March 25

Malcolm and the Mullahs



…Iran’s Mullahs excited by Australian republican chatter…   

According to the Tehran Times (31 January, 2008), a newspaper not noted for its interest in the Australian constitution, Malcolm Turnbull has indicated Australians would not vote for a republic while the country's monarch reigned.

"My own judgment is that the next time when you would have your best prospects (of a republic) is at the end of the Queen's reign — when she dies or when she abdicates,” Mr. Turnbull, former head of the Australian Republican Movement, indicated.

Frankly, we find those words insensitive. He is talking about our Sovereign. It sounds as if  republicans are waiting like vutures for the end of the reign.  If they are, they will earn the disdain of rank and file Australians.

In any event, it seems  the mullahs were so delighted with the prospect of Australia becoming a republic they ensured that the contemplations of the Honourable Member for Wentworth be made available to the faithful across the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran.

The story was published under the  tasteless headline “Queen Elizabeth must die or abdicate for Australian republic.”

We can imagine the mullahs musing why would they need nuclear arms, why would they need to destroy Israel, why would they even need to defeat the Great Satan, when Australia is to follow Iran down the road to a republic?

The mullahs may well prefer Australia as a republic.

Frankly, we, like many Iranians, prefer Iran as it was under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, installed as Shah on the deposition of his German inclined father after a  British and Soviet invasion in 1941 during the Second World War.

The Shah’s position was subsequently weakened in 1978 when President  Valéry Giscard d'Estaing allowed the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini to operate a virtual government in exile from Neauphle-le-Château and then to return to Tehran as Supreme Leader on an Air France Charter. The French vainly hoped the Ayatollah  would favour them.

In the meantime President Jimmy Carter failed to follow through American promises to support the Shah. The Iranian revolution triumphed in 1979.  But the most cursory comparison between him or the current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the charming and erudite former Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi, indicate just how much better and more peaceful the world would be today if Iran were still ruled from the Peacock Throne.

We decided it was better not to  tell the mullahs that Mr. Turnbull is a convert to the view that an Australian republic is not achievable under the present reign, just as he is a convert – and one most welcome – to the retention of our Australian flag.

…Mr. Turnbull lays down four conditions…

But we should remind Mr. Turnbull of the other three conditions he has laid down for Australia becoming a republic. Of these, only  one is remotely attainable.

Mr Turnbull’s four conditions are:

1.     That any  referendum not be held during this reign,

2.     That there be a consensus among republicans about a model,

3.     That  there be little opposition and,

4.     That the question be short and simple.  

The republican movement, which has been wallowing in a state of lethargy since Mr. Turnbull left them, these days cannot even be bothered to decide what sort of republic they want.

So they think that if they just sit back, something will happen. Some sort of republic will fall into their laps, as it did in Tehran with French machinations and President Carter's impotence in 1979.

After all, a republic is inevitable, isn’t it?

They foolishly thought that the marriage of the Prince of Wales would deliver them some sort of republic.

Now they think an accession will do their work for them. The constitutional monarchists pray that an accession is many, many years away. Most Australians join with them on that.

But republicans should not assume from this that the constitutional monarchists are in any way terrified of the consequences of an accession for the Australian Crown.  In fact, anyone who is well informed knows that the accession of the next Sovereign will in no way assure the republicans of victory.

Surely by now, the republicans know that their sloth cannot be camouflaged by headline grabbing stunts, and mouthing the mantra that a republic is inevitable?

  …Reuters’ manifest error…  

When we looked for the source of this story, we found that Mr Turnbull’s  comments on Australia becoming some sort of as yet undefined republic were in fact distributed around the world by Reuters on 27 January, 2008.

But the report included a serious factual error when it said that “opinion polls since 1993 have found the majority favour the country becoming a republic, with a president elected by popular vote. The 1999 vote for a republic was defeated because the model offered would have seen a president elected by parliament.”

This information being erroneous, we phoned Reuters on Friday evening 1 February 2008. We were given the relevant  journalist’s email address at Reuters. So we sent him an email explaining the error. We have received no reply, nor a telephone call.

We did not have the opportunity to advise Reuters they were also wrong about the Australian Head of State. In fact our Head of State will soon be in Israel.  That will not excite the mullahs. 


 …and fails to correct its mistake…  

So after almost two months, we assume Reuters will not correct its error. So we have to do it ourselves.

In saying opinion polls since 1993 have found the majority favour the country becoming a republic, Reuters have ignored the latest trends.

The last poll by Newspoll on 29 January 2007, which we reported here, shows support for a vague undefined republic had declined to 45%.  An in depth  poll in Western Australia shows that youth support for a republic is in free fall and is now down to 38%.[i]

That no Newspoll was commissioned in 2008, for the first time in many years, suggests that those who would commission this already suspect the answer. The trend is clearly down.  

Forty five per cent support for a vague undefined republic certainly does not indicate, as Reuters wrongly reports,  that  polls show “the majority favours the country becoming a republic.”


On all the indications from polling in referenda in Australia, such a low vote as this is a clear indication that a referendum would be lost by a significant majority. Typically, support for a proposition is high -until the public hears the other side. This is even when the mainline media is biased and favours one side, as they did in 1999.


The model put in 1999 was that chosen by the overwhelming number of republican delegates to the republican Convention.[ii]  

The referendum was defeated nationally,  in all states and in 72% of electorates.

Contrary to what Reuters reports there is no evidence whatsoever that had the model been different it would have passed.  Indeed the better opinion among republican experts is that would have been defeated by an even bigger majority.


Notwithstanding these errors this report went around the world, uncorrected.



[i] This column, “Support for republic in free fall”  6 September, 2006 


[ii] However it failed to be approved by an overall majority of delegates. Being the republicans preferred choice, Mr. Howard generously allowed it to be tested in well debated national campaign in which the mainline media and most of the politicians called for a Yes vote. The model and the questions were chosen by the republicans.



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