Dec 29

Holiday Reading - WfaAR Writes to The Canberra Times

The Canberra Times sparked a frenzy of pro-and anti-republic letters to add spice to holiday reading by reporting the British Foreign Office's take on the current position of the Australian republic in a front page article about how much the Queen's October visit cost ACT taxpayers.  Here's is WfaAR's contribution.

Download: Letter to The Canberra Times [65KB, pdf]

Dec 12

New Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, positive about Republic

Shortly after being appointed, our first female Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, says "I am a strong advocate of a republic and many people, me included, are looking for the right opportunity to reinvigorate the debate....I don't think the time has come yet but it may come during my tenure."  Ms Roxon has a strong track record as a republican, was a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Republic Referendum (1998-99) and, as shadow A-G in the mid 2000s, consulted widely about the steps to create a republic [Nicola Roxon says no to bill of rights by Sue Dunlevy, The Australian, 13 December 2011]

Nov 30

Republic and the Asian Century - a view from Business

Heather Ridout, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group and influential lobbyist, speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra.  In a speech about the industrial relations framework, she surprised listeners by adding a personal view about the importance for our opportunities in the Asian Century - as the 21st century has been dubbed for Australia -  of having an Australian head of state. She said that although Queen has a strong following..." we really need to move on into the new century with an Australian head of state.  We should embrace our history but we will not have a truly Australian brand until we allow ourselves to produce our own head of state.  As Paul Keating once said, we need to cease being 'the branch office of the Empire'.  While the polls may currently be against are republic, this will emerge as the mainstream view."

In question time, she added that she thought that a woman like present Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, would be a good choice for head of state and commented on the 1999 referendum, "we all got hung up on the model.  We should just have a poll: do we want a republic? And then go and get a few sensible people, not politicians, to work out how we are going to do it, have a transition to doing it, and stop it being a political issue.  But I also believe it should be a bipartisan commitment. If it is, we might have a chance of getting there.  But it doesn't have to be overnight.  We just need to have the aspiration: that's where we're going to move."  [Question Time comments reported in The Canberra Times 3 December 2011, No Doubts for this Republican by Edmund Barton]

Nov 16

Republic and Gender

Sarah Brasch, National Convenor WfaAR, speaks at WEA in Sydney about the republic and gender and discusses the reasons why WfaAR supports alternating gender for Australia's own head of state  Read what she had to say.

Download: The Republic and Gender [205KB, pdf]

Download: Why WfaAR supports Alternating Gender for Head of State [77KB, pdf]

Nov 3

Eire's Thirteenth Presidential Election

Former British Dominion, the Republic of Ireland completes another peaceful presidential election.  Democracy is working in Eire in the absence of a hereditary monarch. There were seven candidates with Michael Higgins (Labour Party nominee), a poet and former Minister, topping the vote with 56.8 percent of final preferences.  Two women candidates stood (following female heads of state for the last 21 years) both nominated by local councils, Dana Rosemary Scallon, a former Member of the European Parliament, who polled 2.9 percent on first preferences and Mary Norris, a disability rights campaigner, with 2.7 percent.  Both were excluded from the second run-off after polling the lowest number of first preference votes.  This election had the largest number of candidates to date.

Oct 29

PM on Change to British Monarchy Succession Rules

The ABC reports on Julia Gillard's reaction to the change (see item below).  She said, "Ultimately, I think the Australian people will work their way through changes to our constitutional arrangements but there is not a great deal of focus on this in our current national discourse."  She described the changes as "simple and very rational" but noted that they would alter the way the monarchy works forever.  WfaAR notes that the last words are striking and sound as if they are straight out of her brief. Interesting!  WfaAR also reminds the PM that there was little interest in the republic until the Constitutional Convention in 1998 and that voters had voted PM Keating out of office on this matter, among others, two years before that. [ABC Online accessed 28 October 2011]

Oct 28

Commonwealth to Change British Royal Succession Rules

At CHOGM in Perth, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announces that all 16 Commowealth nations of which the British Monarch is head of state, have agreed that first-born daughters would inherit the title and that people married to Catholics would not be barred even though the monarch must be a Protestant as head of the Church of England.  WfaAR comments that will be interesting to see if the British press ahead with this if the next 'first-born' is a boy (as happened in Denmark in the last few years).  We further note that it is still a hereditary system of succession and will require legislation to pass the Australian federal parliament.  The UK Guardian reported that Cameron had previously played down the change because of British concerns that constitutional "tinkering could spark a fresh campaign for Australia to become a republic"... as if Britain doesn't want Australia to become a republic because fall-out could destablise its government.

Oct 24

Take on Royal Visit from Jindabyne NSW

Yes, the visit continues.  Kate Greenwood of Jindabyne has her views published in the Sydney Morning Herald letters:  "Thank you David Marr for reminding us of the absurdity of Australia's persistence with the monarchy.  I found the Queen's speech the other night extremely patronising, rather like an ancient aunt saying to her great nieces and nephews, 'My, haven't you grown!' when she deigns to visit once in a blue moon....I have nothing against the Queen as a person, and love a good royal wedding, but I want a head of state who is  Australian, who lives in Australia, who is appointed on merit, not by birth, and above all who supports Australia in the cricket.  Someone like Quentin Bryce would do nicely."

Oct 21

More Shudders at Official Reception in Honour of the Queen of Australia

The Queen of Australia, here for a few days, tells us that we'd become more 'self-confident' while she'd been on the British throne.  Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, showing overly and disturbingly deep homage to 60 years in the job says in reply, " Your Majesty, we do not know where Australia's path to nationhood may lead in the times to come."  What happened to 1 January 1901?  WfaAR wonders what our Queen makes of such deferential displays of flattery by the colonials.  Is this the court of Elizabeth I or her own? Also it doesn't sound if our PM is really clued up about leadership or has any thinking or insight of her own to offer the nation.

Oct 20

Ghastly Moment during Our Queen's Visit

One of the most awful moments of the tour occurs when we get footage of our Governor-General, the Queen of Australia's representative, making an awkward job of a bob curtsy to the Queen of Australia, our head of state, in her (the G-G's) own house.   It really looked horrible and made WfaAR cringe.  Interesting how the real relationship is more striking with a female Governor-General.  At least most of our political leaders only made a slight bow, to their credit.  Why are Australian leaders bowing and curtsying in the 21st century in a country immersed in new world equality of all?

Oct 19

Queen of Australia's Visit - What WfaAR thinks

Our National Convenor's letter is published in The Canberra Times.  Sarah Brasch says that the visit reminds us that our head of state doesn't live here and isn't Australian.  She also says that we are not planning for a Republic and that our government isn't leading us well in this respect.  Read Sarah's letter here.

Download: Read WfaAR's letter here [64KB, pdf]

Oct 18

On the Eve of the Queen of Australia's 16th Visit

The second royal visit this year is yet another timely reminder that the Queen of Australia, at the head of our government, does not live here and is not Australian.  It enables us to reflect on our continuing, deeply ingrained ties to Britain and our track record of being very slow to make the legislative changes that will allow us to create the "Great Republic of the Southern Seas" as Louisa Lawson put it so long ago.  The change to a Republic, government by the people, is long overdue.

Oct 10

Equal Inheritance for UK Royals Regardless of Gender

In a step towards equal rights for members of the UK royal family, the Sovereign Grant Act which gives female heirs equal rights has been passed by the British Parliament.  One clause provides for an heir to the throne who is not the Duke of Cornwall to receive revenues from the Duchy.  This Act does not affect the 1701 Act of Settlement under which male children take precedence over female children in the line of succession regardless of birth order.  Although these moves reduce the sex discrimination existing within the British royal family, it does little to increase the British monarch's acceptability to head the Australian Government under our Constitution.

Oct 7

NSW Governor, Marie Bashir, to live in Government House Sydney

NSW Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell announces that the NSW Governor would return to live in Government House by the end of the year.  The residential part of the building will be renovated at taxpayer's expense.  This reverses the forward-thinking decision made by republican Labor Premier Bob Carr in 1996 to open Government House and its extensive harbour-side grounds to the public, to use it only for formal occasions and to house the Governor and his or her staff in modern offices in the city. At present, 150,000 people use the facility annually - this may not continue.

Sep 25

Qld Premier 'Admits' to being a Republican

While talking about the Queen of Australia's one-day visit to Brisbane on 24 October, Anna Bligh was described as "admitting" she supported a Republic, also commenting that "she recognised the Queen as head of state and would pay 'appropriate' respects".  It is also clear that the Queensland Government has one eye firmly on the revenue potential attaching to a celebrity visit.  [brisbanetimes.com.au accessed 10 0ctober 2011]

Sep 19

Republican Short Story Competition 2011 closes 6 November

The theme for the Third National Republican Short Story Competition is "Citizen or Subject".  Entries close 6 November. Entry costs $11.99. Length 2000-4000 words with a first prize of $500.  Details at http://republicanfiction.blogspot.com or email fiction@republic.org.au

Aug 16

New Senator Calls for Republic

Lisa Singh, new Labor Senator for Tasmania, supports Australia becoming a republic in her first speech. Senator Singh was a former ARM State Convenor for Tasmania.  Find her speech on the www.aph.gov.au website.

Aug 5

Hard Referendum Questions

"Why are we doing this? Will it bring us closer together?  Will it unify us?  What is the purpose of this exercise? Should it deal with unfinished business or is it a beginning?"  Professor Mick Dodson speaks at a  Senate Occasional Lecture in Canberra about the Indigenous recognition referendum due in 2013.  Commenting on the proposal for a values statement to be included in the Constitution at the same time, Professor Dodson said this referendum should concentrate on only one issue - and not be held in conjunction with a federal election.  The values statement, he thinks, should be put aside until we vote on "an inclusive republic with a new constitution".

Jul 21

ARM's 20th Anniversary and Women

Commemoration of the Australian Republican Movement's 20th anniversary gives WfaAR cause for pause about the few - and declining - numbers of women involved in ARM decision-making over its history.  The 14 foundation members of 9 July 1991 included: Jenny Kee; Franca Arena; Faith Bandler and Geraldine Doogue.  The ARM group at the 1998 Constitutional Convention filled 27 of the 76 elected positions among them 14 women probably due to ARM's policy of alternating gender on ballot papers: Wendy Machin, Karin Sowada, Jennie George and Hazel Hawke (NSW); Mary Delahunty and Poppy King (Vic); Linda Kirk and Kirsten Andrews (SA); Sallyanne Atkinson and Sarina Russo (Qld); Janet Holmes a Court and Clare Thompson (WA); Marguerite Scott (Tas) and Anne Witheford (ACT). ARM's sole female representative of three on the 1999 YES Committee was former NSW Democrats Senator, Karin Sowada. On the first post referendum National Committee, women were represented by Wendy Machin, one of six members, but things changed when the first National Committee was elected in 2000.  Women jumped to five members out of 16: Natasha Stott Despoja; Louise Sullivan; Anne Witheford; Dorothy McCrae-McMahon and Susan Ryan. In 2011, ARM's National Council is down to one woman: Lyn Petrie who is one of the Vice Presidents and ex officio as she is the Convenor of ARM SA. There are currently no elected women members.

Jun 15

WfaAR Letter to Editor

Sarah Brasch, National Convenor, writes to The Canberra Times following reports of the Foreign Minister deferring to the Queen as the reason not to do anything about the Republic during an interview with the BBC in London (Rudd puts republic goal low on list, CTimes 13 June). She says it's essential to include the Queen in the process and carry it out in her lifetime as she deserves, not hide behind false reverence until she dies.  WfaAR strongly supports Amanda Vanstone's imaginative approach to include the Queen in the making of the Republic as a way out of the current inactivity as well as her conclusion that people advocating to wait until the Queen's passing are the new NO Republicans (see News Item of 28 March 2011).

Jun 3

Confusing Polls on Republic

Also sparked by the royal wedding, come a series of polls about current support for the republic.  Newspoll published in The Australian surveyed 1-3 April and announced that women's support was then at 34 percent (compared with 49 percent for men) with 43 percent against (35 percent for men).  If Charles and Camilla are factored in 44 percent of women are in favour, 36 percent against; if William becomes King ahead of Charles, 40 percent are in favour, 42 percent against. This poll covered city and country, based on 1,201 interviews with sample error of + or minus 3 percent.  A Morgan poll was taken on 3-4 May, just after the wedding, revealing 34% of respondents preferred a republic with an elected President,11 percent undecided; not disaggregated by gender.  This poll was conducted across the country in 660 interviews.  It also found that 77 percent of those polled watched some or all the wedding which WfaAR contends does not tell you anything about support for the republic or the monarchy.

May 19

Watch on Indigenous Recognition Referendum - youmeunity.org.au

A website promoting consultation and education about the promised referendum on Indigenous recognition in the Constition is announced - one for referendum watchers and those interested in Constitutional reform.  The youmeunity website lacks any government labels at all and has been created by a "brand engagement" firm in Sydney called redbeanrepublic.  The site can be found at www.youmeunity.org.au where you can sign up to receive an e-newsletter.

May 18

Queen of Australia Visits Republic of Ireland

Our Queen, in one of her other roles as United Kingdom head of state, pays a state visit to the Republic of Ireland, part of the UK until 1921. It is the first British state visit to Eire since 1911. At the state dinner in Dublin Castle, the contrast between the heavily bejewelled Queen and the almost unadorned - and directly elected - Eire head of state, Mary McAleese, couldn't have been more obvious.  No curtsying either. Eire was the first large part of the former British Empire to claim constitutional independence from Britain in 1937. It has not rejoined the recreated Commonwealth post WWII, of which the majority of members are republics.

May 16

What Britons think about their Royals

As we continued to wallow in the stories, photos and fashions from the royal wedding, Catherine Mayer speculates in Time magazine about the place of royalty in the hearts and minds of the British.  She quotes an aide, "..the royal family are not politicians.  They're not rock stars with a new album.  They are here for the long term."  Commentators add that Britons can't make up their minds what they want from them - pay them or not, reform them, empower them or fade them out - and are quite happy for the uncertainty to continue.  Meanwhile, the royals themselves try to perpetuate the mystique and prepare their succession.  Polls in Britain show that support for the monarchy, headed by Elizabeth II, remains firmly at 70 percent, rarely wavering. ["The Royal We. It wasn't just a wedding.  It was the House of Windsor preparing for its next act" by Catherine Mayer, Time, 16 May 2011)]

May 11

Why Don't Women Support the Republic?

Kelly Hockley asks the question on Independent Australia - Why do more men than women support the Republic?  She provides no clues but there were 24 comments in reply - all from men!  www.independentaustralia.net

Apr 30

Queen of Australia Understood 1999 Referendum Result

In a documentary about the republic screened on ABC's Q&A, royal biographer, Robert Lacey reports that the reaction of Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II's spouse, to the result of the 1999 referendum was to say, "What do those people think they are doing?" to which the Queen of Australia responded, "The problem was with the model". 

Apr 29

Another Royal Wedding is Wake-up Call

While Australian barrister and author, Geoffrey Robertson, labels the royal wedding 'a manifesto* for British republicans' in The Independent, it is nothing short of a wake-up call for Australian republicans as the British monarchy seeks to ensure its line of succession from Charles and William as future Kings of Australia, well into the 22nd century.  This sexist, racist, hereditary arrangement, locked into our Constitution but completely out of step with our strong sense of equality free of class and the belief that we can govern ourselves free of our colonisers, is well past its Australian use-by date.

* a new written constitution providing for an elected President (5 or 7 year terms) to represent the nation, provide wise counsel to the Government, inspire the people, open and, if necessary, close parliament; would include a small role for the Windsors that retains the trappings of the monarchy for tourism and public interest purposes.

Apr 29

PM links Royal Wedding and Republic

Julia Gillard, in London to attend the royal wedding, is asked about a new Australian poll which shows republic support dropping.  She says the results "may well be reflecting that people have engaged with this love story and this exciting event.  It may also be that there may have been so many other big issues for us to direct our attention towards."  She also comments, "I am excited.  Two young people in love.  It's a very special wedding.  There's all the speculation about what the dress is going to look like."  ['Wedding drowning out republic debate' by Jeremy Thompson, ABC Online 29 April 2011].  WfaAR notes that other recent polls show support of 60% in favour of the Republic compared with around 40% in the Newspoll survey published in The Australian.

Apr 27

Wedding Restrictions Fuel Support for Republic

A sudden ban on use of English royal wedding footage for comedy or ridicule ignites pro-republic sentiment.  It results in the ABC cancelling satirical wedding coverage on ABC2 so that it can show the BBC's live footage on ABC1 without fear of losing the feed or breach of contract.  It demonstrates the interventionist tendencies of Prince Charles, our next head of state, and his willingness to engage in media censorship and inappropriate use of power. Blogs here comment that his action will turn all Australians under 30 into instant republicans amid loud calls for the Republic. Our thanks to the British monarchy for their efforts on our behalf!

Apr 17

Australia Not to Block Proposed British Succession Rules

A change to the British gender succession rule will require legislation in all 16 countries of which the British monarch is the head of state to keep them all in step, including Australia where new laws will probably also be required in each State.  The UK's Daily Telegraph reports that Australia and Canada oppose the move because of more pressing domestic legislative programs and fears of renewed republic campaigns.  This is not believeable on either count and was denied by the Australian Government.  The Daily Telegraph doesn't say whether those fearful of republicism were to be found in Australia or Britain but comments, "There are also concerns that republican movements, which are particularly strong in Australia, could hijack the legislative process to seek to detach from the monarchy altogether".  Even Australian monarchists are supporting this change!  We say bring it on, good reason to sever all links with the British monarchy under our Constitution. [Royal Wedding: Nick Clegg says the current rules of succession are 'old fashioned' London Daily Telegraph 16 April 2011; Princesses may be equal in UK Succession, Rosa Prince, Gordon Rayner and Ruth Williams in The Age, 17 April 2011]

Apr 16

Call to Change British Monarchy Succession Law

Deputy British PM, Nick Clegg, says the law that prevent a first-born royal female child from taking the throne ahead of a younger male child are "old-fashioned". Actually, it's sex-based discrimination. Suddenly, two weeks before the wedding of Prince William, heir to the heir to the British monarch, this is a hot topic.  Two attempts in the British Parliament, in 2005 and 2009, to make this change both failed.  A similar proposal in Denmark lapsed when Frederick and Mary's first child was male.  WfaAR points out that changing the gender rules on succession will not remove other discriminatory features of the British monarchy such as the fact that the king or queen cannot be married to a Catholic set out in the 1701 Act of Settlement.  Making this particular change will not make having the British monarch as Australia's head of state in a constitutional monarchy more acceptable in anything but the most marginal sense.  The same reasoning applies to having a female Governor-General as we do now.

Mar 28

Putting Our Monarch at the Heart of the Australian Republic

In a short and pertinent newspaper article, former Cabinet Minister, Ambassador to Italy and genuine republic supporter in the hostile Liberal seas, Amanda Vanstone puts the case for accelerating the move to a republic.  She writes that she wants a republic so that our constitutional arrangements will be Australian.  The intention is to strengthen our Australian identity, "bringing an end to the Windsor family reigning over us is a consequence, not the motivation".

She says that those who repeat the "at death or abdication" mantra are opponents of the republic (WfaAR: John Howard, Malcolm Turnbull, the current PM and her senior Ministers).  They portray any move during the Queen's reign as causing some sort of offence and imply that this timetable is intended to show deference and respect.  Not so, says Vanstone, it does just the opposite by making the issue personal when it shouldn't be.  While many will be convinced by this, she says, "it fails to give credit to our monarch's understanding and experience."  Further, it  treats her, "like a demented old aunt in the corner of the room, in front of whom we whisper without including her in what's going on."

Vanstone comments that we should be looking for ways in the process of change "to acknowledge her majesty as our monarch and include her" not by shutting down the debate but by having it in front of her to demonstrate how stable, free and robust our current system really is.  The Queen's interest as our monarch and head of the Commonwealth, she posits, is that any change is orderly and inclusive and that we remain a stable and resolute member of the Commonwealth.  This cannot be achieved "by lying doggo until she dies".

And here are the best bits.  Vanstone suggests that the Queen could open a special sitting of federal Parliament to consider the referendum bill.  There would be a ceremonial handover.  "The PM could make the speech of the century and a grateful nation could put on record its gratitude and affection. It's a speech that the Queen is entitled to hear, not one that should be made on or after her passing."  Well said, Amanda Vanstone, commonsense and imagination, a woman's approach to our future republic. ["No need to whisper, the Queen isn't offended by the R-word" by Amanda Vanstone, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2011] 

Jan 26

Renewed Campaign for New Flag

Five well-known Australian women are among a group of 12 Australians of the Year calling for a new flag.  They ask the Parliament to commence the process to design a truly Australian national flag and put it to a popular vote.  The AUSFLAG media release commented: "Our current flag, only formally adopted in 1954, to replace the Union Jack still highlights and promotes the flag of another nation.  It is a transitional symbol....We must boldly take the next step and define ourselves confidently and distinctly before the world.  Our new flag must be unambiguously and inclusively Australian representing all of us equally.  We believe the time has come to embrace a flag worthy of our sovereign, independent, mature egalitarian nation; our own flag".  The women are: Indigenous leader, Lowitja O'Donoghue; athletes Shane Gould, Evonne Goolagong and Dawn Fraser and musician, Judith Durham (also Patrick McGorry; Mick Dodson; Tim Flannery; Ian Frazer and Gus Nossal).

Jan 25

Official: Australia Day stands for Mateship

PM Julia Gillard promotes Australia Day as standing for 'Mateship" in her first Australia Day speech.  Fortunately, she stated that she is "still a feminist" on the ABC's Four Corners program on 7 February.  WfaAR was relieved to hear this as it's a fair question.  Former SAS officer and Australian Christian Lobby leader, Jim Wallace, later stated that the strong male bonding through mateship in our culture is the reason that our troops are so good. Wallace was commenting on the "sex on Skype" Defence scandal in an interview on ABC Radio, 13 April 2011.

Jan 24

Australia: Its Own Man

"Why should Australia not be a republic?  It's its own country, its own man". Sir Michael Parkinson, British TV personality, speaking in Sydney after delivering the NSW Australia  Day speech.  Says it all really. 

Jan 21

Gallipoli Myth and National Identity - A Very Recent Story

National Convenor, Sarah Brasch, speaks in Canakkale, Turkey about the Gallipoli myth and national identity.  She emphasised that the current fashion to consider Gallipoli as the sole determinant of Australian characteristics has only been in vogue for 20 years and that it is the product of political spin starting with Prime Minister Hawke's speech at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1990.  She also pointed out that there were no Australian women on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 and the small number of Indigenous soldiers in the battles weren't even Australian citizens at the time. So not only was it militaristic but a glaringly exclusive event that has gone on to assume an overblown importance in the national psyche as the spruiking of the myth by politicians has overtaken the facts and commonsense.

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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