JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Derek Rielly: Why Australia will never be a republic

Date

Derek Rielly

What a gloomy day it was in Sydney yesterday - the royal visit excepted. Another premier gone. The fifth in nine years.

The former premier, who was supposed to be the salve against rotten-to-the-core NSW Labor, apparently just as soiled as the rest.

You know the story. The former Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell, who'd shed half his body weight because he knew the electorate wouldn't take a fat man seriously, was done over what was either a catastrophic memory loss or a lie to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The memory loss can't be anything less than catastrophic because the first thing any man does when he receives a bottle of Grange is to tap the date into Google and find out how much the overpriced plonk is worth. Three thousand shekels?

No wonder the newly-elected premier wrote a note to gift-giver Nick Di Girolamo.

"Thank you for all your help," wrote the former premier, the underlined "all" more damning, perhaps, than even his Alzheimer-esque testimony.

But just across town from the ICAC hearing was the joy and clamouring crowds who'd come to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. What a contrast! Representatives of the ultimate executive bringing their little prince to Australia. Hello George! Hello Wills! Hello lovely Kate!

What cleanskins. Kate, vetted at every level by the machinations of royal security, and war-hero Will, the brave little boy who marched behind his mother's coffin and who grew into the living embodiment of the benevolent king-to-be.

It brought me back to 1977 and the Queen's Silver Jubilee visit, the young boy perched kerbside in Fremantle waiting for the royal limousine to roar past.

I waited three hours for that glimpse of the Queen and Prince Phillip and I still remember with affection that split-second glimpse.

Even when I became an arch republican in those heady days at the turn of the century when it seemed like John Howard was determined to turn us into a provincial backwater,

I never felt, as I should've, the hate toward Australia's head of state. Of course Australia should be a republic. Let's remove the last remaining shackles of our colonial past. Let's move towards Asia. Let's have our own head of state.

But, even then, I was struck by how much the British had given Australia. Wasn't our perfectly functioning democracy a result of British rule? And, despite everything, weren't we, as a state, mostly descendants of Britain? Was that something to be ashamed of?

As the years pass, I've become, like the majority of Australians, apathetic toward the Republican ideal.

A survey by Fairfax-Nielsen published here two days ago revealed that only 42 per cent of Australian wanted to lose the British head of state. And in the age group 18-to-28, typically the foot soldiers of any sort of upheaval, only 28 per cent wanted an Australian head of state.

This, of course, might be more to do with the self-absorption of that demographic in social media and a complete void of any political thought.

But it's interesting to contrast the self-immolation of Barry O'Farrell (and Thompson and Sinodinos and Tripolid and Obeids etc ad nauseum) and the royal visit because you shake your head at our inability to find an elected leader that doesn't have some kinda skeleton rattling around in a closet, and the beaming benevolence of the Windsors.

And, you think, what improvement would a republic bring?

12 comments so far

  • The Royal Family don't cost us anything, don't take bribes and are totally impartial.
    A republic? More politicians, more dodgy goings-on, presidential "palaces", guys in funny uniforms and the usual travel and expenses rorts.
    The ultimate NO BRAINER !

    Commenter
    Dave Murray
    Location
    Joondalup
    Date and time
    April 17, 2014, 1:57PM
    • The immortal (slightly paraphrased) words of the authors of "1066 And All That" still ring true,

      The Royals are wrong but romantic, the Republicans are right but repulsive.

      Commenter
      Betty Marx
      Date and time
      April 17, 2014, 2:48PM
      • A poorly thought-through article. I don't know anything who thinks O'Farrell deliberately misled anyone.

        He admittedly knows very little about wine specifically top flight reds and probably received several dozen gifts on his 'belated' election. He forgot. He made a simple enough mistake and admitted it. Easy enough to do. He resigned forthwith.

        The real question a good journalist would ask is why would Girollamo keep a thankyou note for 3 years then why would this be released to the media instead of ICAC?

        Commenter
        Peter
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        April 17, 2014, 3:20PM
        • The House of Windsor was the House of Saxe-Coburg -Gotha until they Anglicised the name, so they are really German.

          I think sentiment might change in Australia when we have King Charles and Queen Camilla.

          There is a lot of support for Queen Elizabeth II and there was deep affection for her mother, but when she is gone I think the national sentiment might change. Of course she might outlive Charles so that Wills would become King, which would probably entrench the popularity of the Royal Family.

          Commenter
          BB
          Location
          Western Victoria
          Date and time
          April 17, 2014, 3:42PM
          • It always make me laugh when I hear people say "What has or does England or the Royals do for us?", its reminicent of that scene in the Monty Python movie 'The Life Of Brian'. There is a bunch of guys who are meeting in secret stewing over the Roman occupation when one of them poses the question "What have the Romans ever done for us?". One by one they give answers like -'Well they gave us the aquaduct", "They gave us roads", "They gave us sewage and plumbing", and so on and so forth. Unlike the Americans we never had the need for our own Battle of Independence to gain our independence from the United Kingdom, instead we were able to calmly and democratically slowly take over control of our own affairs. A Replublic would do nothing but bring in a whole new set of problems to overcome as politicians then have even more power and freedom to interfere in our daily lives. A constitutional monachy gives the Australian people some powerful rights that would not be afforded under a Republic system, like being able to dismiss a bad government. This is why the Constitution is no longer taught in schools - they don't want you to know your rights!

            Commenter
            Wayne
            Location
            Port Kennedy WA
            Date and time
            April 17, 2014, 4:16PM
            • Australia will be a republic in 6 years. Or less, depends when the Abbott is gone. The sooner the better!

              Commenter
              Chris
              Date and time
              April 17, 2014, 4:19PM
              • I am offended by the insinuation made in the article that my age bracket may be 'self-absorbed' and 'devoid of any political thought'. Please do not generalise; I am 24 years old and I am most definitely interested in politics and I am pro-republic. Many of my friends are, too. None of us have ever been chosen to participate in a poll. Sometimes I wonder how polls pick their respondents? Anyhow, about your comment on my generation: social media is about being 'social' not just about the self... I actually found this article via social media, through which I subscribe to a number of media outlets to better inform my thinking about the world. Getting back to the subject of the article, one of the many arguments for the republican movement is that we cannot call ourselves a meritocratic society and have a monarch as a head of state. Our head of state should be both our representative (perhaps we could start by choosing an Australian resident?) and in a position to be held accountable. The Queen cannot be sacked, so how do we guarantee accountability? To those saying 'if it ain't broken'... In practice things wouldn't be much different: a president would perform similarly to our GG, with the only difference that he/she would represent us Australian people as opposed to an individual who lives on the other side of the planet. This is important for our national identity and to send a message that we're still the country of the fair go, where 'perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state' (to quote Quentin Bryce).

                Commenter
                Erica
                Date and time
                April 18, 2014, 12:10AM
                • The present debacle is quite obviously totally broken, however whats the chances of a republic being any better. Note that every republican model yet proposed retains the utterly superfluous governor & governor-general positions despite these overblown turkeys being the most useless anachronism ever devised If perchance the clowns actually DID something in return for the millions we squander on them then there may possibly be a case to retain them, but do we really need grossly overpaid figureheads with no authority to do anything but waste millions of our hard-earned money ??

                  Commenter
                  Yes Minister
                  Location
                  Woop Woop
                  Date and time
                  April 18, 2014, 11:41AM
                • To 'Yes Minister'. Just because the recent GGs have not been put in a position to use their full powers, it does not mean they do not have any. Surely you have not forgotten 1975? I was not around, but was taught about it at school. A president or GG has the ultimate power of dismissing the govt. That's quite a responsibility and we are lucky that in Australia we have only had one govt dismissed. In other countries that is not always the case (one must only look at places like Italy). However I get the feeling you would prefer a USA or French style republic, allocating more power to the president. I am personally not a fan of that. The latest Australian elections were too-Americanised for my taste... We must focus on policies, not leaders' personalities. A presidential campaign would end up as a popularity contest. Hence why I'd prefer a republic with a president separate from the prime minister. A President / GG is merely a symbol, a ribbon cutter, his or her full power only to be used as a last resort to allow the legislative process to continue unhindered and untangled when the govt can no longer govern.

                  Commenter
                  Erica
                  Date and time
                  April 18, 2014, 1:22PM
                • @Erica ... A figurehead who is only halfway useful once in 40 years is a pretty expensive investment given the amount of taxpayers hard-earned money they can squander over that time (eg that silly woman we had in Queensland who set a record for the volume of flowers she gave away), and even if the clown of the day has the gumption to be as proactive as was John Kerr in 1975 Given the hullabaloo that ensued at the time, its inconceivable one would stick his or her neck out that far again. Personally I'd dearly love to have governors who earned their very costly keep every day of their official career however the ineffective muppets with which we've been saddled in living memory are not needed. As far as I'm concerned, they should either get off their backsides and take a serious interest in the day to day operation of parliament, or rack off hairy legs What we've had in both federal & state governors is invariably has-been political hacks having favours to whatever political party repaid with a cushy overpaid position in which the appointee is expected to emulate the three wise monkeys .... hardly what the position was intended to be.

                  Commenter
                  Yes Minister
                  Location
                  Woop Woop
                  Date and time
                  April 18, 2014, 2:27PM

              More comments

              Make a comment

              You are logged in as [Logout]

              All information entered below may be published.

              Error: Please enter your screen name.

              Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Please enter your comment.

              Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

              Post to

              You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

              Thank you

              Your comment has been submitted for approval.

              Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

              Featured advertisers