It was twenty years ago today

In addition to celebrating the defeat of Malcolm Turnbull’s first exercise in nation-wrecking on this day, we can also happily remember the role a humble poet played prior to the failed republic referendum of 6 November 1999. It was Les Murray who was given what turned out to be the unenviable task of bringing panache and rhythm to John Howard’s doomed preamble – a veritable green-and-gold tracksuit of matching but daggy ideals of nationhood. The prime minister wanted ‘mateship’ in the mix but Murray thought it was “not a real word.” That was a good call. It would have been an embarrassment atop the Constitution. Some sacred things are ruined when they’re canonised. Geoffrey Blainey was also consulted. After predictably sour criticisms from some Aboriginal spokesmen, feminists, atheists and the Labor Party, the fruit of his labours was so manhandled that, according to Murray, the final version was “turned into mush in a process of political compromise.” This was a shame in the sense that such great patriots and minds – our finest poet and finest historian – were undermined solely because they weren’t ticket-holders in the Luvvies’ Union.

The bigger proposal was less interesting: “To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.” Its failure – 54.87 percent to 45.13 percent nationwide and carried in no single state – was a humiliation to Turnbull and the glamorous elites who so preachily campaigned for the cause. They consoled themselves ‘neath the blanket of inevitable-ism, of course, as republicans still do.

Given the House majorities and senators we’ve been ‘blessed’ with in the years since 1999, you have to wonder what sort of Presidents would have been horse-traded into Yarralumla had the proposal been carried. That’s in the outrage-fuelled, drag-em-down age of the internets, mind. Best guess: as newborn contemporaries, President Triggs and Twitter would have destroyed any prestige remaining to the office of prime minister.

What else has changed since the poll? Not the major antagonists, that’s for sure. John Howard would still go 15 rounds with Malcolm Turnbull on the subject. Not the sanctimony of the republican movement either. Still led by a privileged Sydney bore – this time wearing a bandana – ironically the dear old ARM is nowadays an almost quaint throwback to a simpler time. Part of the reason for that is the good fop/bad fop vim brought to royalism by William and Kate (for conservatives) and Harry and Meghan (for the rest). The saddest thing, however, is the sure knowledge that we will never again see a Murray and a Blainey at the drafting table of destiny. That was a grand opportunity, spoiled in the madness of envy and rush.

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22 Responses to It was twenty years ago today

  1. notafan

    I was one of them durned anti Republicans.
    Not because I’m a monarchist but because the reasons for were so trivial.

  2. Truth n Justice

    Up until the Hewitt boy and his American bride commenced their Lecturing and whining I was a staunch monarchist. However once our venerable Queen is gone I will be become a republican as none of the current crop of British royals are deserving of our support.

  3. C.L.

    Same here, ‘fan – only in reverse.
    I was somewhat pro-republic back then (though not fanatically).
    That campaign and what has followed changed my mind irrevocably.

  4. Tim Neilson

    Truth n Justice
    #3203439, posted on November 6, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    I think Will’s perfectly ok.

    And as CL notes, imagine the Presidents we’d get.

    Though I don’t think there’d be much horse trading. In order to prove how sophisticated they were the Photios Party would drop its strides, bend over, and accept whatever ultra-woke “minority group” SJW candidate Labor proposed for the job. Every time.

  5. Jannie

    I never liked the Australian Republicans with their elitist dream of a bunyip aristocracy, but ffs the current crop of Windsores is looking even worse. The monarchy as an institution has been exposed by Brexit as irrelevant to the UK, and the soyboy princelings belong to Hollywood not the Commonwealth.

    Screw ’em all, and elect a governing council from a random selection of names from the phonebook, we would get a much higher quality of leader.

  6. Miltonf

    I don’t like the Republicans in Oz but yes the Windsors are really past their use by date. Brexit has shown how useless they are.

  7. Miltonf

    The antics of chilla, megs and Harry are grotesque.

  8. Cui Bono

    Spot on Tim Neilson. Imagine the tick-the-boxes exercise the Presidential selection would become!
    And the Libs would accept an umpire who would never rule their way.
    The present system suits the majority of quiet Australians; a worthy is chosen and goes about fetes and cnsoling bushfire victims.opening

  9. Iampeter

    The bigger proposal was less interesting: “To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.”

    This was the REAL embarrassment. The Australian Republic movement didn’t seem to know what a “Republic” is really about nor what should actually go in a Constitution and why.

    Nothing has really changed…

  10. I’d much rather have a disinterested Windsor as Head of State than a lgbtq aboriginal woman.
    Imagine one of those harpies that appeared on Q&A the other night anywhere near a seat of power.

    The Head of State holds enormous powers. Look around the World, presidents galore wielding that power over the people they’re supposed to serve.
    Australia and the many other monarchies were smart enough to give that power to a disinterested woman who lives on the other side of the World and who would never use that power.

    The closest we came to (or the only time we had) a constitutional crisis was when that power was exercised by The Cur Kerr.
    Become a republic and watch that power being exercised on a regular basis.

    Leave it the fuck alone.

  11. Become a republic and watch that power being exercised on a regular basis.

    Whitlam constantly had constitutional crises. Finally one bit him on the arse.

    A republic per se should be dismissed out of hand. Much of the problem is in decisions the High Court has made over the last three to four decades.

    What we need is a real republic. The idea that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is ignorant to how flawed the Commonwealth Constitution was (despite its good points) as well as how it has been abused to give governments what they want.

    Even the the trial by jury provisions (s 80) can be ignored by the States, ignored if the prosecution seeks a judge only trial (or this can be legislated into existence), ignored by not bringing a case by indictment (so, so dodgy) and other utterly evil provisions like civil penalties; massive fines levied without criminal trial, to wit, a total mockery of the aims of much of the Chapters III – V provisions (mostly Chapter III) to provide rule of law in Australia.

    We don’t live in a Crowned republic and we don’t live in a “prepubescent” dominion.

    We live in a bunyip aristocracy, or as I have called it lately, a kleptomaniac dikigorosocracy.

  12. Screw ’em all, and elect a governing council from a random selection of names from the phonebook, we would get a much higher quality of leader.

    Tears in my eyes. God bless you wonderful Australians. Rock ribbed classical republican virtues are coming to the fore once more.

  13. Young Freddy

    Tim, one of my tricks when talking to a republican is to wax lyrical about a possible President Murdoch, or President Dutton, or President Abbott. That usually brings a thoughtful frown.

  14. jupes

    This was the REAL embarrassment. The Australian Republic movement didn’t seem to know what a “Republic” is really about nor what should actually go in a Constitution and why.

    Lol. Don’t you ever change Pete.

  15. Bar Beach Swimmer

    Screw ’em all, and elect a governing council from a random selection of names from the phonebook, we would get a much higher quality of leader.

    While this idea originates with William F. Buckley and the 1st 400 names in the Boston Telephone Book, the times are indeed different. As CL points out, with the advent of Twitter et al., even this group would be maligned and cajoled while there are few groups of people that don’t ultimately form cliques. The constitutional convention held before the referendum showed the machinations that ensued among the delegates. Consider also as an example how, in a high profile case, a presumably diverse group in a jury panel can determine guilt from the most tenuous of evidence. So that in the face of media pressure etc 12 good men and true could not stand up to the obvious travesty of the case brought against Pell Cardinal. I’d rather stick with one family who know the job. Remember, it’s not any power that the crown retains but the denial of power to others that ensures our stable system of government.

  16. John A

    Truth n Justice #3203439, posted on November 6, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    Up until the Hewitt boy and his American bride commenced their Lecturing and whining I was a staunch monarchist. However once our venerable Queen is gone I will be become a republican as none of the current crop of British royals are deserving of our support.

    Isn’t that the Commonwealth equivalent of “Not my President!”?

  17. Mundi

    Can you imagine a president?

    Once the left got in this gig they would declare a climate emergency, the president would sack the prime minister then keep pushing out a new election due to “corrupt media influence”. We would end up a dictatorship within 10 years.

  18. jupes

    Of course one of the problems with their republican “model” was that they – the luvvies – wanted to chose the president. Imagine that for a second. All those pigs lining up at the trough trying to get noticed. Not an ounce of honour or integrity amongst any of the pompous pricks.

    Take Kim Beazley for example. Kim Beazley was a founding member of the Republic Advisory Panel. He resigned from the Panel upon being appointed Governor of Western Australia on 3 April 2018.

    So committed to the cause that he left in a heartbeat for the prestige of working for the Queen.

  19. Dot reckons…

    What we need is a real republic. The idea that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is ignorant to how flawed the Commonwealth Constitution was (despite its good points) as well as how it has been abused to give governments what they want.

    Changing the constitution doesn’t require getting rid of the monarchy and installing a feminazi as president.
    In these types of matters, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is good solid advice.
    We have countless examples of democracies gone bad. Australia and the other Commonwealth monarchies are some of the longest, stable democracies around.

    Stop fucking with it, it’ll bite and might even kill you.

  20. Rockdoctor

    I voted against it. Main reason actually at time was the it aint broke don’t mess with it line. However I had a healthy mistrust of Politicians at that time especially after the gun laws fiasco where I first conversed with a local member who told me one thing but voted another & also the thought of Turnbull as first President (I thought he was a charlatan then & haven’t altered my low opinion of him) turned me completely off the idea.

    These days with all the made up indig BS & far left virtue signalling about. I don’t use profanity often but No Fcuking Way…

  21. Stop fucking with it, it’ll bite and might even kill you.

    Tell that to the High Court.

    Several cases made into law since 1980 have completely rewritten our law without a referendum, even contrary to prior judgments with no jurisprudential reason to do so.

    Dams Case (all of Chapter III changed because of s 51 xxix, which is peculiar because of the reliance on Marbury v Madison in the Communist Party Case).
    Cole v Whitfield (reinterpreting s 92 for political masters, used all possible modes of interpretation to pull a rabbit out of the hat and ignore 85 years of prior High Court jurisprudence – common law – what’s that!?)
    ICM Agriculture Pty Ltd v The Commonwealth (there is an excellent line of authority going back to WWII property rights cases that has simply been ignored by the bunyip aristocracy)
    Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia [2010] [HCA] and
    Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia [2018] FCAFC 17
    (Both following ICM)

    Not to mention the outrageous claims of the GST Act (the Tax Commissioner literally becomes a wizard) and Hart v Commissioner of Taxation [2018] FCAFC 61 at 83:

    Subsequently, in RCI, the Full Court made it abundantly clear that a taxpayer does not discharge its onus for the purposes of s 177C by demonstrating that the Commissioner’s counterfactual is not reasonable.

    We’re being killed already.

    The idea that Griffiths, Deakin and Inglis Clark envisaged a Federal Court at all, where it could selectively define reality as an example of A V Dicey’s system of rule of law is rather grotesque. Let alone Parliament which the English (wrongly) believed would defend our common law rights without a bill of rights…

    Ironically, the few rights we have now are because of the tortured application of international law and human rights charters. This is no actual guarantee however that the High Court can’t or won’t reject these rights but otherwise impose liabilities upon us from said conventions.

    (Perhaps a President could refer such matters to a plebiscite…)

    The Swiss position of head of state is simply rotated amongst their Federal Cabinet. They are the most secure democracy on earth.

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