Dec 22

Republican Christmas Spirit

Excellent work from Louise Rugendyke of Fairfax, just as journalists should do. Reviewing the weeks TV offerings in The Guide, she recommends the Queen's Christmas message (ABC 1, Thurs 1920) and then comments: "...It's also more proof that the Queen is a woman to be admired. She's 88 and puts most of the other members of the royal family to shame with her work ethic (seriously, besides popping out heirs and applying copious amounts of eye-liner, what does Catherine do?)"....  Following program is the Royal Variety Performance 2014 so she adds: "Despite my love for the Queen, I'm not here to defend the existence of the Royal Family [caps this time]. They are a very privileged lot, who live a corgi-filled life, stuffed with endless scones and large, complicated hats" even if they do have to sit through RV performances.  That's the spirit!

Dec 11

Indigenous Recognition Referendum in More Trouble

The Indigenous Recognition Referendum is the first stage of the Republic Referendum, that much is obvious. That this vote is now floundering as it is being further delayed is also very obvious. A conveniently future date - 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum ie 27 May 2017 - has been speculated on by the Prime Minister for no obvious reason other than to delay it as much as possible. The talk of it having to be one-shot, that is: successful at first attempt, is dishonest to say the least. It and other important referendums to follow - including the one on the republic - might have to be put several times working through multiple preparatory processes as the Americans do, that much also is obvious. At a speech to 600 guests at a major fundraiser for the referendum in Sydney, the PM nominated neither a firm date nor any indication of the what the question/s might be. It's getting very clear that this vote is already in the too-hard basket and there it might stay. The PM did say that he had rejected the House of Representatives Committee's draft of three options for questions and that its final report would now be completed in the first quarter of 2015. Watch this space. ["Tony Abbott continues to pussyfoot around Indigenous recognition" by David Marr, The Guardian Australia online, 13 December 2014]

Dec 7

Kate and William put New York on Map

Kate and William arrive in New York for a three-day visit. Time reported: "as anticipation built in New York, British Consul General Danny Lopez told the press, 'It’s been incredible to witness the level of excitement from people wanting to be part of it, wanting to attend, wanting to help us and support us.The level of excitement in New York has been absolutely phenomenal.' Sir Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to the United States, explained, 'It’s the latest embodiment of the lasting and very close relationship with the royal family. It’s important to us to ensure they have a good time. We hope this will be a very satisfactory happy fun visit.'”  And this ridiculous comment from a gushing onlooker, "This will put New York on the map." Perhaps the Americans could relieve us of the British Royals, not so far to travel after all?

Dec 6

Our First "New Dame" Demurs

At a media interview in Brisbane, Dame Quentin Bryce is firm with journalists about how to address her: just "Quentin thanks". She says having the title "has not really changed anything" but people now don't know what to call her. That's interesting. ["Bryce issues call to 'get real' about domestic violence" by Judith Ireland, Fairfax Media, 6 December 2014]

Dec 3

160th Anniversary of Eureka

At a seminar in Canberra to commemorate Eureka, Dr Clare Wright (along with Dr Anne Beggs-Sunter from Ballarat, the only female presenters) again highlighted the importance of women before and during the uprising, in the course of which one woman was killed. One was influential bloomerist (sensible clothes wearer) Willy (Wilhemina) Train along with Clara Seekamp writing stirring editorials in The Ballarat Times and Ellen Young, the real leader of Eureka, penning inflammatory poetry in the republican tradition. The women of Eurkea are now considered to be the more passionate revolutionaries urging on men of weaker spirit. The first novel written about Australia by a woman, also about the goldfields, is republican Catherine Helen Spence's "Clara Morison: A Tale of South Australia During the Gold Fever" published in 1854, the same year as Eureka.

Nov 28

Trouble on Horizon for Indigenous Recognition Referendum

The warning signs must already be there as the Prime Minister gives the 2014 Neville Bonner oration in Sydney at the invitation of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy whom, we understand, are implacably opposed to any changes to the Constitution.  In the address, the PM encourages the constitution's "fiercest defenders whose temptation is to dismiss all change as constitutional vandalism" to consider changing (that is, 'completing') it by acknowledging "indigenous Australians".  This is referred to as a "grace note in this most serviceable of foundation documents"  We know about grace notes and how unnecessary they are from the introduction of the Queen's new knighthoods in March this year (see previous 2014 News Items).  The challenge according to the PM is to find a way to acknowledge Aboriginal people in the Constitution without otherwise changing it - a somewhat confusing and conflicted notion. As well as saying, with a few twisty bits, that modern Australia has an "indigenous heritage, a British foundation and a multicultural character", the PM stated "I don't seek to remove the Crown" adding he understands that "change is often far more trouble than it is worth". It was also announced that the House of Reps Committee chaired by Ken Wyatt will report on the proposed changes to the Constitution soon.

Nov 9

Catalan Independence Referendum

The vote for Catalan independence was 81 percent YES with turnout estimated at 37 to 42 percent. This one was non-binding on the Spanish Government.

Nov 7

More Women on ARM National Council and in Official Roles

The results of the elections for ARM National Council are announced. Four of the 10 elected positions are women: existing office-holders, Debra Crossing and Kathy Schoo, both from the ACT plus Michelle Wood from Sydney. Allison Henry, also from NSW, joins the NC after a previous stint as ARM's Executive Director 2003-2006. Forty percent of the new NC, taking up their two-year term in December, are female but overall women are still in the minority on this Committee (State/Territory Branch and youth convenors make up the total membership of 19). Michelle Wood was elected senior Vice-Chair and Allison Henry, Junior Vice-Chair on 6 December.

Nov 6

Fifteenth Anniversary of 1999 Referendum

Do only the women republicans remember? Has past unnoticed and unremarked; no ceremony as there was in 2009.  We should always remember this day and savour the next opportunity, it was close then despite all the nay-saying from those who would rewrite history.

Nov 3

And..... Another British Royal Visit

Prince Edward arrives for a five-day visit representing the Duke of Edinburgh. Royal visit number three for the year and number six since 2011. We've been inundated by these people since Tony Abbott became Prime Minister - all funded by Australian taxpayers and for what? We've seen enough, time to stop.

Oct 29

Fast Progress on NZ Flag Vote

New Zealand PM, John Key, announces there will be two binding POSTAL referendums (voting is not compulsory) on the new flag minus the Union Jack. The first one is to be held at the end of 2015 to choose a preferred design from among those selected by a panel of "respected New Zealanders".  Hopefully, there will be some artists among them. The second vote will be held in early 2016 as a contest between the design winner from the first referendum and the current flag. All political parties will have one representative on the committee overseeing the process. NZ's first flag was chosen by an assembly of Maori chiefs in 1834. ["Clashing with the sunset", The Economist,1 November 2014/ABC News online 28 October 2014]. NZ even published the Cabinet papers (see link below). WfaAR is astounded. This is the way to get change, Australia please note.

More info >

Oct 21

Another British Royal Visit

Princess Anne arrives for a four-day visit to Queensland. She makes no public appearances. Royal visit number two for the year and number five since 2011.  Anne was last here in 2009 for the Victorian bushfire memorial where things got a bit confused as to who was representing our monarch, her daughter or our Governor-General.

Sep 29

Kate - Saying It Like It Is

Germaine Greer describes Kate Middleton as "too thin" and says "she should stop being a womb for the royal family". She also says Kate has a bastard of a job because she has effectively "been put charge of William. "Kate is not even allowed to decorate her own houses.  Even the wives of American presidents get to do that.....She cannot do or say anything spontaneous. She has learned what she has to do and say and how to do and say it in the approved way.  Spontaneity will get her into trouble." Furthermore, Greer states that the Duchess is more intelligent than most of the royal family but is made "to appear absolutely anodyne."  Why would anyone want to stick around with this family?  ["Germaine Greer on Duchess of Cambridge with 'Bas***d of a job': 'It's not that she has to be a womb, but a mother'" by Jenn Selby, The Independent, 29 September 2014]

Sep 26

Wash-Up of Scottish Independence Referendum

The close vote - including substantial concessions to cede power won even for the NO majority - resulted in calls for greater devolution from Westminster to parts of England; a review of the strength of the UK union and Nicola Sturgeon taking over as Scotland's First Minister. This was the view of one analyst about achieving a 45 percent YES vote: "Independence used to command the support of a stubborn third of Scots...Yet 45% voted to repudiate British sovereignty...When close to half the population of a nation inside a union wants to break away, the state of that union is...fragile....when 45% want out of a state, that is perilously close to a constitutional crisis ."  The 1999 republic referendum in Australia, always described as a crushing loss, was 45 percent YES. ["Scotland's glorious revolution must go on" by Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian Weekly, 26 September 2014]

Sep 21

NZ Flag Referendum Now 2015

Very usefully the National Party government of Prime Minister John Key was returned at the NZ general election.  After claiming victory, Key said that he wanted to accelerate the timing of the referendum to change the NZ flag and get rid of the Union Jack (just after it had been saved from losing the Saltire by the result of the referendum in Scotland). The planned time for the vote is next year. See also News item for 12 March 2014 below.

Sep 20

British Royal Visit to Malta

While the Scottish were absorbing the results of their referendum, Prince William was on his way to Malta to represent the Queen of Australia at the 50th anniversary of independence and formation of the Republic. President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, said, "We respect the British Royal family. We consider the British people as our friends, not simply our ex-colonisers. We consider the royal family as friends of Malta". In Malta's case, there are many, many ex-colonisers over the centuries, the British having been only the most recent although instrumental in the defence of the country in WWII. Malta is also a much smaller and less prosperous nation than Scotland. The crowds were reported to be "thin" with many more British than Maltese present. Those out for the walkabouts were apparently disappointed to be seeing William rather than Kate or George.

Sep 19

Scottish Referendum Loses but Lessons to Learn

The vote in the Scottish independence referendum went down 45:55 as expected. But there was much of interest to come out of it: Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister and leader of the independence campaign for many years, managed to get the vote up from 30-35 percent, where it had languished for decades, to nearly 45 percent or 9 out of 20 voters so there is a lesson in that - persistence pays and there's nothing like a vote to galvanise opinions on an issue. Voter turnout was high at 85 percent of enrolled voters even though voting is not compulsory. For the first time, 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote and they chose 71 percent YES, the highest of any age category, an enthusiastic bloc of young, involved voters. The next test of sentiment and implementation of promises from Westminster will be at the UK general election in May 2015 with moves afoot to promote English independence and  also devolve greater powers to Wales and Northern Ireland (shades of a federation). There was criticism that the campaign was too presidential focussed on a very small number of leaders and spokespeople. Of greatest interest was that the gender difference in the vote was reduced from 10 percent to three percent in the last couple of months after concerted effort - both officially and voluntarily - to increase it.

Sep 18

Prediction for Scotland Vote

Looking at the campaign overall, WfaAR predicts for NO at around 55 percent to around 45 percent YES, the same result as the 1999 republic referendum result in Australia.The economic and defence aspects of this decision, the need to be bigger rather than smaller in the desire for stability; the proximity of England sharing a frequently crossed common land border (even Hadrian's Wall didn't work); the success of integration ethnically, culturally, economically and, most importantly, linguistically by the dominant English over 307 years and, finally, the Don't Knows voting NO tip the balance. Changes like this require a huge leap of faith in the future not business plans spelled out down to the last detail. Politicians who have trained current generation voters to respond with their hip pocket nerve do them and the future a huge disservice. Bad luck for the Oz flag but we're still working on it!

Sep 17

On Eve of Scottish Independence Referendum

Three polls out today and remarkably uniform - 48 percent YES and 52 percent NO. Reports of 5 percent still undecided. The postal vote return is very high, around 90 percent. Another poll shows 41 percent YES and 44 percent NO with 8 percent undecided so it could go down to the wire. Exciting stuff - at least the Scots are getting a vote. And it's a good deal either way. Even a NO vote will bring greater devolved powers to the Scottish parliament - anecdotal evidence is pointing to an ever greater appetite by Scots (in Scotland) to have increased powers over their own future, revenue raising and expenditure  Go Scotland!.

Sep 10

Women's YES Vote Shift in Scotland

Here are some insights from Libby Brooks, Scottish reporter for The Guardian "Why Scotland's Women are Swinging Towards YES in Independence Vote", interviews with female voters - click on link below : working class and Labour voters moving strongly to YES in last weeks; women seeking out information for themselves beyond the soundbites and headlines; positive female advocate in Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon engaging and convincing women beyond supporters of her political party. Note that voting is not compulsory but that women are planning to vote for the first time and have been strongly engaged in the campaign.

More info >

Sep 10

Indigenous Recognition Referendum Delayed Until 2017

The Indigenous Affairs Minister says that the referendum will now be held "in clear space" after the next election. Over the last week, the Government has been dampening expectations that the original timetable (this term) will be met and that the proposed wording will be anything more than minimal, mainly a symbolic gesture towards Indigenous people. The Minister hinted that the change would be modest and acceptable to the mainstream saying, "We need a set of changes that Australia [sic] accepts." In particular, it appears unlikely to address discrimination or include anything resembling a "rights" or Bill of Rights approach. ["Abbott Government pushes back Indigenous referendum timetable" by Katherine Murphy, The Guardian online, 10 September 2014]

More info >

Sep 9

Queen to Intervene in Scottish Vote?

There is nothing to stop the Queen from speaking but it's unlikely that she would, given that she sees "the referendum as a matter entirely for the Scottish people to decide" (sounds familiar).  In 1977, when Scotland and Wales were voting on devolved national assemblies, the Queen spoke out in one of her Silver Jubilee speeches to deliver a warning against the "aspirations" of devolved power, adding "I cannot forget I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland. Perhaps this Jubilee, is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of the UK." The Queen would have to be invited to speak by the British Prime Minister. While she's not prevented by law from voting, it is "considered unconstitutional for the sovereign and her or his heir to do so". Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond says he wants the Queen to remain head of state of a separate Scotland "as her ancestors were" although many Scottish Nationalists are republicans and want to get rid of the monarchy. Mr Salmond claims recent polls show Scots' enthusiasm to have Queen Elizabeth of England as "our Queen of Scots." [Drawn from articles in The Daily Telegraph (London), 9 September 2014]

Sep 7

Women's YES Vote in Scotland Shoots Up

The YES vote is now ahead in the polls by 51 to 49 excluding undecideds (YES at 44 if they are included).  The new poll identifies a record high of 47 percent support among women almost wiping out the gender gap between male and female YES support. Commenting, the Deputy First Minister and Yes Scotland Advisory Board member Nicola Sturgeon said: 'These are exceptionally positive and encouraging figures - and the Panelbase poll shows record support for independence among women. Compared to earlier this year, female support for YES is up 13 points. There is no doubt from my own experience that as women weigh up the issues - particularly the need for the powers of independence to protect Scotland's NHS, and to put bairns before bombs by transforming childcare and getting rid of Trident - they are choosing YES in significantly increasing numbers." Note this is one poll of 1000 people so the sample is small (population 4 million) but the momentum 11 days out appears to be with YES.

Sep 3

More on the Scottish Referendum Vote Gender Gap

Here's Rachel Ormston writing on the What Scotland Thinks blog: "The ‘gender gap’ in support for independence has become one of the best known features of Scotland’s political landscape in the run up to the referendum. Women have long been less likely than men to support independence. Even when the polls narrow – as in recent weeks they have – women remain less likely to say they will vote Yes. In the most recent YouGov poll that showed a substantial swing to Yes, only 42% of women said they would vote Yes (after leaving aside the undecideds who remain more numerous amongst women) compared with 52% of men, a gender gap of ten points. This is no isolated example, If we look at the most recent poll from each of the six companies that are polling regularly in the referendum, on average the gender gap still stands at nine points."

More info >

Sep 2

Poll shows big increase for YES in Scotland

A new Scottish poll out today shows a significant four point shift towards YES, narrowing the NO lead from 22 points to 14. YES  is at 42 percent (+4); NO 48 percent (-3); Don’t Know or Won’t Vote 10 percent (-1). Excluding Don’t Knows, YES is 47 percent (+4); NO is 53 percent (-4). Over the last month, the referendum choice has narrowed from a consistent NO lead of 20 points to 6 points. The sudden sharp narrowing of the gap suggests something's afoot. As UKPolling commented "we should be careful of reading too much into a single poll – it’s the wider trend that counts – but it looks like this may go right down to the wire."

WfaAR comments: This is riveting stuff.  Nothing like active democracy, where governments are constantly interacting with their voters, to get the blood running and enthrall. Australia should be doing much more of this instead of running terrified of referendum losses and only daring to put questions once.  This will take political leadership and guts, much more what we've got now.

More info >

Sep 1

Hotting Up - 18 Days to Scottish Independence Referendum

Things are getting exciting with the YES vote suddenly increasing although polls are still showing it below 50 percent. A turnout of 80 percent - or more - is expected (non-compulsory voting for all Scottish residents; you can't vote if you live outside Scotland). Follow Women for Independence, YES Scotland, What Scotland Thinks (polls at http://blogwhatscotlandthinks.org/) on their websites or an apolitical citizen (albeit a rich, powerful one) at  www.scotlandseptember18.com or follow them on Twitter @womenforindy @YESScotland or #indyref  [See also "Something incredible is happening in Scotland. And if the result is a yes vote then the shock to the UK will be extreme" by Paul Mason, The Guardian online, 1 September 2014 - click on link]

More info >

Aug 30

All Female Panel at Vic ARM Event

ABC sports journalist Angela Pippos, was funny and engaging; federal Labor MP for Hotham since 2013, Clare O'Neil did a number on the British royals while historian and author Dr Clare Wright quoted the republican passion of Dublin-born actress Clara Seekamp c1819-1908, temporary editor of the Ballarat Advertiser and Southern Cross (her husband was in gaol for seditious libel), from her book "The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka". All three women spoke well and strongly for the Republic. The speakers were described as "richer, more textured and more interesting" than ARM's usual fare. Everyone attending the forum at The Pumphouse Hotel in Fitzroy was delighted to have an all female panel, the first in living memory. (For more information about the interesting life of Clara Seekamp consult the entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography online). Read Angela Pippos on link below

More info >

Aug 21

All Aboard Team Australia with a Foreign Queen

Letter in todays SMH from Naomi Brown, North Perth WA: "I will join Team Australia when the club president is an Australian, not a British person living in a palace".

Aug 18

Follow the Scottish Women doing it for Independence

One month from the referendum for Scottish independence, follow Women for Independence - a group making space for women's voices to ensure their concerns, hopes and aspirations for an independent Scotland are considered and promoted. It is an open and diverse network of women who support independence working with others for a YES vote in the referendum.  They LISTEN to Scotland's women and aim to ensure women are involved in the democratic process in the independence debate.  They tweet at @womenforindy and their website can be found at: http://www.womenforindependence.org

Aug 16

No Commonsense in Comments on Scottish Referendum

Australian PM Tony Abbott manages to say that people who support Scottish independence are friends of neither justice nor freedom. He contends - offering the strange notion that it would be better "for the world" - that Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom to shore up the Anglosphere. He went on to say that he did "indeed love England" and waxed lyrical about the two years he spent studying in Oxford. These last comments miss the point entirely. Abbott seems to place no store on the fact that Scotland, through a referendum of its people, is making a decision about its own future, which is more than can be said about Australia on his watch. The Scottish independence referendum deserves high praise even if Scots living outside its borders are disenfranchised, although all over 16s can vote. Even NZ is showing us up with a forthcoming referendum to get the Union Jack off its flag.

Aug 14

Scotland: Women's Voting Intentions

A poll of women voters in Scotland (1,000 respondents) finds that only 40 percent intend to vote YES.  This compares with July (40); June (41); May (38) and April (36). The most crucial factor in voting for both women and men appears to be the perception about the impact on the economy. Interestingly, the polls also focus on what women think about their political leaders but this does not appear to overly influence voting intentions at this stage. However, the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is perceived to be less arrogant among intending NO voters than First Minister, Alex Salmond. For more details and analysis, see link below. This poll was conducted after the first leaders' debate on 5 August.  After the second one on 25 August, the YES vote skewed significantly upward.

More info >

Aug 12

Gender Gap for Scottish Independence Widens

With the gender gap in Scotland currently at around 12 percent, it is now labelled "persistent", having first shown up in May at this level. Where women and men seem to differ is in their level of certainty about what independence would mean for Scotland. 27 percent of women, compared with 37 percent of men in current polling, are sure about the future implications of independence. Among those who expect the economy to benefit from independence and feel sure about what the consequences would be intend to vote YES. But support drops significantly among those who believe that independence will be economically beneficial but are less sure about what the consequences will be. Rachel Ormston, Senior Research Director at ScotCen Social Research says that the gender gap may be hard to close in the final weeks of the campaign given the wildly competing claims of the YES and NO cases with the result that those undecided cannot be sure about the precise consequences of their vote. Click on the link below for Rachel's full analysis.

More info >

Aug 10

First Direct Election for Turkey's President

53m people are eligible to vote in Turkey's first elections for its President, the 12th President of the Turkish republic. Previously, the President was elected by members of Parliament.The election consists of two ballots; no further ballot is required if one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote at the first ballot (as happened).  There were three candidates, all male.

Jul 26

Expand Constitutional Reform ASAP

Legal Commentator, Crispin Hull, says that the eight referendums passed since Federation in 1901 were all defective and unnecessary as most could have been achieved by legislation. He goes on to say that we should stop fiddling around the edges of constitutional reform and get on with it: Indigenous recognition, a republic (both important symbolic gestures), fixing the electoral cycle, clarifying Commonwealth spending powers and a bill of rights.  Serious and significant constitutional change would not only give pride to our Indigenous peoples but to everyone. ["Stop fiddling around the edges of reform" by Crispin Hull, The Canberra Times, 26 July 2014]

Jul 25

Which Queen?

"We were sort of having a joke today because the Queen [of Australia] was in the dining hall for lunch and everyone's going 'The Queen is here! The Queen is here!' I said 'Anna's here every lunchtime guys. She's the queen of track cycling and you can't really ask for a better role model than her.' Australian cyclist Stephanie Morton talking about her roommate Anna Meares gets it absolutely right.  Meares herself, who carried the flag in the opening ceremony, commented on the number of Aussie flags - and Boxing Kangaroos - she could see from the podium when she won a gold medal. Seems we're still having trouble identifying our own flag in a sea of Commonwealth lookalikes all sporting the Union Jack in the upper left corner.

More info >

Jul 24

Commonwealth Changes Afoot

At the opening of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games - where Australia wins more medals than everyone else because there's not much competition - Scotland and all things Scottish are on show ahead of the independence referendum on 18 September. Who knows what might happen if the nationalism kick is a great as that from the Brisbane Games in 1982 which added significant heft to republican desire in the early 1990s. The Games were opened by the head of the Commonwealth, the Queen of Australia, who could also be the Queen of Scotland very soon.

Jul 15

ARM on Commonwealth (Empire) Games

This is pretty weak response with no mention of the R word. The fact is that we won't or won't be required to quit the Commonwealth as 37 of the 54 members are already republics. In response to a media query ahead of this years event, Kathy Schoo, deputy chair speaking on behalf of the Australian Republican Movement organisation: "We actually don't have a policy on it. Our view is that while we want an Australian head of state, we're not saying that means we have to leave the Commonwealth. We can have our own head of state and remain with the Commonwealth. Australians really value our talented sporting men and women. At ARM, we would love to see an Australian head of state supporting our athletes at the Commonwealth Games and at the Olympic Games. If the Queen is there at the Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games, she's not cheering on our athletes, she's cheering on the British. Our point is that Australia has come of age, and that we should have a head of state of our own who represents our own values. We want a head of state that is chosen through a process that the people of Australia determine. ["Republican Movement OK with Commonwealth Games" by Daniel Cherny, Fairfax Press, 15 July 2014]

Jun 30

Mid-year Update

It's hardly been mentioned to date and there's still no sign of draft wording for the amendment proposed by the Federal Government to recognise our First Peoples in the Constitution. In Scotland, where only residents can vote, five of six polls are showing that the NO vote on the break-up the 307 year union with the United Kingdom is still ahead (economic issues are weighing heavily) but that the gap is narrowing, noting that there was a good showing in Scotland for Eurosceptic parties at the European elections in May. The referendum is also being closely watched in Northern Ireland because it is expected to have a major impact on the future of the United Kingdom even if it doesn't succeed. That is also of interest to us!  We are also watching for any sign of the Federation being able to work together on the succession law - nothing to see as yet, the only UK realm that has not passed a succession law change, extremely slow progress after a December 2012 start.

For our part, WfaAR fervently hopes to be commenting on something other than the existing Australian monarchy and imperial titles for the rest of the year.

Jun 29

Latest from the Polls

The tenth annual Lowy Institute poll again found that only 60% of Australian adults (42% of 18-29 year-olds) think democracy is preferable to any other kind of government while 19% say that our international standing would be enhanced by being a republic (55% said it had no bearing). More info on the Lowy poll (1150 respondents February 2014) is available at:  http://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/lowy-institute-poll-2014 The best and most reliable poll data to date is still the Vote Compass data collected by the ABC in the lead-up to the 2013 election with 1.4m responses - click on link below.

Download: Vote Compass Data on Republic [126KB, pdf]

Jun 24

Marcia Langton leads Republic Debate in Sydney

Marcia Langton and Bob Carr argue for the affirmative that "The Queen will be the last Australian monarch" in a debate hosted by the St James Ethics Centre. Langton posed two commonsense questions that go to the heart of the sometimes murky, over-emotional and over-complicated debate: "Do you want your next head of state to be Prince Charles or an Aboriginal elder? How can Australians say they are proud to be Australian and also want a foreign head of state?" Against were The Times journalist David Aaronovitch and NO Case (republic and recognition of local government) chair, Julian Leeser. Langton's passion, puzzlement at opposition and her Australian-ness were striking. She was visibly affronted (rightly) by members of the audience arguing to retain the British monarchy: "Do they think we're just a postcode of Britain? Why do they live here?", she asked.  About the young, articulate dissenters she commented," if you're a young Australian and a monarchist, you need to get out and have a look around." The full debate of just over two hours is available on the website below. It was to be sincerely regretted that the discussion, a less than complete or satisfactory airing of the issues, resulted in the audience vote for the motion dropping 3.5 percent, the vote against increasing 11.5 percent while that of the undecideds dropped 8 percent over its course.

More info >

Jun 21

Women More Pragmatic on Republic?

Does this explain women's consistently lower support for Republic?  "Australians don't truck much with symbols.That's why support for the republic has waned. Our current system of government entrenches the view that the Duke of Cambridge's baby, by virtue of birth, is somehow better than my own. More entitled and more qualified to lead. Less prone to be swayed by the heat and light of everyday politics, and eminently more trustworthy in a constitutional crisis. That very notion undermines our democratic values, as well as the egalitarianism at the core of our people. But most Australians are untroubled by this. These grievances are theoretical, esoteric. They don't impede our everyday life and therefore are not worth much worrying about. They don't trouble our pragmatism."  WfaAR doesn't agree because this argument is too theoretical. Any constitutional crisis will be sorted out by the Governor-General in Canberra not the Australian monarch in London. It's not about symbols ultimately but comes down to how to elect the head of state. But this could explain why woman won't spend time thinking about the Republic until they have to vote on it. That's pretty pragmatic. ["The Truth about Pragmatists" by James Brown, The Saturday Paper, 21 June 2014]

Jun 13

More than a Fashion Choice - 2014 National Republican Lecture

After an continuous male line-up since 2008 (when the speaker was Julie Bishop), the 2014 National Republican Lecturer is Katy Gallagher, ACT Chief Minister, the sole female head of government in the country. Speaking in Canberra, Ms Gallagher outlined critical steps, from a politician's point of view, leading to a Republic. She said it was essential to separate the true role of the monarch in our government and constitution from the cult of celebrity.The discussion must be nutured in the mainstream media. Politicians must raise the volume, attend to the debate and bring it back to the centre. It will be important to get to people outside the reach of usual media sources. People need to think again about what being Australian means and incorporate Reconciliation with First Peoples into their world view. She says it will be important to inspire the young, a critical demographic, who process information in their own terms and forums. Gen Y, she commented, has an astonishing facility with new technology and will bring about change in ways which will astound.  When Gen Y gets hold of the Republic, it will run with it. That momentum needs to be captured and harnessed. The Republic needs to be made newsworthy with an ability to contest the space in the mainstream media from where it has been evicted by the adulation of the monarchy aided and abetted by journalists. She warned that things can and do change quickly based on community interests citing global warming as one such issue that rose quickly from nowhere to policy prominence and urgency in 10 years.  She said that the debate should not become bogged down.  Messages should be kept simple and directed to the objective. She advised against mixing the Republic up with changes to the flag, the move for reconciliation and Indigenous recognition in the Constitution and overt anti-monarchy sentiment given that 9 out of 10 love the royals (based on her first hand experience accompanying them on the last three visits). She also thinks that the selection method for the President is contentious, divisive and has the potential to leak focus and weaken the argument in favour of an Australian Head of State, the essential issue which should be dealt with first before moving on to other elements of the proposal. She was unenthusiastic about election of the President saying it would probably result in the choice of someone popular who lacked the skills and gravitas for the job.

More info >

Jun 9

We're landed with another Dame

This time it's Marie Bashir, the outgoing Governor of New South Wales after 13 years service to the monarch all while living in her own home instead of the regulation gubernatorial palace. We now await the Penny Wensley gong when she quits the Qld Governor's residence in July. While WfaAR hopes that Abbott would have been on his knees, at the very least praying - among a number of options - nightly in his cell at the AFP staff college for divine help to resist naming more knights and dames, having seen the precedent set by the PM with the departing vice-regal rep from Canberra, the States will have pushed their own Governors forward for elevated recognition and a title. Seems the entreaties were not at the required standard (Tony 'the States made me do it' Abbott).

Jun 8

Overdose on 1954 Royal Tour

The national institutions in Canberra are right into the 60th anniversary of the Queen of Australia's first tour downunder in 1954. The Museum of Australian Democracy has just opened "Happy and Glorious" complete with high teas and making a likeness of the Queen from Lego reputedly involving 2500 visitors (see below) while the National Museum of Australia showed a preview of new film about that tour and tried to raise funds to restore a Daimler used to transport the royals. WfaAR could think of more critical things for both to be spending money on including promotion of the Australian Republic, thus, as a matter of balance, we ask when their next serious exhibitions on this important subject will be?

More info >

Jun 7

More Problems with PM's Imperial Honours

Anne Twomey gets to grips with the nature of the PM's new honours bestowed by only himself and the Queen of Australia in the Sydney Morning Herald. She says, ".... once honours fall within the gift of politicians, history has shown that they can become burdens on the recipients and a millstone around the neck of the donor.....It is a short step between a grace note and a disgrace." Read more about this history below. 

More info >

Jun 2

King of Spain abdicates

King Juan Carlos of Spain, increasingly unpopular, has abdicated at 78. This was unexpected. Under the 1978 Constitution, both the abdication and the succession of Prince Felipe must be approved by the Spanish Parliament. The announcement led to large anti-monarchy, pro-republic protests in the streets. This is the second abdication in Europe this year after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands followed tradition on turning 70 at the end of April and handed over to her son, Prince Willem-Alexander. On the subject of abdication, the Queen of the United Kingdom, also monarch of 15 other realms including Australia, commented "It's not something that we do here". Besides such a move would hardly revitalise the UK monarchy with the heir now nearly 70 in contrast to the new Spanish and Dutch Kings both of whom are in their mid 40s and considered good media fodder with fashionable, independent partners and, in the case of Holland, three new young princesses to add to the mix.  However, Queen Beatrix observed on abdicating that: "... hereditary authority of itself did not give substance to a contemporary monarchy; rather this was earned through 'the will to serve the country'." 

Jun 1

Nameless Women at ARM Vic Forum

At ARM's forum in Melbourne today, captions to photographs name the men on the dais but the couple of women there, also speaking and participating, are not identified. Melissa Conley Tyler, National Executive Director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, outed herself on The Interpreter online (published by the Lowy Institute for International Policy) on 10 June while ARM finally named Melba Marginson, Executive Director of  the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition on 30 June. Enough said. Here's what Melissa had to say about the event.

More info >

May 27

Not quite done with Latest Royal Tour......

German gossip mag Bild published a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge with her skirt blowing up around her waist after climbing out of a helicopter in the Blue Mountains. She appeared to be without petticoat or knickers, begging a few questions we won't bother to ask here. The British press apparently refused to purchase or publish the shot snapped by a local onlooker but after it was made public in Germany, the Sydney Daily Telegraph (Murdoch press) did under the headline: "My bare lady: Derri-heir to the throne is fair game" describing as "ridiculous" the antiquated etiquette that stopped publication in Britain "in a world in which flesh and commercialism go hand in hand".

Several days later, the Duchess stayed at The Dorchester hotel overnight after meeting up with her family to attend the wedding of her first cousin. This brought criticism because hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei are being boycotted by celebrities after he implemented full sharia law further oppressing its population. WfaAR does have to ask why we tolerate such people as part of our government.  John Rees from WA (link below) has some insightful things to say about why monarchies are surviving because they are now indistinguishable from celebrities and wealthy families, not to mention the emergence of political dynasties in countries like the USA. ["Like it or not, monarchies are enduring for several reasons" by John Rees, The Conversation online, 7 June 2014]

More info >

May 22

WfaAR features in Honest History

Our tongue-in-cheek take on knighthoods is published in the Honest History newsletter - a look at the awe inspired by the 1954 royal tour from inside the Governor's Residence in Queensland, complete with Topsy the Talking Pony, along with this years announcement by the PM that he had reinstated titles at the highest level of our public awards for those representing the Queen of Australia in her absence from the country.

More info >

May 15

Fitting Finale to Royal Visit

For our final viewing of the younger royals on our land: Kate, William and George descending yet another set of aircraft stairs form the larger than life photo backdrop for the new series of Dirty Laundry Live (how low can you go?) on ABC2, taking the mickey out of celebrity hype. Host, Lawrence Mooney commented: "at least there are two English tourists who left before their visas expired." Royal visit done and dusted, thank goodness!

May 5

Business as Usual for Cambridges

Just over a week after the second and third in line heir to the Australian throne jetted out, the Orstaylians, Kiwis and solemn Anzac commemorations at 5.30am in Canberra long forgotten (at least the palace didn't hand out a detailed fashion list that day), William and Harry flitted over to Memphis for the celebrity wedding of a close and obviously very rich friend and his heiress (Holiday Inn) bride, no sign of Kate or George. On 13 May, a bevy of "British celebrities arrived at Windsor Castle for a gala dinner hosted by the Duke (also sans Duchess) for a medical charity sponsored by Ralph Lauren who attended with his family. The event drew actors, Emma Watson, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Helena Bonham Carter and models, Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne." Both events were widely covered in the gossip mags all over Europe. Last WfaAR knew, Cate B was Australian. A few days later, Wills handed out the winner's trophy at the FA Cup Final.

May 2

Women's Vote Prominent in Scottish YES/NO campaigns

While we're still fiddling around with post royal tour silliness, Scotland is getting on with the job. Women have been identified as a key target for the independence referendum in September. The Scottish Social Attitudes survey has consistently shown a gender gap in support for the YES vote of around 7 percent. A disproportionate number of women say that they are currently undecided so there has been a flurry of activity by the YES case aimed at attracting their vote. Jeane Freman, co-founder of  Women for Independence and a former political adviser comments, "What is certain is that women are as interested in the debate as men....large numbers of women in halls and cafes....turning out to ask questions.  And when women are decided, they are hugely active." The Better Together movement also has a specific women's campaign but cautions against viewing all female voters as thinking similarly. Labour MP for Glasgow East, Margaret Curran explains reluctance among female voters, "Women just get the fact that this is for ever. It's a really significant decision and they want take the time to think it through. Women aren't swept away by the football/Braveheart momentum.They know that they've got five months to go and they want to read the literature". The gender gap showing up in Scotland is very familiar to Australian republican campaigners so we should pay attention and see what we can learn. [Quotes in this News item are taken from "Scottish independence debate: women hold the key far from Westminster" by Libby Brooks, Scotland reporter, The Guardian online, 2 May 2014 - read her full article below]

More info >

May 1

AWW outdoes Itself on Visiting Royals

After the excesses of its April Royal Visit story (see News for 1 April 2015) comes hot on its heels, the May edition with Kate and William on the front cover, Uluru towering above them and the headline "Kate and William ON TOUR and IN LOVE".  Inside, they take up pages of the magazine under the banner: "The Royals in LOVE". This features no fewer than 36 photos, 33 of Kate (well: Kate's teeth, hair, shoes and handbags but no false fingernails we noticed) including 10 straight fashion shots of her rather dowdy wardrobe. The final piece de resistance was a shot of Kate and William also at UIuru atop a photo of Charles and Diana in the same spot, both Kate and Diana awkwardly fiddling with their hair. Some things have not changed.

Apr 25

How it looks from Over There

Stuart Heritage in The Guardian says he can't hate seeing so many photos of Prince George but he can hate "those who make him a travelling sideshow". He wonders when he will be able to hate the tiny prince, will it be "when's he crowned as King and becomes the figurehead of an expensive post-imperial anachronism that serves no purpose other than making a handful of Australians clap once every 20 years?" Heritage says he's been bombarded with info "about the piles of gifts that grateful Antipodeans have lavished upon him because his Mum and Dad have turned up and tooled around like a pair of self-consciousness gonks for a millisecond". WfaAR comments: how ridiculous we look! More self-awareness needed. ["Prince George's face has been permanently seared on to our collective cortex and it's infuriating" by Stuart Heritage, The Guardian Weekly, 25 April to 1 May 2014]

Apr 24

Queen of Australia urged to abdicate

By this stage, with a day to go, some people had either had enough or were so enamoured of the younger royals that they were keen to see them on the Australian throne sooner rather than later. There were calls for the Queen to abdicate. If Australians couldn't get their act together for a republic (the movement never having "offered a better system" than the one we've got and because "it became infected by a sneering negativity that has poisoned the well for a generation" - this being unexplained) then it's time for the Queen herself to modernise the monarchy by abdicating. It's a thoughtful article with suggestions by Paul Sheehan in the SMH and can be found below. However, WfaAR saw in Bob Carr's very recent "Diary of a Foreign Minister" that the Queen commented, "It's not something we do here," when discussing the recent abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands with the Australian High Commissioner in London. Carr comments, "More's the pity. Think on it Ma'am, think on it". Carr thinks Charles would make a good monarch. [Why it's time for the Queen to pass on the baton" by Paul Sheehan, SMH 24 April 2014)

More info >

Apr 20

Highlight of Royal Tour

Republican highlight of the royal visit was Prince George's disdainful and immediate chuck of the toy bilby at Taronga Zoo. Quite clear what he thinks about the colonials. This part of the tour was bordering on the ridiculous with so many things named after George, including a bilby at the same zoo (seeing a crocodile was already named after him by the NT Government to honour his birth) and a shopping plaza in Elizabeth SA, the town named after his great grandmother.

Apr 17

OK to be a Royal-loving Republican

Michelle Wood, in an op ed in the SMH, not only loves Kate's shiny hair but also has a crush on Prince Harry. But she doesn't expect them to do anything "but entertain me and that is why, despite their hotness, I think Harry, Wills, Kate and even young George are unqualified to be the head of our nation - let alone the head of a country they rarely visit and don't really understand.....I don't see any of the intellectual, political or economic nous that we expect of our elected leaders....we wouldn't elect any of them. I think Australian values of a fair go for all are directly contradicted by royals and the archaic tradition of rewarding someone with leadership on the basis of their birthright and not hard work. The question of whether or not Australia should become a republic has been invigorated of late largely thanks to Abbott's decision to step back in time and reintroduce knights and dames". [It's OK to be a royal-loving republican" by Michelle Wood, SMH, 17 April 2014]. WfaAR couldn't help noticing that ARM actually let one of the women on National Council speak for the organisation in public.

Apr 16

Women's Support for Republic on Rise

Published on the day that the royals arrive in town, the Fairfax-Nielsen snap poll shows 42 percent of women favour a republic (compared with 51 percent of men). In this poll, both results have shifted upwards from the late 1990s where women's support was only in the mid 30 percents. The media chose to portray this otherwise saying that support was at a record low. The SMH describes this as a stunning repudiation (WfaAR begs to differ) demonstrating, "the failure of the republican movement to promote an abstract idea of national governance against the barrage of favourable royal coverage and a dominant celebrity culture". The analysis is fair enough although we note that the Fairfax press was part of the unquestioning adulation of the royal visitors with not a dissenting journalistic voice to be heard. It was a neat Catch-22, were the journalists leading or following? The SMH also says that only 35 percent of poll respondents were in favour of knighthoods and 50 percent against so something doesn't add up. ["As royals arrive, republic recedes" by Mark Kenny, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2014; Nielsen Poll, 10-12 April, 1400 respondents, +/- 3 percent margin of error]. We consider the only data worth contemplating at present is that from the ABC's 2013 Vote Compass data with 1.4m responses; snap polls seem to be fairly useless for predicting public support for proposals that require thought and judgement over time.

Apr 12

Wife, Womb and Wardrobe

"In that order please": Scottish, Melbourne-based freelance journalist and editor writing on politics, culture and society, Andrea Maltman, spells out the Duchess of Cambridge's role clearly, one that Kate has absorbed and accepted as exemplified by these core values, in three years official attachment to the Windsor family. Andrea begs to hear Kate's voice and see the signs of her intelligence given she has a university degree. She also comments that the British royal house has been slow to modernise the role of its women compared with the European princesses who display independent, modern behaviour not at all under the thumb. She says Kate pales in comparison with them all. Read her article here ["Windswept in Wellington" by Andrea Maltman, The Australian Spectator, 12 April 2014]

More info >

Apr 10

What Kate wears/ What Australian Women think about Republic

Really hot article by a really good Australian female republican. Jamila Rizvi editor of Mamamia, gets to the heart of celebrity and the republic. If you are a wavering female republican, conflicted by your feelings for Will and Kate, read this. WfaAR was shocked that when Kate needed four hands (one for hat, one for hem blowing upwards, one for George and one for handrail) and wobbling on precariously high heels, she got no help from William - doing that odd royal fiddle-thing with his cufflinks - as she just about toppled over going down the steep aircraft stairs on arrival in Wellington NZ. Why do royal women get this sort of treatment? Doesn't say much for equality. After first appearing on Mamamia, this article was reprinted in the Huffington Post on 10 April 2014 ["Confessions of an Australian Republican with a Kate Middleton style crush" by Jamila Rizvi]

More info >

Apr 8

Bravo! Kiwi Republicans Tackle Royal Visit

New Zealand republicans are confidently protesting about their current royal visit. They challenge William to become a New Zealand citizen and emigrate so that he can properly represent them and say that they will never call him King because before he gets to the British throne, NZ will have a democratically elected head of state. A protest banner funded by the group was flown overhead while the royals took part in a yacht race on Auckland harbour. Meanwhile their recent polling has shown that two-thirds of 18-31 year olds favoured a New Zealand head of state. Best of all, their chair described royal PR attempts to make Kate and William look like they had a connection with New Zealand - for example, wearing the Queen's silver fern brooch at every opportunity - were "a little bit desperate". ["Prince William should immigrate and become a Kiwi if he wants to be New Zealand's head of state, the head of New Zealand's republican movement says" SBS News 8 April 2014]

Apr 4

What Royal Visits are for

The real purpose of royal visits (where princelings prove themselves capable of lasting the distance in trying conditions and win over the Antipodeans) is to convince "the people of Australia that having a royal family is a good thing". William, Kate and George in 2014 is a carbon copy of Charles, Diana and William in 1983. So now we know. ["Modern family to learn from 1983 tour" by Christopher Wilson, The Daily Telegraph (London), 4 April 2014]

Apr 1

Surely an April Fools' Joke

The Australian Women's Weekly has issued its April "Royal Visit Souvenir" edition featuring the heir to the heir to the heir to the Australian throne (at eight months) on its front cover. Celebrity cute but irrelevant. Better he had stayed home. Must be tough to be a pawn of the palace and you're not even 1.

Mar 31

Awards with Fancy Titles don't sit well

Amanda Vanstone, former Howard government Minister and its best-known republican, writes in the SMH that Howard was right to label the Prime Minister's new knights and dames awards as "anachronistic". She says she can "find none among her Liberal mates who think it is other than really weird" and goes on to write that Abbott indulged himself by flying solo and now is stuck with it. She concludes that "awards with fancy titles just don't sit well with todays Australia". Click on the link below to read all that she had to say. ["Why Tony Abbott's royal finger on knights and dames is wrong" by Amanda Vanstone, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 2014]

More info >

Mar 29

New Imperial Honours reignite Debate about Republic

So says Sophie Morris, Chief Political Correspondent for The Saturday Paper, noting that "monarchists and republicans are gearing up for the eventual showdown" - WfaAR doesn't see it quite like that. The small number of monarchists aren't "the enemy" given the number one problem is the apathy and ignorance of the electorate. She also tells us that Abbott Government Minister, Senator Eric Abetz from Tasmania, has emailed all federal MPs inviting them to join Parliamentary Supporters of Constitutional Monarchy. Read her article by clicking on the link ['Abbott's Regal Honours Plan sparks new republican debate' by Sophie Morris, The Saturday Paper, 29 March 2014]

More info >

Mar 28

A Question for Dame Quentin

Rachael White asks why Quentin Bryce didn't join the distinguished and exclusive group who have refused knighthoods. White says that titles have a long history of causing division - since the 1850s in fact. She also writes, "The outgoing Governor- General wishes to see an Australian child grow up to be a our first Australian-born head of state. It is in a society whose 'true values' are not obscured by the social distinctions conferred by titles that she is most likely to get her wish." Read her full article from the link below [ "Dame Quentin Bryce should have turned down her title" by Rachael White, The Guardian online, 27 March 2014]

More info >

Mar 27

WfaAR in Print on New Imperial Honours

Here is our letter to The Canberra Times published 27 March 2014: "We predicted in these columns before the 2010 election that Tony Abbott would reinstate knighthoods if he became PM. What a clever little starting number, four a year. That will keep the tribe of OAs in its place. All to be the PM's whim, anytime, and with the Queen of Australia's approval. That really is the backward step. Being G-G, the high life at Yarralumla for five years and being on a select list are reward enough. What more is required? Before long, it will be 40 a year including "deserving" politicians. Egalitarianism has gone out the window of hierarchy and privilege. All republicans should, like me, be glowing with rage. By the way, do partners of dames, defacto wives of sirs and same sex partners get a title too? If not, the new tier of honours is discriminatory. Better get Brandis onto it."

Mar 26

Artists on the Money again

In the final program of her TV series about art and national identity (see News of 11 March), Hannah Gadsby talks to Ben Quilty, Rosemary Laing, Jason Wing and Liam Benson and discovers contemporary artists who understand the confusion of working out what it means to be Australian in 2014. She also comes to the conclusion that the image of the Southern Cross now represents racism - and WfaAR adds: if not Anglo surpremicist attitudes as the modern symbol of the White Australia Policy.

Mar 25

Queen to Approve Dames and Knights in Order of Australia

The Prime Minister's announces a new highest tier of Australian honours. In fact, it is an imperial honour as all appointments are to be approved by the Queen on the PM's recommendation (after a perfunctory chat with the Chair of the Council of the Order of Australia). A similar process (PM/Queen) is used only for the appointment of the Governor-General. There are to be a maximum of four per year. The first appointment is Quentin Bryce made at her official farewell as Governor-General while the second is incoming Governor-General, Peter Cosgrove. The award is for people of "extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit in their service to Australia" or to "humanity at large". The serving Governor-General will be the principal Dame or Knight in the Order of Australia. The new award will go to those who have accepted public office but not sought it and who can never entirely return to private life at its end. Whether politicians could be appointed remains unclear but the PM did not rule them out. WfaAR doubts it will be long before one is chosen. Not only does this award increase the hierarchy in Australia's honours system, it reinstates knighthoods that were abolished in 1986, their contentiousness and divisiveness. It also by-passes the usual rigorous nomination and examination system for awarding Australian honours. Such boldness by Abbott is breath-taking and contemptuous of the electorate, especially as the decision was made by the PM without wide consultation or Cabinet agreement in a naked display of power, it embodies increased hierarchy, gives approval rights to the British monarch who is the foreign head of state and wilfully misunderstands the egalitarianism so deeply rooted in our culture. It also subtly changes the role of the Governor-General, establishes a selection criterion for the job - the only one - to test out commitment to the monarchy before appointment (we assume a potential appointee can decline a gong but then probably won't get the job). The PM described the new honour as "an important grace note in our national life". Grace notes are ornaments in a musical score, and - more to the point - non-essential. We couldn't agree more. Presumably, these awards would not be made by republican-leaning governments but these things have a way of becoming currency among the establishment and proliferating of their own accord. The concept of the new award has been widely criticised as back-to-the-future and unAustralian, as were the recipients for not declining. The PM was reputedly stung by its strength and breadth of disapproval directed at him but it was well deserved. Read Rachael White's article "Dame Quentin Bryce should have turned down her title" in The Guardian online 27 March 2014, link below.

More info >

Mar 12

NZ Flag Referendum Deferred

After announcing that New Zealand's next general election will be held two months early in September this year, Prime Minister John Key, also announced that the flag referendum would be delayed until the next term under a National Government but would be held well before the 2017 election. In a speech about ideas and a planned process for the proposed flag change given at Victoria University in New Zealand, Key had this to say about the importance of changing his country's flag: After the centenary of the Gallipoli landing has passed," I think it will be time for us to take some decisions about how we present ourselves to the world beyond 2015"; "the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed"; "the flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom"; "I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag"; "...our flag represents us as we once were, rather than as we are now"; "my personal view is that it's time our flag reflected that we are a sovereign and successful nation that rightfully takes its place among developed economies in the 21st century"; "it's my contention that when we engage internationally, in forums ranging from secondary school debating to the United Nations, or from age-grade representative teams to the Olympics, we should be represented by a flag that is distinctly New Zealand's"; "I do not underestimate the significance of our flag to New Zealand's servicemen and women and their families, but being respectful of our history does not lock us permanently in the past"; "it will be a flag that serves us on every occasion because, in the end, the flag is a symbol of our unity....it's also remarkable how quickly the new becomes familiar; " my purpose today is to say that this debate is too important for it to continue rumbling along in such a casual and ad hoc fashion [letters to the editor, editorials, opinion polls and by a few passionate adherents of designs that some people happen to champion]"; "in my view, that's an appropriate time [after the election] to write one small but significant new chapter in our national story by re-considering the flag...when we go out into the world, we do so with a strong sense of where we come from. Our flag should reflect that". Striking words and thinking about purpose in national leadership beyond the Anzac Centenary (for full text, click on link below). But the change was deliberately delinked from changing existing constitutional ties between NZ and Britain even though the same arguments/words are used in expressing the desire for a republic in Australia. That such a speech could be made by an Australian PM or Minister. When asked about it on a visit to London, Australian Foreign Minster Julie Bishop, said changing the flag was "not an issue that actually draws much attention in Australia. There's no great demand to change it and many Australians have fought and died under that flag, sadly. We have competed in Olympic Games under that flag and there's a sense of pride in it." Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, was reported as saying that he was "not keen" to change the flag because it reflects Australian history. How behind the times, Australian federal politicians are and how timid they are about change. They neither represent nor lead us well.

More info >

Mar 11

Check Out the Art

Australia's national identity isn't "a white Anglo man in a hat". So says art historian and comedian, Hannah Gadsby, in her new TV series. She says to find it, we must examine the history and diversity of Australian art. ['Hannah Gadsby's Oz', Artscape, three-part series on ABC1, Tuesdays 10pm until 25 March]

Feb 28

Australia Only Realm without Royal Succession Law

While there is now no urgency to finalise this because the first child of William and Kate was a boy, the States are having to pass their own legislation first (because they have their own constitutions and, thereby, each one has a separate relationship with the British Crown) before the federal bill can be tabled. So far, three States have done so, two have introduced legislation but South Australia has not (election on at present although bill was due to have been introduced in late 2013). The process to be followed shows how awkward the constitutional processes in the federation can be and that the Commonwealth's powers are limited in some areas (this needs fixing under a republic). However, Canada has run into problems with a challenge to its federal law consenting to the changes made to British laws without the agreement of its nine provinces. This was done to avoid possible rejection by French-speaking Quebec. Professor Anne Twomey from Sydney University thinks that Canada's legal challenge will take considerably longer to resolve than Australia's tardiness. The changed British laws applying to the descendants of Prince Charles from 28 November 2011 provide for heirs to the British throne to succeed in birth order (males had priority over females since 1701); for the monarch to be able to be married to a Roman Catholic and for only six people to be required to have the monarch's consent to marry (not all descendants of George II as previously).

Feb 24

Queen's Portrait installed in PM's Office

PM Abbott has asked for a portrait of the Queen of Australia to hang in his Canberra office. It is a copy of the "wattle portrait" (lots of sparkling jewels) painted by William Dargie in 1954 for the newly-crowned head of state's first visit to her Australian realm. The original hangs in the entrance foyer at Yarralumla, residence of the Governor-General. Parliamentary Department secretary, Carol Mills, told Senate Estimates that this doubled the number of portraits of QEII in Parliament House. It followed the rapid hanging of portraits of HM in the Prime Minister's Department in Canberra after the election. We're going backwards under this Government. 'Cap d'Antibes' painted by Winston Churchill has been moved from the Opposition Leader's office (where no doubt it was fondly in Abbott's gaze for four long years) and is now in the PM's suite. Not even dyed-in-wool royalist John Howard, attempted this sort of thing although removing the Australian-made furniture designed by the building's architects in the PM's office, in favour of traditional and uncomfortable Chesterfields resonant of a gentleman's club, was roundly criticised. Symbols do matter.

Feb 23

Scottish want Proper Debate about Independence

Ahead of the 18 September Scottish independence referendum, the debate described to date as moribund reignited with David Bowie's "Scotland stay with us" plea at an award ceremony in New York. Bowie is English. The Observer editorial described the subsequent outpourings on Twitter as "mostly negative, puerile and cumulatively underlined the message that, without a sharp change of course, the Scottish debate that ought to be an important platform for a modern, informed and progressive exchange of views on the meaning of national identity, the value or otherwise of the union [Great Britain], and the possible development of a more positive form of nationalism, will prove elusive." This followed hot on the heels of Scottish comedian Billy Connolly's statement that he wouldn't be voting or expressing an opinion on the referendum. The Observer also commented that the discussion now requires fewer threats (after UK Chancellor, George Osborne, warned that a separate Scotland would not be able to join a currency union or use the British pound) and insults and needs to be more informed, adding "it would be good to hear the positive, uplifting and exciting aspects of nationalism and the union". Scottish businessman, Sir Tom Hunter, has launched his own plain-talking website to "inject momentum, data and evidence" into the independence debate (click on link). Can't leave it to the politicians he says. Ah celebrities, social media and fear campaigns - Australian republicans take note.

More info >

Feb 11

AWW does Australian Women a Disservice

The Australian Women Weekly launches ROYALS in bold, gold caps for $9.95. With a glamour shot of Kate on the front - welcoming her to Australia - this glossy features "Latest Royal News, Behind-the-Scenes Stories and Photographs" (read "intrusive gossip") reining in not only the heirs to our throne but also dashing Harry, Nicole Kidman as Princess Grace, Mary of Denmark and Prince Charles' Garden. We ask the AWW "Where is the balance?" as other news outlets are accused of being 'unpatriotic'. This banal trivia does Australian women a disservice by belittling their discernment while serving no educative purpose that WfaAR can divine. However, we assume it sells.

Feb 8

Christine Wallace sizes up Australia's next King

Canberra Times weekend columnist, Christine Wallace writes, "...one of the most important speeches on culture given this year was by England's best known organic farmer, the Prince of Wales". She goes on to comment, "Should Liz fall under a bus, Charles would not only be King of England but King of Australia. The heir to the throne is known for his trenchant letter writing. He frequently sends sharp missives to British government ministers urging action on public policy issues that matter deeply to him. Has he written to the man, who on Charles' own definition, must be considered Australia's Climate Change Denier No. 1? Given Charles is due to inherit this wide brown land from his mum sooner rather than later, if not, why not? If so, what did Australia's Climate Change Denier No. 1 say back to him? Given Australia's Climate Change Denier No. 1's intimate role in preserving this country as a constitutional monarchy and his vaunted love and respect for the royals, Charles' full frontal assault on denialists [sic] must surely have triggered an epiphany. If so, let's hear about it."

Feb 4

New Zealand Flag Change to Leave Australia Flat-footed

Prime Minister John Key announces that he intends hold a referendum to change the NZ flag within 12 months. The proposed design is the silver fern on a black background removing both the Union Jack and confusion with the current Australian flag. The move came out of the blue and will be worth watching to see if it has any spillover effects on New Zealand republican fervour, pretty muted to date. Interestingly, a referendum is not required but will be held with support thought to hover around 50% at most. Smart move for Key to announce his proposed new design at the same time thus removing a vacuum that can be readily and quickly filled by competing designs, many voices and a lot of shouting. Onya New Zealand for showing Australia up as mind-numbingly conservative and stuck-in-the past despite its potential to be a flexible, adaptive, modern nation moving with the times.

Feb 2

Poll Shows Women's Support at 36%

A ReachTEL poll of 2100 people shows women currently supporting the Republic at 36 percent (men at 43 percent). This is the same percentage as the women's vote before the1999 referendum. Overall support is 39.4 percent with highest support between people aged 35 to 65; 41.6 percent oppose and 19 percent didn't know. Women thought Quentin Bryce was a better choice for Governor-General than Peter Cosgrove 47.4 percent to 52.6 percent while a much higher percentage of men favoured General Cosgrove at 61.9 percent. ['Voters' support for republic hits 20-year low' by Bianca Hall, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February 2014]

Jan 28

Next Governor-General Appointment

Again, WfaAR can only say: "hopefully the last" to the fourth GG appointment since the 1999 referendum - Hollingworth, Jeffrey, Bryce and now Cosgrove until 2019. We detected another sigh of relief as the ordained order of things in the political class was further reset to normal with the naming of a man well connected to the establishment and business (see News Update of 17 December 2013). The Canberra Times described him as having "an air of authority" in a veiled reference to his immediate predecessor who was female. Apart from his military career, Cosgrove's claim to the job was apparently enhanced by his keen interest in ......sport! Undoubtedly "the Prime Minister's pick", we could not discern that anyone else had been consulted about the choice nor did journalists bother to inquire about this at the joint press conference where the GG designate appeared with the PM to answer questions. We did note a lot of flim-flam in government statements and the media about the importance of and leadership inherent in this largely invisible, ceremonial role as the onshore representative of the Queen of Australia. WfaAR notes that Cosgrove is reputed to be a monarchist. No doubt the strength of his conviction was fully tested by the PM before the appointment was announced (see News Update of 22 November 2013).

Jan 15

More British Royals visiting in 2014

Media reports say that that the States are vying with each other to host stages of this years visit by William and Kate. In true Oz fashion, bets are being laid as to whether Baby George (third in line to the Australian throne) will accompany his parents. After a lean period between the early 1990s and 2011, this will be the fourth official visit by the British royals in as many years. The Queen of Australia herself came ahead of CHOGM in 2011; Charles and Camilla for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and then Harry for the International Fleet Review in 2013. We also saw Anne jet in for a bushfire memorial service in 2009 followed by William twice, the first time in transit from New Zealand early in 2010 and then squeezing in some condoling over serious floods before his wedding in 2011. WfaAR comments: We are being manipulated by the Palace and the British Government for their own purposes - the visits have nothing to do with Australia - but no one here says anything. Australian taxpayers pick up the tab for these expensive celebrity events so we may as well invite the Kardashians. The royals themselves must roll their eyes and snigger all the way home over the antics and attitudes of the fawning colonials.

Jan 6

Another Coat of Arms

The Old Masters exhibition of 122 bark paintings at the National Museum includes "Coat of Arms" by Narritjin Maymuru painted in 1963, the only one to include non-traditional elements and a contemporary theme. It shows the joining together of British and Yolgnu law with the spearthrower as a symbol of authority; the Kangaroo representing the law and the earth; the Emu symbolising the knowledge and the sky; fresh water meeting salt as the sea and its creatures meet the landmass of the country represented by the familiar two dimensional outline of the whole continent labelled Australia, all reflecting "modern Australian society". Like many Indigenous artists, Narritjin Maymuru, a respected member of his clan, believed that art had the power to transcend cultural differences. Expression of identity is also a recurring theme in bark painting. ["Old Masters, A Celebration of Australia's Great Bark Artists", works from northern Arnhem Land 1948-1988, National Museum of Australia, Canberra until 20 July 2014]

More info >

Jan 1

Government to Start on Indigenous Recogition Referendum

The PM announces in his New Year message that he will start "the conversation about a constitutional referendum to recognise the first Australians. This would complete our Constitution rather than change it." Media outlets report that the Government intends to have the wording fixed by September but as yet nominates no planned date for when the referendum will be held. The Act of Recognition passed by the House of Representatives, supported by the then Opposition, will cease to have effect on 13 February 2015. Movement on this referendum is good news for the Republic one to follow. Note the emphasis in the second sentence referring to unfinished business in the way we govern ourselves. For more information about the Act of Recogition and Tony Abbott's Sydney Institute speech of 15 March 2013 "Aboriginal People will be at the Heart of a New Government in Word and Deed", click on link below.

More info >

Quick Info

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

more info >

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

Self portrait 1855, Newcastle Region Art Gallery NSW

more info >

Senate Inquiry

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

more info >