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Day to Day Politics: A not so reluctant Republic (re-visited)

Wednesday 3 January 2018

I have posted this before, the last time was around this date last year. It was the time the latest Essential Poll showed that 47% of Australians supported a Republic, 32% didn’t, and 20% had no opinion.

This time I am doing so in light of the Prime Minister’s statement that a survey similar to the Marriage Equality one would be useful in determining public opinion. I have two thoughts here.

One is that, like the survey, they are going to spend another $122 million to find out something already known, or what the polls show at no cost to the public, and secondly then spend another $150 million or so on a plebiscite.

I say this because if you listened judiciously to what Turnbull said it was that the survey would be a good lead into a plebiscite. The other thing I find rather odd, or at least not in good taste is this statement that it will all be done when she (the Queen) dies, or when her reign comes to an end.

In jolly good taste, that. Another thing that Republicans seem not to understand that in these days of celebrity worship the palace is streets ahead in the public relations race. Speak to young people and you will find that the younger royals are worshiped just like any of the Hollywood stars.

With both parties and their leaders in favour of a Republic surely now is the time to test the public’s will. Both sides have nothing to lose with a non binding plebiscite. The principle is no different to that of marriage equality.

How I became a republican!

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 flavour. 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 to 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 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 our 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 a hung parliament we had a President of the caliber of Sir William Deane. Although a ceremonial head of state his quiet calm would have reduced the toxicity of public debate that has insinuated itself on the Australian public over the past two years.

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

My thought for the day

“Turnbull could bring it on now but like so many other things he is simply following orders.”


26 comments

  1. Terry2

    I was amused to see the media dig out Australians for Constitutional Monarchy national convener David Flint to again tell us that Australians are quite happy with the Queen and that we already have an Australian Head of Sate in (Sir) Peter Cosgrove.

    I though that Flint had retired to the old dart but it seems that he is kept in a deep-freeze somewhere in the ACT.

  2. Peter F

    John, you are correct when you say that we should avoid a President directly elected by the people. Unless, that is, the candidates are confirmed by a majority of a joint sitting of parliament.

    The last thing we need is the media selecting our President for us. Rupert for President, anyone?

  3. James

    I wonder if people truly understand the power this would hand the government? If the systemic parasites in the LNP wish a republic believe me it’s of little benefit to any of us, what happens when a grub like Turnbull refuses to leave…what then?…Well written Mr Lord

  4. John Boyd

    Let’s just leave the republic issue till we sort out the current shambolic government. It’s just the sort of issue Turnbull could use to distract attention from real issues.

  5. corvus boreus

    John Boyd,
    Bout that here too.
    40-something percent of Australians polled favor a republic.
    80-something percent of Australians polled favor a federal ICAC.
    In terms of representative governance, which should have priority?

  6. wam

    You are a year or two ahead because I was in grade 7 and in from yorke peninsula and snuck over the hill to the crates of milk a ripped into them before the got hot copped a dressing down for that but went back whilst the little daffodills were dancing and the other dills were waving but the milk was warm. Used to embarrass my family at the flicks by not standing for the anthem I arrogantly shifted to the front row so everyone could see me sitting still do and don’t stand for advance our abundant plains to share. But republic never crossed my mind.

    What powers would you give a president beyond Cosgrove ace king?

  7. Ricardo29

    I’m a Republican so bring it on, but more I am a Carlton supporter and the first game I ever saw was at Princes Park against Collingwood. This would be 60 years ago, I was 12 and small so had a hard time seeing from the hill. I climbed on the fence railing and hoked my heels over the wood and asked a bloke if I could balance by holding onto his shoulder. Then Murray Wiedemann took a dive prompting me to shout something about being an actor, the bloke I was leaning on walked away and I fell off the fence. Fun times.

  8. needagoodlaugh

    My late father would give me a very sound clip around the ears at the flicks when I wouldn’t stand for the National anthem. I’m somewhat over the hill now and still I refuse to stand for the anthem, be it at the football or a posh do. My (unnatural) left leanings greatly annoyed my father who thought Pig Iron Bob was a divine individual – oh and when he retired to Qld, Joh was his boy…Dad never understood!
    Bring on the republic – it doesn’t seem to have done any harm to many of the other pink countries of the old globe.

  9. Geoff Andrews

    First, define the powers of the head of state. That will determine who and how he/she is elected by either parliament or popular vote.
    What should be the title: President or Governor General?
    Should Kerr’s power to dismiss a government be confirmed or just the power to call an election in times of major unrest?
    What powers during war or impending war – total control with advice from parliament or the power to veto decisions made by parliament?
    What term of office: between 3 and 10 years?
    Who choses his/her advisory team.
    Unfortunately, every question is a battlefield for Abbott and his insurgents.
    Still, the old girl looked pretty healthy during her Christmas message, so republicans still have eight (?) years to get the message right.

  10. diannaart

    @ Terry2

    Maybe it is not the demise of QE2 we need wait for, it is old Flinty – supercilious old fart – and that’s just his good side.

  11. Freethinker

    It desperate me how people fail to see that this raised issue about republic vote is only a “distraction bait” so the electorate do not concentrate in the important issues.
    This reinforce my view that this mob in government and the ones behind them are mastering very well how to manipulate the masses to their benefit.
    They are not incapable, they are not stupid, they are achieving world wide what they want and they do not mind at all people criticising them as long as they can complete their agenda.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Donald Trump tweeted a couple of hours ago….

    “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

    Nothing like having two maniacs engaged in a pissing contest.

    Apologies for being off topic

  13. @RosemaryJ36

    Trusting a government do choose a President is a big ask! And what is far more important – will the President be purely ornamental or will (s)he have power?

  14. Jack Russell

    I think that if people like Michael Kirby or Gillian Triggs, for instance, were proposing a republic I’d feel quite open to the idea.

    The thought of this current bunch of grotesque fascists, or their mates, having anything at all to do with it (or even wanting it for that matter) gives me nightmares.

  15. Kronomex

    And so Heinrich Dutton is starting the new year with a baseless scare campaign on 2GB (what a surprise) and wishing that HE controlled all the police forces and courts. Then he’d show the lily-livered pantywaists and do-gooders what a real fascist thug can do. He’s only getting started folks. And Trembles The Weak sits back and meekly lets these bastards go on their merry way without saying a word.

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/victorians-scared-to-go-to-restaurants-at-night-because-of-street-gang-violence-peter-dutton-20180103-h0cvu4.html

    The Carnival of Grotesques rolls on…until the election.

    @RosemaryJ36 – A parliamentary chosen president will be purely ornamental. There is no way they’d allow whoever is chosen to wield anything that resembles power.

  16. John Boyd

    Geoff Andrews….’….or just the power to call an election in times of major unrest?’… The GG can only act on the advice of the PM. The ‘reserve powers’ that Kerr called on do not exist.

  17. Sir Scotchmistery

    I cannot begin to tell you how great it is to see those who opine that they are “over the hill” talking thoughtfully about why we are our own country and don’t need some inbred pommie to make decisions for us as a sovereign nation.

    Unlike Abbort who still likes to be surrounded by Queens and princes, (Pyne, Downer, that fluck knuckle from IPA)et al, we are a sovereign nation, able to make our own fluck ups (liarberal, Kwithtoffer Pyne, and co) and so on, and do by constantly electing inbreds.

    At some point we have to realise, as a sovereign nation, that we as individuals are better than all of those arseholes, and we deserve to stand on our own two feet.

    A couple of weeks ago the publican advised me of being a Labor loving C***.

    I surprised by saying he was an ill-educated Vickie without the written to understand politics since his only guide was the courier Mail.

    I believe the flucker owes me a beer.

    From the Maranoa. Where most voters are effwits.

  18. Terry2

    Donald Trump seems to think that by starving the people of North Korea with punitive sanctions and denying them fuel for their power stations in the middle of a harsh winter that they will fall into line and do as the Orange Emperor tells them.

    I’ve got news for Donald, when people , like wild animals, have their backs to the wall they are likely to strike out in retaliation.

  19. Shutterbug

    John Boyd is correct.
    The Republic issue’s reincarnation by Truffles McTrumbles is yet another brain fart vomited forth to paint Oh Great Leader in a favourable light.
    How about we tend to these issues first –

    Cash and it’s raid’s on Union Offices
    Reinstatement of Worker’s Penalty Rates
    Abolition of RoboDebt calls from Centrelink.
    Properly staffing Centrelink
    Getting Multi-National Companys to pay tax.
    Getting ALL religions to pay tax.
    Properly fund the ABC, purge it of the Murdick infection and ensure media ownership laws are enforced
    Rein in power pricing and push ahead with Renewables
    Treat asylum seekers with a modicum of decency
    Abolish The Lord’s Prayer from any and all Parliamentary sittings
    Remove the repugnant ‘Entitlements’ that our lowly esteemed leaders feast upon.
    Get wage growth keeping pace with Cost of Living
    Instigate a Legal Fine/Transaction-Fee system means tested.
    Stop propping up mining magnates with diesel rebates
    Make ALL essential services Government owned.
    Federal ICAC – binding.
    Bank inquiry – binding
    Tell the US Pine Gap is closing

    &tc………..

    There are more, many, many more far more important and urgent issues Australia has to deal with.
    And me? I couldn’t care less who is our Head of State. It can be Basil Brush for all I care.
    And I will bet you that those who are scrimping and scraping and busting their balls just to pay bills wouldn’t give a flying fuck who the Head of State is either.

    What hurts the most though is that Truffles Brain Fart has worked, taking the focus of his hard core sycophancy and his pathetic cow-towing to the RWNJ’s of the LNP.

    Please, do me a favour.

  20. Jaquix

    Interesting comments! The debate we need to have (but no hurry) and certainly not during this inept governments tenure. Originally I favoured “people’s choice”, bit further reflection has watered that right down. Trump comes to mind and yet another election with Murdoch calling the shots? No thanks. 2/3rds of all MPs and senators (free voting) sounds reasonable. After all that’s what we elect them to do. Think good example of GG was Quentin Bryce. She was a superb ambassador and role model on many levels. Labor has a policy on this and appointed Matt Thistlethwaite as “liaison manager” so things can just bubble quietly along.

  21. Jaquix

    Another thought:. Turnbulls idea of waiting til the Queen dies is rude and ridiculous. She is 91 and her mother lived to be 102, so she should have 11 good years left. I’m sure she understands that Australia has grown up, and like all children do, wants to leave home.

  22. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES!

    The original model was a disaster and the people were right to reject it. It was a recipe for further unaccountability of parliament and more power vested in politicians and their parties. Exactly what the Australian people do not need or want. The people require a head of state with specifically codefied powers that can hold the corrupt politicians in parliament to account or be part of that process.

    The direct election model will not be prefered either as the majority of states at a referendum will not vote for it when they realise that the head of state would be elected from Sydney and Melbourne and the votes in smaller states will be irrelevant. Hence, the referendum will not pass in favour of the direct election model as a majority of states will not support that model. The option therefore is to have a debate about the preferred model. The proposed process of a plebisite etc is not that bad and has some merit.

  23. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES!

    Jack Russel: “The thought of this current bunch of grotesque fascists, or their mates, having anything at all to do with it (or even wanting it for that matter) gives me nightmares.” This is exactly the sentiment responsible for the people’s rejection of the appointment by parliament model. They simply do not trust the corrupt AHs in parliament to put the right person in place who would protect the interests of the people.

  24. Geoff Andrews

    John Boyd,
    You’re correct of course: the current GG “can only act on the advice of the PM”.
    At present.
    My comment(s) related to a FUTURE republic.
    In 1975, we were all incensed, as you would have been, by the sophistry of Kerr, Fraser et al.
    I don’t think that Kerr sought advice from Whitlam before he sacked him. If what he did was unconstitutinal, there was no legal challenge in the High Court, so it could be argued that a precedent has been set.
    The question is: what powers do we give to a new Head of State/President/Chairman/GG after considering our oun history and that of other republics.
    The American model doesn’t appeal at present.
    Maybe we should restrict the Head of State to a female: one could argue that female leaders have been a uniting force throughout history. Maybe it’s a testosterone thing – my button’s bigger and closer than yours.
    Alternatively, we could keep all the current conventions but just snip the Queen out of our Constitution. That’d show the world how grown up we are, eh?

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