"PREMIER BEATTIE REOPENS DEBATE ON REPUBLIC"
This was the headline in the Courier Mail on Saturday, 22 January 2005 to a report that the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie had called for the republic to be put back on the national agenda. He says the issue has been badly handled.
While the republic was originally put on the agenda by Mr. Keating, the campaign in the 1999 referendum was led, for the opposition, by Mr. Beazley, with Mr. Turnbull speaking for the ARM.
The result for Mr Beazley was a defeat nationally and in every state, including his home state, Western Australia. In spite of massive political and media support, it was a landslide.
And the bill for this folly from its inception was in the vicinity of $150 million-all diverted from the education, health, transport and other budgets.
Mr. Beazley put the republic back on the national agenda in 2000 when he announced that if elected in 2001, Australians would be voting not once, but three times in a convoluted and expensive process, a cascading series of plebiscites and a federal referendum.
We have heard of creeping republicanism, but this is republicanism by exhaustion!
The bill for the republic, at the end of the process, would have climbed to about $360 million! ( This is based on republican testimony in the recent Senate inquiry)
Mr. Latham returned to this proposal for the 2004 election, but with the preposterous rider that the three votes be squeezed into the first term of a Latham government, which would have then been in constant campaign mode with little time for anything else.
Although denied by some of its backers, this convoluted process is designed to produce yet another politician, a directly elected president, who will have a mandate larger then the prime minister of the day. Each election would cost around 100 million, including the public funding of the candidates.
The meter would never be turned off. Then there would be the necessary changes to uniforms and symbols, including the armed forces. And as The Age says, the Flag would have to change. The republicans would go back to their previous position on that. Far worse would be the consequences of the flawed model Mr Latham said he preferred.
Fortunately, the deleterious consequences for stable government of trying to marry the Westminster system with an elected presidency with considerable powers are so obvious that those leading republicans-Professor Craven and Mr. Turnbull – confidently predict that once Australian voters have the debate the Founders of our nation ensured we must have before we change our Constitution, the proposal will suffer a defeat even greater than the 1999 landslide.
This issue has now been before the people seven times-the referendum, the convention election and the last five federal elections. And the fact that the republic did not emerge as a lead issue in the last two elections indicates the absolute disinterest the people have in fundamental constitutional change.
What the Australian Labor Party can do to persuade the electorate that it is readiy for government is to demonstrate a concern for the issues which are in the minds of the rank and file. Whenever a politician raises the republic, Australians are beginning to conclude that politician is in danger of being out of touch with mainstream Australia.