17 November, 2001
We still do not know the answer to that mystery, the identity of the person who removed the description of the Governor General as the Head of State from the Commonwealth Government Directory. In the meantime the republicans have in no way accepted the fact that the people overwhelmingly rejected the republic in 1999.
At the same time, the republican establishment in this country ensures that our voice appears as little as possible. For example not one of the Barton Lectures, which ostensibly are to celebrate federation, were given by anyone who supports all of the fundamental features of our federal constitution! So when Greg Barns, fresh from denouncing the new Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, was given space in The Australian of 10 April (and Barton Lecturer and republican Helen Irving on 11 April)to revive yet again the tired republican campaign, we thought the editor would appreciate another view.
The letter wasn’t published on Maundy Thursday but while the letters editor is considering it, this is what we said:-
I trust The Australian will allow this reply to Mr Greg Barns’ piece of 10 April 2001.
The Australian Republican Movement has produced two models to graft a republic onto our remarkably successful constitution.
The first surprisingly resembled the French Fifth Republic (Mark I). The French only adopted this after the first four republics – and several other constitutional models – failed. The ARM pushed this model for half a decade, even when ACM and independent experts pointed out its obvious failings.
Then, in the last days of the 1998 Constitutional Convention, they pulled a second model out of the hat. The only reason was to get a majority on the floor of the Convention – and they even failed in that.
Notwithstanding the fulsome support of the new establishment, only 43% – give or take the odd cat and others which we now know are on the electoral roll – voted yes. All states, the Northern Territory and seventy two per cent of electorates voted no (Ninety three per cent in two states). Having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, the "Yes" campaign director now wants a re-run! But the nation has already spent millions and millions of taxpayers’ hard earned dollars on this folly. Worse, Parliaments and Governments were distracted from their core function for the better part of a decade.
And if you want to see how an Australian republic would work just take a look at the NRMA.
If Mr Barns wants a re-run now, let those who fund the ARM first dip into their pockets to put up the millions that the cascading series of plebiscites and referenda, as well as the consequences of their ill thought out change will cost. Otherwise let constitutional change take the course the Founders wisely intended that change be delayed until there is strong evidence that, as John Quick put it, it is "desirable, irresistible and inevitable".