Julia Gillard’s recent admission that another republican referendum is doomed has revived divisions among republicans (read a report of the Prime Minister’s remarks here). The leadership of the republican movement has let slip their plans to rein in much of the agenda of those who want the people to elect the president.
[Robespierre executed after a coup by fellow republicans during the Reign of Terror under the first French republic ]
With the continuous polling and focus groups that political parties now undertake, Ms. Gillard has accepted that Australians are just not interested in a politicians’ republic. They’re more than happy to stay with our tried and tested crowned republic, one of the world’s oldest and most stable.
[At the time of posting this, there were 174 comments on the ABC site where it originally appeared by invitation. Comments on that site may be made by clicking here]
As republican Professor Greg Craven has warned, another referendum is doomed to an even bigger defeat than the model overwhelmingly endorsed by the republicans at the 1998 Convention. Despite the strong support of most of the politicians and the media, that model failed in all states and 72% of electorates.
Polling trends clearly indicate support is significantly lower now, especially among the young (See Newspoll [PDF] for the trend). Republicanism and flag change are not matters of the slightest concern to the rank and file. The republican movement untruthfully claims 59% want a politicians' republic. But this is on the basis of one rogue poll miraculously produed for the 10th anniversary of the referendum.
This single poll goes against every other poll taken over the last few years. Every one of these indicates declining support for some vague undefined politicians' republic.
Ms. Gillard’s realism and Tony Abbott’s consistent support of our constitutional system have seriously disappointed the republicans. Their agenda since 1999 has been to hide the details of change while engaging in a series of distractions.
They even claim they now won’t touch the flag. But in the nineties they openly indicated their support for flag change. They even sponsored an exhibition of new flags which included one with a banner “F**** off back to Fagland.” And as The Age argues, nobody thinks the flag won’t change under a republic, so why not change it now?
…attacks on Governor, William…
They gratuitously attack royalty and vice regal officers. The sour dismissal of Prince William’s private visit while on leave from the armed forces – "Why’s he coming here?” was a glaring example. Then there was their recent attack on Victorian Governor David de Kretser.
They have even revived their curious 1999 policy of telling ACM how to campaign. They’re now demanding I resign because I pointed to the unfortunate history of republicanism in Australia, tainted as it is by racism and treacherous Bolshevism.
…stunts instead of policy..
They have above all continued their policy of launching stunts designed by the spin doctors to attract media attention. These have included the campaign to have The Queen ”give back” Tom Roberts’ painting of the opening of the first federal parliament, which hangs on permanent loan in new parliament house. Then there was the disastrous campaign designed by leading republicans, the Mate for a Head of State campaign.
…cost of republic….
They have also challenged the fact, long revealed by ACM, that the UK government makes a very handsome profit indeed from the Royal Family through the Crown Estate, that the monarchy attracts enormous tourist revenue, and that The Queen and members of the Royal Family receive nothing for their services to Australia, and certainly not the superannuation, golden handshakes and lifetime benefits their presidents, and vice presidents would be in line for.
More recently they have spent some effort disputing ACM’s calculations of the cost of constitutional change. But ACM’s calculations have included the costs of everything the republican movement has said is still being considered, including the costs of direct election of republican officials.
… divisions among republicans emerge…
In attacking the ACM’s quite reasonable calculations, the republican movement has revealed that much of what the direct elect republicans want is just not going to be allowed.
The movement has indicated that change to a republic in most states will be rammed through without the people being allowed a vote on it.
Actually, only in Queensland and Western Australia is the position of the Queen and Governor "entrenched' in their state Constitutions. Thus, only for those states would another vote be necessary after a federal referendum.
But if they think they can get away with that, the republican bosses are certain to be disappointed. The better opinion is that a referendum is necessary in almost all states. In fact one of the nation’s leading experts on state constitutions has declared that it would be inconceivable if a referendum were not to be held in each state.
Then they say the election of state governors is not going to be tolerated. And if the election of the president is actually allowed, it is clearly going to be a half hearted affair with minimal funding.
The truth is, Australia will continue to have a system based on the British Westminster system and will have a non-Executive President, whichever method of appointment is chosen. Election costs for a non-Executive President, who has few powers, would be minimal. For an appointed President, there would be no campaign costs. And, as far as we are aware, no-one is suggesting State Governors would be elected, to suggest otherwise is simply deceitful.
…walk out threatened at Convention…
The movement’s bosses must have obviously forgotten that it was only through the mediation of the ACM leader Justice Lloyd Waddy that the direct elect republicans didn’t walk out of the Constitutional Convention because of similar strong arm tactics by their predecessors. If that had happened they probably would not have had the first referendum.
ACM has carefully calculated the cost of change based on what the republican movement has said is still under consideration. We were not to know that the movement had pulled the rug from under the direct elect republicans.
From that it seems the republicans are as divided as they always have been.
[At the time of posting this column, there were 174 comments on the ABC site, where it originally appeared by invitation. Comments on that site may be made by clicking here]