It is clear that notwithstanding assurances that constitutional change is not a high priority issue, there has been considerable planning to push through constitutional change in the first term of a Rudd government, supported by a taxpayer funded advertising campaign. Although an election is imminent, Australians are being kept in the dark about this. We have absolutely no idea about what sort of republic is being proposed.
“If Kevin Rudd becomes Australia's next prime minister – and that is what the opinion polls suggest – then the new Labour government will push very hard for a republic. There is a strong possibility that, following a proposed referendum in 2010, Australia will no longer have a Queen. And that would be a terrible shame,” the London Daily Telegraph said in an editorial on 22 September, 2007. While conceding that it is not the business of the British to be lecturing Australians, the editor said there is “a very good reason for keeping our ties to Australia, quite apart from the exemplary way in which the Queen discharges her constitutional duties. It is that – contrary to expectations – our two countries have recently grown closer together, not further apart.”
The editorial went on to refer to a speech in Melbourne on 20 September 2007 by former senator and now Australian High Commissioner in London, Richard Alston. ( An excerpt of the speech appeared in The Australian on 21 September, 2007.) The Telegraph quoted the following with approval: “As we have progressed along the path from near subservience to brash upstart to key global players, so our relationship with Britain has evolved, matured and deepened. We have grown closer in terms of trade, intelligence sharing, cultural exchange, migration flows and political respect." The Telegraph said that “Mr Alston rightly stressed the importance of the diplomatic alliance after the September 11 attacks. That alliance might be equally strong under a republic; then again, it might not, since the liberal political class that would dominate a republic wants to distance itself from the Anglo-American axis.”
The Telegraph also said that migration has strengthened the relationship. “There are so many young Australians in London that "Strine" has become a local accent. And that suits us fine, because these visitors are part of our family – our tanned and thirsty cousins from the other side of the world. It seems thoroughly appropriate that we should share a head of state. If Australia decides to go it alone, that will be our loss.”
I sent this comment to The Daily Telegraph:
“Australia becoming a republic would not only be a shame , it would be a disaster. Few Australian republicans understand the central role of the Australian Crown and claim, that removing our Sovereign will involve no substantive change. In the last referendum, most of the media, most of the politicians and a vast cast of celebrities campaigned for the "politicians' republic.' They were defeated in all states and 72% of electorates. And that referendum was held at the most auspicious time for change, a new century and millennium, the centenary of federation and the Sydney Olympic Games. Over 50,000 grassroots supporters of the constitution came out to fight against the proposal. The republicans merely called up foot soldiers from the political parties and unions.
“We are confident that if Mr. Rudd becomes PM the people will still prevail. The last poll -the last published poll – indicated only 45% support for a vague undefined republic. Youth support in one state fell to 38%, probably indicative of views across the country in that age group. Republicans know they will lose another referendum; that is why they would prefer to have two plebiscites first to lock in the vote. Australians are not so naive.”
Piers Akerman told readers of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on 25 September, 2007 about Mr Rudd’s London announcement. He said:"If Labour (sic) wins the next election it will throw the full weight of the government behind the issue and is likely to spend millions of pounds in political advertising to persuade Australians of the merits of becoming a republic," it said, quoting a spokesman for Rudd who told the paper that a referendum would probably be held in 2010, adding: "Mr Rudd supports a republic."
In bringing this news to the attention of local readers, he asked whether he was joining “the muckrakers whom the ALP claims is preparing the ‘mother of all smear campaigns’ against its prime ministerial candidate?”
He then referred to a claim by Mr Rudd’s deputy Julia Gillard that she had discovered evidence of the government's dirty tricks in an article by The Sunday Age's Jason Koutsoukis. He found in a “dirt file” which had been sent around the press gallery, nothing “vaguely salacious. The main impression I got from the file was that Gillard was an extreme leftist committed to establishing something akin to a Marxist state if Labor ever won government." Piers Akerman was surprised that Jason Koutsoukis did not appear at all concerned at the thought of Australia being transformed into a Marxist state. However Fairfax columnist Paul Sheehan had made the point that Ms.Gillard had “airbrushed” from her entry in Who's Who the fact that between "1984 and 1986 she worked full-time for Socialist Forum, a group that formed after another schism in the Communist Party of Australia, with the aim of advancing the socialist agenda in Australia. She served as a member of Socialist Forum's management committee until 1993, well into her career as a lawyer".( The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September, 2007)
Piers Akerman says that voters are entitled to know Ms.Gillard's political leanings given that she would be the deputy Prime Minister in a Rudd government and should he something untoward occur leaving him incapacitated, she would be Prime Minister. “Setting aside Koutsoukis' views of the political import of being a warrior in a crypto-Communist organisation, Gillard's membership once existed on a website and now does not. That is news.”
For those worried by the prospect of the “full weight” of a Rudd government being thrown into a campaign to push fundamental changes to our constitutional system, and no doubt then our flag, it is of concern that we have absolutely no information on the changes proposed. Even the timing of the referendum has until now been kept from the people, with the suggestion, that it was not a high priority matter. On 25 July, 2007, we reported in this column that Mr Rudd had said “We haven't fixed a time frame for doing that” ie. a referendum. We now know that a republic was being planned and would be pushed through in the first term of a Rudd government, with one shadow minister indicating this would be done passionately. Note that these details were released first to an English newspaper, and not here.
What is going on? In the absence of any information whatsoever, it is of concern that the sort of republic apparently long favoured by the person proposed to be deputy prime minister was a Marxist people’s republic. We are not saying that is what is being proposed now. What we are saying is that the programme of a Rudd government includes the adoption of planned, massive constitutional change to be supported by a barrage of taxpayer funded advertising about which not a scintilla of information has been made public.