A Republic of our own?

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.


About alburywodongaonline

Hi I'm Jack Stone (a pseudonym), I'm a long-time Albury resident and I think it's a great place to live and work. I have a strong interest in local events and media and I started this site because I think a different perspective is often needed when reporting local news. I take a keen interest in local politics, as well as what's going on at the state and federal level, I'm also a supporter of social justice issues, the envirionment and the need for people to have a say in the events that effect their lives. I'm a fan of the Border Bandits and I'd love to see both teams take the flag this year, and next year, and maybe the one after that too.
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4 Responses to A Republic of our own?

  1. raydixon says:

    Well it was actually the republicans themselves who blew the referendum by splitting into two groups, one favouring the election of a President, the other favouring Parliamentary nomination.

    Howard seized on this divide and framed the question accordingly. Something like (a) do you want a republic with an elected head of state or (b) no change.

    Howard then campaigned for “No change”, which was a certainty to win as the pro republican vote had been divided.

    I stand to be corrected but it was something like that.

    I’m not in favour of electing the President because it would vest too much power in one person. Why do we need a figurehead anyway? Let’s just have a republic and a PM. Why wouldn’t that work?

  2. You’ve got it a bit arse-backwards there Ray. The model which was taken forward was a compromise between the minimalists and the monarchists because the direct election mob were threatening to kill the whole thing.

    It’d be worth digging up the referendum question as it was indeed awfully framed.

    I think we’re headed for a minimalist model personally, and a good thing too.

  3. raydixon says:

    As I said Dave, I wasn’t sure of the exact wording but the point is it was cocked up by the Republicans not being united and by Howard’s determination to see it defeated anyway.

    I recall thinking that, even though I favour a republic, I don’t want to vote for the model that was put up. As I recall there were two almost ambiguous questions.

    It would make a good topic to revisit and I’ll look forward to seeing it here or at DFA. Cheers, and where’s your entry for the latest Grods caption contest? Or have you retired “undefeated”?

  4. You’ve certainly hit on a very pertinent point. Personally I think the Australian public is capable of reaching consensus on the issue, my prediction is for a head of state with much the same role as the current GG (ie largely ceremonial but with the power to dissolve the parlaiment) but as a holder of his/ her own office rather than a representation of a foreign monarch.
    I can’t see the Australian public waiving their right to elect said head of state under any circumstances quite frankly.

    It is the right time for this issue to re-surface, I can’t see a Republic as enacted under Howard’s reigime being worth one of his “non-core” promises.
    Now that he’s well and truly had the boot, as Gough Whitlam said…It’s Time.

    Incidentally, I seem to recall the referendum question was posed in two parts, both in yes/ no format.
    1. Would you like an Australian republic with an Australian head of state.
    2. Would you like to see an Australian head of state as elected by a 2/3rds majority of parliament.

    In order for the referendum to be passed, a clear majority would have to have voted yes to both questions.
    I further recall the first question had a great deal of support, it had majority state across Australia, the second question was voted down in every state except Victoria.
    From this I think it’s reasonable to conclude there is a great deal of support for an Australian republic, but not for the model which was proposed in ’99.

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