The argument that our Constitution is a ‘horse and buggy’ document has been doing the rounds for years –  even before republicanism became fashionable. On 11 July, 2006, The Sydney Morning Herald returned to the theme that would have its founders turning over in their graves- Australia must become a republic. Why? The answer is the same ‘horse and buggy ‘argument that Australians have heard for years. A republic, and more powers to Canberra will “ bring Australia into the 21st century, and … equip it for future growth and prosperity”

The Herald  takes great solace in the fact that Mr. Costello is” known to be a republican” and that the Liberal Party “contains, if not a majority, then a growing proportion of republicans.” The Herald admits that republicanism is not a first-order priority with many Australians. Then it predicts, hoping that the considerable investment of media resources in denigrating the Prince of Wales will one day bear fruit, that, “ time and the succession to the throne of Prince Charles will make it so.”

Support for a republic is solid, claims the Herald , without admitting three points. First, it is falling. Secondly, for the republicans, it is disastrously low among the young. Thirdly, a succession is making less difference than polls taken at the height of the campaign against Prince Charles initially suggested.  Then there is a vague admission, more an implication, that while the republicans are demand substantial change, they claim to have no idea of what sought of change they actually want. All the Herald can say about this is that “divisions persist over the form it should take”. If any other advocacy group did that, they would be ridiculed by the press. And what answer does our editor prescribe to the republicans quandary?  “Lengthy advocacy and public education.” One assumes this means more, even more money from the taxpayer to advance this minority obsession. As this is unlikely under Mr. Howard’s watch, the solution is clear in the warning: “Mr. Howard may not be the man of the hour.”

How annoying it must have been for the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald to have found on 14 July, 2006, that for the eight Labor Premiers and Chief Ministers,  Mr. Howard, and certainly not, Mr. Costello,  was very much the man of the hour.