Lawyer, human rights activist, republican and priest Fr Frank Brennan gave the Seventh Manning Clark Lecture in Canberra on 2 March 2006.
His subject was “5 R’s for the Enlargers: Race, Religion, Respect, Rights and the Republic” . In it he reveals that he does not accept the wisdom of the current republican strategy. Designed to overcome the likelihood that another republican referendum would be defeated, the strategy is to lock the public into the “right “ decision at the referendum by preceding it with two plebiscites.
Fr Brennan has an exaggerated view of the level of interest in the nation in republicanism. Ignoring most of the polls, he says 70 per cent of Australians want a republic.
He dismisses Sir David Smith’s detailed arguments in his recent book that the Governor -General is Head of State with an argument not usually advanced by the clergy:” After all Sir David will not be with us forever”
Sir David’s work will live on. To date there has been a complete absence of any rebuttal of similar depth and length. True the recent Senate Committee requested and received a republican response -a derisorily bald and brief statement.
Fr Brennan is delighted that the most likely contenders in future for the office of prime minister on both sides of our parliament are republicans. He excepts Tony Abbott , but forgets Brendan Nelson, Alexander Downer, and those members of the ALP whose republicanism is as a token as was to the socialist objective to an earlier generation of Labor politicians. Remember who privatized the Commonwealth Bank!
He agrees with an initial “spin doctor “plebiscite on whether Australians would like to become a republic. But being a minimalist, he is wary of the second plebiscite about the republican model. As with Senator Payne, he obviously is afraid that this will mean the model where the people elect the president may be chosen. Surely he knows this is the secret plan of one faction in the republican movement. Some genuinely prefer it, but most want it because they think they can secure a republic with it, even if it will produce instability and paralysis.
Instead of the second plebiscite he proposes a convention. Yes, another convention.
And on that, I found an observation in a Canadian book to the Constitutional Convention of 1988. The author refers to the observation of a spokesman for the constitutional monarchists: “I take as my text these words from the annals of Tacitus: re publicae forma laudari facilius quam evenire; that is, it is easier to praise a republican model than to make it work"