Republicanism And The Election
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 19 September 2004

I was recently invited by The Age to write 120 words for one of their series on election issues. This one, published on 17 September dealt with the issue of National Identity. Michael Gordon’s piece on this was under the title REPUBLIC A FLAGGING CONCERN.

The sub heading was this:

THE PARTY LEADERS ARE NOT PLACING MUCH IMPORTANCE ON THE REPUBLIC, BUT IT HAS NOT GONE AWAY

Now ACM have no view on the outcome of the election, but we are committed to supporting all candidates who are firm constitutional monarchists.

I wrote this:

"Mark Latham put his finger on it two years ago when he dismissed republicanism as just another elite issue, of no interest to the rank and file. The typical Australian is proud of Australia as it is our achievements, our institutions and our Flag. So what possessed him to fall for the republicans desperate attempt to breathe life into an issue which, for those who do not frequent the republican salons, is dead and buried? Surely he has not become one of those Labor candidates shown by recent research to be completely out of touch with Labor voters? Surely he knows they will reject a call for a vote of no confidence in one of the worlds most successful constitutions."

The Age dedicated a page to this issue.

Apart from Michael Gordons piece there were panels by ACM, the ARM, and Professor Brian Galligan. Professor Galligan said that the republic, with other national identity issues, has little current traction with the voter. Australia was already a federal republic that needs to fix up its head of state.

There were also panels containing extracts from speeches by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. John Howard pointed out that today there is no longer that perpetual seminar about Australias cultural identity….we are undeniably and unapologetically 100 per cent Australian. Mark Latham said he wanted young Australians to know every position is within their reach, including our head of state. ARM director Alison Henry said our system of constitutional monarchy is elitist, undemocratic and discriminatory.

It was time we moved on.

Then there was a report on The Age’s latest poll which found 54 per cent believe Australia should become a republic. But as if to demonstrate how the republican spin doctors will design the first plebiscite, the question The Age posed was not along the usual lines of asking Australians whether they wanted a republic, which is in itself quite useless as the form of republic is not defined. The question was this:

SHOULD AUSTRALIA REMAIN AS IT IS WITH THE QUEEN AS HEAD OF STATE< OR BECOME A REPUBLIC WITH AN AUSTRALIAN HEAD OF STATE?

This question assumes The Queen is head of state. But even Paul Keating admitted the Governor- General is our head of state. When Sir David Smith put in a detailed submission on this to the Senate Committee on the turning Australia into a republic, all the Committee could do was to quote an academic and a judge . Both of whom airily dismissed his argument as nonsense! ( Professor Winterton does a better job than the Senate Committee in the latest issue of Quadrant)

So how many among the 54 per cent were misled by the question? At least some of them clearly were. Was it 10, or was it 20 per cent? The issues about the head of state are so complex , you can be sure that the difference would have been substantial.

You can be sure that if the question had excluded any reference to The Queen being head of state, and the implication we did not already have an Australian head of state, the percentage would have been substantially lower.

I suspect that it has now fallen well below 50per cent!

Interestingly, the poll does confirm that the more republican group are middle aged males. In addition it demonstrates that if we were to become a republic, the overwhelming majority want the people to choose the president, which anyone with the slightest understanding of the Westminster system knows has a serious potential to disrupt our system of government.

In the meantime ,ACM is doing all it can to ensure Australians are aware of the proposal for a cascading series of plebiscite and a referendum, all to be crammed into one term!.

The point is of course that republicans are resorting to this process because without it they fear another referendum would result in a greater defeat than in 1999.

Until next time,

David Flint

- SUPPORT FOR REPUBLIC LIKELY TO BE LESS THAN 50%! -