May 26

Trust the politicians, especially the president.

The French news from Paris broadcast on SBSTV on Friday morning, 27 May 2005,at 9.20 AM began with the headlines, as usual.

But then we heard the stirring tones of the Marseillaise, written it should be remembered, by a royalist. Then the screen filled with those exciting words, DECLARATION DU PRESIDENT DE LA REPUBLIQUE, set against the tricolour. We were then whisked to The Elysee Palace .

 

But Monsieur le President was not seated, as he usually is for these addresses to the nation, on a throne- like chair behind an ornate desk, and against a gold encrusted wall with the and Old Master in the background.

Monsieur le President was standing humbly in the garden, almost as if he were English, except that the garden is probably strictly geometric, and beside him were the flags of France and the European Union.

 He asked, he insisted, he pleaded, that the viewer vote Yes to the European Constitution in the referendum on Sunday. I thought he would go down on his knees and beg! He certainly looked worried.

He addressed the viewers in the way of speaking that French Presidents affect-very slow. If an Australian politician tried that the void would be filled by screeching journalists.After ten minutes, I began to wonder why he was taking so much time in the news- could he not do this in a separate programme? In Australia, a politician usually gets about three words in the news, against long sentences of explanation from the journalist who tells you his or her name, network and where he or she is speaking from, not once but twice in case you did not hear! Perhaps we should elect the journalists.

But that said, a long, with and slowly spoken unedited political address is hardly the news! And was there, incidentally, a speech from someone else to explain why the viewer should vote No? There was not. Apres tout, ce n’est pas le BBC, c’est la France!

Monsiuer le President ended with three Vives for la France , l’europe and I think, la Constitution europeenne, or was it la republique.? By that time I was half en sommeil (You can see all this, if you really must ,at: http://jt.france2.fr/20h/)

The headline in The Australian (27 May,2005), above a story from The Times, explained why M Chirach was very worried. It said: FRENCH LEADERS BRACE FOR NO VOTE.And there would be a lot of bracing.

The Times reported that the leader of the Gaullists, the ruling party, a rival of M.Chirac who wants his job, M.Nicholas Sarkozy, had privately admitted that Sunday’s referendum on the European constitution will result in a No vote:

 " I keep on telling you that the thing is lost. It will be a little no or a big no,"he was reported as telling Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. They were all saying on the news that M.Rafferin’s days are numbered, and that Monsieur le President will sack Monsieur le Premier Ministre.

 Now just try to understand this in an Australian context. Imagine if the President, elected at the height of her popularity, say President Cheryl Kernot, or President Carmen Lawrence, having campaigned for a Yes vote for a union with, say, Indonesia, which was rejected, were then to take it out on the Prime Minister.

Let us say the PM is Mr Costello, and having dismissed him because she did so badly in the referendum, she then invites Mr Turnbull or Mr Latham to form a new government. Or she dissolves Parliament.

What is that you say? You say no one would have such a crazy system! Well, just ask the ARM. Or better ask Senator Payne whether this could not happen under her,Mark Latham’s and the ARM’s convoluted expensive process to trick Australians into changing their constitution.

Senator Payne only woke up to the problem with this process after she had had a tête-à-tête with Professor Craven, whom I once described in a debate in Perth as the Australian Marquis de Talleyrand. To my irritation, he took this as flattery!

Only after hearing Professor Craven  did Senator Payne dissent from that part of her own ARM proposal which had been put to that extravagant and monumentally useless exercise, the Senate inquiry into a republic. The Times says that a No vote will throw Europe into disarray.

Just as I suppose the 1999 referendum broke the heart of Australia, as Mr Turnbull said. I would think that most Europeans, including the French , could not care less if France votes No. The cafes and boulevards will be full, and the French will do what they always do , go on holidays or en greve ( on strike).

The Times says the British Government will be massively relieved if Mr Sarkozy is right, and I suspect they are correct . The British would vote No, massively, to the constitution, as they would to the Euro .The Times says that British ministers have privately admitted that they are prepared to ditch the commitment to a referendum if either the French, or the Dutch next Wednesday, vote against the constitution.

 In the meantime, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the Health Minister, insists that the French should trust the head of state. To which M. Sarkozy retorted:

" Everything has to change — our way of doing politics … the labour law." Perhaps the constitution itself, Monsieur Sarkozy? One thing is clear to Australians-our tried and tested constitutional system gives us democracy and stability like no other. It has not failed us.

Uuntil next time,

 David Flint


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