December 23

Dissent in republican ranks

There is further dissent from the line taken by the republican movement on how to turn Australia into at politicians’ republic.  The republican movement has already been sidelined by most republican politicians who have decided to put the issue on the backburner during the present reign.


Now Dr. John Hirst, a respected Australian historian and long-time republican campaigner, has objected strongly to the refusal of the republican movement to tell the Australian people precisely what sort of republic is being proposed. ( And unlike too many republicans he doesn't rely on the usual myths to demonise John Howard.) 

He thinks that the movement's argument that a politicians’ republic will be achieved by a cascading series of plebiscites and referendums will end in failure. Readers will not be surprised to know that this is a conclusion with which I heartily agree .

  … republican and civics role…

 Dr Hirst  was a member of Paul Keating is Republic Advisory Committee which was chaired by Malcolm Turnbull.  Although Mr Keating invited nominations from state governments, he adamantly y refused to appoint anybody who was not a committed Republican. 

From that you can get the sense of the sort of authoritarian republic Mr Keating had in mind.

Dr Hirst was appointed by the Howard government to chair the governments Civics Education Group in 1997.  The group continued its operations until 2004 and set up a major civics education program. 

Although the former marxist professor of history, Professr Stuart McIntyre was a member of the Civics Education Group, the relevant Minister, Dr David Kemp, refused to appoint any constitutional monarchist to that group. (There were of course many learned historians and lawyers who would have been eligible for appointment.) 

Years later, a government major survey of three Year 10 students revealed that only one third knew what the Constitution is. And that was in a multi-choice question which could be answered correctly by guessing.(See here “ Civics education fails to deliver
18 February 2009 ) 

The report demonstrated that after vast sums of taxpayers’ funds have been directed into civics education, education about one of the world’s most successful constitutional systems was still deficient.

As a result ACM decided to initiate a new education programme  in civics education, supported by a new website and a national competition in the schools.


   …enemies of a politicians’republic…    

Dr. Hirst’s recent lecture , the Enemies of the Republic, is refreshing in that he does not in any way attempt to endorse the usual myths adopted by supporters of the republican movement.   

These are designed to overcome their embarrassment in losing the 1999 referendum.  Dr Hirst is not embarrassed by the result and thinks they did quite well. 

He does not endorse  the lies that John Howard fixed the convention, fixed the model or fixed the referendum question.
 He names three enemies of the Republic.  

These are first, that the question should be put off during the present reign, second , scorn of Australian nationalism ( the badge of many celebrity Republicans)  and third, opting for the cascading series of plebiscites and referendums instead of revealing to the Australian people just what sort of Republic the movement endorses.

He favours a modified direct election model.

 His paper is worthy of further study, we shall examine it in greater detail in further columns.


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