FAIR GO UMPIRE
After much angst and a fair dose of recrimination it seems even
Malcolm Turnbull, our own republican emperor, agrees that little
Johnny Howard played him and the party boys on a break. There I
was at Coburg for the round 11 game against Port and the bloke says
'I'm not happy with you, Phil'.
'Look I 've apologised for knocking over Peter Wilkinson here in
1983. And anyway I did the time, four weeks in fact, can't we move
on?' I replied.
'No he deserved it, it's your sabotaging of the republic that I'm
angry about' he said hanballing the Sherrin to his wife.
Well, just for the record here are some articles I wrote prior
to and after the referendum. You chair the tribunal.
SOON WE'LL HAVE THE REPUBLIC WE WANT
The Age - Monday 8 November 1999
An abridged version
No matter what the jingoists in the Australian Republican Movement
camp say, Saturday's referendum vote is something about which ordinary
Australians and we in the direct election camp should be proud.
This was not a vote for a foreign head of state or some crumbling
hereditary family. It was a vote for participation in the political
system and a reminder to the urban middle class that political wisdom
can be found outside celebrity politics and the corridors of power.
Two days ago we were told that a no vote would see the end of the
republic. Now Kim Beazley tells us that the no vote actually means
yes to the republic, and that a republic with an elected president
will be part of the ALP's political agenda in the lead-up to the
next election. How amusing, given that when direct electionists
outlined this scenario in the weeks before the referendum they were
lampooned as quisling monarchists and spoilers.
In the face of a barrage of media propaganda for a republic with
a president appointed by Parliament, the people have voted no. Yet
ARM defenders such as The Age's Michael Gordon continue with their
elitist mantra. ...........
There is no doubt John Howard was a willing player in the death
of this republic. But what about Keating and Turnbull? What about
Labor leaders Peter Beattie, Mike Rann, Geoff Gallop and Jim Bacon,
who supported a direct election model only to jump ship at the death
knell? Doesn't it occur to anyone that this was not a model for
the times, and that Keating and Turnbull underestimated the wish
of Australians to be sovereign in any republic?
At last year's Constitutional Convention it was made clear to
the ARM leadership that history was not on the side of referendum
bills that centralised or appeared to centralise power in the hands
of executive government, and that their model was therefore likely
to go down........
The challenge is to develop a republic model that addresses the
concerns and aspirations of Australians. If that means a model that
avoids the excesses of the American system, then so be it. Contrary
to the claims of some, it is possible to fashion a republic model
that restricts the ability of big money to determine the outcome
of a presidential election. Any number of constitutional lawyers
have confirmed this.
In clinging to the ridiculous notion that Australians would elect
a vacuous celebrity or a partisan politician, the ARM and the leaders
of the major parties have underestimated the wisdom of the people
and the prevailing political mood. Blue-collar workers and people
in the bush voted against the republic on offer because it was elitist.
Yet, despite the polls consistently showing that some 70 per cent
of Australians want to elect their own president, the leaders of
the major parties chose to interpret this as a product of ignorance
Phil Cleary is the Victorian convenor of Real Republic.
28 July 1999
YES AND MORE? YOU MUST BE JOKING, MOIRA?
At last year's Constitutional Convention, Moira Rayner was one
of a number of delegates who proclaimed themselves passionate defenders
of constitutional reform and a people's democracy. The wise old
owl Clem Jones, the redoubtable Ted Mack, the recalcitrant Pat O'Shane
and many others refused to be seduced by the shallow jingoism of
"I'm not prepared to support a republic that entrenches discrimination
……..that is not a real republic and is not worth the trouble of
creating one. A real republic puts the power in the people…..the
quality of a republic depends on the quality of its citizens. No
minimalist model, no cautious compromise will capture the will of
the people. It must protect the individual from the misuse of her
government's power……," growled Moira to the applause of Direct Electionists.
When she defended her decision to support the ARM model on the
grounds she had to vote with her leader, Tim Costello, I was disappointed
but kind of understood her predicament. Now, as I watch her (Age
27 July) tell republicans "it's time to get passionate again" and
write "yes and more" on the very model she savaged at the Convention,
I can only say "Moira, you must be joking!" What is it about contemporary
life that ideas and deeply held views can be so easily compromised?
What's the point of condemning lack of transparency in Government,
parliamentary travel rorts and conflict of interest, or standing
shoulder to shoulder with the Auditor General, only to climb the
stump to defend a 'republican model' that enshrines executive power
and exudes contempt for the people? Moira well knows that the escalating
cynicism towards the major parties and politics generally has its
genesis in the preparedness of glib politicians to trade in alleged
deeply held ideas.
As with the pitiful attempt of a slavishly pro-market ALP to mount
a case against the Coalition's sale of Telstra or Peter Reith's
workplace policies, Moira's strategy just won't work. If the extent
of Moira's group's commitment to democracy is the writing of a silly
"yes…..and more" on the ticket it's no wonder people are indicting
the political process. However, as they showed when they defeated
conscription in 1916/17, the Anti-Communist Bill in 1951 and Pauline
Hanson in 1996, ordinary punters just aren't that stupid. Nor are
they so stupid as to believe that should Malcolm Turnbull and his
ARM get their way it'll be a case of "and more". If this model wins
the day we'll live to regret it. No-one can seriously believe that
the major parties will campaign for further constitutional reform
once they've fought off the people's challenge and entrenched their
power. Why would they?
It should come as no surprise that, at a time when support for
the major parties is collapsing and people are voting strategically
in the Senate, the usual suspects would chose to foist this model
on us. The ARM model with its president plucked from the old boy
network after a cosy and secretive nomination process is the antithesis
of what Moira demanded at the Convention. Dressed up as heralding
a democratic break with the days of the hereditary monarchy, the
ARM republic is a Trojan horse. Fancy asking the people to endorse
a model that allows for the president to be sacked by way of a phone
call from John Howard without due process then denies the Senate
a role in any review of the position. As the Clerk of the Senate,
Harry Evans, laments "this is the most ridiculous Constitution alteration
proposal I have ever heard of…….no other republic has such an arrangement".
Ironically, it's only by defeating this phoney republic that we'll
have any chance of the "and more" constitutional reform about which
Moira writes. If this model is defeated it will be because, as every
poll confirms, the model refuses to affirm the sovereignty of the
people. Only by reaffirming our commitment to the democratic right
to elect a president, even one with essentially cultural and symbolic
authority, can we generate the momentum to bring about something
approaching a real republic.
A hundred years ago the feminist sisterhood from which Moira draws
inspiration was told to forego the vote because politics wasn't
any of their business. They didn't accept that advice. I'd be surprised
and disappointed if feminists accept Moira's advice to curtsey before
Malcolm Turnbull's "boy's own" republic. Contrary to the assertions
of Moira and other public defectors such as Pat O'Shane, it's not
apathy, ignorance or lack of passion that is driving people away
from the ARM model and into the 'No' camp. If only Malcolm Turnbull
and his mates would start rooting for democracy rather than "Rooting
Democracy" (to borrow the title of one of Moira's books) the people
might come around.