Talking Tactics

This article about strategy for the referendum campaign on the republic was written by Sarah Brasch, Convenor of Women for An Australian Republic and a member of ACT Australian Republican Movement (ARM).

It appeared in the The Republican the newsletter of ACT ARM, December 1998.

1999 is just around the corner….

…… it’s time to start talking tactics.

The campaign to convince the majority of people to vote YES for the Republic needs to be about hearts and minds.

It is not a political campaign of rhetoric, slogans and attacking the “enemy”.

A public information campaign will be more the go – like the ones that we had for decimal currency, changes to road rules and mass immunisation.

How do we do this?

To start with, we need a slowly building, low key but carefully planned campaign for the whole of next year starting in February.

Our symbol should become a natural part of the cultural landscape on posters, billboards, in advertising, on regularly worn T shirts and car bumpers. It must clearly identify what we stand for ie vote YES for the Republic.

We need a small number – a very small number – of often repeated supporting statements such as An Australian for Head of State; Australia: Strong, Independent and Free etc.

Our message must be simple, not just to capture the hearts and minds, but to keep them. Emphasis on the model with long drawn out explanations is only going to appeal to a very few – the rest will be lost before we start.

The campaign is not about the model. It is about “do we want a republic or not?”

We must be a single-minded and well disciplined troop, keeping our eyes firmly on the goal. Fragmentation, not to mention bickering, will spell disaster.

Political style combat will not help either. Pro-republicans have to sound reasonable, composed and directed at all times. If people think that the Republic is being rammed down their throats or it becomes a series of slanging matches, they are going to turn away.

We need clear supporting messages to capture the hearts – we do have our own history; our ties with England will not be cut; we can keep competing in the Commonwealth Games; every Australian able to be Head of State etc

Above all, we need personal contact. All ARM members should aim to spread the message through posters, stickers and by talking to everyone that they come across. A dedicated goal for the next 12 months – mention the republic to every person you come across. It’s amazing how easy it is to get this topic into any conversation, even with people you don’t know.

Vote YES needs to become trendy and persuasive, talked about at the club, pub, in shops and in popular magazines.

The advertising campaign should be catchy and appealing, popular with the common touch. A progressive series of personal endorsements in all available media (not forgetting the Internet) of sports stars and other household names would be ideal. But there should be lots of vox pops as well.

When their friends and acquaintances, heroes, heroines and relatives are doing it, everyone will want to be voting YES.

Let’s go for it!