Philip Adams, the 2005 Republican of the Year, says that in the nineties, he served on a committee of COAG, the Council of the (nine) Australian Governments, chaired by former Victorian premier Joan Kirner. Despite wide political representation, this committee unanimously recommended that Australia become a republic. This recommendation is surprising, given that the committee’s terms of reference seem to have been to advise on how the centenary of federation should be celebrated. It seems that it was not a constitutional law committee; rather, it was an entertainment committee.
He says that the committee “toured the wide brown land talking to people and organisations about what, if anything, made them proud to be Australians”. Since the taxpayers paid for this caravan, let us hope that more people came to their meetings than some of those of the Keating-Turnbull Republic Advisory Committee. As Tony Abbott famously observed, many of their meetings could have been held in a telephone booth.
Mr. Adams says that on the tour, “everyone signed off on the republic” (Reconciliation was the other approved issue). He says this unanimity extended to representatives of “such conservative outfits as the CWA and RSL”. Realising that anyone who knows the CWA or RSL will suspect that he may have mistaken their hospitality and courtesy for consent, Mr. Adams concedes that they were not “wildly excited”. He says they took the view that "it was time to get on with the rest of our lives", whatever that means. Perhaps they were anxious to bring the republican lecture by Ms. Kirner and Mr. Adams to a close. Readers will note that while Mr. Adams refers to “the” republic, it is doubtful whether a specific model of republic was discussed much less approved.
He says the committee’s report, which he and Ms. Kirner wrote, was well received by the nine governments. The surprising degree of unanimity the proposal enjoyed across the country, where he claims “everyone signed off”, on the committee and among the nine governments recalls more the style and practice of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republics than the reaction in this country to just about any political issue.
He made these extraordinary claims in his weekly column in The Weekend Australian Magazine of 21-22 April 2007. This column has become a testament to his bitter disappointment with Australia, and not only because of the fact that “the republic vanished”. (Incidentally he refers to The Queen as “HRH”. As it is well established that republicans are often secretly fascinated by royalty, it is strange that he does not apparently know that The Queen is HM and not HRH.
He illustrates this bitter disappointment with the nation for refusing the manifest destiny prescribed by the elites in this opening observation: “If Italy looks a lot like a boot and the UK a little like a royal chess piece, then Australia resembles a pair of buttocks squatting over the cold toilet seat of the Antarctic. Having occurred to me at school, this image bounced back when Paul Keating made his scathing reference to Australia as ‘the arse-end of the world’ ". He says that prior to the centenary of federation, “we were looking pretty good – as if, after many a decade, we’d finally got our sh** together…But then things went wrong and got nasty.” With a swing to conservative views he says there was a stampede by the other parties to appropriate the policies of the emerging nationalist party, One Nation, led by Pauline Hanson. He says the centenary of federation became a retreat to the past, not an official unveiling of a future. He says this was a triumph of “bummification” over brain.
The interesting question is how much taxpayers’ money was spent on the Kirner-Adams entertainment committee, and whether we can see their report. After all, we paid for it. We assume the report would show who appeared before the committee – their recollections of their “signing off” the Kirner-Adams republican proposal would be interesting.
This may well be a job for ACM’s new investigative journalist, Canetoad, who has been commissioned to write the Weasel Watch reports.