Over a year ago, we discussed with George Bougias, the National Chairman of the Greek Royalist Association, the need to bring into the fold the monarchist elements in our immigrant communities. George spoke at our 2003 conference, and his paper was very well received. I was delighted then to receive an invitation to attend the first conference of the Australian Monarchist Alliance in Melbourne on the weekend of 28 and 29 August 2004. I represented ACM with our Victorian Convenor, Brett Hogan. The conference was organized by George Bougias, with Bryan Stertern-Gill and Trevor Stanley. There were papers and/ or representatives from Sweden, Greece, Germany, Central Europe, Hungary and Cambodia. More details will be available on their site. The subject of my paper was timely-“Plebiscites-Against the Spirit if Not the Letter of the Constitution”
I was also asked to open the second day of the conference. I decided to say a few words about ACM. I thought I should tell the conference about the beginning of ACM from my knowledge. I was responding to the speech of Mr Philip Benwell, who was then campaigning for Malcolm Turnbull. He had informed the Wentworth Courier that this was a personal initiative, and not one of the Monarchist League which he chairs.
Mr. Benwell said that he did not know whether Peter King was a constitutional monarchist, and whether he had ever done anything to defend the constiution, which surprised me .So I told theconference about the birth of ARM at the lunch at Neville Wran’s where he made the famous statement which Kenneally recorded and cited in The Cane Toad Republic.
When the announcement of the formal establishment of the ARM was made, realising there was no corresponding monarchist organization, I decided to contact the President of the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party. There was of course no point in speaking to the ALP of which I was a lapsed member -they now had a policy to introduce a republic. I phoned the president, and we had lunch at the Provencale in King Street Sydney. We had never met before. He was totally supportive concerning the formation of what would be the ACM. He spoke to Lloyd Waddy, Michael Kirby and others.
The ACM was formed. The then President of the Liberal Party was in it from the very beginning. I said to the audience:” He is a man of principle who has never wavered from his commitment. And do you know whom I am referring to?" The audience looked at me quizzically.
“It was Peter King. Yes, the same Peter King."
I also made other comments about ACM-its role in the campaign, the number of supporters, the wise decision Lloyd Waddy took to have paid staff, how effective they were, how Kerry Jones ran rings around Malcolm Turnbull in the effectiveness of the Vote No committee compared with the Vote Yes Committee, how we pay tax, how our annual audit is such a trial, and the launch of CEFA. I told them how Peter King was a constant supporter of the constitution.
The decision whether to stand was of course one for Peter King and his wife Fiona Sinclair-King. But we did tell him that if he did stand, as a supporter from the beginning, he would no doubt enjoy the support of many constitutional monarchists.If he did not, that was his decision , and we would respect him for it.
It was clear all along, that on a “three party preferred vote” he had to rank first or second. In that position he would collect most of the preferences of the other candidate or candidates.
Now that Peter King is standing, an ALP poll published in The Australian of 6 September is most encouraging to his cause. Taken before his declaring he would stand, it shows Mr. Turnbull, who has been campaigning extensively, with a surprisingly low primary vote of 30 %( Peter King won in 2001 increasing the vote and without even having to go to preferences), the ALP at 27% and Peter King at 25%. This should have risen after his declaration, and he stands a good chance of collecting the preferences of other parties. The Greens will be important. In the poll, voters were also asked whether they had a positive or negative opinion of each candidate. This shows that while Mr Turnbull is not geeting the new candidate’s honeymoon but is unpopular with voters, even with an extensive campaign in the streets and letterboxes of Wentworth (28:43). Peter King, on the other hand, is very popular with voters(50:16).
ACM of course is non-political. But we do tell our supporters which candidates are supporters of the constiution and the flag. they then make up their own minds.
Now it was said by some that if Peter King stood Labor would win. The opposite is more likely to have been true.. If Peter King had not stood, the ALP had a good chance of winning. After the "mother of all branch stacks", and a divisive preselection, many "rusted- on" Liberal voters were saying that without a choice ,they would either vote informal or preference Labor.There are of course many ALP voters who are constitutional monarchists, or who prefer the monarchy to most of the republican models on offer. But this group is larger among blue collar voters, who are not to be found in large numbers in Wentworth.
All that is hypothetical as Peter King has decided to stand.
Another point is that the poll revealed that ten per cent of voters in Wentworth had not heard of Peter King – this should fall after the spectacular opening of his campaign, which was a big story across the nation.
Only 4% had never heard of Mr Turnbull. The ALP candidate, David Patch was unknown to 29% of voters.As more people recognize Peter King this should increase his vote if they are more positive about him than Malcolm Turnbull.
No doubt Peter King believes that his campaign has begun very well.