When Paul Keating suggested his republic could be known as the Teutonic sounding Federal Republic of Australia, most Australians thought he said the Feral Republic of Australia! But when we recently reported on the piece by Max Walsh's in The Bulletin (24 February, 2004) on Mark Latham's endorsement of republicanism, we did not anticipate that this would result in a further rift among republicans. Apparently there are republicans who see constitutional change as involving the neutralising of Australia! So their republic could not only be feral ,it could be neutral! (Incidentally we hesitate to say "the" Republic, as republicans are divided among themselves as to the model, while the ARM and the Senate Committee do not seem to know what sort of republic they actually want)
The following letters were published in The Bulletin in its 2 March, 2004 issue: Australia needs to become a republic to define our future in this increasingly dangerous world, wrote Mr Norm McMullen, of Dapto, in NSW. He described John Howard's ideals as obsequious, kowtowing, bending the knee, and hoping to please the powerful! The free trade agreement, he said, is an example of this. Peter Huw Davies, of Tennyson, SA found the prospect of another go at the republic as very exciting!
He challenges Max Walsh when he says that every poll we have ever had on the issue shows that a directly elected president is the only acceptable method. His authority for this-the deliberative poll just before the 1999 referendum, to which Kerry Jones gives a particular perspective in her book, The People's Protest, 2000,pages 196 and 197. Australians For Constitutional Monarchy wrote to point out that a responsible leader would surely only propose a change to one of the world's most successful constitutions if this were intended to improve it. We said it was disturbing then to read that the reason for Mark Latham's push for a republic is that he sees this as the ideal wedge issue against the Coalition. Surely after the landslide defeat he suffered in his own electorate on this issue in 1999, Latham should have realised that Australians are just not interested in politicians playing around with either their Constitution or their flag.
Former diplomat Alison Broinowski, of Paddington, NSW wrote that Mark Latham has a ready wedge to drive between those monarchists who claim the governor-general is our head of state and those who want the queen to continue in that role. (On this point ACM is very clear-we have always said the Governor General is the Head of State) As a republican she is delighted that Latham has made it one of his top priorities. Dr Broinowski also links republicanism with a wish to weaken or dissolve the US alliance. She says the alliance with the United States is an equally important aspect of our independence and Latham will do well to put it under the scanner. As interpreted at present, ANZUS seems to commit Australia to fight whenever and wherever the US wishes to "defend freedom ". This could mean missiles being pointed from Australia at China or North Korea, or Australians being sent into combat in Syria or Iran. The alliance also seems to offer basing in Australia of US troops or information about this than we had a year ago, before we joined the invasion of Iraq. Yet the consequences could be even more serious. A neutral republic, Doctor?
The letters from the republicans show them to be divided both as to the model and also as to whether
republicanism should be linked to neutralism! Until republicans can agree on the sort of model they want, and the foreign policy implications of constitutional change, they should continue to debate this in their salons, and leave the rest of us in peace. In the meantime ACM held a very well attended four hour meeting on 26 February, in an auditorium in Sydney, the first of many, where all speakers, young, middle aged and older Australians, were unanimous in their resolve to resist the republican push evidenced by the current Senate inquiry.
This explains why the republicans today are so coy about telling the people what is their preferred model. But how strange it is to want, so desperately, a fundamental constitutional change without having the foggiest idea of what they want! To use the argot of today, are these people for real?