The Australian Newspaper sports an article by Rosalind Winterton on the Oz website today- espousing a Republic, subtitled:
“An Australian Republic would be a much better place- let’s move to it right away.”
Importantly for a fence-sitter like me, half way down the article she gives some reasons why we should be a Republic. Or rather, she doesn’t.
Referring to the 1999 Republic Referendum;
“Most significantly, if we had flexed our muscles 11 years ago, we would be dealing with present challenges in braver fashion.
We would have developed the confidence and authority to place ourselves in the forefront on the issue of climate change, as we so nearly did in December 2009. We would have found a more humane solution to the refugee crisis. Above all, we would not have allowed ourselves to be led by the nose into the war in Iraq.”
In a paper with a largely conservative readership like the Oz, Winterton does her cause no favours by associating it with such progressive causes. Anyway, how would an Australian Republic have dealt with an ETS, boat people and Saddam Hussein any differently to our constitutional monarchy?
She doesn’t say exactly. She seems to think that rewriting the constitution and ditching the governor-general and the queen would endow our politicians with a fresh batch of raw political courage; and that with no British monarch looming over us we would now tackle the issues as the voters want (the point of a democracy); as if it’s not happening already.
Just look at her three examples:
Climate Change: By referring to December 2009, she is referring to an ETS, which has had the singular misfortune of falling foul of the voters. If any politician had the guts to promote an ETS on the floor of the house, he would be voted out come next election- think Kevin Rudd. Yes there were other factors, but his fall and Abbott’s rise all started with the ETS debate. So if a Republic would have instituted an ETS in ‘09, it would have been against the will of the people. What sort of second-rate democracy is that?
Also note; the United States is regarded as the greatest Republic in the world, and even “Yes We Can” Obama has given up on an ETS. So much for Republican courage.
Refugees: Right or wrong, our current asylum-seeker laws are essentially populist. Any change would have to be against the will of the people or involve massive re-education to change the will of the people. How would a Republic do either of that?
Iraq: We were “led by the nose” into Iraq by America, the world’s leading republic. So how would Republicanism have generated anti-Iraq courage?
Yes, a politician should run contrary to the will of the people if his conscience requires it. That would take immense political courage. Such courage is a rare find; especially in the power-studded halls of Canberra.
So, in Winterton’s Republic, where would this new miraculous courage come from? How does the English Queen make politicians so terrified of the Australian voters that we never hear a whimper of courage out of them?
Reading between the lines I’m going to guess Winterton’s answer. I suspect Winterton feels that if we were a Republic the people would be prouder, more patriotic, and more independent in body and in spirit, and this pride in people and in politicians in particular would generate political courage.
But can’t she see that’s already happening? We are already so independently minded that Canberra turns chicken the instance they fear a whiplash from the Australian voters, not a angry missive from the Queen.
Our politicians are not cowards because the Queen ties us down to British subjugation. They are cowards because they fear the voice of a loud, rowdy, vibrant Australian democracy. Which we already have.