There are three centres where Australian republicans congregate. There is the dwindling membership of the republican movement, totally abandoned now by the rich, the celebrity and the powerful, who in the nineties thought they were on a winner. Then there are the republican politicians, embarrassed now by Bob Carr’s confession that a principal driving force is their wish to neutralize the Crown’s role as constitutional guardian, and thus increase their powers. Their republicanism represents nothing more than an odious r grab for power. A third centre, which is crucial to keeping the issue alive before an almost totally disinterested public, is in the nation’s journalistic corps.
Tony Abbott, Minister for Health, formerly a journalist, points out that as a general rule, journalists and commentators do not feel the need to declare their personal values and allegiances. Indeed, they find accusations of partisanship an affront to their professionalism, which demands that they appear to be professionally detached. So why is their obsessive, at times almost infantile need to declare their republicanism? Why is the great exception to journalistic propriety?
Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald on 29 March, 2006, under the title “Again, the media indulge in their royal nightmare, “Tony Abbott says that as a class, journalists can “scarcely” contain their “rage”. This rage, he says is directed against a monarchy that “represents the instinct for continuity and ceremony”.
Pointing out a phenomenon we have long observed, even journalists who write quite sympathetic pieces invariably include the almost mandatory disclaimer that, of course, they are republicans. Why is there this need to announce this? The general view among them is that Australia will become a republic. Tony Abbott asks why journalists take this for granted when Australians in general do not? “If polls are to be believed, a near majority of Australians is reconciled to the much-mocked-in-the-media prospect of King Charles,” he says.
Older Australians, indeed older people in most Western countries will recall that there was once a widely held view that socialism in some form or other was inevitable. That has almost totally disappeared. But if you tell journalists, as I often do, that absent a calamity, Australia will never become a republic, they look at you as though you were a raving lunatic. “Do the math,” as the Americans intone, and it can be demonstrated that mine is a reasonable conclusion.
Tony Abbott says that on almost no other issue is there such a gulf between an obsessive media and the population at large. (I would have added the rider “at the moment”, because I can think of other issues where there has been or will be such a gulf, a matter I have written about in, for example Twilight of The Elites.)
Several readers have sent us an example of this . When The Queen addressed a dinner in Canberra this month ,the 8.30 AM news the following morning on the ABC’s Radio National reported this astounding item:"The Queen has come out in favour of a republic after lengthy discussions with John Howard."
Probably realising the stupidity of inventing the news, this was not repeated on the 9AM news.Similar stories went around the world . I heard and read The Queen’s speech. Only those on drugs or otherwise demented could find this news in the speech. It seems some journalists are quite willing to make themselves laughing stocks in an endeavour to promote republicanism.
The consequence of the irrational and quite infantile obsession with republicanism of far too many in the commentariat leads to the media giving the dwindling republican movement oxygen for a succession of truly silly campaigns. These have ranged from insisting The Queen “give back” the Tom Roberts’ Federation painting which hangs on permanent loan in Parliament house, through the failed “mate for head of state” campaign, ( even some republicans winced at that one ) , through the attempt to politicize the Games, and the partial suppression, in complete breach of protocol, of our Royal Anthem at the otherwise greatly successful Melbourne Commonwealth Games, and which the crowd totally neutralized by standing and booming out “God Save The Queen” in honour of The Queen of Australia.
Once again, Tony Abbott has demonstrated that he comes to a position from reason and principle, a somewhat rare quality among the political class, and an indication surely that in his knapsack there is the elusive bâton du maréchal .