Dr Nelson was the political guest on the ABC’s Insiders on 2 December, 2007. During the course of the interview Barrie Cassidy asked him his opinions on the constitution. He had the opportunity to correct an untruth being peddled about him by the republican movement.
This was in a story on the front page of MX on 29 November, 2007, the newspaper which is given away in Sydney’s busy underground network during the evening peak period. The headline proclaimed “RUDDPUBLIC;” it was underneath a photograph of Kevin Rudd, wrapped in the Australian Flag, with the flag also filling the background. It is unusual for this newspaper to lead with political and especially constitutional news.
It began “The Queen’s chances of staying our monarch are looking shaky. The republic ( note ”the republic,” as if the republican movement had actually been able to decide what sort of republic they want) is back on the agenda with advocates saying both sides are now likely to back a change..” After referring to Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull as having shown their republican colours, the newspaper said Brendan Nelson, ”Turnbull’s rival” has also “given in principle backing to a republic.”
This information about Dr. Nelson came from the republican movement. It is untrue. Dr. Brendan Nelson is a monarchist. MX did not check, but presumably relied on the assurances of the republican movement. They now know, as other media outlets are, to be very wary of what the republican movement tells them.
The Sun Herald’s Kerri-Anne Walsh published a similar claim from the republican movement about Dr Nelson and another Minister of the Crown on 4 June 2006. As we reported in this column on 20 June 2006, The Sun Herald subsequently published letters from the two named Ministers correcting this. So why does the republican movement continue to push this?
Dr. Nelson explained his very clear views on The Insiders:
BARRIE CASSIDY: What about a republic? Are you still a constitutional monarchist?
BRENDAN NELSON: I most certainly am. I think the current arrangements in Australia as we've seen over the last week or so serve our nation very well. However, I think it's very important that Australians at some point in the future and this is not the main constitutional issue facing Australia at some point in the future, I expect Australians will revisit the republican issue. My view on that is no more or less important than anybody else's. I will continue to argue it. The real constitutional challenge for us, Barrie, which is something I will be focused very much on in leading the alternative government, is how do we best govern ourselves as a federation in a world and a century vastly different from of that Henry Parkes? The key challenge for us is, how do we methodically, with an eye to our future, with a sense of vision of what we need our nation to be, how do we restructure responsibly and in a bipartisan way the responsibilities of the different tiers of government? The average Australian says to themselves: why does a woman in a developed country have a miscarriage in the toilet of a major suburban public hospital at a time when the same State Labor Government's stripping $18 million out of nursing salaries and yet the Federal Government as a consequence of good, sound management over 11 years delivers a $17 billion plus surplus and is able to fund and support a whole variety of things? It's not just hospitals, it's not just schools, it's business regulation, it's port infrastructure, it's rail. They are the real issues, Barrie. And here we are, Mr Rudd will be sworn in tomorrow as our Prime Minister. Here we are, he's not even been sworn in and it seems we are back to the future in terms of focusing on symbolism instead of substance.
BARRIE CASSIDY: You've just described his policy platform.
BRENDAN NELSON: Well, I haven't heard him express it in those terms but if that is his policy platform, which is in the best interests of Australia, and I'm looking forward to having a discussion with him about these things, I will be very happy to work with Mr Rudd in seeing that we get the relationship between our tiers of government right. Whether you are Labor, whether you are Liberal, what is most important is that we get governance arrangements right for our country and it's so obvious, Barrie, every day, we are dealing with issues which are a manifestation of a Federation that is increasingly letting us down in this century and that is one of the things that I will be focused on.