Touché Monsieur Rudd!
For a lifelong passionate republican, the Prime Minister Mr Rudd was curiously almost invisible in the 1999 campaign, suggested Malcolm Turnbull, the former chairman of the Australian Republican Movement and now shadow treasurer.
Mr Turnbull says he can’t recall Mr Rudd being prominent on the republican side in 1999, saying he seemed to have developed a latter-day interest in the subject.
While Mr Rudd says he is a lifelong republican, until he went to see The Queen, Mr. Rudd did appear if not reluctant, at least not very interested .
Mr. Rudd's unfortunate comments before his audience with Her Majesty were, to say the least, undiplomatic.
It would seem that until recently Mr. Rudd was to be counted among the people Mr Turnbull identified in his diary in 1999.
As Mr. Turnbull wrote: “ We have Buckley’s chance of winning. Nobody’s interested.”
Mr Turnbull could well exclaim, “Touché, Monsieur Rudd! Touché!”
…Malcolm Turnbull counsels Mr. Rudd on how not to lose a referendum….
Mr.Turnbull maintains that a republic is still "very much" a priority for him.
He says the best time for another referendum would be following the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign.
"It's important that you have all the political moons in alignment and I think they will be there," he told The Age on 13 April, 2008. "You'll have your best chance at the end of the Queen's reign."
But Mr. Turnbull has previously said that in addition to a referendum not taking place in the present reign, there would have to be a consensus among republicans as to a model, and as well, little opposition.
That sounded as though Mr Turnbull has put a republic into the “too hard” basket.
In any event, he sounded a note of caution when the 2020 summit backed an early move towards a republic.
This was after the governance panel adopted a republican agenda by 98:1, with Sir William Deane abstaining.
This result mirrored the sort of voting you would expect in a Stalinist republic.
In fact, it seems that the organizers went out of their way to ensure there was almost no opposition there.
This is perhaps an indication of the authoritarian republic they have in mind.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald of 22 April, 2008 (“Turnbull warns Rudd over republic issue”), Mr Turnbull said he doubted there was anything like the public backing for a republic that is needed to achieve success.
He said grassroots support for a republic was essential.
"It cannot be used as a political tool by a prime minister who wants to pick up an issue and run with it in order to glorify himself. The public are very sceptical about this.
"It has to come from the grassroots. There has to be overwhelming support for it and then you have got a strong chance.
"You can pose as a great republican and say, 'Yes we must go ahead with it right now' and then go down in glorious defeat."
"The key thing about a republic is that you cannot win a referendum unless there is absolutely overwhelming support. These referendums are very easy to beat.
"We saw that in 1999 and we have seen that on many other occasions. Very few referendums have been passed."
Of course most referendums have involved an attempt to increase central power, or to manipulate the constitution.
It is not that defeating a referendum is easy. It's that the Australian people know a lemon when they see a lemon. Australians aren't stupid, although the summit elites think they are.
…Mr. Rudd admits the Summit vote does not reflect the views of the people…
It is important to recall that in the 1999 referendum, Mr. Rudd’s blue ribbon electorate, Griffith voted “No” in the republican referendum, as did many Labor electorates.
If Mr. Rudd did campaign then, he realises that even with mountains of money, most of the politicians, hordes of celebrities and most of the media, he still lost.
"We lost the last referendum nearly 10 years ago," Mr. Rudd recently conceded ( News.com.au, 23 April, 2008).
"We don't want to lose the next one so we will be building this one up very carefully."
But as Lou Bougias commented on the www.news.com.au site:
“Our system of government is secure, stable and efficient. We are an independent nation with an excellent constitution and one thousand years of proven conventions ensuring a true democratic parliament and executive.
“Any change to an untried let alone unknown republican model will only open a Pandora’s box involving the abuse of power to the great disadvantage of the people of Australia.”