A REAL REPUBLIC
Just as the ARM model at the 1998 Australian Constitutional Convention
failed to achieve a majority vote from the delegates so it failed
to win one single state in the 6 November 1999 Referendum. Even
in Victoria where the Kennett government, the Bracks Opposition,
the media and the Catholic church campaigned for a 'yes' vote, it
It's important that those committed to electing their own president
rather than having a Kim Beazley or John Howard federal parliament
foist one upon us, begin organising. Nor should we be duped into
believing that a renovated ARM will as a matter of course offer
us a republic in which the president is elected.
Despite his strident criticism of the ARM prior to the Convention
Tim Costello became a public ally. And whilst it's true that
he initially voted for a direct election model, when it came to
the crucial final vote Tim changed his position and mounted the
hustings in support of a ' yes' vote.
Tim's public comments never really hid the fact that his support
for a direct election model was problematic. His February 5 declaration,
"....I am worried about direct election models.....with parliament
at some level ratifying that (nominations) with a two thirds majority
so that representative democracy is sheeted home, is the way we
must be turning our minds......" indicates at best a reluctant
direct-electionist. However, unless Tim gives his unequivocal
support for a republic with an elected president he should dispense
with the label 'direct-electionist'.
'Progressive' minded people are well aware that the community is
disillusioned with contemporary political processes. But unless
exhortations such as "I do fear that pragmatism may be winning.
And I do fear that if it does, if the dialectic of principle is
not powerfully there luring Australians to actually see that we
are about some noble ideas, then we may fail history...." as
uttered by Tim (February 3 1998) are supported with deeds, they
only further the disillusionment.
Given the manner in which pragmatism has decimated the status of
the parliaments of Australia, it would seem blatantly ignoble to
hand over the selection of our president to a federal parliament
and some partisan committee.
IS ANY REPUBLIC GOOD ENOUGH?
The contempt shown to those direct electionists who opposed a
phoney republic that partitioned the people from the symbols of
authority is quite mad. If only we'd supported the partitioned
republic proposed by Rupert Murdoch, Peter Costello, Steve Bracks,
Kerry Packer, Bob Carr, Malcolm Fraser, his archrival Gough Whitlam,
Steve Vizard and the boys. If only we'd cast aside our explicit
opposition to the exclusivist, partitioned republic and linked
arms with the big end of town republicans. If only!
And how instructive that those who in November 1999 accused the
voters of gross ignorance for not voting how they were told by
Kylie Minogue and Rupert, should now be praising 'ordinary' Australians
for their creative approach to the Olympics and the circus that
accompanied it. Some even went so far as to declare that
Australia was a republic in spirit already.
The republic on offer on 6 November 1999 mocked
the very idea of participation by the people. That’s why people
in the bush and outside the epicentre of power voted against it.
The chorus of unconditional support from the likes of Steve Bracks
and Bob Carr for the action of the police outside Crown Casino
in September should serve as a chilling reminder of just how desperate
the major parties are about holding on to the levers of control.
An elected president was a metaphor for participation and
in no small way challenged the modus operandi of the new ruling
class and its allies. The alternative, a model in which the same
old mob would orchestrate the same old charade, wasn’t worth any
self respecting Irish-Australian crossing the road to vote for.
If Ned Kelly seriously wanted a republic in the North East of
Victoria, do you think he'd have settled for the parliament selecting
the boss cockie?
I've met with the ARM and am keenly interested in participating
in any movement to bring about a republic. The question
is, what kind of republic do we deserve? Is any jingoistic
shell of a republic good enough? I think not. Do we
really want to hand over the selection of a president to a parliament
inhabited by men and women slavishly addicted to the party line?
One of the reasons for the establishment of the magazine Táin was the anger and frustration of Irish Australians with the anti-Irish
press in Australia. Val Noone and others decided that it
was time we had a vehicle through which to articulate Irish-Australian
matters on our own terms. So too we should want a president
on our own terms.
If the political pressure is mobilised there'll be good reason
for the politicians to offer us a plebiscite after which time
we can have a serious discussion about the form of the republic.