How could Dennis Shanahan be so wrong?
Written by ACM   
Monday, 21 November 2011

Dennis Shanahan is a most respected commentator on the national newspaper The Australian, and justifiably so.  How then could he be so wrong when he pronounces a view on support for  republican change?  We don't need to rely on fortune tellers about that; polling can tell us more these days.


Writing on the mining tax in The Australian ( "Abbott must fix mining tax, not just rescind it" 18 November 2011 ) Dennis Shanahan says the Australian electorate is  pragmatic:

 “ has extremely clear views on what it wants in principle but equally clear views on what it thinks constitutes a practical solution to its concerns.”

He gives as his principal example “the issue of the republic”.  We would of course counsel him not to use the definite article; the issue is not about ”the” republic, it's about a vague and undefined politicians’ republic.

He continues: “There has been a consistent public view through polling that about two-thirds of the electorate wants to have an Australian republic. Yet, when confronted with the simple, practical question as to how that would work, the population is split evenly among those supporting an elected president, a parliamentary-appointed president and the Queen as head of state. Most agreed Australia should be a republic but most couldn't agree as to how that republic would work.

...never, never did support even approach 66.66%...


There is no such consistent public view through polling that about two thirds of the electorate wants to have an Australian republic.  Such a view has never emerged. Support for a republic (we would say a vague undefined politicians republic) never went above 54% in the Morgan poll and 52% in Newspoll.  Never did it go near 66.66%.

As to the breakdown between support for elected president and a parliamentary appointed president the answer is not clear.  There is evidence that if, we stress if, Australia were a republic, there is a strong view that the president would be elected by the people.  The eminent constitutional lawyer and Vice Chancellor of Australian Catholic University Professor Craven takes the view that after a debate on a referendum proposing an elected presidency, the result would be overwhelmingly worse for the republicans than in 1999.. 

As for support for the monarchy, this is well above half, with support for a politicians’ republic of whatever type now in the thirties. 

One third, not two thirds.