December 12

Why do they forget?

Are Australian proponents of a politicians' republic particularly prone to memory loss?   

If not, why do they keep forgetting the 1999 republican model was theirs?  Why do they claim it was John Howard’s? This only makes them look foolish.

The 25th Prime Minister had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with that model.   This story begins with The Age’s lament for the tenth anniversary of the republican referendum. In it author Tom Keneally slammed the republicans who want a directly elected president   as ''grandstanding direct elocutionists'' who helped defeat the referendum but did little later to progress their model. 

''People seemed to want a direct model, and if they do, it will just have to be framed,'' he told  Misha Schubert and Damien Murphy of The Age “Direct election way to go on republic, says Keneally” (6/11).


But now he says he would go their way. It seems he will have any politicians’ republic if only he can get rid of the Australian Crown.  ''If I were campaigning again,” he says “I would be going for the direct-election model, because the idea that we couldn't adequately define the reserve powers is an insult to our intelligence.''

Well both former Attorney –General Gareth Evans and prime minister were among the most prominent people to deliver that particular insult.

As The Age recalls, Tom Keneally was the founding chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, later led by Malcolm Turnbull, which insisted on a republic with a president appointed by a two-thirds majority of Parliament. 

…John Howard "foisted" the 1999 republican model on Malcolm Turnbull….

In any event Mr. Keneally's attack annoyed direct-election advocate Phil Cleary. He  told The Age  he had no regrets about joining the ''No'' coalition to defeat the referendum.

Direct-election advocate Phil Cleary told The Age  he had no regrets about joining the ''No'' coalition to defeat the referendum.

''I still think it was the right position, because the model that was offered wasn't a democratic model and it made a laughing stock of a republic,'' he said.

Mr Cleary said Mr Turnbull had to shoulder much of the blame for the defeat. ''People can say to us 'you wreckers', but the truth is, Malcolm Turnbull allowed Howard to foist a model on him that was doomed.''

But as ACM National Executive Director Thomas Flynn says : “Cleary was at the constitutional convention in 1998 and so was the co-author of this article, Misha Schubert . They must both know how the convention selected the model. Furthermore the model – more or less – was the very one Turnbull/Keating and the ARM had been spruiking for years. Of course Howard didn’t foist it on the republicans. It was in their bag of tricks all along.’ 


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