The Prime Minister’s recent recollection that her electorate voted No in the 1999 republic referendum was a stark reminder that republicanism has little appeal among Labor’s traditional voters.
ACM’s support base has always included such voters. Justice Michael Kirby, who has always been associated with progressive concerns in the community, wrote the ACM Charter and was a member of the Foundation Council.
The former Labor Lord Mayor of Sydney, Doug Sutherland led the list of ACM candidates for New South Wales candidates in the 1998 Constitutional Convention. He was to play a significant role there, as did Don Chipp, the founder of the Australian Democrats, and a prominent member of the ACM’s Victorian delegation at the Convention and a spokesman during the referendum.
I remember attending one crucial meeting of key leaders involved in organising the referendum campaign in a crucial state – two Australian Greens were present.
ACM won 72.82% of the constitutional monarchist vote in the Constitutional Convention elections, and by the referendum over 55,000 Australians were resisted as active supporters. They came from across the political spectrum.
…beware of complacency…
The Prime Minister’s warning to the republican movement that they had slipped behind since their landslide defeat in 1999 should not lead to any complacency among defenders of our constitutional system. Her predecessor Kevin Rudd made similar noises. But once he attained the office of prime minister, he presided over the 2020 Summit which involved a massive gerrymander in favour of the republican movement.
The previous leader Kim Beazley had called for a process involving two plebiscites and a referendum over an extended period. His successor Mark Latham announced he would cram this into one term – an impossible promise, but one which most of the main stream media accepted .
On losing the leadership of the Liberal Party to Tony Abbott in late 2009, Malcolm Turnbull suddenly endorsed something he had long opposed, direct election of the president. John Howard’s nemesis, Peter Costello, suddenly abandoned the monarchy which he had previously supported. We asked whether this was brand differentiation.
The Liberal NSW Premier was a leading proponent of creeping republicanism, ending the appointment of Queen’s Counsel.
… …PM warns republican movement…
The Prime Minister Julia Gillard was speaking at the National Press Club on Thursday 16 July. According to AAP she held out little hope for republicans keen for Australians to have another vote on removing the Australian Crown from our constitutional system. She warned that there had to be community consensus and a change from the view expressed at the failed referendum in 1999.
"And I don't believe we are there yet," she said, adding "I don't think we should put a republic referendum until we are able to say with some confidence that we are there."
According to AAP, Ms Gillard said the 1999 referendum failed because the debate centred too much on the views of people like herself and not on the views of the people. She referred to the defeat of the referendum in her suburban Melbourne electorate of Lalor. Ms Gillard said she didn't see the same degree of community activism or engagement on the republic issue as had existed in times past.
"So we would need to see that community activism come forward in order to create the kind of environment where a republic referendum would be able to be successfully concluded," she said.
It is difficult to have the level of community activism the Prime Minister specifies when clearly, there is little rank and file interest.