It is the considered judgement of HM Australian Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, that turning Australia into a republic would shake up the nation's "fundamental balance of power," one that has created one of the world's most stable countries. Speaking at the opening of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy 2007 National Conference in Sydney on Saturday, 25 August, 2007, Dr Nelson declared himself a monarchist, rather than a royalist. This distinction between different types of supporters of Australia’s constitutional system reflects the charter which has long guided ACM, for ACM is very much a broad church.The Sun Herald reported the opening of ACM’s conference with the following extracts from the Minister’s address. (This report appeared in its 26 August, 2007 issue.)
"We enjoy a stability which is the envy of many people throughout the rest of the world. A shift would see the nation leave behind a system that gave Australia stability, not through power wielded by the Queen or the Governor-General but instead it is the power they deny others. If you transferred that across to a person who may be elected in some form or another, either by the public or a majority of the parliament, then the fundamental balance of power in our country will change. People will expect, quite understandably, a person who is the president perhaps under a republic to exercise power in the name of what is popular."
The National Conference began on Friday evening 24 August, 2007 with an informal reception at which delegates from all over the Commonwealth were greeted by the National Convenor, the Executive Director and the leader of ACM’s parliamentary group in Tasmania, the Honourable Michael Hodgman. Mr. Hodgman also moved the vote of thanks to Dr. Nelson on Saturday morning.
After the Minister’s opening address, the National Convenor spoke to the theme of the Conference: “The Indispensable Crown: The Way Forward.” With the benefit of an audio and video presentation developed by Jai Martinkovits, he spoke on the strategies adopted and the campaigns ACM has been and will be involved in.
He was followed by Mr. Bruce Knox from the History Department at Monash University, who entertained the audience with a paper on republicanism, entitled ‘The Kraken Waking.” Mr Gilbert Mane, a school principal with legal qualifications spoke on that crucial issue “The Way Forward; Education.” He reported on a meeting with HRH The Prince of Wales at a major conference on education at Robinson College, Cambridge. He revealed that the Prince was a major benefactor of the initiative, and told the audience how impressive the Prince is. Both papers will be posted on the ACM site shortly. These papers were followed by questions and comments from the audience. After a lunch, during which appropriate videos were shown, the conference heard from a panel of young ACM delegates as to their activities and their successes in the republican debate. Alex Mathewson was twice winner of the Toowoomba branch ACM competition, and is now studying law at Bond University; Daniel Dykes from Victoria designed the present ACM site and continues to play a leading role in its development ; Thomas Flynn has accepted appointment as ACM National Executive Director, in succession to Tony Abbott and Kerry Jones; Stephen Copeman is the Young ACM Convenor; Ed Copeman is a law student at Sydney University and Simon Frame, who spoke last year, is a councillor at Hunters’ Hill.
Ed Copeman told the delegates of the success his team enjoyed in a debate on republicanism at the Sydney University Law School. The voting by students there for the existing system reminded delegates of the recent vote in Victoria , where ACM was represented by our International Convenor, George Bougias. And in the background, the by young ACM staff, Thomas Flynn, Teresa Ragusa, William Church and Jai Martinkovits ensured the smooth operation of the conference. In contradiction to the republicans quite vain claim that “no new monarchists are being born” ( pace Nicola Roxon, MHR) and the chilly assertion that “republicans only have to wait until this generation dies” ( pace former Senator Susan Ryan), these youthful contributions, and the report on youth polling, are a firm indication that our constitutional monarchy is firmly entrenched in Australia.
The final session consisted of reports from convenors of ACM’s Divisions and selected branches. The national report and a number of divisional, branch and convenor’s reports were tabled, and the stage was filled with convenors and their representatives speaking to their reports, answering questions and considering comments from the delegates. A National Council meeting followed with one agenda item, The Way Forward. Much of the time of that session was dedicated to a discussion of the latest web based campaign, ELECTION WATCH, which joins the others, REPUBLIC AUDIT about the burdensome cost of republicanism, RETURN THE GOVERNOR! and KEEP THE FLAG!
Thomas Flynn, the speaker at the conference dinner, gave an amusing and erudite address. And on the following day, delegates were treated to a visit to see something truly remarkable, Jim Frecklington’s State Coach Britannia which will soon be presented to The Queen. This is a remarkable mixture of the traditional, of exquisite art, of modern technology, and a time capsule of our common history. When it is received in London, I am sure that it will create enormous interest and fascination, not least because it was conceived and realised in such a young country. The conference, the eighth since the 1999 referendum concluded in a state of optimism and caution. Optimism because we know a republic is anything but inevitable, cautious because of the machinations of the republicans, concentrated as they are in politics and the media.
The conference was once again a strong endorsement of our mission: to preserve, to protect and to defend our heritage: the Australian constitutional system, the role of the Crown in it and our Flag.