March 4

This celebrity QC is a republican: so why aren’t you?

“At the 2020 summit a thousand articulate members of the community came down in favour of a republic, “ said expatriate Queen’s Counsel, Geoffrey Robertson QC.  The fact the 2020 Summit delegates were chosen by a gerrymander of which Robert Mugabe would be jealous seems to have eluded our silk and part time British judge.

A campaigner in the referendum, Mr. Robertson is adamant that the people were wrong in 1999 in not voting the way he advised.

“The republic is inevitable,” he declared with a degree of infallibility. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 February, 2009 “Statute of Liberty”).

Malcolm Turnbull used to proclaim the inevitability of “the” republic. A clever man, he soon saw this was leading to a conclusion which would totally undermine his campaign.  

The word inimitable is overused, but it accurately describes the commentator, the late   David McNicoll. He once  argued in The Bulletin that as a republic was inevitable why then was there a “pressure- pak” push to ram through some sort of republic.

So Mr. Turnbull reversed, as the American court law reports put it, telling the republican movement not to argue on inevitability. Mr. Robertson must have missed that sage piece of advice.

So who are we to tell the QC how to run his case? So let Mr Roberson continue to proclaim the inevitability of the republic. 

…Her Britannic Majesty's Counsel and part time judge's   campaigns… 

Mr. Robertson has just descended on the country to campaign for a bill or charter of rights, a matter which is beyond the remit of ACM. 

It is however fascinating to read the arguments the uses against his foes on this latest issue.

He dismisses those who oppose a bill or charter of rights as presenting their case with “broadbrush slogans” written “ by clever wordsmiths who may not know what they are talking about, but who talk about it in popular newspapers in dramatic terms.” 

Now does that sound familiar?

Although he is one of Her Britannic Majesty’s Counsel, Mr. Robertson remains what is generally described as " a passionate republican". This leads him to the loss of a sense of proportion.

 In his book “The Tyrranicide Brief” he actually tried to draw an analogy between King Charles 1 and dictators such as Saddam Hussein.

But as the eminent author Patrick Morgan observed in his review of the book , Geoffrey Robertson’s view leads to the conclusion that most historical rulers in Europe, and all civil war leaders would deserve tyrannicide trials – a ridiculous position.

Writing in The Guardian on 25 September 2008, Mr Robertson told the British that “Australians will never forget the historic misjudgement of their governor-general (and de facto head of state) in 1975, when in the name of the Queen he sacked the Whitlam government.”

But if Australians think and will never forget this was a misjudgement why did they refuse overwhelmingly to restore Mr Whitlam in 1975 and 1977?  It was not that the alternative, Malcolm Fraser, was that attractive.

On the basis of this flawed proposition the Queen’s Counsel continues “What would the Queen do in such circumstances in Britain, or if an election resulted in a deadlock? It is demeaning to democracy to have this office filled by descent from one massively wealthy upper class family, and not by merit (eg a head of state elected by parliament) or preferably, elected by the people.”

Mr Robertson has a following in Australia following his adaption of the Harvard Law School teaching method to television. It was not sufficient to swing the result in 1999 when one of the flawed tactics of the republican movement was the theme “This celebrity is a republican: why aren’t you?”





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