This is the sixth annual conference of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy since the victory- since your victory- in the referendum.
Until recently, whenever we would announce out annual conference, the Australian Republican Movement would hurriedly announce theirs.
I was amused in some years to discover that there was a significant difference.
We actually held ours!
This is the first conference since the last Federal Election, and the climate has changed considerably since then.
I should like to say something about the three forms of republican activity today, before commenting on our mission and our work. They are full scale republicanism, republican stunts and creeping republicanism.
Full Scale Republicanism and Out of Touch Politicians
Full scale republicanism, that is republicanism involving a serious proposal to throw out our tried and tested constitution, and to turn the country into a republic, is no longer on the near term agenda.
The republican movement is well and truly in the doldrums. Not one celebrity is now to be found there. It is bereft of merchant bankers no lipstick queens, television quiz presenters, television comedians, and failed politicians, ABC presenters about to go into politics or widows of Zimbabwean millionaires.
And yet our opponents continue to demonstrate the same refusal, as they have from the evening of 6 November 1999, to accept the peoples’ clear ruling against the very republic they designed, they chosen and they promoted.
For them John Howard “if he is ever to be remembered for anything, is to be remembered as the man who broke the heart of the nation.”
And presumably for Kim Beazley, the 6th of November 1999 remains as he said, “a day for visiting the sick and for burying the dead”.
But in the real world, any slight flirtation with a republic has long since faded, at least among the rank and file. As the prime minister would say, the republic is no barbecue stopper.
The fact is that even the commentariat has come to realize that having a republican agenda is a sure and certain indication that a politician is out of touch.
As John Lyons observed in his incisive essay on Keating:
The Keating prime ministership was marked by an inverse correlation: the more popular he became with journalists, the less popular he became with the public. The press gallery hailed his secretly negotiated deal with the Soeharto regime in Indonesia while Australian families buckled under the legacy of 17% mortgage rates. His famous comment, “this is the recession we had to have”, horrified families. (The Bulletin, 24 August, 2005)
John Stone observed that in the last week of the referendum campaign The Australian seemed to be almost demented.
But now that newspaper has implied in a recent editorial that republicanism in a politician is a sure sign he or she is out of touch.
We have clearly moved on since the nineties.
At that time, an increasingly large number of politicians were jumping onto the republican bandwagon.
They thought they were on a sure thing.
In Twilight of the Elites, I argued that republicanism was just another project of the inner city elites.
And the more politicians endorse elite projects such as republicanism, the more they will be seen by the rank and file as being completely out of touch with the real aspirations of the Australian people.
It is surprising that so many of those politicians, the same politicians who are obsessed by polling and focus groups, have not grasped this.
They are clearly wasting their money.
They should not think that the letters columns of The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald will tell you what people are thinking.
All they need do is listen to commercial radio talkback, which is closest to the way the nation is thinking about politics.
In its editorial of 25 August, 2005, The Australian says that if Labor wants to claw its way back to power, it must appeal to the Centre.
It says Labor cannot afford to remain captive to the public service unions and the welfare lobby. We could add that it cannot also remain captive to the minuscule and declining Australian Republican Movement.
Surely Labor will not endorse, for the third time mind you, the ARM’s demented plan to achieve a totally unworkable republican model by forcing the Australian people to keep voting on the republic until they get it right.
The editor of The Australian also turns his gaze on to Peter Costello, who it says, is now leaning to the Right, and thus wisely working to establish his intellectual credentials for leadership. It is not so many years ago, observes the editor, that the Treasurer seemed set on flirting with the "doctors’ wives", of the Liberal Left who were keen on the republic, refugees and reconciliation.
Mr. Peter Costello recently reminded recent immigrants to Australia that they must accept our fundamental values.
Our fundamental values are to be found in the six pillars of our nation, four of which came with the settlement in 1788 and a re intertwined and interdependent one with the other.
They are our language, our Judeo- Christian values, the rule of law, and Mr. Costello, the Crown, that institution above politics.
(The fourth, self government under the Westminster system was the inevitable and unique consequence of the fact that the settlement was British. The final pillar, Federation – our indissoluble federal Commonwealth under the Crown and under the Constitution- was of course all our own work.)
Australians Must Keep On Voting Until They Get It Right!
Since the referendum, the republicans, rather than being open and forthright, have become extraordinarily devious in advancing their cause.
First, they propose that Australians be forced to keep on voting until they get it right. This is their fraudulent cascading series of plebiscites and referenda, to be opened by a question designed by the spin doctors to lock the people into the unworkable republican model they are keeping under wraps.
If this were adopted, there would be no way back.
It is as close to a blank cheque as the Constitution will allow.
The second equally deceitful plebiscite to choose a model would not allow the people to indicate a preference for the existing extraordinarily successful constitution- not even as an option!
When she actually dissented from her own ARM proposal in the recent Senate Report, Liberal Senator Marise Payne finally let the cat out of the bag.
She admitted that the ARM process is designed to produce that monstrosity, a powerful elected politician as president co-existing with a Prime Minister.
In the last presidential election in France they were talking about junking this model for a Sixth Republic.
That was the election you will remember when the choice was between President Chirac and M.Le Pen.
The Socialists, surprised by being pipped by Le Pen, coined the slogan: VOTEZ POUR L’ESCROQ, PAS POUR LE FASCISTE! (Vote for the crook, and not the fascist!).
So the republicans are now demanding that, at a preliminary cost of well over $200 million at the Federal level, and probably more than that in the states and territories, Australians will be forced to vote every three or four years, each time at a cost of at least $100 million.
They will be forced to vote for that prize which Australians are lying awake at night dreaming about.
That prize is to have in Canberra, believe it or not, precisely what we are desperate to have.
One more politician!
And with the federal and state plebiscites, referenda, presidential and gubernatorial elections, a plebiscite for a new flag, Australians will, over a decade, be called to the polls up… to fifty five times!
This is in addition to the normal thirty five or so elections each decade, excluding by- elections such as that caused by the retiring republican NSW Premier. So in all we are talking about ninety polls. That is in an average year, there will be about nine polls, with compulsory voting, in the Commonwealth
This is, surely, republicanism by exhaustion!
Mr. Latham, whom the commentariat thought would be good for Australia because he read books to children, thought this demented deceitful ARM proposal so good, he made it his own.
And to the undoubted horror of his front bench he decided to concentrate the three federal votes into one term!
One vote a year.
The first Latham government would have had no time for any thing else.
In any event, with the return of the Howard government, this horror is off the agenda, unless Mr. Beazley is unwise enough to re-endorse this.
So much for full scale republicanism.
But the republicans have other weapons. One is the stunt. This usually takes place on the Queen’s Birthday or Australia Day.
Perhaps their silliest stunt was when they demanded The Queen give back Tom Robert’ wonderful painting of the State Opening of the first Federal Parliament.
That painting hangs on permanent loan in the Parliament in Canberra.
It is hardly the personal property of The Queen!
But even one state premier joined in this ridiculous and frankly embarrassing demand.
Do they really argue that if Australia became a republic, The Queen would take it back to London in a huff? Do they really think Australians would really believe such rubbish?
A relative by marriage of mine, who is German, is not particularly interested in matters constitutional or legal. Back in the early nineties, we had the following conversation:-
Wolfgang: David, Australia must be come a republic.
W: The Queen costs us so much.
DF: What do you mean?
Wall that money we send to London.
DF: What money?
W: The rent, all that money which comes from all the Crown land The Queen owns!
A German immigrant can be forgiven for not understanding things we take for granted.
That said, the Carr government actually found the time- while they are administering NSW so well- to change the name of Crown land to…believe it or not.. State land!
What a wonderful achievement of the Carr government!
Tired of a succession of silly republican stunts, I issued a column and a press release just before the 2005 Queen’s Birthday in which I asked readers to stand by for the usual childish republican stunts.
Strangely this year there were none!
The fact is that the republicans do not fool anyone when they engage in silly stunts, rather than in explaining what changes they want to our constitutional system.
Apart from the stunt the other weapon of our opponents is that deceit, a deceit for which the republican politicians have no mandate-creeping republicanism. This ranges from removing the Royal Coat of Arms to changing the Oath.
During the debate on that in Parliament, Anthony Roberts managed to extract the honest admission from one republican MLA that he was guilty of perjury
It is not unsurprising that the government most prone to practice creeping republicanism is the one least able to perform its core duties.
The worst example is the state where public transport is failing, where the future delivery of water and electricity are in doubt, where as Tim Priest says, the emasculation of the police occurred just as the most vicious and violent of the ethnic gangs emerged as a result the deliberate skewing of immigration to provide electoral fodder, where more and more land is tied up in dangerous unmanaged so called national parks from which feral animals and worse bushfires of unprecedented intensity emerge , including the one which destroyed 500 homes in our national capital.
We have just seen the not at all surprising resignation of the Premier who gave us this, and who indulged in the most foolish, vengeful and expensive form of creeping republicanism, the expulsion of the governor from Government House which was to have been accompanied by making the office part time.
And the Premier explained why he was doing this when he said:” This one’s for Jack Lang!”
Now that we have a new Premier, I wrote to Mr. Iemma on 3 August, 2005 asking that he restore the Governor to her rightful home. I have reminded him of the heavy additional costs involved and that no citizen from outside Sydney can now be Governor.
Pending such a decision, we will campaign for the return of the Governor to Government House.
ACM: Mission, governance, compliance and unity among constiutionalists
Our role as ACM is clear. It is to preserve, to protect and to defend our heritage: the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the role of the Crown in it, and our Flag.
ACM believes in transparency and accountability, and the fullest participation of the considerable body of registered ACM supporters consistent with an organization which must always be ready to operate in effective campaign mode.
ACM has always been meticulous in ensuring that there is strict compliance with each and every legal requirement, including those relating to taxation.
To ensure we are a non profit entity we are incorporated at ASIC as a company limited by guarantee.
No profit, no surplus, no return of capital can ever be made to the members.
The elected Board of Directors is unpaid and meets regularly, often with the members of the company. The Chairman of the Board, known as the National Convener, meets regularly with the Executive Director and the State and Territory Conveners. Together all these persons constitute the ACM National Council.
At least once in every year ACM holds a national conference open to all of the registered supporters.
All accounts are audited by a registered auditor, and filed as public documents with ASIC.
They are available to anyone, and are now published in our newsletter.
GST is paid, and annual returns filed with ASIC.
Supporters can be assured that every cent received is accounted for, audited and all taxes paid.
And ACM, the pioneer in Australia in the struggle against republicanism, has always fought for unity among constitutional monarchists.
On only one occasion did we publicly criticize another monarchist organization, and that was when its Chairman came out in support of Mr. Turnbull’s candidacy in Wentworth. Subsequently the Chairman indicated to the press that this was merely a personal position, and not that of the Monarchist League.
Early in the referendum campaign, a meeting to achieve unity and to overcome differences was held at ACM in Macquarie Street attended by myself, Kerry Jones, Mr. Philip Benwell and the Hon. Beryl Evans, a wonderful fighter for the constitution.
Near the end, knowing the League had neither office nor staff; Kerry made the generous offer to provide accommodation for the League in our office, and to set aside for their use one full time member of our staff.
There was no immediate response to this. Indeed there was never a response, not even a refusal.
But let me return to our mission. This guides us. And it ensures we do not wander into areas that are of no concern to ACM
For example ACM took no position on the Prime Minister’s proposal to change the method of resolving deadlocks between the House and the Senate, although many of us opposed it.
Under our mission we have developed two slogans. One is promoting the constitution through education. Much of this has been handed to a non partisan and wonderfully successful entity, the Constitutional Education Fund-Australia, CEF-A.
The other slogan is simply this: Defending the Constitution/. This succinctly describes our activities, from rallying 50,000 supporters across the Commonwealth to fight the referendum, to maintaining our role in the defence of our constitution.
Most recently, in the federal election, we did three things.
We delivered such strong submissions to the Senate Committee on the republic, and through Sir David Smith on the Head of State, that the Senate Committee dropped in the report on a day carefully chosen to ensure the media hardly noticed it.
Then we designed a leaflet which described the plan Mr. Latham had endorsed for to make Australians keep on voting on a republic until they agreed to it. About a million of these were distributed in key electorates.
Then we told our supporters which candidates wee declared constitutional Monarchists. We did not tell you what to do about this, but we know that a special effort was made in Queensland to elect that sound constitutional monarchist, Senator Barnaby Joyce, and that many people who normally worked in two electorates decided to work in others, which may have had some impact on their loss.
Website and Republic Audit
We have now upgraded our website, and I must thank two wonderful young supporters who have done this and who will show you their work today- Daniel Dykes and Tania Braukamper
We will use this website to continue our campaign with our frequent opinion pieces, a weekly news summary for the busy, including an indication of coming events.
We shall prepare print summaries for those who cannot access the web.
A special feature of the website will be the republic audit. This will show the amounts of money diverted from schools, transport, water, hospitals etc to fund and how much more is to be so diverted.
This will have three parts:
First, we shall publish all the costs incurred to date the costs incurred to date
Second, we shall estimate the cost of the current ARM proposal to make Australians vote until they get it right.
Third, we shall publish the full details, and the costs of each measure of creeping republicanism, from ejecting the NSW Governor from Government House to the removal of oaths, the chipping away at Royal Coats of Arms, and the taking down of portraits of the Queen and so on.
To complete l this inventory of waste of deceit and of shame requires your input-you know what is happening in your state or territory, in your city, your municipality or in your shire
Tell us so the picture will be truly complete.
We intend to keep this current –and to publicize it when appropriate and where appropriate, including elections.
We certainly don’t intend to take this creeping republicanism, affected without any mandate, lying down. Now is the time to fight back
Ladies and Gentlemen. Australians for Constitutional Monarchy are united in the struggle to preserve, to protect and to defend our heritage: the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the role of the Crown in it , and our Flag.
I have pleasure in opening the National Conference and in welcoming you.