Since the 1999 referendum, the republican movement has preferred stunts to revealing what they plan to do to our constitution and our flag, and how you will pay for it.
As David Koch told them on Channel 7 when they launched their embarrassing campaign for a “Mate a Head of State”, if they can’t tell the Australian people what they have in mind, they should just go away until they can.
The latest is the April 1 stunt – signs “changing” gracious old Queen Street, Melbourne to “Republic Street”. What next – change the name of the state to Republica? Or perhaps Kirneria after republican grande dame and former Premier Joan Kirner.
The Australian Republican Movement chair Major -General Michael Keating told Thomas Hunter of The Age (“Republican pranksters give Queen Street new moniker,” 1 April) somewhat disingenuously that it "cannot claim any official ownership of the prank".
"But it's interesting people would take the trouble to do such a neat job, even on April Fool's Day,” the ARM chief, whose unwelcoming comments about Prince William in January had not helpred his cause.
"We'd certainly like to get the issue of the republic re-discussed, so this may help that," he added. Decribing the republican stunt as "clever", he said he hoped it would rekindle of the notion of a republic in the minds of Melburnians who encounter the signs.
"Someone's less than apathetic in thinking about it. Someone's prepared to put some effort into getting the issue back on the agenda," he admitted, recognizing the fact that few are interested in the issue.
Incidentally older Australians recall that Queen Street, like much of Melbourne, was once filled with architectural gems which have since been demolished notwithstanding their heritage value. Some of us would see a parallel with the republican movement's approach to the constitution.
The reaction of the Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, was curious, since the ratepayers had to bear the cost of removing the signs.
‘‘I thought it was a very clever thing to do,” he said. “It didn’t hurt anybody, funny, makes a point, and it is April Fool’s Day.’’
They were hardly clever. Modern technology would make the production facile. But it indicates how desperate the shrinking republican movement is; that it is difficult for Australians to take them seriously.