The issue of Australia becoming a republic should not be pushed during the global financial crisis, the Federal Minister for the Environment and member for Kingsford Smith, Peter Garrett says. According to AAP, the former rock star has rejected a call from the Australian Greens to have a plebiscite on becoming a republic at the next election.
Mr. Garrett confirms the message coming from other ministers and the Prime Minister: we want a republic, but not yet.
Given that much of government today is spin, and more often than not poll based spin, what are we to make of this?
My assessment is this. Polling on a (politicians') republic is telling the government not to go there now. The tacticians are saying two things.
Don’t have a plebiscite on this at an election because the media will give too much space to it and not to the election issues. The media are obsessed with a republic and will become over excited about it – remember last time.
The second thing is to keep it alive. This will continue to drive a wedge between the Liberals. Remember how large numbers of Liberal politicians – but not voters – fell for Keating’s wedge in the nineties and foolishly jumped on the republican bandwagon.
(To this was added another factor not available today. That was Peter Costello’s use of the 1999 republic referendum to demonstrate brand differentiation from John Howard. The message was Peter Costello was young, vibrant, in touch etc.)
And keeping it alive satisfies the inner city elites, particularly the electors of Wentworth who are just not typical Australians.
Hence Mr Garrett’s pronunciamento in an area outside of his ministerial responsibility. He would have only done that with a clear authorisation from on high. He would have been well briefed beforehand on what is the government's line. He has put his foot in it too often not to be careful about such matters. His minders would have ensured that.
…the view from Kingsford Smith in Sydney's Eastern suburbs…
"To say we can largely forge the debate about a republic in the middle of a distinctly challenging period our generation will have – I don't think that's the right way to go," he said ABC Television on Thursday. "The government isn't of the view now is the right time to do it."
Mr Garrett said constituents in his Sydney electorate were not enthusiastic about Australia becoming a republic. This is an interesting admission. In the 1999 referendum, his electorate Kingsford Smith was one of the 28% percent who actually favoured the republican model.
The official results were 55.19% for, and 44.81% against. There were 0.97% informal votes and 94.33% voted.
Polling is probably showing this has since fallen substantially. The voters are no doubt sick of hearing about soemthing so clearly resolved in 1999.
This is an electorate which is different from the neighbouring Wentworth. It contains a considerable number of blue collar workers, as well as pockets of inner city elites.
"The point is it's not an overwhelming issue," Mr Garret said “A republic will come and it will come in its good time. Right now isn't that good time," he said.
Before entering politics, Mr Garrett had previously spoken in favour of a republic during his time as the lead singer of the band Midnight Oil.
Kingsford Smith, incidentally, is named in honour of the great aviator, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, “Smithy”, who was always loyal to the Crown and the Flag, both in peacetime and in war.