I was too young to vote in the Republican referendum of 1999 but remember it quite well. My mother, a fond monarchist and royal watcher decided to give me her vote, her reasoning being that I was going to be around for longer than her so it would make more sense for it to be my say. It was a thoughtful thing for a mother to do and I told her I wanted an Australian republic.
My mother and I are of course from very different generations. She grew up with God Save the Queen as our national anthem and Australia was part of the British Empire. I grew up with Advance Australia Fair and to me at least the Queen and the Royal family never seemed like anything I had any remote connection to. I always needed to remind myself that she was also the Queen of Australia as well as England. The royal family seemed no more Australian than the President of America or the King of Spain, a curious colonial oversight from days gone by.
1999 referendum was a major loss for Republicans and the movement has been on life support ever since. But still it was hardly a victory for monarchists either. The “no” campaign knew that the majority of Australians no longer thought of the Royal family as ours and they instead criticised the model of the Republic, calling it the “politician’s republic” to play into people’s distrust of politicians and to split the republic vote. They didn’t appeal to fondness for England and the Queen because they knew that was an argument that they couldn’t win. They may have won the battle, but general apathy towards the crown still reigns supreme.
But where has the Republican movement been in the last ten years? We have had two republican prime ministers, one republican opposition leader and still we can’t get a government to have the courage of its convictions to push the issue. The general catch cry from republican politicians is that we will revisit the issue but not until the end of the current Queens reign. It just stinks of laziness that they think that convincing Australia for a republic is too hard but King Charles’s unpopularity will make them win the argument by default. If a republic is going to win just because people don’t like Charles then it really doesn’t deserve to win.
I believe in democracy, and so I see no need for our elected government to serve at the pleasure of someone who receives their role because of hereditary privilege. I despise the class system and believe the Monarchy is not a system that truly represents an egalitarian society. I believe in freedom of religion, and I don’t want my head of state to also be Supreme governor of the Church of England and I also don’t want any 300 year old laws making it illegal for a Catholic to be our head of state. We can not be a true secular society whilst we retain the monarchy. I believe that Australian’s should one day have the opportunity to be the head of state, and I want that to be decided by duty, service and who is most qualified for the job, not by who was the first male to come out of the right vagina.
These are beliefs that I am passionate about and they are why I am a republican. I want Australia to be a republic because people believe in these ideals, not because of the unpopularity of the monarch of the time. The argument for a republic is as valid right now as it is ten or twenty years from now and if republican politicians really believe in a republic, and yes that means you Julia and Malcolm they should be pushing for it, advocating for it now. That is if you really believe in it.
Likewise the Monarchists who want to defend their preferred system may need to refine their arguments if last nights Qanda is anything to go by. Between the Monarchist who came to the studio clutching a teddy bear and speaking in a pretend posh accent and Angela Bishop supporting the monarchy because of the cult of celebrity the only monarchist with anything serious to say was Nick Minchin. Minchin didn’t seem to like, dislike or particularly care about the Royal family either way but argued that it’s a system that has provided relative stability to our political system for the last 110 years. It’s a fair point, but I don’t think it is beyond us to create a republican system that provides the stability of our current system but with an Australian head of state. If only we had a few politicians who were actually passionate enough to fight for such a thing.