Nov 14

Indigenous Voices Loud and Clear on the Republic

Teela Reid, a Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, lawyer and human rights activist who challenged then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on his dismissive attitude towards a referendum on the Voice to Parliament on Q&A in December last year, writes in The Guardian. She says there's no point pushing a republic that ignores First Nations peoples and that changing the Queen to an Australian Head of State only serves to fulfil an elitist (ie 'minimalist') agenda. Read her article on the link below ["An Australian Republic without a First Nations Voice is just tokenism"]. Teela was responding to an announcement by Labor to put $160m aside for a plebiscite on the Republic in its first term if elected in 2019. The next day, Lorena Allam, Indigenous Affairs editor for The Guardian, reported another Uluru Statement campaigner, Thomas Mayor, as saying that he would campaign against the republic if it is put ahead of Indigenous recognition in the constitutional voting queue. This is hotting up. It is not good enough for the ARM to say that the two issues are separate. They are fast on a collision course to deal with the elephant in the room: a reconciled Republic as the foundation of the modern Australian nation and new constitution. ["Labor's republic plan described as 'a slap in the face' for Indigenous Australians" by Lorena Allam, The Guardian online, 15 November 2018]

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Nov 8

Honest History Examines Republic

The Honest History team holds a one-day seminar in Canberra to mark 5 years in action. There were two bursts on the Republic. The first covered the present state of support in the country with a considerable pick-up noted among the 18-34s in discussion with the National Director of ARM while the afternoon session was devoted to examining whether 65,000 years of history could have significance for the constitutional change, most importantly whether the the myth of Anzac with its strong ties to serving the British monarchy is hindering progress towards a Republic. Most interesting were the comments made by former diplomat, Alison Broinowski, who noted that whenever Australia has had the opportunity to strike out and make independent foreign and defence policy since Federation, we have always chosen to stay firmly linked to a great power and the pattern is continuing today. This appears to have strong parallels with our reluctance to take the plunge on a Republic and fully sever constitutional ties with the British Crown.

Nov 4

New Caledonia Votes Against Independence

New Caledonians vote in the long-awaited independence referendum. 56 percent to 44 percent chose to stay as part of France. Only long-standing residents, of both Kanak and European descent, were entitled to vote as a first step in creating the new country of Kanaky. The referendum, established as part of the peace settlement promised after racial violence and insurgencies in the 1980s, delayed in the 1990s, was originally due to take place in 2014. Under the peace agreement, there is provision for further referendums in 2020 and 2022. Given the unexpectedly close result, both are now expected to take place. The population of New Caledonia is 268,000 with 175,000 voters taking part in the referendum. While independence sentiments weighed heavily with the Indigenous population, economic sustainability and strategic considerations affecting small Pacific nations have significantly altered in the intervening 40 years. Although having 25 percent of the world's nickel, France provides $2bn a year in subsidies to New Caledonia including its policing and defence.

Oct 26

Irish President Re-elected for Second Term

Michael D Higgins is re-elected for a second term as President of the Republic of Ireland. After renominating for a second term of seven years (which he originally intended not to do), he was supported by three political parties but Sinn Fein decided to field a candidate thus triggering an election. In addition to Liadh Ni Riada, Member of the European Parliament representing Sinn Fein, there were four independent challengers, all supported by at least four Councils: a mental health advocate, Senator Joan Freeman, and three businessmen from the Irish version of Shark Tank, one a highly ranked challenger from the 2012 election and one from Northern Ireland but who had lived mostly in the USA. There were six debates, some on radio and some on television, but not all candidates (of the two women and four men) participated in all of them; Higgins spoke at three. The incumbent was criticised for his travel habits and expenses which may result in increased scrutiny of the salary and conditions for the job. Nearly all the candidates made promises to support certain causes or policies but these were mostly described as unfeasible or unconstitutional given the President's role is largely ceremonial. Higgins is the first elected Irish president to face a re-election vote; Mary McAleese renominated unopposed in 2004 and served 14 years in the job. He won with 55.8 percent of first preference votes, over quota on the first count, from Peter Casey of Dragon's Den who adopted Trump-like slogans including criticisms of Travellers and those who are welfare dependent. There were 1,492,338 valid votes cast, 44 percent of eligible voters (3,401,681), total population 4.7m; voting is voluntary.  At the same time, a referendum was held to remove the crime of blasphemy from the Constitution.  This passed with 71 percent support. It is striking that this successful and engaging direct election for the Head of State of a former British Dominion passed unnoticed in Australia, so our media made a poor job of that, but WfaAR notes that the vote occurred during the Sussex's royal tour although on the actual day of the election, they were in Tonga.

Oct 1

Celebrating the Great Achievement of White Women's Suffrage in 1902

Clare Wright's new book "You Daughters of Freedom" is published today by Text. It covers the active lives of Dora Montefiore; Nellie Martel; Muriel Matters, Dora Coates Meeson and Vida Goldstein, five feminists who came out of the Australian suffragette movement of the late 19th century. Clare's book "recuperates a forgotten age of exuberant nationalism, one that has been overtaken by the contemporary Anzac myths of World War I. Reactionary politicians and media jocks, claiming to defend Australian history against the unpatriotic critique of academics rushed to diminish it by finding nothing, in the riches of Australia's social and political past, to compare with the defeat and death of a handful of soldiers in a far-off land."  (not even our land but by invading the sovereign territory of another country WfaAR adds). "Wright aims to wrest Australians away from their prolonged obsession with Gallipoli as the 'founding moment' of nationhood by reminding readers that before WWI, there was something much more to celebrate ie the political rights (principally the vote) that an idealistic, young and forward-looking nation granted to its non-Indigenous female citizens." (extended to Indigenous women in 1962). Quotes from a book review: "The women who paved the way" by Penny Russell, Bicentennial Professor of Australian History at the University of Sydney, in the Fairfax press 27 October 2018.

Aug 24

Foreign Flag Over Our Sovereign Country

Opening today at the National Museum of Australia is the exhibition "Black Mist Burnt Country: Testing the Bomb, Maralinga and Australian Art". The show uses painting, photography, sculpture and music to shine a light on the human and environmental impact of hundreds of British atomic tests, large and small, conducted in South Australia and Western Australia between 1952 and 1963. The tests resulted in the forced displacement of Indigenous peoples from their lands and prohibited access well into this century due to the damage to the land and danger of residual radiation. Rosemary Laing's 2013 photographic work shows the devastation at the major Totem 1 test site - in the background, on a raised tripod, flutters the Union Jack. It is both confronting and insulting as are the remarks made by an Australian Minister in federal Parliament in 1955 that we were ready to help out the mother country due to her technical know-how and our can-do ingenuity: talk about Terra Nullius and it is only 60 years ago. The Burringa national touring exhibition (burringa.org.au), in conjunction with the Anhangu Pitjantjatjara people of Yatala and Oak Valley Maralinga, runs until 18 November.

Aug 10

Prince Charles' Paintings at National Gallery of Australia

An exhibition of watercolours by Prince Charles opens at the NGA. His selection of 30 works from 2002 to 2016 spans the globe from scenes in the gardens of the royal estates in the UK, to landscapes in the Swiss mountains completed while on holidays to evening daubing sessions on tours to Africa. Ominous skies in deep shades of grey are a striking common feature. Each one is signed lightly in graphite with a single C and the year underneath.The prince has had years of practice, the best tutors and plenty of time to paint but he is a capable watercolourist, a fiendishly difficult medium. The accompanying video tells us much: he is diffident about his "talent" to the point of disconcerting humility on both his part and ours. Charles also comments that many organisations have requested to show his work but only the NGA's request has been agreed to.  Did we ask to show these works or did the Palace ask us to? (they are in a dimly lit corridor off the beaten track near the first floor toilets). Billed as an exhibition to celebrate his 70th birthday, WfaAR was left pondering why only a request from a national gallery - and an Australian one at that - was acceded to? The exhibition runs until 18 November.

Jul 1

New Low for Australian Monarch's Prestige

This weeks special guest on Masterchef is Prince Charles, heir to the Australian throne, thus setting a new low for the popularity of the British monarchy here despite a stint at Timbertop and 16 visits since. Given that Charles' lack of culinary skills is well known, it can only be described as an act of desperation by both the Palace and Clarence House to secure the average Aussie's admiration for and fidelity to the well-past-its-use-by-date British monarchy after the passing of his mother. Masterchef is a low common denominator but nonetheless high-rating reality TV show. The segment was filmed in Darwin during Charles and Camilla's most recent visit upon us in April.

Jun 29

The British Monarchy Doesn't Define Being Australian

Gary Younge, writing in The UK Guardian, states that "the NHS makes us more proud to be British than the monarchy". Neither count is near the top of our united feelings and brings the difference between being Australian and being British starkly into focus. The foreign, British, monarchy is nowhere near defining what being Australian is or what Australians are proud of. ["Histories of the Windrush and the NHS run in parallel" by Gary Younge, The Guardian Weekly, 29 June - 5 July 2018]

Jun 22

Quietly Invading National Identity

Penny Russell, Bicentennial Professor of History at the University of Sydney, reviews Tim Ailwood's "The Quiet Invasion" and pedantically rejects his research and conclusions. But Ailwood has an important point to make about a future Australian Republic. Identifying the people of the Indigenous nations around Sydney as "the Australians" at the time of British settlement in 1788, Ailwood says that we all must act and understand "Australian culture" and like those original Australians accept that "the land owns us".  "Only then", he writes, "can our country develop a unique national identity to match its proud heritage. This is the land that we live in and must embrace". Sounds like a reconciled Republic to WfaAR. Tim Ailwood is a Sydney actor and drama teacher. ("The Quiet Invasion: A History of Early Sydney" by Tim Ailwood, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2018; Review: The Sydney Wars by Stephen Gapps, The Quiet Invasion by Tim Ailwood by Penny Russell, Fairfax online 22 June 2018)

Jun 11

Shame on Prominent Republicans

The Queen's Birthday honours list - again - has some striking examples of well-known republicans accepting essentially imperial honours, a contradiction if ever there was one. This year, it is Jenny Kee, a founding member of ARM no less, and author Kate Grenville who had to defend herself in print (see Fairfax) and former federal Greens leader, Christine Milne. Last year, it was Cate Blanchett and Alan Joyce, the Irish-born CEO of Qantas. Until well-recognised and establishment republicans make it public that they have refused such awards until Australia is a Republic, as Jocelynne Scutt famously did in the late 1990s, there is not much hope for the cause.

Jun 10

Thought for Queen's Birthday

This year our thoughts turn to the ranking of women in the British royal family, our royal family too.  In a recent documentary, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was described as having become the second most important woman in the United Kingdom upon her marriage to the heir to the throne. The most important woman we must understand is HM Elizabeth herself. Even upon marriage, these "commoners": Kate, Camilla and now, the American, Meghan all become "Her Royal Highness" by virtue of her husband's ranking in the order of precedence but the blood-born princesses all have higher ranking than they do and they are required to curtsy to them, even to Princess Charlotte who is only three years old. The notion that one woman - or one person - is more "important", that is, has innate higher merit than another is so un Australian, WfaAR feels no obligation to comment further.

May 17

Possible Referendum??

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters tables its report into the problems with eligibility to be a member of federal Parliament under s44 of the Constitution and recommends that the Government put amendments to update the law at referendum. Predictably the PM trotted out his standard response to the idea of holding a referendum - on any subject - that there was no appetite for them and, besides, this proposal had no chance of success because voters wouldn't tolerate dual citizens as parliamentary representatives. He did not say what his sources were for these opinions, other than his own prejudices having had his fingers burned in the republic referendum in 1999. The polls on this subject say otherwise: there are glaring problems with s44 requiring amendment, and not only on the subject of dual citizenship.  In addition, there are no citizenship requirements for those seeking to be elected to State/Territory parliaments and local government. There's a link to the Committee's report below.

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Apr 26

Last Laugh on Latest British Heir

Canberra Times correspondent, John Walker of Queanbeyan, has the last and best laugh on the birth of the latest heir to the Australian throne that took place on 23 April. Here's what he had to say to the Editor:  "I am pleased to announce the birth of our son, Gareth, a little over 40 years ago. Mother and son are both doing well. By virtue of his Pommie parents, Gareth will be 26,352,871st in line to the throne and a possible future Head of the Commonwealth. Well-wishers should send donations to the Australian republican movement".

Apr 20

Undemocratic Decision on Next Head of Commonwealth

The unanimous decision by 53 member countries of the Commonwealth to anoint Prince Charles as the next head of the now defunct British Empire only shows the white Anglo establishment personified by the remaining Dominions ie Canada, Australia and New Zealand for what it is: worthy of derision. Where is the democracy among equals, let alone the notion of a popular vote as white British people from one family will continue to head the multi-racial dinosaur by right of inheritance. That Australia went along with this, and has since 2013 - or even 2011 - when the UK sent out its flunkies world-wide to achieve the royal succession, means that Malcolm Turnbull has become as weak a republican as Julia Gillard was. The Prime Minister should be forced to come clean about this and the reasons why he backed the proposal before humbly apologising to the nation, as suggested by one letter writer to The Canberra Times, for his weak-kneed complicity, tearful apologies being fashionable just now. Perhaps all the real action is really in who is the Secretary-General rather than have a stoush over the symbolic head of a largely defunct body who needs work to do and justifications for endless trips inspecting the former Empire's subjects. Compromise is always easier than change for those who lack courage, of course. But WfaAR is in two minds about this. Afua Hirsch in The UK Guardian wrote a persuasive piece suggesting that Empire 2.0 was so unimportant that it didn't really matter if it were overseen by the British royals or not. Perhaps the Dominions' leaders had better things to argue about and put their effort into at CHOGM in London (unusual location in itself) than who should be the next head. Seeing the ageing Queen plead her 70 year old son's case was pretty unedifying in any event, maybe even for Charles. Read Hirsch's article on the link below. ["What is the Commonwealth if not the British Empire 2.0" by Afua Hirsch, The Guardian online, 17 April 2018]

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Apr 12

Royal Rush II

As well as Charles and Camilla on location for the Commonwealth Games and an oddly restricted ramble through North Queensland and the Northern Territory plus a side trip to Vanuatu that featured a very large number of Indigenous people in both countries inexplicably enthused by the royal presence, suddenly Prince Edward has appeared justifying a sojourn as an Empire Games spectator (beach volleyball?) with an astonishingly low key visit to four States. This included a large number of games of real (royal) tennis and some obvious make-work visits in Tasmania including the one at the Botanic Gardens to open a boardwalk. One tennis game took place in Ballarat!  These appearances will be quickly followed by another royal heir baby and then the glamorous wedding, even if it also will be low key but heavily televised, in mid May. The Harry-Meghan link-up will be on a far lesser scale than that for the second heir to the throne in 2011, orders of precedence and place in the pecking order being rigorously observed by the Windsors with just enough excellent PR to cover the gaps. We couldn't help noticing that both Clarence House and the Palace are having trouble with Meghan's honorific. When it's used, it's always Ms. - with a full stop - and this only draws attention to it, the rest of the western world having adopted Ms unadorned years ago.  Kate, of course, was a Miss Catherine Middleton so not much feminism to see there but Meghan isn't a Miss at all, rather a divorced American actress and a woman who works, so Ms full-stop will have to do.

Apr 4

Sovereignty Burns in the Diluted Great National Project

Megan Davis packs multiple punches in her Monthly essay on Rethinking the Republic. Viewing the proposed change nearly 20 years from her own standpoint and that of our First Peoples - as opposed to mainstream republican exponents who today offer the same old stuff as they did in 1999 behind the timid camouflage of minimalism - her challenge is obvious. She demonstrates that without meaningful and effective Indigenous recognition in the form sought at Uluru (see News Update 26 May 2017), there is no basis for an Australian Republic and it cannot be achieved until this unfinished business is dealt with. She describes the question of Aboriginal sovereignty as: "the least glamorous part of Australian republicanism" - you can say that again in WfaAR's opinion given that most republicans pale at the prospect. Her view of the referendum landscape over the last 40 years from an Indigenous perspective is confronting. If Uluru: "showed how out of touch the political elite were with the Indigenous demos", WfaAR adds their current republic offerings/behaviour shows how out of touch they are with the rest of the demos. Her well-founded fear is: "we run the very real risk of a republic that renders the First Peoples invisible in the same way as constitutional monarchy did". She also usefully reveals: "The Crown, the monarch, a republic and Aboriginal sovereignty were all issues raised by Uluru participants" and concludes: "The republic is an Aboriginal issue". As such, it is not enough, she says, to come up with an Aboriginal word as the name for the Head of State nor to put dots on new flag. WfaAR likes this approach. It's bold, in your face and right on the money. We note this incisiveness comes from women republicans. The second commentary in Rethinking the Republic, traversing the thinking of a political insider in the early days of 1990s Keating republicanism, is equally compelling for different reasons. Don Watson asks whether the cause, the great national project of the 1990s, is still worth pursuing and whether the remaining, true believer republicans can "know what the cause is" in a daily sea of compromised national principles and widespread environmental degradation of which no one takes much notice, let alone does anything about. Todays concept of "republic" has no discernible purpose is his conclusion. Both essays are well worth a read, stopping just short of despair but all the more illuminating for that reason. ["One Burning Question" by Megan Davis; "A Great National Project Diluted" by Don Watson in The Monthly, April 2018]

Apr 3

Another Republican Sees Greener Grass

With Kim Beazley's appointment as the next Governor of Western Australia, the former Labor leader, Deputy Prime Minister and Ambassador to the US joins a growing list of known republic supporters going over to the other side (also Quentin Bryce and Richard Butler). Quite astonishing that Beazley was appointed to ARM's Republican Advisory Panel of "notables", of which he was one of the most notable, as recently as December last year. Shades of Federation all over again when the British Government/Queen Victoria handed out knighthoods to all and sundry. The republic is going to involve sacrifice including the forsaking of monarchical appointments and our imperial honours. It would be interesting to know how many turn down the awards and appointments on principle but we do acknowledge that it is hard to resist the perks, status, patronage, regal piles etc. Even more surprising was the Chair of ARM's reported claim that Beazley would be able to remain on the Republic Advisory Panel and there would be no conflict of interest. WfaAR doubts the Palace - or anyone else - would agree with that position. On the other hand, maybe Beazley sees something about the fate of the Republic that the rest of us can't - see News Item of 1 January 2018 - and has decided to decamp while there is a better offer to hand.

Apr 2

Ballarat's Museum of Australian Democracy Closes

The museum, losing around $1m a year, has been closed by the Ballarat City Council. Its best-known exhibit, the 1854 Eureka Stockade flag, is to be rehoused in a new visitors centre in the city.  Seems Australian democracy didn't pay all that well and couldn't attract the masses. This is regrettable but unsurprising given the overall tenor of our political discourse and disengagement of voters in all three levels of government.

Mar 30

Bling with Royal Connections

The highly publicised exhibition of Cartier treasures opens at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra making much of its royal connections and patronage. There's a whole room of objects lent from the Royal Collection by the English Queen and aristocrats including the famous Windsor Halo Tiara although, we now find, it is one of many. Cartier's clients, of course, include the very wealthy apart from the royal houses. To see such a dazzling and expensive display is useful for dwelling on how different their lives are from most Australians, the average household in the Antipodes being a bit short on tiaras or, indeed, events to wear them to. The exhibition runs until 22 July. Next up is Watercolours by the Prince of Wales, sigh,10 August to 18 November.  We have to say that Reko Rennie's strikingly republican works in the national collection are much more heart-stirring than either of these exhibitions.

Mar 20

New Caledonia Independence Referendum

The date for New Caledonia's independence referendum has been announced: 18 November. It has been a long time coming after first being scheduled in 2014 and is strongly supported by the Indigenous Kanaks, making up 45 percent of the total population. New Caledonia has a history very similar to Australia's after starting as a penal colony in the 19th century, having a proud participation in the 20th century world wars and is resource rich providing 25 percent of the world's supply of nickel. It is currently an overseas territory of France and has four members in the French parliament. For more information, click on the link below. ["New Caledonia sets date for independence referendum" by Kim Willsher, The Guardian online, 19 March 2018]

More info >

Mar 19

Recognising History to Guide Australia's Future Republic

In a thrillingly analytical pre-cursor to Megan Davis' commentary in the April edition of The Monthly (see News Update of 2 April 2018) comes republican historian Mark McKenna's Quarterly Essay on the history of contact and Indigenous petitioning for recognition and acknowledgement. Almost at the very end, he writes:"The time for pitting white against back, shame against pride and one people's history against another's has had its day. After nearly 50 years of divisive debates over the country's foundation and its legacy for Indigenous Australians, Australia stands at a crossroads - a moment of truth. We either make the Commonwealth (read "Republic" ed) stronger and more complete through an honest reckoning with the past, allowing 'the ancient sovereignty' of Indigenous Australia to 'shine through as a fuller expression of Australia's nationhood,' or we unmake the nation by clinging to triumphant narratives in which the violence inherent in the nation's foundation is trivialised and retreat once more into the old "attitudes that helped us (emphasis added ed) to conquer and settle the country. Our history will always challenge and unsettle us".... but we have to accept that it has "created Australia as much as Anzac, the White Australia Policy, immigration, the agendas of our governments and institutions, and the land itself.....We have long been on the cusp of re-founding the Commonwealth, but somehow the whole game - integrating the constitutional change embodied in the republic and reconciliation and understanding how they speak to one another - has continued to elude us." ["Moment of Truth, History and Australia's Future" by Mark McKenna, Quarterly Essay, Issue 69 2018]

Mar 10

Another Royal Rush Upon Us

Get ready for the next round of royal gushing. Harry and Meghan front the cover of this months Women's Weekly while the article inside provides no new news on the next British royal nuptials other than a few photos. An article in The Australian's Weekend Magazine declared that American divorcee, Markle, will bring a welcome new spark to the stuffy family as she is "already in danger of becoming a fully certified national treasure". No surprise that this statement emanated from Andrew Morton, Diana author and tragic, cobbling together the little that's known about Meghan to present her in the best possible light. WfaAR suspends judgement for the time being. Meanwhile Camilla is reported to have been ordered to come to Australia when she didn't want to. Useful, we think, to finally have an HRH who admits she doesn't like long distance travel, the heat and the tours. At least she's honest. Charles arrives on 4 April to represent his mother at the opening of the Commonwealth Games. It seems to be lost on a lot of commentators that this visit is about Head of the Commonwealth not our Head of State. Heaven knows why we sent a RAAF jet to pick up the heir pair in Singapore and are also funding a side trip to Vanuatu. Hopefully, the Brits are paying but we won't hold our breath. ["Changing of the Guard" by Andrew Morton, Weekend Australian Magazine, 10-11 March 2018]

Feb 26

Oh for a Proper Head of State

Three weeks of federal political soap opera lead WfaAR to muse how useful it would be to have a proper Head of State to provide wise counsel to the Prime Minister and solace to the nation as voters looked on in despair as agendas were played out and rationales became confused and diffused, moralistic and hopelessly out of place in a modern, secular society. Disillusionment over the behaviour and traits of self-serving politicians is only going to delay votes on the Republic while fast consigning to the bin, any idea that politicians should decide who is to be Head of State and emphasising that the people will have to do the job themselves.

Feb 24

WfaAR on Republic Panel

The ACT ARM Women's Network invited three Canberra women to join one of its panels: Diana Abdul-Rahman, multi-cultural adviser and activist, spoke on the Republic and identity; Kate Carnell, former ACT Chief Minister now Small Business Ombudsman who attended the 1998 Constitutional Convention explained how Australia's trade and diplomatic focus had shifted from Britain to Asia, a sea of republics, including those that were former British colonies, since the 1970s and WfaAR talked about the equality issues that should lead women to participate enthusiastically in the creation of an Australian Republic. Good way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon with many questions and comments from the gathered audience.

Feb 15

Launch of New Book on the Republic

Dr Benjamin T Jones' book, "This Time, Australia's Republican Past and Future" is launched in Canberra. Its' a shortish, easy read and the engaging text skates through our republican history from 1788 to 1999, both extensively researched and sourced. The launch function was followed by a wide-ranging conversation with the author touching on subjects as diverse as seditionist convicts including those from Canada; the  far-sighted work of John Dunmore Lang now languishing unread in the stacks of the National Library; Goulburn being the spiritual home of Australian republicanism with due respect paid to Adelaide Ironside and the views of the founding fathers of Federation. Jones, however, cannot resist that male preoccupation the method for selecting the Head of State and comes up with his own version: food for thought he says. At the conclusion, a lively vote of thanks, with pertinent comments on what a future Australian Republic might represent, was made by ANU's Professor Kim Rubenstein, a member of ARM's Republican Advisory Panel (see News Item of 15  December 2017). WfaAR couldn't help noticing the practical questions asked by women in the audience addressing obvious deficiencies, including "why wait until the Queen dies" and "why not use the Republic to bring about Reconciliation"?

Feb 13

No Royals for Head of the Commonwealth Please

The dilemma over who should take over as Head of the Commonwealth when Queen Elizabeth II dies has been covered previously on this website but it has bobbed up again. Media in Britain report that preliminary officials meetings were considering the matter in order to present recommendations to the formal meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) in London in April. This was immediately denied. Of greater concern to WfaAR, were further unsubstantiated reports that the Queen  - current Head of the Commonwealth for no particular reason other than her father, King George VI was its first head - has already sent emissaries throughout the Commonwealth to lobby for her son to take over when he becomes King of England (because he has such a great interest in and experience of visiting 41 out of 53 Commonwealth countries) and the appearance of blatantly self-interested interference in the affairs of the Commonwealth. Nalini Mohabir, Professor of Postcolonialism, Ryerson University Toronto, provides an insightful contribution on the subject addressing: how can a colonial institution champion multiculturalism? Her response: "it can start by electing its leader, not conferring it by birth". This issues in this matter bear a striking ressemblance to the selection of an Australian Head of State - and may be as long in resolution. ["The next head of the Commonwealth must not be a royal from Brexit Britain" by Nalini Mohabir, The Guardian online, 13 February 2018].

 

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Feb 1

Reminder About the Embedded Crown

A timely reminder of the complexities of the change to an Australian Republic is contained in James Boyce's article in this months edition of The Monthly. An historian and associate of the University of Tasmania, Boyce sets out the history of allegiance to the Crown, how it was envisaged by the drafters of the Australian constitution and how that concept has changed with the narrowing of concepts of Australian nationalism since 1901. He also draws out the difference between "the Crown" and "the monarch" and "subjects" and "citizens".  He writes: "Until the Constitution is changed, the central place afforded to the Crown should remind the High Court, parliament and the executive that loyalty to Australia cannot be rigidly prescribed...Because of the danger posed by perverted patriotism, all our national institutions could benefit from more fully engaging with what it has meant to be a subject of the Queen." He goes on to say that "when all references to the Queen are removed [from the Constitution], the republican task will be to sustain an understanding of nationhood that is not narrow-minded or jingoistic" and concludes that the best way to do this is "to overcome the greatest failure of the founding fathers - racism and the neglect of our Indigenous peoples." ["An Imperial Mess, the High Court vs the Crown" by James Boyce, The Monthly, February 2018]

Jan 23

First Change the Date, then Republic

Before the actual day - and time for the annual soul-searching about Indigenous and colonial history soon forgotten - comes this thoughtful article from Professor Maggie Walter, Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Sociology at the University of Tasmania. She concludes: "Australia, first change the date to begin a just settling, then contemplate becoming a republic".  Her reasoning is thus:

"Reconciliation between the Settler and First Nations populations is a self-evident prerequisite for Australia cutting the ties of colonial dependency with Britain to stand on our own. If we can’t work out that we need to complete the peacemaking between Indigenous Australians – the sole occupiers of the Australian continent for upwards of 60,000 years – and those whose ancestors arrived at or post-1788, we are not ready to be a republic. We might be attracted to republican prestige, with its sense of a national coming of age, but we can’t just take the title. Being a republic brings with it the responsibilities of being a grown-up country." The complete article can be accessed on the link below ["First reconciliation, then a republic - starting with changing the date of Australia Day" by Maggie Walter, The Conversation online, 23 January 2018]

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Jan 3

No Chance for Imminent Republic

Rita Panahi takes a general swipe at the Republic other than talking up its chances once Charles takes over with his shortcomings: meddling in dubious causes and a tainted personal history all spelled out in detail. She dismisses Paul Keating's comments about Australia being diminished by having a foreign Head of State and the Prime Minister's listless suggestion for another - presumably voluntary - postal vote (shortcomings of the various selection models for Head of State also spelled out). She concludes by saying republicans will have to wait for King Charles "before wasting any more public money trying to change the Constitution". ["Republic of Virtue" by Rita Panahi, Daily Telegraph, 3 January 2018] 

Jan 1

Commonsense on Republic

The new republican year gets off to a bright start on the very first day. With the release of 1994-95 Cabinet documents, ALP opposition leader during the lead-up to the 1999 republic referendum, Kim Beazley, is quizzed about the republic Cabinet submissions. In an interview on ABC's 7.30, WfaAR heard the most commonsense ever spoken about acceptance of the Republic. Beazley said that for the republic vote to be successful, the proposition has to be both workable and popular. He added with a chuckle that we had managed the former but not the latter thus far. WfaAR comment: that's where the challenge lies, simple as that. See also News Update of 3 April 2018.

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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