As a long-time republican, I made the decision last year to join the Australian Republican Movement.
Having spent the better part of the past decade involved in Liberal politics. It’s safe to say that I hold a minority view in my own party.
I have consistently argued for a republic because I value the ideas of sovereignty and independence. I don’t want a republic because I hate Australia, I want a republic because I love Australia – its history and its traditions, and believe it would be a pathway to strengthen them.
I knew signing up that the Chairman of the ARM, Peter FitzSimons was no right winger. But what I found was that the opinions and views espoused on behalf of the entire movement show a complete lack of diversity and a complete lack attempt to reach out and speak to anyone with political opinions other than their own.
Their events exclusively offer up guests on the left of politics, from Louise Adler to Australian of the Year David Morrison AO (Sorry David, I’m going to keep calling all of my friends “guys” no matter how much you dislike it).
On the day of the American election, the ARM posted a meme to its Facebook page with a picture of President-elect Donald Trump said “Not *that* kind of republican”. This kind of dismissal of those who don’t share their views is something they have in common with the unsuccessful Democratic campaign.
In March the Republican Movement trumpeted a Newspoll showing that support for an Australian Republic had risen above 50 per cent. As the movement well knows, this doesn’t mean they’re in a winning position – they still need four out of six states to vote in favour as well.
They should be realising that their support has peaked and be looking for ways to improve on the current set of numbers. The Gillard Government’s proposed local government referendum had bipartisan support and 75 percent community approval, prior to public scrutiny of the proposal, in which support collapsed and it was dropped. How do they think they’re going to go with 50 percent? They’re kidding themselves.
After the Brexit vote in June, FitzSimons published an article in the Fairfax and NewsCorp papers on whether the historic vote would give rise to an Australian Republic. He oddly claimed that an Australian Republic would boost trade with absolutely no evidence, our Asia-Pacific partners would treat us no differently, (in fact, the Asia-Pacific region treat us more generously in trade terms than most independent states!) and he barely mentioned Brexit, or the reasons for it, only used it as a pitch for an Australian Republic.
The Brexit movement was about reclaiming the culture and sovereignty of Britain, which the people felt had been taken away from them by a bloated European Union. Brexit had a hopeful, optimistic, forward-looking message of opening itself up to the world, and taking back control of their sovereignty and their country. Australians actually do cherish the traditions of our history and foundations of western civilisation that have served us well for centuries.
Here in lies the ARM’s problem. Just like the modern left in Australia, it views Australia’s past, its history and its culture as something to be ashamed of. It views a change to a Republic as a way to wipe the slate clean of our “sins”. This is not where public sentiment is. According to polling, more than 90 per cent of people are proud to be an Australian and more importantly, almost 80 percent of people agree that our country has a history, about which we can be proud.
The ARM’s number one campaign it is plugging at the moment is little more than a whinge, calling on Queen Elizabeth II to release all the correspondence in relation to the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 in her past dealings with the Australian Government and Parliamentarians. I don’t think your average punter is discussing the release of the Queen’s letters at a Sunday afternoon BBQ. This kind of petty introspection is pathetic and is only appealing to their own flock. The ARM is supposedly a bipartisan organisation. But it has the character of an obsessed Labor baby-boomer.
While it was still running the campaign to try to get some letters from the Queen, the most grievance sin occurred that should have been a no-brainer for the ARM to speak out on. In October Tasmanian Governor Kate Warner publically challenged Pauline Hanson’s views on Muslim immigration.
Surely a Vice-Regal representative criticising an elected Senator should be on the ARM’s radar. Constitutional law expert Professor George Williams labelled Governor Warner’s comments concerning and unwise as the role of a governor is one that is meant to be above politics. The ARM stayed silent.
One can only imagine the ARM’s response if an unelected Governor was to enter the political fray on an issue like lower taxes or government spending? There would be cries of outrage.
Well, you can save your crocodile tears because the current rabble that is the Australian Republican Movement is not one I want to be associated with.
Evan Mulholland is Media and Communications Manager at the Institute of Public Affairs, a former president of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation and, yes, now a lapsed Republican.