In a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald (10/9) former Prime Minister John Howard confirms that no promise was ever made in the 1999 referendum that there would be another based on the direct election model.
He is absolutely correct. Indeed Mr. Howard played a minimal role in the actual campaign, restricted to almost one major very reasoned statement.
The leading monarchist strategists met daily during the campaign; Mr. Howard never once joined us. This high command set the tactics for the monarchist cause.
We did not decide to "promise" another referendum; it was not even considered.
The monarchists were in no position to deliver this. Had we done this we would have been the subject of ridicule in the mainly republican media.
Mr. Howard states the position unequivocally:
I have no particular desire to revisit the 1999 debate about Australia becoming a republic...
However, I must correct the suggestion in Malcolm Turnbull's speech in Perth that I promised direct-election republicans, during the debate, that if the parliamentary model for appointing a president (the one favoured by Mr Turnbull) were defeated then there could be another referendum for direct election of a president within a few years (''Honesty is the best policy: Turnbull swipes at Abbott and 'deficit of trust' '', September 6).
I made no such promise. In fact, I was, and remain, even more strongly opposed to a republic with a directly elected president than I am to one where the president is appointed either by the prime minister or Parliament. I continue to support the constitutional monarchy in Australia.