June 14

Republicans split again – 1999 official spokesman declares war on radicals

It's official. The republicans are rent by yet another civil war.

In  'Conservative Republicans bow to the Crown', the leading constitutional lawyer  and spokesman for the  official Vote Yes Committee in the referendum, Professor Greg Craven, calls on  conservative republicans to stop "further destabilising the monarchy…"

In a declaration of war on republicans who would have a general election for the president, he warns that his  republican opponents will be the only beneficiaries of such a destabalisation of the monarchy. 

It is clear now that the attempts by the republican movement over the last 13 years to paper over these irrevocable divsions have failed totally. This is war. Professor Craven is proposing if not an alliance, a modus vivendi,  between conservative republicans and constiutional monarchists  

…Professor Greg Craven…


Professor  Greg Craven is indisputably Australia's leading republican intellectual.  A prominent constitutional lawyer, he is now a Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University.

 Once a constitutional monarchist, he moved to support the McGarvie model at the 1998 Constitutional Conventionto which he had been appointed by the Prime Minister, John Howard. ( In fact most of the appointed delegates were republican, a fact which demonstrates that the story he rigged the convention is completley untrue. Another lie is that he rigged the question.)

 When the republican delegates overwhelmingly adopted the Australian Republican Movement's preferred model, he accepted appointment to the official Vote Yes committee and became its spokesman.

During the referendum I debated him in Perth. I was in a team consisting of  former Governor-General Bill Hayden, and former Senator Withers. He was with the then Federal Attorney General, Daryl Williams  and Democrat leader Senator Stott-Despoja.

As a light observation, I suggested that he had become  Australia's answer to the Marquis de Talleyrand, who was successively  a royalist, a republican, a supporter of Napoleon and of the restored monarchy, as well as being a bishop. 

I recalled that he had penned a superb paper defending the monarchy which  was delivered by the then Premier, Jeff Kennett to the nation's federalist think tank, the  Samuel Griffith Society.  Like many politicians, Mr. Kennett subsequently converted to republicanism.

…opposition to direcly elected presidency…


As with many conservative republicans, he is strongly opposed to a directly elected presidency.  So much so he prefers the constitutional monarchy to  such a republic.

In  a piece in the Australian on 13 June, “Conservative Republicans must bow to the crown,”  he says “there is no point in conservative republicans further destabilising the monarchy if the only beneficiaries are those who wish to destabilise the Constitution.”

“Those who love the Constitution but not the Queen must accept that until things change dramatically, if Paris was worth a mass, they must tolerate a throne,” he concedes, adding that this is a  “.. until further notice, there needs to be a wary truce between constitutional republicans and constitutional monarchists, however much the scars of 1999 may pain.”

“A Queen in the hand is less trouble than the Constitution gone bush,” he concludes.

In my view, he exaggerates the attraction of the directly elected presidency.  This is the model which the Morgan poll offers to respondents; it only manages to obtain 34% support.  And this is without a public debate in which the perils of elected presidency would be argued both by constitutional monarchists and by the conservative Republicans.  Remember, most Republican politicians fall into the category of conservative Republicans, and this is also probably true of most of the Republican commentariat. 

If the directly elected presidency were to get past the Republican politicians – which is extremely unlikely – support in the referendum would probably be in the 20 percentile range.

…youth and a republic…

One particular truth has dawned on Prof Craven. This is something which ACM has been talking about since before the referendum. The young are less interested in a Republic than the middle-aged inner-city elite.

Then,” he laments, “ there are the gen Y conversations. I hate gen Y. I can accept that they are selfish, condescending and expensive. But when they say they deeply respect the Queen, and that Prince Philip is "cute", the earth moves for you, but not in a good way.”

…any politicians’’ republic is doomed…..

He adds, “…the plain fact remains that, just now, the monarchy is not merely tolerated in Australia, it is popular. In any referendum, a republic would not lose, the Queen would win.”

“It is amazing what 20 years can do. In the 1990s, the monarchy was a joke not told in polite company.”

“ From an Australian perspective, it was a wondrous horror that one of the world's greatest parliamentary democracies – us – could be hitched to the stumbling constitutional nag of the house of Windsor.

“Yet look at us now. While our parliament is a chamber of prurient schoolchildren swapping insults, and our leaders crack champagne if their personal popularity soars into the mid-teens, an ageing Queen sails majestically forward. How the mighty have risen.

“Indeed, it can hardly be coincidental that as the organs of our own democracy increasingly seem to function below the waist, the daggy serenity of Her Majesty correspondingly appeals to a politically jaded populace."

“All of this has grave implications for republicans. Especially for conservative republicans who want to see the monarchy replaced but without stalling the Constitution itself.

“Until now, these moderate republicans have had only one thing in common with their radical, direct-election siblings.

“They are prepared to join in a general bagging of the monarchy, on the basis that once we have toppled the corgis, we can start fighting about which republic we actually want.”


So Professor Craven offers constitutional monarchists a truce. Not exactly from a position of strength.

Constitutional monarchists are no doubt delighted to know that conservative republicans will no longer bag the Royal Family unfairly.

But we should explain one thing.

ACM did not choose the independent republicans as our allies in 1999. The vote yes and vote no committees were appointed by the government on the number of votes each group attracted. Hence ACM had 8 seats on the 10 person vote no committee, and the independent republicans 2.

Naturally the ACM delegates worked to ensure the campaign was successful . All dleagte swanted to see the defeat of the referendum but for different reasons.

If in a future referendum, some republicans were urging a No vote, of course ACM would cooperate.

What does this all mean? It means Australia's republicans are now openly split and are at war.  To repeat what was said above, the attempts by the republican movement over the last 13 years to paper over these irrevocable divsions have failed totally.




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