April 30

Revive republic, Sydney Morning Herald orders government

The Sydney Morning Herald is entitled to argue its republican agenda, although few Australians  are much interested. ( “Stirring of the republic”, 30/4).

The Herald is clearly annoyed that the Prime Minister has decided to leave the politicians' republic “in a coma”, as it puts it.  No doubt the reason is that the Prime Minister believes  another referendum would be doomed.

Whatever its views, the Herald is not justified in telling half truths even in an editorial. And there are several in this one.

First, to say opinion polls now show a majority favour a republic is misleading. The last two polls taken by the best known and most creditable pollsters, Morgan and Newspoll, show support falling and around 45%.  

That this is at this level is not so much an indication of interest in change, but rather the result of a massive campaign for years by important sections of the media to subvert the constitutional system and, until recently, the flag. 

The campaign against the flag only went underground when its proponents realised it was just not working. The republican strategy now is to obtain a republic first and shred our flag later.

The low support for a politicans' republic  among the youth may well be explained by the fact that few read newspapers. True, many will glance at selected articles on the web, but that does not offer the same exposure to a newspaper, especially its  campaigns.

Is it not ironical then that while the republican newspapers assume the next generation will abandon both  Crown and flag, newspapers are in a more fragile position than either? 

It is also a half truth to say that former PM John Howard’s answer to a growing republican sentiment was to offer a referendum on a “divisive” model. John Howard’s solution  was to allow the republicans to choose their preferred model and to present that to the people through the only  constitutional process, a referendum.

….model SMH once supported now  "divisive"…

The model the Herald now condemns as “divisive” was by far the preferred model of most republican delegates to the 1998 Constitutional Convention, republican politicians and the media. Above all, it was the preferred model of The Sydney Morning Herald.  So why is it now “divisive”?  Does the Herald think its readers have no memory? The newspaper has been well and truly caught out here. 

The Herald says the model was supported by 45% of those voting. While there is a sound legal argument to say that support was marginally lower, it is relevant that  the referendum was lost in all six states. To succeed the referendum must be approved by a majority of those voting nationally and in a majority of states.  Indeed there is a good argument that the people of all states must approve such a fundamental change.  The 1999 referendum result was not even close.

The Herald also says that with her recent Africa trip, Quentin Bryce, the Governor-General, showed she can represent Australia's interests abroad “in a way our actual head of state never can.”

The Herald may not, but the Rudd government acknowledges that  the Governor-General is the Australian head of state, a status confirmed by foreign governments.

As long ago as 1926 it was decided by an Imperial Conference at which Australia was present that “the Governor-General of a Dominion is the representative of the Crown, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain.”

….era of G-G as Head of State begins in 1926….


Indeed in  the following year, 1927, the Canadian Governor General, Lord Willingdon, made the first official overseas visit by a Governor-General.   Most importantly, he was received in Washington with the honours due to a head of state by the President of the United States. 

The era of the Governor-General as Head of State had begun.

( The High Court had already declared the Governor-General the "constitutional head of the Commonwealth of Australia" in 1907) 

Our final complaint is not of a half truth but something which is completely untrue. The Herald has decided to follow the example of the former Governor of Tasmania, Richard Butler. It suggests that The Queen has somehow endorsed the Herald’s republican agenda. This is not only farfetched, it is offensive.

The founders of this once great journal of record would be appalled.  



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