Australia's republicans realise the Australian people are just not interested. They won't reveal their plans for the constitution and the flag. And they are very successful in diverting the taxpayer's money from essential matters, such as water and schools, into their agenda.
The strategy since their 1999 defeat is this:-
· First, devise a process through which the people will accept the republican model they finally reveal at the last minute.
· Second, mount a series of stunts to distract people from noticing the fact thta they are keeping their model and their flag under wraps.
· Third hope that some event, some silver bullet, will ensure their secret republican model and flag will fall into their laps.
In 1999 they thought the advent of the Olympics, the centenary of Federation, the new century and the new millennium were the silver bullet. Then it was the marriage of the Prince of Wales. Now a consensus is emerging among republican politicians that the silver bullet is the end of the current reign.
According to a report by Melissa Jenkins in The Sydney Morning Herald (9/5) former Prime Minister the Hon. Robert Lee Hawke believes he has discovered the silver bullet. Believing “a clear majority” are now in favour of some sort of politicians’ republic, he is certain more than 90 per cent of people would vote `yes' in a referendum if asked whether they were in favour of a republic after the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
But it 1999, he did not think this. He said then that becoming a republic was not about The Queen. He said so in his advertisement telling the people to vote Yes.
But the people rejected Mr. Hawke’s entreaties. The republican defeat was humiliating – No in all states and 72% of electorates.
So Mr. Hawke has changed his tune. In 1999 a republic was not about The Queen. Now a republic is all about The Queen. Note however, he is careful not say what sort of politicians’ republic would attract the magical 90% vote he predicts.
Mr. Hawke’s belief that such an unlikley result can be achieved may well reflect the circles in which he moves. It certainly reflects the 2020 Summit. But the ludicrous 98% vote there was merely the result of a disgraceful gerrymander. Robert Mugabe would have been jealous of that; such votes were only recorded in the most tyrannical dictatorships.
As a national vote in a referendum on something so fundamental, Mr. Hawke’s prediction of 90% is just not credible.
Mr. Hawke obviously assumes that the heirs to the throne are unpopular. But polling tells us this is not so. Support for Prince Charles will firm as his role as a world leader on environmental and other issues becomes as well known in Australia as it is in other countries, and as the public tires of tabloid caricature journalism.
…the Hawke Bill – not a silver bullet…
Mr Hawke is wrong to think a politicians’ republic can be achieved merely by finding the "right" process. The only way is by proposing a form of republic which the people judge to be better than the one we have.
Mr. Hawke’s proposal is simplicity itself – the government introduces a draft bill and allows a free vote.
Now it’s true all republican politicians want a politicians’ republic. But most do not trust the people to elect the president. A few would accept this if they controlled the vote by selecting the candidates. A few others would accept this if the president were stripped of all powers. Some others would want to do both.
One possibility is that the Hawke bill would resemble the failed 1999 model. If it did it would go down again. No referendum proposal ever repackaged and submitted again has ever succeeded. Three were resubmitted on five occasions. All were rejected.
Because their secret polling will tell them this, republican politicians are toying wiht the idea of holding a plebiscite. As ACM said when this was proposed immediately after the referendum, a plebiscite would be grossly irresponsible. It would invite a vote of no confidence in one of the world’s most successful constitutions, to be followed by years of constitutional instability, all without changing anything.
Mr. Hawke’s proposals on a new process will solve nothing. He and the other republicans are still trying unsuccessfully to get out of the corner into which they have well and truly painted themselves.
Mr. Hawke is once again wrong about a republic. Not only was he wrong about the people’s assessment of the 1999 model, he was wrong about the consequences. In 1999, when I wrote on what would happen in the Commonwealth of Nations were Australia to become republic, Bob Hawke went on a national radio programme and declared me to be a liar.
I then produced a letter from the Secretary General of the Commonwealth supporting precisely what I had said. This was that it was open to any one member of the Commonwealth to veto our continuing membership.
As Mr. Hawke would have known , there was little love lost between Australia and the then Malaysian Prime Minister. I was not saying he would have vetoed our membership. But the people were entitled to an assurance that diplomatic assurances had been obtained to ensure this would not happen.
(Seeing the difficulties with this rule, CHOGM – the Commonwealth Heads of Government – have since tried to change it. I suspect that this is not as successful as the republicans would hope. I shall return to this on another occasion)
Perhaps Mr. Hawke could assist Australia's republicans by insisting that before they say anything more, or raid the taxpayers' hard earned money yet again, they reveal precisely what changes to the Constitution and the flag they are hiding from the people.
What could be more simple than that?