State of The REPUBLICAN Nation Report #5 of February, 2016
Writer: PETER CONSANDINE
EDITORIALS LIKE This ONE
In the very first 2016 weekend edition of the Sydney Morning Herald [SMH] on 2/3 January, the Editorial headline red: “A happy 2016: the year of the republic”. Mostly in lower case but what a statement! A quick check of the SMH interstate sister publications – The Age in Melbourne and The Canberra Times – both also Fairfax Media newspapers did NOT reveal the same sentiment. A pity, really. Both interstate sister publications advocated a ‘YES’ vote in the first Oz Republican referendum way back in November, 1999 and, one presumes the editors today, respectively, would be different personnel. That said, one would also presume that the 2016 editors would be cognisant of the general Republican sentiment amongst their readership marketplaces. The SMH keeps right ON serving UP attention-getting headlines e.g. “Republic will show we are all grown up”; “For Queen and country: the debate we have to have”; “State, territory leaders unite behind republic”; “Turnbull should embrace republican consensus”; “Prince Charles and the road to a republic” and “United base essential for a republic”. Victoria, though, is an exceptionally strong State for the Republic whereas the Australian Capital Territory is a quasi-mini Republic already! Just ask former Chief Minister there, now Labor Senator, Katy Gallagher. From the writer’s perspective, essentially the Fairfax Media and News Limited publications are mostly staunch [‘on song’] for the Republic.
ON The OTHER HAND
The Australian Republic though is getting a lot – too much, frankly – of quite awful coverage. Coincidently, Oz journalists who identify themselves as true-blue republicans are both questioning and declaiming the way the re-inspired debate is going and how, more particularly, Peter FitzSimons, the 2015-installed Chairman of the Australian Republican Movement [ARM] is campaigning for The Cause. And whilst I totally agree with the headline (see above) viz: “UNITED base essential for a republic” – indeed, in solidarity with the ARM, I re-joined the organisation last year – I know in my heart that the harsh but sincerely uttered criticism must be addressed; dealt with. The Republican Party of Australia [RPA], of which I am the National Executive Director, has been almost reluctantly forced to release a statement very recently differentiating US from THEM. The 11-point statement has been designed in the fashion of ‘ANSWERS to FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS APROPOS the DIFFERENCES BETWEEN The RPA and the ARM’. Moreover, when highly respected Australian journalists such as Paul Sheehan, Marcus Strom, Tim Blair, Miranda Devine and Paul Zanetti come out with some of the following, then it is timely – and early-on-in-the-piece – to have the necessary ‘discussion’. Well, The Republican Party wants to discuss where ALL the FitzSimons-generated momentum is leading the place but, seemingly, the Republican Movement does NOT. ANYway, read this, or as the case may be, re-read the slightly edited, highlighted critics’ contributions – ALL fairly recent, by the way…
Paul Sheehan: “the new push for an Australian republic is doomed to fail – what passes for a new debate is a shallow fraud built on zero substance”; “an asinine idea is being floated that there should be some vote on a republic without doing any of the hard stuff – do the soft stuff first and leave the hard stuff for later. This idea would consign Australia to a ‘constitutional limbo’ with no certainty that a model acceptable to the people would be formulated and pass at a referendum”.
Marcus Strom: “the official republican movement in Australia is kidding itself if it thinks there will be a surge of sentiment to remove the monarchy when Queen Elizabeth dies”; ”ARM head, Peter FitzSimons, believes you can sum up republicanism in a single tweet [this was FitzSimons’s notorious, UNlawyerly tweet, quoted verbatim in Paddy Manning’s book ‘BORN to RULE’ (page #254), in context. When a punter asked the question of FitzSimons what kind of republic Australia wanted to be, FitzSimons answered: ‘it’s easy mate. Sensible option is exactly the same system as now, ‘cept the PM has Parlt. approve GG, not Q. Done! Republic!’]; “it will take a mass movement of hope and imagination – not a tweet – to dislodge the royal family from our constitution”; “a republic that does not make Australia a more democratic and modern country is not worth the effort. Republicanism and democracy must go together”.
Tim Blair: “Under the red bandana we stand”; “Let’s be fabulous declares republican bore Peter FitzSimons who reminds us that in his address to the National Press Club in August, 2015 he stated that: ‘never before have the stars of the Southern Cross been so aligned as now, pointing to the dawn of the Australian Republic; the fact that Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister shortly afterwards only lined those stars up even better, and that alignment has continued at astonishing pace since’. “I don’t know about ‘astonishing’ but a republic will probably arrive before FitzSimons apologises for this”; “FitzSimons believes that Australians need to show how grown-up and mature they are – whilst dressing up like a pirate”.
Miranda Devine: “The ARMs energetic new chairman Peter Fitzsimons [N.B. no capital ‘S’ for the second half of his last name – which ‘RB’ would hate] is making the most of the moment, telling Aussies to ‘just do it’ and worry about pesky constitutional details later”; “it’s the first window of opportunity since the republic was killed off in the 1999 referendum, to the surprise of republican activists…they blamed the lost republic on Turnbull’s elitism and arrogance…but the referendum failed because the majority of Australia’s republicans wanted to elect their own president, and did not trust the tricked-up model they were offered. Fitzsimons’ ARM is making the same mistake now, mistaking momentum for change”. Switching to more contemporary occurrences, Devine comments on the recent awarding of the Australian of the Year for 2016 to former chief of the Army, David Morrison. “Morrison has declared that he will use his new position to champion the pet issue of the progressive elites, the republic debate”; ‘It is time, I think, to at least revisit the question so that we can stand both free and fully independent among the community of nations’ he announced. “This prompted a delighted ARM chairman to propose Morrison as President of an Australian Republic, a sure-fire kiss of death to the cause if ever there was one”.
Paul Zanetti: “Would you buy a Republic from this man (Peter FitzSimons)?”…and along the same track ‘Have I got a Republic for YOU’. Zanetti fingers ‘Fitzy’ (Zanetti’s own disrespectful nickname) as something akin to a Used Car Salesman and in a typical conversation at such a place – the used caryard – he puts it to the potential buyer: ‘Republics are better than monarchies – trust me, they just are’. “Fitzy’s model means we, the people, don’t get to vote for our Head of State which is no different to the case we have now”; “Fitzy doesn’t want you to know that so he doesn’t talk about it. He knows if he does, you’ll run back to your Monarch. A bit like the car out back that the salesman doesn’t want you to see in case you notice it’s not as good as he says it is OR no better than what you already have. What Fitzy does do is a salesman’s slick trick. A pea-and-thimble trick”. “The other slick advertising trick Fitzy has employed to get you to vote ‘yes’ to a republic is avoiding the issue of the republic, per se, completely. Instead of being upfront, asking you if you think Australia should be a republic, Fitzy wants the government to ask YOU a motherhood question to which YOU must answer ‘YES’ – the question being: ‘Do YOU think Australia should have an Australian Head of State?’ How could you say ‘No’? See, it’s not about Australia. Not about what’s best for the country. It’s about the royal family. It’s personal. This is an Irishman sticking it up the British Monarchy. The question should be posed accurately and honestly: ‘Do you think Australia should become a republic?’. This should not be about an individual, a person, or the queen or her heirs. You make up your own mind”. Zanetti proves Fitzy’s motive with the key paragraph in his Australia Day, 2016 open sales letter (published jointly in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Sydney Daily Telegraph) thus: ‘Australia really can do better than find our heads of state from one family of unelected aristocrats, living in a palace in London’.“Hailing from Irish roots it’s understandable Fitzy might have a personal loathing for the Brits, but someone’s deep dislike of the royal family isn’t our problem to fix”. “Since Fitzy wrote his presumptuous, condescending open letter a number of news sites have run polls – including the ABC. In all polls, the majority of those who voted, when asked the right question: ‘Should Australia Become a Republic?’ (the question Fitzy avoids), responded ‘NO’. ”So much for his thumping ‘yes’…Personally, I have no problem with becoming a republic. But not this model, and not by this salesman”; “Give me a model I can trust – and someone I can believe to sell it to me. Someone who will tell me the truth”.
SO FAR, SO BAD
ALL the momentum built UP so far by Peter FitzSimons does NOT nor will NOT bring about the ALL-important CHANGE. His model for the Australian Republic has NOT got a snowball’s chance in hell of ‘GETTING UP’. UNfortunately, if it ever did – and perish the thought – the road to the Australian Republic would be similar to an Ancient Rome-style outcome: a Plutocracy.
UPDATES on the POTENTIAL CATALYSTS for the AUSTRALIAN REPUBLIC
- The referendum in Great Britain later this year  on whether ‘Old Blighty’ remains in Europe OR withdraws. It should NOT be UNDERestimated just how much authority the Prime Minister there, David Cameron, would lose if the British people – in their collective wisdom – elect to ‘pull out’ of Europe.
- Should Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Opposition Leader at Westminster, become the elected Prime Minister – perhaps even, the appointed PM by, ironically, Her Maj – he might abolish the monarchy…he is ON the public record as having declared (that) he would attempt this IF he gets into office.
- Self-styled prophetic numerologist, Michael McClellan’s prediction that the monarch will die in her sleep this year  – NOT at ALL to be taken seriously.
- New Zealand – with a flag change which would remove the union jack – a possibility, as a result of the final plebiscite in our neighbouring country in what appears to be a long, drawn-out, UNinspiring process by NZ Prime Minister, John Key.
- Catalonia breaking away from Spain in a further, binding referendum – later this year.
- The belated knowledge of yet another royal scandal…this time, that of Prince William of Gloucester – once, 4th in line to the British crown/throne. William Windsor, evidently had a love affair with a twice-divorced Hungarian Jewess, Zsuzsi Starklof – in the late 60s and very early 1970s. The affair ended in tragedy in August 1972 with the Prince meeting with fate in a light plane crash during an air race he was participating in. Interesting – if he had survived OR carried on living – there already would have been a Prince William and NOT the anticipated future British AND Australian king.