We warned journalists in this column on 19 June,2006 not to believe everything republicans tell them. Otherwise they could be seriously embarrassed. Our warning arose out of a report by Kerri-Anne Walsh in the Sun Herald on 4 June 2006. This was to announce the exciting news that the republican movement was opening an office in Canberra. (The report did not mention that this was to replace the clandestine one the republican movement seemed to be running from the taxpayer funded Australian National University.) Ms. Walsh told readers that the new office would make access to republican politicians easier. Among these, she named – some would say defamed – two cabinet ministers, Mark Vail and Dr. Brendan Nelson. We assume the republican movement gave these names to Ms. Walsh when they were passing on the tip about their new office. But neither Mr. Vail nor Dr. Nelson is a republican. In fact, they are both well known constitutional monarchists. So letters to this effect had to be published by the Sun Herald, which, incidentally, did not bother to publish an apology.
It seems the republicans are still exaggerating the level of support they enjoy. On 1 February, 2007 The Australian had to publish, again without an apology, a letter from Dr. Brendan Nelson, the Minister for Defence, under the heading “ A model for stability”. This related to a report that the former republican leader, Malcolm Turnbull, had again sworn allegiance to The Queen, this time when he accepted appointment as one of Her Majesty’s Australian Ministers
The letter in The Australian reads:-
“Steve Lewis, in reporting remarks attributed to my colleague Tony Abbott, wrongly lists me as an advocate for an Australian republic ("Abbott’s tradition warning to Libs", 30/1). I support Australia’s current constitutional arrangements as a model for stability in an increasingly insecure world and will continue to do so as long as I have the privilege to serve in public office.”
Dr Nelson, who is to be congratulated for being a man of principle, points to something most Australians understand –the inherent stability of our continuing democratic constitutional system, one of oldest in the world.
This reminds me of an encounter I mentioned on the ACM website on 12 March 2005. This was when I was going to my car at Bondi Junction, I had passed – and tried to avoid – an unsteady figure on the car park ramp. He called out to me:
"David…David , whats your name? Ah yes, David Flint. Now, I’m a republican myself, and I’m sorry, but I’m p***ed. Yes I’m a republican, but that other thing – what’s it called – ah, yes, monarchy – it sure has one thing going for it. Stability. Yes, stability. Gees, I’m really p***ed – are you?” I assured him I was not, to which he replied: Waving, and almost losing his balance, he insisted:” Good on you Dave!"
He staggered off into the distance. I was relieved later to see he was not looking for his car but just the way out of the complex, which quite frankly, can be confusing, even to the sober. I recall that I was on my way to see wonderful performance of Hamlet at Bondi Beach performed by the Shakespeare Globe. This was appropriate as the current Prince of Denmark, and Princess Mary, were visiting Australia to great acclaim, demonstrating yet again, the magic of monarchy
In the meantime, journalists should take heed – check everything the republicans tell you. Otherwise you risk being seriously embarrassed