February 26

Pressure on PM to rush republic

Kevin Rudd has been issued with a "progressive left" challenge to “drastically accelerate the shift to a republic,” according to Dennis Shanahan, Political Editor of The Australian 26 February, 2008 (“PM hears long-lost call of the Left.”)

In a series of essays edited by Melbourne academic and former Fairfax columnist Robert Manne, a number of apparently self styled “public intellectuals” have directed a series of appeals to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Shanahan makes the point that many of the ideas are not only “politically difficult,” some are suicidal. A number are directly opposed to Mr. Rudd's stated position before the election.

These public intellectuals are quite brazen. Imagining that his "thinking may be different now that he has succeeded in winning the election," they want Mr. Rudd to open himself up to charges of bad faith, if not broken promises.

A senior research fellow at Sydney University and republican advocate and historian Dr Mark McKenna, urges Mr Rudd to give priority to creating a republic.

…call to abandon head of state argument…

Dr. McKenna is one of two prominent republicans who have suggested in recent years that the republicans abandon their campaign that a republic will ensure we have an Australian as Head of State.

 I remember making the point in an encounter with Dr. McKenna on the BBC during the referendum campaign that the Governor-General is Head of State.

Constitutional monarchists have taken some comfort from these arguments. There can be no doubt that there is a widespread acceptance that the Governor-General is Head of State.  

 Other proposals to Mr. Rudd are to introduce a charter of rights, a constitutional preamble recognizing indigenous Australians, to do away with 99-year leases on Aboriginal land,  overhaul negative gearing , ban any new coal-fired power plant in NSW, limit the first home owners grant, tax the family home, and introduce punitive laws on electricity generation and car emissions.  

….Mr. Rudd owes them nothing…. 

This call from “friends” of the government is unlikely to be welcome.

In any event, if such an acceleration of the republican proposal were to occur, rather than the result  of a call by friendly public intellectuals, it would be  more likely to come from  of an internal factional deal either about another totally unrelated agenda, or about positions which are to be filled.

 A recent example was when  the New South Wales government suddenly revived[i], in the dead of night, a dormant bill to end the politicians’ oaths of allegiance to the Sovereign, and in the week before the last Royal Visit.

This puerile insult was most likely the result of some deal whereby a lunatic fringe, who wanted to make a point, had  promised support on  some unrelated matter.

 It is hard to believe that the whole government of New South Wales would have acted so shabbily without at least some resulting advantage.

But this is how politicians can operate.That is why we don’t want the Australian Crown replaced by more politicians.

The Prime Minister would be well advised to ignore this impertinent and foolish call for him to leave himself open to charges of acting in bad faith and breaking promises.

Mr. Rudd won the election by his efforts. It was not because of and indeed, it was in  spite of the opinions  of a claque of self styled public intellectuals.

He owes them nothing.

[i] See this column, 15 March 2006


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