Just as Mr Peter FitzSimons and the republican movement are about to pin on their gold ribbons and launch the “My little mate for Head of State” campaign, one of the nation’s most prominent republicans has dropped a bombshell.
And although it is almost Christmas, we believe his fellow Australians are entitled to know what this leading republican actually thinks of his country and his fellow Australians.
The national campaign director for the 1999 referendum and the successor to Malcolm Turnbull as supremo, Greg Barns, has pulled no punches.
And it is not as if he is no longer a spokesman for republicanism. He uses his column for this, speaks publicly on the issue, and makes media appearances. His status as an accredited republican grandee has never been publicly questioned by the republican movement.
Back in 1999, Mr Barns had been a particularly aggressive and at times unrealistic campaign director. I remember when he and Malcolm Turnbull tried to have two words deleted from the referendum question. Believe it or not, these were “president” and “republic”! Even the republican media wouldn’t swallow that.
When the results were coming in showing a landslide defeat, he actually wanted Malcolm Turnbull to claim victory! Sensing that this wouldn’t go down well, Mr Turnbull declined, but did make the claim that if John Howard were to be remembered for anything, it would be as the “man who broke the heart of the nation”
Mr. Barns follows the tradition of those newspaper letter writers who whinge: “I am ashamed to be an Australian,. He bitterly declared that our country, Australia, is a “pigsty”. It is , he claimed, “…a nation which periodically makes world headlines for its racist outbursts…”
This was in his column in The Mercury on 19 December, 2005, republished in On Line Opinion, Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate.
He believes that Australia is “… a backwater, a racist and inward-looking country that turns its back on adventure and the opportunity to do better; a country that has rejected leaders who provide the chance for a multiracial, multicultural and independent nation to prosper in the region where it is, Asia-Pacific”.
He accuses Prime Minister John Howard of being partly to blame for the violence in Sydney and for the “persecution of Muslims and Arab Australians in the community”.
For those 20 years when the elites achieved so much of their agenda, Mr Barns was overjoyed. He says that he thought Australia might move from its "Anglo-European racist conservatism" towards becoming truly cosmopolitan and modern. He says that Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating all believed in an Australia that was different from the one in which they had grown up.
Paul Keating, he wrote, promised an “exciting” Australia which finally rid itself of the British monarchy. But the electorate, though – "selfish and materialist, if not racist" – felt scared and voted him out, replacing him with the” most conservative” Prime Minister this country has ever had. They replaced the positive confidence of Keating with the” cringing, reactive conservatism” of Howard.
This didn’t, incidentally, stop Mr Barns from working for Mr John Fahey, a minister in the Howard government.
According to Mr Barns, John Howard’s conservatism dismantled the policy of multiculturalism, and refused to let Australia grow up. He said this conservatism “forelock tugs” before The Queen and a monarchy that is “rancid and corrupt”, a phrase Mr Barns has used before, and not only about our monarchy. He was most unimpressed by Australian’s interest in Princess Mary.
Forgetting that Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a miniscule republican movement, he asks:” Why can’t Australia be more like Canada?”
Anticipating the inevitable question why doesn’t he leave, he says that to cut and run is cowardly.
We are indebted to know what the republican leader thinks of his country. To what extent is this shared by the rest of them?
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
And until next time,