There have so far been at least two republican stunts this Australia Day.The first was by inserting Sir Michael Parkinson, Commander of the British Empire, into the debate.
As Andrew Bolt writes in the Daily Telegraph (26/1), just being asked to give the Australia Day address should have stopped him from “making a goose of himself”.
… Malcolm Turnbull returns to the campaign..
That Queen Elizabeth is our sovereign is no more incomprehensible, Andrew Bolt says, than having an English TV star give the Australia Day address.
This prompted Malcolm Turnbull to return to the republican debate, declaring Sir Michael almost an Australian, while insisting The Queen of Australia is not.
The Queen is of course Australian, just as millions of Australians who hold the nationality of other countries are. Sir Michael is not.
Malcolm Turnbull has been silent on republicanism since a flurry of activity in London and Australia after he lost the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2009.
He even announced that he could now live with the people electing the president. How that must have surprised the “direct elect” republicans with whom he fought so robustly at the 1998 Constitutional Convention.
…winning is so difficult…
On Channel 10’s 7PM Project (25/1), a light hearted commentary on current affairs, he bemoaned the difficulty of changing the constitution, which he said was "almost impossible" – an exaggeration.
He stressed that not only must a national vote be won, there must also be a win in a majority of states.
But he has not always been concerned about the double majority.
When he was campaigning to change the flag back in 1993, he made this point to Ausflag’s Harold Scruby:
I disagree that it is easier to get a new flag than a republic. You are right in saying that a new flag does not require a constitutional referendum, but it is far too late in the day for any government to contemplate a flag change without at least a plebiscite.
A constitutional change does require both a national majority and a majority in four out of six states. It is important to bear in mind however that while only eight out of 42 constitutional referendums have been approved, of the 34 rejected proposals only five were supported by a majority of voters across Australia and only three of those attracted majority support in half the States.
So while it is correct that on paper the mechanics of a flag plebiscite are less formidable than those of a constitutional referendum, experience suggests that the "four out of six states" requirement is not so material.
…flag campaign resumed…
The second republican stunt was The Sydney Morning Herald in alliance with Ausflag resuming its campaign not only for some vague republic but also for some vague undefined flag.
They don't seem to care what the new flag is – as long as weget rid of the Australian Flag.
At least on this occasion it did not plaster its front page with selection of beach towels. The campaign was supported by celebrities- they are is trying to get firm endorsement from a group of former prime ministers. Just as they did for the referendum.
The Herald observed that the present flag came into being after Federation but “was not given Royal assent and adopted as the definitive flag until 1954…”
But in 1903 King Edward VII approved the design for the Australian Flag (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 8 of 20 February 1903).
It was left to the indigenous leader – and republican -Noel Pearson to bring some reality into the debate on changing our constitution and by implication our flag.
He wrote in The Australian (26/1):
If you put aside the indigenous question, there is no compelling case for changing the Australian Constitution.
Whether or not Australia becomes a republic is not a question of whether the Constitution works satisfactorily.
No matter what those passionately in favour of an Australian Republic may say, the nation is well served by the Constitution as it stands.