The republican commentariat is distinctly unhappy about the The Queen coming home to Australia, and, more particularly, for the triumph it was.
Take the noted auteur, Peter FitzSimons. Last year he was having fun.He had, in secret meetings in Sydney’s law precinct, Philip Street, worked out a grand strategy to implement that wonderful plan, “a mate for head of state.”
Now he believes that The Queen’s triumphant homecoming means the republic is nigh. As the French say, quand les poules auront les dents, which means literally, when hens have teeth. Or as we say in English, pigs might fly.
You might recall the media beat up of the ‘mate for head of state” campaign led by the Doctors Henderson, Anne and Gerard.
This was surprising in itself. Dr Gerard Henderson is a serious commentator, who has moved to the right as the Howard government matured. It is difficult to understand how he came to be associated with something so obviously doomed from the moment it was conceived. Perhaps it was the insistence of the other Doctor Henderson, who is une très grande dame in the republican salons of the nation. Then there was the invaluable assistance to the campaign of the former republican leader Greg Barns , who has famously declared that because we are not a republic without borders, “Australian is a pigsty.” Notwithstanding their attempts to shake him off, he keeps coming back to “help” the republicans.
Now the big national event in the “mate” campaign was intended to be remembered as the new beginning, bigger even than the lunch at Neville Wran’s to form the republican movement which was immortalized by Tom Keneally. (For light entertainment read about “The Lunch at Woollahra” in The Cane Toad Republic, pages 17and 18)
It was to be the Great Republican Sausage Sizzle at that most Australian of places, Bondi Beach. I understand that the park where the republicans commandeered the public barbecues was to be renamed La Place de La République. ( Since the naming right are held by the Municipal Council of the Peoples’ Republic of Bondi-Waverley, and we know what they think of the flag, changing the name should not have been too difficult) Unfortunately information from The Australian reporter and my source indicate that the the Grand Republican Sizzle had become the Great Rpublican Fizzle.It only attracted about fifty people, and that most of them were republican heavies and organizers. Dr Henderson does insist there were 300 there, but he is referring to the number of sausages, not people. (In any event we do not know whether the sausages were republican or monarchists.)
It seems that rather than eating a free republican sausage, Australians preferred to line up to pay for sausages at the nearby North Bondi Surf Club. Just to remind you of how excited, indeed playful Mr. Fitz Simons was about his mate for the head of stat campaign, recall, if you will, his memo to me published in the Sun Herald on 15 January 2006, under the headline, “Right, Charlie” , which is not on line.
Now I am always touched by his use of the affetionate, indeed intimate name for me, “Davo”, but frankly, I do wish he would reserve it for when we are alone. The memo read:
"Memo David Flint
It’s working! That mild bollocking you gave me in the newsletter sent out to all members of Australians for Constitutional Fairytales went down a treat with Republicans and convinced them-more than ever-that I am one of them! They have no idea that my most earnest desire is to prostrate myself before His royal Highness Prince Charles and Her Royal Whatsit Camilla , on my back in a puddle of corgi pee, in the earnest hope that he might tickle my tummy while Camilla walks all over me. Bliss!
And I loved the thing about Charles having raised a quarter of a billion dollars for the disadvantaged! It was all that I could do not to shout out at our latest meeting of Republicans. But no, as promised, I have remained disciplined. Anyway, more details later. Now remember, David, your promise of secrecy to me. I want you to cut this out, and eat it!
Three cheers for the King,
I did but see her passing by,
Etc,etc, and so on,
Peter FitzSimons "
Now in his column in the Sun Herald on 19 March,2006, Mr. FitzSimons tries to put a different gloss on the triumphant homecoming. In “Short to reign over us” he writes:
"The Queen! ….. What is fascinating, however has been all the preening about what a triumph her visit has been, with all the hoopla and carry-on, and how it signifies we are further from a republic than ever. Really?
I know this will stagger you, but I rather put a different interpretation on it. During the opening ceremony of the commonwealth Games, particularly with the rendition of happy Birthday to Her Majesty, God Save the Queen and the general warm acclamation. I reckon it was more like a spectacular sunset than anything else. As is: You’ve been fine-ish, for 50 years or so, done a good and dutiful job in a situation that was not of your own making,but you really are not much longer to reign over us, and dull King Charlie will reign over us for a very short time before we’ll say’See yers’"
In your republican dreams , Mr. Fitz Simons . You are drawing a very long bow to assume, on no evidence whatsoever , that this is what the people were thinking. The reception which those young monarchists received when they handed out the words of our two Anthems certainly suggested nothing of the sort.
Last week, on the train, I could not help noticing that the beautiful young lady, of Asian origin, in the seat in front of me was completely engrossed in one page of a magazine throughout the journey. And, Mr. FitzSimons, it wasn’t the latest text from the republican movement, some argument by the Doctors Henderson. Looking out from the page was a very handsome Prince William , in a morning suit. That is something which only now the more astute republicans, such as Mike Steketee are realizing. The younger generation are substantially less interested in a republic than the boomers. A republic is not inevitable.
And as Barrie Cassidy said on ABCTV’s Insiders programme on 19 March, 2006, until they can work out an acceptable model, the republic is off the agenda.