the Republic question back “to the people”.

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In comments made before last week’s shock referendum result and ensuing chaos in Britain – whose looming “independence” from Europe has sent global markets reeling – Scarce told Adelaide podcast Rooster Radio that “there comes a time where we need to stand up as a nation ourselves and work on our own identity”.

Scarce, who served as SA’s governor for seven years from 2007 after a four-decade military career, said he “accepted” the role of the current monarch and was “absolutely a keen fan” of Queen Elizabeth II.

“I think she’s done an amazing job [and] I make no criticism of the Queen at all, but I do think that it’s time for us to sit up and look at the republic that we need,” he said.

Scarce’s royal commission report urged the establishment of a high-level international nuclear repository in SA, but warned there must first be universal and ongoing “social consent”. He appears to favour a similar approach to the republican question, which failed at a 1999 referendum – with current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull championing the case for change – in large part because republicans were split as to which model they favoured.

Scarce says Australians need “to define that first and then once we define what that is, then take it to the people”.

“At the moment, we haven’t done that hard work,” he said.

“And that’s the part that will define whether we are successful.”

Scarce appears to favour minimal change, saying “there’s nothing wrong with the democracy we’ve got, so if we want our own head of state how does that figure in?”

“What sort of additions do we need to make to our constitution?” he said.

“If it’s not hugely broke we don’t need a lot of work to figure out how we’re going to do that… we’ve got three levels of government [so] do we need another elected level of government? All these issues need to be discussed and the concept produced.”

Before helming the nuclear royal commission, Scarce helped set the debate in train with a public call for a debate on the industry’s role.

“Why we haven’t looked at the nuclear option much more systematically I will never understand,” he told an SA Chamber of Mines and Energy forum in 2014.

“We’ve got 30 per cent of the world’s resources here and it employs 1200 people nationally; its contribution to GDP is minimal.”

A citizen’s jury convened in Adelaide on the weekend began the social engagement process for which Scarce called – although he has rejected the need for a referendum on the nuclear question.

He told the podcast uranium was but one area of “comparative advantage” for SA.

“Australia has 30 per cent of the known nuclear uranium sources, and South Australia has 80 per cent of that worldwide – that’s a comparative advantage,” he said.

“We’ll see if we can get some sort of benefit from it, but it’s not the only advantage… we’ve got terrific aquaculture, agriculture, viticulture, mining and farming… we’ve got a good education sector, we’ve got a billion dollars from international students; we can grow that. We’ve got an ageing population; we manage those services as well. Can we drive more value from those services?

“So there are lots of opportunities for us. What we need to do is to go through each of those opportunities, look at them, define them and then pursue them.

“And I think nuclear is but one of them.”

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