One sign of independence is control over immigration. When the Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901, one of the first things done was to decide who should come into the country.
This was the White Australia Policy. The British protested. They said it was racially discriminatory.
The Australian government and Parliament compromised. The Policy was formally replaced with an arbitrary- and cosmetic- dictation test. The British gave up – after all it was a matter for Australia to decide.
All that is history.
Now the British are considering abolishing residency visas based on British ancestry.
They are considering a points system based on competence in English, skills and other compatibility tests.
Just like ours.
That of course may make it easier for more Australians to work in the UK.
But the republicans have rushed in to say that because of this we should become a republic.
The Victorian ARM leader says we should become independent, or more independent. A caller to the ABC said Canada was more independent.
That is wrong – we could not be more independent. And some find that Canada is more Royalist than Australia.
The fact is that we don’t offer the British visas based on Australian ancestry – and there would not be too many people in the UK who would fall into that category.
Of course it should be easy for Australians to work in the UK, and for the British to work here.
But that has nothing to do with the Constitution.
The republicans know this.
It is just another stunt to draw attention to a cause which nobody outside of the ARM is interested in.
Rather than engaging in such stunts, particularly the attempt to politicise the Commonwealth Games*, the republican movement should be more careful about its claims.
They have something of a record on this.
During the referendum, the republicans showed complete ignorance about what happens in the Commonwealth of Nations if a country becomes a republic.
We pointed out the correct procedure, which effectively gives any other country a veto.
But instead of admitting their error, the republicans frothed at the mouth. A former prime minister appeared on the John Laws programme and accused me of lying.
But we had a letter from the Commonwealth Secretary General completely confirming our understanding**.
So the republicans should be more careful with the facts. The ARM has just had its first national raffle, with a list of prizes given by named donors. At least one, the Service Station Association, denies that it gave anything for the raffle.
Is this another stunt – to suggest well known corporations and organisations support some sort of major constitutional change?
Or are they just being careless with the facts?
Until next time,
* For more on the Commonwealth Games stunt, read Brett Hogan’s piece in the Herald Sun
** The Secretary General’s letter is published in The Cane Toad Republic, 1999, page 191