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The tragedy of Australian republicans Democracy has never seemed so unappealing

A royal flush. (Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)


September 13, 2022   4 mins

The Australian Republic Movement (ARM) has always been nervous about making its move too early — it has been waiting for this moment for a long time. For the past decade, polls showed that Elizabeth II, who visited Australia 16 times during her 70-year reign, was the most popular member of the Royal Family. Given her son has never commanded anything like Elizabeth’s levels of adulation, the republican movement started to focus its messaging on what would happen after Elizabeth’s death.

This is partly why, just a few months ago, the ARM issued a celebratory statement titled “Australians reject King Charles”. According to the ABC survey the ARM was referring to, 53% of Australians did not want Charles to become king, while only 35% were in support. Today, then, despite the fact that the government’s flags are flying at half-mast and Parliament has been suspended for two weeks, the republican cause in Australia seems in strong shape. Indeed, the newly elected Labor Party government is the first to appoint a Minister for the Republic, Matt Thistlethwaite, whose job is to prepare the grounds for a future referendum on Australia becoming a republic.

Such a vote will be necessary, as any change to Australia’s system of government requires a constitutional amendment, which can only be done via referendum. Yet the government is currently preoccupied with its proposed referendum on enshrining an indigenous voice to parliament. Senior ministers have therefore suggested that the republic referendum would likely have to wait until the government’s second term, which will be in 2025 if the ALP is re-elected.

Despite this delay, republicanism is clearly back on the political agenda and is enjoying substantial support at the highest echelons of government. An unpopular King now sits on the throne in Britain. What could possibly go wrong?

While the circumstances are certainly propitious, if the ARM believes that a favourable result would simply fall in its lap, they could end up bitterly disappointed. Let’s not forget: we have been here before. In the Nineties, when Australia was gearing up for its first referendum on the republic, a majority of Australians supported the change. Successive polls showed the margin in favour of a republic was roughly two-to-one. Yet in the 1999 referendum, the republican cause lost by 45% to 55%.

Of course, the circumstances today are not entirely similar. Whereas the current Labor government and its leader, Anthony Albanese, is in favour of a republic, John Howard, who was Prime Minister at the time, was a staunch monarchist who put forward an unpopular model, in which the Head of State would be elected by parliament, not by voters. Malcolm Turnbull, a future Liberal prime minister, who was leader of the “yes” vote, later told Howard that he had broken “the nation’s heart” by manipulating the referendum to get the result he wanted. This was largely true, though the republican defeat was also enabled by a split within the movement over the preferred model for electing an Australian Head of State.

Still, the Nineties would turn out to be the highest point of support for the republic. Recent polling has shown that more Australians do not support a republic than those who do. At 34%, support for the republican cause is at its lowest ebb since 1979. Perhaps surprisingly, only 26% of voters aged 18-24 said they would support a republic, the lowest of any age group. A large share, over a quarter of all respondents, said they were uncertain how they would vote. If many of those decided to vote “yes” the republic vote could still win, but they would need to be won over to the cause. The biggest challenge facing the ARM, then, appears to be a debilitating one: public apathy. The republic just does not seem to excite Australians anymore.

This in itself is surprising, given the way the monarchy and its unelected representative in Australia, the Governor-General, have significantly intervened in Australian politics. Only this year, newly released documents showed how Governor-General John Kerr corresponded with the Queen’s Secretary throughout the dismissal of the ALP Whitlam government in 1975. The letters revealed how Kerr railed against the Whitlam government, attacking its policy decisions, and even asked whether the monarchy would consider using its powers to dissolve it. And more recently, it was uncovered that Australia’s current Governor-General, David Hurley, secretly swore in former prime minister Scott Morrison to several ministerial roles during the pandemic. These appointments, which could have had a monumental impact on government operations, were not recorded anywhere on Hurley’s publicly available schedule, again raising questions about the powers vested in the Governor-General’s office.

And yet so many Australians, including younger citizens, just don’t seem to care about introducing a republic. In part, this reflects the ARM’s firmly middle-class characteristics. The Movement was established by prominent journalists, academics, lawyers, corporate figures, and some politicians in 1991. The same professions dominate today. Although these individuals undoubtedly bring a wealth of relevant expertise and knowledge, one negative consequence is the ARM’s heavy emphasis on the symbolism of becoming a republic and on designing the perfect selection process for an Australian Head of State, while paying relatively little attention to articulating precisely how a republic would benefit ordinary Australians.

This is the most important issue because the fate of the republic will not be decided in meeting rooms. For the constitutional amendment to take place, Australians need to vote “yes” in a referendum. And symbolism and identity, seen as self-evidently important to the ARM, don’t appear to be vote-winners. Absent a stronger positive case, many Australians might just vote to keep what they know.

To make matters worse for the ARM, the debate for a republic is now happening in a context of serious decline in Australians’ trust in their public institutions and democracy. A spike in trust in democracy during the early stages of the pandemic swiftly fizzled out, and was followed by the second biggest recorded decline in 2022. This explains Queen Elizabeth’s remarkable and enduring popularity. Many viewed the Queen as dutiful and publicly minded, a source of continuity and stability in contrast to their feckless politicians and globally oriented elites. Irrespective of King Charles’s personal standing with Australians, their declining faith in democracy makes this a difficult moment in which to argue for the inherent benefit of elected office.

Queen Elizabeth’s death should therefore be a moment of collective reflection and debate for Australia. The end of her 70-year reign represents a major fork in the road — a time to assess where we came from and, perhaps more importantly, where we would like to go. Tragically, there seems to be little appetite for this: republicans seem to expect the transition to happen almost by itself, while monarchists are also counting on inertia to keep things as they are.

Neither side seems capable of, or interested in, mounting a compelling, positive case for their cause. And given the void left by the Queen’s passing, the monarchists’ job appears to be the easier one.


Shahar Hameiri is a Professor in the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Australia

ShaharHameiri

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Peter Scott
Peter Scott
1 year ago

Republicanism in the Britannic realms – the 30+ countries where the British monarch is head of state – is enormously unappealing to anyone who thinks.
This is because those who think see immediately that it would be replaced by yet another influential, highly paid, enormously pensioned, job for a member of the Political Class which over the course of the past 30 years has utterly discredited itself in running the western world.
This new grim aristocracy, the executive arm of the alliance between Big Money and the Political Left, has given us meritocracy without merit and elites without competence.
They have run countries like ours into the ground.
Who wants a Cherie Blair or a Chris Patten for head of state?

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Quite right. Except not Blair or Patten – it would be Chiefy MacChief-face, after a series of elimination ballots via a TV reality show. Wake up to Modern Britland!

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

You have just made me feel a little sick and ill, by the choices given in your last sentence.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

I’m going to be a foolish American for a moment here, but in what way is Australia not a Republic now? You vote for Parliament, which makes the laws for your country. Your de-facto leader is your Prime Minister, not a distant king. From an American perspective, that’s what “a republic” is, so I’ve always had difficulty understanding this term’s usage in a British context. For Australians, does it just mean getting rid of the queen as your head of state and electing a President (ala Germany of France)?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

I think it’s a meaningless, intellectual issue whipped up by a sector who somehow think it’s infantile to retain those links and that that we’ll become a more mature nation through this change. In fact it seems more infantile trying to destroy the link, like a child kicking at their parent’s ankles.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Brett, don’t you think that for those Australians who have no British connection, the idea that our head of state is a British person living in Britain is more than strange? I quite understand the argument that it seems obvious that the head of state should be an Australian who lives here. But there are other considerations …. depends on what weight you give to them.

Brian – parliament passes the laws but they need Royal Assent before they can be brought into force. An Australian government, with a majority in the House of Representatives, was tossed out of office in 1975 using the powers of the sovereign. There’s a debate amongst academics about who really is Australia’s head of state: the now King of Australia, or the Governor-General.

Just as there was a debate that went on for decades about when we became independent, if we were. That sort of ended with the Australia Act of 1986. The whole thing is quite complex and subtle … as Winston Churchill said of the Queen “It is not so much the power that she imposes but the power that she denies others.”

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“don’t you think that for those Australians who have no British connection,”
Who might you be referring to here?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Migrants – starting with the post-war Europeans, then the Vietnamese, Chinese, Indians, people from the middle-east, now increasingly Africa.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

I guess they may find it strange. But if that’s all it is then it’s not a lot to be concerned with. I can understand if a head of state, whoever it might be, was responsible for making their life miserable. But I don’t see that happening.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

If that head of state is meant to, in some sense, represent the nation to itself, it is a problem if a majority of people can’t identify with the person.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

What majority are you talking about?

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 year ago

Then they should not have left their own countries to go to live in Australia. Immigrants should change to suit their host country, not the other way round.
Could a Vietnamese immigrant identify with a Middle-Eastern head of state?

Jason Plessas
Jason Plessas
1 year ago

Why would they not be able to identify?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason Plessas

Because they live in different countries on opposite sides of the world with increasingly divergent cultures.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

That doesn’t mean they couldn’t identify with a Head of State. And anyway you were talking about immigrants who had become Australians, people living in Australia, not overseas. Though there are plenty of people on the opposite sides of the world, with divergent cultures, who absolutely relate to a Head of State, who happens to be the Queen,

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Well, that’s just a difference of opinion – I think 1) the distance and 2) increasing cultural differences will make it less likely people can identify with the Monarch in the U.K. as the Australian head of state. Surely you think that it would be more likely that Australians could more easily identify with an Australian, living here, as their head of state.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

I was going to leave the subject alone. But this aspect is interesting. Australia is becoming a country of many cultures. Not to mention the Aboriginal population. The idea of the whole nation identifying with an Australian President seems pretty slim to me. It’s highly unlikely that one individual could do that. And if they can’t then there’s no point.
But that brings me back to the Monarch. The Monarch, The Crown, is not a person. It’s not male or female. It’s not even human. It’s something quite intangible. The fact that our last Monarch was female is beside the point. She was a figure that embodied The Crown. Similar to the idea that Jesus was the human form that God took. Because of that the Monarch can exist in the mind of anyone, any sex, any culture, as an idea. This is the apex of Constituitional law. It’s an idea bigger than any political figures, which the President would be, simply because he could not rise above it.. No person, no Australian, could do that. No Australian could satisfy the collective mind of Australia. This is a reality that people think can be dispensed with. Maybe it can be, but it would leave in its place a very reduced and effective form. And then what after that? What is left when even the President is dispensed with?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

“It’s highly unlikely that one individual could do that” True. True of the flag or anything else. Still parliamentary democracies like Ireland manage to have presidents who are generally ‘respected’. They adequately represent the country for official purposes.

“The Crown, is not a person”. True, but it is always associated with a person. In most people’s minds it’s the person, not the mystical concept. Isn’t a Crown a particular thing – the Crown of Japan being different to the crown of Britain? The British Crown seems more and more a thing particular to Britain, it’s land and people. We’ve been growing away from it as we’ve developed a sense of our own unique character.

“No Australian could satisfy the collective mind of Australia. This is a reality that people think can be dispensed with.” And dispense with it they have. The monarchy is an ever-shrinking concept in Australia, even if admirable celebrities like William & Kate still attract publicity. A very low key, minimalist, President with a respected background won’t lead to inflated expectations that the President would need to satisfy. That’s why the President should be chosen (by the PM and LOOP) and quietly announced, definitely not elected.

“What is left when even the President is dispensed with?” The unique land and soul of Australia – something our artists, composers and writers are constantly awakening us to.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

What is left when even the President is dispensed with?” The unique land and soul of Australia – something our artists, composers and writers are constantly awakening us.”
And how do you think that something like the Constitutional Crisis with the Whitlam Government would be managed? Or any other future constitutional crisis in the future.
This is the concern I feel with the dismantling of traditions and customs that have led us to where we are.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Could we not reduce the powers of the Senate to something like that of the House of Lords? A house of review without the power to block the government’s agenda.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

So already you begin to fiddle when the thing is not broken.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

So already you begin to fiddle when the thing is not broken.”

It broke in 1975. It broke in the U.K. in 1911 and they changed the powers of the House of Lords. Fixed.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Are you referring to the 1975 Constitutional Crisis in Australia? How was it broke?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

It was broken by ignoring conventions (like not appointing a replacement senator from the same party) and by the Senate then deciding to not pass the budget, and by the Governor General (using the power vested in the Queen) deciding to take an unprecedented step and sack a government that had a majority in the House of Representatives. Why not do what the British did and limit the power of the Upper House and make it clear that the democratically elected government formed in the Lower House has the ultimate power – not the Governor General or the Upper House.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

It was fixed, ironically, by the Queen’s representative, the GG.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

No, the British fixed their mess, we haven’t fixed ours. It’s absurd that one appointed official can sack a democratically elected government.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

What, exactly, is the mess Australia is in?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

It’s absurd that one appointed official can sack a democratically elected government. We don’t want a repeat.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

A repeat, of Whitlam, or Kerr.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

What bothers me about such theoretical debates is that none of the people involved ask what the problem is that our type of Monarchy is designed to solve, and that is the incurable lust for power, achieved by violence, of human beings.
At the root of every just state is some kind of compulsion, some regime that lies beyond question, simply because in the quotidian world, such questions usually involve bloodshed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arnold Grutt
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Yes. It seems to me that history is a step by step process to counter this lust for power, that the evolution of our country and constitution is founded on that experience. It’s so easy to feel that you’re active in the process by destroying what’s around you, including the foundations you stand on. The idea that the past: tradition, custom, values, is irrelevant is very intoxicating for those who understand little.

Michael Davis
Michael Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

The great advantage of the crown. Is that it moved the allegiance of the armed forces from the politicians to the state
You need to make sure the monarch is apolitical then you don’t have the problem of a President who won’t leave just like the USA or Russia

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Ah so you support immigrants failing to integrate into the society they’ve joined, and adopting their standards and values etc. It’s immigrant ghettos and critical race theory if you go that way.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Interesting statement: speaking on behalf of these people.
It might be worth remembering that the migrants you speak of are all very familiar with the idea of Emperor, Prince and King.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

Russell – I’m a 7th Generation Australian, my ancestors arrived from the British Isles in the early 1800s. These individuals caused federation and built Australia. So what if migrants don’t feel a connection with the monarchy? They knew what Australia was upon arriving. A vast majority of Australians have a British connection. We speak English. Our laws and parliaments were inspired by the Westminster system. The UK remains our ally and friend- in a way, to be frank, neither China nor India have. We do not run our country on the feelings of new arrivals, I’m sorry if that’s harsh, but that’s never going to happen.
A republican system is an attack on Federation and the Anglo-Celtic roots of Australia. The people running the movement, such as Malcolm Turnball, are dull corporate types with no charisma. The Republic will be used to shove in progressive nonsense. It’s so obvious to me – it’s an attack on the symbolic nature of Australia.
Also – Gough Witlam’s fury at his sacking was hardly directed at the Queen – it was towards the Governor General.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

Hi Madeleine – yes, some of my family came on the first boat to W.A. in 1829, but then one of my grandmothers only came out when she was an adult. I have all the attachments you have to the benefits of our British heritage.

But I think my generation is the last ‘British’ generation of Aussies. When I was growing up the country was very much white British, at school we were taught British history and geography. We read British literature. The ABC announcers tried to sound British. I used to read a British children’s magazine – serialised thrilling adventures of Francis Drake etc. I learned acres of British piano music, and saw the world through the lens of Arthur Mee’s encyclopaedia. The national anthem was God Save the Queen. So, an attachment and familiarity to things British.

Two generations later, I don’t see younger British-descended Australians as feeling that attachment much at all. Australia has come into its own, and Australians are proud of Australian authors, composers, entertainers (as well as sports stars). So much more of Australian history is known and discussed.

Then there are all the immigrants, soon to be back to a couple of hundred thousand a year coming in. Of course someone from any non-Commonwealth country, doesn’t bring much of an attachment to British culture. So Australia is changing and moving away from that intimate connection most Australians had with Britain up to a couple of generations ago.

Australia is unique in many ways, but I can understand people in Australia, now, and more so in the future, asking why our head of state is British and living in Britain. Why does their Australian passport say that the Governor General of Australia is the representative of the Queen? It’s a relic from colonial times. I think it will inevitably change, as the country does. We can’t hold on to all the British-ness I grew up with, but neither can we understand and value what we have if we cut ourselves off at the roots.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

My question is: are those cultural / migration changes good, though? Is that what we want for Australia? I’d argue no – and therefore, being a monarchist makes sense. These are of course, the results of policy decisions that I never supported, and neither did many. I guess my vision of Australia differs to yours. But I reject the concept that Australia needs to ‘grow up’ and the only way to do that is via a Republic.
I’m 27 years old and my concern is that Australia has turned into a bland, modern salad of various cultures – without a distinctive voice. We are not America and I’d rather a stronger British presence, tbh. There’s a reason why the strongest republican voices atm in Australia are from the Greens (I know they don’t represent the whole movement) – it attracts a vicious, anti-British personality that is alien to Federation and those who founded our nation.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

In addition to accepting that immigrants shouldn’t integrate into their new culture, Russell also seems to think they don’t value a monarchy they may never have had. Au contraire, in the U.K. the most devout monarchists are immigrants who have integrated. Those who choose not to integrate and stay in their immigrant ghettos don’t support the monarchy, and they don’t support British culture and values either, and some of them then want to destroy Britain.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“An Australian government, with a majority in the House of Representatives, was tossed out of office in 1975 using the powers of the sovereign. â€œ
This is a very touchy issue, even today. In fact at the next election, very shortly after they were removed, they suffered an overwhelming defeat. Obviously the public we’re very unhappy with their performance. If the Queen’s representative, who is not appointed by the Queen, had not dismissed the government of the day there is the thought that the actions of the government could have been catastrophic. No one will know for sure, and certainly no one will agree. But the results of the election seem to confirm the Governor General’s decision as being in touch with the people.
“In the 13 December election, the Coalition won a record victory, with 91 seats in the House of Representatives to the ALP’s 36 and a 35–27 majority in the expanded Senate.[114]”

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

We don’t need to rehash the incident – it’s enough that no one today would want to see a repeat of a Governor-General acing like that. I cited it just as an example to Brian that the British crown still does have some power in Australian public life. I’m fairly sure that a large majority of Australians think that’s inappropriate.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

I was clarifying, for Brian’s benefit, the situation with the Governor General because you had put it in a very simplistic light. I have no wish to rehash things either. But, because you say no one would want to see a repeat of that incident and that you’re fairly sure that a large majority of Australians think it’s inappropriate then I feel that you’re a little biased in your comments and it reveals your position with regard to a head of state. I “rehashed” the event because it’s possible that the GG made the right decision and his decision is not a strong enough reason to do away with the Queen or King as head of state.
And being “fairly sure” does not add up to much.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

It only needed a simple statement – that the Crown has the power to sack a democratically elected government – to show an outsider that the Crown has some power in Australia.

As we now know – after the letters were finally, legally prized out of them – we had a situation where the Queen’s representative in Australia was secretly discussing with the Palace the prospect of sacking a democratically elected Australian government. Do you really think this sounds appropriate to most Australians?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

But it wasn’t the Crown that really sacked the government, was it? The Crown does not exert power in Australia.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

You’re distorting things. Of course the GG would have consulted the Palace. The seriousness of the situation required that everything be done appropriately and within constitutional law.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Russell protests too much – he brought it into the debate with a filter and then doesn’t like it when you challenged his view of it.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The point is that the government was defying the constitution by refusing to take the democratic road and call an election to resolve the deadlock. Instead they sought dodgy foreign loans.
It wasn’t just a case of unpopularity, which any government suffers. The dismissal required that an election be called.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Exactly. Sorry if I seemed unclear. This is such a touchy subject.

Ian
Ian
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Yes, once again the writer is presenting a slanted view. In 1975 the Labor government did indeed have a majority in the House of Representatives, but not in the Senate. Their budget was blocked in the Senate (which they thought was improper), meaning the Parliament as a whole wasn’t prepared to pass the legislation. The Government had no supply so they went off to an Iraqi loan shark, Tirath Khemlani, to borrow the money they needed to pay public servants, etc. This was absolutely wrong. The Governor General realised that Labor was desperate to keep power so he dismissed it, on condition that the Opposition would call an election so the Australian people could break the impasse. They did … at the subsequent election the Labor party was smashed.
The Governor General did his job, he broke the impasse, gave the people control, and responsible (to the Parliament) government was restored.

Ian Alexander
Ian Alexander
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian

Well explained, Ian. You lay bare what the academic/public-servant class has sucessfully kept hidden for almost 50 years.

Peter Clark
Peter Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian

And what I am not seeing here is what the ARM and their supporters believe the counter factual would be with a politically appointed head of state? Perhaps the President owes his allegiance to Whitlam and refuses to intervene? Or perhaps the opposite and Whitlam is sacked without evidence of wrongdoing in Iraq or under some other pretext. If people cannot see the benefit in having an a-political and unelected/unimpeachable head of state who does not owe their position to anyone they need look only to the USA and it’s party politicised courts and executive


Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian

Thanks Ian.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

The point of a system with a non-executive head of state is that the head of state steps in only when there is a deadlock that the ordinary mechanisms cannot handle. In 1975 there was such a deadlock, caused by the political tactics of parties on both sides. It is not surprising that the losing side resents the Governor General, and you might think that he should have done it differently, but whatever system was in place, someone would have had to cut the knot.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

And if we were a Republic with a President, is it not likely a President would have made the same decision?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

What happens in the U.S.A. when they are heading to a funding crisis with the government about to run out of money? It seems eventually Congress gives in and raises the debt ceiling or something. They don’t have some outside person to ‘cut the knot’.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Neither do we. You know this. The GG is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the PM. What do you think an Australian President might have done?

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

The US has an *executive* head of state. But the Supreme Court seems to fill a similar role, as in the Bush v. Gore presidential election. The hard part is to have some authority that is not part of normal politics, not tainted by partisanship, yet has enough authority that people will accept its judgments in a constitutional crisis. The Supreme Court has managed to some extent, but may be too politicised by now. If they have to decide the next presidential election of Trump against Somebody, what are the chances that they will be seen as impartial?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Interesting point. How long can such institutions resist the demands of partisan politics and why demolish one of the last reliable forms of impartiality?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

one of the last reliable forms of impartiality?

Are you referring to the Monarch or the government appointed Governor-General?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

In fact, both.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

So you do think an Australian Governor General should take advice from the Palace if s/he has to intervene in Australian political life?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

The GG does not take advise from the palace, not in the sense you are suggesting, and I have not suggested that. If you’re suggesting that the Palace interferes in our politics then you are, as the Chinese say, being mischievous.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

I have a couple of questions for you:
When you say our head of state should be Australian what exactly do you mean by “An Australian”?
Somewhere among these comments someone asked what exactly is in it for Australians to remove the Monarch as the Head of State?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

An Australian citizen who lives in Australia.

The plus side of having an Australian head of state is that it would reflect our post-colonial maturity as a country with our own identity. All Australian citizens could identify with the head of state as being ‘one of us’.

As I’ve said, I would still vote against a republic because I value the importance of the historical connection as greater, but I can understand the attraction of the republican argument.

Ian
Ian
1 year ago

You are spot on Brian. Australia is, in all respects, a ‘crowned republic’. In fact the American system, reflecting the British system of the time, is far more monarchical than Australia’s. The American President, in his use of executive orders and refusal to sign Congressional legislation he doesn’t like, really does rule the roost like an absolute Monarch, whereas the Australian Governor General acts only on the advice of the Prime Minister and within the constraints set out in the Australian Constitution.
In fact, the writer of this article is inconsistent in his criticism of the Governor General for swearing Scott Morrison in to multiple Ministries. In doing so the Governor General was fulfilling his duty to act on the advice of the PM. If he had refused to do so he would have been acting unconstitutionally. The Constitutional Monarchical system worked well, and exactly as it is planned to work.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Correct Brian.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

It’s a mystery why something that works must be dismantled. So far I’ve never heard a sound reason for doing it. Even the Whitlam/GG episode fails to make the case.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

I think you’re confusing independence with republicanism. The Australians are independent as you say the elect their own parliament and the British have no say over how the country is run. However they are still a monarchy as the King is their head of state. To become a republic would mean the King would be removed and they would elect a president instead, even if it’s largely a ceremonial role devoid of any real power

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

That is why you are a foolish American

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

By the same reasoning in what way is the UK not also a Republic now? The point is both Australia and the UK have identical political systems.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Thank you to all who replied. Americans are generally taught that the British monarchy is a purely ceremonial position. The king or queen presides at official functions, but Parliament and the Prime Minister hold all the real power. It sounds like that’s not quite accurate. There is an old adage: “there was a time when both the law and the consent of a governed clothed kings in a power almost unimaginable, but rarely did they make use of it.” It sounds like an echo of that still holds true in Britain.
Coming from a country with an elected executive… be careful what you wish for. Functionally, the American President is a largely absolutist monarch elected every 4 years. Congress (our Parliament) provides very limited oversight.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
Justin S
Justin S
1 year ago

A great set of events occurred last week in the world of democracy.
In Britain we have evolved our systems of governance over several centuries. Edges have been chamfered off, fudges put in place to allow flexibility, positions of power neutered, checks and balances evened up to allow a decently strong government without overly great power, a compliant police and armed forces.
Surely greatest of all – is our system of Monarchy.
Benign, effectively powerless, unable to harm the individual and democratically controlled and focused on the careful, endless paternal hand upon our collective heads.
We had a hereditary Queen for 75 years and she has sadly passed after a life of entirely positive and harmless (to us) service to the people. We now have her son as our King and he has dedicated himself to our service. He can not do anything to harm any of us. No beheadings, no imprisonment, no gulags, no real power, just a modest level of influence to give the job some meaning.
We have an elected Government headed by a Prime Minister and who was ejected by his own party, for incompetence in essence. No bloodshed, no rioting, no mayhem.
We now have a new Prime Minister, appointed by her political party in a rigorous and public manner for all the word to see. No blood, no riots, no mayhem.

BOTH heads of political and monarchical power have transferred to new hands – in calm and orderly fashion, in public and in quiet discipline, for all of us British to see and to witness to the world.

Now that is a democracy and a royalty worth having.

Last edited 1 year ago by Justin S
Peter Clark
Peter Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Justin S

Makes you proud to be British!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

The ARM seems largely run by the same people as in 1999.

These old farts are trying to run again the line that a republic is the modern thing.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 year ago

“One negative consequence is the [prominent journalists, academics, lawyers, corporate figures, and politicians]’ heavy emphasis on the symbolism [for them] of becoming a republic and on designing the perfect selection process for [one of them to become] an Australian Head of State, while paying relatively little attention to articulating precisely how a republic would benefit ordinary Australians.”
Funny old thing. Possibly the first time in recorded history this has been the case.

Maurice Austin
Maurice Austin
1 year ago

John Howard, who was Prime Minister at the time, was a staunch monarchist who put forward an unpopular model, in which the Head of State would be elected by parliament, not by voters.”
This statement is simply not true. John Howard called a Constitutional Convention the year before – 1998, and the Convention – WHICH HAD A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS – decided on the model to be put to the people. Howard dutifully legislated for THEIR model to be put to a referendum (Constitutional referenda have to be worded specifically in an Act of Parliament).

Ian
Ian
1 year ago
Reply to  Maurice Austin

I really think, with all due respect, that this writer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I lived through the 1975 times, and like Maurice, see things statements in this article that are simply not true.

Justin S
Justin S
1 year ago

A great set of events occurred last week in the world of democracy.
In Britain we have evolved our systems of governance over several centuries. Edges have been chamfered off, fudges put in place to allow flexibility, positions of power neutered, checks and balances evened up to allow a decently strong government without overly great power, a compliant police and armed forces.
Surely greatest of all – is our system of Monarchy.
Benign, effectively powerless, unable to harm the individual and democratically controlled and focused on the careful, endless paternal hand upon our collective heads.
We had a hereditary Queen for 75 years and she has sadly passed after a life of entirely positive and harmless (to us) service to the people. We now have her son as our King and he has dedicated himself to our service. He cannot do anything to harm any of us. No beheadings, no imprisonment, no gulags, no real power, just a modest level of influence to give the job some meaning.
We have an elected Government headed by a Prime Minister and who was ejected by his own party, for incompetence in essence. No bloodshed, no rioting, no mayhem.
We now have a new Prime Minister, appointed by her political party in a rigorous and public manner for all the word to see. No blood, no riots, no mayhem.
BOTH heads of political and monarchical power have transferred to new hands – in calm and orderly fashion, in public and in quiet discipline, for all of us British to see and to witness to the world.
Now that is a democracy and a royalty worth having.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

The thing we know seems less eerie than the thing we do not know.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

I would have voted for a republic when I was younger, but I didn’t vote for it in the referendum. Things seem simple when you are young, but that’s because you don’t see as much.

Given Australia now being such a multicultural country, and our elites intent on making it more so, I expect Australia will become a republic, as fewer and fewer Australians have any connection to ‘the old country’.

If Australia becomes a republic in my lifetime I hope the model is: the President is chosen by agreement between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and that the President cannot be a former politician.

Also, given the way Australia inched its way to independence over nearly 100 years, I think it would be neat if, when Australia becomes a republic, and we have a federal President instead of the Governor General, all the states retain their governors, busily reporting back to the Palace, for a further 100 years. (Queensland and Victoria may be stuck with their names for a bit longer than that).

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

The stability and prosperity of Australia’s democratic constitutional monarchy is what attracts immigrants without British connections.

Where are the examples of such countries that have voluntarily, peacefully transitioned to republics?.

Australia is not oppressed by the crown.
It gained self-government without struggle. Probably because Britain didn’t wish to repeat its American mistakes.

It the 1975 constitutional deadlock was not solved by the vice regal action it would’ve probably gone to the courts, or the Whitlam government would’ve clung to power by some other means. What they wouldn’t have done, but what the dismissal required, was to immediately call an election.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

This is all very interesting, as I assumed that once the Queen passed and an appropriate and respectful period of time had passed, Australia and NZ would just easily slip out of the monarchy and become republics. Maybe I misread the situation.
To be honest I don’t think many Brits have strong feelings about this: these are countries that will always be great friends and allies whatever state form they have. The only thing holding Aussies and Kiwis back here are Aussies and Kiwis.
The same goes for Canadians too, obvs. But I would like to ask any Canadians here: would any debate about turning Canada into a republic reignite the separatism debate in the Francophone regions? Or has that been put to bed?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Canada borders the world’s greatest republic.
They appreciate their different system, as far as I can see.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Australia is much more Americanised and I can see it becoming a republic within the next decade or so. Kiwis are much more like the British in their attitudes I’ve found, and look back to the old country much more so while I’m sure it will happen one day I don’t think it will be anytime soon.
That’s based on nothing but my own perceptions after living in both countries obviously

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

“I assumed that once the Queen passed and an appropriate and respectful period of time had passed, Australia and NZ would just easily slip out of the monarchy and become republics.”
As it turns out this is not what the majority of Australians want.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

As a Canadian, one who lives in Quebec, I’d say that almost anything could provoke another round of separatism (and not only in Quebec but also in some western provinces). It’s our Achilles heel. I think that I can speak for many Canadians by warning against the mortal danger of making radical changes to a structure that is already fragile. Leave well enough alone. We’re a reasonably prosperous country with nothing to fear but utopianism and our own neuroticism.
Several of you have asked how any member of a minority community could possibly feel at home in a country with ties to Britain. As a Canadian Jew, I can answer that question. It’s easy. If it were important to me that I live in a Jewish state with an ethnic Jew as head of state, I’d migrate to Israel. Some Jews do (and some Israelis migrate in the opposite direction). But I don’t want to go anywhere else. I like it here as a Canadian Jew. And so have my ancestors for six generations on one side and three on the other. When they arrived, Canada was part of the British Empire. And that was good news to Jewish refugees from other empires. By and large, Canada and the United States–neither of which has ever had a Jewish head of state–have been very good to Jews (although, during World War II, Britain itself was even better). Full integration didn’t happen overnight, but it has happened in the context of a British civic tradition (and its equivalent in the States). That’s good enough for me and for a whole lot of other Jews. The monarchy doesn’t mean precisely the same thing to me as it does to the people of Britain itself, but it means enough to hold my loyalty–and it would continue to fascinate me even if Canada were to abandon the monarchy.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Thanks Paul, that’s really interesting.

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

And for Britons of my generation and I hope others, Canadians always have a special place in our hearts. They sent us food when we didn’t have enough to feed ourselves. They sent their young men to fight with us and to keep us fed by running the U-boat gauntlet. Many have only the sea as their grave. An enduring memory as an infant is sitting with my mother and sisters having as a special treat salmon sandwiches. The tin carried a label saying “Donated by the Canadian Red Cross and the people of Canada”.
Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis will always be highly regarded here however they keep their own governing classes in order.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian Burnell

Speaking of which, one of the most moving war memorials I have seen was at Madurodam, in the Netherlands. This is a sort of miniature Holland exhibit, with small replicas of all the most famous buildings, Schiphol airport, a few dykes etc. Holland was liberated by Canadian troops in 1945, with considerable losses. Later a Dutch lady who had married one of the soldiers and gone to Canada, had donated a small area of miniature Canadian fir trees to Madurodam. The logic being that after what happened in the war, the image of Holland could not be complete without a bit of Canada in it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Can I just add that Britain, as I’m sure you know, has had a Jewish Prime Minister – Disraeli.
One of Australia’s leading politicians and a founding father, in a sense (helped frame the federal constitution) : Isaac Isaacs
Two governor generals: Sir Isaac Isaacs & Sir Zelman Cowan
Australia’s most revered General: Sir John Monash, after whom many institutions are named.

Ian Alexander
Ian Alexander
1 year ago

The real problem facing the republican movement in Australia is that is simply irrelevant to the interest of Australians who care little about weekly political football. There is no heat or energy in it. It’s the province of a subset of politics nerds.

By contrast, the “Voice” referendum to create a race-based House of Lords is driven by decades of built-up guilt that is transmitted even to migrant families via unrelentingly leftist school curriculum.

But even on that one, the left had better hurry, because the vast demographic change in Australia toward a Chinese, Indian and Filipino majority will make “white guilt” a non-issue, especially compared to the overriding concern within this newer demographic for material advancement of the family. Which is of course the reason migrants continue to arrive. They are generally hard-working and have little interest, use, or guilt for a group who just want handouts and race-based governance.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Watch the sparks fly.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago

Plato described an idealised democracy in which those being elevated to power had to be dragged, unwilling, to their seats, because those who seek power are so dangerous they should be barred, for life, from achieving it. I suppose the constant jeopardy of ‘the next election’ is as close as a modern democracy can get to that beautiful, but unrealistic, model – unless all the prestige, and the ultimate, theoretical, power, is reserved to a monarch who is raised to the role from birth, while the political prominence lies with people who can be removed at any time by the will of the people.
Britain, by accident and experiment, has happened on this latter model, and it has been refined over many generations. If Australia, New Zealand, Canada or any other Commonwealth country can develop something better, then I’m certain we’ll be watching with interest for aspects we can adopt for ourselves.

Ian Turner
Ian Turner
1 year ago

I can’t think of anything worse than an elected politician as head of state! Imagine President Blair or Cameron. Remember the worst dictators in history have been elected! Hitler, Chavez, Mugabe even Putin! Our Queen now Charles are to be infinitely preferred!

Ian Turner
Ian Turner
1 year ago

I can’t think of anything worse than an elected politician as head of state! Imagine President Blair or Cameron. Remember the worst dictators in history have been elected! Hitler, Chavez, Mugabe even Putin! Our Queen now Charles are to be infinitely preferred!

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago

As an Australian I am aware of why people are voting in polls against us becoming a republic. They are frightened that some scurrilous rogue, like our recently outvoted prime minister will become our head of state. A friend (who has no time for the royal of England) said yesterday, “I’m terrified we will become a republic, and then who will rule us?”
This country has an elected parliament, but the real rulers are the gambling and fossil fuel industries. They own almost all of our elected politicians and none of them are game to defy these powers-that-be. We already have our local queen. Her name is Gina. 
This rule by the criminal class began in New South Wales on 26th January 1808, when the local army, the corrupt Rum Corps, overthrew the Governor, a naval man named William Bligh. We have never recovered from it, nor from the war against the rightful owners of the land, the indigenous people, a war than continued for at least 146 years, and which some of us claim never ended. A previous prime minister, John Howard, gave renewed life to the onslaught in 2007, when he introduced The Intervention. The organisation called Stop the Intervention explains:
“Since 2007, Northern Territory First Nations communities have been subject to oppressive legislation passed by both Labor and Liberal governments that has done irreparable damage to these communities. The laws removed permit systems which opened up access to Aboriginal lands, imposed the BasicsCard, decimated jobs, suspended the Racial Discrimination Act, allowed the Government to compulsorily acquire land.These laws have caused a deterioration of social capital and well-being on Australia’s most severely disadvantaged population. They have resulted in greater youth incarceration, increased rates of suicide and child removal, deepening poverty, despair and the further loss of self-determination. 
We demand: The repeal of ‘Stronger Futures’ laws, strengthen land rights and community governance of councils and housing, the right to bilingual education, the closing of youth prisons, having alternatives for all prisons, dignified meaningful jobs programs managed by community, the scrapping of compulsory BasicsCard and the return of children stolen during the Intervention. We demand an end to police wearing guns in communities, to land theft, mining and fracking and the increased militarisation of the NT. ”
http://stoptheintervention.org
The idea that we could become an independent republic begs the question, “Independent from whom?” Certainly not independent from those who own our casinos, poker machines, racing venues, mines and extraction corporations. 
https://thenewdaily.com.au/opinion/2022/09/14/michael-pascoe-star-casino/
Until the Australian population rises up to oust the criminals who truly run the country, we are safer remaining a monarchy, distasteful though that is.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Janet G

A little too simplistic to contribute anything towards issues of Monarchy.

robert fantozzi
robert fantozzi
1 year ago

Robert Fantozzi,
A few thoughts….
The case for a republic has a ring to it . It does speak to “adulthood” and self determination. Yet the current arrangements with the queen/King of Australia and her/his representative, do not seem to impinge on our self determination. So what is it that we really want ? Our very own head of state ? I see no reason why that could not be, but we do have a legacy issues. There are many settlers/migrants in this country. How do we unite them all under one flag, one country, one head of state? Should we get our very own head of state elected by the people, for the people. Someone to stand guard, against the excesses of political parties perhaps? What title should this person carry , perhaps an Australian Royal title? Or should they be just first among many or dare I say it a president ! But we must also ask why do we need a head of state? We vote, they rule for 4 years , then we toss them out and start again. Is that not good enough that we must spend more tax payers dollars ? So many questions. Finally I note that Charles is a keen environmentalist. This will stand him well with the the young ones , who rightly are concerned by the continuing destruction of the environment and the legacy that will be left to them.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago

“We vote, they rule for 4 years , then we toss them out and start again.”
What if they won’t let you toss them out? This is not unknown in certain countries. The democratic Republican and his cronies suddenly decide that there is no need for them to relinquish power and this will always be framed as a temporary response to some alleged threat which requires measures usually seen in war situations to be introduced. I, obviously, do not have such a starry-eyed view of politicians as some.
And don’t think that ‘liberals’ will always naturally try to stop this situation. Twitter for instance has a huge, rather young-profile, contingent who think that Stalin was a fine leader and who now openly claim pride in their ‘Communism’.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arnold Grutt
Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
1 year ago

Why not an aboriginal queen?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago

No reason why not. The main thing is that succession shouild be hereditary, because it means there is no ‘qualification’ required other than birth-line. There can be no arguments over ‘merit’ or ‘talent’ even if your King is a dunce or a maniac. It doesn’t matter if they can’t directly command forces.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

As far as I know there are no Aboriginal Kings and Queens,

Finlay Bruce
Finlay Bruce
1 year ago

Simple really. Australia needs its own home grown Royal Family to sub for the pommie version. Selected by a Hunger Games approach, with the winner and their offspring entrenched forever as our monarch. No subsequent merit required. A reality TV show covering the initial selection process and their lives thereafter should fund the thing.