According to Julia Baird in The Sydney Morning Herald of 20 April, 2006 the former NSW Premier and now highly rewarded Macquarie Bank consultant, the Honourable Bob Carr, has proposed a pragmatic, “canny solution” which “may be the way ahead”. Ahead to what, you may well ask? Ahead to that paradise which every Australian, especially every New South Welshman (“man” is there used inclusively), lies awake at night dreaming of.A republic, of course!
The Honourable Bob Carr’s former constituents are not interested in who will win on Saturday, or their mortgages. They re not interested at all in law and order, transport, hospitals, or schools. They are interested in what every taxpayer chauffeured, taxpayer officed, generously superannuated Macquarie Bank consultant wants – a republic.
The Honourable Bob Carr was speaking at a republican movement fund raising event on Tuesday, 18 April, 2006. ( Incidentally protocol demands we call him that because he had successfully petitioned Her Majesty for approval for him to continue to use , as one journalist called it, this ‘imperial title”. Indeed, it seems his former ministers are lining up to be allowed to be “Honourable”. The Sun Herald, 30 April, 2006 reports that Craig Knowles has just joined him.)
The fund raiser was not one of those candlelit affairs in a five star hotel which the republicans used to go in for before the referendum. This was a lunch was at the NSW Parliament House Strangers Room, which has just lost the Royal Portraits which were there for many years. The presiding officers, just as The Queen was coming home to Australia in March , directed the removal of the Royal Portraits “for their protection.” Just as they earlier removed the portrait of The Queen from the foyer because it was being damaged by sunlight.
So be warned. If you see Compañera Presidente La Burgmann de Havana y Ho Chi Min City descending on you with guillotine sharpened knitting needles, accompanied by a Sydney Morning Herald photographer , purring that she is from the government and is there to help you, and wants to take measures for your protection – take fright and just run.
Now among the guests in the newly republicanised Strangers Room was none other than Fairfax columnist and radio talkback co-host, Mr. Peter FitzSimons. I have to say that Mr. FitzSimons does harbour curious yearnings. He once addressed an open letter to me , opening affectionately with the words “Dear Davo”, to tell me – and half a million or so others – that his most earnest desire was to prostrate himself before Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, on his back and …lying in a puddle of corgi urine!
Mr. FitzSimons appearance at Parliament House seems to have been his first foray back into the republican limelight since his involvement for some months with a group of republican lawyers in Philip Street, the home of Sydneys legal profession. This was on his brainchild, the Mate for a Head of State campaign.
After all the media promotion for the campaign, and its centerpiece, the great sausage sizzle at Bondi just before Australia Day, I have no idea why everybody involved in that campaign , from Mr. Fitzsimons himself, the Doctors Gerard and Anne Henderson, as well as Greg( “Australia is a pigsty”) Barns, has gone so quiet on it .
Now, as you would expect, Mr. FitzSimons says the Honourable Bob Carr’s republican solution is… “so simple.” (The Sun-Herald, 23 April,2006). Why you could say it’s almost as simple as the “tippex” solution they were all going on about a few years ago. White out “Queen” and “Governor-General” and insert”President”. So simple, they said. When we pointed out it wouldn’t work, they said we were talking rubbish. Then the penny dropped, and just as the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda used to do, yesterday’s simple solution was quickly denounced. At least they didn’t claim it was monarchist sabotage.
So now the honourable gentleman argues that our head of state should be elected by parliament and retain the title of governor-general. And the resulting Australian republic should still be called the Commonwealth of Australia. This would be the ultimate spin doctor sleight of hand republic – a republic which is not called a republic, with a president who is not called a president.
When Lloyd Waddy heard of a similar proposal at the Constitutional Convention, he said would love to hear those republican diplomats who have such difficulty explaining our constitution (perhaps they are in the wrong job) explain this:
“This is a Governor-General who is not a Governor-General, and we could not explain it when he was a Governor-General. But now he is not a Governor-General; he is really a president but we do not call him that because we do not dare to.”
Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Barns came to the same conclusion which has dawned on the honourable gentleman. Polling, or perhaps good sense, must have told them the words “republic” and “president” were a turn off to the voter. They tried to have the two words removed from the referendum question. Even the republican press ridiculed them.
The Honourable Bob Carr has his own ideas about the governors and governors general. As we know he doesn’t believe in the reserve powers -they don’t exist, he says. Governors-general and governors need to be taken down a peg and not take themselves seriously. Certainly not that seriously as to think they are there to act as a check and balance against those honourable politicians.
As we noted in this column on 27 November, 2005, the honourable gentleman now says this was the reason he evicted the governor from Government House. This reminded me of one scene during the enormous ACM organized demonstration in Macquarie Street against the eviction. It was of a lady, marching defiantly, carrying a large poster which said:” KEEP THE HOUSE AND THROW AWAY THE CARR”
Is this republican proposal canny? You bet. Simple? Not at all. Saleable? No.Pull the other leg, oh honourable one.