Jun 30

Governor-General in Hot Water

Governor-General, David Hurley, has been criticised for using his office for commercial purposes and personal lobbying. The latest incident resulted in an apology even though the G-G claims he received no benefit for appearing in a video endorsing a builder who undertook major renovations at his private residence in Canberra. This is Hurley's third brush with vice-real protocols this year. It's almost unheard-of for the Queen's representative to be acting in this way. First, was a glamour shot of a Federal Executive Council meeting after the election had been called - that was circulated on social media by then MP, Tim Wilson, who was present at the meeting. Hurley also attracted controversy a few months ago when it was publicised that he had lobbied the Prime Minister for funding of the largely non-operational Australian Future Leaders Foundation Ltd resulting in the award of more than $18m from the Commonwealth Government. The firm had allegedly gathered support from business leaders by using its connections. What is eyebrow-raising is the rapid response by now Government Ministers and MPs (all male) to defend the Governor-General's actions with personal character references. News Corp journalist, Samantha Maiden, however, wrote a piece headed: "Is time up for the under-fire Governor-General after a series of strange comments and gaffes reveal an embarrassing lack of judgement?"

Jun 28

Another Indyref for Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, announces plans for a second referendum on independence to be held on 19 October 2023. She has vowed to take legal action to ensure a vote even if the UK Parliament does not agree. This move has been hastened and enabled by Brexit (the UK's exit from the EU) in 2016, two years after the first independence referendum went down 45-55.  We will be closely following developments in this matter.

Jun 25

"Dropping the Queen" is for Each Commonwealth Country to Decide

Here are Prince Charles' (soon to be King Charles III and our Head of State) remarks at the official opening of CHOGM in Rwanda. 

"The Commonwealth contains within it countries that have had constitutional links to my family, some that continue to do so and, increasingly, those who have had none.

I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member's constitutional arrangements, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each country to decide. The benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change calmly and without rancour."

Charles' frankness is refreshing as is his directness in addressing this issue. He seems to be much less squeamish about calling a spade a spade than we are. Naturally, it will stem from several more Caribbean nations in the Commonwealth wanting to follow the recent lead of Barbados declaring itself a republic - as the British will know following both recent royal visits for the Platinum Jubilee, not all of which were without direct expression to the visitors of the desire for such a change and the continuing attention to the effects of slavery in many Commonwealth countries, continuing ties to the Privy Council in UK etc.

It also leaves Australia, New Zealand and Canada looking very isolated as the major standouts for increasingly obvious reasons not to mention their dominant white Anglo establishments.

It didn't go without notice at home that the new Prime Minister did not attend CHOGM but was represented by his deputy - suggests a change in priorities right from the start.Good!

Jun 24

Now a Flag Furore

In the interegnum while the new federal Government gets into its stride, it's just the time for a set-to not only on The Voice and the Republic but now also about the flag. Driven by Indigenous Greens Senators, controversy over the Union Jack on the flag and its prominent display as a political back-drop have entered into mainstream discourse. It's a timely issue for debate as it links so closely not only to the Republic but also to how First Nations reflect on how the country represents itself on the national and international stage. The continuing presence of the Union Jack on our national flag is good reminder about and entree to the Republic issue. Indigenous people aren't the only ones wondering why their country is always represented by a Union Jack! Look at Canada's flag, now long-changed. New Zealand dropped the ball on this one in its 2016 referendum - undoubtedly now regretted.

Jun 23

New Female Voice on Republic

The Politics today nominates incoming Senator Jacinta Price, LNP Northern Terrritory, as "a key player in upcoming debates on The Voice, and beyond that the Republic, as a loud and proud Indigenous conservative."  The new make-up of the Senate from 1 July 2022 will be interesting to see in action - and to hear, so watch this space! ["Voice Control" by Rachel Withers, The Politics, The Monthly online, 23 June 2022]

Jun 10

More Letters in the Sunshine Coast Daily

The letters editor in this publication has messages from Rachel Millman, Joy Goulding, Jules Walker and Eva Baker (all on Facebook) with a range of opinions on the proposed Republic. Rachel says we can't afford this: more important things to spend taxpayers' money on. Joy says the argument was over in 1999 and it will only be jobs for the boys; it's outrageous for the ALP to have a Minister for the Republic! Jules says bigger things to worry about and too costly anyway (people have no idea) while Eva thinks it's a waste of time: too costly especially changing government stationery, logos and uniforms. Seems to be a bit of a theme in this correspondence but it also serves up a few pointers for where civics effort needs to be concentrated and the issues women are likely to concern themselves with in the absence of information or details.

Jun 7

Small Steps to Progress the Republic

 Meanwhile, over at The Australian, Gaynor Goodbody, Thurgoona, NSW says:

"Now that we have an Assistant Minister for the Republic in Matt Thistlethwaite, perhaps we can take incremental steps in that direction before any referendum, which will be a while away yet.

I suggest that we first withdraw from the Commonwealth - an anachronism whose time is past. Even prior to that, we should withdraw from participation in, or hosting of, the Commonwealth Games, widely regarded as a pointless blip between Olympic Games.

The Irish republic is often held up as a working, practical model that we could emulate, and indeed, Ireland has not suffered from the absence of Commonwealth membership.

A few small simple steps will set us on the right path and give us confidence to achieve the ultimate goal."

Memo Matt Thistlethwaite: some good ideas here for progress in stages!

Jun 6

Jubilee Heralds Road to a Republic?

Christina Foo of  Wahroonga in Sydney writes to The Sydney Morning Herald letters editor:

"Perhaps this would be a suitable time for Australians to acknowledge that, difficult as it may be, we should be become a republic. The sight of 'heirs and spares' waving from the balcony at Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee - with men dripping in gold braid alongside pencil-thin women in skirts, hats and gloves - is a reminder that his gathering of entitled, wealthy individuals is a fantasy in a modern world. The British monarchy is no longer a suitable model for our head of state and the basis of our system of government"

Well said Christina! This letter got top billing on the letters page.

Jun 5

WfaAR Looks Over ARM's Republic Model

Sarah Brasch's detailed analysis of ARM's proposed "model" for the Republic, in reality a method for choosing the head of state. This may not even be a big issue by the time we get to the next referendum? WfaAR says that the model needs a lot more work to answer the many questions the proposal raises about how it would be implemented in practice. It is an imposed model. It may be ARM's "Australian Choice" but it's not the people's choice. Details are few and there is nothing in what has been published so far to address gender balance of candidates nominated for President - or how to achieve diversity among nominees. As proposed by ARM, we could end up with 11 male, white Anglo candidates and that needs to be addressed. Read our commentary on the link. We conclude by saying that there's plenty of time to have another go post election with the possibility of a vote some years away.  We also note that there are 35 new members of the federal Parliament in the next term so things may have changed (see also News of 31 May about the appointment of a Minister for the Republic). Our article also covers the extensive range of commentary on ARM's model from a number of souces including Indigenous campaigners, political commentators and constitutional lawyers with links. Back to you ARM!

More info >

Jun 2

More Platinum Jubilee

Here's another low-key national capital event for our Head of State's 70th anniversary in the job. The National Capital Exhibition is presenting "The Queen and Me", an exhibition celebrating the many people in the crowds on her (many) visits to Canberra. The idea is to paint a picture about what interactions with QEII have meant to the residents of the capital through personal stories, treasured family photographs and momentoes of the day. Runs from 2 June to 31 December 2022 9am to 5pm but it's hard to find and even harder to access just before Commonwealth Avenue Bridge heads south over the lake at Regatta Point.

More info >

May 31

Assistant Minister for the Republic Appointed

The first Albanese Ministry contains the announcement of an Assistant Minister for the Republic. This is a big step forward for the campaign. Some have described it as the biggest advance for the Republic since the referendum and it's hard to argue with that. The appointee is Matt Thistlethwaite, MHR for Kingsford Smith in the southern suburbs of Sydney. He shares this role with other minor appointments in the Defence portfolio (some veterans were miffed). Matt Thistlethwaite has been the shadow Assistant Minister firstly for "an Australian Head of State" and later for "the Republic" since 2017 so WfaAR is confident in his taking up this role and knows that he is well across the politics and the priority that the new Government attaches to proceeding with Indigenous Recognition in the Constitution. In later comments, the new Assistant Minister said it's definitely The Voice first but indicated that Labor intended to hold a Republic referendum in either its second or third term (six to ten years away). 

May 27

Changing the Constitution Isn't Impossible

Change of government and, suddenly, there's a lot of talk about referendums! This is essentially about the promised referendum on The Voice in the first term of the Albanese Labor Government but the Republic is not far behind scheduled for second or third term, or six to 10 years away. Anne Twomey says we should be more optimistic in a wide-ranging discussion about the history of  change referendums in Australia since Federation and likely causes of their downfall - although they have been more likely to get up than technical fixes to the Constitution.  She says that often the questions are poorly worded, or too many issues are loaded into one proposed change, subject to scaremongering (even if little truth in the claims) or vociferous NO campaigns while rightly commenting that "decades of neglect of civics has left us with a population that is insufficiently equipped to fulfil its constitutional role of updating the Constitution". She also states: " the mantra 'Don't know - Vote No' was extremely effective during the republic campaign in 1999".  Read Anne's article on the link below ["Changing the Australian Constitution is not easy. But we need to stop thinking it's impossible" by Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, Sydney University. The Conversation online, 27 May 2022]

More info >

May 17

"Referendum" Makes Election Headlines

Not, alas,The Voice or the Republic but once again s.44 qualifications to be a member of federal Parliament. Perusal of nomination forms by the ABC reveals a significant number of candidates are unlikely to be eligible if elected - fortunately, few appear to have any real chance of success. But the principle remains: the nation is long overdue for regular referendums at the federal level (the only way the national Constitution can be changed) and there are many administrative fix-ups and updates - s 44 at the head of the queue - to be attended to by voters and have been for some considerable time. Read the explanatory article on the link below including commentary from Professor George Williams. WfaAR comment: it isn't just parliamentary eligibility under s 44 that is broken, our whole system of federal government established under the Constitution in 1901 has been broken since 11 November 1975. ["Several federal election candidates may be dual citizens, ineligible under Section 44 of Constitution" by Lauren Pezet, Victor Petrovic and Patrick Bell, ABC online, 17 May 2022]

More info >

Apr 16

Art is Transformative

Novelist Romy Ash discusses how the Melbourne lockdowns affected her connection with the city upon hearing Deborah Cheetham's (Yorta Yorta, Yuin) "The River Sings" played at sunrise and sunset next to Birrarung (Yarra River) across a deserted Melbourne. She writes: "Art can be felt in the body and the heart, that it's transformative". That's how WfaAR feels about art, culture and our Republic. ["Planting a Vision": interview with Katrina Sedgwick, former Head of Arts for the ABC, Chief Executive of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and soon to take up the position as Chief Executive of the Melbourne Arts Precinct by Romy Ash, The Saturday Paper, 16-22 April 2022]

Apr 15

Indigenous Referendum must come Before Republic Vote

Read comments by National Convenor, Sarah Brasch, on ABC online in this article rather sensationally claiming that the ALP had dropped its commitment to a Republic referendum in the first term of 3 years if it forms a government on 21 May. She says this is the right thing to do because if the Republic referendum goes first, then it will be flawed from the start. It will not be a Reconciled Republic and a huge opportunity for national healing will be lost, unnecessarily so. ["Labor no longer committed to republic vote in first term, prioritising Indigenous recognition instead" by Henry Belot, ABC online 14 April 2022 and amended on 15 April 2022]

More info >

Apr 11

Royal Visit Ends

Most people didn't know it had started. Princess Anne finishes what must have been one of the shortest, lowest key and most unremarkable royal visits ever especially compared with the last one by Meghan and Harry in late 2018. The official royal tour to mark our Head of State's platinum jubilee started and ended in Sydney before the Princess jetted out to Port Moresby for another short stay. It featured more travelling in historical vehicles, a ploy that got the Cambridges into much strife in the Caribbean recently. Info about the visit is available on the link below. WfaAR can't see that the country got much benefit from her presence other than realising a royal visit so close to the announcement of an election was publicity that the Government wanted to do without for fear of surfacing republican sentiment. This was well-founded. Definitely one for the diehard royal watchers and no one else. That there were no photo ops with the attention-seeking monarchist Prime Minister was thundering! ["Rural traditions and Australian way of life celebrated in royal tour" by Lucy Manly, "reporter and gossip columnist" for Sydney Morning Herald online, 9 April 2022]

More info >

Apr 11

Day 1 of Election Campaign has Positives for Republic

The first thing to say about the election is that if there's a change of government, Australia could well end up with a Minister - or Assistant Minister - for the Republic. What a great result that would be! The shadow ALP Minister for the Republic is Matt Thistlethwaite MP representing a seat in suburban Sydney. There could be a new joint federal parliamentary committee charged with examining continuous constitutional change as recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs after its Inquiry into Constitutional Reform and Referendums (reported December 2021). Women for an Australian Republic gave evidence to the Committe; several recommendations in our submissions were picked up.

In addition, while most republican campaigners led by WfaAR now acknowledge that the country cannot vote on a Republic without being a Reconciled - or, at least, a rapidly Reconciling - Republic, Indigenous leaders have again today called for a referendum to enshrine The Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, along with Treaty (making) and Truth (telling). After promising this, the Coalition Government 2019 to 2022 failed to deliver and little has been achieved on this matter during the 46h Parliament with the Coalition preferring to a) legislate The Voice and b) push action out of the federal jurisdiction and onto the States and Territories with little to see thus far. Read more on the link below: ["Indigenous leaders say 'it's time for a referendum' on First Nations Voice to Parliament" by Kirstie Wellauer, ABC Online, 11 April 2022)

More info >

Apr 9

Prince Charles is Irrelevant to Australia...

So begins Jennifer Bradley's letter to The Canberra Times.  She concludes by saying, "It's more than time for Australia to become a republic". Read the full text of Jennifer's letter by clicking on the link.

Download: Letter to The Canberra Times [49KB, pdf]

Apr 5

People's Republic of Mallacoota

A six part reality TV show premieres on the ABC about what happens when a group of people in this 2019 bushfire ravaged small coastal town take charge of their own future and decide to plan, organise and govern themselves towards rebuilding and recovery. The official ABC blurb says this "offers a microcosm of urgent challenges that all Australians face as they seek to forge a common vision of their future from a multitude of competing claims. Does this citizen-led recovery provide a roadmap for the rest of us to follow?". It is also described as a "bold experiment in self-determination". Food for thought.

Mar 31

WfaAR Meets with Real Republic

WfaAR National Convenor, Sarah Brasch, talks with representatives of Real Republic (Lindsay Marshall and Peter Johnstone) in Brisbane in a very broad-ranging discussion covering stances on the Republic referendum, possibilities for moving things along if there is a change of government at the forthcoming federal election with Labor pro-republic and pro-referendum. There was also extensive discussion about the contents of the ARM's Australian Choice model published in January and ways it could be improved and expanded (see News Item of 12 January 2022). Both parties considered this to be a useful and timely meeting of minds on topics of common interest. 

Mar 30

...and Getting Worse

More difficulties are besetting our Head of State and her family. Meghan and Harry have departed for the beaches of California and private lives making allegations of racism; favoured son Andrew, peering over his tortoise-shell half glasses and now excluded from public duties and striped of titles, is about to settle an expensive legal case using family funds over alleged sexual relations with a minor and they've got Covid including the Queen herself. Now HM is the subject of significant cover-ups over the status of her mobility. At the memorial service for Prince Philip (died 8 April 2021) in Westminster Abbey with the Caribbean reactions to the latest royal tour ringing in their ears, the large, extended family was together again in celebration of a life of service, never complaining/never explaining etc. The Queen arrived at the service accompanied by Prince Andrew and was reputed to be being spirited in away from the eyes of prying cameras so that no one could see her using a wheelchair and walking by the shortest route to take her seat in a Canada chair, whatever that is. William looked pretty pensive as things begin to fray at the edges.  Meanwhile, we're bracing for a visit by the Princess Royal around Easter. If nothing else, that should have us waving our Union Jacks! 

Mar 27

People's Republic of Western Australia

So said former Liberal Minister for Foreign Affairs and one-time PM aspirant, Julie Bishop - a strong republican - describing her escape when she launched the campaign for the Liberal member for Wentworth in Sydney ahead of the 2022 federal election. WfaAR assumes that she was referring to WA's closed borders due the pandemic, still wisely closed long after all the others had opened. See also News for 5 April 2022. Reported in the Sydney Morning Herald online, 27 March 2022.

Mar 26

Republican Result from Platinum Jubilee Tour of Caribbean

At the end of William and Kate's tour to a number of Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean that had the objective of marking and celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, things quickly unravelled into discussions of colonialism, slavery, reparations and open declarations of intention by Belize, The Bahamas and Jamaica to replace the Queen as their Head of State and become republics after being spurred on by the change in Barbados last November. Some even talk of leaving the Commonwealth. Heady stuff. After the departure of the next heir, St Lucia and St Vincent and The Grenadines quickly followed suit. Their are varying reports of how the tour was received following several unfortunate photo shots and the re-enactment of the Queen's trip in a vintage jeep that reeked of colonialism down to the white lace dress and hat worn by Kate (along with all the rest of the often-changed couture clobber). William's heavily gilded and decorated uniform merely looked out of place and out of time.

This is the trailing edge of Meghan Markle's influence since joining the British monarchy formally in mid 2018 - and increasing public awareness of the history of slavery and how the wealth of the English Queen is built upon the colonialism of her forebears -  but it is surprisingl that things have changed so quickly. The BLM movement also continues to resonate.

This article (click on link) from The Guardian covers all the bases with that photo. [""Perfect Storm': royals misjudged Caribbean tour, say critics" by Amelia Hall and Rachel Gentleman, The Guardian online, 26 March 2022]

More info >

Jan 17

ARM's Shift to Direct Election is Long Overdue

WfaAR writes to The Canberra Times to add to the early commentary on ARM's "new" model for the Republic. We applaud ARM's move but think it's been rather too long coming as most others had moved on after the 1999 referendum. It is, however, a big shift for ARM, the bastion of the 2/3 parliamentary vote model, probably for one nominee or a small number put forward by the Prime Minister, a minimal model indeed and one that largely bypasses the people as they have no direct involvement in the result. Read our letter on the link below.

Download: WfaAR Letter to The Canberra Times 17 Jan 2022 [52KB, pdf]

Jan 12

ARM's publishes Referendum Model

After two years of discussions, polling and surveying, the Australian Republican Movement issued its new position on the vote for an Australian Head of State called the "Australian Choice" model exactly a fortnight before Australia Day on 26 January. ARM opts for direct election from a field of 11 candidates, three chosen by the federal Parliament and one chosen by each State and Territory parliament making a total of eight. By choosing election for the Head of State, ARM is now in sync with most other campaigning groups. The plan can be found on the ARM's website, linked below.  It was updated on 3 April to reveal the full suite of constitutional amendments drafted by its advisory group of constitutional lawyers, three of whom were women (a notable absentee being Professor Anne Twomey - see News of 27 May 2022). For WfaAR's detailed analysis of the new ARM proposal - see News of 5 June 2022.

More info >

Jan 1

Platinum Jubilee Overkill

In a completely pointless move, the Prime Minister announces that a tiny, human-made mound in Lake Burley Griffin - on which the British Government's 1963 gift of The Carillon for the 50th anniversary of Canberra is sited - would be renamed Queen Elizabeth II Island instead of Aspen Island. It seems that the bureaucrats have run out of ideas since the Golden Jubilee in 2012 as it featured similar namings of minor features in the national capital. It was the start of a very muted series of Platinum Jubilee events during 2022 which most of the population seemed to have zero interest in. At least the directional signs on a major arterial road to the airport in Canberra will remind passers-by who Australia's Head of State is!

Quick Info

For a brief but useful guide to republicanism in Australia, see the entry in Wikipedia

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Woman for an Australian Republic, Adelaide Ironside, republican poet and artist, 1831-1867

Self portrait 1855, Newcastle Region Art Gallery NSW

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Senate Inquiry

Report of Senate Inquiry into the Republic Plebiscite Bill released 15 June 2009

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