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A Not so Reluctant Republic


Author’s note.
The latest Essential Poll shows that 47% of Australians support a Republic 32% don’t and 20% have no opinion.

Royal Parade, in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton is a magnificent leafy tree lined boulevard. It may not match the historical importance of St Kilda Road but for me it is where my Australian patriotism birthed.
At the North end of Royal Parade where the long journey to Sydney begins is the home of the Carlton Football Club. Australian Rules football is uniquely Australian. I played the game with some success and I have never lost my love for its indigenous flavor. It was at this ground that I saw my first match and passages of play remain indelible on my mind more than sixty years on.

However, this boulevard occupies another memory. The year of 1952 saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and in 1954 the new Queen visited Australia. On this occasion her motorcade from Essendon Airport was to take her to the city via Royal Parade and school children lined the route. We were given a small Australian flag and a Union Jack. I was familiar with our flag because we raised it every day at school. All the children waved in joyous spontaneity but I refused to wave the English flag and tossed it away.

One teacher gave me a decent clip behind my left ear but I would not conform. I sauntered off in adolescent anger and wagged school for the remainder of the day. To this day I cannot explain my journey into republicanism. I was too young to understand the ramifications of it all. Because I had spent my early childhood (with illness) in a home and attended five different schools in the space of six years I was really not qualified to form a definitive view on anything.

I left school at 13 and started work before my 14th birthday. I am, in the main self-educated. I suppose I could have been influenced by the Irish on my mother’s side but I think it was more the adornment of all things English in the society of the time in preference to Australia that took me down the republican path. Having said that, probably the socio economic environment in which I found myself helped form my views on social justice and other things.

I have always found this nationalistic worship of individuals (usually with no redeeming features) rather odd, if not dangerous. So when as a teenager I went to the flicks or on any occasion where “God Save The Queen” was played I refused point blank to stand for the anthem. In fact I often wondered what it was that she needed saving from.

When in discussion about war and people talked about fighting for the mother country, Queen and flag I would simply say, how preposterous, we fight for what we believe to be right. Not a piece of cloth or person. I felt we owed them nothing anyway. After all Churchill was willing to sacrifice Australia for Briton’s gain during the Second World War. We were lucky that John Curtin stood up to him. Churchill even resisted the return of Australian troops from the Middle East to defend their own country; he wanted to use them in Burma to defend India against the advancing Japanese.

At this time in my life, growing up in Australia where the Prime Minister was ostensibly more British (and spoke like it) than the British and people felt they owed the mother country something, although they couldn’t explain why. So I carried my republicanism in my back pocket until the Australian Republican Movement was formed with Malcolm Turnbull at its head. I worked diligently for the cause during the 1999 referendum and had the honor of introducing former Premier Sir Rupert Hamer at a function.

There is no doubt in my mind that we had the right model to take to the people. We felt we had a reasonable chance of success but we were overwhelmed by the negativity of the media. Of course John Howard acted like he was being perfectly reasonable but he had his pit bull terriers Tony Abbott and Nick Minchen distorting the facts with outlandish lies and Howard never once repudiated them. In fact Tony Abbott has never lost the capacity to tell the most outrageous untruths. Well he’s probably better at it now. One of course has to wonder why such a serious Catholic who knowingly accepts that one of his faith is by birth ineligible should support the monarchy at all.

So the country lost interest in the matter and it is generally accepted that until the current Monarch retires or dies, our apathy shall continue. Malcolm Turnbull believes this will be the catalyst for action and is in all probability correct.

The way forward is through a non-binding plebiscite with a simple question. For example.

“Do you think Australia should become a republic with an Australian as its own head of state?”

A majority of us would support this and it would pave the way for exploration and development of various models. And with consensus the final model would evolve. As I said earlier, I found nothing wrong with the original model. That being that from a short list the Prime Minister puts forward a person who is then given approval with a two thirds majority by a joint sitting of both houses. I would argue that the people elect the Parliament and then entrust their representatives to appoint a President on their behalf.

After all they entrust them to run the country. For those open to a direct election I would simply warn that this method would actually politicise the appointment. Suitable candidates may not be willing to stand in an election and would decline. They would not be interested in a popular contest. Conversely many unsuitable people would and could win on the basis of popularity.

The British Monarchy to my way of thinking is undemocratic and inequitable in so much as it goes against commonly accepted Australian values such as fairness and egalitarianism. Currently their head of state is selected not on merit but by the principle of hereditary male primogeniture (although that has since changed) and of course Catholics being specifically ineligible. This is discriminatory and unfair, and wouldn’t be allowed under the anti-discrimination provisions of Australian law, yet is still the method of selection for the Australian head of state.

Given that the people were fully informed and educated on the proposals for an Australian Republic with an Aussie as head of state and a consensus agreed upon, then we could proceed to a referendum. If successful, we would then be able to move forward into the new millennium as a fully free, united and confident nation. After 110 years of federation, we have grown up and if we are to take our place in the world, we must break our last constitutional links with England.

It is utterly preposterous that we don’t have an Australian head of state. Imagine if during the course of the recent hung parliament we had a President of the calibre of Sir William Deane or indeed, the current Governor General, Quentin Bryce. Although a ceremonial head of state his/her quiet calm could have reduced the toxicity of public debate that has insinuated itself on the Australian public during that period.

I recall after the referendum reading Malcolm Turnbull’s book “The Reluctant Republic” where he accused John Howard (The lying rodent George Brandis called him) of breaking the hearts of Australians. He was in fact correct. He dudded us and this Australian shed a tear.

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  1. Kaye Lee

    Sir John Howard has a nice ring to it.

  2. Kaye Lee

    We are the Knights who say No and we want a monarchy!

  3. Pat lee

    Why do we listen to you druggy47 you are just a drone hiding behind a made up name letus see the real person then maybe I’ll give u the pleasure of considering your word, shallow as it is.

  4. duggy47

    So you are THAT John Lord. I remember you running around and kicking long torpedo punts for the Demons at a time when they were rather more successful than they are today.

  5. duggy47

    Come to think of it you came to conduct a football clinic at my high school in Strathmore when I was in about form 4!

  6. Terry2

    I probably fall into that 20% who evidently have ‘No Opinion’ only, I do have an opinion but without a reasonably precise formulation of how an Australian republic would look, I have to remain uncommitted at this stage..

  7. Hotspringer

    Prefer a republic, but tell me – who decides the short list? Either way, plutocracy rules anyway.

  8. oldfart

    I say yes to a republic with an australian head of state as a first move The second move would be to amend the constitition to enshrine human rights into it, so that we actualy do have freedom of speech

  9. Kerri

    I have to say that your hard work for the republic was foiled by two things. Primarily. 1/ John Howard. 2/ Senior citizens. You will never get our older generations to agree to an elected or appointed head of state. They have grown up with the belief in a “born” ruler and while blind to the failings of the royals, cannot come at an Aussie as their ultimate leader. Patience and time will help alleviate this problem, but leaders like Abbott don’t help. In my opinion I would very much like to see Australia a republic with one strong proviso!!! WE MUST NOT TRANSFER THE GODLIKE STATUS ENDOWED UPON THE ROYALS TO OUR PRESIDENT OR LEADER.
    While I was shocked at the incredibly rude and disrespectful way Julia Gillard was treated during her Prime Ministership, I do not believe in the US model of treating the President as a demigod.
    A President is, after all, one of us.

  10. Richard

    Is it the same John Lord that played CHF for Melbourne, along with Bob Johnston, Ian Ridley, John Beckworth, Geoff Tunbridge, Ron Barassi, Bluey Adams, Brian Dixon etc.

  11. Frank Sheehan

    Funny enough I here this argument that a directly voted President politicises the office all the time. That argument does not wash. What politicises the Office is making the role of President “political”, by definition giving politicians the right to appoint the Office Bearer will certainly be political. A case in point is the list of political hacks sitting in plumb jobs. if you believe Australians are capable of having our own head of state why cannot you accept the even more logical POV that they have the right of directly electing that person? No one would dare call the Irish President a political hack. Australia for Australians and as Australians All should have a Direct say on who holds our Highest Office

  12. doctorrob54

    Wonderful and well written and explained,I continue to be amazed why any Australian would want to be tied to the apron strings or boot laces for that matter,to any foreign monarch.We are Australia,not part of Britain,USA or Europa.In reality whether people like it or not we are part of Asia.
    And as it was prior to colonization stronger ties,economic and social with our northen neighbours is inevitable and will prove beneficial.

  13. revolutionarycitizen

    A republic? That question has been asked twice, both times it was rejected. Why are people so determined to over-rule the democratically voiced decision of the people?

    Also, the politicians will never give you a directly elected Head of State, so unless you’re in favour of granting politicians even more power you’re never going to get a republic. Secondly, a true republic requires a directly elected Head of Government who is the Head of State, the model most Australians think of when they think about a republic.

    Lastly, we do not have a person as a Head of State, we have an object, the Crown, which has a physical embodiment in Her Majesty the Queen. However, silly that may sound that is the easiest way to describe it. It is a thing that grants authority but retains none for itself, making it in reality pointless but important. It is important because it creates the authority by government exists but is pointless because it has no power over government.

    A republic? What a waste of time and perfectly good money, there are bigger fish that need frying.

  14. Fed up

    I rejected the idea of royalty back in infants school. To this day, I have no idea why. All I recall, is saluting the flag and singing God save the King was stupid.

    I can recall listening to a Queens Elizabets wedding on the radio, run on a car battery, and later her coronation. Yes, was interesting, but had little meaning for me.

  15. duggy47

    Pat Lee
    I don’t like anonymous online names either. I don’t seem to be able to persuade WordPress to change my username to the one I use everywhere else but my name which I usually blog and comment under is Doug Evans. You can find a few pieces of mine here on AIMN from a little while back and on Independent Australia and here on my blog Earthsign http://duggyvans.blogspot.com.au/ (although I’ve been taking a bit of a blog holiday). Perhaps you should actually read some of the bits and pieces I have written before criticizing? Can’t imagine why anyone would wish to consider my comments so far on this piece at all other perhaps than the fine former VFL player who posted it. Perhaps your grumpy supercilious tone stems from the fact that you have read and don’t like something else that I have written?

  16. Alan Smith

    As a British born Australian, I found it both amusing and slightly weird that in order to become an Australian citizen, I had to swear allegiance to the British Queen. And that the Queen’s representative could dismiss an elected Australian government (in the mid seventies) and appoint the opposition to lead. Or that even today, the leader of the party that wins the election has to go, cap in hand, to the Governor General to ask their gracious permission to do what they have already won the right to do – form a government. As I see it, for Australia to still be a de facto part of the British Empire is absurd.

    The obstacle in the way of Australian independence, however, (and, for that matter, changes to the flag) seem to be that while in the abstract a majority approve of it, it doesn’t seem to be that much of a burning question. Pub conversations might generate a lot of gas about refugees, taxation, the wearing of the bhurka, minority tickets in the Senate and the environment, but the question of a Republic scarcely seems to rate a mention. Perhaps this is recognition that it would be, at base, only a symbolic change. The government would still be taking orders from the rich and powerful,whether it was led by a President or Prime Minister.

    As an aside, I’m not sure why young JohnLord13 refused to wave the Union jack (Which is NOT the “English flag” btw – that’s the St George Cross) regardless of his Australian patriotism. Was it not that case the Britain was (and still is) a friendly foreign power?

  17. Bill Morris

    Why do we need a Governor General? Why do the States need Governors? They are nothing but ceremonial figureheads and relics of colonialism and the class system.
    Why do we need a President or similar as head of state? Once again, just a ceremonial figurehead!
    A Republic has to have a leader, not a figurehead, so why isn’t the leader of the party in government the obvious person for the job?
    Unless we live in their electorate we don’t directly vote for our PM. If we did vote directly for a head of state we could end up with a leader not of the party in government, another ceremonial figurehead situation.
    Some might say ‘but we could end up with a head of state like Abbott”, well that is true, People might think a bit more before they vote if that is the likely scenario.
    Even so the same people who made him leader would effectively select the figurehead of state!

  18. Billy moir

    We only need a referendum to change the constitution but any parliament could write and pass a new one. How would a constitution compromise of the rabbott and Milne go??

  19. John Fraser


    I don't see how Australia can become a Republic while we are at "war" and a "revolution" is going on.

    "war" = Abbott.

    "revolution" = Bernadi

  20. Gangey1959

    Let’s have an AUSEXIT vote.
    Come on talcum, mend Australia’s broken heart.
    We could vote Y/N on a few other things at the same time and save some dollars on wasteful plebiscites.

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