The general view is that the republican movement is a shadow of itself. In a perceptive comment on union with New Zealand, former NSW Liberal MP Andrew Tink described it as “broad based. It was a minor point in a vauable addition to this long debate.
But New Zealand readers should not conclude that republicanism is widespread on this side of the Tasman. As two leading commentators – who are certainly not constitutional monarchists – have put it, the movement is “on life support” and “near comatose.”
True, the various republican groups are now circling over a bequest by the independent republican the late Clem Jones, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane. They no doubt hope this will revive them since Malcolm Turnbull has long turned off his generous subsidies. The lure of the bequest seems to have inspired some attempts at a facade of unity.
But predictably, there is still no agreement among them as to just what form of politicians’ republic they should put to the people. The fact is no one knows what the republicans want. In the meantime, the republicans still want the taxpayers to subsidise their campign. This is in addition to the eleven votes and inquiries already paid for.
The celebrities have drifted away, the other big benefactor has turned off the tap, the politicians know a referendum is doomed, and only the most “passionate” republicans remain. Although the media has decided that monarchist functions are mainly attended by the elderly – even when they are not – the republican core is certainly dominated by what may be called the Whitlamite generation.
In the meantime, Mr. Tink is right to conclude that recommendations by Australian politicians that New Zealand and Australia should become one are unrealistic (“New Zealanders: once were Australians, but never should be again” The Sydney Morning Herald 20 August)
After all, New Zealand would not accept the status of an Australian state in the federation negotiations. She is hardly likely to accept that status today, degraded as it has been by the politicians and judges. Having their national government in Canberra taking decisions, sometimes against the interest of New Zealand, is not attractive. New Zealanders are too smart to fall for that.
It might be different if the capital were in Wellington, half the seats in the Senate were elected by New Zealanders, half the new High Court were appointed by the New Zealand Governor on the recommendation of the NZ government, and a minimum of say, 30% of seats in the House were reserved for New Zealand.
New Zealanders might just be persuaded. It would probably improve the quality of government on this side of the Tasman. And we could share the haka.