Paul Kelly, the Editor-In-Chief of The Australian at the time of the 1999 referendum, concedes that Australia will not become a politicians’ republic for a generation – at least. (The Australian 29/6) He was the republicans leading media advocate.
He now blames the republicans. They self-destructed, he says.
But in his book March of Patriots, he blamed the constitutional monarchists. He attacks them, savagely, for being “unscrupulous,” “destructive” and “disreputable”. Our argument was fraudulent, he said.
In an interview I conducted with former Prime Minister John Howard on 5 November 2009, he volunteered his unqualified view that ACM had behaved with honour.
This is corroborated by Cardinal Pell in 1998 at the 1998 Constitutional Convention. Speaking to a motion endorsing the republican model which went to the 1999 referendum, the His Eminence said:
“Yesterday the monarchists voted with discipline, integrity and honour. Lloyd Waddy was the very model of a modern major general. They did not vote tactically. Their virtue brought its own reward. Republican disarray yesterday was our own doing. The republicans know well that to divide is to rule even when the division is self-inflicted.”
Mr. Tim Fischer, former Deputy Prime Minister and republican, offered similar praise at the Corowa Conference 2001 where again we refrained from voting on the choice of republican models.
Mr. Kelly admitted to a constitutional seminar in 1993 that the media would give prominent and priority coverage to constitutional change because "the media has a vested interest in change – change equates to news and news is the life blood of the media.'
On this extraordinary admission, Sir David Smith writes: “In other words, the media would support constitutional change, not because it is good to Australia but because it is good for the business.”(Head of State, Macleay press, Sydney, 2005, page 189)
(Continued below )
My understanding of the duty of the press is not to advance an agenda in their coverage.
As The Times declared in 1851,” The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation.“
Or as the great editor of The Manchester Guardian famously said: "Comment is free; facts are sacred.”
These principles applied in 1999 and they apply today.
With the exception of some commercial radio programmes, the mainstream Australian media behaved badly during the referendum. I am told that some senior people today regret this.
But as the independent and eminent authority, the former British editor, Lord Deedes wrote in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999, he had rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers had displayed ”more shameless bias.” One and all, he said, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end. (Twilight of the Elites, 2003, page 64)
….Head of State….
Until the referendum campaign few Australians would have known or used the term head of state. There was no mention of the term in the many entries in the 2000 odd pages of the first addition of the Macquarie dictionary, 1981. (The Cane Toad Republic, 1999, page 41)
But to Mr Kelly it's all simple. " For the record, and for republicans and monarchists alike,” he says” The Queen, not the Governor-General, is our head of state, a somewhat elementary point we need to get right."
It is not elementary Mr. Kelly. The determination of the meaning of this esoteric term necessarily involves a consideration of international and constitutional law. Mere assertions have no weight.
So I sent this letter to The Australian:
“It is with extraordinary confidence that Paul Kelly asserts (29/6) that the Governor-General is not the head of state. But the term is not constitutional, it is diplomatic. It was adopted in the 19th century to replace the generic term, "Prince".
“Its use as a term of art is governed by international law and not constitutional law. As such there is absolutely no doubt that the governor -general is head of state. She travels overseas as she did to Africa as such. And everywhere, she received as head of state.
“It was in 1907 that five of the principle founding fathers who actually wrote our constitution, sitting on the High Court of Australia, unanimously described the governor- general as the” constitutional head of the Commonwealth” and the governors as the “constitutional head of state”.
“In the 1999 referendum official booklet, the republicans repeated Mr Kelly's argument nine times. The No case declared the Governor- General to be head of state.”
Despite Mr Kelly's best efforts, the No case prevailed nationally, in all states and in 72% of federal electorates.