The constitutional convention that preceded the unsuccessful 1999 republic referendum was held in Old Parliament House two decades ago in February 1998. It was an emotional time for those present as observers or participants, but turned out to be a false start.
Nevertheless, for most of the time since, the republic issue has been an important part of public debate through several prime ministerial statements of personal commitment to the change, several opposition leaders' election promises of action, parliamentary inquiries, many books and articles, advocacy by numerous Australians of the year, and the tireless efforts of supporters.
The threshold for the process to begin again has not been reached. But, once again, over the past few weeks, the republic was said to be "on the public agenda". This time, the immediate impetus came from the release of some Keating government cabinet papers, recalling the debates about how best to proceed on the republic question within the government during the 1990s, as well as Malcolm Turnbull's teasing encouragement that he might just be ready for a reprise using his newly found process of a voluntary postal survey.
Turnbull, who was during the 1990s chairman of both the Turnbull committee and the new Australian Republican Movement, quickly pulled back. But the juxtaposition of Turnbull the Keating-era republican activist and Turnbull the Prime Minister 25 years later reminded everyone of how long we have been seriously debating the switch from monarchy to republic.
As Australia Day 2018 has drawn closer, the debate about the future of the day itself has also been tied to a future republic. Among the proposed alternatives to Australia Day on January 26 has been the suggestion by a federal minister, Ken Wyatt, that the day should be renamed only after Australia becomes a republic. Then the day Australia becomes a republic would become Australia Day.
That date may well coincide with the push for federation day/Australia Day on January 1, as a likely date for such a major constitutional change to come into effect, just as the new Commonwealth of Australia came into effect on January 1, 1901.
There has been strong resistance to calls by the Greens, the National Congress of Australia's First People, past Australian of the year Professor Mick Dodson and others to change Australia Day. There has often been similar opposition to linking republican debate to Australia Day.
For some opponents, the timing is inappropriate. For others, it is divisive at a time when Australians should be united. They suggest that debate on Australia Day itself should be off limits because, to paraphrase, "Australia Day is a time for celebrations, barbecues and relaxation with close friends and family".
But such argument reduces such national days to a single dimension. Serious reflection can always accompany celebrations and relaxation on such days, whether they are of Christian origin (Christmas and Easter), military origin (Anzac Day) or trade union origin (May Day).
Reflection and serious discussion from differing perspectives is an inescapable part of what should happen on these days. Australia Day and the republican cause will always be linked because of their common purpose in celebrating an independent national identity.
Republicans are used to hiccups and false starts. They are also used to manufactured news cycles and events, like the past month or so, which proclaim that "the republic is back on the agenda" when it has rarely been off it over the past 20 years.
The current interest comes after a year in which there was already plenty of republican progress, one in which both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader pledged support for the cause and the movement that backs it, the Australian Republican Movement. Bill Shorten went furthest by appointing a shadow assistant minister for an Australian head of state, Matt Thistlethwaite, and promised an early national indicative vote followed by a referendum.
Turnbull will not move substantially until Queen Elizabeth dies, but the inter-party dynamics of the issue are quite promising in the context of the type of debate over the past month. Whichever party wins the next federal election, there may be action.
What republicans and uncommitted members of the public should be alert to, though, are the furphies and lessons that have emerged once again. The republican cause is best served by an evidence-based debate.
Among the resilient furphies that have been recycled in recent days are warnings that monarchies are more stable than republics, that direct election for a republican president will produce weird outcomes, and that Australia is generations away from readiness for constitutional change (read too immature).
The opposite is true. Australia owes its stability to its people and society not to the monarchy, international evidence clearly shows that direct election produces admirable presidents, and Australia is a self-confident, established democracy ready and well-prepared for such a change.
Another side track is the suggestion that Australia should take the opportunity to be extraordinarily creative by departing from international norms by doing away with the office of president and have no head of state at all. That may be attractive to some in theory, but it's a constitutional dead end.
My suggestion is that republicans should learn from their own failures over the past 20 years, and the failures and successes of others, including the successful campaign for same-sex marriage. The debate must be community-centred but also focussed. Republicans must not be afraid to call out monarchist myths and needless distractions.
John Warhurst is an emeritus professor of political science at the Australian National University and a former chairman of the Australian Republican Movement.