In a very confusing editorial on Australia Day, The Advertiser argued that the republic debate should be re-ignited.
“With a new federal Labor Government and a reconstructed Opposition,” the Advertiser said, “it may well make sense to revisit public debate on Australia's attitude to the British monarchy and the creation of an Australian republic.”
The impression a reader would have is of the editor debating with himself, eager to find some reason, somewhere, somehow, to re-stage the referendum which was so convincingly defeated.
The editor can’t agree with himself what the 1999 landslide defeat meant. Earlier he says that not only was the specific model rejected in 1999, but that Australians rejected the very “concept of a republic.”
Later he says it was defeated because of “confusion and uncertainty” about the question. At least he has not revived the immediate reaction of many republicans in 1999: they put their defeat down to the stupidity of the Australian people.
The editor offers some of the most extraordinary reasons why the issue should be reopened.
These include the fact that Australia is richer, and so are India and China.
True, but what is the point of that in mounting an argument for what the first president of the ARM said in 1999 would be the biggest constitutional change since federation?
…there must be some reason to put the referendum again…
The editor then recalls the outrage on 9/11. What on earth has that to do with constitutional change?
Another reason he advances is that Mr Turnbull is on the opposition front bench.
Because he “spearheaded the unsuccessful 1999 push to make Australia a republic” he says that if a referendum were held – perhaps to coincide with the next election in 2010 –the major political parties would be arguing about the detail, not the principle.
Mr. Turnbull has already changed his mind over the flag.
He has attached four conditions which must be satisfied before a republican referendum would be successful. Most of these are unattainable, and Mr. Turnbull knows this.
He also knows that the Liberal Party would be divided and damaged in another referendum. In 1999, he was not a Liberal politician so it didn’t matter; he is now on the front bench.
The editor says it can be argued that the significance of the monarchy in Australia has diminished since 1999.
Yes, and it could also be argued that the earth is flat.
He says the relevance of Queen Elizabeth II is diminishing among the emerging generations. Continuing to argue with himself, he then says public sentiment towards her is still strong.
The editor claims opinion polls suggest the majority of Australians would support the establishment of a republic.
He must not read the opinion poll produced by the polling company owned by his proprietor. The last Newspoll says the opposite. They didn’t bother this year, for reasons which are obvious.
This editorial must be the most confusing written for many a year.
…no right of reply?…
So for the record we sent this letter to The Advertiser. As far as we know, it was not published.
“Sir,It is difficult to see why the issue should be reopened.
The 1999 referendum was on the republican model chosen by the overwhelming majority of republican delegates at the 1998 Convention.
The question was settled by an overwhelming republican committee.
The legislation was drafted by a passionately republican Attorney General.
The yes case had the support of most of the media and the politicians.
Yet it was rejected by the people in a landslide – nationally, in every state and 72% of electorates.
It is hard to see the connection you suggest between, say, the economic growth of China, and any need to change our constitution.
Your assertion that opinion polls suggest a majority of Australians would support a republic is not supported by the latest Newspoll.
Even when people are asked about a vague undefined republic, support is at 46%.
As early polls prior to a referendum typically overstate the final yes vote, this indicates that another republican referendum would fail.
Add to that the fact that republican movement, while demanding a republic now, publicly admit that they have no idea what sort of republic they want.
The conclusion is inescapable.
The reopening of this would be a considerable waste of time and a vast waste of the taxpayers' money.”