February 18

The best advertisement against the politicians’ republic

We could not believe it. The republicans ran a confused campaign, with contradictory messages.   Both ACM and the Vote Yes committee ran tight campaigns.  But what was surprising was that among the best advertisements for the No case in 1999 was this one authorised by Professor Greg Craven for the official Vote Yes Committee.

Starring two former Prime Ministers, Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam, they had had the sheer audacity in the 1999 campaign to blame the constitutional system for their own behaviour. What was baffling was that the republicans thought this would hoodwink the people into voting for a ….politicians’ republic.

The 1975 political crisis was the result of a combination of two political manoeuvres.

The first was Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser’s impatience in blocking supply to bring down the government and force an election.

The second was Gough Whitlam’s refusal to do what he had so often said governments should do when he tried the same – resign.

Their intransigence threatened to bring the nation to its knees. This was a political crisis about to become an economic crisis.

But it was never a constitutional crisis.

The politicians self serving obstinacy obliged the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr,  to adopt the solution envisaged by our constitutional system.  Sir John did his duty, and he was punished for that.

When Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam then turned around in 1999 and actually blamed the constitution and the Crown for the crisis they forced on the country, the result was predictable. And who paid for the advertisement? Not the republicans, of course. 

When the republican Vote Yes Committee foolishly used them to advertise their case, they reinforced the resolve of many No voters, and ensured many doubtful voters where the best course lay.


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