April 8

Debate gerrymandered


…no debate due to the gerrymander…

“The media has a vested interest in change – change equates to news and news is the life blood of the media,” declared Paul Kelly  as editor-in chief of The Australian in 1993 when he was addressing a forum on constitutional change.[i]

Having extracted some sort of commitment to some republican debate, the Australian media were beside themselves the day after the Prime Minister’s audience with The Queen.

Over a photograph of The Queen and Mr Rudd, the front page of the print version of The Australian, 8 April, 2008 carried this headline “Rudd to push debate on republic”.

 The Sydney Morning Herald, again only in the print version, tucked the story with the photograph  on the fourth page under this  line, “Rudd raises republic as he sets off to see Queen.”

We suppose this was done  discreetly in case anyone thought the Herald was returning to the monarchism of its long distant youth.

But what had the PM said?. There was some personal testimony to “lifelong republicanism” – as though it were some sort of genetic disorder.

Then he welcomed a “debate” this year. But that won’t be at the 2020 Summit – the  republican gerrymander there would leave old style Queensland politicians – from both sides –green with envy. There will be no debate, just republican monologues there, except of course for the delightful sole monarchist the Hon. Helen Sham Ho.


In any event the PM said that the government “would be looking at how that debate develops.”

We have three pieces of advice to the Prime Minister.

First, please don’t refer to “the” republic as you did in London.  Since the failure of the Keating-Turnbull model , the republicans still haven’t worked out what sort of republic they want. So it’s still “a” republic, that is, any sort of vague undefined republic.

Really, Prime Minister, couldn’t you get these republicans to at least say what they want?  

Second, remember there is no interest in this among the rank and file. Labor voting electorates were among the strongest No voters in 1999.

Third, we promise you a fight of monumental proportions to keep our constitutional system and our flag. Don’t underestimate us, Mr Prime Minister – on this we are more in touch with the people.

Fourth, it would be an act of gross financial delinquency  to spend one more cent of taxpayer’ funds on this.

No more money should be diverted from schools, hospitals and water to subsidise the republicans in this folly.

And while they are at it, the republicans might also work out some reason why the issue should be re-opened. They’ll need to do better than the editor of The (Adelaide) Advertiser who said among the reasons were that India, China and Australia were richer, and then there was the outrage of 9/11.  We still do not see the connection.


Seriously, if the vote had gone the other way in 1999, does anyone think we would get another bite at the cherry.


We’d be ridiculed if we argued that.

…Mr. Editor, please check  the facts…

I used to subscribe to a leading London weekly, until I found their reporting about Australia was too often hopelessly amiss.

Concluding that if they were so wrong about Australia, I thought their reporting about the rest of the world was probably equally dubious.

So I cancelled the subscription I’d had for over two decades.

They write to me now from time to time offering enticing subscriptions.  I’m tempted – until I recall why I pulled out.


I have been taking the London Daily Telegraph for years, and I hope the reason for the following letter to them is only an aberration.






You say ( 7/4) opinion polls suggest the majority of Australians would support the establishment of a republic. The last Murdoch Newspoll showed the number in support of a vague undefined republic had fallen to 45%.  Trending down, they did not do one this year. Given polls before the referendum overestimated support for such a radical change, this does not augur well for republicans.


 With the young, it's even worse for the republicans. A poll in Western Australia showed republican support had tumbled to 38%.




You also claim that the 1999 referendum was defeated not because of public support for the monarchy but because of confusion and uncertainty about the question. There was no confusion or uncertainty about the question. This was dreamed up by the republicans later as an excuse. It was propagated by the Australian media who were severely embarrassed by the landslide against something for which they had campaigned strongly and not just in editorials.




“In fact the republican movement even  tried to rig the question by having two words removed: "president" and "Republic."  You can guess what their focus groups and private polling were telling them.




“Constitutional monarchists wanted the question to also refer to the way the PM could sack the President instantly without notice and without reason. That was not allowed.




:But as with the model, the question was settled by republicans.


“You suggest many republicans voted against this republic because they wanted a popular vote for president. An analysis of the vote indicates this was very small. Conservative republicans are totally opposed to popular election to a position of considerable power if it were converted to a republican office.






[i] Sir David Smith, Head of State, 189, reviewed in this column, 11 April 2006.


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