Mate campaign-few cared and even fewer noticed
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 21 February 2006
The republican movement has been carrying on about the Governor-General’s so-called intervention in the republican debate As we observed on 20 February, the attack on the Governor-General backfired.  

It was hardly an intervention – he was just speaking commonsense.

All he said was that some people think that “just by cutting ties with the monarchy that we will go into a land of milk and honey, but that is not necessarily the case".

Professor Warhurst, the former chairman of the republican movement had complained that this is “an unrecognisable parody of the republican case. I know of no republican who has ever said such a thing.”

As we said, it was surprising that the former leader of the ARM does not seem to know that his side has for years been putting arguments which so defy common sense that they can only attract ridicule.

Most recently, the Victorian Convener of the ARM asserted on ABC radio that a republic would make Australia independent! Presumably, neither Canada, which refrained from joining us, the USA and the UK in Iraq, nor New Zealand, which has very different foreign and defence policies from Australia, are also not independent, a proposition which is palpably untrue.

When the republican movement held their heavily media promoted nationwide celebrations of their “mate for a head of state” day, attracting about 50 people in Sydney and less in Brisbane, Alan Jones was moved to comment on this on 23 January, 2006.

This was in his daily editorial on the morning Channel 9 programme, which attracts a large audience in Australia and New Zealand as well as on his breakfast radio programme on 2GB.

He said the day before was supposed to be "Mate for Head of State Day, in case you didn't know.”

He continued that this had prompted the Governor-General, Michael Jeffrey, to say the obvious.

Pointing out the Governor-General had been born and bred in outback Wiluna, 300kms north of Kalgoorlie, Mr. Jones said "you can't be more Australian than that."

He said that the Governor –General had observed "I have served our country proudly as a soldier, State Governor and as Governor-General....I fulfil all the functions as Head of State on a daily basis….I would encourage all Australians to care more about their mates, their families and themselves."

Mr. Jones then commented:

“Perhaps also we might care to jog our memories a little. Some years ago we had a convention about all of this. The Republicans couldn't agree then what sort of model they wanted. John Howard was hailed a hero for helping the Republican movement over the line with its compromise model for a Republic.

“Such was the intervention of the Prime Minister to arrive at something that could go to a referendum, Paul Kelly wrote in The Australian newspaper on February 14, 1998, "The pinnacle of the paradox was a moving speech from Howard who enters the history books as the monarchical Prime Minister who called the referendum while signalling he would vote "no"."

“Mark Day wrote about John Howard's intervention to support the compromise model, "No one grew more in stature than Prime Minister John Howard. Kim Beazley thanked the Prime Minister for taking a few risks at the convention.

“Perhaps someone should be reminded that, following all that praise, the referendum was lost. Now the Labor Party says that if it won the next election, it would "hold a referendum".

“What!

“Another one!

“Another couple of hundred million dollars when we have problems with mental illness, youth unemployment, child care and a veritable nursing home crisis.

“So yesterday, in the wake of all of this, was Mate for Head of State Day.

“The fact that few cared and even fewer noticed must surely mean that we are a very tolerant community who accommodate all his hoopla and jargon.

“But the majority of Australians would say, I think, once a year is enough.”

I would warrant that not many listeners and viewers would have demurred from that.