December 20

When they call you “mate”’s like getting a kiss from the Mafia

As I revealed in my last column, the republican movement, advised by the Fairfax columnist Peter FitzSimons, is about to announce a new slogan, ‘A Mate for Head of State’.

And on "A Mate for Head of State Day" they will wear a yellow, or is it a gold ribbon.

While you are similing at these antics, ask yourself whther people want mateship in their Constitution?

In 1999, the people overwhelmingly rejected the insertion of a preamble to the Constitution which centred on the word ‘mateship’

I suspect that while Australians respect and honour mateship, they are supicious when politicians -especially republicans- use the word.

They know it means something else.

So what do the republicans mean when they say ‘A Mate for Head of State’?

Does it have the same meaning for them as it does, say, in the NSW Labor Party?

In 1983, delegates at a Labor Party Conference applauded Bill Hayden when he recalled the way a Labor official addressed him while plotting to remove him as leader: “Oh mate, mate.”

Bill Hayden observed: “When they call you "mate" in the NSW Labor Party; it is like getting a kiss from the Mafia.”

When Lionel Murphy was charged with perverting the course of justice, he denied referring to the accused he was alleged to have tried to help improperly as ” my little mate”.

At other times the term has been used politically as a reference to those who are to receive favours, often improperly, from the politicians. In 1989, when the media laws were changed, it was widely said that this was to help the then “media mates” of the Keating Government.

So when the republican politicians use the word, we should be on our guard.

It is clear that the presidency of whatever form of republic they decide on-if they ever do-is to be reserved for one of their "mates".

The really surprising thing is, as David Byers of our Bathurst Branch says, that the republican movement would actually launch a campaign reminding us of this!


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