Former Greens Leader Bob Brown is a passionate republican. He has previously pushed strongly for the holding of a plebiscite.
It dawned on him two years ago that achieving a politicians’ republic is a lost cause – at the moment. While not dead, "the" republic is as prominent republican journalist David Marr admitted in 2006, it is "near comatose."
( As to "the" republic, I told him during the last inquiry that the choice remains between a politicians' republic or our crowned republic. He said there was a third choice, a "peoples' republic". I reminded him Australians had seen how peoples' republics worked in Eastern Europe and Asia.)
Following the 2010 election, Labor formed a government in an alliance with the Greens and with the support of two independent MP’s.
To provide the necessary support, Senator Brown was in a position to dictate terms to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Part of the price he extracted was very high. He required that Ms. Gillard legislate to introduce the very carbon dioxide tax which she and the Treasurer had promised in the election campaign not to impose.
It is clear that he could have had just about anything that he wanted – within reason.
The fascinating thing then is that he did not demand a rerun of the 1999 republican referendum, or if he did, he was soon persuaded that it would lead to a bigger defeat than then and would have ensured the end of republicanism for a very long period of time.
The extraordinary thing is that he did not demand a plebiscite, where only a question without any detail, and drafted by the most devious spin doctors, would be put to the people.
…moment of truth….
Why? We assume he is the passionate republican he purports to be. We do not suggest that his previous interest was merely a pose. He must then have concluded that even a plebiscite designed by the government’s spin doctors – and funded by the taxpayers – would have been lost. And if the loss of a second referendum would be a setback greater than the 1999 landslide defeat, the loss of a plebiscite would have buried republicanism. The Prime Minister clearly understands this. Did she dissuade him?
All of this will probably come out. But why has no journalist asked him about this?
If such judgements are being made about a republic among politicians who have all the advantages of continuous private polling and focus groups, we can only assume that our conclusion about polling support expressed is on this site are absolutely correct. (Just glance at our section on opinion polling.)
But constitutionalists must not sit back and think it’s all over. This doesn't mean that the matter will not be raised again in the future. The republican movement has received a generous injection of funds and is employing a top rank National Director to deliver what they want.
We don't think he will. The country is not interested.
But while "the" republic seems near comatose, a committed republican prime minister or senior minister could try to revive it especially among sympathetic journalists. Remember, it was the rise of two ambitious men, Paul Keating and Malcolm Turnbull, which unleashed the republican push in the nineties.
Even today, the republican elites still dominate the establishment and would be receptive but more wary about another push.
And in the meantime be sure that some politicians will still try to engage in what the Rev Fred Nile accurately describes as sneaky republicanism. That is, they will continue to seek to suppress all references to the Australian Crown and our heritage in their agenda, with the ultimate agenda of bending our constitution to their will and shredding our National Flag.