November 4

No vision in the “Failed Republic”

The pointer on the front page of The Australian on 4 November was encouraging for the newspaper’s many monarchist readers.

It read simply ”Failed Republic”.

This was after all the very newspaper which, under a different editor, was once the campaigning flag bearer of the republican movement.

In the last week of the 1999 campaign, The Australian actually offered bumper stickers calling for a Yes vote to its readers. It is doubtful that this gained the Vote Yes campaign even one more vote. But it further alienated a very large number of readers who saw through the bias in the reporting which had so damaged The Australian’s status as a serious newspaper. All praise to the present editor Chris Mitchell and the former opinion editor Tom Switzer for bringing back a sense of fairness and balance.

….no vision…


But let us return to 2009. The front page of the insert, the November issue of The Australian Literary Review, refers boldly to “The Slow Death of British Australia.”  This is a book review by Nick Bryant, the BBC’s Sydney correspondent.

The actual headings of this 3000 word book review is” Republic awaits eureka moment”…( and) … “The republican movement has failed to produce an irresistible and animating vision of a monarch-free Australia.”

The review goes from page 3 to page 5, where there is a summary, in red, “The notion of dual allegiance, federation under the crown, quickly became embedded and deeply entrenched.”  The review concludes on page 9.

In Nick Bryant’s view, the book, by a Melbourne based academic Glenn Patmore, “Choosing the republic” (UNSW Press, 256pp, $34.95 ) does little to stir the republican soul.

…not “the” republic, it’s “a” republic …

The book would be better called “Choosing a republic”, not “the” republic.  There is not such a thing in Australia as “the” republic. This is just a device to create some faux united front among constitution changers which just does not exist and never will. There are two diametrically opposed groups, together with smaller ones.

Of course for those of us who like to use the well established synonym for constitutional monarchy, “crowned republic”, the book should be called ”Choosing a politicians’ republic.”  

A republican recently said to me” I know this will distress you, but I am slowly coming to the conclusion that Australia is a monarchical nation.”   The first four paragraphs of the review confirm this.

 …British overtones…  


“The aftermath of the most calamitous disaster in Australian peacetime history had peculiarly British overtones," the review opens.  Nick Bryant  continues: "When the dead were honoured at a memorial service at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, the first speaker to receive a round of applause was not the premier nor a member of the emergency services, but the Princess Royal, who read out a two-week-old message of condolence from her mother, the Queen. At first the ovation was tentative and slightly stumbling, but quickly it grew in volume and intensity, suggesting to the global television audience that many of these grieving Victorians remained loyal Elizabethans.”

“Weeks later, in the run-up to the bushfire benefit concert held jointly at the MCG and SCG, I was contacted by the public relations team handling the event, who told me in whispered tones that its emotional high point would come from a dramatic, though highly secret, video presentation. At the appointed hour, the giant screens on either side of the rain-pelted stage crossed to Britain. There, they revealed the headline act: the royal princes William and Harry. After these commemorations were over, attention naturally turned to the official inquiry, the royal commission.”

“Last month saw yet another regal postscript: a visit from John Brumby to Balmoral, to update the Queen on the progress of reconstruction, the first time apparently that a premier has been granted an audience with her. Brumby, an avowed republican, brought with him a gift of Victorian tartan and an invitation for the Queen to visit his state next year at the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, an event where Australia will be heavily represented, and motivated in part by that long-held, if fading, desire to balance the historical ledger.”

“For those confident in the belief that modern Australia is "out of colonial embrace", as Kim Beazley once put it, these stately trappings offered unsettling evidence that the umbilical relationship is still very much intact. The country has yet to perform what Donald Horne called the "final casting off", with this month marking 10 years since the failed referendum that republicans hoped would deliver that definitive break with the past.”  

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