Why the sausages?

The Mate for a Head of State campaign was launched by leading republicans in 2005 to raise public interest and support for a vague undefined politicians’ republic. Widely reported in the media, it turned out to be a most embarrassing failure.

Bondi Beach: the high point of the mate for head of state campaign

The high point of the Mate for Head of State campaign was to be a series of “sausage sizzles” on the Sunday before Australia Day, 22 January 2006.

And what publicity they had had in the media! It must have been worth millions. They had Peter FitzSimons and other media celebrities on side with substantial media promotion. Some reports were balanced, for example, 2GB’s Jim Ball and Channel 7’s David Koch, both of whom ran stories where the other side was allowed to speak.

So you would think with all that , in a city of over 4 million people and a state of about 7 million people, a few interested members of the public would turn up for the main feature of the day. This was the widely advertised “Beachside Brunch & Sausage Sizzle” between 10:30am-12:30pm in the Biddigal Reserve, a pleasant grassy rise just a hop step and jump to North Bondi Beach.    

The republican movement’s big guns duly arrived for their sizzle, commandeering the only public barbecues at the end of the beach. We wondered whether Waverley Council, still mired in the controversies over its ban on our Australian flag flying over the Bondi Pavilion, and charging lifesavers to park their cars, actually consented to moving out ordinary Australians for the purposes of this political campaign.  So who turned up? An observer told us forty six, and a journalist who interviewed me said “about fifty.” But that included the republican big guns and the media!     

Later, when my description of the fiasco at Bondi Beach was published in The Australian, these figures were challenged by an extremely irate and prominent republican. After some exchanges, when I asked him how many actually came, he insisted there were 300. But he was referring to the number of sausages, not the number of people. (And in any event we do not know whether the sausages were republican or monarchists.)  And the public? Hardly anyone, it seems, notwithstanding the massive publicity. Not even for a free sausage!  

And in the meantime, crowds were queuing up a few yards away for a sausage sizzle at the North Bondi Surf Club. But these non-republican sausages weren’t free- they had to pay $1.30 for one sausage.

But this was for a good cause, and Australians are interested in good causes.  Rank and file Australians are obviously not at all interested in a republic. Not at all.  As we said, who will they blame for this fiasco?