How even-handed will the media be if we are about to endure another full-scale republic discussion, asks Errol Simper (“Oh yes, I'm a dedicated follower,” The Australian, 1 May, 2008).
Mr. Simper, whose trademark is to refer to himself with humility as “the scribe”, is a leading observer of the media, and one who is unusually independent in the highly conformist serious media which Australia enjoys.
He says it was fairly predictable that the most publicised "new" idea from the 2020 Summit would be for Australia to become a republic.
As in the nineties, media comment on the 2020 Summit was pro-republic.
Indeed, as the eminent British media authority Lord Deedes ( pictured) wrote 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.”
Mr. Simper believes that the media and political climate seems to have decreed monarchists to be thoroughly unfashionable. But he believes that if newspapers are seeking balance in any debate about republicanism they'll commission most of their pro-monarchy arguments from outsiders, “non-journalists such as David Flint.”
“Flint, 69, a former (and somewhat colourful) chairman of the old Australian Broadcasting Authority, was the convener for the Australians For Constitutional Monarchy movement in 1999 and is, by trade, a lawyer. It's unlikely too many staff commentators and columnists will be smashing down editors' doors, begging them to run a pro-monarchy opinion piece they just happened to have scribbled on the back of an electricity bill in the train on the way to work. Few folks, least of all media folks, have an earnest desire to be deemed unfashionable,” he writes.
But “ if a topic is to be comprehensively examined, someone must be unfashionable.”
He found it interesting to see Alexander Downer on prime time news broadcasts warning monarchists they would be subjected to ridicule in the debate. He says Mr. Downer is absolutely correct.
But ridicule does not bother Mr. Simper.
Republicanism he says is a dangerously divisive topic, and he is fearful of an elected president and cannot see the point of a parliamentary president.