PARLIAMENT - NOT THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC - OVERBOARD
In the Melbourne Age on
2 March 2002, associate editor Shaun Carney asked whether the Hollingworth
affair hadn't blinded us to 'a far more critical debate'.
The following is an abridged
version of an article I submitted to the Age Newspaper. They chose
not to publish it:
Had Shaun Carney (Age - Insight, March 2) stumbled across Chairman
Mao's 'mass line' he might have found a way through the troubles
of the Australian republic. When Mao talked of 'saying to the people
clearly what they said to him confusedly' he captured the inherent
failings of much that claims to interpret the collapse of ARM republic.
While many republicans now accept that a direct election model
offers the greatest hope of bringing about a republic, too many
republicans dream about what might have been. To argue, as Carney
does, that Tony Abbott and his Monarchist mates were responsible
for the 'no' vote is only partly true. Outside the rusted on Tory
constituency there is not a sliver of interest in Abbott's view
of the world.
Although there is overwhelming evidence that people want to elect
their own president, many media commentators cannot cast off their
antiquated paternalism and say they trust Australians with the vote.
Rather than dwelling on the shortcomings of the 'no republic' case
and Howard's role in its success, commentators should be trying
to articulate what kind of republic it is that ordinary Australians
The 'no' vote in 1999 did not put an end to the debate nor doom
the republic. In fact, the public debate in Canberra and the subsequent
referendum only sharpened our understanding of what kind of republic
we want. As Carney acknowledges, Howard has not won the real battle.
With the Queen and Prince Phillip looking increasingly like some
historical relic, and Howard's Governor General unable to meet community
expectations, where does the PM go now?
Whereas Shaun Carney argues that Australians are indifferent to
the head of state, nothing could be further from the truth. Indifferent
to the Queen or some puppet plucked from the old boy network, yes.
But not to the possibility of fashioning a role for a president
that symbolizes modern Australia.
The young aspiring nation about which Shaun Carney talks can do
better than leave the selection of the president to the parliament
or its mates. Neither the cunning John Howard nor the swaggering
Tony Abbott can save the Monarchy. The question is, can they and
the minimalist republicans save the parliament from a president
elected by the people. I hope not.