The parliament and the people must decide whether Australia becomes a republic, the Governor-General Michael Jeffery declared last Sunday: The Age website, Sunday, 22 January, 2006.
Speaking from Kalgoorlie on Saturday, Major General Jeffery said: "I have served our country proudly as a soldier, state governor and as Governor-General," The Sun-Herald reported on 22 January, 2006.
"In this role, I fulfil all the functions of a head of state on a daily basis…I would encourage all Australians to care more about their mates, families and themselves."
Major General Jeffery was speaking in response to a curious and completely unjustified attack by the republican movement which claimed the Governor-General had entered the republic debate.
This curious over-reaction can only be explained by their disappointment as to the impact of their “mate for head of state” campaign, as well as the state of their movement, which former Media Watch presenter and Fairfax commentator David Marr recentl said is "near -comatose” .
In Sydney, only 46 to 50 organizers and journalists turned up for their much promoted campaign on Bondi Beach. We know that this pattern was repeated across the country – other wise the more republican media would have been filled with stories about the success of those functions.
The republican movement’s new chairman, Mr. Ted O’Brien, said the intervention was inappropriate. "As the Queen’s representative in Australia, the Governor-General, by convention, should be non-partisan and rise above the politics of the day," he said.
"It is unacceptable for him to weigh into the debate over an Australian republic in this manner."
It is inconceivable that Mr. O’Brien could draw such a conclusion. The Governor-General has behaved impeccably.
Mr. O’Brien should apologise for this attack.
We wonder if this is a distraction to draw attention away from Sunday’s fiasco, and The Australian editorial on 23 January, 2006, which referred to the campaign as one of the republican movement’s “ standard stunts".
The editorial dismisses the “simplistic statement’, A Mate for Head of State as “cute but irrelevant”.
The Australian says this slogan will fail to excite attention for the same reason that the republican push has petered out since the November 1999 referendum: nobody much cares.
As to the recent Newspoll, the editorial points out that only 46 per cent of people polled declared themselves republicans, the same number as last year and well down on the majority support the cause enjoyed at the beginning of the decade. The editorial’s most crushing observation is this:“But even worse for fervent republicans, once-committed supporters are abandoning them. The number of strong believers in the need for a republic dropped by 5 per cent to a bare quarter of the community. In comparison, the Crown’s cause has stayed stable for years at about 35 per cent. And with 20 per cent of people indifferent to the issue, the republic is obviously off the agenda for the moment.
" Even the prospect of Charles III — and his consort Camilla — does little to excite Australian ire, with support for a republic after Queen Elizabeth goes rising to only 52 per cent.”
Given The Australian, under a different editor, was the standard bearer of that mighty phalanx of republican media which so vigorously campaigned for a republic in the nineties, this must be extremely dispiriting to the republicans .
But this in no way justifies their foolish attack on our Head of State.
The Age quoted a spokesman for Major-General Jeffrey advising that the Governor-General’s view had not changed from those made in his 2005 Australia Day address when he said any decision on the issue was a matter for the Parliament and the people to resolve.
"His position on constitutional reform remains as he stated in last year’s Australia Day address when he said ultimately it was a matter for the people and the parliament to decide."
Until next time,