WALEED ALY - 2006
SOUNDING LIKE AN ARM FOOT SOLDIER
TOO SCARED TO TRUST THE PEOPLE?
On Wednesday 22 March 2006, Waleed Aly wrote a piece on the
opinion pages of the Melbourne Age newspaper
This is a very brief reply:
Why is it so difficult for commentators to grasp the deeper
issues in the republican debate? The debate isn't about symbols.
It's about the fabric of the body politic. Waleed Aly glibly
ignores this question and offers a trite piece of analysis.
That Australians have voted referenda down is not necessarily
a sign of conservatism or ignorance. It's a product, many argue,
of a considered scepticism about the centralising of power.
The conscription plebiscites - 1916/1917 failed for this very
reason. The referendum on responsibility for aboriginal affairs
went the other way because Australians probably considered it
an appropriate centralising of power.
Billy Connolly recently observed on the ABC's Andrew Denton
show, Enough Rope, that most outsiders thought of Australia
as a republic. Denton was in the midst of trotting out the standard
line, 'Australians were too scared to vote for a republic'.
It was typical of the condescending mantra of the urban intelligentsia,
a class whose ranks is bloated with individuals who appear to
have no grasp of why people voted no.
If we extrapolate from Connolly's view we might better grasp
the nature of the problem. The argument about symbols failed
because it offered nothing bar the centralising of power. It
wasn't minimalist; it involved the people abrogating their sovereignty.
What would Waleed Aly have people of democratic persuasion,
do? Accept a republic that hands the appointment of the president
to a parliament besmirched by branch stacking and the imprint
of warlords? A parliament where one party controls both houses?
Is it too much to accept the election of a president, without
executive powers? A large slab of the urban middle class/intelligentsia
is comfortable with an appointed president. Even a modest grasp
of history and the forces of social connection and influence
would enable a person to understand why. For obvious reasons,
those outside the epicentre want more.
There is a republican gathering in Canberra on 1 April 2006, which
includes ARM and direct election republicans. Progress is possible.
It is possible to have a president without executive powers
In any case, are GGs apolitical? Has the current GG weighed into
political debate? Should the president be nothing more than
a ribbon cutter? Can we get the republic we want?