Much was made recently by republicans concerning a poll in which people were, without notice, asked to name the Governor-General. Then a government survey found that most teenagers apparently do not know what either Anzac Day or Australia Day represents. When asked about the meaning of Australia Day, the NSW Minister for Education was right – on her second attempt. (Dean Bertram in The Australian on 29 November, 2006 tells us that this was after she was corrected. He points out how unlikely it would be for an American politician to confuse, say, the meaning of Thanksgiving with Independence Day). The NSW Premier thought Sir Henry Parkes was the first Premier of his state. Surely nobody would suggest that these responses mean that Anzac Day should be changed, or the premiership abolished, or that it be turned into a US style executive governorship.
Meanwhile The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age ran a story about people’s ability to recognize our leaders. This followed a poll which indicated majority support for Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as the so-called “ dream team” to take over the leadership of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. So Fairfax journalists took photos of them into the streets and asked people to identify them. After all, if the polls indicated the majority preferred them, surely they could identify them. And presumably, in a television oriented world, it is easy to identify people from a photograph –easier than having to name , say, the Governor-General.
And it is not as if Mr. Rudd is not seen on television. He was the Opposition’s spokesman on the AWB inquiry, which put the media into frenzy. He has been a very effective commentator on foreign affairs, particularly Iraq. Unlike the Governor-General, it would be an unusual week when he was not seen on television and his photograph not published in the press.
A video clip, ‘Who is this man?’ was posted to the internet media news on the two newspapers’ sites on 29 November, 2005. It shows people looking at a photo of Mr. Rudd. Some initially guessed he was in politics. One person identified him as “a friend of John Howard” with another deciding he was “Mr. Ruddock.” One person thought he was Damien Leith; another, when prompted, said “Ah, yes, Australian Idol…Damien Leith” ( Damien Leith is an Irish tenor who won the Channel 10 TV contest, Australian Idol.) The most specific identification of Ms. Gillard was: “Isn’t she Peter Beattie’s assistant?”
Remember, Mr. Rudd receives enormous attention from the media. This is especially on the ABC, who seem to have a policy of not interrupting him. A poll has indicated that voters, Labor and especially Coalition, would prefer him to lead the Labor Party, with Ms. Gillard as his deputy. The extraordinary result of theFairfax street
survey was…no one, no one could identify either.
This demonstrates the foolishness of suggesting that a poll on people’s ability to answer a question, without notice, about the name the Governor-General, means that our constitutional system should be radically altered and the our oldest institution abolished.
Rather then engaging in an increasingly bizarre series of stunts, the republican movement should just tell the people, precisely, what they want -what is their model, and what changes would they make to our uniquely successful constitutional system. As Channel 7’s David Koch told them when they launched their Mate for Head of State programme, until they do that, no one is going to take them seriously. That stunt made the republican movement a laughing stock …among the essentially republican oriented political/media establishment.