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Australia Day message

January 26th, 2004

Australia Day seems like a suitable occasion to look at the question of whether and how Australia should become a republic. The whether question is, in my view, straightforward. Monarchy is an undemocratic institution. The monarch in a constitutional monarchy is at best, a dignified but powerless figurehead and at worst an undemocratic centre of power. In Australia’s case, the monarchical role is split between a political appointee with significant (if only occasional) power and a hereditary foreign monarch whose powers are presumed (but only presumed) to be nonexistent. The contribution of this setup to national dignity is negative.

Turning to the “how”, this issue has, in my view been simplified by Howard’s cleverness in defeating the republic last time around. The idea of an appointed President has been put to the people and rejected. Hence, there is no need or justification for a multistage procedure (agreement in principle to a republic, choice of model, ratification of choice). The appropriate approach is to choose a model for an elective presidency, then present the appropriate constitutional changes as a referendum. If that fails*, we should stick with the status quo.

Looking at the lineup of support, I think there are five main groups that can be distinguished. First, there are unconditional republicans, that is, those who would support any reasonable republican model, whatever their preference. Next, there are minimalists, those who would support a republic if and only if it involved no significant change in the existing power structure, which entails some form of appointive presidency. On the other wing of the republican support are those who support an elective presidency, and prefer the status quo to an appointive model. Fourth, there are status quo conservatives, including both those who think the current constitutional model is the best available and those who simply vote “No” to any referendum proposal against which opposition is mounted. Finally, there are those whose support for the status quo is based on attachment to the British monarchy as an institution or to the Queen herself.

The fifth group is shrinking over time and has, I think been further disheartened by the (tactically sound) insistence of anti-republicans that the Queen is not our head of state and should not be discussed when the issue of the republic is debated. Given the reliance of this form of monarchism on tradition and emotion as opposed to rationalist arguments about constitional design (not necessarily a bad thing, by the way), the “don’t mention the Queen” attitude of groups like Australians for Constitutional Monarchy must erode its base over time.

Both the fourth and fifth groups have been weakened, I think, by the politicisation of the Governor-General’s office, including the Hollingworth fiasco, the adoption of clearly political stances by both Deane and Jeffreys and the continuing squabbles over whether the GG or PM should open things like the Olympic Games.

The crucial political issue is the relative size of the second (minimalist) and third (direct election) groups. The ARM was a coalition of minimalists and those unconditional republicans who judged that the minimalists were the crucial swing votes for a republic. They were proved wrong by the result of the referendum. It’s my judgement that, when push comes to shove, the number of true minimalists will prove very small, particularly if the election procedure for the President allows some sort of Parliamentary screening, sufficient to prevent the major parties from running candidates (in practice, I doubt that such candidates would win, but that couldn’t be proved in time for a referendum.

Obviously, nothing will happen until Howard goes. At that point, the opponents of the republic will find it hard to come up with a leader of stature It’s unclear if Costello would do anything about the issue, but I assume Latham would do so reasonably soon after getting elected.. Although carrying a referendum is always difficult in Australia, I predict that a model for a directly elected president, inheriting the current powers of the GG would be successful.

*Given our constitutional setup, there’s the possibility of winning a majority of votes but not of states. This would leave the issue unresolved.

Reality check After writing this, I checked the latest Newspoll which suggests stable majority support for the general idea of a republic (51-32 with 32 per cent strongly pro and only 18 per cent strongly anti). On the other hand, it seems unlikely that GG Jeffrey’s political statements have had much impact, given that only 7 per cent of respondents could name him.

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  1. observa
    January 26th, 2004 at 12:12 | #1

    You say that monarchy is antidemocratic and its traditional supporters are gradually dying off. On the other hand, perhaps monarchy has the ongoing appeal to the anti-rationalist sentiment in the electorate. You know, that part of us that rejects the cold, mechanical rationalism of scientific choice. There still seems to be an awful lot of support about for crystals, aromatherapy, tarot readings, fairies and ancient kings and queens, if my perusal of women’s mags is anything to go by. There might be more support out there for Queeny among modern womanhood than they care to admit, except in anonymous referendums. Of course there’s always the romantic chance you could be a well educated, modern Tassie lass and be swept off your feet and carried off by prince charming to one of those magical European castles. The reality of this ‘Pretty Woman’ story is you’ll probably end up like Diana, but what the heck! Let’s face it, rational Republicanism aint exactly the things dreams are made of fellahs.

  2. January 26th, 2004 at 13:55 | #2

    The squabble over the identity and selection procedure of our HoS is absurd.

    Here we are, on the cusp of the new millenium, with Australian Big Thinkers quibbling over irrelevant and trivial ceremonial issues.

    Republicans, wake! You are dreaming if you think this issue merits serious allocation of time and money. As Mumble says, “It ain’t going to happen”. People just do not care that much.

    There are much bigger fish to fry. Such as serious issues about the substance of constitutional formation, from the

    local level of what constitutes a person, given organic-mechanic convergence

    global level of how to wield state power, given US dominance of the High Ground

    Chinese entrepreneurs, marrying corporation to party state, are looking to anhilate the world’s economic system with a combination of cheap labour, hi-tech capital and a pretty lax attitude to IP.

    American nerds are working out how to

    give bio-organic Humans some bio-mechanic Machine strength

    endow info-mechanic Machines with info-organic human values

    American jocks have decided that perhaps now is the right time to take over the world.

    Instead our constitutional thinkers are worried about the frilly stuff, process-fetishism or totally off with the fairies.

    To the extent that the constitutional HoS debate merits attention, I would rhetorically ask whats wrong with a “dignified but powerless figurehead”? No real harm in that. Having an apolitical monarch as H of S is a blessed relief from politics. (Memo to Pr Q: Prince Charles is a Greenie.)

    Why is Pr Q, a self-confessed utilitarian, concerned with such high-falutin ideas as “national dignity”? Leave the castles-in-the-air stuff for the egg-heads with more time than sense on their hands.

    The monarchy has stood Australia in good civic stead over the past century. The only problem came when the vice-regal agent attempted to exercise overweening power. However this would be more of a problem under a Republican set-up,where the legitimacy of popular consent would give the H o S Big Ideas above his station.

    Why create yet another arm of Big Government, with resources, and legitimacy, to get up to who-knows-what-kind-of-mischief, just in order to satsify the gnawing hunger of certain power-hungry operators (not Pr Q) for enhanced international recognition without the ball-busting bother of earning it. If we lost the Monarchy these folk, particularly the professional Irishmen, would be inconsolable – having no ancient grievances to whinge about.

    Australia is a cultural province of Anglo-America ie the British Empire. The tension between Australia’s autonomous polity and it’s dervative culture is productive of much creative endeavour.

    Why else do ~ 5% of our movers and shakers decide to live in the Anglomorphic Oceanic metropolises? Policies designed to entice them back, or encourage them stay, would be more useful to the national interest rather than airy-fairy notions of Republican dignity. The expats would not waste too much thought on such frivolities, or if they do, their words are betrayed by their deeds.

    It is fitting that our cultural-ceremonial Head of State reflect the reality of the Anglomorphic diaspora, rather than the vanities of our domestic cultural-cringers with their absurd plans for a dignified Bunyip-ocracy of tin-pot Republicans.

  3. observa
    January 26th, 2004 at 14:48 | #3

    It looks like the Republicans in the guise of Tasmanian Labor have the answer to upsetting the status quo of the ‘dignified but powerless figurehead’. If Labor Govts select partisan Governors(and GGs) like Richard Butler to do their bidding, then ultimately the game is up for Conservatives. They will have to respond to this politicisation of the posts by having broader input into the selections than just leaving it to the incumbent Govt. Elections or broad based electoral college support for the office.

  4. gordon
    January 26th, 2004 at 17:41 | #4

    As if being a republic will make anything better! Changing the name of a high-paid sinecure for a retired pollie or government employee won’t do anything for the “national dignity” (where does an otherwise intelligent man get a nonsense phrase like this?). The republic issue is simply a distraction from the real and important issues which face Australia, and anybody who invites people to participate in such a futile game is only inviting them to waste their time.

  5. John
    January 26th, 2004 at 17:54 | #5

    Nobody objected to my post on the abolition of 5-cent pieces. But I’ve already had two comments suggesting that it’s a waste of resources to allocate a similar amount of attention to our constitution.

  6. gordon
    January 26th, 2004 at 18:37 | #6

    The constitution! Can you handle the constitution?As it stands, our constitution (through the monarchy) runs back thousands of years. We can claim as part of our constitution the famous claim of the Vikings on the banks of the Eure just before AD1000 “We are all equal”! We claim Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights (1689), trial by jury, common law, all the unwritten rights under the British constitution, and, if all else fails, right of rebellion. The constitution is enormous, far greater and deeper than a certain Act of the British Parliament in 1900. It is the creation of many generations of my ancestors, barbaric and not so barbaric, and I am inclined to defend the package against those who, either by inadvertance or design, would leave me stranded here at the end of the South Pacific with only a piece of paper.

  7. January 27th, 2004 at 01:13 | #7

    Pr Q blatantly disregards the substance of my comment:

    Nobody objected to my post on the abolition of 5-cent pieces. But I’ve already had two comments suggesting that it’s a waste of resources to allocate a similar amount of attention to our constitution.

    This implies that the monarchy is the constitutional equivalent of the 5c coin, ie an irrelevant and useless historical residue.

    I find that suggestion offensive.

    May I suggest that Pr Q’s Republican fetish is similarly unworthy of constitutional attention for similar reasons of triviality and disutility?

    May I also suggest that the national dignity that Pr Q craves cannot be acquired through “parchment politics”? Nations are born in sacrificial acts, wars, revolutions, strife. That is what makes them sacred.

    They are not crafted by the prosaic bourgeois Econocrats and Eurocrats that currently dominate the constitutional drafting process.

    Australia did in fact stand on the cusp of strife-born independent nationhood during WWI and WWII. Both times we decided to allocate blood, treasure and honour to support Empires, the UK in the First War, the US in the Second War.

    If, and when, Republicans get serious about politics, ie worry about substance not process, functionality not “dignity”, then I will gladly ditch my sentimental attachment to the Monarchy. But I have not seen any evidence of that, so I see no reason to change from the current ceremonial office, which pleases me. I conclude that most ardent Republicans have just got a chip on their shoulder about traditional British political institutions. That’s their problem, not mine.

  8. John
    January 27th, 2004 at 17:19 | #8

    Jack, you appear to have missed the point of my comment when you say

    This implies that the monarchy is the constitutional equivalent of the 5c coin, ie an irrelevant and useless historical residue.

    To be absolutely clear, I observed that when I put up a post on a totally trivial issue, the future of the 5-cent coin, no-one suggested that I should not waste my time with this kind of thing. When I posted on the choice between republic and monarchy you and Gordon both suggested this was a distraction from the real issues.

    Oddly enough, despite the supposed unimportance and irrelevance of the issue, you both came back for a second bite on it.

    I conclude that the rhetorical move “this is a distraction from the real issues” reflects the underlying reality “this is an issue I can’t win on the merits”.

  9. Mike Pepperday
    January 27th, 2004 at 19:04 | #9

    Are you arguers aware that the Senate is holding an new inquiry into the republic? Submissions to be in by 31/3/04. Details and discussion paper at

    http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/legcon_ctte/republic03/index.htm

    John says “It’s unclear if Costello would do anything about the issue, but I assume Latham would do so reasonably soon after getting elected.”

    No. We will never have an elected president. No PM will ever put such a proposal to parliament. What Latham, as PM, might do is float the idea and require Liberal support on the grounds that referendums without bipartisan support always fail. This declined, Latham will say sorry he can’t keep whatever promises he made but it’s all the Libs’ fault.

    In fact Latham cannot be fair dinkum because an elected pres will never get Labor Party endorsement. Bob Carr and Barry Jones would rather die than permit that.

    Here’s why it will never happen.

    1) It is said that polls show 55% in favour of elected but without a referendum no one knows. What people say when they are aware that their opinion does not count, does not necessarily reflect what they will do when the decision is in their hands. The 1951 referendum failed after 75% said they were in favour (of banning the Communist party). An elected president referendum is guaranteed to start a scare-mongers’ feeding frenzy. There is a good chance it would fail.

    2) The 55% is anyway inadequate. East Timor voted for independence with 78%. Much was made of the fact that this left no doubt about the people’s preference. An elected pres model has no chance of that kind of support. Becoming a republic should be a great day, a celebration. It should not be a narrow result. Do we really want to celebrate our new republic with a victory over nearly half our fellow citizens? It is not a football match; it is not an election. A narrow win after what the losers would view as a biased campaign is a recipe for lasting resentment. Failure to carry one or two states would be a cue for that state to dig in and stay a monarchy. For this reason alone, it was fortunate that 1999 failed. Whatever the republic plan, unless it is going to get overwhelming support, nobody should want it.

    3) After over a decade of debate (of a sort) no one has come up with a reasonably specific model of an elected president republic. Moreover, it seems universally agreed that the “reserve powers” would need to be codified. That has been on the agenda for 60 years but people do not agree on how it should be done. If I were king, I would do it in a day but until then, I think codification is politically impossible.

    4) The foregoing means there is no prospect of any PM ever putting an elected president model to parliament. There is scarcely a politician in the country who is in favour (and the few who say they are, know it will not be tested). If it got through the party room – itself unimaginable – it wouldn’t get through parliament. If it got through parliament, the people might reject it. In terms of political feasibility, the idea is ludicrous. No PM is going to waste time contemplating it. Personally, I cannot conceive of a plausible sequence of political chicanery or blunders that could result even in a general plebiscite (“Do you want a republic?”), as the ARM says it wants.

    In sum: we wouldn’t do it, we shouldn’t do it, no one knows how to do it, and the pollies won’t let us do it.

    I suppose the Labor-dominated Senate committee must be aware of all this, ie they’d like to get rid of the Queen but are at a loss and turning to the people for help.

  10. January 27th, 2004 at 22:11 | #10

    I really do have to pull JQ up short before he shoots past stuff that plain isn’t established.

    The “whether” question about a republic is a real and substantive question, and is not settled. In large part this is because republicans simply do not address the substance. One substantial point is that republics generally do not work; the question “should we ask for a republic?” is quite distinct from “what is available to ask for?”, which is to do with “how to”. If there is no way, democracy doesn’t enter into it. Republicans generally suppose that there are no problems and don’t face up to that – yet each type of republican accurately points out flaws in other models. All the models are seriously flawed, differently.

    But let’s pretend that there are no outstanding unresolved problems of the “how to” sort. JQ is still wrong.

    For instance, he is wrong in claiming that monarchy is an undemocratic institution; for one thing, democracy doesn’t require that every position be democratic (though American practice tends that way, judges, dog catchers and all), it only needs for the structure to be democratic taken as a whole. But there is more. On the one hand versions of monarchy in different ages actually rested on their role in defending democracy, like Napoleon III’s “revolutionary monism” which crystallised the general will in one head (and so highlighted the unsuitability of that approach). On the other hand, democracy is an incomplete system, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere. Just as it does not adequately define its subject matter, “we the people”, so also it does not answer – cannot address – questions of identity. That is why plebiscites, which look highly democratic, were such useful tools for tyrants. The republic issue for Australia is an identity issue, which completely cuts across the proper area of democracy. What is more, doing a republic – even within an apparently democratic framework – so soon after a vote against is an example of another gap in democracy: it is a repeated attempt, agenda control, and so it violates the spirit of democracy. (This is not a unique monstrosity, and it is actually quite common in rigging Europe at the moment.)

    The “national dignity” part is nonsense. It is a mere expression of the tastes of certain republicans. Otherwise it would be a permanent and valid reproach to all monarchies in all times and places, which it clearly isn’t judging by the way monarchies have actually withstood this criticism (though equally clearly it is felt as a permanent affront by all republicans). I have quoted Gibbon on this matter before, and need not do so again beyond citing the reference: the opening introductory paragraphs of chapter 7, and to a lesser extent of chapter 3, of his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”.

    Turning now to JQ’s categorisation of views, it needs at the very least some qualification:-

    - Unconditional republicans are those who would support any reasonable model and suppose that such a model can be found (I have reason to suppose they are mistaken). I would fear even more republicans who deluded themselves that they had found such a model.

    - “Appointive”, soi-pensant minimalists are kidding themselves, unless they are contemplating a transition that would see out their time. Jacksonian democracy ultimately prevails over Jeffersonian, through simple mechanisms inherent in indirect representative processes (and which add other defects to the broad problems of democracy, ones specific to representative democracy). Minimalists either do not exist in a larger view, or are deceiving themselves.

    - “Elective” republicans are at least honest (or they would be tactically soi-disant minimalist, which is dishonest). They are also honestly assessing each option on offer at the time it is offered.

    - There is more than that to status quo conservatives; this was best summarised by Viscount Falkland in “when it is not necessary to change it is necessary not to change”. This description emphasises that there is a hidden positive in their position, which is obscured in descriptions like those of JQ’s.

    - JQ is simply wrong about the fifth group, the group with a set of values aligned with monarchy (he is mistaken in thinking of it as simple personal attachment, though that is wrapped up in it). For one thing, it isn’t shrinking; the rising generation isn’t in either camp, and has a greater proportion of this sort than the average over the whole population. While older monarchists are essentially “Menzies’ children”, the same sort of thing applies to most republicans, who are “Whitlam’s children”. Demographics are not tipping the balance in either direction. This group is most emphatically not disheartened by ACM refusal to play the republicans’ preferred style; they are well aware that it is deliberately a broad church, and in fact heartened by the success of the tactic.

    Observa, on the whole idea of “anti-rationalist”, you could do worse than use Chesterton’s succinct analysis of this (and drop the pejorative, which JQ was well advised to avoid). It’s in his “Phonetic spelling” (Selected Essays, collected 1939): “Republic does not mean merely a mode of political choice. Republic (as we see when we look at the structure of the word) means the Public Thing: the abstraction which is us all. A Republican is not a man who wants a Constitution with a President. A Republican is a man who prefers to think of Government as impersonal; he is opposed to the Royalist, who prefers to think of Government as personal.”

    The issue of republicans eroding the present system on purpose is sheer nihilism. While that might lead to the status quo being unworkable, it wouldn’t make a republic work either. It’s skipping the whole substantive question of whether there is a viable republic to be had – and in my view, since it isn’t, that would lead to ruin not republic. It is to be hoped that the things that make our present system viable will allow us to stamp on the nihilist-republicans after they have been given enough rope to hang themselves but not enough to hang us.

  11. January 27th, 2004 at 22:54 | #11

    One last bight of the cherry:

    this is an issue I can’t win on the merits

    The Republic debate about culture, not politics. It is not about political winners and losers. It is about cultural identity or nonentity.

    And my point is that Republicans are building yet another castle in the sky if they think that parchment politics and the politics of the empty symbolic gesture (Sorry Day, Republic etc) will fix anything or mean anything.

    The Left spent much of the nineties barking up that tree. Now it is in a shambles because the cultural symbolic narrative that it seeks to appropriate is no longer passionately held. People are either not interested in politics, or if they are, they demand pragmatic, evidence-based results.

    Not expensive and airy-fairy processes put in place for no apparent reason other than a the psychological gratification (“dignity”) of certain partisans. Or to produce a temporary warm inner glow in some malicious hearts at the thought of John Howards discomfiture.

    Monarchy V Min. Republic is not to be judged on it’s “merits” since the office of HoS is a pure sinecure with no functional merit.

    Max Republic is evidently bad, what social utility could be gained from yet another arm of Big Government?

    However, a Real Republic ie one in which the Australian state demonstrates independence by doing something more than hosting boring conferences, talk fests and drawing up a bunch of unreadable documents, would be worth debating. A Real Republic that attempted to come to grips with the mammoth changes in politcal power (US), economic resources (PRC) and technological facility (bio-techno convergence) would be worth fighting for.

    Pr Q misses my point: his process Republic is an empty vessel setting sail for nowhere. Put something of value in it and you will get a vigorous crew and not a few passengers lining up to board. Leave it crewed with a bunch of time-servers or monomaniacs and it will founder on the shoals of apathy.

  12. January 28th, 2004 at 10:29 | #12

    While I agree with Jack Strocchi as far as he goes, I would go one step further in that direction. There is no set of values inherent in a republic that could ever be installed, anywhere for anyone. This comes back to democracy/liberty as mechanisms, versus democracy/liberty as shorthand for values picked up while using the mechanisms.

    That doesn’t mean that Australia couldn’t develop that sort of value set over generations from something quite separate, but on the one hand that isn’t in place for us now and on the other hand it can’t be created but would have to grow in. A transition that sought to get that by living with a fiat republic would face a terrifyingly unsafe period of lack of republican values. History shows that few republics survive long, and those that have have actually passed through the fire.

  13. John Quiggin
    January 28th, 2004 at 10:55 | #13

    PML writes

    For one thing, it isn’t shrinking; the rising generation isn’t in either camp, and has a greater proportion of this sort than the average over the whole population. While older monarchists are essentially “Menzies’ children”, the same sort of thing applies to most republicans, who are “Whitlam’s children”. Demographics are not tipping the balance in either direction.

    The 2002 Newspoll showed support for the Republic declining monotonically with age. The split was 57-28 for those aged 18-34 (hence at most 5 years old when Whitlam lost office), 51-33 for those aged 35-49 and 46-43 for those aged over 50.

    The same poll showed that 46 per cent preferred a directly elected president, 12 per cent an appointed president and 40 per cent the status quo (only 2 per cent uncommitted on this question).

  14. January 28th, 2004 at 12:41 | #14

    JQ, either you’re not reading it right or you’re perpetuating propaganda.

    The issue isn’t whether support for a republic declines with age. It’s whether the rising generation contains more, and more active, support for one lot or another. The fact of the matter is that the rising generation is actually demotivated – and all that counts at the moment is the activist sector within it. What matters to both sides is motivating the others, but you can’t assume they exist on the back of statistics. As things now stand a demotivated group favours the status quo – which is poetic justice on those elites that have worked so hard for so long to sideline others.

    It doesn’t help that most statistics on this topic are cooked, e.g. by only asking for preferences of type of republic and skipping the “whether” question. The worst of that sort I saw was a Saulwick Age one that asked for views on status quo/republic within the commonwealth/republic outside the commonwealth – then aggregated the results for the two republican options to claim a nearly two to one republican lead when it was actually slightly less pro-republic than the null hypothesis of random votes among all three.

  15. January 28th, 2004 at 19:45 | #15

    Seeking to revive the Republic is not worth the effort, both

    intrinsicly, since the Minimalist Republic was defeated and is another example of frivolous cultural symbolism

    instrumentally, since the Maximalist Republic is radical change would not pass the stringent tests of a Consitution-amending Referrendum

    Attempting to change the Constitution on issues that do not have overwhelming public support is a waste of time. Even if young people are warming to direct-election, it is always good thing to remember that young people get older and eventually wise-up.

    No way would the maximal direct-election Republic get two-thirds public support becuase it would require re-writing the Consitution, trashing the Westminster model and introducing a whole new arm of Government, with ill-defined powers, for rent-seekers, socialist bureaucrats and meddling do-gooders to make mischief with.

    Mumble shoots the whole, cheerlily-optimistic, whistling-in-the-dark, Republican scenario down in flames.

    if you thought the no case in 1999 was a tad over the top, just wait for the mother of all scare campaigns against the direct election model.

    The 1999 minimalist proposal simply transferred the governor-general’s present powers, written and reserve, to the new president. A direct election model that did this would condemn Australia to what the Chinese call ”interesting times”. (In this two-headed monster the president would control the armed forces, for example.) No sane person would put this to the vote.

    So the president’s powers would have to be codified. That’s when the fun would really start. This would be heaven on a stick for all those rent-a-crowd ”no” case populists who emerged three years ago.

    It would mean a vast rewrite of the Constitution, so alienating conservative voters. And defining away the new president’s powers relocates them to, of course, ”greedy politicians”.

    Imagine the fun Tony Abbott would have with that. Malcolm Turnbull complained that the ”no” case told porkies in 1999. This misses the point. Voters know garbage when they hear it, but they don’t care. They just want to vote ”no”.

    Why? To give someone a boot up the bum, to feel empowered – the usual reasons.

    The minimalist model will never again go to the people. And direct election is unelectable in this country.

    The point is that any reforming government, of whatever ideological stripe, would be mad to spend all its political capital on what is at best a purely procedural and symbolic political change. At worst it would be a constituional nightmare resulting in futher politicisation of the armed forces, bureaucracy and fical supply.

    If you think that is scare tactics, look at all the bribery, corruption and pork-barelling that goes on in Presidential systems in order to ensure smooth co-habitation between both branches of government. Give us a better reason for a Republic than a sympathetic event series in the cortical part of Republican brains.

  16. January 29th, 2004 at 08:21 | #16

    My biggest single worry is an analogue of toxocaria canis infection in human beings. That particular dog parasite can’t survive in human beings – but in the course of wandering round a human body looking for the dog organ where it can progress with minimal damage, it does great damage to human organs (it’s the leading cause of blindness in children).

    The analogue here is that nihilist-republicans, supposing that Australia could choose a republic in an informed way, might damage what we have to encourage it (thinking they were only clearing things away). Or that if some shock should bounce their cause over the line (like post-war Italy), they might implement an unworkable republic thinking they were finding the organ to grow in and not realising they were causing damage by imposing harmful institutions. It’s the sort of mind set that led to repressive measures in all sorts of countries after their “successful” revolutions; once the revolutions didn’t deliver, the revolutionaries started jamming square pegs into round holes, ever harder as resistance built up, and blaming the pegs for being counter-revolutionary and so deserving of increasingly harsher measures. How dare they not have the courage of other people’s convictions, not put their money (lives, liberties, sacred honour) where other people’s mouths were!

  17. Mike Pepperday
    January 30th, 2004 at 02:09 | #17

    JS’s excerpt by Mumble is spot on. Both parliament-appointed and popularly elected models are dead. They will never be put to parliament. No PM will contemplate it.

    To make progress requires a rethink. The meaning of “republic” is beside the point. The point is to dismiss the Queen; she’s seen as irrelevant.

    There is also no getting around JS’s remark that “Attempting to change the Constitution on issues that do not have overwhelming public support is a waste of time.” Obviously a new start is needed.

    Try this. If you are going to make a republic from a monarchy, and you think a republic is a place where the people are sovereign, logically you would start by replacing “Queen” with “People” in the consititution (the prosaic written one). This would have the people approving the PM’s choice of candidate for GG (or president, it’s only a name change).

    Or, in terms of present thinking, where the argument is between those two models: popularly elected versus parliament appointed, since the actual controversy is about “parliament” and “elected”, cut out these extreme bits to make “popularly appointed”.

    No model, no election, no campaign, no politicians. And no second agenda: just replace the Queen by the sovereign people and do nothing else. Finally, no popularity problem: who’d vote against other than unthinking monarchists?

  18. January 30th, 2004 at 10:56 | #18

    “The point is to dismiss the Queen; she’s seen as irrelevant.”

    That needs a rethink. That “seen as” is (a) the wrong thing to look at, and (b) itself illustrates the problem of ringbarking. Correct the perception, not the machinery. If a ship started to leak would you try to fix the leak or decide it was desirable?

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