Anthony Albanese claims he won’t push ‘the’ republic in his first term. Why then has he so disgracefully delivered a slap in the face to our monarch at the very time of the celebration of her 70 years of selfless and unpaid service by the creation of a constitutional abomination, this assistant minister for ‘the’ republic?
As he swears or affirms, for the tenth time in his life, his allegiance to the Queen, Mr Albanese should remember that he is alienating not only many among those who did not vote for him. In the 1999 referendum, where Australians for Constitutional Monarchy reached into every electorate, we found enormous support for the Crown among traditional Labor voters. Among our 151 electoral coordinators, there were Labor supporters and even party members. One state council included Greens.
Some of the greatest Labor leaders were constitutional monarchists, including John Curtin who nominated a member of the royal family as governor-general.
The recent revelation in the official correspondence of governors-general reveals, from the pen of Bill Hayden, that Paul Keating’s apparent sudden obsession with a republic was driven by the need for an electoral distraction from his real problems.
When he lost the election to John Howard, Keating blamed Bob Carr’s outrageous decision to expel the governors of New South Wales from Government House, Sydney. For that, we brought out well over 20,000 into Macquarie Street, something the rival Australian Republican Movement could never even come close to replicating.
Much of the antipathy in Labor against the Crown is in fact driven by a primal need for revenge over the dismissal of Gough Whitlam. Wiser heads in the ALP realise that if Gough Whitlam had gone to an ordinary general election, the size of the ALP would have been significantly smaller than even after the Fraser landslide and it would have taken longer to come back to power.
Those driven by the dismissal have outsourced Labor policy to the Australian Republican Movement so much so that for twenty years they have been tied to ARM’s mishandling of the issue. While ACM had far fewer resources, this was balanced by an army of disciplined foot soldiers, disciplined because they had a strong belief and allegiance to the Crown. They were not in any way disloyal to Australia, many had served or were serving in the armed forces. Spread across Australia, there were over 60,000 of them
The ACM leadership operated though what a Vietnamese adviser termed the general command. This met every morning, making decisions by consensus and relaying them to state and territory directors through a superb national campaign director, a former soldier and now a state minister, David Elliott.
The ARM had no such support and had to depend primarily on the ALP. ACM had no similar symbiotic relationship with any party, especially the Liberals who were divided on the republic.
In the meantime, the Platinum Jubilee celebrations – the timeless Trooping the Colour, the Thanksgiving Service, the extraordinary Platinum Concert – André Rieu on steroids – and the Pageant, have reinforced to Australians and the Commonwealth how the Queen has offered nothing other than selfless service, truly leadership beyond politics.
I have no doubt that the Crown will still be firmly in place at the end of this century, probably with George VII as King.
On this, the former minister and senator Nick Minchin was remarkably prescient in 2019 in an interview accessible on the YouTube channel, Monarchy Australia. He thinks the republic issue will never go away.
‘That’s why,’ he said, ‘the continued existence and vitality of the ACM is critically important because you do have to be ready to deal with this issue.’
But he thought the republicans were foolish to think that the end of the reign when the Crown passes to Charles will be ‘their big moment’.
Then, or any time soon after, they will strike. ‘FitzSimons and Turnbull make that point.’ Minchin finds it ‘disgusting’ that they ‘quite openly act as ghouls just waiting for the Queen’s demise’.
While Charles is a ‘bit quirky’, he thinks he might be ‘a very good king with Camilla by his side’ for whom Minchin has a ‘great regard’. That he says brings Kate and William much one step closer, both of whom continue to be popular.
But, he insists, this is not about the royals per se. It’s about the institution of the Crown. He correctly predicted the republicans would eventually go for direct election, which he thinks will be easier to defeat. Notwithstanding the polls, he believes it will be seen to be a ‘revolutionary change’ to the system of government. His warning that one day there will be a Labor government has come to pass and ‘we will be on the barricades again’. So true.
He thinks that the only thing which gives the republicans ‘any traction whatsoever’ is the false proposition that we don’t already have an Australian as head of state. ‘We have had an Australian head of state since Sir Isaac Isaacs and that person is the governor-general.’
He is disappointed that some monarchists don’t accept this. This, he says, is the major problem with the Monarchist League.
One of five small monarchist groups at the Convention, this league (the original monarchist league was formed in and is based in Melbourne) attracted 6.05 per cent of the monarchist vote in the national election against ACM’s 72.39 per cent. Sydney Institute’s Gerard Henderson says the League chairman told him he had written to the Palace to ask them not to say the Queen was head of state.
More recently when one pollster added ‘with an Australian as head of state’ to ‘Are you in favour of Australia becoming a republic?’, this loaded question added 8 per cent to the affirmative vote.
Constitutional monarchists must, Minchin insists, be absolutely clear and unequivocal that the Queen is the sovereign, and the governor-general is the head of state.
Note: Since this essay was published the monarchist group referred to above has fallen into line and returned to the view it held at the time of the referendum that the Queen is Sovereign and the Governor-General is Head of State. All monarchist groups at the Constitutional Convention are now united on this view.
[David Flint Spectator Australia 11 June 2022]