January 12

Prime Minister warned against republicanism

Prime Minister Paul Keating was warned in 1992 not to push republicanism, writes Paul Kelly in his recently published book, March of Patriots. He says that in September 1992, six months before the election, Keating's top aide, Don Russell, urged him to reassess the republic push.

In a memo to Keating, Russell wrote: "It is best if you make it clear that while you are not backing off one inch in your personal view that the symbols should change, such changes are not key issues at the moment."

Paul Kelly says Russell advised Keating to say: "I suspect it will take the better part of a decade to resolve how a republic would actually work (and) there are much more important things I need to do at present with my energies and time." 

Apart from establishing the Republic Advisory Committee under Malcolm Turnbull, and ensuring no one who wasn’t a paid up member of the politicians’ republic push, Paul Keating effectively accepted his advice.

                  Saying attributed to Lenin

…marvellous wedge….

With the near unanimous support from the Press Gallery, he was able to persuade some Liberals that the end of the constitutional monarchy was nigh, and that it was in their best interests to jump onto  the republican bandwagon.

It was a marvellous wedge to drive through the parliamentary Liberal Party, but with little effect on the Liberal rank and file. As Lenin is said to have argued, the communists could always rely on “useful idiots” in the West – especially in the media and politics – who could be swayed to support Bolshevism. 

So Paul Keating was able to seduce some Liberals to the politicians’ republic – and even Nationals when they had left politics.  Did it help him politically? Probably not.  He still lost the election in 1996.  It is doubtful that his republicanism attracted many votes.

In one clever stroke, the Leader of the Opposition Alexander Downer had completely neutralised what the media had tried to make a significant issue, a politicians’ republic. He announced that the next Liberal government would call a constitutional,  a policy followed  by the next Leader and the next  Prime Minister, John Howard.        


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