There was unusually no republican stunt this year for Australia Day. Perhaps they knew that support for a republic has fallen to the lowest level since the referendum, according to a Newspoll published in The Australian on 27 January, 2007. The poll suggests that support for some vague undefined republic is down to 45%. According to The Australian’s national affairs editor, Mike Steketee, “this is the lowest level of support since the 39 per cent in 1994, not long after Paul Keating as prime minister put the issue on the agenda. The figure peaked at 52 per cent seven years ago, after the defeat of the 1999 referendum.” Those strongly in favour have fallen from a high of 39% down to 27%. It should be remembered that only a proportion of even those 27% would vote Yes in a referendum. Many would be strongly opposed to the form of the republic proposed.
Even with the activities of those politicians still intent on removing all symbols of the Crown, the outlook for the republican cause is grim indeed. The republican plan to change the flag has imploded. And as we reported here on 6 September, 2006, support for any sort of vague republic among that crucial age group, the young, is in free fall. It is now down to a low 38% in Western Australia, and we suspect that the result in other states would be little different. But high profile republicans, for example Senator Stott- Despoja, former Senator Susan Ryan, and federal shadow attorney- general, the Hon. Nicola Roxon, think they have the youth vote in the bag. Our research from the referendum campaign demonstrates that the opposite is true.
Mr. Steketee writes that “Progress towards Australia becoming a republic has stalled, but the cause would get a fillip if Prince Charles became king.” In that event, support for some vague undefined republic rises to 51%. But this is in the context of a long and hostile press campaign especially in London against the Prince. Australia’s republicans tried to ride on this, particularly targeting the Prince’s marriage to advance their cause. As we reported on the ACM site on 12 April,2005, if the enormous nationwide TV audience of the wedding was any indication, this campaign failed dismally. Mr Steketee reports that rather than switching to the monarchists, former republicans have nearly all joined the ranks of the uncommitted, who are now 19 per cent of the total. He says this reflects the virtual disappearance of the republic from the political debate. As a Canadian journalist once told me, the media in Australia had succeeded, through ridicule and other weapons, in making people reluctant to declare themselves in favour of the constitutional monarchy, at least to the obviously republican press. The uncommitted may be expected to vote no.