July 25

The republican leadership

Given that Mr. Rudd has put a republic back on the agenda, it is interesting to have closer look at the republican leadership. This is relevant because Mr. Rudd appears to be continuing his predecessors’ curious policy of outsourcing their party’s policy on this issue to the republican movement.

When The Australian published on 18 July 2007 details of a leaked 142 page police interview with terror suspect Dr.Mohamed Haneef, the prominent republican Mr Greg Barns rushed in to suggest the leak must have come from the police or security agencies. He said they had a "long history of leaking material to suit their case, and seeking to influence the community.” According to Amanda Meade in The Australian on 19 July,2007, Barns said he did not believe the leak came from Dr.Haneef's lawyers. "[T]he accusation that Dr Haneef's lawyers are responsible for The Australian's front page coup today should be taken with a grain of salt," he said.
But unfortunately for Barns, Dr.Haneef’s barrister, Stephen Keim, cleared the air later that day when he admitted that he was indeed the source of the leak. And The Australian reminded readers that Barns has played a leading role in the republican movement. As director of the failed 1999 campaign, Malcolm Turnbull described his style a “if you see a head kick it.”

Although Cardinal Pell  had moved the republican motion at the 1998 Convention, Mr. Barns turned on him when he was appointed Archbishop of Sydney in 2001.“We” don’t want people like him, he thundered. (Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 2001)

Although Mr. Barns no longer holds any formal office in the republican movement -he was the second of the movement’s several chairmen – he was one of the two republicans chosen to present the media launch of Peter FitzSimon’s failed 2005 “Mate for a Head of State Campaign.”  The republican movement is promoting a book he recently co-authored on Australia becoming a republic. Mr Barns is not only implacably opposed to constitutional monarchy here, he denounces it anywhere and everywhere, including Denmark. He cannot understand why, and is outraged that Australians are at all interested in Princess Mary.  In 2005 he argued against media guidelines restricting the reporting of suicide (because of the “copycat “ effect).  And he has famously declared that Australia is “a pigsty“… “a backwater, a racist and inward-looking country.”

In the meantime, the republican movement makes do with an acting chairman, while the chairman is a candidate in the Federal election, when ever that may be. The candidate is seeking to defeat an ALP member of parliament, which must make HM Australian Opposition Leader, Mr. Kevin Rudd, and the Labor Party Caucus, wonder why on earth they have for so long outsourced their policy on a republic to the republican movement. Why is the Labor Party still captive to this group?


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