Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone surprise attempt to reignite the republic debate on National Wattle Day on 1 September 2005 has divided republicans.
Her call for republicans to stop attacking the monarchy earned her a reprimand from the Australian Republican Movement.
Although now denied, the ARM resorted to some very personal attacks on the Royal Family during the 1999 referendum.
Indeed Senator Vanstone said the 1999 national referendum failed because republicans had personalised the debate and attacked the monarchy.
"It was an unnecessarily negative campaign towards the British royal family, and personalised. I don’t think Australians like personal attacks, they don’t warm to it," she said. "The royal family are simply doing a job that we’ve asked them to do. I think we should be thanking them. You don’t convince monarchists to vote yes by rubbishing the monarchy."
The republican campaign did not stop with the referendum.
On one of The Queen’s recent visits to Australia, the ARM arranged a protest on the road from the airport in Canberra. They had no more than about a dozen protesters, so they were well and truly outnumbered by the media. Their protest sign had an incorrect title-Queen of England, rather than one of her actual titles, such as Queen of Australia, or Queen of Canada, or Queen of the United Kingdom…
And as you would expect, Her Majesty graciously waived as she drove by.
More recently, the movement launched an attack on Prince Charles, hoping to use his marriage to advance their plan to force Australians to keep on voting until they finally agree to a republic. But Australians still remain indifferent to republicanism. And although the wedding was broadcast in the middle of the night a record audience watched.
Senator Vanstone said the previous republic debate had failed to galvanise the majority of "ordinary Australians".
The Senator advocates a minimalist model retaining the title Governor-General, which has been argued by former NSW Premier, Bob Carr.
(Incidentally Mr. Carr has applied to The Queen for permission to retain the title "The Honourable". It seems that some imperial titles are acceptable to republicans!)
Senator Vanstone said: "Our governor-general should become our head of state. Every player in our constitution should be Australian," she said.
The Convener of Young ACM, Stephen Copeman, said Senator Vanstone’s efforts to rejuvenate the republic debate among ordinary Australians would fail.
"Australians are extremely comfortable with the current model," he said.
He pointed out that Australia already has an Australian Head of State – the Governor-General.
During the referendum, Senator Vanstone made the extraordinary and highly improbable assertion that if Sir Robert Menzies were alive today, he would be a republican!
The Senator repeated this curious practice of claiming that she knows what is in other people’s minds – in this case her Sovereign’s.
The Age reported her as saying: "At the Commonwealth Games, if the Queen comes, she is the Queen of England and the Queen of Australia, but who do you think she’s going to be hoping wins?"
But isn’t the Senator doing what she told the republican movement not to do- using the Royal Family in her campaign?
According to Christopher Pearson the Senator erred in the way in which she referred to The Queen. Apparently the Senator meant this reference as a joke. But it did not go down well and some people walked out.
According to Chrisopher Pearson, raising the republic in a speech to a meeting of Liberals from Higgins, Peter Costello’s electorate, was a distraction.
"Plainly she’s in diabolical trouble over her handling of the immigration portfolio and relying on a proven diversionary tactic. Given the forum, she’s probably trying to shore up her position in a post-Howard ministry as well.
As one veteran of the 1998 Constitutional Convention remarked, it was a case of "one more republican speech, but still no model to speak of".
Until next time,