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ACM Home arrow Convenor's Column arrow "When We Said No, We Meant No"

"When We Said No, We Meant No" Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 05 July 2005

In the Sun Herald on 3 July, 2005, a Mr Brian McGee, of Balgowlah in Sydney, calls for a genuine democratic vote on the republic.

What does he think we were offered in 1999?

Not content with rewriting history, he decided to throw in some insults.

He gratuitously refers to me as a “relic”, and says the Queen’s Birthday is as anachronistic as ACM. (You can comment on his letter by writing to the editor at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )

The republican movement has been reduced to a series of stunts, and to proposing a convoluted and expensive process to get their republic - any republic.

I was reminded of this when I read reports of demonstrators in Paris chanting: “When we said No, we meant No”: The Weekend Australian, 18-19 June, 2005.

The vote against the EU Constitution, about the same as ours in 1999, has been variously described as "convincing", "overwhelming" and "huge".

The general consensus in Europe is that the EU Constitution is dead. According to Der Spiegel, German newspaper commentators are blaming Britain! Why? The Financial Times Deutschland says it was only when Tony Blair had announced to a shocked cabinet that he would put the EU Constitution to a referendum, that Jacques Chirac was forced to follow suit.

Full marks again to Australia’s Founding Fathers.

The Constitution they crafted is one of the few which require that any change requires the approval of the people.

Had Jacques Chirac put the EU Constitution to his politicians, they would have approved it, unlike the French people.

Yet the republican movement denigrates our constitution, one of the world's most successful, as flawed and outdated.

Australia’s republican movement just won’t accept the fact that the people, in a landslide, rejected the republic they were given a freehand to write.

At the 1988 constitutional convention the constitutional monarchists refused to use their numbers to change that.

It was argued they should support the so-called “least worst” republic, the McGarvie model, and then campaign against it.

Had the constitutional monarchists done that, this model would have been put to the people, rather than the ARM’s Keating –Turnbull model.

But when I tried to explain this fact on the Crikey website to Sydney journalist and radio talk back host Mike Carlton - after his very personal attack on me- a Mr Michael McCarthy wrote to Crikey.

Mr McCarthy was clearly irritated by my description of the “landslide rejection of the republicans' own preferred model” and my statement that “the republican model voted on in 1999 was the one the republicans chose and used their best minds to design.”

Mr. McCarthy curiously claimed that this my observation was:

“...in direct contrast to the facts. The model he said was chosen by a Constitutional Convention comprised of more monarchists than republicans. The irony lay in the fact that Australians voted on the monarchists' republican model. Flint knows this – he was a leading light in the “No” campaign. This sort of outright lying should disqualify Flint from any further participation in what remains an important debate.”

You would have to wonder where this man was in 1999.

So Crikey published my reply:

“Mr Michael McCarthy’s extraordinary recklessness in accusing me of "outright lying" would bring joy to a libel lawyer.

A glance at the transcript of the 1998 Convention shows that a majority of delegates, 89 out of 152, were republican.

An overwhelming majority of republicans, 73, chose the model we voted on.

Not wishing to do what Mr Mccarthy says we did, influence the choice of model, the monarchists quite properly abstained.”

It does seem that some republicans just will not accept facts.

Instead they are trying to sell their devious , expensive plan to force the people to vote three times until they get it right.

In letters to The Age on 14 June 2005 and the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 June, 2005, Mr Bryan Lobascher from the ARM called on the Prime Minister to respond to the Senate report, “The Road to a Republic” before the composition of the Senate changes on 1 July.

(Mr Lobascher incidentally, is on record as stating that our Constitution is a “dangerous and anachronistic farce”. He is the founder of the ARM’s ACT branch.)

Mr Lobascher forgets that the Senate report was a disgraceful and monumental waste of the taxpayers’ money.

The report was so embarrassing, it was released when even the republican media would not notice it.

The Senate report was an endorsement of the ARM policy for the people to be forced to vote three times until they get it right.

The ARM and the Senators wanted to do this gradually, so we wouldn’t notice.

We Australians were to be cooked slowly so we would not notice.

But Mark Latham so liked it, he decided to make it all his own.

His was to be a republican juggernaut, with a vote each year of his first term! That's right-a national vote each year!

Then ARM and Liberal Senator Marise Payne decided to break ranks.

Professor Craven had finally persuaded her that her own ARM plan for this cascading series of three plebiscites and a referendum would lead to the Latham model. This Latham republic centres on creating yet anothe politician, a president. Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Craven think that grafting this onto our Westminster constitution would be a disaster.

So here we had the embarrassment of a prominent ARM office bearer actually admitting that her own ARM policy was fundamentally flawed!

No wonder the senators decided to hide their folly.

So why should the Prime Minister respond to a document the republican senators are clearly ashamed of?

After all he has said more than once that the issue was settled in 1999 and he has no plans to revisit it.

Until next time,

David Flint

 
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