Features Australia

Hangers-on

26 May 2018

9:00 AM

26 May 2018

9:00 AM

The former NSW Premier Neville Wran had an interesting take on the true meaning of working class culture. Having grown up in 1930s Balmain (before the chai-latte set moved in), Wran would reminisce about the great family stoushes of his time. They would usually end with the Sunday roast sent flying down the back alleyway. Nifty Neville would have been right at home with Saturday’s Royal Wedding and the dysfunctional Markle family. As if the House of Windsor didn’t have enough problems without injecting the weird world of Hollywood celebrity into its ranks. At one stage it looked like they were going to need Jerry Springer or Ricki Lake to host the wedding reception. You could only feel sorry for the newlyweds in having their big day overshadowed by the curse of mass media madness.

Nonetheless, so-called republicans were still glued to their TV sets. Twitter on Saturday night was ablaze with commentary from those who say they want to get rid of the monarchy, yet were transfixed by the ultimate in monarchial pageantry. In some respects, you could hardly blame them, given they are led by a 56-year-old man pretending to be a pirate. It was not a good night for Peter FitzSimmons, head of the Australian Republic Movement.

It made me wonder: is republicanism in Australian dead? Certainly there is no grassroots push for it. It wouldn’t rank in the top 50 issues prioritised by families in the suburbs and regions. Compared to the importance of jobs, energy and national security, the republic has become an indulgence of Australia’s political class. It’s a plaything of people like FitzSimons, Leftists who have so much money and media access in life that they need hobby horse issues to make them appear virtuous.

Elsewhere on the Left, something strange is happening. Republicans once associated with every trendy ‘progressive’ cause under the sun have flipped, writing lengthy rationalisations for why they now support the British monarchy. It’s a fascinating development.

In the 1990s, Don Watson wrote speeches for Paul Keating, the man who hopes one day to be remembered as the father of an Australian republic. Today Watson has gone ga-ga for the Windsors. ‘In a world filling with tyrants’, he writes, ‘Queen Elizabeth II and her descendants represent a sort of anti-tyranny.’

He’s even looking forward to Charles’s reign as a benign ‘democratic socialist and organic farmer’. When it comes to back flips, this is up there with Thomas Markle’s ‘I-will-go-I-won’t-go’ routine prior to the wedding.


The Don concludes: ‘Our democracy works imperfectly well and it is hard to see how any of its practical imperfections would be remedied by going republican.’ In part, Watson’s views are a product of Trump Derangement Syndrome. He openly admits that if the American people want a president like Trump, the Australian people must never be given this hideous opportunity.

But something else has dropped into the Left’s lattes, a fresh contagion. It goes by the name of elitism. Having formed a new ruling class in Australia, Lefties quite like the idea of hooking up with the best of British pomposity.

Watson is not the only born-again monarchist. Dennis Altman from La Trobe University has also come out of the closet (so to speak). He’s a four-decade doyen of the Australian gay-Left community. I was stunned to read of his constitutional conversion – fluidity at work, I suppose.

Altman now sees ‘our constitutional arrangements… (as) a check on the egomania of politicians who are not sheltered from the real world to the same extent as are royalty’. Yes, you read that right. This long-term Leftist academic regards remoteness from the people as a democratic virtue. The best form of government is to avoid the voters.

This tells you everything you need to know on where these people have got to in their thinking. ‘Progressivism’ is now as elitist as any of the feudal and monarchical systems it sought to replace.

In his ending to Animal Farm, George Orwell described how the pigs stood upright and moved into the farmhouse. In the book’s last line he wrote of how, ‘The creatures outside (the house) looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, but already it was impossible to say which was which.’

This is a familiar pattern with the Left. In the old Soviet Union, which Orwell was critiquing, the workers’ revolution created a new totalitarian state. The current era of political correctness has also been dominated by Leftist repression.

Instead of socialising the means of production, cultural Marxists are trying to socialise the means of personal expression and belief. Through language control, they want everyone else to speak and think like them.

Over time, the Left has become comfortable with the elitism to which they once objected. Lifelong republicans have become monarchists. Intellectual snobs like Altman and Watson have embraced the snobbery of the British class system.

Having grown arrogant and out-of-touch with suburban and regional Australia, ‘progressives’ now find themselves cheering on a system of hereditary entitlement. The oppressed have become the oppressors.

Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free


Show comments
Close