Dec 15

Official Result of First NZ Flag Referendum

It is a clear victory for the silver fern design with both options accounting for just under (49.42) or just over (50.58) half the votes cast. The so-called "people's choice", the Red Peak, faded to third but was still well ahead of the other two choices of the official flag committee. There were 1,546,734 postal votes cast (of 3,170,726 enrolled), a turnout of 48.78 percent, between 20 November and 11 December. Nearly 10 percent of the votes were deemed informal where a clear first preference could not be determined. Voting was optional preferential with the runner-up receiving more first preference votes than the winning design. Both flag referendums are binding on the government. A poll conducted at the same time voting concluded indicated that 69 percent of voters would choose the current flag with the Union Jack in the second referendum to be held between 3 and 24 March 2016. To see the winning design and the results, click on the link below. Both flags are now fluttering over many NZ towns and buildings to help people make up their minds

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Dec 14

Barbardos Sets the Date

The Prime Minister of Barbados has named 30 November 2016 as the date for the country to become a republic with a ceremonial president on the 50th anniversary of becoming a sovereign state. Like New Zealand, Barbados is following through quickly but the change is not yet assured. The ruling Democratic Labour Party has a majority in the upper house but not the lower house. A two-thirds majority parliamentary vote is  required and the Opposition is as yet undecided on its stance. Neighbouring Domenica (1978) and Trinidad and Tobago (1976) are both already republics. In 2012, Jamaica also announced it intends have its own head of state. Both Barbados and Jamaica, like Australia, are realms of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The last realm to remove QEII was Mauritius in 1992, before that Fiji in 1987. The number of her realms has halved during the Queen's reign.See also News Updates of 6 Jan 2012 (Jamaica) and 23 March 2015 (Barbados).

Nov 24

Royal Morning Tea with Purpose

With a lead-in lush picture of Diana and Charles in Newcastle during the 1983 royal tour, where your gaze is immediately drawn to Diana radiant in pale pink, hardly noticing our next King, we find out seven pages later that the Australian Women's Weekly is hosting a book-signing and morning tea at $40 a head for a "lavish" new book, "The Royals in  Australia". The AWW states that the author, Juliet Rieden Royal Correspondent and Deputy Editor of the magazine, was granted access to the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle to research the book, a privilege not granted to other well-credentialed writers on the royals including BBC journalist, Andrew Marr. ["Diana in Love. Before the fairytale ended" by Juliet Rieden, AWW, November 2015 edition pages 91-98]

Nov 15

End of Royal Visit

Charles and Camilla jet out after a low-key inspection of the colony reputed to have cost taxpayers $500,000, probably a modest estimate of the true costs. Similar to their 2012 visit, they attended highly stage-managed events indulging their interests and mixing with people like themselves. Crowds were very small indeed. It was not edifying to see primary school children bussed to vantage points behind crowd-control fences in South Australia, waving flags with prominent Union Jacks. There were two rest days without public engagements after Sydney on 11 November where the royal pair were sprung pottering around the pool in their cozzies by paparazzi. Then the final two days in Western Australia were completely overshadowed by the events in Paris. While our Head of State sent a short condolence note of two sentences to the French president, her son and our next King, made a public statement about the bombings beachside in Perth, that looked and sounded slightly out of place. Our republican Prime Minister is to be congratulated for keeping his engagement with the royals to the minimum and making no visible fuss of them, leaving for a trip to Indonesia in the middle of their stay. This made a refreshing change after Tony Abbott's over-the-top treatment of royal visitors and gushing statements of praise and deference. The concept of royal visits continues to be worthy of deep reflection. They are cringeworthy.

Nov 14

PM Drops Zeal for Republic

Sophie Morris, Chief Political Correspondent for The Saturday Paper, chooses the new PM's weak pursuit of his republic aim thus far as the theme for her Page 1 article. She says he is "now content to let the ALP steal the debate's lead" by making the case "voters cared little for the cause to which he had, in the 1990s, dedicated years of his life and millions of his own money." Link below will take you to Sophie's article. ["Turnbull gives up on his beloved republic" by Sophie Morris, The Saturday Paper, 14-20 November 2015]

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Nov 6

Refreshing View on Charles and Camilla

Yes, they will arrive on 9 November for the seventh royal visit in four years, keeping up the practice of one visit a year by the Queen's immediate heirs since 2011. Charles and Camilla were last here in 2012 on the Diamond Jubilee tour. Judith Ireland, a national political reporter for Fairfax, presents a different take on the pair correctly identifying them as the C Team (in all respects) but highlighting some of their more notable features rather than the demeaning dross we usually hear about them both. Charles will certainly succeed his mother who will not abdicate and that is as much as there is to be said about it. Forget Diana, Charles and Camilla are also one of the 20th century's greatest love stories. Read Judith's article by clicking on the link below ["It's time we brought Charles and Camilla in from the cold" by Judith Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax online, 6 November 2015]

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Nov 2

Dames Begone!

Prime Minister Turnbull announces the end of dames and knights. He said that Cabinet recently reconsidered the Order of Australia and concluded these awards do not belong in a modern Australian honours system. Nor, WfaAR says, do awards copying Britain's hierarchical class system sit easily in our equality-based society that lacks a common history with Britain where knighthoods go back to medieval English honours personally bestowed by the sovereign. The Government is to recommend to the Queen that she amend the Letters Patent, that establish the Order of Australia, so that dameships and knighthoods are abolished. The four Australian appointees since March 2014 - Quentin Bryce, Marie Bashir, Peter Cosgrove and Angus Houston - will retain their titles (Dame/Sir) unless they renounce them, as will Prince Philip, the Queen's husband, the sole foreign recipient. This last, widely ridiculed, award was the stunning catalyst for intense pressure on Tony Abbott's tenure as Prime Minster from January 2015. He faced a leadership challenge from his own party within a fortnight of its announcement. WfaAR also notes that some of the latest dames and knights are diffident about using their titles - funny about that - and that the media frequently refers to them by just their name unadorned. The move to abolish knighthoods received wide coverage in the international media particularly in Asia.

Sep 24

Time to Flag a Change

Elizabeth Farrelly comments "Flags, like republics are trivialities. Mere symbols. Winged imagery. Australians, being pragmatists, prefer concrete achievements....But, it's also true that, when rapid directional change is needed, symbolism can have immense power" (like, WfaAR says, appointing the first female Defence Minister, also a strong republican). She also says that we were slow to modernise in the 20th century but "our future-yearning, pent by fear, once released, is unstoppable. With a new PM, she continues, we may bound ahead with similar alacrity. Turning to flags, she writes, "...a flag is not a logo. It's not a poster or even a brand. A flag is heraldry. It's a standard not meant to sell but to inspire; to stimulate not our desire glands but our sense of purpose." Farrelly plumps for the  brilliant Hundertwasser design embracing the land or the Indigenous flag as uniquely Australian. The illustration to her article  - click on link below - in Fairfax features the PM with a new broom of banners and an unmistakeable red bandanna in the background symbolising the republican movement.....["It's time to flag a change" by Elizabeth Farrelly, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times, 24 September 2015]

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Sep 23

Fifth Design Added to NZ Flag Vote

It did not take long. Another design ("The Red Peak") is today added to the choice for the new New Zealand flag after 50,000 people signed a petition and a relentless social media campaign. Click on link below to see this design - still no green one. It is reported that an opinion poll this week revealed that 69 percent favoured retaining the existing flag with the Union Jack. See also News Items of 11 September and 13 August below.

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Sep 20

Other ALP Women Parliamentarians Active on Republic

As well as Senator Katy Gallagher (ALP ACT), there are other Labor women active on the republic in Parliament. Labor for an Australian Republic was formed in February 2012. Four of the State and Territory Parliamentary Convenors are currently women: Terri Butler (Member for Griffith, Qld);  Kate Ellis (Adelaide, SA); Melissa Parke (Fremantle, WA) and Jane Garrett, Member for Brunswick in the Victorian Legislative Assembly. Senator Lisa Singh from Tasmania is one of the two National Parliamentary Convenors of LfAR.

Sep 15

PM Change Results in Republic Supporting Duo

Malcolm Turnbull taking over as Prime Minister heralds the first PM/Leader of the Opposition combination in favour of a Republic at the helm of the national government since Turnbull was Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister was Labor's Kevin Rudd between September 2008 and December 2009. This may or may not bring some momentum but at least the two leaders, Turnbull and the ALP's Bill Shorten, are both in favour. Deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop, is also a republican, as is Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek.

Sep 14

Let Queen Preside over Inauguration of Australian Republic

Amanda Vanstone comments on the new milestone in our Head of State's reign and lauds a woman who was thrust into duty in her 20s by circumstances out of her control and dutifully served ever since. However, she writes that "We have grown into our own space and culture. The pomp and ceremony that so fits the British system is out of place here. Ditto hereditary privilege." She adds that the Queen should not be treated like a demented geriatric or a weakling, rather she should preside over the handover ceremony to the Republic in which we got to say 'thank you' and pay proper respect to this wonderful woman". Conservatives, she says, should now be working to find the best model and that should not be done in haste. "Not working to find a suitable model is as dumb as not insuring your home because you think it unlikely to burn down." These are views that Vanstone has expressed before and, as a former Minister in the Howard Government, it is a pity that the Liberals do not listen more attentively to her on this subject. ["Why the Queen and Angela Merkel are great female role models" by Amanda Vanstone, The Age, 14 September 2015]

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Sep 11

Flurry in New Zealand Flag Referendum

After forty designs were reduced to four for the first referendum, there is a little ruffle in paradise after a negative response to the choices and with pressure mounting for a popular fifth design - not featuring a fern - to be included, as well as a campaign to boycott the referendum altogether. There has been no response from the New Zealand Government as yet but we already see some signs of the continuing issues with referendums and popular votes to add more options and/or split the vote. For WfaAR's part, we were surprised that all the designs chosen by the panel featured either black, white, blue or red and not one of the striking green/teal designs made the shortlist.

Sep 8

Motion for Republic in Senate

Senator Katy Gallagher (ACT) newly announced as co-convenor of the parliamentary republic group (see News Item of 27 August) puts a motion to the Senate asking it to note: that there is (a) significant support across the Australian community for a republic with an Australian head of state and (b) that the process for change could include a constitutional convention to discuss models; a plebiscite to gauge the level of support for the proposal as well as preferred method for appointing the Head of State and a referendum. The motion was quickly hosed down by Senator Mitch Fifield (also a republican) on behalf of the Government, still headed by monarchist PM Tony Abbott at this stage, saying that serious proposals for constitutional change should not be prosecuted by general business motions in parliament and should be left to s.128 of the Constitution and: "The government does not support this motion, but, given that it has no consequence, we will not delay the Senate further from considering issues more vital to the Australian people." So that was that.

Sep 1

Long Stint for our Head of State

On 9 September, Queen Elizabeth II of England will become the longest reigning Australian  - and British - monarch. This provoked sharp analysis from Polly Toynbee in The Guardian of the sort we never see in the Australian media. Why is this so? Toynbee says that there is little remarkable about Elizabeth's reign and that the charade should end with this queen before she hands over to the longest ever Prince of Wales in waiting. ["Let Queen Elizabeth reign until the end - then stop this charade" by Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, 1 September 2015] . To access the article, which attracted 3,276 comments, click on the link below.

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Aug 28

Senator Katy Gallagher to Lead Parliamentary Republic Group

The newest Labor Senator, Katy Gallagher from the ACT who joined the Senate in March this year, will co-convene a new federal parliamentary friendship group on the Republic. Naturally, the other convenor, Treasurer Joe Hockey from the Liberals, grabbed the media attention for all the wrong reasons as in "hasn't he got more to do?" and was uniformly described as leading a new push for the Republic from within parliament, which is not true. These groups are described as "meeting once or twice a year over tea and biscuits with a speaker" so are more about general support than direct action. But this is the revival of a cross-parliamentary group that fizzled out a few years ago so good to see it back in business. Senator Gallagher gave the National Republic Lecture in 2014 (see News Item of 13 June 2014) when she was still the ACT Chief Minister.

Aug 27

Saying It Like It Is

Fairfax journalist, Stephanie Peatling, has long written about the republic. She again comments on its fate even with an uptick in ARM's profile as it seeks to reignite political action even with a monarchist diehard as Prime Minister and little prospect in sight. She identifies five commonsense angles that will need to come into play before anyone starts paying attention (a) the Queen dies; (b) Prince George becomes less cute; (c) Prince Philip is awarded another knighthood; (d) an assurance we can still participate in the Commonwealth Games and (e) lots more people need to want to do it. (d) is insightful although wrongly captioned and this is what she has to say: "Republicans have always struggled to argue that on the one hand becoming a republic would be an important symbolic step that would cut the final apron strings to Britain while on the other emphasising nothing much would change. Like the flag. Or the national anthem. Or still being able to thrash New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games. 'Make the change for (largely) sameness' is a tricky slogan." Seems there is more work to be done.

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Aug 26

Women Did Get a Mention

Peter FitzSimons, minus the trademark red bandanna, gives his first address as ARM chair at the National Press Club in Canberra. Some commentators felt his speech was light on as no women were mentioned. But three were: Dolly Parton, Senator Katy Gallagher and spouse Lisa Wilkinson, a well-known television presenter, who was able to explain to him why 'Diana' was the story of the late 20th century as she took on the staid court and how Kate, George and Charlotte now follow in her wake explaining the appeal of the British - and Australian - royal family. Some women present thought it useful that FitzSimons seeks the counsel of women to explain things he does not understand. WfaAR noted that even that male anthem "Beneath the Southern Cross we stand" was quoted in some parts of the speech that ressembled a half-time rouse-up by a losing coach.

Aug 13

NZ Legislation for Flag Referendums

A bill passes the NZ parliament for two referendums to change the flag and remove the Union Jack. There will be two postal votes: one between 20 November and 11 December, the second in March 2016. Firstly, voters will be asked to rank four designs in order of priority. In the second poll, voters will choose between the current flag and the most preferred alternative from the first vote. NZ does not have compulsory voting. The cost of the change is estimated as NZ$2.66m. The Flag Consideration Panel of 12 members (five women), appointed by the Government in February 2015 selected a long list of 40 designs - not a kiwi in sight - from 10,292 submissions and will decide the final four for the first vote. Australia, this is how it is done! Check out the NZ Government's informative flag change website, click on link below

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Aug 8

NZ Empty Honours Blasted

The editorial in the NZ Herald describes the appointment of Prince Charles to head the miniscule NZ military as "discordant" (in the light of the referendum in November to remove the Union Jack from the NZ flag) adding that "ridiculous military titles" will jar with those who see the honorary appointments as a colonial hangover. Speculating that they could have been made to provide a reason for the Prince's visit in November, the paper says that this rationale is about as spurious as those given three years ago when the Duke of Edinburgh was appointed to the Order of New Zealand, the country's highest honour, restricted to 20 living citizens. It considers that the forthcoming visit otherwise appears to have no purpose and adds that the appointments "hark back to the stuffiness that once turned NZers off the monarchy". It ends by saying that while William and Harry are popular, "empty honours for their father can only aid the republican cause". [Editorial, The New Zealand Herald, 8 August 2015]

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Aug 3

Future King to Head NZ Military Forces

NZ Prime Minister John Key announces that Prince Charles will be recognised as Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army Field Marshal and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force during a visit to NZ in November (after a visit to Australia). The appointment was made by the Queen of New Zealand who is also the Queen of Australia. See our News Item of 3 May below on similar royal appointments made in Canada a few months ago. There is some past history here. On 16 June 2012, the Queen appointed Prince Charles to 5 star rank in all three UK services recognising his dedicated support to HM in her role as Commander-in-Chief. Surely, we're not next in this conga line of sycophancy? (the titular heads of our three services, however, are not yet vacant as the Duke of Edinburgh was appointed to them in 1954).

Jul 31

Prince Philip Gong Keeps Playing

While criticism of the PM is currently concentrated on his support for the Speaker after her lavish use of taxpayer-provided travel funds was revealed several weeks ago, that outlandish award of a knighthood to our British Head of State's spouse in January remains fresh in voters' minds and can still provoke a negative reaction. Here is an example from Fairfax media, "The damage to the Abbott Government is difficult to overstate, with Bishop's conduct [House of Reps Speaker, Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop] seen as symptomatic of an administration out of touch - just like Abbott's awarding of a knighthood to Prince Philip". ["It's too late to wash off the extravagance stain" by Michael Gordon, Fairfax media, 31 July 2015] 

Jul 29

In Favour of the "Democratic Monarchy"

During Margaret Throsby's interview with the former NSW Governor, Marie Bashir comments how much it had been her privilege to welcome not only the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to the State but also "Prince Charles and his lovely wife." When questioned if she had any republican tendencies, she demurred but added "we have been well served by the 'democratic monarchy' since 1788". So that makes it clear where her appointment as a Dame by the Queen has its origins in contrast to former G-G Quentin Bryce who had no problems foreshadowing her republican sentiments at the conclusion of her term (see News Item of 22 November 2013).  Dame Marie also observed she thought it was useful to have a senior person in government free from political affiliation. This is exactly what a President would do as head of state, especially an elected head of state with defined powers and roles. [Midday Interview, ABC Classic FM, 12 noon, 29 July 2015]

Jul 24

ALP Roller Coaster for Next Republic Referendum

It is a day of highs and lows. First of all, we had Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, commit to a referendum by 2025. That's 10 years away. It is a plus of sorts to have a date but his speech to the ALP National Conference contained two rather lacklustre sentences on the subject under the heading "Social Justice" delivered with little enthusiasm (compared with four bland sentences on 25 January at the end of his speech at a booklaunch - see News Item of 25 Jan). The long timeline again puts the Republic on the never never: neither Shorten nor the ALP might be in Government by 2025. The conference itself endorsed that the next ALP Government would have a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Republic; there would be a Constitutional Convention, a plebiscite (non-binding) on the method of selecting the Head of State and then a referendum. ARM called for the ALP to commit to a plebiscite by 2020 but its claim that Tony Abbott will be the last monarchist PM could be a bit off the mark. ["Bill Shorten calls for Australian republic by 2025 at Labor national conference" by Judith Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald online, 24 July 2015]

More info >

Jul 23

PM Starry-Eyed Over Union Jack

The PM is so dazzled by the Union Jack on the flag that he completely flubbed how many points the Federation star has. The PM said six when in fact it already has seven - one for each State and one added for the combined territories of the Commonwealth in 1909. This got into the media following a Premiers ' retreat ahead of a COAG meeting with one unexpected outcome being a plan for Northern Territory statehood by 2018. If this goes through - the NT already tried in 1998 but failed - it will be of keen interest to referendum watchers like republicans because it will be easier to get proposed constitutional changes up in four States out of seven. The new state will have a relatively small number of voters, for example, fewer than the ACT which will remain a territory as required under the Constitution.

Jul 20

Another Bloke to Chair ARM

Peter Fitzsimons is named as the Australian Republican Movement's new chair replacing Geoff Gallop. Bit of a blokey choice who rules from his rugby pulpit in the Saturday  edition of the Sydney Morning Herald where he has an opinion on everything, most especially sport. May appeal to women interested in piratical, red-bandanna-wearing blokes but he's written a book on Eureka and he's got the right sort of folksy lingo that includes lambasting the royals so we are prepared to suspend judgement and see what happens. The two ARM deputy chairs are currently both female.

Jun 28

Important Symbolism of Flags

If anyone is in doubt about the importance of what is on flags, they should be paying attention to the debate in the United States over the Confederate flag after a racially motivated massacre on 17 June (see link below for historical background and details of increasing trends to remove traces of the Confederate flag from state legislatures and merchandise following a strong public reaction including from the US Head of State). The woman who scaled a flagpole and removed the Confederate flag flown outside the South Carolina State House is Brittany Newsome. Other flags are also flown outside this State House; only Mississippi has the Confederate flag on its state flag in the top left-hand corner. PM Abbott may well want to reflect on his habit of appearing in front of an ever-increasing number of Australian flags with a prominent Union Jack.

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Jun 27

Changes to Citizenship Act Make Australians "Subjects" Again

Professor Kim Rubenstein of the Australian National University states that changes to Australia's citizenship laws where citizenship will be cancelled if a terrorist is a dual citizen (thought to affect hundreds of thousands of Australians) are a profound shift in what it means to be an Australian citizen. Being able to be banished or exiled is similar to being subject to "the power of the monarch from feudal times" unlike the concept of citizenship in modern democratic nations, a more equal relationship, based on rights and mutual responsibilities. "Subject status," she says, "makes citizens subject to the whim of the executive when their allegiance is no longer proven." ["Citizen caned" by Tom Allard, The Canberra Times, 27 June 2015]

Jun 25

Final Report on Indigenous Recogition Referendum Released

The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, with members from both houses of parliament, tables its final report after working for nearly two years. It recommends that the referendum be held when there is the highest chance of success, without nominating a date, and repeal of the race-based provisions of our current Constitution (s 25 and s 51(xxvi)) [Recs 2-4,9]. Three legal options are proposed without favouring any one and no final form of words is recommended. Of particular interest to republicans, is the call for "constitutional conventions as a mechanism for building support for a referendum and engaging a broad cross-section of the community while focussing the debate" [Rec 7] and that a day be set aside in both Houses of Parliament to debate the report's recommendations [Rec 1]. However, Chair Ken Wyatt's forward, foreshadows major problems for this referendum, by noting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seek nothing less than protection from racial discrimination in the Constitution itself (as opposed to only under the the Racial Discrimination Act). See also our News Item for 30 January 2015. The link below will take you to the Chair's foreward and a link for downloading the Committee's report.

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Jun 24

Spotlight on our Head of State's Wealth

With news that revenue from the royal estates could be retained in Scotland with legislation going through to give the Scottish parliament the ability to manage royal assets in Scotland, Anne Perkins comments that the substructure of the monarchy and its dazzling estate have been fleetingly revealed. Among the array of assets listed are Australia and Canada! Also today, Republic, the UK republic group, called on the royal family to leave Buckingham Palace and for it to be turned into a museum after it was announced that a long-overdue upgrade would cost GBP 150m  - thankfully, we have not been asked to contribute thus far. ["Scotland has the right approach to Queen's sausage factory" by Anne Perkins, The Guardian online 24 June 2015]

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Jun 22

"Young Royals" Good Reason to Vote YES Republic

Australian Women's Weekly releases "Young Royals" with sickly icing sugar pink banner for only $9.95. Other confection contained in this publication featuring George and Charlotte on the front cover are articles on "How Harry, William, Kate and George are modernising the monarchy" (no, they are not, just photogenic, rich, young(er) people doing what the monarchy has always done), "A Day with Zara and baby Mia" plus "Inside the Royal Nanny Superschool" - just what we need to know and just what we need to make us ditch the constitutional monarchy with the British royals at its zenith and insist on being Republic. George must be a fast starter if he's modernising the monarchy at only two years old.

Jun 15

Ditch Knighthoods and Rearrange Public Holidays

With Queen's Birthday fresh in mind, WfaAR is published in The Canberra Times on the subject of Australian honours, the need to get rid of knighthoods (now handed on to the Council of the Order of Australia), the desirability of making the Queen's birthday holiday, the day to mark Reconciliation while national Wattle Day on 1 September would make a good day to inaugurate the Republic. Click on our letter below.

Download: Letter to The Canberra Times [4KB, pdf]

Jun 8

Bow Down Colonials - It's the Queen's Birthday

Sarah Brasch, WfaAR's national convenor, ponders the real meaning of the Queen's Birthday holiday and wonders if anyone in this country gives the reason for a day off more than a passing thought - and if not, why not? Her article was published on Independent Australia online on 8 June 2015, click on link below.

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May 26

Plain Speaking on the Republic

Sue Lappeman writes in the Gold Coast Bulletin and gets straight to the point. She says, "We long to be part of the modern world but then show ourselves up as unsophisticated hicks when confronted with anything more complex than a football game or singing competition.There are two topical issues guaranteed to bring on unimaginative and childish debates in this country: the republic and same-sex marriage. I’m sorry but I just do not understand why both have not been embraced by a country that professes to be classless — in a good way — and tolerant. But it is 2015 and we are still tied to a monarchy that is nothing more than a tourist attraction in its own country." Read Sue's full article below ["It's time Australia embraced the republic and same-sex marriage" by Sue Lappeman, Gold Coast Bulletin online, 26 May 2015]

More info >

May 11

Berlin Philharmonic to Hold Election for Next Conductor

The notoriously conservative Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra holds an election to decide the next conductor to follow Sir Simon Rattle in 2018. While all members of the orchestra could vote, the process was not clear. Members were able to vote for anyone as there was no list of candidates but how things were narrowed down after that and how many votes would be required to win had not been determined.

May 7

Harry Leaves with Regret

Prince Harry, now fifth in line after Charlotte's arrival, quits our shores to return home. He is claimed to have said that he didn't want to leave. His latest sojourn cost the Department of Defence - and Australian taxpayers - $115,000 which would have only been a fraction of the total cost of the visit but, at least, it was less than the $150,000 cost of his October 2013 jaunt.

May 3

Canadian Military Appointments for Charles and Anne

The Canadian Government announces the appointments of Prince Charles and Princess Anne as Commodores-in-Chief in the Royal Canadian Navy by the Queen of Canada (also Queen of Australia). The official government website reveals that this is the first time that members of the British royal family have been given RCN posts. It also says that Commodore-in-Chief is an honorary appointment, ceremonial in nature, whose purpose is to maintain a direct link between the unit and the British royal family; is bestowed by the Queen on various members of her family and that such appointments have been made to the British Royal Navy since 2006. Prince Charles and Princess Anne are both already Colonel-in-Chief to seven Canadian military regiments.

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May 2

A Week of Royal and Royal Baby Drivel

The week was capped off by the birth of fourth in line, Princess Charlotte to the Cambridges. At least, she no longer faces sex discrimination after the passing of Britain's royal succession bill - Australia having made it over the line less than two months before the birth - and will take her place in the succession to the Australian throne ahead of any younger brothers. The rest of the sugary overdose we will leave to the popular media. We also found out that the Queen took more pleasure congratulating the Welsh Guards on its 100th anniversary than from any of the more than 8,000 letters she will sign for centenarians this year (!) and that Harry had partaken of a QVB, a Queen Victoria burger, with amusement during a visit to a fast food outlet in Perth

Apr 29

Conflicting Polls about Popularity of the Queen

Here is something to chew on about what Australians really think about being a constitutional monarchy as opposed to the popularity of the Queen. WfaAR believes that the polls do not draw out the confusion between constitutional and celebrity monarchy complicated by warm feelings about someone who has been around for a long time and whose role in the government of Australia we know little about. However, John Warhurst's article has some good news on how well our national republican inclinations are holding up in the face of hard-driven and well marketed celebrity monarchy. ["Resilient republican sentiments" by John Warhurst, The Age online, 29 April 2015]

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Apr 25

And Another Royal Visit

This time is it the Queen's cousin and 35th in line to the throne, Prince Edward the Duke of Kent. Officially visiting for Anzac Day in his capacity as President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Duke also commemorated the National Arboretum that could have quite easily been done by an Australian. (In fact, it had already been officially opened by the ACT Chief Minister in 2013 for the Centenary of Canberra). This is the eighth British royal visit to Australia since 2011. We are being overrun to make sure "they from over there" are cemented into our psyche. We may not want them but they seem intent on hanging on to us.

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Apr 23

Queen Awards Duke of Edinburgh Australian Knighthood

In the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, an award she approved on the Prime Minister's sole recommendation that was widely ridiculed - please see link below for photo and story. In the foreground is Australian High Commissioner and devoted monarchist, Alexander Downer, no doubt keen on his own knighthood in the footsteps of his father, an earlier High Commissioner to the Court of St James. [Queen presents Prince Philip Australian knighthood, AAP, The Guardian online 23 April 2015]

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Apr 15

The Story of our Succession to the Crown Act

WfaAR's Sarah Brasch explains how long it took to get the six Australian States and the Commonwealth on the same page to give effect to changes that the British wanted to make to their succession laws. She finds a complex and conflicted process which shows how out of date our constitutional arrangements really are, much too slow and cumbersome for the 21st century. Read Sarah's article "The Future of the Federation: constitutionally weak and foreign" written for Independent Australia online and published on 14 April 2015.

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Apr 14

New Twist in Indigenous Recognition Push

"Constitutional conservatives", who appear to be all white males opposing any change to the Constitution, now propose that there should be a "declaration" recognising the place of our First Peoples in the nation's history and culture. This would be decided after a national competition, voted on and used at national, civic and religious events. It will sit outside the Constitution and have no legal force. The day the declaration is adopted is to be a national public holiday. This concept is supported by Noel Pearson as a "breakthrough" because he thinks the current proposal to abolish the race clause in Section 7 of the Constitution is a recipe for conflict throughout the community although he made it clear that the declaration would have to complement constitutional recognition. He says that this idea should be debated by a series of Indigenous conventions. Reaction was, understandably, cautious. ["Support to recognise Indigenous Australians" by Michael Gordon, Fairfax, 14 April 2015]

Apr 6

Reminder from Bob Hawke

On Margaret Throsby's Midday Interview (ABC Classic FM Mon-Fri at 12 noon), the guest was former Labor PM Bob Hawke. Margaret started by asking him about the Abbott knighthoods introduced last year. Hawke replied that the measure of their worth was that even John Howard thought they were a bad idea. Then he said that he had suggested to the previous Labor Government that they hold a vote for the Republic to come into effect as soon as the Queen died but they had squibbed it. At least it is a new idea (one worth pursuing even if the grounds for it are shaky and deferential: no one wants to offend the Queen, that's sexist) and a shift for Hawke who had previously advocated for no change until the Queen dies but now proposes some action to go with it, that is to be ready to put it in place before Charles formally takes the throne. It also means doing all the preparatory work beforehand.

Apr 6

Harry's Back!!

Prince Harry arrives for another pointless visit, his second in 18 months and the seventh royal visit since 2011 noting the drought from 1999 to 2011 interrupted only the short 2006 visit by the Queen to open the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne during which there was a right royal snafu over the playing of whose national anthem, hers or ours - in the end, it was a medley of both. The Palace seems to have come to the conclusion in the last couple of years that the Republic effect has worn off (wrong as we saw with the Prince Phillip gong in January). Seems we have to keep Naughty Harry occupied. This 4 week visit is so critical that he's breaking off  (out?) in the middle of it to represent UK, not us, at Gallipoli centenary. Click on the link for a really good take on the latest royal stopover: "Prince Harry Visits the Country He Somehow Still Owns" from The Backburner on SBS News online 6 April 2015 (good stuff SBS). Meanwhile over at Royal Central online the female journos are all breathlessly in awe:

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Mar 27

Act of Recogition Fades into Sunset

And so the Act of Recognition, and with it the promise of the referendum on Indigenous Recognition, expires at the end of its two year time limit. There is now no firm date set for this referendum - seriously the first step to the Republic - other than PM Abbott's undertaking  of "2017", that is after the next election, to mark 50 years since the successful 1967 referendum for the Commonwealth to make laws for the advancement of Aboriginal people and to count them in the national census.

Mar 23

Barbados to Remove Queen as Head of State

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announces that Barbados will remove the Queen and create a ceremonial President for his small Caribbean country colonised by the British in 1627. Barbados became independent in 1966 and has also in the last few years been visited by a number of British royals. Jamaica announced similar plans in January 2012 (see News Item for 6 Jan) but has not achieved the change to date. ["Barbados Plans to remove Queen as head of State almost 400 years after British colonisation" by Lizzie Dearden, The Independent online 23 March 2015. Note Australian PM Julia Gillard in one of the accompanying photos.]

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Mar 21

King Charles III doesn't need to use "the bathroom"

To add to the amazing qualities of his mother that were revealed during the Diamond Jubilee, we now discover from his latest biographer that Prince Charles is a sexy, mesmerising dancer and doesn't need to use the bathroom because "he knows exactly how to hydrate his body to just the right degree" according to his godson. He also costs British taxpayers a fortune but pays no tax on his earnings. Read this article about Charles's current visit to America during which he was complimented by President Obama. ["You Adore Prince Charles, America? Keep Him" by Catherine Bennett in The Guardian online, 21 March 2015].  Oxford-educated journalist Catherine Bennett is the partner of Robert Sackville-West, 7th Baron Sackville.

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Mar 19

Succession to the Crown Act Passed

The Commonwealth bill was finally passed by the national Parliament on 19 March and assented into law on 24 March after more than three years in the making. With finesse in coordination, the Governor-General proclaimed the law to commence at "the beginning of 26 March 2015 by United Kingdom time" at which time the UK law came into effect in all 16 realms. Professor Anne Twomey from Sydney University described it as "a small blow struck for women" as female children assume the crown in birth order, not males first as it has been since 1701 (we add: also for Catholics wanting to marry the monarch and for those who require the monarch's permission to marry whittled down now to six people ie the first six in line to the British throne).

Read Anne's excellent article below ["Power to the princesses: Australia wraps up succession law changes" by Anne Twomey, The Conversation online 26 March 2015] in which she explains that, "This does not remove all discriminatory aspects of the rules of succession [to the British throne]. Family and religion still play a critical role. A person can only be sovereign if she or he is a Protestant in communion with the Church of England and can only ascend if she or he is descended from Sophia, Electress of Hanover." The only hurdle remaining is the hearing of a challenge to the Canadian succession change law due to be heard in the Quebec Courts by June 2015. The Wikipedia article under the title: Perth Agreement is most informative on the history of this process since the decision was taken by all realms to make the change in November 2011.

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Mar 17

Female MPs speak on Succession to Crown Bill

Speeches in both the House of Representatives (17 March) and the Senate (19 March) were made by a number of female MPs including in the Senate: Senator Jacinta Collins (Lab NSW) and Senator Christine Milne (Greens Tas) and in the House of Representatives: Fiona Scott (Lib, Member for Lindsay NSW); Melissa Price (Lib, Durack, WA); Gai Brodtmann (Lab, Canberra, ACT); Terri Butler (Lab, Griffith, Qld); Sarah Henderson (Lib, Corio, Vic) and Alannah MacTiernan (Lab, Perth, WA). The Labor and Greens speakers spoke in favour of a long-overdue Republic. WfaAR congratulates Victorian Liberal, Sarah Henderson, for announcing herself a republican while also saying that she did not think the time is right for a change at present. In closing the debate, Christian Porter, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister who is the Liberal Member for Pearce WA, noted that this was only the third time that s 51(xxxviii) of the Constitution had been used since Federation in 1901 - the other two occasions being for the Australia Act (1986) and the Coastal Waters (State Powers) Act 1980 where the Commonwealth has had to act on behalf of all the States.

Mar 13

Push Back on Reinstated Language of Monarchy in Queensland

After the determined efforts of the Newman Liberal National Government in Queensland to reinforce the monarchy at every turn, there is hope that things will change - and change back - under the new Labor Government elected in January. Find out what the Queensland Government was up to between 2012 and 2014 and review the stats for the Republic vote in 1999 when Queensland had the lowest YES vote of any State or Territory - click on link. ["Language of Monarchy over in Queensland?" by Glenn Davies, Independent Australia online, 13 March 2015]

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Mar 5

Royal Succession Bill Finally Tabled

The Succession to the Crown bill 2015 is tabled in the House of Representatives with first and second reading speeches by Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Christian Porter, Lib WA, before debate was adjourned. The 13 page bill and explanatory memorandum are both clinical affairs belieing nearly 18 months of turmoil trying to get the Commonwealth law into place and could only be tabled after royal assent was given to the last State law - that of WA - on 3 March. Australia is the slowest of the 15 realms required to pass complementary legislation so that the British law to allow succession to its Crown - and ours - in birth order regardless of gender (and some other improvements completely irrelevant to us; see News of 22 January, 8 March and 26 April 2013) can take effect. The Canadian law, passed early in 2013, is subject to a High Court challenge. Sky News headlined the bill as, "Our monarchy being modernised", a somewhat out-of-place sentiment for Australia in the 21st century. The difficulties between the Commonwealth and the States, led by the Queensland Government, over the status of the State Constitutions and their direct relationships to the British Crown absorbed a large amount of effort that could have been directed more productively. This demonstrated that the Federation cannot work efficiently under current arrangements quite apart from us being required to make complicated changes to our laws to facilitate an anachronism of a foreign organisation foisted upon us by Section 1 of the Constitution. WfaAR disagrees with Mr Porter that the bill "ensures the continued relevance of the monarchy to Australia and her people and reflects the commitment that all Australians have to equality and non-discrimination". If it did, we would jettison the British monarchy immediately. 

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Feb 20

PM Turnbull and the Republic

What are the prospects for the Republic if Malcolm Turnbull were Prime Minister? National Convenor, Sarah Brasch, writes on this subject for Independent Australia online, click on link below. She is not optimistic but takes the opportunity to make some suggestions about how things could be moved along regardless.

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Feb 16

Woman Takes Over at ARM

Allison Henry, Junior Vice President of the Australian Republican Movement takes over temporarily as National Director after the departure of David Morris. (Timothy Mayfield was appointed to the ND's job on 27 May 2015.)

Feb 13

Death of Faith Bandler

A woman who would have made a great Austalian head of state. We could have all voted for her. Farewell to Republican Faith Bandler, a person of enormous dignity, wealth of experience, foresight, patience, gravitas and commonsense: the real deal. See our News Item of  25 May 2007 and click below for more information about her admirable life of activism. ["Vale Faith Bandler, anti-racism intellectual and activist" by Victoria Grieves, The Conversation online, 16 February 2015]

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Feb 5

Prince Phillip Knighthood is Anachronistic

Senator Lisa Singh says Australia's collective shock on hearing the announcement underscores why the monarchy is an anachronism for us and how alien the concept of knighthoods is to our contemporary identity. She also comments that the Prime Minister and his government are looking backwards into the past focused on monarchical models. He is, she says, "leading a government of yesterdays men furiously advocating last century's ideas". WfaAR would make that the 19th rather than 20th century. Lisa Singh is a Labor Senator for Tasmania and co-convenor of the  Australian Parliamentary Branch of Labor for an Australian Republic. ["The Prince Phillip Knighthood and the Australian Republic by Lisa Singh, The Diplomat, 5 February 2015]

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Feb 2

Fiji to Remove Union Jack from Flag

A national competition will be held to find a new design (the fifth; the last one dates to 1970) for the 45th anniversary of independence from the UK on 10 October this year. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, “The Union flag belongs to the British, not us. Britain is a country with whom we are friends and will continue to be so, but they (symbols on flag) are not symbols that are relevant to any Fijian in the 21st century and they should go." [Reported on SBS News online 3/5 February 2015] 

Jan 31

PM Breathes New Life into Republic Debate

With memberships of the ARM shifting sharply upwards after the Prince Phillip knighthood, the PM has single-handedly restarted community interest in the Republic.  David Flint from ACM described it as "a storm in a teacup" that would blow over in a couple of days. While the baby boomers are the most committed to getting rid of the monarchy, he says, they have failed to pass on their enthusiasm to new generations of voters since 1999 while the monarchists have successfully harnessed "the celebrity cult of Kate, Wills and Baby George to recruit the under 30s". Gabrielle Hendry who is 20, speaking for the Monarchist League says, "I think there is a huge surge of support among young people for the monarchy. There is a constitutional element to it - just having a stable Westminster system that provides checks and balance - and the revitalisation of the monarchy itself." Adam Collins, 30 from the ARM thinks 2015 is a good time to start talking about the Republic again, "It isn't about the celebrity of royalty, it's about being sophisticated and mature enough to produce a head of state that is one of our own, it's unfinished business for our country." [Quoted in "Republican Hopes Up after Tony Abbott's Prince Phillip Gaffe" by Lauren Wilson, The Courier-Mail, 31 January 2015]

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Jan 30

Artist and Founding ARM Member Dies

New Zealand born artist, Colin Lanceley (1938-2015), came to Australia in 1940. After 20 years living in the UK from the mid 1960s, he returned to Australia and became a founding member of the Australian Republican Movement in the early 1990s. He was a member of the Council of the National Gallery of Australia and is well represented in Australian and international public collections.

Jan 30

Recognition for Indigenous Australians Needs a Model to Debate

Larissa Behrendt writes that the campaign for constitutional recognition has stalled in the absence of a model. Unlike the republic, she says, this one needs a model to debate.  She continues: "People will not vote YES for things they are unsure about, and are rightly suspicious of agreeing to things they do not know the details of. In relation to recognition many people want to know what they are signing up for. The better approach would be to put a model on the table that can be championed by both major political parties, underpinned by a "hearts and minds" campaign to convince enough Australians that it is the best way to go". Sounds pretty similar to the republic campaign to WfaAR. ["Recognition for Indigenous Australians is not like the republic. We need a model to debate" by Larissa Behrendt, The Guardian online 30 January 2015 - link below]

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Jan 26

Reaction to Final Straw Knighthood

Australia Day finds WfaAR in La Repubblica Italia (a real republic with real Presidential elections) waking up to the news that Prince Phillip had been made a Knight, the highest rank of Australian Knighthoods - approved by the Queen of Australia herself on the Prime Minister's recommendation. Without needing to mention that this contravened the guidelines for the new awards limited to four per year and is a conflict of interest for the Queen, the collective howl of despair and derision from the assembled group of Australians in the breakfast room in Vico Equense could have been heard at Kirribilli. WfaAR fervently hopes it was. Rather interestingly, this widely-criticised move precipitated a disastrous fall in the PM's poll ratings and, within a fortnight, he faced a move to remove him from within his own party.

Jan 25

Republic and Mateship Don't Mix

Saying he was there to "do a favour for a mate", Opposition Leader  Bill Shorten managed to squeeze in four sentences about the desirability of supporting an Australian as head of state - and even for a Republic - in a four page speech while launching a history of mateship. It was not much: no details other than general support for the proposition, "Let us rally behind an Australian Republic" but at least we can now be sure that, with Shorten as leader, the ALP is still in favour. Talking about mateship and the republic in the same breath reeks of 1999. Women did not like it then, they will not like it now so Bill needs to come up with another approach if he wants to get women on board. The next day in a radio interview, Shorten said that a Labor Government would not continue with the Abbott version of knighthoods while beating around the bush a bit. ["Mateship" by Nick Dyrenfurth was published by Penguin in January 2015]

Jan 10

Commonsense View on Our Republic

Jacqueline Maley nails it in the Fairfax Press.  She says as if last years knighthoods and dameships conferred by the Queen of Australia aren't bad enough, now we have other Australian royals behaving badly - Prince Charles, to be our next King, interfering in the free press to further his own interests, and Prince Andrew, fifth in line, keeping very bad company. Best of all is her conclusion, "This, when you look past Prince George's dimpled knees and the collective hysteria over Kate Middleton, about whom no one can reliably say much expect that she has very nice hair, is the reality of the monarchy to which Australia is still willingly shackled." ["Royals flushed with worry as baby glow fades" by Jacqueline Maley, Fairfax Press, 10 January 2015] - read the full article below.

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Jan 3

The Future King of Australia Interferes

If the Brits won't accept this habit in a future monarch of theirs, why should we in ours? It is the same person revealing how stretched and silly the arrangement is. There is no guarantee that Charles III won't start meddling in our government too. We need to change Section 1 of our Constitution sooner rather than later to remove this anachronism and become a Republic asap. Read Nick Cohen's article ["Prince Charles, we'll not stomach a meddling monarch" The Guardian online, 4 January 2015] by clicking on link below.

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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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