August 21

A republican Senate looms before us


It is likely that a republican Senate will emerge on 1 July 2011. By this I mean a Senate with a majority committed to turning  Australia into some form of politicians’ republic.

There are two parties in the Senate whose platforms are committed both to a politician’s republic, and to holding  at least one or two plebiscites before putting another referendum to the people.

The Labor party operates under the "caucus pledge" by which no member may vote against a decision taken by Labor MP's and senators sitting in caucus, unless a "conscience vote" is allowed.

While I am not aware of a similar rule applying to the Greens, the party, and I suspect its senators, are committed republicans. Indeed, their Leader, Dr. Bob Brown may be described as a “passionate republican”. I think it fair to say the last truly passionately republican  Labor leader was the  former Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

There are presently 37 committed republican senators, plus of course several Liberals who might vote with them. Of the 37, 32 are Labor and five Green.


Labor is likely to stay at 32 or  lose one or two seats. The Greens are likely to increase their numbers.

Malcolm Mackerras, the nation’s leading psephologist, thinks Labor will stay at 32 and the Greens increase to nine (“Senate to appear a deeper red with extra green,” The Australian, 21 August.

He thinks the Coalition will lose four senators and end up with 34, and Family First Senator Fielding from Victoria will not be re-elected. He predicts Senator Xenephon from South Australia will stay.

In the last Parliament Senator Brown not only was unable to persuade the Senate to proceed with his Plebiscite for an Australian Republic Bill, 2008; he was unable to obtain Labor support which by itself would not have been sufficient.

After 1 July, he will be in a more powerful position, particularly if the Gillard government is returned. 0n that, Malcolm Mackerras has just predicted a narrow victory for the Coalition.  



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