This morning listening to the radio I heard that it was the tenth anniversary of the demise of the Republic referendum.
The journalist stated that Australians resoundingly rebutted the idea of a republic. However, as usual when issues are discussed in a few minutes grab, the issue was more complex than that.
Keating placed many ideas about changing Australia on the agenda, reconciliation, Republic, the Flag and so on. This placed a proportion of Australians against him. Many drifted to the ideas of One Nation. Of course Howard was able to absorb those votes with his white picket fence, white blindfold view of history that appealed also to the so called ‘battlers’. But somehow was stuck with this Republic thing. I remember listening to the Constitutional Convention and how uplifting it was to listen Australians with different views talk amicably and enthusiastically about the future of the country.
I believe that was the last hurrah before Howard successfully brought to a halt the path that Australia engaged since the election of the Withlam government. A path that is stalled to this day.
Joni on Blogocrats shares my belief that Howard successfully scuttled the whole thing. This of course was assisted by Malcolm Turnbull which his leadership of the Republican Movement was described as ‘ arrogant and amateurish’. But mainly by some Republicans that didn’t want the minimalist model but wanted the Republic to include a whole swag of things. I know of some republicans who actually voted no in the referendum because they didn’t want something better. The Australians for Constitutional Monarchist understood this drift very well. So much so that in the few weeks before the referendum their slogan was ‘If you don’t want THIS republic vote no’. Hoping that republicans would vote against the model put forward. Of course they knew that once the referendum was defeated the republic issue would be put to bed with Howard as Prime Minister, and that’s effectively what happened.
As an example you can still read the opinion of Phil Cleary who was the Victorian convenor of ‘Real Republic’. The heading of the article says it all “Soon we will have the Republic we all want’. That article was published on the 8th of November 1999.
I’d be lucky to see a republic in my lifetime.