The republican campaign in the nineties featured a series of claims by various prominent people that Australia would be showered with all sorts of attractive benefits if only we would do what they said and change our constitution and become a politicians’ republic.
No details of the form of republic were offered, but they all insisted it was inevitable anyway. For them, the important thing was to remove The Queen so that an avalanche of good things would flow.
The republican cargo cult offered a bewildering range of benefits. These included reversing the last recession, reducing unemployment, boosting jobs, invigorating spirits, improving trade, increasing immigration, increasing the number of immigrants who became citizens, liberating artists, adopting a new flag, and ending alleged confusion in the French, Indonesian and other governments about our constitution.
…I will become an Aussie…
The then editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Paul McGeough, solemnly announced that he would grace the nation by becoming an Australian citizen. This was on the very clear condition that we did as he instructed us and voted Yes in the referendum.
..vicious, personal attacks…
Then there were some very personal republican attacks on royal family. One celebrated author declared our sovereign “a colostomy bag on the body politic”. One brochure was an unsubtle attempt to besmirch Prince Charles place in the succession.
None of this worked.
..desperation: Security Council, Asian Century White Paper…
It is probably an indication of the desperation of the republican movement that we are seeing a revival of the practice of making outlandish claims about the benefits of constitutional change as well as snide attacks on the Royal Family.
Even before the vote on our candidature for a seat on the Security Council, the republican movement’s David Morris was blaming any failure on our head of state is not campaigning for Australia. (The campaign was successful.)
ACM replied in The Australian on 27 September 2012 ( “Esoteric republicans”) pointing out that Mr. Morris ignored the fact that when the Governor-General went to African countries to explain our campaign, she was held out by the Australian government and received as Australia’s head of state.
The release of the government’s Asian Century White Paper was an opportunity for further claims. Mike Carlton writing in The Sydney Morning Herald on 3 November 2012, lamented the fact that “the idea that we might improve our constitution and our system of government did not get even a sentence.”
He did not explain, as republicans cannot, how becoming a politicians’ republic would improve our system of government. Stamping his foot, he says he thought the absence of any call for a republic was “gutless… particularly for a Labor government.”
He said that Asians find our being a monarchy “odd.” Dismissed as I have been on a republican site as a “perma-tanned Indonesian born blow-in”, I ,for one, cannot say I find this odd.
Mr. Carlton points to India as an example of one former dominion which “shook off the Raj in 1947 and seem to have pottered along OK since with a vibrant democracy and an elected president.”
He ignores the state of emergency granted by President Ahmad to Mrs Ghandi from 1975 to 1977 to allow her to rule as a dictator. President Ahmad a politician whose loyalty was not to the Crown but to Mrs Ghandi granted this purely to avoid her being removed from parliament on a court conviction of corruption. No self respecting Governor-General would have granted that.
Mr. Carlton was joined by a former diplomat who on many occasions represented Her Australian Majesty in foreign capitals, Mr. Richard Woolcott.
He told The Australian the white paper “should have mentioned the removal of the Queen as the head of state”.
Severing the nation's “anachronistic links" with the English monarchy would be, he said, a "rallying point" for multicultural Australia. Mr. Woolcott spent some time in 1975 instructing the Indonesian president in Australian constitutional affairs, time better perhaps spent in dissuading the dictator from invading East Timor.
He once announced to a receptive press the earth shattering observation by a Spaniard had actually told him no similar connection to ours with the Crown could exist between the Spanish Crown and her former colonies. A brief perusal of their history would explain why.
…disgraceful attack …
While a bitter personal attack on the Royal Family in The Age by the republican royal watcher Barry Everingham was to be expected, it was surprising that The Herald would publish a quite disgraceful and personal attack on Prince Charles and his wife from ARM founder, Mrs Franca Arena. As a New South Wales politician, Mrs Arena was given to making serious and usually unsubstantiated charges under the cover of parliamentary privilege.
…young not interested..
The Herald, which with The Age, are the remaining flag bearers of republicanism in the press, has at least finally conceded in an editorial timed for Prince Charles’ return to Australia that support for Australia becoming a politicians’ republic is low, and that support among the young is even lower.
In “Old firm enlists our young in game of thrones”, the Herald chose only to refer to a poll commissioned by the ARM, ignoring two by larger and older pollsters which indicate support in both cases is even lower. Indeed those polls indicate support is significantly lower than in the ARM’s poll.
Surely the Herald’s readers should be told that.
The republican movement no doubt fears – as Malcolm Turnbull did during the referendum – that the word republic is on the nose. If you go to their site, you are directed to an apparently innocuous site about national identity.
The movement has gone back to the sixties, without a model and trying to avoid the word republic. In plain English this is a retreat, but a realistic one. They won’t go away. But what will happen is that the politicians, who mostly avoid the issue, will have to face up removing republicanism not just from their promises but in the case of the ALP, from the platform. This no doubt will take time. After all, White Australia and socialism disappeared from their agenda well after their use by date.