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ACM Home arrow Racist Republic?

Racist Republic?

A Racist Republic?


The time when republicanism was an issue in the Australia was not at Federation, but some decades before. This began around the time of the gold rushes, when a movement developed for a white Australia policy. But the British imperial authorities were opposed to any discriminatory immigration policy.  So the more radical thought this could only be achieved by secession as a white republic.

This movement was led by an influential journal, The Bulletin. This was founded by J.F. Archibald, who financed the magnificent fountain bearing his name in Hyde Park Sydney.  For a small population, the circulation of the journal was very high, and at times reached around 80,000.  The motto on the journal’s masthead was “Australia for the White Man”, a motto which still existed until it was taken over by Sir Frank Packer in 1961.  

Interest in a separate white racist republic waned with the movement to federation. Among the powers of the new Parliament was one over immigration. To try to circumvent British displeasure with the White Australia Policy, a South African style discretionary dictation test was introduced.

  Republicans today are embarrassed when it is pointed out that their most significant predecessors were those in the nineteenth century who were principally interested in a racist republic, and those in the twentieth century who wanted to impose a Soviet style peoples’ republic onto the nation.

A very racist republic

While there is a strong nationalistic republican tradition in early Australian history, it would seem curious that there is little reference to this by contemporary official republicans who nevertheless loudly appeal to patriotic  sentiments.

The reason is simple: many of the early patriotic republicans embraced embarrassing doctrines. Late nineteenth century republicanism was dominated by the leading Australian journal at the time, The Bulletin. In 1888, 40,000 people attended an anti-Chinese demonstration in the Sydney domain.

 The Bulletin  said that “ Australia had to choose between independence and infection, between the Australian republic and the Chinese leper" .  The Bulletin wanted an Australian form of ethnic cleansing: the expulsion of all Asians. Little is said within the present republican movement of these antecedents. Certainly not  from Robert Hughes, the Australian born critic of Time magazine, who at a rally in 1996 tried to draw some tenuous link between our constitution and racism.

He clearly overlooked nineteenth century Australian republicanism.  

The Bulletin attacked Joseph Chamberlain, the British colonial secretary, when Royal Assent was refused to the Queensland Sugar Works Guarantee Amending Bill, which banned coloured labour.

On 22 June 1901, the year of federation, The Bulletin observed: “If Judas Chamberlain can find a black, or brown or yellow race.... That has as high a standard of civilisation and intelligence as the whites, that was progressive ... as brave, as sturdy, as good nation-building material, and that can intermarry with the whites without the mixed progeny showing signs of deterioration, that race is welcome.”

The Bulletin's racism was to linger well beyond its republicanism. It is only within living memory that it suppressed the motto on its front page masthead: "Australia for the White Man".

It is true that there were attempts by the Labor movement in the 1880s to link the maintenance of monarchical institutions with the persistence of social inequality in Australia. But by the end of the next decade, when Labor politicians began taking their seats in the colonial parliaments - not to mention their oaths of allegiance - it became apparent that reform could best be encouraged through the existing institutions.

It was generally agreed that the monarch was no obstacle to reform. The Brisbane based Boomerang, for instance, explained in 1890 that:

“Unless republicanism is thoroughly progressive and democratic practically, as well as nominally, we might as well remain exactly as we arc, Because we are discontented with King Log we do not want to place ourselves in the hands of President Stork ... The republic we want is a land of free men whereon the government rests on the people, and is by them with them and for them. No other form of republicanism will suit us not even though it does a few who follow the will-o-the-wisp of a mere name.” 

Mark McKenna concludes that the Labor movement realised that Australia's monarchical institutions were as amenable to social democratic government guaranteeing equality as they were to the laissez-faire capitalist policies of the conservatives.

 It became equally apparent to that most nationalistically republican of journals, The Bulletin, that abolition of the monarchy was no longer a practical necessity.

 It conceded that the monarchy was practically unobjectionable so long as it was understood that the British monarch  held his or her position by the will of the nation and for the convenience of the nation.


...Federal conventions: only one republican delegate...

In fact only one delegate at the nineteenth century constitutional conventions argued for the end of the monarchy.  

He was George Richard Dibbs, the Premier of New South Wales. When he visited London,  he accepted a knighthood. The Bulletin referred to him as Sir George Republican Dibbs.

Banjo Paterson wrote this ballad on  GR Dibbs:

This is the story of G.R.D.,
Who went on a mission across the sea
To borrow some money for you and me.

This G. R. Dibbs was a stalwart man
Who was built on a most extensive plan,
And a regular staunch Republican.

But he fell in the hands of the Tory crew
Who said, "It's a shame that a man like you
Should teach Australia this nasty view."

From her mother's side she should ne'er be gone,
And she ought to be glad to be smiled upon,
And proud to be known as our hanger-on."

And G. R. Dibbs, he went off his peg
At the swells who came for his smiles to beg
And the Prince of Wales -- who was pulling his leg
And he told them all when the wine had flown,
"The Australian has got no land of his own,
His home is England, and there alone."

So he strutted along with the titled band
And he sold the pride of his native land
For a bow and a smile and a shake of the hand.

And the Tory drummers they sit and call:
"Send over your leaders great and small;
For the price is low, and we'll buy them all
With a tinsel title, a tawdry star
Of a lower grade than our titles are,
And a puff at a prince's big cigar."

And the Tories laugh till they crack their ribs
When they think how they purchased G. R. Dibbs.

[The Bulletin, 27 August 1892 ]

...Nn pantheon of republican antecedents....

The realisation that there is little or no reason to complain about a monarchy  that is there only as long as the nation wants it, and holds its  powers in trust for the nation, has been expressly acknowledged  by Queen Elizabeth herself at her golden wedding celebrations at the Guildhall in 1997:

" ... an hereditary constitutional monarchy  exists only with the support and consent of the people. "

Australia’s 'nineteenth-century  republicanism, while it lasted, was overtly racist,  based on a narrow, isolationist and exclusive  image of Australia as a white man's land. It was motivated by a fear of Asian immigration.

And these republicans were also  dismissive of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mark McKenna concludes: "There is no heroic pantheon of  republican antecedents in Australia."  


It is the constitution, not the magic of monarchy Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Saturday, 05 March 2011

Why is it that the republican establishment does not see that the question of Australia becoming a politicians’ republic  raises essentially constitutional issues?

When ACM kept to those constitutional issues in the 1999 referendum debate, the ARM actually told us how to conduct the debate.

They accused us of "not mentioning The Queen."  

It would have been better for the ARM in 1999 if, rather than instructing us, they had run a more professional campaign, and avoided coming out with about five contradictory arguments about their model.


In any event  we had already decided we would not rely on her impeccable service in an indispensable office.

After all Her Majesty had quite properly ruled that the question was for the Australian people to decide. Neither The Queen nor any member of the Royal Family entered the debate.

The republicans were of course shooting themselve sin the foot. They seem to have woken up only recently to the fact that The Queen is widely respected and very popular. Perhaps they spend too much time in republican inner city salons and not among the Australian people. racist attack - in 2011....

That did not stop the republicans attacking Her Majesty as the 'foreign' Queen, which she manifestly is not.  

The republican movement have a very narrow idea of what an Australian is.

In 2011 the ARM’s view is close to that of the old republican mouthpiece, The Bulletin. This declared on every front page, until the 1960’s, “Australia for the White Man".

[ Republican journal The Bulletin, May 1886 ]

The ARM has recently suggested on their website that because they assess me as “ Indonesian born” with “perma-tan” coloured skin and as a “blow-in”, I should not speak on matters constitutional.


...republicans insult The Queen...

Not only did the republican movement  use the mantra ”the foreign Queen” in 1999, they astounded most Australians when their first chairman, Thomas Keneally, likened Her Majesty  to “a colostomy bag on the body politic”.

...changing the party line...

But having lost by a landslide  the referendum they assumed was unloseable, the republican politicians are now saying The Queen is too respected for them to win>

Now they are saying that they must not try this during her reign.

Apparently their 1999  loss was not caused by a trick question - which they overwehlmingly and unanimously approved - but by The Queen. 

So what will be their next excuse?

...monarchists  “too excited”...

 Instead of explaining to  the nation what new constitution and and what new flag they actually want, republicans continue to tell monarchists what to do and what not to do.

Recently, Jim Davidson, writing in The Spectator Australia  ( 26/2), complained that the constitutional monarchists are too excited about the award-winning film The King's Speech.

Davidson declared that King George VI  “certainly didn't think of himself as King of Australia...”

He doesn't explain how he knows what was on the mind of the monarch.

The fact is that Davidson knows as much about this as the royal watchers who invent – yes, invent – an infamous  “conversation” between The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on the referendum results.


....Davidson should check the facts...

In fact, Davidson is completely wrong. The King did think of himself as King of Australia. This is a matter of public record.



[Continued below]

He would have realised this had he checked the words actually used by the King on that most solemn of occasions, the Coronation Oath.

 In 1911, his father had promised to ”govern the peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging, according to the statutes in Parliament agreed on and the respective laws and customs of the same."

But in 1936 King George VI promised to:

"govern the peoples of Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, of your possessions and other territories to any of them belonging and pertaining, and of your Empire of India according to their respective laws and customs.”

This was recognition of the effect of the Statute of Westminster, and of the evolution of the Empire into the Commonwealth.

 King George VI knew he was separately King of Australia.

 A dutiful King, he swore to be precisely this. 

....splendid institution...

Davidson admits that “for all its faults the monarchy is a splendid institution...” but  he restricts that observation to Britain.

His reason for arguing for some vague politicians’ republic for Australia, Canada, New Zealand is that sharing a monarch is.... absurd.

Well, sixteen countries do this. Mr. Davidson may think this is absurd – his subjective view is of no constitutional relevance. 

You need something more solid than this marshmallow argument, Mr. Davidson.

...magic of monarchy...


Then he says monarchists have read rather too much into the popularity of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. He says that when Prince William is older this will fade away.

It is undeniable that there is a magic in monarchy. As Bagehot said:

To state the matter shortly, royalty is a government in which the attention of the nation is concentrated on one person doing interesting actions.

A Republic is a government in which that attention is divided between many, who are all doing uninteresting actions.

Accordingly, so long as the human heart is strong and the human reason weak, royalty will be strong because it appeals to diffused feeling, and Republics weak because they appeal to the understanding.

...republicans have not evn reached first base...


The fact is that monarchy has a wonderful way of constantly refreshing and reviving itself. There will always be considerable interest in young princes and princesses.  

When Prince William reigns over Australia as her King, Australians are sure to be interested in him, his Consort, the new Prince of Wales, The King's other children and his grandchildren, and Prince Harry's family.

In the meantime the many proposals –usually without the courtesy of detail – that we become a politicians’ republic raise essentially constitutional issues.

They have nothing to do with the qualities of the incumbent monarch or indeed the undoubted magic of monarchy.

Unless and until the republicans get around to producing a model which they can seriously argue is superior to the present constitutional system they will not have reached first base.

The same goes for Australian flag.

They will get nowhere with their stunts or indeed with their racist abuse. 


Republican movement plays the race card. Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Whenever there is a revolution or breakdown in some distant land – always another politicians’ republic - the Australian government is rightly called on to look after our citizens.

These include not only passing tourists and business people. There are also usually numbers of Australians with dual and more nationalities.

[ Evacuated from The Lebanon 2006 Photo: Nick Moir, Fairfax ]

 Some of these are Australians who are retired and prefer to live in their original homeland. 

Then there are those many Australians who live in Australia and who also have the nationality of another country or countries.

Immigrants have never been required - as in some countries - to denounce their original citizenship. In recent years, those born here have been allowed to acquire other nationalities and retain their Australian citizenship.

Under the law they are all Australians. movement plays the race card...


Yet if any of them dares support the present constitution and flag it seems the republican movement would deny them their rights as Australians.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that I  am regularly denigrated on racial criteria on a website administered by the republican movement.

I have been described as having a “perma tan complexion” . I am dismissed as "Indonesian-born", a  “blow in”.

They suggest that for these reasons I am not entitled to speak on constitutional issues.   ACM has never denied the right of immigrants to speak in the debate on our Constitution and our Flag.

The republican movement is playing the race card, and Australians will draw their own conclusions on that.

Australians - whatever their colour and wherever they are born - remain Australians with full rights 
including the right to speak on matters relating to the Constitution and our Flag.

[ Vietnamese in a Royal Australian Air Force flight ]

....The Queen of Australia...

The republicans also claim The Queen is foreign.


She is not.

[Continued below]

Race and republicanism Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 07 July 2009

Eighteenth century republicanism in America, and nineteenth century republicanism in Australia were both driven to a great degree by racism.

For 70 years after independence, the US accepted the institution of slavery, surely the ultimate deprivation of human rights, writes Peter Heerey in “A question of judgment,” The Australian Literary Review, June 2009 .   The article links to a contrary argument about a bill of rights made by arch Australian expatriate republican Geoffrey Robertson, who ironically is a British Queen’s Counsel.

”Racial segregation in public education and elsewhere in American society continued for another century,” Mr. Heerey says . "Today the US has a murder rate far above that of other Western countries, at least in part because of its constitutionally entrenched right to bear arms. Capital punishment, abolished by legislation (not charters of rights) in Australia and most other Western countries, continues in the US.”


“Although abhorrent, or at least strange to us, the constitutional interpretations that produced these outcomes were endorsed from time to time by the highest judicial authority, the US Supreme Court: slavery in the Dred Scott case (1857), segregation in Plessy v Ferguson (1896), capital punishment in Gregg v Georgia (1976), the right to bear arms in District of Columbia v Heller (2008).”

Readers of this column may recall that the ultra republican former Premier of NSW, who is opposed to Bill of Rights, Bob Carr, recently described  the appalling Dred Scott judgement upholding slavery as a “great decision.”

Bob Carr is held out to be an expert on US history. Yet the ABC presenter, Tony Jones, did not seem to notice Carr's comment. Dred Scott, made under the Bill of Rights, was handed down 85 years after Lord Mansfield in London had ruled that the common law did not recognize slavery. (Lord Mansfield's portrait appears above)

That decison by Mansfield, the fear that it would have to be be followed  in America, and the refusal of the British Parliament to reverse it,  were high among the causes of the War of Independence. This is  something not taught in American schools. Instead , the taxation wihtout representtaion mantra is repeated ad infinitum as if it were the sole cause.

....a Bill of Rights can work both ways.....  

The American experience suggests,”  continues Mr Heery ”  that human rights may be better protected at the legislative rather than the constitutional level. An example is segregation. Brown v Board of Education (1954) held segregation in public education to be unconstitutional but had little practical effect on segregated education in the south. It was not until Lyndon Johnson's civil rights legislation of the '60s, and in particular the conferral of voting rights, that practical changes were seen on the ground.”

Had we had a Bill of Rights at Federation, reflecting the prevailing values then, he says it could well have included the recital: “DETERMINED that Australia shall forever remain a home and haven for the White Man...” 

Australians would do well to recall that the nineteenth century movement to make Australia an independent white republic disappeared with the realization that the new federal entity would have the power to override British imperial policy on immigration, which was opposed to discrimination.  Like the American example, republicanism in Australia was intrinsically racist. 

Lest no one misunderstand the theme of this comment, I am not saying that Australian republicanism today is racist .

But as I found during the referendum campaign, some republicans are embarassed and indignant if this historical fact is raised when the debate goes into our past.

Why The Bulletin closed Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 19 August 2008



I was sorry to see The Bulletin close, although I can still remember the front page motto which lasted until Kerry Packer bought the journal.

The motto was “ Australia for the White Man.”

By  the fifties and sixties, this was the equivalent of blood curdling graffiti.

 The Bulletin was an early advocate of an Australian republic as a way of escaping from the liberal approach to immigration and race which prevailed in the British empire.

In “The art of selling a magazine,” ( The Weekend Australian, 16-17 August, 2008) Lindsay Foyle says that the story of The Bulletin was the story of Australian media cartooning; after cartoons stopped , so did the magazine.

Lindsay Foyle should know. He worked on The Bulletin in 1967-68 and from 1973 to 1991 in various roles, including art director.

..the best Australian political cartoons...

The Bulletin published some of the best Australian political cartoons over the years. 

The cartoon above showing an independent Australia looking to the US for support is , as cartoons go a little exaggerated . The UK and the US had already agreed on the increasing role of the US in the Pacific.

Mr. Foyle demonstrates that when the editors reduced the cartoons, the circulation fell dramatically. He says that when Donald ( “ The Lucky Country”) Horne was editor, he reduced Australian cartoons, and the cartoon collection in the office was put into a very large garbage truck.

Fortunately, the large collection of cartoons up to the sixties had been saved for the Mitchell Library.

After two years, Horne was sacked but reappointed some years later. When the circulation fell to 30,000 he was sacked again.

He then threw much of his efforts into an obsessive drive into making Australia a republic.

Some prominent Australian edited the journal in recent years - Peter Hastings, Peter Coleman, later the NSW Coalition leader, Trevor Kennedy, Trevor Sykes and David Armstrong.

When David Armstong, later editor-in-chief of The Australian when it went into a frenetic republican phase, took over from Trevor Sykes, circulation was nearer 130,000. It closed this year witha circulation of about 50,000


According to Lindsay Foyle, Kennedy told Armstrong, "You can't run too many cartoons."

In 1986 Richard Walsh became editor-in-chief at Consolidated Press.

Lindsay Foyle says the volume of cartoons diminished, trivia replaced news and circulation declined.


“There are many people with suggestions as to why The Bulletin finally failed early this year,” Foyle says.

“Some say it could not compete with daily newspapers or television; others suggest it was unable to compete with colour magazines in newspapers or that news-review publications do not have readership any more and what it needed was to break ideas and find new ways of understanding society. “


“There may be some truth in what they all say, but The Bulletin never was a news review magazine,” he asserts.

“It is a fair bet that if it had been running lots of cartoons during the past 20 years, it would still be running lots of cartoons.”

A white republic Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 09 December 2006
J.F. Archibald with poet Henry Lawson
We received an email from a student doing research on 'Why didn't Australia become a republic in 1901'. The student asked for assistance “in understanding Australia's resistance to forming a republic in 1901”. 
We pointed out that the way  in which the colonies united to form our nation was unique in that it was not only debated in the mainly elected conventions, but was actually approved by the people. Unlike the United States, we have verbatim records of all of the debates in the several conventions, and voluminous records of the public consultations and discussions. There is no record of any “resistance” to a republic - it was just not an issue. There was a consensus that the new parliament would operate under the Westminster system with the Crown at the centre of the constitutional system. The only significant republics in the world at that time were France, the United States and Switzerland. The latter two had been through civil wars that century, and France had experienced several violent changes of regime. The most advanced system seemed to be the British for it combined stability with democracy under the rule of law. it had been copied not only in the British Empire, but also in Europe. 

The time when republicanism was an issue in the Australia was not at Federation, but some decades before. This began around the time of the gold rushes, when a movement developed for a white Australia policy. But the British imperial authorities were opposed to any discriminatory immigration policy. So the more radical thought this could only be achieved by secession as a white republic. This movement was led by an influential journal, The Bulletin. This was founded by J.F. Archibald, who financed the magnificent fountain bearing his name in Hyde Park Sydney.  For a small population, the circulation of the journal was very high, and at times reached around 80,000.  The motto on the journal’s masthead was “Australia for the White Man”, a motto which still existed until it was taken over by Sir Frank Packer in 1961.

Interest in a separate white racist republic waned with the movement to federation. Among the powers of the new Parliament was one over immigration. To try to circumvent British displeasure with the White Australia Policy, a South African style discretionary dictation test was introduced.  Republicans today are embarrassed when it is pointed out that their most significant predecessors were those in the nineteenth century who were principally interested in a racist republic, and those in the twentieth century who wanted to impose a Soviet style peoples’ republic onto Australia.




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