In her splendid address to Australia The Queen made two important points. Indicating her care, interest and concern for our country, she said she would continue faithfully to serve as to the very best of her ability. Not only was this her duty, it was ‘her privilege and her pleasure.’
And the future of the monarchy was for us, the Australian people, and us alone, to decide by democratic and constitutional means.
Both of these points would have been known to any fair and well-informed observer. But during the referendum campaign they were hidden from view. ACM was excoriated for not bringing the monarchy into the debate. But the monarchy was not on trial. What was on trial was the republican model.
And on that the people’s decision was loud and clear. In electoral terms a landslide. Seventy three per cent of the electorates rejected the model. (In SA 75%, Tasmania 80%, QLD and WA 93%!) And only about 43% (not 45%) of the electorate voted Yes. Understandable when you think that the ARM had everything going for them.
Unlike us, they had great wealth, out-spending us 5:1 in the Convention elections. Unlike us, they had the use of other organization’s foot soldiers, especially to man polling booths. Unlike us, they had support of most of the commentariat who wrote on the issue. Unlike us, they had, if not the open support, the silence of much of the intelligentsia.
What they lacked was what you, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, have in abundance. Unity. Unity of intent, unity of voice. And a rock solid mission. Which was – and is – to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. The core of which was so eloquently and successfully described by our forebears when they agreed to unite in ‘an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.’ Future generations will thank you for this.
In contrast to our unity, our foes had no consistent belief in any form of republic. Their 1993 model unwittingly resembled the worst features of the French Fifth Republic. In the 1998 campaign they wooed the electorate with promises that their minds were open to a direct election model – minds that banged shut as soon as the Convention opened. Then, in its last days, they pulled their second republic out of the hat. The only republic in recorded history where it would be easier for the prime minister to sack the president than his driver! And then during the 1999 campaign they put out at least four contradictory messages about the effect of a ‘Yes’ vote. The only common theme was to get rid of the Queen. At any price.
Jawaharlal Nehru once said that history is invariably written by the victors. You wouldn’t have thought so in the days following 6 November 1999. The very people who had proclaimed the republic inevitable and who told the people how to vote were now explaining why the people disobeyed them. But as Mr Turnbull wrote in his latest book the fact is nobody is interested in his – or indeed any – republic. This was confirmed in a Bulletin-Morgan poll taken soon after the referendum. It found that less that 2% of the people want this issue on the political agenda. The ARM (weren’t we assured they would dissolve themselves on 7 November 1999?) is a small but noisy group. They demonstrated how out of touch they were by the – demonstrations – and media interventions they arranged at the beginning of the Royal visit. These were so counter productive, this tactic had to be abandoned.
The latest ‘solution’ to the problem (the one that doesn’t exist) is, if not unconstitutional, is certainly extra constitutional. It’s that old favourite of both Napoleons, the plebiscite. The most memorable use of this in recent years was in Quebec. The question on secession was so deliberately confusing that one third of those voting ‘Yes’ thought they were voting to stay in Canada! A plebiscite is too often designed to give a blank cheque on the Constitution. The Founding Fathers knew this. They’d seen it used six times in France in the 19th century to entrench authoritarian rule. So in the place of the plebiscite they designed the Australian referendum.
As we know, there’s no blank cheque with this. You have to put your cards on the table. That’s the Australian way. Why use the discredited plebiscite process when we have the Australian referendum? The real question is not some craftily designed plebiscite. Its whether Australians want more time, more distractions from the essential work of all our legislators, and more taxpayers funds spent on this extra constitutional, extra legal folly.
The answer is obvious.
ACM will be there, building its organization and informing the people about the Constitution – students, candidates for citizenship, indeed all Australians. This means giving them objective unbiased information. In these activities we will be doing our duty, preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of this indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.