This was the description in the TV programme about a film, They Live, to be shown on a Foxtel channel, Showtime Greats, on 1 November 2004.
I don’t think I shall be watching, but it is comforting to know where republicans come from! Their insistence that we must become a republic, by fair means or those foul cascading series of plebiscites and referenda, is out of this world.
The description of this film caught my eye when I was contemplating the 2004 election results. These were surely as a rejection, or at least an indication of disinterest, by most Australians, whatever party they support, for what can best be described as elite issues.
And in the very forefront of these is… republicanism. It was not so surprising that the journalist Mr David Marr, would, in the recent Overland Lecture, lament the passing of any chance of our Commonwealth of Australia becoming some sort of a republic.
Nor was it surprising to read, in Mr. Phillip Adams in the Weekend Australian of 23-24 October, 2004, writing that he too was mourning the dismembering Paul Keating’s Australia, including the destruction of “the” republic.
It was however somewhat surprising to find a reference to this in the regular column by John Hewson in The Australian Financial Review on 15 October, 2004. Dr. Hewson said that if John Howard is prepared to seriously address the issues that might otherwise have been seen as anathema to him, ‘given his prejudices’, but which are nevertheless fundamentally important to Australia, he could go down in history as a truly great Prime Minister.
And what are these issues?
You may find it difficult to believe that Dr Hewson actually suggests the following. I must say that I had to read this twice to make sure I had not misunderstood his words. This is what he said:-
‘Issues such as the republic and aboriginal reconciliation stand out as two fundamentally important tests of his leadership, but it also relates to the spending commitments that he’s made and his willingness to scrap them to ensure genuine reform in areas such as tax, aged care, health and education and so on.’
Republicanism as one of the fundamentally important tests of Mr.Howard’s leadership?
Is Dr Hewson serious?
Dr. Hewson concludes his piece with these words:
‘Ironically, I believe Howard’s hardest years are still before him. The choice is his to be known as a genuine reformer, or just a clever politician.’
So John Howard, to be a so- called genuine reformer, must turn his back on his principles and introduce… a republic!
What was that about a snowflake’s chance in hell?
In the meantime, those three words, Head of State, which republicans think is the silver bullet which will magically persuade Australians to turn their back on their history, seem to be creating more confusion across the world, if not in outer space. The trouble is, few people know what it means. Worse for our republican friends, they don’t care.
Now the usual justification for throwing out our constitutional system and our flag is an esoteric argument about the words Head of State, which is about as relevant to the average Australian as something from outer space.
As I pointed out in The Cane Toad Republic, 1999, the term Head of State is completely unknown-completely- in our constitutional law.It is such an arcane term that it did not even rate an entry in the first edition of the Macquarie Dictionary in 1981! I could not find it in the 1909 Australasian edition of Webster’s. It is not in my 1973 Oxford dictionary, nor in the online Encyclopaedia Britannica dictionary.
In fact it comes from international law and diplomacy, gradually replacing the word ‘prince’. Its first use in internal constitutional law seems to be in Spain and France under fascist governments! The confusion about the meaning of this obscure term is not restricted to Australians. A poll in the UK showed similar confusion there about the Head of State. Many people thought Tony Blair was the Head of State.
Apparently our Indonesian neighbours are just as confused as everybody else is. The following appeared on the Indonesian portal, Laksamana.Net, on 20 October, 2004:
‘The ceremony was attended by five heads of state: Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.’
So the Indonesian media think John Howard is our Head of State. The point is that neither Indonesians nor Australians lie awake at night wondering who the Head of State is. This perfectly understandable confusion in the Indonesian media and its impact on our constitutional debate recalls one of the sillier arguments in the 1999 referendum-and there were quite a number.
This particularly silly argument was that we would be more highly regarded ,attract more immigrants and improve our trade with our neighbours if only we threw out our constitution and our flag!
The point is that our standing in the region has never been higher. John Howard was applauded when he attended the Presidential Inauguration in Jakarta, and at the private audience with the new President, spoke on behalf of the other regional leaders.
Changing a constitution to comply with someone’s narrow definition of a word few people understand , or even care about, demonstrates that republicans can’t even get to first base in persuading Australians to throw out either our century old extraordinarily successful constitution or indeed , their flag.
So ACM is delighted to see that so many sound constitutional monarchists were returned in the election, and we were pleased to receive the acknowledgement that our campaign had contributed to that.
We were determined to ensure that if we had to fight a plebiscite this time next year, we had already started the campaign with the distribution of up to one million brochures. We would hit the ground running after the election if we had to fight the plebiscite. Now we have to persuade politicians of all parties that those who want to force- feed Australians with republicanism and flag changing will only be signalling to the electorate that their priorities have little to do with the needs and aspirations of the rank and file of this great nation.
Until next time,