March 16

Republicans clutching at straws

After their ludicrous and failed “mate- for- head- of- state” campaign, the republican movement  wheeled out their  tired  arguments about the head of state, in time of course to  co-incide with The Queen’s Homecoming. They were no doubt worried by the larger crowds, with many young people, and the almost total lack of interest in the nation in republicanism as an issue of any relevance .

So the  NSW Premier’s used  the term head of state more than once when welcoming The Queen in Sydney,and the Leader of HM Loyal Opposition, Kim Beazley emphasised it in Canberra.( At least he did not talk about a republic as he did  at a lunch in Sydney during her first visit after the referendum.)  

In The Australian on 14 March 2026  “Royals welcome as guests, not masters”, Ms Anne Henderson decreed that it was now “pointless to argue that the Governor-General is head of state.”

I sent The Australian a letter in which I referred to this claim that argument was pointless, asking:
“ Why then has no republican authority attempted a detailed response to Sir David Smith’s comprehensive submission to the 2004 Senate Republic Inquiry, developed even further in his recent book? In any event this is really a diplomatic, not a constitutional law term. The Governor General is held out internationally as our Head of State. He is received as such, sitting with other heads in the front row at the Pope’s funeral. He was accorded a separate audience by the Emperor of Japan, a courtesy reserved on that occasion only for Heads of State.Ms Henderson says, without any evidence, that the debate has disturbed many at Clarence House. Well Professor George Winterton, a constitutional law expert and a republican, is on the record as saying the debate is “arid” and “irrelevant”. Ms Henderson omitted to mention her particular interest in the subject from her high position in the republican movement. That movement’s current quandary can best be summed up in this  mantra: “We want a republic and we want it now – but we haven’t the foggiest idea what sort of republic we want ” Yours etc”

The Australian, which in its editorial on the homecoming on Monday, 13 March, 2006, “Old friend in town” reminded  republicans, excited by an internet poll, that a “Newspoll on the issue, published in January (2006) found that just 46 per cent of Australians polled viewed themselves as republicans, well down on the majority support for the cause at the beginning of the decade. Even the prospect of Charles III and his consort Camilla does little to excite the nation’s interest, with support for a republic after the Queen goes rising to just 52 per cent.”

Then , on 15 March, 2005  The Australian published a letter from  Brett Hogan, under “ Republicans clutch at straws to demonstrate support”

“They say a drowning man will clutch at anything and the fact that the Australian Republican Movement’s national chair, Ted O’Brien (Letters, 14/3), has been reduced to spruiking an internet poll to justify support for the fading star that is an Australian republic proves the point.The ARM continues to treat Australians with contempt by refusing to tell us what sort of republic they want us to have and subjecting us to yet more drivel about "our children having the right to dream about … filling the top office in the land" and "our head of state wearing the green and gold", and so on. At least monarchists and republicans can agree on one thing: neither of us seem to know what the republicans are campaigning for.“On the same day,reports appeared in the British media, including the London Daily Telegraph , about interviews given by the Prime Minister, John Howard. In this he was reported as saying: "I do not believe Australia will become a republic while the Queen in on the throne……Beyond that, I don’t know."

And how could he? Think back two decades. There were two superpowers, the cold war continued , the  USSR still existed . Iraq was at war with Iran. Malcolm Fraser was prime minister- and a firm  monarchist. So was Doug Anthony, Peter Costello, Sir Zelman Cowan. The internet was unknown to the public.
Mr. Howard has neither said that Australia will become a republic nor that one is inevitable.
Yet this has set the republicans into another frenzy.

They are clutching at straws.


homecoming, mate for head of state, Royal Visit

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