When I read that yet another leading republican now accepted our constitutional monarchy, I immediately checked the date. I was relieved to see that the first of April had not come round again.
Professor Greg Craven, a leading constitutional lawyer and Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, has returned to the fold.
Once a constitutional monarchist, he was probably the author of a paper defending the monarchy which was presented by the then Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett to the 1993 conference of The Samuel Griffith Society, The Crown and the States.
He was an appointed delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention. Despite some initial opposition to the republican movement’s model, he came out in favour of it and was a prominent campaigner for a yes vote in the referendum. He was a member of the official Yes Committee; he authorised much of the advertising by the committee. This was a recognition that he was a leading intellectual force in Australian republicanism.
With the demise of the late Professor George Winterton, the widely respected and greatly loved authority, Professor Craven is – or was -the dominant thinker in Australian republicanism. He is a witty and effective communicator who is not beholden to any party , faction or movement.
Now in a piece in the Australian Financial Review (6/6/2011) he has suggested that he was forced to watch the Royal Wedding.
“Like millions of abused citizens, I was taken hostage by a royal-crazed terrorist who looked like my republican wife. Either I sat on the sofa, or my days of manhood were over,” he claims.
He says he has had to face “some pretty grim implications" resulting from the wedding.
First, the “hordes of Australians who sobbed for William and Kate will not be voting for a republic any time soon.”
Second, “things are much worse than this…. God knows why, but from Bundaberg to Brunswick, people who boo the English at cricket felt they had some sense of ownership in Mr and Mrs Cambridge. Yuck.”
“Third, none of this is going to change any time soon. As Will and Kate bloom and breed, their lives will be followed more avidly that a trail of $50 notes.”
He asks: "From a republican point of view, what to do?"
He says the solution for a republican is to opt for the immediate succession of Prince William. “With a little constitutional tweaking, which might not even involve the inconvenience of a referendum, we can skip Charles… And go straight to Will and Kate"
Declaring there is no constitutional barrier to what he terms as a splendid plan he suggests the only limit is" our imagination and daring".
I disagree. What he is proposing, probably tongue in cheek, is a monumental and unacceptable change.
So the solution for this republican who sees there is no hope for a republic is to retain the monarchy but to change the succession. But as he knows, Prince William would never accept this.
…as a serious issue, it's over…
The point is that Professor Craven accepts that a politicians’ republic is unachievable and that he might as well accept the monarchy. He had already conceded this in his contribution to the academic festschrift for the late Professor George Winterton, Constitutional Perspectives for an Australian Republic, edited by Sarah Murray and published by The Federation Press. He says there that " Australia almost certainly is as far away from achievinga republic as it ever has been."
I disagree. It is further away than in 1999 – by a country mile. And readers will not be surprised to know that I am rejoicing.
While republicanism will of course continue, it has been exiled back to where it belongs – the candlelit dinner parties in the fashionable republican salons of the inner city elites.
Republicanism is no longer a serious issue on the political agenda. Senator Bob Brown will push it, without it having anything to do with a green agenda. It will allow him to access the media and if there were a plebiscite, he could campaign around the country building up his carbon footprint. That the campaign would be doomed does not matter.
But as for the seriously independent and realistic Professor Craven, he realises that as far as a politicians' republic is concerned, the game is well and truly up.
As Shakespeare said in Cymbeline, 1611:
Euriphile, Thou wast their nurse; they took thee for their mother,
And every day do honour to her grave:
Myself, Belarius, that am Morgan call'd,
They take for natural father. The game is up.