Dec 1

Barbados Rebirth - The Day After

There is much discussion about the speech given by Prince Charles at the formal handover ceremony to mark the new republic of Barbados (compare with the ceremony for Hong Kong in 1997) that addressed the subject of slavery pointing to recognition of the past but also signalling a bright future for the new republic.  As Lord Woolley, the only black Barbadian member of the House of Lords in the UK, described it, "Yesterday marked the rebirth of a new nation". ["Praise for Prince Charles after 'historic' slavery condemnation" by Caroline Davies, The Guardian online, 1 December 2021]. Barbados, a haven for cryptocurrencies, is also set to become the first sovereign nation to have an embassy in the metaverse - see 15 November 2021.

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Nov 30

Day 1 of the Republic of Barbados

 At 00.00, the new Republic of Barbados comes into being, 55 years after it gained independence on 30 November 1966. Many years in the making, the final steps were seen through by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley with alacrity during 2021. Former Governor-General since 2018, Dame Sandra Mason is the country's first President who will serve a non-renewable term of five years. The flag had no Union Jack so stays as is. Barbados joins the other 38 members of the Commonwealth that are also republics, making 39 out of 54 - the majority. A straightforward bill was put through the two houses of the Barbados parliament to effect the change. There was no vote of the people (not required) but there was widespread support for the move - unfortunately, most people in Barbados had to watch the handover ceremonies on TV from home due to Covid restrictions - including from the Barbados diaspora in the UK. The steps were to a) remove the British monarchy from the laws, b) agree a Charter of Aspirations and Values (in progress) and c) adopt a new Constitution, work to start in 2022. The last Caribbean country to become a Republic was Domenica in 1978.  Hot on the heels of the changes in the status of Barbados, Jamaica announced that it would undertake a major review of its Constitution starting next year.

Nov 29

Eve of New Republic of Barbados

Ceremonies and a formal handover take place in Barbados ahead of its reconstitution as a Republic the following day. Barbados is the first Commonwealth member state to become a Republic since Mauritius in 1992. Barbados' objective was to "remove the taint of colonialism". Prince Charles, next King of England, represented Head of State, the Queen of Barbados, at the handover proving it can be done civily and graciously. Queen Elizabeth II's "other realms" have now shunk from 15 to 14, principal among them Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Nov 21

What's in Philip's Will?

A judge in Britain decides that Prince Philip's will should be kept secret for 90 years because it is not "in the public interest" to release it. This sparked more speculation about the financial habits of the British Royal Family coming on top of scandals involving Princes Charles, Andrew and Harry (with Meghan). The Guardian takes a cynical view. [What fresh hell must Philip's will contain to make the royal family look any worse?" by Catherine Bennett, The Observer online, 21 November 2021]. Apparently, it is existing protocol not to release royal wills although the contents of many of them have been revealed in the past.

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Nov 20

Will the Queen of Australia Abdicate?

Having not been seen in public since 19 October, speculation about the longevity of the Queen's reign continues unabated.  ABC Online ponders the options in this piece - click on link - and notes that other monarchs have abdicated in recent years. High-profile examples include Japan's Emporer Akihito in 2019, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands in 2013 and Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk in 2004. The article concludes that such a move is highly unlikely because Queen Elizabeth, as head of the Church of England is anointed by God to be the monarch and because she has pledged her whole life to the service of her country first in 1947 when 21, reiterated at her coronation in 1953.  This makes her different from other monarchs who do not also have a formal religious role. Note: the chatter about the Queen's state of health abated somewhat in late November after she attended the christenings of two of her newest great-grandchildren in Great Windsor Park not far from her current home during Covid at Windsor Castle. ["Queen Elizabeth II probably won't abdicate her throne for Prince Charles but, in other monarchies, it's common" by Catherine Taylor, ABC Online 20 November 2021]

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Nov 15

Speculation over Head of State's Health

Throughout the Commonwealth - if not the world - there is considerable media attention and speculation attaching to the facts that a) the Queen spent a night in hospital for "tests" only later revealed; b) she was advised to rest for a fortnight, later extended; c) she did not attend the Glasgow COP26 global warming conference hosted by Britain and d) she did not attend the Remembrance Day service on 11 November, a significant event for her.  At these events, the Queen was represented by Prince Charles who will assume the throne at the time of the her death. Zoom screen shots and photographs reveal the Queen looking tired and frail. Charles made light of his mother's predicament and commented that at 95 things can go wrong, he thought it was hard enough at 73!  WfaAR wonders if this is the start of a drip-feed of health information foreshadowing the Queen's demise first employed by the Palace before the death of King George V in 1936. This is the first time that there has been considerable public speculation and concern about the health of the current British monarch, also Australia's Head of State.

Jun 30

Multiculturalism, National Identity and the Republic

Nyadol Nyuon, lawyer, human rights advocate, Chair of Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for Change addresses the National Press Club in Canberra. On the Australian version of multiculturalism, Nyuon says it needs to "come of age" and recognise that our national identity and power structures are still held by a patriarchal Anglo-Saxon monoculture. WfaAR comment: this sentiment further reveals the complexity of our emerging national identity reflected in many progressive issues concerning the country's future. Forging a settled national identity is a constant evolution Australia shares with all former British colonies predominantly European in their establishments and retaining the British monarch as Head of State atop a population of many ethnicities. The coming Australian Republic, where the country pulls its final connection to the British and goes it alone while retaining the good principles of governance bequeathed to the new nation by its colonisers and our own high aspirations of modernity post Federation - that we lost sight of after WWII - is at the intersection of all this complexity. Tellingly, Nyuon also commented that "there is little appetite or tradition in Australia for grand statements". We know.

Jun 28

Update on Barbados Republic Move

Things are still ticking over in Barbados. Although little information is coming out of the Government - certainly no timetable - an Advisory Committee, headed by a woman, has been appointed to report to the Prime Minister in September on public consultations and several procedural issues including how the republic would function; selection of the head of state and the like. Here's an update from a Canadian journalist following events ["Barbados is ready to say goodbye to the Queen" by Stephanie Fillion, Foreign Policy online, 28 June 2021]

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Jun 27

Density and National Identity

Comments about national identity are bobbing up everywhere at present - it's a perennial. A townplanner discusses the failure of decentralisation in Australia where 80 percent of our population lives in coastal cities: "There is no discussion of developing a distinctive Australian cultural identity, more achieveable in smaller towns than large, amorphous cities" and adds [post the 1980s]: "big ideas lost currency"..."too hard and too risky"..... as well as requiring significant injections of taxpayer funding when the idea of tax was going out of fashion as fast as the role of government in national development was rapidly declining. ["Is decentralisation worth keeping on the policy agenda?" by Stephen Bargwanna, The Canberra Times, 26 June 2021]

Jun 26

Road to a Republic - Start with a Flag

Tour de France time again. Stage 1, the Grand Depart, is in Brittany this year with the distinctive black and white Breton flags fluttering all along the roads of the route. This flag dates to 1923 and was designed by an ardent Breton nationalist who thought Brittany should be independent from France. "Good to start with a flag and leave the constitution until later" says Bridie O'Donnell commentating for SBS.  WfaAR agrees - ARM should note there are several ways to skin the Republic cat and its way isn't the only way.....

Jun 24

Constitutional Change in the Modern Age

A federal parliamentary inquiry has been established to get suggestions about how to involve more people in constitutional matters and how best to consult voters about proposals to change the Constitution before they are put to referendum. The Committee will also consider proposals to modernise the way in which referendums are conducted to ensure that it suits contemporary Australia. The inquiry is not looking for wish-lists of desired changes to the Constitution but is intended to ensure that we have informed discussions and debates about proposals for constitutional change and a fit-for-purpose referendum process to decide them. Written submissions up to 4,000 words can be made to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs until 6 August 2021 - for more information including terms of reference, click on the link.

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Jun 21

New Qld Governor an "Irrelevant Monarchist"?

Queensland's current Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, has been approved by the Queen to be the next Governor of Queensland, the fourth woman to hold the job. When asked by a journalist if she was a monarchist, Young replied that this was "irrelevant" but was clear in her next statement: "I am here to provide a role that's really important and I think our process of government in Queensland and Australia is to be envied around the world". That definitely sounds like conviction constitutional monarchy to WfaAR. It is becoming increasingly important that establishment republicans reject these prestigious roles no matter how much they would like to accept them. It's honour enough to be asked but the principle is more important to the future of the country. When she takes up her appointment in November, Young will be the fifth female State Governor out of six.  There will be no State Governors in an Australian Republic, only the single Head of State located in Canberra.

Jun 18

Date Set for Final New Caledonia Referendum

The third and final independence refendum in New Caledonia will be held on 12 December 2021, much sooner than expected.  See an analysis below of the range of considerations being weighed up in this vote - and they are significant for both the people of New Caledonia as well as for France - and what the implications might be for our region if it gets up. The YES vote increased in the second referendum held in October last year (see News Item of 4 October 2020) - click on the link. ["New Calendonia's third independence referendum, and the day after" by Alexandre Dayant, The Interpreter online published by The Lowy Institute, 18 June 2021]

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Jun 15

Problems with the Australian Honours System

The Australian honours system is based on chivralic heraldry - with upper and lower ranks - following the template of imperial UK honours and endorsed by our Head of State herself.  In this system, the contributions of some awardees are deemed to be more important than those of others; some high ranks are awarded as a matter of course eg to former Prime Ministers or those taking on the roles of State Governors who from 2013 to 2015 were given knighthoods or became dames. Volunteers almost always appear in the lowest and most common rank, the Order of Australia Medal, OAM. Jenna Price has nailed it in this article (linked below). Her conclusion that the honours system needs an overhaul when we become a Republic is spot on because it will then no longer be fit for purpose. ["Honours System needs a Rethink" by Jenna Price, Nine media online 14 June 2021]

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Jun 14

Congratulations Professor Anne Twomey

While WfaAR thinks there are significant issues with the current Australian honours system, we were pleased to see Professor Anne Twomey of the University of Sydney recognised for her work in constitutional law. She is a frequent contributor to republican debate - as well as adviser to monarchists - about the Constitution. Her analyses are clear and clinical; her input always pertinent. Her book, "The Chameleon Crown", was an eye-opener on the relationship between the Queen (British monarch as our Head of State) and her Australian Governor-Generals, Prime Ministers and State Premiers, particularly the latter. Professor Twomey was a welcome calm and calming influence on the increasing maelstrom being whipped up around the release of the so-called Palace Letters in mid 2020 with her sage and sensible words based on fact and interpretation of the law. She is often quoted on this website  - without ever having revealed if she supports a Republic or not.

Jun 11

Brits Voice Concerns about Honours System

The British have got there before us. For different reasons from Australians - who don't seem to put much thought into what their honours system is about - and mainly to do with the concept of Empire and what that meant for the colonised. There appears to be increasing unease among British people of non-Anglo descent about what the awards they are offered stand for particularly as they are titled eg OBE, Order of the British Empire, long unchanged. An article from The Guardian on this topic is linked below. The British system is an imperial system of awards based on the ranks of chivalry and serves as a template for the Australian honours system. ["New calls to replace 'empire' with 'excellence' in UK honours system" by Robert Booth, The Guardian online 11 June 2021]

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Jun 3

Republic is Unfinished Business of Federation

Professor Megan Davis gives the Mabo oration in Adelaide. In her speech, she identifies The Voice enshrined in the Constitution as the final step - the social justice package - of the unfinished political settlement that followed from the Mabo ruling on native title in the High Court in 1992. This is compelling reasoning. Just as the Republic is unfinished business from Federation even more lost in the mists of time, now 120 years ago.

Jun 2

What Wattle Means

Sydney artist Jennifer Keeler-Milne talks about spring 2020 after the Covid lockdowns. "After getting through winter, I felt this urge to create something around wattle. It's uplifting, glorious and native. Yellow, the predominant colour of wattle, has been a joy to use. It suggests the sheer pleasure of coming out of a tough winter, expressing a sense of luminosity and celebration. The wattle, our national floral emblem, matched our communal springtime emotion of healing." Her large work in charcoal on yellow paper Wattle2020 was entered in the 2021 Dobell Prize. She followed this with another large work Spring Wattle III in oils for the Wynne Prize. This is being exhibited at the SH Ervin gallery in Sydney from 5 June.

May 15

No Reason for Red Carpet Arrivals

Photographs and media reports are emerging of Prime Minister Morrison arriving at RAAF bases. There he walks a red carpet and is greeted by an offical military welcoming party presenting arms that Defence terms a "Ceremonial Stairway Guard". This is not the right way to go about things, he's not the Head of State. Previous Prime Ministers Rudd and Turnbull, who tramped the asphalt unprotected, were critical although all PMs have been increasingly presidential since the time of John Howard who started it all. One Labor MP described it as "right up there with knights and dames", another as "confected pagentry at  taxpayers' expense". See for yourself on the link below from ABC online. 

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May 2

Submission to Indigenous Voice Co-design Consultation

 WfaAR's submission to the consultation process for The Voice Co-design process is attached below. We support The Voice being enshrined in the Constitution as a necessary precursor to any vote on the Republic so the whole country can come together and make this change with everyone equally part of and participating in the process. This is business that must be concluded before decisions about a new form of government for the country are attempted. We also have concerns about the process chosen to flesh out The Voice: settling details about possible "models" (that word is enough to make our hearts quake in anticipation) before implementation because they bear a striking similarity to the many options on offer for establishing a head of state, however selected. Therein is the detail and therein are choices easily lending themselves entrenched disagreements, a NO case and a NO vote - quite apart from the essential disputation over whether The Voice should be legislated or enshrined in the Constitution in the first place.

Download: Submission to Co-design Voice Stage 2 Consultation [183KB, pdf]

Apr 17

Thoughts Upon Philip's Funeral Service

It is fully televised of course. We could see the distinctive, brilliant blue and wattle gold of his Australian knighthood on the right-hand side of the altar elevated on a handmade cushion. The award was also read out among his titles and honours as the coffin was lowered into the vault. It was time to reflect on Philip's clear-eyed views about Australians severing their ties to the British as advised by "a discredited Balkan prince of no particular merit or distinction". On a 1967 visit, he said Australia should abandon the British monarchy and become a Republic if we don't think get any value from it and cautioned that people understand symbolism but not reason. He was reputed to have told Malcolm Turnbull "you should have been a republic years ago". He was well ahead of the rest of us. Plainspeaking and always practical, he almost seemed to be egging us on, on behalf of the Queen but, still, we wavered. Widely credited with modernising the British royal family after marrying in, he probably thought it all commonsense. As it is.The biggest interest in the service, in fact, was checking out his German relatives making their first appearance at a British royal event since WWII.

Apr 15

Searing Commentary Not Seen in Australia

It is sobering to read Afua Hirsch's commentary on the death of Prince Philip in support of her stance that "royals' good deeds and charitable endeavours are not, in themselves, justification for the monarchy". This article was published in Britain before Philip's funeral but it is highly unlikely that such a pointed analysis of what the British royals stand for (increasingly questioned after Meghan Markle joined and shone a spotlight on their past) and the legacy of the British Empire, felt as keenly in Australia as elsewhere, would be published here. We should see and know more of about all of this - and our - history. ["We can mourn Prince Philip but not the monarchy" by Afua Hirsch, The Guardian online, 15 April 2021]

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Apr 8

Death of Prince Philip

Prince Philip, consort of our Head of State and controversally awarded an Australian knighthood in 2015 before these honours were abolished, dies at Windsor Castle aged 99. This news was a jolt for republicans who suddenly realised that there was a chink in the armour of the House of Windsor as he was the first in the intimate circle of the current British Royal Family to pass on. It reminded us that our Head of State would turn 95 later in the month and that changing of the guard was imminent. We have got used to these elders being around but that is going to change - in as much as the British royal system will actually change; it won't. Charles will assume the throne immediately as King of Australia when his mother dies.

Apr 5

Republicans Misguided over Winfrey Interview

Amanda Vanstone agrees with WfaAR in her analysis of the post Meghan and Harry interview pile-on. "What has come over some republicans?" she writes, "Apparently enthused by the current soap opera clouding the House of Windsor, they are planning to release a suggested model for a republic later this year." But she reverts to her steady line since 1999: "go the minimalist route" and makes a good case for an Australian Head of State ie what we've got now but an Australian in the job with the same powers and role. But WfaAR has news for Amanda.That failed in 1999. We need to come up with something new. Read her article and see if you agree (link below). ["Royal problems won't help republicans" by Amanda Vanstone, Nine media, 5 April 2021]

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Apr 3

Mixing Australian and European Elements

In a neat metaphor for a Republic with some uniquely Australian elements, we note that the Sydney Philharmonia Choir has performed a new version of Bach's St John Passion by inserting three newly commissioned pieces by Australians at suitable places in this huge choral work. Among the composers are Deborah Cheetham ("Tarimi Nulay - Long Time Living Here", a musical welcome to country) and Brooke Shelley. It can be done.

Mar 26

WfaAR's Principles for a Successful Referendum

Thinking about it for 24 hours, here are WfaAR's principles for Republic referendum success:

- the people should be asked in one or more non-binding votes about the form of the Republic and the role of the Head of State, as well as the selection model, before referendum (this removes squabbling between republican campaigners and others)

- the change must be led by the Prime Minister and the Government in an apolitical way (this will ensure passage through Parliament as well as support by voters)

- the proposal should be simple in its elements and easily explained including the changes to the Constitution

- the Republic and head of state proposals should have some uniquely Australian, modern characteristics (our country should be a leader)

- the NO case must be accurately set out (removes "fake news").

We refer ARM to Noel Pearson's speech at NMA - see News Item of 17 March 2021 - and to the developments in implementing The Uluru Statement from the Heart. Republic campaigners can learn much from Indigenous experience in seeking constitutional change.

Mar 25

ARM's Principles for a Successful Referendum

ARM National Council member, Jenny Hocking, continues to wind up the Meghan and Harry interview as a major driver towards our Republic (we don't agree) but the foot of her article reveals ARM's core elements for putting "a model" successfully to referendum. They are: 

"it has enough bipartisan poltical support to pass through parliament as the formal referendum question

it needs to reflect the lessons of the unsuccessful 1999 referendum and bridge the artifical divide between an "elected or appointed" model, which drove a wedge between republicans last time

most critically, it must be able to win the approval of the Australian public."

WfaAR comments: most of this is straightforward process; the last point has been around since the time of Referendum Council on Indigenous Recognition in 2012 and is not particularly meaningful ie it's obvious. Trying to remove opposition to a proposed model, particularly one formulated by ARM from among its members, is futile. There will be many new republic groups campaigning on the details by the time the country gets to another referendum. These points do not deal, in any way, with why we want to be a Republic and how the head of state relates to the people.

Mar 17

Important Constitutional Change Speech

In among the Meghan and Harry dramas, we return to the important business of our own constitutional change with some pertinent words from Noel Pearson about advancing Indigenous Recognition at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. Pearson asks five basic questions about this change: What? Why? Where? Who? When? He says that "recognition is a mirror". The Republic is also a mirror but in a different way of course. Republicans should also ponder these questions in the context of their own cause. He concludes by providing a streamlined process for change: "Let us complete the legislative design of the Voice, and produce an exposure draft of the Bill so that all parliamentarians and the members of the Australian public can see exactly what the Voice entails. Let us set the Bill aside and settle on the words of constitutional amendment that recognises Indigenous Australians and upholds the Constitution, and put the amendment to a referendum of the Australian people at the next best opportunity."  WfaAR's comment: This change has to go through first before voters can contemplate creating a Republic, a new and improved version of Federation.  A recommended read for all republicans is on the link below.

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Mar 10

ARM makes an announcement on "Model"

Galvanised by the Meghan and Harry interview, ARM suddenly announces that it will reveal a "Model", presumably about how to select the Head of State, "later in the year".  The intention now is to bypass preliminary plebiscites and go straight to referendum. We have counselled ARM against this approach because voters have to be onside for such a major change ie they need to be fully consulted. Malcolm Turnbull supports plebiscites most recently in this autobiography "A Bigger Picture" published in April 2020. ARM claims that its model to go to referendum will be the result of public consultation but this is only with its members, a process has been aleady been underway for more than a year so progress is slow. A few months later, they brought in a team of constitutional lawyers to assist. The date for announcement is still "later in the year" reasserted in both May and June. We await developments.

Mar 8

Republicans in a Spin

The tell-all Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah Winfrey has some republican campaigners, principally those at ARM, all in a spin. They think it will kickstart the demand for a Republic among the public at large. WfaAR doesn't agree. Our opinion is that after initial outrage, this will pass quickly from the news cycle and disappear into the ether. And this is exactly what happened. Instead, sympathy for the Queen, demonised in the press along with the rest of the royal family after accusations of racism and spite, increased significantly within a month (see April New Items).

Mar 7

Hope for UK Republicans Maybe

Ahead of the Oprah Winfrey interview, Catherine Bennett in The Guardian gets in with her take on the Sussexes, their royal relatives, strange habits in the palaces and hope for republicans. This is a good balance but not enough to kick off a determined Republic campaign in Australia based on dislike of certain members of a very distant and largely unknown and unseen British Royal Family which provides our Head of State in perpetuity. It's on the link. ["In the battle of Meghan versus The Firm, who do we cheer on? How about neither" by Catherine Bennett, The Guardian online, 7 March 2021]

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Feb 9

Queen's Consent Also Applies in Australia

Anne Twomey confirms that the Queen has also interfered in the drafting of laws intended to be put to the parliaments of Australia and New Zealand. In the Australian example, it involved the Australia Act 1986 no less and concerned the Queen having to take and act on the advice of State Premiers. This provision was not removed after all State Governments (that have their own Constitutions) insisted on it. This is shocking and all Australian republicans should be very concerned by it - and the myth that the Queen does not interfere in our government and our laws, only acts on advice of her Ministers etc. As Anne Twomey points out, not only is there much that goes on unknown and unnoticed behind the scenes and our politicians are complicit in it but it is very difficult to find out about it. The links between the Governor-General and the Queen through her Private Secretary revealed in the Palace Letters - and the Palace's repeated attempts over years to keep these under wraps - is another good example. It should be noted, however, these links are vastly reduced thesedays, for example: the fortnightly report to the Queen from the G-G ceased during Quentin Bryce's tenure.  Anne Twomey's article is an illuminating read, included on the link below. ["The Queen's Gambit - new evidence shows how Her Majesty wields influence on legislation" by Anne Twomey, The Conversation online, 9 February 2021]

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Feb 8

Our Head of State Intervenes in UK Laws

The UK media reveals that our Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, has the power to intervene in draft bills before they are tabled in the UK Parliament. This is known as "Queen's Consent".  She is able to suggest drafting changes to bills affecting Crown property or any other matters that possibly affect her. The same powers are held by the Prince of Wales. A couple of days later, it was revealed in The UK Guardian that the Queen has declined giving her consent to over 1,000 bills including one in 1973 ensuring that her private wealth was not disclosed. This also applies to laws due to be tabled in the Canadian Parliament. Her Australian representative, the Governor-General, can withhold royal assent and refer laws approved by the Australian Parliament to the Queen if she or he wishes. The Queen has the power to disallow Australian laws within one year under s.59 of our Constitution (has not been used to date) but this section has not been repealed. s.58 allows the Governor-General to reserve a law "for the Queen's pleasure" that cannot become law unless it receives assent from the Queen within two years.

Jan 1

So Small You Can Hardly See It

The new year started with an unilateral announcement from the Prime Minister that one word in the national song is to change. "Young" - to which Indigenous people have rightly objected - is to become "one" as in "one and free". Not only does this not rhyme properly, ie "strong" would have been a better choice and also to sing, but it's not clear what "one and free" means. The test of this combination will be the July Olympics in Tokyo if we win any gold medals. If the PM thinks that he has dealt with Indigenous Recognition and progressive constitutional change affecting the future of the country with this minimal concession, he needs to think again. 

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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