Rejoicing in the change of oath at the swearing in at Government House on 3 December, 2007, Alan Ramsey says ( The Sydney Morning Herald,8-9 December,2007) that when Monday night’s news broadcasts went to air, and in the following morning's “breathless newspaper accounts,” they all missed the real story –the reversion to the Keating oath which pointlessly removes, without any effect whatsoever, any reference to the Sovereign.
“Well, almost all,” he writes. “The lone newspaper to twig was the national capital's only daily, The Canberra Times, whose reporter Megan Doherty scooped her colleagues blind with her front-page exclusive "Queen goes missing from family affair".
Actually the story first broke on this website and was relayed to subscribers well before the Canberra Times hit the streets. It was accompanied with an explanation of how the Governor-General must have been advised to change this by the Prime Minister who had moments before been sworn in as an executive councillor. Ramsey is right on one point. It is extraordinary that the vast number of journalists involved missed the story, particularly given the media's unhealthy obsession with republicanism.
Ramsey gratuitously refers to The Queen’s age, but he is no spring chicken. It’s obviously hard work for this curmudgeon to produce one column a week. He typically soaks up much of the extraordinarily vast space allocated to him in Saturday’s Herald with slabs and slabs of quotations. True to form, he included on this occasion a predictably flawed editorial reviving many of the same tired old republican arguments exhaustively, endlessly and robotically recited in the nineties.
This gem was a plaintive plea in the Canberra Times "Let's revive the republic debate," by editor-in-chief Jack Waterford. To signal his imprimatur, Ramsey embellished Waterford’s position with the words “award winning,” referring no doubt to the series of awards journalists regularly give one another. We know about them because journalists report them as if they were more newsworthy than say, awards about life saving achievements in the sciences. If there is something journalists are passionately interested in, it’s themselves.
Anyway, this was the extract: "Republican sentiment remains strong in Australia, despite the efforts of monarchists to argue the case is now closed. The departure of Howard and the return to power of Labor is an opportunity to bring the issue back onto the public agenda …
"It is a sign of our growing maturity as a nation that we should want to discuss such issues. Indeed, many of our neighbours wonder why we keep putting it off. That debate will not be about rejecting a Queen for whom many Australians have high regard but about the appropriateness of a foreign-born hereditary monarch continuing to be our head of state. For Australia to at last carve out a fully independent and mature role for itself on the world stage, that debate needs to happen sooner rather than later."
So being born in another country should be a barrier to holding office in Australia, should it? That would have excluded many great Australians from holding office. I wonder what immigrant Australians would think if they were told that’s the republican position.
As in 1999, the editorial would have us believe that the streets of Jakarta, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are filled with their citizens demanding to know why Australia hasn’t become a republic. And apparently our constitution is a barrier to our full independence. Tell that to the Canadians and the New Zealanders.
The people’s 1999 decision on the model and question freely chosen by republicans, and supported by a political, media and celebrity juggernaut, could not have been clearer.