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Peter FitzSimons: Onward, republican soldiers

Look, given that I am coming to speak in Canberra on Tuesday at the Southern Cross Club, would it be fair enough to get a few FAQs knocked off, now?

"Why become a republic?"

It is, strangely, the question most often asked. There are many answers, but the first and most obvious one is simple: base-level pride, dignity and self-respect. It is embarrassing and undignified for an otherwise mature and sophisticated nation to maintain that, on the matters of governance, we can do no better than find our Heads of State from one family of unelected English aristocrats living in a palace in London. Seriously? Who thinks that??

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'It's about us, it's about Australia, it's not about Great Britain'

The new chair of the Australian Republican Movement, Peter FitzSimons, says that with bipartisan support Australia could be a republic within five years. (Vision courtesy ABC)

"What model do you suggest, then?"

The Australian Republican Movement, as I said in my address to the National Press Club, is like a toy plane convention at St Mary's Cathedral. That is, we are a very broad church, with lots of models that will fly. Many eminent republicans like Peter Beattie, David Marr and Ted Mack believe we need a direct election, where the people get to directly vote for the head of state, and many point to the understated Irish model as a way we could do it. Personally, I am passionate for the minimalist model of change. Under the current system, the convention is that the Prime Minister chooses the Governor-General and then writes a letter to the Queen seeking her leave to so appoint the PM's choice. (Which is to say that even in the 21st century, the democratically elected leader of the Australian people, must write a letter to an unelected English lady, living in London, and say "Is it alright with your unelected Englishness, what I, as the democratically elected leader of Australia, have decided to do?" But, I digress.)

The simple change we minimalists propose is that everything stays the same, bar one thing. The Prime Minister can save the price of a postage stamp and instead of sending the letter to the Queen, sends it to the parliament of the people, seeking a two-thirds majority of a joint session. Everything else stays the same, including, the nomenclature of the Governor-General, and the Commonwealth of Australia.

The point is to find the democratic will of the people, as to which model they prefer, and then put the question: do you want the old model, or the new?

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"But, either way, won't we be kicked out of the Commonwealth Games?"

Another biggie. The answer is NO. There are 54 members of the Commonwealth of Nations. No fewer than 33 of them are republics, and are still in the Commonwealth. As another example, you might note that the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, last October, was held in Malta, which has been a proud and successful republic for the last 40 years.

"So, how's the movement going?"

Thought you'd never ask – fabulously, thank-you! In the last year, we have lifted our membership by a factor of five. We are back as part of the national conversation. In January we released what I ascribed as our "Declaration of Desired Independence," signed by both chief ministers and five of the six premiers, affirming their republicanism, to go with the oft-stated republicanism of the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, not to mention the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. (And no, Chief Justice French is not a member, but do you think when we have him in our corner it is a fair clue that oft-cited legal impediments to us becoming a republic can be overcome?) The point is, never have the stars of the Southern Cross been so aligned, pointing to the dawn of the new age of the Australian republic as now, but we need to move, to seize the moment. It is not inevitable unless we make it happen. If not us, who? If not now, when?

"So, how do we get there from here?"

We keep going. We get people like you to google our name and sign up the movement, donate, turn up to meetings like the one on Tuesday evening, and bring your friends. Give a bugger.

The French had to storm the Bastille, and the Americans had to cross the Delaware River and take on the Brits. We Australians just have to get up off the couch and get involved! The last Newspoll had us at 51 per cent in favour of becoming a republic, a surge of 11 per cent. We only need another 9 per cent to come on board and we will be unstoppable. I take the Prime Minister's point that this really does need to be a broad people's movement, not a political one, and that is exactly what we are becoming.

Join us!

Five years from now, will be the greatest night in Australian history, as we celebrate being free-standing beneath the Southern Cross. Those who are of the republican persuasion will be pleased. Those who have become involved and done something to help, can be proud.

See you Tuesday evening, I hope.

Peter FitzSimons will be appearing at the Southern Cross Club Jamison on Tuesday, March 15 at 7.30pm to discuss the merits of an Australian republic. All are welcome to attend, and there is no charge.