An invitation to the launch by Peter Coleman in the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Pell of Philip Ayres’ new biography,‘Prince of the Church, Patrick Francis Moran,1830-1911’, reminded me that I have from time to time found strong support for the constitutional monarchy in the words of the late Cardinal Moran.
This has been in the context of the argument that the word “republic” is a “Humpty Dumpty” word. (Humpty Dumpty famously observed in Alice Through Through The Looking Glass, "When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."). Indeed the word is so imprecise that asking people in an opinion poll or a plebiscite whether they want Australia to become “a republic” is pointless for the reason that it is meaningless.
In The Cane Toad Republic, I relied on the Cardinal’s wise words. In my humble opinion, I think the following is still relevant, although linking Mr Keating and Mr. Turnbull together shows how political life can change and political alliances collapse:
“ The nineteenth-century conservative Australian republican was strongly influenced by the American and British republican models. Sir Henry Parkes, the nineteenth-century statesman, was, typical. It may seem difficult in the present debate to see the British system as a republic. To Rousseau, Montesquieu, Sir Henry Parkes and, one suspects, most of the nineteenth -century Australian republicans, modern Australia would not only be a republic. It would be an ideal republic. Indeed the great leader of Australian Catholics, and Australians of Irish origin, Patrick Cardinal Moran, whose statue stands at the foot of St Mary's Basilica in Sydney, had described the Australian constitutional system as the "most perfect form of republican government". The classical concept of a republic, on which the English model was founded, opposed oppression and tyranny. Above all it feared corruption and patronage. It was not principally a doctrine about monarchy but rather about constitutional rule.
“It is not surprising then that the present Australian constitution was influenced by, and embodies, republican principles. Australia goes further even than the famous description of Britain as “a disguised republic”. In Australia, the high ceremonial functions of the state, and above all the role of constitutional umpire and auditor are performed by the governor-general and the governors.
Sir Henry Parkes himself made this very point in an editorial in The Empire in 1853, and members of the Keating-Turnbull school of official republicanism could do well to digest his words digest his words:
“The word “republic”, as everybody ought to know, does not convey any necessary distinction between one form of constitution and another. Every constitution is in reality a republic. There is just as much a republic in England as there is in the United States, the only difference being, that in one case the word is not used, and in the other it is.”