November 20

Vulgar inevitabilism

A commentator recently pointed out that the republican referendum was not the least unsuccessful.

(The commentator, Peter Brent, has a blog on The Australian website. His comments are interesting; it is suprising they are not often included in the print version.)  

Although defeated nationally, in every state and 72% of electorates, the referendum held simultaneously to insert a new preamble suffered an even greater defeat, a national Yes vote of only 33.94%.

According to the AEC, the national yes vote for the republic referendum was 45.13%.  But as William Church (“Counting the Votes in a Referendum” 1 March 2010)  points out there is a strong legal argument which supports the conclusion that the national Yes vote was lower.

…how republicans inflated vote by up to 10%…


The republican referendum would probably have registered a vote similar to that on the preamble but for the massive campaign undertaken by the Australian media to force change.  (There were some notable individual exceptions, commentators who had the courage to resist this. One, Alan Jones, was publicly denounced by the ARM in a particularly Stalinist moment. How dare anyone be out of step?)

There were few politicians courageous enough to go against this tide. Many  jumped on the bandwagon, including some who had previously declared their support for the constitutional monarchy.

In the days before the vote, the Sydney City Council even lined the streets with Vote Yes banners. That misappropriation of ratepayers’ funds seems to have escaped the scrutiny of the auditors.

The core themes repeated over and over in the media were that a (politicians’) republic  was inevitable, and that we must have an Australian as Head of State.

This despite the fact that any expert in international law would advise that the Governor-General is Head of State, a diplomatic term not used in the Constitution, the Statute of Westminster or the Australia Acts.

…Yes vote around 35%?…


 I suspect that we shall not see such a massive media united front if there is another referendum and it is for an elected presidency. I think the constitutional expert and strong republican Professor Craven is right when he predicts that this would produce an even greater defeat than in 1999. With a divided media and divided parties we would probably see a national vote closer to the 33.94% in

As that most distinguished British editor  Lord Deedes observed in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999: 

“I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end.”

His conclusion was supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey  of two representative serious media outlets.

In recent years, The Australian has conceded its support of the Yes case was excessive. This is an indication that reporting of another referendum – if there is one –  will be more balanced. 

As the national newspaper, not only for readers but other outlets, The Australian will be crucial. If its reporting is fair and balanced, this will affect the media generally.


…vulgar inevitabilism…


Christopher Pearson returned to the media’s support for the republican referendum in a recent piece in The Australian (20/11) on the proposal that same sex marriage be authorised.

(To continue reading, click on 'Read more' below)

He began by citing a recent piece by  Paul Kelly , which he described as “memorable”.  In it Mr. Kelly took issue with  Labor Senator Mark Arbib's suggestion that it's time for the ALP to support gay marriage.

"Why is it time?" Kelly asked. "Because the Greens are stealing Labor's votes, that's why. So Labor should cynically abandon its support for the foundational social institution, a move that will trigger a deeply polarising debate and brand Labor indelibly as a libertarian personal rights party ready to ditch any institution or principle.

In the process, Labor will alienate permanently an important section of its base."Kelly's analysis was in marked contrast to that of The Age's political editor, Michelle Grattan.

She told ABC Radio National's Breakfast show this week that Julia Gillard would have to change tack on the subject, preferably sooner rather than later.Mind you, she was talking to the show's presenter, Fran Kelly, whose agenda on same-sex issues is well known, and to some extent may have been framing her remarks accordingly.Grattan's argument is the same sort of vulgar inevitabilism that she, Paul Kelly and the press gallery at large displayed on the outcome of the republican referendum.

But Kelly at least has more of a feel for the values of blue-collar workers in the outer suburbs. As he says, Arbib's push to change the law on marriage "testifies to how politicians can be fooled by opinion polls and miss the bigger picture". 

That is worth repeating. The same sort of vulgar inevitabilism that she, Paul Kelly and the press gallery at large displayed on the outcome of the republican referendum.



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