Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Queen’s Birthday – time to talk succession planning

The British Royal family appears to be preparing for the end of the Queen’s reign by undertaking succession planning. Prince Charles is well-known as the heir to the British throne, however it may be less known that the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward has been tapped on the shoulder to be the next Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Elizabeth II turns 92 today. I’ve asked before, when will she be allowed to put up her feet? Most 92 years olds are long retired, but not that trouper the Queen. My grandmother will be 93 later this year. She's a hardy soul but there's no way she would be up to the frantic pace needed to be a world leader! Even though retirement plans for many people keep going further and further beyond 60, Queen Elizabeth II has still well and truly exceeded this.

There will be lots of world leaders in London to help her celebrate her birthday at the Royal Albert Hall as it will be the day after the week long Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting will have finished. CHOGM 2018 summit was held this time in London from 16-20 April 2018 to allow the Queen to attend. This was the first time the UK has hosted the CHOGM summit since 1997 and many suggest this may be the Queen’s last time she attends. It is of course also an opportunity for lots of other royals to have photo opportunities at a world forum.

Queen Elizabeth II has been the Head of CHOGM since 1953. The question of whether her successor as CHOGM leader should be another Commonwealth leader or the next British monarch — who will be head of state in 15 of the 53 Commonwealth nations — has long been described as the elephant in the room at high-level meetings of its officials.

Queen Elizabeth II’s position as head of the Commonwealth isn't hereditary and not everyone is particularly excited about the prospect of Prince Charles taking over with some thinking her replacement should be directly elected and preferably someone from a small nation.

At the opening of CHOGM on Thursday, 20 April 2018 the Queen said that it is her “sincere wish” that her son, Prince Charles, carries on her work as leader of the Commonwealth. These comments are the first by the monarch to tacitly address the issue of succession at what is widely regarded to be her last Heads of Government meeting as she no longer travels long distances.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared he will back Prince Charles as the next head of the Commonwealth. However, a poll of the British by the Australian Republic Movement in August 2017 found almost two in three do not want Prince Charles to replace the Queen on the throne. Only 39% of those Britons polled said they trusted the man who is set to be their next king – and 80% of respondents agreed that a country’s head of state ‘should only be a citizen of that country’.

This critical decision on who shall serve as head of the Commonwealth will occur at a leader’s retreat at Windsor Castle on Friday, 20 April 2018 – the day before her birthday. A vote happening in the monarch’s castle on whether they will continue as the head of an organisation of states that they at one stage owned, reminds me of Monty Python’s Dennis the Peasant’s query on why ‘You don’t vote for kings’.
The CHOGM 2018 leadership succession issue highlights the British royal family preparations for the end of the Queen’s reign. All businesses have succession planning. The British Royal family is no different. However, there has been a family succession plan process in place for a number of years now for her husband, Prince Philip.

Prince Philip officially retired in August 2017 at 96 after his dramatic announcement of his intention to retire from active royal duties in May 2018. Since his birth, Prince Charles has known he will take over the top job eventually, however it is more recent that his youngest brother Prince Edward has been tapped on the shoulder to be the next Duke of Edinburgh.

In an effort to secure his promotion to his father’s job, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, quietly came into Australia in early April on the slip-stream of his older brother Prince Charles. Throughout April 2018 he has been criss-crossing Australia attending the Commonwealth Games, and, as the Chair of The Board of Trustees of  The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, attending 32 engagements across Melbourne, Ballarat, Hobart, Brisbane, and Adelaide, from formal receptions, Award presentations, meetings with government officials and the community sector, to meeting Award Participants and their families at community centres.

The major focus of his visit is to promote the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, named after his father, more than 60 years ago.

Prince Edward was appointed Earl of Wessex upon marriage on 19 June 1999. The Kingdom of Wessex played the leading role in the unification of Anglo-Saxon England in the ninth century. The last person to hold the earldom was Harold Godwinson, prior to his accession to the English throne in 1066. If this title has not been used in over 1000 years is it at all relevant in the world today? Perhaps he should be called the Earl of Westeros (rather than Wessex).

I don’t think Prince Edward would hope for his family to be as dysfunctional as the Lannister’s from G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Many Lannister’s appear to come to gruesome ends. Although it is what happened to the last holder of the title, Earl of Wessex. Westeroes or Wessex. Does either place really exist? Perhaps it’s our fascination with modern fictional royalty that helps bolster off-line royalty these days.

It would seem based upon the amount of illegal downloads by Australians of each Game of Thrones episode they would have a better understanding of the family trees of the Household of Westeroes than the Windsor dynasty.

In keeping in keeping with the tradition of a monarch's son receiving a title upon marriage, but preserving the rank of duke for the future, Prince Edward is the first British prince in centuries to be specifically created an earl, rather than a duke. However, he will eventually succeed to the title Duke of Edinburgh, currently held by his father. It is for this branding reason that he has taken on many roles from his father, Prince Philip including attending Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme ceremonies around the world.

On 1 September 1956, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II helped to found the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (commonly abbreviated DofE),  in order to give young people "a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities".

In 2014, in an effort to maintain relevance with the youth of Australia, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in Australia removed Prince Philip’s royal monogram from all their logos and replaced it with the strongest symbol of popular sovereignty – the shape of the Australian continent.

The removal of Prince Philip’s monogram followed on the heels of the removal in 2012 of the 40-year-old pledge to Queen and God by Girl Guides Australia. This decision was based on a survey of all 28,000 guides and leaders on changing their promise. After 18 months of intensive consultation of Australia's largest volunteer girls group, most of them girls between the ages of 10 and 14, it was agreed that from 6 July 2012 Guides Australia would drop the pledge of allegiance.

The refreshed Girl Guides' promise has its 28,000-strong group now promising to do their best
' be true to myself and develop my beliefs" rather than to "do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country.'
The modernisation of the Girl Guide pledge reflects Girl Guides desire to move with the times in the understanding that Australia is changing; it speaks of this nation seeking its own identity as part of being Australian.

This was something Scouts Australia had done over ten years ago. In 2012, Richard Miller, then national chief executive of Scouts Australia, explained that in 2001 the Scout Promise was also changed so that an individual had the option to omit reference to the Queen. It appears the youth movements of Australia understand that, to increase membership, they have to appeal to multicultural Australia rather than a by-gone British Australia. Overt symbols of royalty have no place in twenty-first century Australia and perhaps nor do any references to the British crown.

It is likely the DofE people looked at the same membership rate projections as the Girl Guides and realised that, to remain relevant and viable in an Australian setting, they must become multicultural with a focus on service to this country. However, by 2015 the personal monogram of the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria had been returned to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Australia logo.

I’ve argued previously there is no place for Princes in modern Australia. The public repudiation of previous Prime Minister Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking. 

The 53 Commonwealth nations - including 32 Commonwealth republics - are about to make a democratic decision about their next head.  That is a good thing, and their democratic decision should be respected.  The position for Australians is the opposite.

It is a disgraceful fact that without constitutional change the citizens of Australia will not even be consulted on our next head of state. One morning we will simply wake up to hear news from England that will change our country for decades to come. This cannot stand.
If CHOGM 2018 is discussing succession - and if the British royal family itself is prepared to make arrangements for after the Queen's reign - Australia should certainly do the same.  

We should decide. 

Australia should have a national vote on whether we have an Australian as our head of state, and whether our head of state should be elected by the people or by the Parliament, in 2020.  A referendum should follow to put this in place by 2022.

But even for those who think Australia should be a republic after the Queen's reign ends, that means starting preparation today.

Thompson Twins – King For A Day

Thursday, April 05, 2018

GC2018 Commonwealth Games: 150 years of British princes vising Australia

When Prince Charles opened the 2018 Commonwealth Games last night, he bookended 150 years since the first British prince – Prince Alfred in 1867-68 – visited Australia.

THE 2018 COMMONWEALTH GAMES will be held from 4-15 April 2018 on the Gold Coast, in Queensland and will involve 70 nations, 11 days of competition and 18 sports — including the debut of beach volleyball and the para-triathlon.

On Wednesday, 4 April 2018, Prince Charles and his wife, Duchess Camilla was welcomed at a reception at Old Government House, Brisbane before heading to the Gold Coast for the opening of the Commonwealth Games. Prince Charles will be deputising for his mother, Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the Commonwealth Games.

On the eve of the royal visit, former Prime Minister Paul Keating said in the UK Sunday Times that Prince Charles has no desire to be the next King of Australia, and believes Australia should sever its ties with the monarchy of Great Britain and become a republic, charting its own independent course as a nation.

The public repudiation of former Prime Minister Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking — and yet princes keeping coming to Australia. It used to be only once a generation thing. Now they seem to be coming all the time. It used to be as rare as a bunyip sighting. There’s no place for princes in Australia.

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is an opportunity to emphasise that an Australian republic and having our own head of state does not require a change to Commonwealth membership. There are 53 nations in the Commonwealth and 32 are republics. Not all of the member states (Mozambique and Rwanda) were former British colonies. Other than Britain, five Commonwealth nations have their own hereditary Head of State — Brunei Darussalam, Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland and Tonga. Although Queen Elizabeth is the Head of the Commonwealth it doesn't mean she is the head of state of every nation in it. The "Head of Commonwealth" role is not hereditary and may simply disappear when she passes on.

In February 2018, it was reported by the BBC that a “high-level group” of Commonwealth leaders met in London to review the governance of member nations and to examine who should take over as head of the Commonwealth when the Queen dies. The group is not sure they want Charles – who would then be King – as the Head of the Commonwealth — and because it’s not actually a hereditary position, the members of the Commonwealth will have a say.

The Commonwealth leaders want to have a say in who will be their next leader. This is in contrast to Australians who have no say in choosing our next head of state. Perhaps Australians should decide whether we want an Australian as our head of state and how an Australian head of state should be chosen.

The Australian Republic Movement recently invited Prince Charles to address an Australian audience about why he’d like to be Australia’s head of state, rather than an Australian.  Despite the fact that during his five-day stay, Prince Charles is likely to be attending events and making a few speeches, he recently declined the invitation to discuss the future of the Australian monarchy.

The first prince to visit the shores of Australia arrived in November 1867. The latest British royal visit is a bookend to the first royal visit, which occurred over five hot months from 1867 to 1868. This was undertaken by Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred — a Royal Navy captain on a round-the-world voyage on board the HMS Galatea. Stops were made at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. He first landed at Glenelg, in South Australia, on 31 October 1867. As the first member of the British royal family to visit the Australian colonies, he was received with much enthusiasm. During his stay of nearly five months, Alfred visited Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania.

At a meeting on 20 January 1868 to elect three trustees from the subscribers to the fund for the erection of the first Grammar School in Brisbane, there was a discussion on the probability of Prince Alfred – who was about to visit the colony – to lay the foundation stone.
The Brisbane Courier on 21 January 1868 stated:
... as almost a necessary consequence, the school would be in some way connected with his Royal Highness by name. As, however, the number of institutions which either now did or promised to bear the name of Prince Alfred, or Duke of Edinburgh, in the other colonies, had become almost beyond all count, he would suggest that they had better confine themselves out here to some such name as the "Prince’s School", or "Queen’s School" … [another] said he believed according to the 'Grammar Schools Act' they were bound to call the school the "Brisbane Grammar School".
During his visit to Brisbane, Prince Alfred laid the Brisbane Grammar School Foundation Stone on 29 February 1868. However, the people of Brisbane refused to yield to the pressure around all the colonies to name all institutions after the visiting royal. Instead of naming the school after him, the event was commemorated in the school with his coat-of-arms included in the northern stained glass window of the "Great Hall". The fact that he wasn’t liked much helped the burghers of Brisbane maintain their "republican" stance.

On 12 March 1868, during his second visit to Sydney, Prince Alfred was shot in the back with a revolver by Henry James O'Farrell in an attempted assassination while picnicking on the beach in the Sydney suburb of Clontarf.

This created a wave of sectarian hatred and fanatical declarations of loyalty. In this climate, republicanism became associated with Fenianism, violence and anarchy. One result of the Irish would-be assassin O’Farrell’s shot was that Henry Parkes passed the Treason Felony Act, which made disloyal talk of any sort a crime, punishable by six month’s prison. Prince Alfred was wounded just to the right of his spine but was saved from serious injury by the rubber suspenders he was wearing to hold up his trousers. He recovered fully and continued on his world tour. O’Farrell was found guilty of attempted murder and was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 21 April 1868 — the birthday of the current British monarch.

The first royal tour included a school rejecting the use of a royal title, as well as being shot at while attending a beach barbeque. The first event has an echo in the current abolishing of knighthoods. Hopefully, though, there won’t be any incident at a Gold Coast beach birthday like at Clontarf Beach in 1868.

The British royal hatching and matching have been in all the celebrity magazines for nearly nine months. The Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton is reportedly due with her third child on 23 April. This will be followed on 19 May with the Royal Wedding between actor Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, set for St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. However, Australians appear to be unswayed by the royal engagement and support for the British monarchy hitting a record low, with 52 per cent support for a republic and only 22 per cent for a monarchy.

Perhaps it’s our fascination with modern fictional royalty that helps bolster off-line royalty these days. For us in Australia, royalty only ever visits us from somewhere else, from across the seas. It’s not something that lives with us, is part of us, except in our imaginations and creative fantasies. We feel this when we are binge-watching The Crown, or watching trilogies with Australia’s own fictional High Elven Royalty, Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and the Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett – who ironically has been a strong supporter of the Australian Republic Movement in the past) who voluntarily agreed to diminish and go into the West.

Maybe the closest we come to Australia's own home-grown king is in July each year when the Australian Crown along with his nobles and courtiers takes to the Field of St Michael's, during the Abbey Medieval Festival, at Caboolture, north of Brisbane — the largest authentic medieval re-enactment event in Australia.

Royalty comes and royalty goes, but it is never a part of us. Most Australians would have a better understanding of the family trees of the Households of Westeros than the Windsor dynasty. I’ve heard it said that the moment when King Joffrey chopped off the head of Ned Stark many Australians became republican.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

University Republic Clubs begin to 'mend the nation's heart'

The level of youth interest in university republic clubs across our nation refutes claims young Australians are uninterested in an Australian Republic.

THE ENERGY and vigour of new beginnings at the start of university life resonates with the future possibilities of an Australian Republic. A way forward, rather than looking back.

There are now the following university republic clubs on university campuses:

The University of Queensland Australian Republic Club is one of the most active university republic clubs on Australian campuses and has been involved in Republican movement activity on campus since the early 1990s.

In the first edition for 2018 of Semper Floreat, the University of Queensland Student Union newspaper and Queensland’s oldest student newspaper, University of Queensland Australian Republic Club (UQARC) President Oscar Green of­fers his reasons for why the idea of an Australian Republic is important.

Mr Green said:
For me it’s about fairness. It’s not fair that Australians don’t get to have a say on who their head of state is, and it’s not fair that, while we have the British monarch in that position, a deserving Aussie is missing out.
All government positions should be chosen on merit in­stead of family connections.
Australia is one of the most democratic countries in the world, so becoming a republic will celebrate this tradition and make people appreciate what Australian citizenship means.

The UQARC hopes to start a discussion of the issue among students. Mr Green said:

People are going to talk about a republic more and more the closer we get to the end of the Queen’s reign and the prospect of Charles as the King of Australia. It just makes sense that Australia should have an Australi­an head of state — if we were writing the Constitution today, would we pick the leader of another country for our highest office?
Mr Green also encouraged students to come down to the UQRAC stall in the Great Court. But you know the future of our nation is in good hands when you see a koala in an Australian Republic Movement shirt grooving on to Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh.

In 2017, Year 12 student Dan Crowley wrote in his winning essay'Why I am a Republican':

Australia is a country of merit and reward. That's why we worship sports heroes, those such as Bradman who mastered his craft with a golf ball, a wooden bat and a water tank. That's why those born into wealth and privilege are expected to prove themselves and help those without, and why we so instinctively support the underdog.

We have forged our nation, our own identity and our own set of values. We are a nation of builders, and we earn our own crowns. From the remnants of our colonial past, we have built something of our own. A nation by no means perfect, but a nation of our own. A nation shaped by land, climate, history and shared experience. A nation with culture, passions, food, sport, music and humour of its very own. We have built this ourselves from the ground up, and the fact the Queen can just pass by and be adorned with our crown and eternal love should insult every one of us.

A new poll showing the majority of Australians support an Australian republic, while support for the monarchy has fallen to its lowest recorded level. Just 22 per cent of respondents disagree that Australia should be a republic with an Australian as head of state. 52 per cent agree that Australia should be a republic.

The poll also shows Australians know the difference between celebrity news and an independent constitution. Asked if the engagement of Prince Harry and the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge make a difference to their opinion about a republic, 67 per cent of respondents said no. What’s more, 22 per cent of people said they are in fact more likely to support a republic as a result of the royal news!

The poll busts the myth that young Australians support the monarchy because of the popularity of ‘young Royals’.  In fact, opposition to a republic is weakest among young people. Just 17 per cent of Aussies 18-24 years old and 15 per cent of Aussies 25-34 are opposed to a republic. In every age group surveyed, more people agree that Australia should become a republic with an Australian as head of state than disagree.

It’s time for a new conversation about Australia, our identity and our responsibility, and to take the future into our hands as a fully independent nation. It is heartening to see young Australians of all political colours and persuasions all around Australia wrestling with these ideas.

It’s time we stopped limiting future generations. We must tell them an Australian is good enough to be the head of Australia. We need one of our own in the top job. We are a people who believe in fairness and in a fair go for all. So why is the top job in Australia limited to someone overseas who was born into it and never earned it? Our shared national values mean that any Australian should have the right to our top office rather than complete exclusion from it.

Australia’s best and brightest university students appear to have already embraced these ideas.

On 6 November 1999, the Australian Republic Referendum failed, but now it seems Australia's youth are beginning to "mend the nation’s heart".

Sign up to find your University club here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

1998 Constitutional Convention - the high tide mark of support for the Australian republic

20 years ago, the last Constitutional Convention was debating an Australian Republic but as a result of its decision, the Republican movement was to slip, stagger and ultimately shatter.

THERE IS DEFINITELY a retro-culture moment happening in Australia.

The revisiting of Countdown episodes over the past six months on the ABC, supported by the success of the earlier Molly Meldrum mini-series, was so popular that Countdown-era music became the theme of the 2017 New Year’s Eve concert at Sydney Harbour.

It is worth remembering that the infamous Countdown interview with Prince Charles is still the most awkward British royalty moment in Australian television history.

Countdown: His Royal Highness The Prince Of Wales roasts Molly Meldrum

But it is definitely the 1990s that appear to be making a come-back. The Spice Girls are reforming, Oasis music has been re-found as a result of the Manchester bombing, scrunchies can be found again next to bathroom basins around the country and don’t even start me with the re-release of Cadbury Caramilk bars.

Another come-back in Australian politics is the Australian Constitution. The dual citizenship fiasco that has recently engulfed Federal politics has highlighted the existence and influence of the Australian Constitution. The High Court decisions terminating a slather of Australian Federal politicians have sent the message the Australian Constitution can’t be ignored.

The re-emergence of discussions about the Australian Constitution around family dinner tables, on buses on the way to work and at the front-bar in pubs, brings back memories of February 1998, when the daily debates and comments of the 152 delegates to the Constitutional Conventionbeing held in Canberra, were on the front page of national newspapers.

The 1998 Constitutional Convention was held in Old Parliament House, Canberra from the 2-13 February 1998. Its stated purpose was to consider the pros and cons of removing the Monarchy from a role in Australian government and law and changing the Australian Constitution to include a republican form of government.

The Constitutional Convention was convened by former Prime Minister John Howard to discuss issues related to three broad questions about whether or not Australia should become a republic. The three questions identified for discussion by the Prime Minister were:
  1. Whether Australia should become a republic;
  2. Which republic model should be put to the electorate to consider, against the status quo; and
  3. In what time frame and under what circumstances might any change be considered.
If the consensus was "yes", then a republican model was to be decided on, so it could be put to the Australian people in a referendum on 6 November 1999.

There have been a number of Constitutional Conventions in Australian history. The prominent Republican Constitutional lawyer Professor George Winterton defined the term "convention" as literally a "coming together" and has generally been employed in Australian politics to denote a meeting convened for the purpose of drawing up or amending a constitution. This usage has a long pedigree.

The first Australian Federal "Convention" was a meeting of representatives of the seven Australasian colonies and Fiji held in Sydney in November-December 1883. It led to the establishment of the Federal Council of Australasia, which New South Wales and New Zealand never joined.

The 1891 Constitutional Convention was held in Sydney in March and April 1891 to consider a draft Constitution for the proposed federation of the British colonies in Australia and New Zealand. There were 46 delegates at the Convention, chosen by the seven colonial parliaments. Among the delegates was Sir Henry Parkes, known as the "Father of Federation". The Convention approved a draft largely written by Andrew Inglis Clark, which is a close ancestor of the present Australian Constitution.

The 1897-98 Australasian Federal Convention, which essentially produced the present Constitution, was the only Australian Convention to be popularly elected and the only one whose efforts were crowned with success in the sense of seeing its proposals implemented. The 1897-98 Constitutional Convention was held in stages: the first in Adelaide in March 1897, the second in Sydney in August and the third in Melbourne in the sweltering heat of January 1898. At Melbourne, the Convention finally produced a draft Constitution which was eventually approved by the people at referendums in the colonies.

The 1973 Constitutional Convention was established by the Whitlam Government in 1973 to consider possible amendments to the Constitution which could be put to the people for approval at a referendum. The Convention, which was not elected but consisted of delegates chosen by the federal and state Parliaments, met through 1973–75 but was mired in the partisan atmosphere of the Whitlam years and achieved nothing.

The 1998 Constitutional Convention debated whether Australia should become a republic. It attracted enormous public interest and built the sort of awareness needed to hold a 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 Malcolm 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 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.

The 1998 Constitutional Convention delegates consisted of 152 Australians from all walks of life, half of whom were elected by the people and half appointed by the Federal Government. In 1997, the Australian Electoral Commission ran a national postal vote to elect 76 delegates to attend the Constitutional Convention in Canberra. The voting began on 3 November 1997 and closed on 9 December 1997. The postal ballot was unusual in that it used a Senate-style voting system, and did not require compulsory participation. The participation result of the voluntary nature of the postal vote was 47 per cent of eligible voters. The election was heavily contested, with many candidates standing as part of a Monarchist or Republican "ticket", but many others stood as independents.

In the popular election of delegates to the 1998 Constitutional Convention, Republican candidates won a majority (56.4 per cent) of the total votes cast and a majority in four States. Of the 76 elected delegates, 27 were Monarchists, 27 were affiliated to the Australian Republican Movement, 19 were Republicans with other affiliations, and two were of unknown affiliation. The appointed delegates group comprised 40 Parliamentary delegates from Federal, State and Territory Parliaments, as well as 36 non-Parliamentary delegates. Of these delegates, 17 were constitutional Monarchists, 30 Republicans, and 29 undeclared.

Speaking to the delegates on day one, then Prime Minister John Howard said that embarking on a republic might be dangerous.

“I oppose Australia becoming a republic because I do not believe that the alternatives so far canvassed will deliver a better system of government than the one we currently have ... I go further — some will deliver a worse outcome and gravely weaken our system of government.”

However, in the end, the Constitutional Convention concluded with "in principle support" for an Australian Republic with a referendum to be held in 1999: 89 to 52, with 11 abstentions.

The four models that emerged were:
  1. The Direct Election Model where the popular election for president would be held at the same time as those for the house of representatives.
  2. The Hayden Model proposed the popular election for president where a person had been nominated by one per cent of voters.
  3. The McGarvie Model proposed the president be chosen by the prime minister and appointed or dismissed by a constitutional council.
  4. The Bi-Partisan Appointment of the President Model developed by the Australian Republican Movement, where the president was appointed by the prime minister after ratification by a 2/3 majority of Federal Parliament.
At the end of the 1998 Constitutional Convention, 73 delegates voted in favour of adopting the bi-partisan appointment model, 57 against and 22 abstained. Not one Constitutional Monarchist delegate voted in favour. The policy of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) and other Monarchist groups was to oppose all republican models, including the minimalist McGarvie model.

Peter Costello, then Federal Treasurer, addressed the Constitutional Convention on Tuesday, 3 February 1998 arguing the deeper problem revolved around the presence of monarchy in Australia:

The temper of the times is democratic. We are uncomfortable with an office that appoints people by hereditary. In our society and in our time, we prefer appointment for merit.
I judge that the disquiet or uncomfortableness on the concept of monarchy to which I have earlier referred will continue to build and we should address this, not allow people to use it to build other agendas.
I believe there is an unease at the centre of our Constitutional arrangements, not because they do not work – they work extraordinarily well -– but because the symbols which underlie them are running out of believability and this gnaws at legitimacy.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said during his speech to the Australian Republic Movement’s (ARM) 25th Anniversary Dinner on 18 December 2016:

So if the job description is to be a non-political head of state, the best way to appoint them we felt at the time, was in a bipartisan manner. This exposed us of course to the claim that the ARM model was “a politician’s republic". We were told that you can’t trust politicians — ironically most vocally by politicians.

Just under two years later, the dreams of Australia’s republic supporters lay in tatters with the failure of the 6 November 1999 Referendum. On that evening, the then ARM National Chair, Malcolm Turnbull, said John Howard "broke this nation’s heart" over the Republic Referendum result.

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.

Recently, Benjamin T Jones published This Time: Australia’s Republican Past and Future, in which he charts a path to an independent future and discusses the best way to choose an Australian head of state. This hybrid model which encompasses both the direct election model and the Parliamentary elected model is called the Jones-Pickering model. Perhaps this is the answer, as the lesson of 1999 is that an Australian Republic can only come about if Republicans unite.

The seeds of republicanism go right back to the early days of the Australian colonies but despite several attempts – the last one in 1999 with the Referendum – we've never managed to get the idea across the line. We are a nation still looking for our "republican moment".

At its peak at the end of the 1998 Constitutional Convention, 76 per cent of Australians favoured a republic but were then split during the Referendum campaign between a minimalist and direct-election model. Supporters of the latter voted "no" and delivered victory to the Monarchists.

In 1999, the band, Powderfinger, told us how "These days turned out nothing like I had planned", but continued a few lines later that "it’s coming round again, the slowly creeping hand of time". The Australian Republic will happen — we are a republican people, it’s now a matter of making us a republican nation.