September 18

UK republican movement meets in telephone booth

Meeting in a phone booth, the whole UK republican movement is rejoicing at the election of Malcolm Turnbull as Leader of the Liberal Party (“Masters of windbaggery,”  The Australian 18 September, 2008).

Put away your Aussie chardonnay, chaps, and weep as you read the republican lament in the  editorial in The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 September 2008.

The editor is unhappy because Malcolm Turnbull did not rise to the bait the Prime Minister dangled before him.

Mr. Turnbull is too astute not to recognize a very transparent and unworthy wedge to gain political advantage.

Mr. Rudd-quite improperly – was prepared to use the constitution to show the Liberals divided.

Shame on you, Prime Minister. You should be above that.


The editor wants them to work together on some sort of politicians’ republic to replace our crowned republic.

The founders who made the Herald into one of the world’s outstanding newspapers would be horrified that there newspaper now wishes to remove one of the essential checks and balances in our system.

  Editorial :A republic above politics

September 18, 2008

Sydney Morning Herald

   IS THE Prime Minister playing politics with the republican issue? We hope not. Such a ploy would do Kevin Rudd no credit and Australia no service. The question arises from Mr Rudd's remarks on Tuesday, after Malcolm Turnbull won the Liberal leadership.

The Prime Minister said he wanted to work with the new Opposition Leader on national challenges, including Australia's move towards a republic.

The convenor of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, David Flint, saw Mr Rudd as trying to wedge Mr Turnbull on the issue.

Certainly the subject still divides the Coalition. Indeed, the former treasurer Peter Costello believes most Liberal Party members remain monarchists.

That, presumably, is why Mr Turnbull is now so low-key. The former leader of the Australian Republican Movement attempts to cover his lack of public enthusiasm for a republic by saying the proposal cannot be revived while Queen Elizabeth II still reigns.

What a feeble excuse. Despite Australians' respect and affection for the Queen, the present monarch was not the central issue in the 1999 referendum where a republic was rejected 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

The republicans were outmanoeuvred.

The former prime minister John Howard ensured the vote was not for the general idea of a republic but for a specific model. It was a model the monarchists successfully demonised as offering a politicians' president, despite the scope for public participation in the selection.

Worse, the republicans themselves were divided on whether the head of state should be appointed or elected.

Constitutional experts, meanwhile, were also divided on that and other issues; and the government and the opposition were on opposite sides of the argument.

Faced with such controversy, a majority voted to stay with the constitution that had served them for a century.

 If Australians are to be united on the issue, the example must come from the top. Generational change in the leadership of Labor and the Coalition provides just the opportunity. Mr Rudd and Mr Turnbull are both republicans.

They can – and should – develop proposals for a republic that will find the support of a majority of Australians, proposals that will give Australians a clear say in the selection process.

Mr Turnbull needs to rediscover his zealotry for the republican cause (and to take the parliamentary Liberal Party with him). Mr Rudd must resist any temptation to divide the Coalition on the issue.

The Prime Minister likes to say the republic is not a "first order" issue. That is only because he chooses not to make it one. 


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