It’s the oldest trick in the business, a selective leak. Alongside the use – or rather the misuse of the wealth of the state for political purposes, the politicians try to control the free flow of information.
An example is the selective leak to a journalist. This is no criticism of the journalist. His or her job is, as The Times long ago famously averred, to obtain all relevant information and make it ,as early as possible, the property of the nation.
The story by Mark Davis in The Sydney Morning Herald of 30 December, “Monarchists back 'people's choice' in any republic,” is a perfect example.
The point of this leak is just spin. It is no doubt to assure some of the government's supporters, including those who may even not be much interested in a republic, but who are disappointed in some failing in some other area. The message is that the government is still sound on this part of the agenda .
But it won't work. Support for a politicans' republic is collapsing, and I suspect, will collapse further.
The report says it is based on an opinion poll on many subjects commissioned by the federal Labor Party. So any Freedom of Information application would be pointless – political parties are not officially part of the government.
This in spite of the fact that the unfortunate taxpayer funds much of their election campaigns, to say nothing about the funding of government advertising principally for political purposes.
In addiiton not only are retired politicians funded by the taxpayer with extraordinary generosity; they may gain consequential and considerable emoluments in the private sector.
We even have politicians – or their wives – becoming rich through the provision of services farmed out by government to the private sector. Just guess who pays for that – you dear reader.
So we ought to be allowed to see all of this secret poll- we have paid for it many times over.
…the leaked portion of the poll…
The poll says that “50 per cent supported Australia becoming a republic while 28 per cent opposed such a move and the rest were undecided, consistent with poll findings over several years.”
This changes nothing. Support for a politicians’ republic is still collapsing. We don’t know the margin of error, but support seems on the high side when you compare it with the latest Newpoll which suggests support for a vague undefined republic is around 45%.
As to the opposition showing only 28%, it is of course politically incorrect to admit that you support the existing system. You get raised eyes and ridicule – or even worse – if you dare suggest the Founding Fathers knew more that the inner city elites do today.
All indications are that the so called undecided will vote to support the existing system. They are just not prepared to expose themselves to a pollster.
But let us assume for the sake of argument that the vote in this poll of 50% actually indicates the level of support for some sort of politicians’ republic.
Experience demonstrates that when such polls are held before the actual vote, support subsequently falls away. This is because th epeople have the chance to hear both sides. This is so even when the mainline media is campaigning for one side, as in 1999
This indicates the plebiscite is already lost.
The “punch line “ in the report is that the pollsters had the brain wave of asking the entire sample of voters whether the president of an Australian republic should be elected by the people or appointed by the legislature.
The unsurprising response is that “80 per cent opted for the direct election model. Only 12 per cent said they would support an appointed president.”
Leading pollster Gary Morgan has been saying this for years. I remember that at an ACM lunch in Sydney well before the referendum he said exactly that.
I know of some constiutional monarchists who are well educated in such matters who say their second preference is an elected president, but not the one Bob Brown wants.
( I suspect he thinks he can get a Green into that crucial political positon.)
No, these monarchists say if we had to become a republic – they emphasize “had to” – they would favour the American model as their second preference. They say:” It’s inferior to ours , but the civil war apart, it works and provides effective checks and balances. But it’s far too rigid.”
The Herald report says “previous polling on models for selecting a head of state has only asked pro-republic voters for their opinions, showing strong majorities in favour of a directly elected president.”
Now the Labor apparatchik who leaked the poll – and he would have had to get a clearance for that from the government’s chief spin doctor , if you know whom I mean – probably told Mark Davis this unattributed conclusion:
“The significance of the UMR findings is that it suggests that the third of voters who would vote against a republic in a first plebiscite would then switch behind the direct-election model in any second plebiscite.”
…bad news for any politicians' republic…
We have five pieces of bad news for the apparatchik’s master ( or indeed mistress, meant of course in the nicest possible way.)
First the plan to remove the present constitution as an option in the second plebiscite will not work. It is too obviously, and too sleazily, a sleight of hand. Voters will see through that.
Second, constitutional monarchists will not vote for any politician’s republic. At the 1998 Constitutional Convention, each and every constitutional monarchist delegate refused to do this.
(This surprised the republican movement who expected us to cast a spoiling vote for the least popular McGarvie model.)
Third, the plan assumes having once voted, Australians will be locked in, corralled in their thoughts.
If you think this, you don’t know Australians.
Do the apparatchiks really believe that those who support the existing constitutional system – and are concerned about the future of this country – would place any weight whatsoever in these two proposed glorified opinion polls, which on the republicans own admission are designed to be rigged?
Fourth, there are some very prominent republicans who are implacably opposed to direct election in any circumstance. Several are on the record expressing their preference for the existing system.
But the fifth piece of bad news is shattering. It delivers the coup de grâce to those who believe we must keep what the constitution ordained.
This year’s Morgan Poll (“Collapse! Young Australians kill off republic,”8 May 2008 ) shows a referendum will be lost on whatever model is put to the people. Worse, a plebiscite would go down too.
You see, the question put to all, monarchists included, was about this new found silver bullet, a republic where the people elect the president.
Most opinion polls are about some vague politicians’ republic. But the Morgan poll was precisely on the so called “ direct – elect” model . The question was:
“ In your opinion, should Australia remain a MONARCHY — or become a REPUBLIC with an elected President?”
The result was 45% (down 6% since Feb. 2005) believed Australia should become a Republic with an elected President, while 42% (up 2%) supported Australia remaining a Monarchy and 13% (up 4%) were undecided.
The Morgan Poll also confirmed a long line of polls indicating weak support for a republic among the nation’s youth. It found that among those aged 14-17 support for this republic was 23%, with 64% supporting the constitutional monarchy and 13% undecided.
The present Minister for Health the Hon Nichola Roxon, who famously declared that no new constitutional monarchists are being born, must have been extremely unhappy with that news.
So we say to the apparatchik and his master, it was a nice try, but it didn’t work.
Incidentally it would be kind of them to release all of the report.
It would be so helpful in our campaigning.