New Zealanders are probably right in not taking any notice whatsoever of their minuscule republican movement.
Working closely with the Australian and United Kingdom republicans, they keep issuing rulings on the Australian situation.
These claims are entertaining because they are so wrong. It is as if Basil Fawlty is running these organisations.
For years the New Zealand republican leader, Mr. L.Holden, has been saying ACM is wrong to say that Malcolm Turnbull wanted to remove two words from the 1999 referendum question.
The words were, unbelievably,– “president” and “republic”.
The republicans now say thorugh their New Zealand voice “this is simply not true.”
Well Mr. Turnbull did- just read the Hansard report to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on 5 July 1999 (See our previous column on this).
…Why have you dropped those words? republican MP…
Clearly confused by his proposal to remove the two words, the ‘passionate’ republican MP Linda Roxon, now a minister in the Gillard Government, pins Turnbull down at the hearing:
I have noticed that in your suggested change you have also dropped the reference to a republic….The other thing is that I have noticed you use ‘Australia’s head of state’, rather than ‘President’…..
Turnbull gives a long, convoluted and entirely unconvincing answer. It is clear that he wants the two words removed. Butthis does not convince his supporters who are upset by this.
…torrent of ridicule..
His proposal is greeted by a torrent of ridicule and condemnation, not by monarchists, but by his republican supporters.
We constitutional monarchists sit back to watch Turnbull and Barns shooting themselves in the foot.
In the meantime, talk back radio goes into overdrive.
“Turnbull’s republic strategy: please don’t mention the President,” and “Republicans Running Away from Their Republic” screams The Australian the next morning.
This is extremely damging for the republican movement. The Australian was the flag bearer of the move for republican change, and weighted not only its editorial aand opinion pages this way, but also its news. So did most of the mainline media, but The Australian went further..
In the last week, abandoning any sense of dignity, the national broadsheet even issues bumper stickers calling for a Yes vote.
To have your main supporter ridiculing you must have made Turnbull and Barns wonder whether they should continue this line.
The Canberra Times also heaps ridicule on them. Their headline recalls the BBC comedy, Fawlty Towers.
“Don’t mention the republic,” they sneer.
…talk back runs hot… (continued below)
Kerry Jones tells how the story about republicans not wanting their republic is a hot topic on talk back radio for days (The People's Protest, 2000, pp.161-162).
Turnbull is no doubt warned that the momentum from this could destroy the Yes case.
Finally as Sir David Smith later briefs the nation's only federalist think tank The Samuel Griffith Society:
Two days later, responding to the ridicule and condemnation which resulted, Turnbull changed his submission to the Parliamentary Committee and conceded that these terms might stay.
He proposed instead that the question refer to the President replacing the Queen as Head of State.
This again is confirmed in the republican media.
They are greatly relieved that Turnbull has seen sense and the attacks on talk back will end. They know if it continued public opinion would swing further against the Yes case.
They now turn their guns back on the constitutional monarchists.
The mainline media resume their pincer movement against the No case. This is not to deny them oxygen, but to reduce it significantly.
The other side of the pincer is to ridicule the monarchists and portray them as unpatriotic. Pity then that the only foreign support in the campaign on either side comes from the Irish Republican Army.
All this builds up republican support among the inner city elites, but not among the rank and file in the Australian heartland.
“Hold it: republic’s back in question,” declares The Australian on 8 July, 1999.
…republicans trying to rewrite history…
So why do the republicans now claim this just did not happen?
Malcolm Tunrbull clearly wanted to remove two words from the referendum question – ‘president’ and ‘republic’. Even the republican media said this time and time again.
The NZ republican chairman pleads that Malcolm Turnbull doesn't mention it in his published diary extracts.
Mr dear Basil, of course he didn't.