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Day to Day Politics: It’s another no from Malcolm

Yesterday the Prime Minister and former Chair/life member of the Australian Republican Movement gave a speech on the occasion of the movement’s 25th anniversary. In the week preceding it, Monarchist groups were out screaming their usual pithy outrage at the very audacity of having one of our own as head of state..

The political class were wondering if he was intent on reclaiming some of his former principles that existed before he allowed himself to become captive to the ultra right of his party. If the speech was just to be a reconfirmation of his existing thoughts then it would be just self indulgence. So with great anticipation we all wondered what the speech might contain. Was he actually going to confront his party and move the proposition forward?

Well it was a dud of sorts. As it turned out he gave a passionate speech re affirming his total support for a republic but reiterated his belief that the time would not be ripe for such a move until the end of the Queen’s reign. Nothing new in this. He said it was essential before the next referendum that the split between those who preferred a direct election and those who favoured a parliamentary selection endorsed by the leaders of the government and opposition. That I would agree with.

So the end result was, as I predicted just an exercise in self indulgence. We are no further advanced and the Queen might very well say. Well you might at least have the decency of doing it while I am alive.

The new head of the movement Peter FitzSimons said ”It was wonderful to hear that the PMs passion for a republic was is enduring”

All in all it was an exercise in nothingness. Like all of those things that Turnbull is passionate about, he doesn’t seem to have the leadership qualities to advance them.

I have been a long-standing crusader for the cause of an Australian Republic and worked tirelessly on the issue in 1999. I even had the pleasure of introducing Sir Rupert Hamer at a function I organised.

It was a time when the likes of Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin acting as henchmen for the then Prime Minister John Howard said the most outrageous things about the Republican movement.

Monarchists have always insisted that the Governor General is the Head of State. When confronted with a question about whether the Queen’s right to annul legislation under the constitution should be withdrawn, she said no. In doing so she, by inference, admitted that the Queen is indeed Australia’s head of state.

We now have a Prime Minister, an Opposition leader and every state premier except one in support. It’s time.

All that aside and acknowledging the many and varied attitudes on the subject.

This is why I Support a Republic with an Australian as Head of State

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 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 of 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 Britons 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 honour 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 115 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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26 comments

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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    Trouble was Howard seen himself as head of state with his wife as first lady. At every opportunity he pushed rge GG aside, taking over his role. Since Abbott came in, we see little of the GG. I wonder why?

  2. king1394

    I can’t see the Queen’s death or retirement being a catalyst for a Republic in Australia. If it was to be, we should be preparing now to put the Republic into place. At the Queen’s death (such a thought being lese majeste) there will be such ceremonial, wearing of regalia, unleashing of documentaries and hagiography … and that will be followed by the Coronation of King Charles III (presuming he out-lives her), which will be another grand spectacle and opportunity for the purchase of commemorative plates. No doubt the Republicans will be vaguely heartened but then, Charles will be such a dignified old bloke, it would hardly be fair to insult him with the establishment of a Republic in Australia. Besides, he will not be around very long and then we will have more ceremonies, and everyone’s darling, Will & Kate, will be ascending the throne …

  3. passum2013

    Florence Its my opinion only but Turnbull goes with The party line at the time .Whether right or wrong

  4. Peter F

    The monarchists can never answer the question ” Has the Queen EVER represented Australia internationally?” Of course not, when she travels, she represents the United (?) Kingdom , with the possibly afterthought ‘and the Commonwealth’.

    What a joke on us.

  5. Ian Ellis

    Many keen republicans were less than impressed with Turnbull as their leader during the fatal campaign. Why those with a passion for a republic should give the weakling the impression that his leadership has been assumed I can’t understand.

  6. Rossleigh

    In essence Mr Turnbull declared that while he personally supported a republic, he didn’t see it as possible while you had a popular monarch in England and an Australian Prime Minister without a spine.

  7. stephentardrew

    A pyrrhic victory for a demonstrable coward and elitist willing to do untold harm to the world, country and his fellow marginalised citizens simply to satiate his right wing loons. He is looking more and more like them every day. A bit of window dressing to make him appear in control. Failed again Malcolm. How deep in deceit does one have to be before drowning.

  8. Jaquix

    If he was passionate about his subject, he wouldnt need to read notes for his speech. Lost me after first few lines. Nothing to see here. Waiting for Queenie to die? What nonsense, she already knows its inevitable. Typical Turnbull, weak as water Add this to his list of wiffle waffles.

  9. Florence nee Fedup

    I believe the Queen has no problem with the proposition, Believes it is time we grew up and left home.

  10. captainwise

    Australia you have never grown up and whilst you subjugate yourself to the British Monarchy you never will.

  11. Pilot

    Why is the Queen NOT the Head of the United Queendom?

  12. Matters Not

    Wonderful to have a ‘leader’ who promises to act – Tomorrow . Knowing full well that Tomorrow Never Comes.

    Destined to inherit the future, never to be its creator.

  13. Kronomex

    Tellsbull can say what he likes about Australia becoming a republic but a few yanks on the testicle choke chain and he’ll scuttle away back to his kennel. He’s a pale imitation of a “leader” and won’t be there much longer. I would rather see a bill of rights (every time that issue is raised all sections of parliament run and hide) before the damned republic debate.

  14. helvityni

    “Its my opinion only but Turnbull goes with The party line at the time .Whether right or wrong” (passum2013)

    So, we do NOT need Turnbull, The Party Line is our leader. The front man/woman can be anyone, one day Tones, then maybe Ms Julie…

    ( oops, I almost typed ‘the panty line’)

  15. wam

    Memories are great, Lord!!! The brains of my family was a little wattle.
    I was the idiot who stayed sitting at the end of films and argued that the Japanese were Anglophiles, Churchill was a warmonger and Macarthur deserted his soldiers and ran to Australia.
    My family, like the rest of Australia, was unaware of 19/2/42 and Kokoda but aware of the battle of brisbane and derisive of those who said ‘the Yanks save us from the japs.’. How? Hirohito himself said they were not going to invade Australia.
    Despite, N Anderson’s rubbish academic book, I believe we were the first to stop the Japanese army.
    As for a republic, America showed us the risks of a popular vote and Kerr showed us the danger of giving power to a parliamentary captain’s prick.
    The behaviour of this parliament shows trunbull made the correct choice to leave it to pauline.

  16. helvityni

    Kronomex, at least The Merchant of Venice (Albo’s brilliant term for MT) has a luxurious kennel to retreat to…Maybe his interest in Venice Biennales, in Art, was also only a phase like Republicanism…

    Matters Not, well said…

  17. metadatalata

    The problem as I see it with the current system is that the queens representative is still an Australian political appointment. The Prime Minister advises the Queen of the person to appoint. In the case of Peter Cosgrove, Abbott chose a guy who is a wet lettuce when it comes to stepping in against the blatant political corruption we have witnessed to date.
    I believe the Queen is eminently qualified to make some decisions on behalf of Australia. At least she was schooled in governing and politics unlike the 2 recent PMs who were appear to have been schooled in deceit and fraud.

  18. Keitha Granville

    I have no problem with leaving the Queen as our HoS until she dies, and I think the republic referendum model that was put up is the most sensible. Do we really want the debacle that is the US ? Imagine having voted in someone like TA as President – the horror of it.

    My husband and I have a wager that Charles will never be king – he can’t do anything while his mother is alive, she would be mortified, but I believe he knows that the only chance for the monarchy in the UK will be for William to be the next king.

    At the moment we need to focus all our effort into dumping thiss loser government and getting the country heading in the right direction again.

  19. kerri

    I have always found interesting the hypocrisy in the “rules” of the monarchy.
    Wallis Simpson was ineligible to be Queen as she was a divorcee.
    The British Monarchy will not accept a Catholic partner for the Monarch because of the reigning Monarch being the head of the Church of England.
    The Church of England was established by Henry the Eighth.
    Henry established the CoE with very similar principles and methods of worship to the Catholic church, but with himself as head and last word authorityrather than the Pope.
    Henry did this for the sole purpose of divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who was unable to bear him a son and heir.
    Interesting how religion is used to manipulate personal desires?

  20. helvityni

    Well Keitha, we did vote in a certain TA as our PM. What’s the difference: Donald or Tones I was pretty horrified when that happened. The present PM tows the party line, so no improvements there either.

    Most countries, some very tiny ones, scramble for total independence, not Australia..

  21. corvus boreus

    kerri,
    I don’t think that affairs of matrimony were the only motivations in Henry declaring the C of E as being divorced from Papism.
    As well as the sudden accumulation of personal authoritative power (under official ‘divine sanction’, no less),the subsequent plundering of Catholic monasteries and shrines went a long way towards financing some of Henry’s grand ambitions.
    As you said, religion all too often serves towards gratifying personal desires; mainly power/privilege and profit.

  22. Christine Farmer

    I agree that the model for the republic defeated in 1999 is the best choice; the last thing we should
    opt for is a US style presidential election, in which money can be, and mostly is, the deciding factor. A two-thirds parliamentary majority vote should ensure the candidate selected is not one of the Trumps of this world, and has the approval of both sides of parliament. However, it seems unlikely that an Australian head of state will have much more than a ceremonial role.

    I’ve never understood how Turnbull, having worked so hard for the referendum, having said “Howard has broken Australia’s heart”, could then join the Libs. Just that action suggested that his principles were hardly deserving of the word, and that has been demonstrated over and over since he became PM. It’ s all so depressing.

  23. dragonnanny

    Interesting article Mr Lord. You mention Quentin Bryce as GG but I had to Google to confirm that Sir Peter Cosgrove is our current Governor General – I really don’t know what it happening in and to Australia at this present time……….. the more I think about all that is happening, or not happening, I get confused and a headache………. it’s all getting way too hard for me to understand or process to try to understand.

  24. JeffJL

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

    I ask the question back – In what ways will Australia be a better place as a republic with an Australian as its own head of state? Any change should be made with this question foremost in peoples minds.

    Too many people argue that we should be a republic because they don’t like the Royal Family (or the English).
    Too many people argue that we should not have the Queen as the head of state and do not provide an argument as to why we would be better off with an Australian as the head of state.

    I say don’t change something which is working and is causing no problems unless you can provide a system which is significantly better.

    We changed the legal system so that you could not go off to the Privy Council in the UK to appeal against High Court decisions here in Australia which is good as non Australians should not be making decisions about Australian law. (ISDS settlements anybody?)

    The Royal Family do not make decisions which effect life here in Australia. Is the Constitutional Monarchy we have perfect? – No. Show me a political system which is. This part of the system is working. Don’t change it unless you can put in place something significantly better.

  25. wam

    wow jeffjl
    Head of state in the system does nothing (like many pollies) so it is working??
    But I know what you mean, she keeps a lot of pommie Aussies happy and we pay her nothing but her flaming state/territory reps cost an arm and a kidney and what do they working?

  26. JeffJL

    wam.

    As I see it the problem with politics today is that the media do no hold the politicians to account (well the right leaning ones). Were that to be happening then all the lies and corruption happening at the moment would disappear. Would changing to an Australian Head of State change that? I am yet to recall somebody providing an argument that that would happen.

    Were we to be a republic we would still have the equivalent state governors. Same cost. Same duties. Hardly an argument to change.

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