Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Bring on Republic Day

Today is Queen Elizabeth II's 94th birthday.  However, this year her birthday celebrations have been cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak. 
For the past nine years I've been arguing the lack of any public activity around the Queen's birthday shows how the concept of monarchy is out-of-step with contemporary Australia.
If we will no longer be acknowledging the Queen's Birthday and Britain has cancelled the Trooping the Colour parade in June to mark the Queen's official birthday, then the next question is when will be holding 'Republic Day'?


Friday, February 14, 2020

An Australian Republican Moment - 14 February 1966

Australian life has been undergoing processes of change for a long time - 54 years ago today, decimal currency replaced Imperial pounds, shillings and pence in Australian commerce. Four years after that, we replaced Imperial measurement with the metric system. We look forward to the day we replace a British royal with an Australian as our Head of State.

The Australian dollar was first introduced on 14 February 1966 when it replaced the Australian pound and introduced a decimal system to the nation. Although investigated as an alternative as early as 1901, the decimal currency system was initially introduced to Australia as an election promise by then Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies in 1958.

There was much discussion about the name of the new currency, with several specifically Australian names such as the ‘Kanga’, ‘Austral’, ‘Merino’, and ‘Dinkum’ bandied around. A public naming competition seeking suggestions with an Australian flavour added nearly 1000 names to this list including such exotic suggestions as 'Oz', 'Boomer', 'Roo', 'Kanga', 'Emu', 'Koala', 'Digger', 'Zac', 'Kwid', and 'Ming' (the nickname of Prime Minister Menzies).

In June 1963, with no clear consensus having emerged on a name, the Government decided to name the new currency the 'Royal'. Treasurer Harold Holt explained that the Government saw this name as “emphasising our link with the Crown” and as being “a dignified word with a pleasing sound".

Between June and September 1963, the Bank's Note Printing Branch developed a variety of design concepts for the Royal notes.

Design concept for the 10 "royal" note
While the name ‘Royal’ was settled upon initially, it proved extremely unpopular with the Australian people. Just three months after announcing the 'Royal' decision the Government conceded on 19 September 1963 that the name of the currency unit would be the 'Dollar'. This decision won quick and general public approval.

The official conversion to decimal currency took place on 14 February 1966. The jingle below became well known to many Australians in the lead-up to the conversion date.

Decimal Change Over Song

In come the dollars and in come the cents
To replace the pounds and the shillings and the pence
Be prepared for change when the coins begin to mix
On the fourteenth of February 1966.

Clink go the coins, clink, clink, clink
Change over day is closer than you think
Learn the value of the coins and the way that they appear
And things will be much smoother when the decimal point is here.

In come the dollars and in come the cents
To replace the pounds and the shillings and the pence
Be prepared folks when the coins begin to mix
On the fourteenth of February 1966.

Thankfully the 1960s Menzies government finally saw sense in not pushing the ‘Royal’ onto the Australian people. It was a term not recognised as remotely appropriate by Australians. Fifty years later the latest poll shows that just over 50% of Australians don't want a Royal as our Head of State. 

We look forward to the day we replace an English royal with an Australian as our Head of State.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Vale Martin Hollander

I am saddened to pass on the news that Martin Hollander, secretary of the NSW Branch of the Australian Republic Movement, his wife Barabara and sons Berand and Matthew were trajically killed in the Whakaari/White island volcano eruption in NZ on Monday, 9 December 2019. 

Martin was a fantastic contributor to the ARM, being the secretary of the NSW Branch since 2017. He was just recently elected again as secretary last month. He was a strong believer in an Australian republic, seeing the issue from a unique perspective with his wife and children born in the United States and having worked and lived overseas for many years.

I know many of you would have met Martin at the various ARM events over the years. Martin's insights, warmth and depth of character was a tremendous asset to the campaign and a gift to all those who knew him. I think you would agree with me that in addition to his contribution in trying to make Australia a republic, he was also one of the nicest people you could meet, a genuinely great bloke.

Please see attached a short video in memory of Martin. The ARM had the opportunity to sit down with him earlier this year to record a conversation about his support for an Australian republic, and hear his story.

Vale Martin, Barbara, Berend and Matthew. You will be missed.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Remembering when Goss the Boss defeated the Bjelke Blues

Thirty years ago on 2 December 1989, 32 years of conservative rule in Queensland was brought to an emphatic end when 38-year-old lawyer Wayne Goss claimed victory in a Labor won landslide.

Wayne Goss claiming victory in 1989
Goss and Labor scored a 24-seat swing, the worst defeat of a sitting government up until that time in Queensland. Voters had clearly grown tired of the Joh era and the stench of corruption uncovered by Tony Fitzgerald QC. With the election of Goss and Labor, Queensland was rescued from the deep chasm of corruption, self-indulgence and arrogance it had fallen into.

Wayne Goss’s victory brought a breath of fresh air to government in Queensland. It brought light to the dark corners of government where corruption had taken root and led to a raft of reforms to rebuild the state and restore transparency to Queensland’s political system.

Once installed in office, he presided over the implementation of many of the reforms of the landmark Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption. He was absolutely driven to reform Queensland in terms of ridding the state of corruption and restoring the integrity of the electoral system. Establishing the Electoral and Administrative Reform Commission to abolish the electoral gerrymandering that had defined the state’s political environment throughout the Bjelke-Petersen years returned democracy to the people. His initiatives, in areas such as education, health, the environment and accountability, set new and higher standards for Queensland.

Like Gough Whitlam, Wayne Goss fought extremely hard to correct social injustices and bring about major progressive reforms such as decriminalising homosexuality, appointing Queensland's first female Governor, and abolishing the Queensland Police Special Branch.

Wayne Goss surrounded himself with people who would go on to have significant political careers. His chief of staff at this time was Kevin Rudd, later leader of the federal Labor Party and Prime Minister of Australia and his 1989 campaign director was Wayne Swan, subsequently treasurer and deputy prime minister of Australia. Also instrumental in his team in the early days of his premiership was Glyn Davis, who was appointed in the early 1990s to the Republic Advisory Committee.

The Queensland branch of the Australian Republic Movement was launched in 1993 during his Premiership. It was reported in 'Coalition sparks as Libs embrace republic', The Canberra Times, 30 March 1993, that Goss announced plans to remove references to the Queen and the Crown from all state oaths, affirmations and legislation. This was the beginning of an ongoing Queensland campaign.

On 28 April 1993, a new ministerial oath removing reference to the Queen was taken for the first time at the swearing in of the Attorney-General, Michael Lavarch.

The Queensland federal politician Lavarch promised to

“... well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia', instead of 'well and truly serve Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law."

Michael Lavarch was later elected as a Queensland Constitutional Convention delegate for the ARM.

Goss stated in the ARM newsletter, 29 April 1993:

'There is no foreign power or benevolent monarch in some other part of the world watching over us. Australia’s on its own now and we must have a structure of government and a national identity that reflects that we are independent and we are Australians first and we are no longer attached to, or an appendage of, the British royal family.'

On 29 November 1995, Wayne Goss was guest speaker at a major ARM dinner at the Gateway Hotel, Brisbane. This marked his first major step in the republican debate.

At this dinner Goss outlined

“... a plan to consolidate the Queensland Constitution and then to consult widely to prepare the constitution for a transition to a republic.”
~ (Armlet, Summer 1995/1996, p1)

ARM (Qld) supporter Gary Shadforth recalls how in May 2004 he

“... had the privilege of meeting Wayne at a Republic Upstairs function held many years ago in an old Brisbane pub held by the Queensland Branch of the Australian Republican Movement. Wayne was the keynote speaker. So many interesting and enlightening anecdotes with that deep rich voice. He certainly was a man who stood out in a crowd."

The last time Queensland republicans heard that “deep rich voice” was at the ARM (Qld) AGM held in the Red Chamber (old Upper House), Queensland Parliament on 24 November 2011. The guest speaker that evening was Courier Mail reporter Paul Syvret. Wayne Goss, as always, sat at the back of the chamber, however on this evening he was in full flight contributing his observations on the current political situation. His voice, as always, was a delight to hear.

Wayne Goss resigned as Premier and Leader of the Labor Party on 19 February 1996 and assumed something of an "elder statesman" role from the back benches.

He retired from politics at the 1998 Queensland state election. After his retirement from politics, Goss served in a variety of community and business roles.

Wayne Goss battled a series of brain tumours for 17 years, undergoing four operations to remove them. He died on 10 November 2014. The loss of this incredible man and proud Queenslander left a gap in the ranks of those working towards securing an independent Australia.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Twenty years on on from 'breaking the nation's heart'

NOVEMBER IS always a time of remembering. November is Australia’s "republican season" — a time of year full of republican symbolism, as well as republican remembering.

In Australia, the republican season includes the anniversary of the 6 November 1999 republic referendum, the 3 November 1997 anniversary of the voluntary postal election for the 1998 Constitutional Convention, as well as the anniversary of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s dismissal on 11 November by then Governor-General John Kerr in 1975. The latter event remains the most dramatic event in Australia’s political history and began the modern republican movement.

Recently there have been claims the British monarch was involved in Australia’s 1975 constitutional crisis. But as ARM National Chair Peter FitzSimons wrote:
'Nothing has changed since 1975 to stop this happening again.  And next time, it might not be an adviser to Queen Elizabeth having these kinds of secret meetings on Australia’s internal affairs, but a courtier of none other than King Charles.'
The Feast of Saints is held at the beginning of November and is now widely observed across the world to remember those recognised as today’s saints — known or unknown, mighty or lowly.

This is followed on the 5th November with Guy Fawkes Night, which remembers the survival of James I from Guy Fawkes’ assassination plot when he attempted to blow up the House of Lords:
Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
And of course, Remembrance Day has been held each year on 11 November for almost a century to remember the Armistice of the Great War

Early November also sees the anniversaries of the 2014 memorial for Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (1971-1975), as well as the 12 November eulogy delivered for Professor George Winterton. Winterton was a first-rank constitutional scholar and pioneer of the modern republican debate. He spent most of his career at the University of New South Wales, was a prominent republican scholar and writer, a member of the Republic Advisory Committee in the mid-1990's and a key delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention that crafted the minimalist republic model rejected in the 1999 referendum. More than anyone else, he produced the model that went to the people in the 1999 republic referendum.

Republicanism emerged as an issue of major public debate during the 1990s. Australians have long discussed the idea of replacing the constitutional monarchy with a republican constitution, even during the 19th Century, before federation in 1901. In the 1960s, republican activity was restarted by authors Geoffrey Dutton and Donald Horne. At the same time, the student magazine Oz lampooned the monarchy. A decade on, the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by the appointed Governor-General on 11 November 1975 outraged many Australians.

The 1975 Constitutional Crisis drew attention to Australia's constitutional arrangements and, since those turbulent days, several notable Australians have declared a commitment to an Australian republic. There were many Town Hall meetings and calls to "maintain the rage". During these years, the Australian Labor Party edged towards declaring itself for the republic. This it eventually did in 1982.

In the 1990s, the popular definition of "republic" was simply the removal of the British monarch as head of state. This was seen as the last step in Australia’s political development. On 7 July 1991, the Australian Republic Movement was established, with the author Tom Keneally as the inaugural chair. The Australian Republican Movement was formed as an organisation with the single goal of Australia becoming a republic no later than 1 January 2001.

In December 1991, Paul Keating was sworn in as prime minister of Australia after deposing Bob Hawke as leader of the Federal Australian Labor Party.

As Keating came to power in the early 1990s, his support for the republic and issues of national identity was widely known, and he continued to campaign for it throughout his time in office and beyond.

In April 1993, Prime Minister Keating appointed the Republic Advisory Committee, led by Malcom Turnbull, to examine options on how to achieve a republic with minimal constitutional change.
The Republic Advisory Committee published its report in 1993, in which it stated:
'... a republic is achievable without threatening Australia's cherished democratic institutions.'
On 7 June 1995, Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating formally announced his support for an Australian Republic in a televised speech to Parliament entitled 'An Australian Republic The Way Forward'. This was the culmination of nearly a decade of discussion on constitutional change. In the course of his speech to the House of Representatives, he announced his government’s intention to transform the Commonwealth of Australia from a constitutional monarchy into a republic.

Keating proposed a minimalist plan for a republic, concentrating on the single task of installing an Australian as head of state, one with the same role as the governor-general. The intended transformation was targeted to occur before the centennial celebrations in 2001. The president of the Commonwealth of Australia would be nominated by the prime minister after consultation with all parties and elected by a two-thirds majority at a joint sitting of Parliament.

The 1998 Constitutional Convention helped to strengthen the debate for a republic as a major issue in the late 1990s. However, the debate became caught up in an argument about the best selection method for the Australian head of state and it was on this crucial issue Australian republicans divided.

Throughout most of the 1990s, Malcolm Turnbull led and funded the Australian Republican Movement. Even though Turnbull has played no active role in the Australian Republican Movement since the 1999 republican referendum defeat, for many Australians he is still the face of the call for an Australian as head of state. It is his name that many ordinary Australians still mention when the republican argument is brought up.

Australians need a head of state of our own, someone who can lead the dignified part of our national life away from the day to day screaming match of Parliament and Q&A. How can we keep chucking out MPs with dual citizenship when our head of state isn’t even a citizen at all?

Sunday, September 01, 2019

National Wattle Day and the spirit of the Australian republic

Australians may have made a home for themselves amongst the gum trees, but it is the wattle tree that has found its way into Australian republican symbolism.

1 September has many names. Some welcome it as spring’s dawn, a time to celebrate nature’s renewal. For others, it is National Wattle Day — a time when the smells of spring are in the air as well as Australia's vivid gold blossom.

In Australia, the wattle is the largest genus of flowering plants. In Australia, you could plant two or three different wattles for every day of the year and still have plenty left over, for Australia has more acacia species than the year has days. These acacias are extremely diverse and found in habitats from rainforest to arid lands.

I have written before on how Wattle Day is celebrated annually on the first day of spring. A sprig of Australia's national floral emblem, the golden wattle – acacia pycnantha – is traditionally worn on the first day of spring. The green and gold of wattle leaves and blossoms were declared our national colours in 1984; in 1988, the wattle was adopted as the official national flower; and National Wattle Day was formally declared on 1 September 1992.

In 1993, the Australian Republic Movement gave its support to Wattle Day celebrations being held throughout Australia on 1 September. Wattle captures something crucial to the success of the republic — feeling for country. It is a unifying symbol.

September 1 is the 27th anniversary of the declaration of National Wattle Day, as well as the 26th anniversary of the Australian Republic Movement giving its support to National Wattle Day celebrations throughout Australia.

Wattle Day has been celebrated annually on the first day of spring since 1910, when a sprig of the golden wattle is traditionally worn. However, the first known use of wattle as a meaningful emblem in the Australian colonies was in Hobart Town in 1838, when a resident suggested wearing a sprig of wattle to celebrate the golden jubilee of the landing at Sydney Cove. In this seemingly small gesture lay a suggestion of an independent Australia.

Wattle is a broad and inclusive symbol of an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry. It grows in all parts of Australia, differing varieties flowering throughout the year. This democracy of wattles – the fact that they grow in all states – was the overpowering reason why the wattle and not the waratah was chosen as the floral emblem in the early twentieth century.

Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said: “I am from this land. This place is home.”

It is a symbol that comes directly from our land. Wattle is Australian and represents us all. Like the Southern Cross, the appeal of wattle is not first and foremost to the idea of nation — but to the idea of place.

The future Australian republic will also project a sense of feeling of place.

At the moment, the Australian Republic Movement is focused on achieving an Australian as Head of State. However, the republic is not just one person.

The spirit of the future republic will be embodied in not just the Head of State but in place.

Wattle touches all levels of society.

Early pioneers and World War I diggers were buried with a customary sprig of wattle. Then Governor-General Sir William Deane took wattle blossoms to Switzerland to commemorate young Australians who died there and Prime Minister John Howard wore sprigs of wattle at ceremonies after the Bali bombings.

Terry Fewtrell said in a 2014 Australia Day speech that:
“...wattle has journeyed with us in kitbags, pockets and letters to places that become synonymous with our shared story; be they Gallipoli, Kokoda or Swiss canyons."
Australian athletes wear wattle-inspired green and gold uniforms and those honoured with an Order of Australia receive awards with an insignia designed around the wattle flower.

Let’s all take a moment this National Wattle Day and reflect on the wattle flower which symbolises an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry.

So, when the blaze of wattle lights up the Australian landscape each year, let’s all remember that the wattle is a symbol of our land that unites us all.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Vale, Tim Fischer - an 'unexpected republican'

The Australian Republic Movement was deeply saddened to hear of the death of former Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Tim Fischer.

Mr Fischer was the Leader of the National Party from 1990 to 1999 and was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade from March 1996 to July 1999. He was the member for Farrer from 1984 to 2001 and from 2009 to 2012 was the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See. 

His life is a story of personal sacrifice and tireless service to his country. From serving in Vietnam, to serving the nation in state and Federal parliaments for 26 years, his humble, intensely warm yet passionate demeanour endeared him to all he met. The Australian Republic Movement recognises in particular his service to the cause of an Australian republic.

Australia has a long history of advocating for an Australian republic; indeed, there were republicans before there was a Federation. Through the 1990s Fischer was involved in the discussions of what Donald Horne called in 1992, the ‘coming republic'.

In March 1995, the alternative model to then Prime Minister Paul Keating government’s two-thirds majority parliamentary vote was backed by the Federal Leader of the National Party, Tim Fischer — that is, a ceremonial president elected by popular vote. In the process, Fischer added legitimacy to a republic and his comments were a tacit acceptance that a republic, sooner or later, was inevitable. Fischer’s entry into the republican issue, along with Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett and a former Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen, who proposed that upon Bill Hayden’s retirement as governor-general in 1996 that Keating should allow the Parliament to vote in his successor rather than choose his own candidate, meant that the conservative side of politics was now involved in a genuine dialogue about the republic.

A vocal advocate for a fair and informed debate during the 1999 referendum, Mr Fischer went on to develop and present potential options for constitutional reform to achieve bipartisan support for an Australian republic after he left political office, including playing a leading role at the Corowa Conference in 2001. In July 2001, Fischer stated:

At one o'clock this day, the Oddfellows Hall is opened following a $750,000 Federation grant at Corowa. That's where in 1893 there was a key public meeting and process which re-railed the federation process. That's a precursor to the Corowa People's Conference set down for early December which involves Richard McGarvey, Zelman Cowan, Jack Hammond QC, and the Corowa Shire Council. And Treasurer Peter Costello will open that hall. And it's an appropriate time to launch.

Fischer was looking at re-railing a process for constitutional change.

As a former minister for trade, he fought fiercely for Australia’s interests and Australian jobs, and decried Britain’s attempts to use the British Monarchy in its delegations to deprive Australia of those same opportunities.

In December 2017 the Australian Republic Movement established a high-level advisory panel, comprising a diverse group from politics, business, academia, media and the law. The group of eminent republicans included former parliamentarians from across the political divide: Labor leader Kim Beazley, Victorian premier Steve Bracks, Nationals leader Tim Fischer and Liberal Senate leader Robert Hill.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison saidhe was an all in conviction politician.” This integrity and resolve were underlined when he came out in favour of an Australian republic.

Mr Fischer will be remembered as a statesman and champion of Australia. 

The former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader died aged 73 at the Albury-Wodonga Cancer Centre on 22 August 2019, surrounded by close family members. A State Funeral for the Honourable Tim Fischer AC will take place at 1.00 pm on Thursday 29 August 2019 at the Albury Entertainment Centre, Swift Street, Albury, NSW.

Vale Tim.