It’d be remiss of me not to address the issue of the Australian republican debate as a local issue, yes it is an Australian issue and to some extent one with international ramifications, but to pretend it is of no consequence on a local level is inaccurate.
Our most recent federal election welcomed into the fold a good many first time voters, Australian citizens who have come of age, or new Australians who have undertaken the solemn vow of Australian citizenship. There were also a good many who had voted in previous elections but didn’t do so in our most recent one due to infirmity or death.
My point is that the demographic which makes up the Australian voting populace is a dynamic entity. It is so constantly changing that even the most accurate of polls can only be considered indicative of a consensus at the time it was taken.
Since the Australian public went to the polls in a referendum to decide whether Australia was to become a republic or not, a full decade will have passed next November. Our society has been irrevocably altered by things like technological advances and cultural shifts.
Other things have remained the same.
Unlike many of the voters who voted for the first time in 2007, I am able to recall with some detail, the events which led up to the referendum, the debate which preceded it, and, to give credit where credit is due, the significant contribution made to the debate by people like Eddie McGuire, Malcolm Turnbull and author Thomas Keneally .
I’m also able to recall with equal clarity how the reccomended questions to be posed in a referendum as made by the Republic Advisory Committe were tossed out in favour of ones then Prime Minister Howard knew full well did not stand the chance of a cinder in snow. Thus maintaining the status quo of which he was an ardent supporter.
Perhaps the most enduring “lesson” Howard will leave as his legacy to the Australian people is “when you can’t get your own way fairly, cheat”.
Anachronists Monarchists often cite the ’99 referendum as “proof” that Australia wishes to remain a constitutional monarchy. In truth such a stance is utter bunkum.
When we have a referendum which enables the Australian public to vote for both an Australian head of state and enables THEM (not the parliament) to directly vote for that very same head of state, the extent to which the monarchists have been misleading the public in terms of their actual support base will be apparent.
With the changing of the guard in the lodge and in terms of opposition leadership, it seems republicanism now has bi-lateral support. The expected increase in Malcolm Turnbull’s influence within the opposition will only strengthen this.
Already the Monarchists are crying “foul” that they were somehow under-represented at the recent 20-20 summit. In fact I would suggest that they have only themselves to blame. The ’99 referendum was NOT a true reflection of Australia’s sentiments regarding the republic, it was in fact a reflection of Australia’s longing for self determination, to have our own say and not have terms dictated to us by our politicians.
A lack of public support is the inevitable and direct consequence the Monarchists must bear for their manipulation of the public agenda for their own ends.
One thing has remained constant however, since 1887 when Henry Lawson penned the immortal words “A Song of the Republic“, the supporters of the Australian Republic will not be denied, and will not go away.
SONS of the South, awake! arise!
Sons of the South, and do.
Banish from under your bonny skies
Those old-world errors and wrongs and lies.
Making a hell in a Paradise
That belongs to your sons and you.
Sons of the South, make choice between
(Sons of the South, choose true),
The Land of Morn and the Land of E’en,
The Old Dead Tree and the Young Tree Green,
The Land that belongs to the lord and the Queen,
And the Land that belongs to you.
Sons of the South, your time will come —
Sons of the South, ’tis near —
The “Signs of the Times”, in their language dumb,
Foretell it, and ominous whispers hum
Like sullen sounds of a distant drum,
In the ominous atmosphere.
Sons of the South, aroused at last!
Sons of the South are few!
But your ranks grow longer and deeper fast,
And ye shall swell to an army vast,
And free from the wrongs of the North and Past
The land that belongs to you.
It’s worth commenting on one aspect of the piece, obviously the term “Sons of the South” carries with it some gender bias, Lawson wrote the piece at a time when women were actually not permitted to vote or run for office.
Lawson himself however was a supporter of women’s suffrage, his own mother was an outspoken proponent of the reforms that eventually afforded women the right to vote and hold public office.