|If Australians had seen the constitution, they would never have agreed - republican claim|
|Written by Professor David Flint AM|
|Tuesday, 03 July 2012|
They are proposing what Thomas Kenneally, in the 1999 referendum called the most fundamental change to the constitution since Federation.
So why do republicans so often fail to check the facts? One famous example was over the impact on our membership of the Commonwealth of Nations if we were to become a politicians’ republic.
We recall this below.
Recently, a frequent republican contributor, Mr. Len Liddelow argued on a republican site that monarchists will probably not be able to withstand the latest push by republicans. The editor who published it is a former ARM vice president and media director.
Mr. Lidelow is entitled to that opinion, and only time will tell.
But he then advanced a new republican myth, as wrong as the often repeated one that John Howard rigged the 1998 convention. Or that he rigged the referendum question.
The new myth is that nineteenth century Australians not only did not see the constitution before they voted on it. The claim that if the people had seen it, they would have rejected it.
Reflect on the enormity of this extraordinary claim for one moment. This claims to be a statement of historical fact. It also is a reflection on our ancestors’ character.
He is saying if they had known what was in the Constitution, they would have rejected it.
...the new myth...
Mr. Leddelow predicts that monarchists will:
This shows little confidence in the people or in democracy.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Liddelow had not checked the facts. Nor, apparently, had the editor.
To return to the Commonwealth of Nations, our interpretation of the rules in 1999 was supported by the Secretary–General. This was that when a realm changed into a republic, any other member could veto the republic’s continued membership. It was the threat of this that led to what one expert calls the de facto expulsion of South Africa, in 1961, and of Fiji in 1987.
Moreover our interpretation was shown to be correct when the Commonwealth subsequently attempted in 2007 to change the rules in order to remove the problem. The extraordinary thing was that the republicans had not bothered to investigate this question.
They just assumed there would be no requirement to seek the approval of the Commonwealth of Nations. Even the republican Liberal Attorney–General was not aware of this.
When they were caught out the republicans then said we had claimed Australia would be thrown out of the Commonwealth if the nation voted Yes in the referendum. This was untrue. We had never said this.
We had merely asked what preparations had been made in the Commonwealth in anticipation of a Yes vote. There were precedents for discussing such changes with foreign governments.
For some reason, Paul Keating as Prime Minister once told the French president and German Chancellor of his plans for a republic. He announced overseas his intention to shred our Australian Flag.
But nobody bothered to discuss the 1999 referendum within the Commonwealth, and especially, to seek an assurance from one hostile prime minister that he would not make trouble and block our membership as he had in at least one other international organisations. It is worth stressing that, as we did in 1999 and as is set out in The Cane Toad Republic.
The then Malaysian Prime Minister had blocked Australia’s membership of another international organisation. A prudent republican minister and a prudent republican movement considering the best interests of the nation would have looked into this.
They did not.
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