October 31

No stomach for the politicians’ republic

In the ABC's Q&A programme on 30 September 2013, the two contenders in the Labor Party Leadership election, Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese were asked a question about Australia becoming some form of politicians' republic and also about ditching our National Flag. Not unsurprisingly, both repeated what is in the ALP Platform.


But neither has the heart to pursue the issue – both know a referendum would only lead to a bigger defeat than in 1999. The only reason Labor will push change to a politicians' republic in the new parliament will be if they sniff some way of wedging the government because of Malcolm Turnbull's new revived passion for pushing the republican cause, the last time with Labor's Wayne Swan.

Before the referendum the Labor Party as well as the Australian Republican Movement were keen both for changing to some politicians' republic and for ditching the Flag. The ARM went quiet on the Flag when Malcolm Turnbull turned in his job as a director of AUSFLAG, the ultra flag changers. Labor was slower on the Flag.

Then for the first time in years, our National Flag was shown at the official launch of the Labor campaign. ACM was the first outlet to notice this; our report is here.

…nominal support…

The question Lucy Moyle asked on Q&A was: "It appears that the Republican views present during the Keating era are somewhat diminished, with the ALP pledging support for the Australian Flag at the 2013 election launch. However under your respective leaderships, how would the ALP further approach the Republican debate – would you increase its relevance or would you lead the party to fully support the Constitutional Monarchy?"

Now it has to be remembered that until recently all of the leaders of the Australian Labor Party and indeed Liberal Party were constitutional monarchists and supporters of flag. Indeed, Labor twice recommended a member of the Royal family as Governor-General.

What emerged from this program is that both contenders give very nominal support for republican change, indicating or seeming to indicate a preference for a republic in which the president is not elected by the people, as in the 1999 model.

Both obviously are well aware of the fact that support for a republic has collapsed. This is illustrated in the failure of Labor to raise the issue in recent years, not since the 2020 Summit.

Both talked about a plebiscite and then a referendum. ACM has consistently argued about the dangers of a plebiscite. It is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the Constitution which prescribes a referendum where the people have all the details before and not after they vote. (Others spoke of ''good'' and ''bad'' plebiscites. In our view on this issue all plebiscites are bad.)

Both talked to of ''educating'' the people about the advantages of changing to a politicians' republic. That is an even more clear admission that they know there is little support for republican change in the country.

Both would be well aware of the fact that in 1999, 42 of Labor's 67 seats voted No. As Malcolm Mackerras pointed out in his excellent analysis, The Inner Metropolitan Republic, 51.4% voted Yes in safe Labor seats, but this fell to 45% in fairly safe and marginal Labor seats. Malcolm Mackerras 2000 The Inner Metropolitan Republic

This support will have fallen along with the decline in overall support.

As to the leadership, Mr Shorten was to win the Caucus election and the overall election. Mr. Albanese obtained a majority in the membership election.


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