Appearing on the ABC programme Q & A on 5 April, Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, was asked a question about a republic by one Alex James: "Mr Abbott, between 1993 and 1994 you were the executive director for the Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. I’m just wondering, does your future vision for Australia involve any kind of republican model, and… "
The trancript may be found at the foot of this column – click on "Read more". To hear the question, follow this link: www.norepublic.com.au/images/stories/tonyabbottqarepublic.mp3 . A video from the Australian Conservative site follows.
This question was clearly programmed to be the last questionfrom the audience in the near hour long programme. Once answered, Mr. Jones then added a prepared follow-up question based on Peter Costello’s memoirs.
This was to be the coup de grâce. It would show that as the first Director of ACM, Tony Abbott was actually a republican.
And if this could be demonstrated, he would then be shown to be unreliable, untrustworthy and deceitful.
Nice try Mr. Jones, but it didn’t work.
…a tactical proposal…
The reference is merely to staunch constitutional monarchists Tony Abbott's and Christopher Pearsons's advice on tactics at the 1998 Constitutional Convention.
This was for the constitutional monarchists to use their numbers to make the "McGarvie” model, the so-called “least-worst model”, the Convention model on which the people would vote in a referendum.
Under this model, a council of eminences – retired governors-general, governors, chief justices and the like – would act in place of The Queen in the appointment and removal of Governor- General. This was seen as the easiest model to defeat in a referendum.
…monarchists meet to decide tactics…
But when the constitutional monarchists met- not only ACM but also the smaller groups – Bruce Ruxton’s Safeguard The People, the Australian Monarchist League, Queenslanders for Constitutional Monarchy and Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats – a different approach on tactics emerged.
We would not support any politicians’ republic. Malcolm Turnbull did not believe it until we voted- his nightmare was that we would derail his plan to have the referendum on the overwhelming preference of the republican delegates. And that is what occurred.
The point is, this was just a debate about tactics, and not the substance of the debate.
Tony Abbott is not – and never has been – a republican, as this video demonstrates.
( To hear this, go to www.norepublic.com.au/images/stories/tonyabbottqarepublic.mp3)
ALEX JAMES: Mr Abbott, between 1993 and 1994 you were the executive director for the Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. I’m just wondering, does your future vision for Australia involve any kind of republican model and do you agree with the fact that not all Australians can celebrate Australia Day, i.e. Indigenous Australians?
TONY ABBOTT: I’m perfectly happy with our existing constitutional arrangements. I think that the Crown has been a grace note in our national life and I am anxious that any of the various proposed republics would add a needless note of uncertainty and instability into our polity. Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage, and I would like to see…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Boo.
TONY ABBOTT: I know not everyone agrees with him, but I think there’s much to be said for that view and I think that Aboriginal heritage – Australia’s Aboriginal heritage should be important to all of us and I think that Australia’s British and western heritage should also be important to all of us.
TONY JONES: Just on the question of the republic, you weren’t always opposed to all the models for a republic. According to Peter Costello you made…
TONY ABBOTT: It was the least worst option.
TONY JONES: …the McGarvie model, as it was called…
TONY ABBOTT: Yeah. Yeah.
TONY JONES: …you made a last ditch attempt to appeal to John Howard to vote for it.
TONY ABBOTT: Yeah, I said that if we are going to become a republic, let’s have the least worst option. I said that was the best of a bad lot, not that I ever wanted us to become a McGarvieite republic.
TONY JONES: Could you imagine being a Prime Minister in an Australian republic?
TONY ABBOTT: I don’t think an Australian republic is likely anytime soon and my political career is not going to last that long, Tony. I mean a republic is generations away and I don’t expect to be in parliament when I’m 100.
TONY JONES: Yeah, well, I mean, that could have been taken in several ways.
TONY ABBOTT: I understand. I understand.
TONY JONES: Yes. Yes. But I suppose if you were doing the 100 year model, you obviously aren’t going to last as a leader for 100 years. One wouldn’t imagine. But the way you’re running, perhaps you will.
TONY ABBOTT: I try to stay fit.
TONY JONES: But in any event you’re basically ruling out the possibility of a republic in your lifetime?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, this is – the Liberal Party doesn’t have a formal position on a republic and if a proposal were to come forward it would be – as far as we are concerned, it would be a free vote in the parliament and in any subsequent referendum but I can’t imagine the circumstances where I would be supporting change.
TONY JONES: Okay, we have run out of time. Sorry to those people who have still go their hands