Writing on The Queen’s eightieth birthday, (“A dignified Queen and the irrelevance of the republicans”) the Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew West observed that Australian republicans are “as far from achieving their dream as they have ever been.” Continuing to offer nothing but a string of empty slogans, their plight, he said , was best summed up in the meaningless jingoism of "A mate for head of state". He said that his old friend Tony Burke, “one of the few genuine talents on the federal Labor frontbench“- points out that until those supporting a directly elected president can reconcile with the advocates of a president appointed by parliament, the republican cause is doomed. Apparently Mr. Burke is yet another former head of the republican movement. Mr West is a direct-election republican. He says he voted “emphatically” against the “elitist” model in the 1999 referendum. He wants a presidential election to be “a great contest of values.” He writes that he was “deeply unmoved” by the notion that any new head of state should be some "unifying national figure" elected in a bipartisan way by parliament. “Anyone who can muster the support of two-thirds of parliament in a partisan democracy must be someone who has never done anything, said anything, or stood for anything even vaguely controversial — or meaningful.” If we are going to stick with ceremonial figures, he believes, then he sees no point in changing the system. As a social democrat, he says we should not be ashamed to acknowledge that this country has been well served by such a “gracious, modest, compassionate, and estimable woman” as Queen Elizabeth II.
[The piece was posted to the Herald’s website on 20 April, 2006, attracting over 60 comments: http://blogs.smh.com.au/thecontrarian/archives/2006/04/the_queens_birt.html ]