August 29

Tom Kenneally: yet another “own goal”

Tom Kenneally, the well known writer, has been using the launch of his latest book “Australians: Origins to Eureka” by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to call for Australia to become a politicians’ republic. He should continue to do this. He has been a great asset – for the constitutionalist cause.

Incidentally the Prime Minister’s speech had a curious staccato like quality, perhaps coming from an excess of twittering.  Apparently he is not as au fait with “the arid intellectual debates of the history wars and the culture wars” as he would suggest. ( Those who would change the constitution and the flag are almost all ranged on one side of those debates)

The following sentences stand out in his speech: “Time to leave behind us the polarisation that began to infect every discussion of our nation’s past. To go beyond the so-called “black armband” view that refused to confront some hard truths about our past, as if our forebears were all men and women of absolute nobility, without spot or blemish.”

But Prime Minister, doesn’t the black armband view condemn, rather than praise, our forbears?  No doubt this was the error of some young speech writer. What is surprising is that the Prime Minister apparently read it without demur. This is not a minor matter, it goes to our inheritance.

In any event Tom Kenneally has been a long term campaigner in the constitutional debate, and has greatly helped his opponents.  He once described, the memorable but not exactly heroic moment at the former NSW premier Neville Wran’s house when the ARM was conceived.

“That lunch at Jill Hickson’s and Neville Wran’s table," he wrote " had now reached the point where nearly all the fish they bought the day before at the Sydney Fish Markets had been eaten. In a manner all too typical of generous Sunday lunches in Sydney, a number of bottles of Hunter Valley Chardonnay had also been drained. Neville Wran leaned over the table and said, ‘The other thing I want to see happen before I bloody well die is an Australian republic.’”

When he later referred to the Royal Family as "a colostomy bag on the body politic," he offended those whom he was seeking to convert.

In the early years of the campaign, he  announced the ARM had developed a secret weapon which would ensure victory. This turned out to be the earth shattering news that the ARM had conscripted that Australian icon, the cartoon character Blink Bill, to their cause.  Blinky Bill, who at heart is a dinky-di Australian, proved a most unwilling conscript and was soon AWOL.

But his greatest contribution came in the heat of the referendum campaign.  While ARM chief Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Kim Beazley were assuring the undecided that the change they were proposing  would be minimal,Tom Kenneally went on national television to declare that what was being proposed would be  the most significant change since Federation.

Those who were undecided knew at that moment that ACM’s warnings had been confirmed by none other than …the  first president of the republican movement. Thank you Mr. Kenneally.

…creeping republicanism justified change…

 After the referendum Tom Kenneally  returned with  a piece, “Remember the republic?” in the 12 November 2007 issue of The Age. He argued that because of the politicians’ outrageous removal of symbols of the Crown as a justification for constitutional change. 

“If we don't think the monarch of Great Britain should be our head of state,” he wrotes, “let’s make it official.”   The “we” in this sentence could not have referred to the people, whose decision was clear in 1999. As we said here, Mr. Kenneally must have been referring to the power hungry politicians who are foisting creeping republicanism on us. 

He also asked that there be a “true debate” next time. It was as if the Republic Advisory Committee, the Constitutional Convention, the Parliament and the 1999 campaign, and the tremendous financial drain all these were on the taxpayer, had never taken place. Which brings us to his latest forays into the constitutional debate. 

…yet another "own goal"…

He told Sydney radio station 2GB that our present constitutional system was “ridiculous.”

When the ABC’s Leigh Sales pointed out on Lateline that although we now have a Labor Prime Minister and Malcolm Turnbull is the Opposition Leader, change to a politicians’ republic was  all but invisible, he replied:

“Yes, I think everyone's waiting, without putting a hex on her Madge. I think everyone's waiting for the right atmosphere. I think it will definitely happen, but it can't happen in the middle of an economic calamity such as we've had.”

“But it will happen and I don't know when, but I hope to see it because it has become an increasing absurdity and of its nature – through no fault of the British monarchy itself, and I'm sure the British monarchy would be very happy to be rid of this condition where we take no oaths to the Queen anymore, her picture is not in most of our embassies – we're half pregnant already. So we might as well go forward and have the glorious child of the Republic.”

Tom Kenneally seems to assume the nation is behind him. Surely he realised in 1999 that they are not?  And who is Madge?  Has she been sent as an act of revenge by Blinky Bill? 

But the wonderful thing about his argument is that since the politicians have behaved badly with their creeping republicanism, they should be trusted with their politicians' republic.

Thanks Tom, for yet another "own goal."

As we approach the  tenth anniversary of the people's affirmation of our Constitution, I shall be raising a glass to Tom Kenneally, and saying:

" Keep on campaigning, Mr.Tom Kenneally. Keep on campaigning …for the Crown."

[The cartoon is by Peter Nicholson and appeared in The Australian.]


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