|People's Republics: Australia, Canada|
|Written by Professor David Flint AM|
|Thursday, 30 April 2009|
I told Senator Bob Brown that the word “republic” is an Alice in Wonderland word. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, in a rather scornful tone,”it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”
Speaking against his Plebiscite for an Australian Republic Bill, I said the choice was between some form of Politicians’ Republic or what we already have, a Crowned Republic. Senator Brown said “What about a People's Republic?” I said that we had seen them in Eastern Europe and they exist in communist states.
Thomas Flynn and I were appearing before the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee in its inquiry into Senator Brown’s Bill.
I told Senator Brown that if you go out among people, away from the inner city elites, there is absolutely no interest whatsoever in a republic. Senator Brown said that wherever he goes he finds great interest in a republic. I observed “Senator Brown, I am beginning to fear that you and I move in different circles.”
You could have heard a pin drop.
Similarly Senator Cameron announced yesterday, to laughter from the gallery, that Canada is a republic.
I said the money does not go to The Queen – she is not paid a salary. It’s to maintain the costs of the national heirlooms, the palaces, the offices etc. Senator Cameron wanted to continue in his charming Scottish accent, but the Chair ruled him out of order on the grounds of relevance.
The committee incidentally was chaired by Senator Helen Polley, a Labor Senator for Tasmania, who was unobtrusively firm and polite. She did what is rare in these hearings; she kept to the timetable. She is in the tradition of that great British Speaker, Betty Boothroyd.
Senator Cory Barnardi was impressive. He has the great distinction of being sacked from the shadow ministry by Malcolm Turnbull. His questions were perceptive and it was clear he is very well informed. Senator Scott Ryan, although a republican, clearly does not think a plebiscite is a good idea. He also is well informed and interested in the issue. I felt that he would only agree to republic if it were at least as good as the present system.
I have not yet seen the transcript, but I am told Professor George Williams said Australia is not independent, which if he did, is extraordinary. I am told another republican agreed he wanted a republic” at any cost”.
We were followed by two serious ladies from an organisation I had never heard of Women for an Australian Republic. Earlier the hearing listed to the Republican Party, who under the old system would have lost their deposit every time they put up a candidate in an election.Demonstrating with excellent forensic skill, Senator Bernadi established the fact that the ladies from Women for an Australian Republic represented themselves and few others. They did not think a republic was neither about the Constitution nor about a model but the way we feel. A republic would distinguish us from America. It was all about national identity, self esteem and women’s liberation.
It was terrifying to hear that one lady lectures school children on these matters.
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