Significant divisions are appearing within the republican movement. An old hand, one who served on the Keating Turnbull Republic Advisory Committee – Dr. John Hirst – has now called for an end to the movement’s curious twelve year old policy of not having a policy.
And just as Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton is calling for one, he says republicans should forget about a plebiscite. He fears it will be lost at the hands of the constitutional monarchists. If it is, he believes "the" republic will be finished.
The fact is no one knows – or has known for 12 years – what republic or what new flag the republicans want. This is unlike the movement prior to the 1999 referendum, when people knew where they stood for.
There was one exception and that was during the 1998 constitutional convention election campaign. The ARM said they might accept direct election. Once the election was over, their minds quickly closed against direct election.
Delivering their last annual lecture, Dr. Hirst told the republican movement that their current policy is not only unwise, it is based on one of the great enemies of republicanism.
The policy, he says, is this: “To achieve the republic, we are going to consult the citizens by plebiscite on whether they want one; then by another plebiscite establish what sort of republic they want; and some schemes include a third plebiscite to discover what the head of state should be called. “
He slams this as unnecessary and damaging to the cause. “It is a true enemy of the republic.”
He admits that consultation by plebiscite is not only the policy of the republican movement, but also of the Australian Labor Party. It was also adopted at a partially taxpayer subsidised conference at Corowa in 2001, and by a taxpayer funded Senate committee whose report “Road to a Republic” was handed down in 2004. It was also endorsed by the late Professor George Winterton, the “eminently wise and learned, intellectual father of the modern republican movement.”
[ To be continued ]