Sunday, December 25, 2011

Never let a good crisis go to waste

The Queensland ARM’s Christmas Party was held once again in the Queensland Legislative Council Chamber (Red Room) and later at the Riverside BBQ Area at Parliament House. This unique venue is in the heritage listed part of the complex and, though on arrival its somber ambience seemed to dominate, our guests enjoyed spending some time there taking in its history, admiring the gold leaf painting, wall of names, and the echoing footsteps of those who made their way into the Red Chamber to hear our guest speaker, Courier Mail senior journalist Paul Syvret. 
As the Australian Republican Movement's Queensland State Convenor, I kicked off with a short address and answered questions about branch and national matters. This was also the night we claimed the Legislative Council Chamber as a ‘republican space’ – due to the many years we have been holding our annual meeting here.
Afterwards, a short walk and quick two-storey ride in the elevator took us to our dinner venue, the Riverside BBQ Area, with its highly prized view over the Brisbane River and Southbank. The rain held off so we could enjoy the full space.
Careful placement of some Christmas decorations – thanks to the help from the youngest Republican in the place, Xavier Donovan – contributed to the festive mood, while all copies of The Essential Australian Republic Handbook left out on tables were taken home, no doubt for further review!
Andrew Grotherr d
id a sensational job at the coalface (on the BBQ!). Thanks go to Andrew and Belinda Donovan for setting everything up for dinner, Bill Turnbull for helping hang the merchandise, and Betty Smout for donating a prize for the raffle.
The new format of gathering to hear our guest speaker first meant that everyone could take their time over dinner and feed our Republic souls with like-minded discussion.
It was terrific to celebrate at our end of year celebrations with our members and guests. Thank you for y
our continued support and I look forward to seeing you all again at ARM activities in 2012.
Never let a good crisis go to wastePaul Syvret, 2011 ARM Guest Speaker, Queensland Legislative Council Chamber, 24 November 2011
Ladies and gentlemen I’ll try and keep this short to leave as much time as possible for questions and discussion, and, let’s be honest, I am no John Hirst or Malcolm Turnbull in the oratory stakes.
Anyway, as you would be aware, earlier this morning the Speaker of the Austra
lian parliament, Harry Jenkins, resigned — making way for the Liberal’s Peter Slipper to take the chair.
This is, to paraphrase Kevin Rudd (and excuse the language), one of the greatest acts of political rat-fuckery we’ve seen in some time. And of all people, Kevin should know a thing or two about that.
Forget though for a moment though all the ramifications of this – and I am sure in a room full of republicans there’d be at least a few of us here who are no great fans of Tony Abbott – and instead consider about the mechanics of it all.
Before the parliament could convene to elect a new Speaker, Harry Jenkins had to first visit Governor-General Quentin Bryce and officially inform her of his resignation — not our elected leader Julia Gillard, but instead the agent of a monarch on the other side of the planet.
Only when the Governor-General had formally confirmed receipt of the letter of resignation did she then ‘’invite’’ the house – presumably at Her Majesty’s Pleasure if we are to stick to protocol – to elect a new Speaker.
So what we had was a paradigm shift in the balance of power in Canberra — and at the very epicentre of the process was a woman unelected and whom I’d guess many Australians would be hard pressed to even name.
I’m sure the fact our political process has to be rubber stamped by the representative of a monarch who rules only by virtue of breeding sticks in your craw as much as mine, so I won’t preach to the converted tonight.
The problem, ladies and gentlemen, is that very few people outside the likes of us in this house tonight would even notice.
For the wider public – and the mainstream media – the issue of a constitutional monarchy versus a republican model is as dead as Peter Slipper’s re-election chances. It is simply not on the agenda.
I’m sure many of you here when waving the republican flag in conversation have been met reactions along the lines of:
“who cares? We had that debate more than 10 years ago”.In some respects it’s like attempting to spark discussion about whether we should have a Goods and Services Tax: in the public mind the issue is no longer moot. We’ve had the argument — the tax (like the constitutional monarchy) is there, it seems to work, and most importantly no-one really notices any more.
At the recent national Republican Lecture, Dr John Hirst spoke of three enemies of the republican dream, the first of these being complacency – an attitude of let’s bide our time until the Queen dies and everyone will realise how bloody silly the whole business is when we get the Charles and Camilla show, and then we’ll grow up. This is true, and as Hirst points out the popularity of a monarch should not be the catalyst for change in Australia.
Most importantly, though, change is not going to happen on its own. It is not going to happen in a country where if you asked citizens to name Australia’s head of state I’d wager good money less than half would answer with the queen.
Joe and Julie voter are not going to wake up one morning and say ‘’bugger this, let’s cut the apron strings’’ — not while the issue is not even on the national agenda.
The other day I told a friend I was speaking at the Australian Republican Movement’s annual function tonight, and his response was:
“The Australian Republican Movement? I thought they’d gone the way of the Democratic Labor Party – you know, still technically in existence but to all intents and purposes basically irrelevant.’’
(And, just for reference, he voted YES at the referendum 12 years ago.)
Anyway, I doubt my mate’s flippant dismissal of a cause he himself had supported in 1999 would be an isolated view.
So, the challenge, then, is how do we bring the idea of an Australian republic back into the national discourse? How do we get it on the agenda again?
At the time of the referendum, we had the natural conversation about national sovereignty that arose from the looming centenary of Federation.
Our politicians – in rare bipartisan fashion – also took ownership of the debate and the media duly gave it immense coverage. It was, quite literally, the proverbial barbecue stopper.
With political minds focused on the intricacies involved in negotiating a hung parliament (well, slightly less hung as of today), and the national focus clearly directed at matters more prosaic such as carbon pricing, mining taxes and the small matter of a global economic melt-down, there is no will in Canberra to re-engage on this front.
Nor is the media of any mind to re-ignite the debate. Sure, it flickers to life occasionally come Australia Day, or perhaps to balance some of the forelock tugging that accompanies a visit to the colonies by those with better blood and breeding than you and I, but it is not an underlying theme in the national conversation.
I do think, though, that there are ways that as republicans we can leverage the cause back into Australian newspapers and Australian thinking.
And it comes back to that old adage of never letting a good crisis go to waste.
Bear with me for a minute.
The second “enemy” of republicans, according to John Hirst, is the ‘’scorn for nationalism’’.
Today, issues of nationalism and sovereignty that directly affect the well-being of all Australians are probably one of the most talked about subjects in the world.
I’m talking here about the European sovereign debt crisis, which by the way took a nasty turn for the worse last night with news that even Germany – the so called economic powerhouse of the European Union – had failed to successfully auction a tranche of bond debt.
Without getting into the minute details of the crisis, the root cause of Europe’s troubles is a fundamentally flawed currency union, which saw countries relinquish their sovereign currency for the euro, and relinquish control of monetary policy to the European Central Bank.
At the same time, though, the grouping of nations lacked fiscal union — the model that exists in federations of states such as Australia or the US, where a single central government is largely responsible for the likes of income and corporate tax collection and major recurrent outlays such as welfare.
So what you have got now is struggling, debt laden nations like Greece and Ireland which cannot devalue their currencies (thus making their economies more competitive), cannot lower interest rates and cannot increase money supply. They await the pleasure of Brussels and another emergency hand-out.
It might sound like a long bow to draw in terms of any parallel between the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the republic debate in Australia, but there is – beyond those purely economic – a salutary lesson that all Australians should heed. And that is — ceding control of your own destiny in any shape can be disastrous when the going gets rough.
That might seem remote in the extreme, but when, not that long ago, Ireland was touted as the world’s miracle economy, the Irish would have laughed at suggestions their membership of the monetary union was a mistake.
But then, prior to November 1975, most Australians would also have scoffed at suggestions that perhaps, just perhaps, we were not that well equipped to deal with any future constitutional crisis.
But people quickly forget these things, and the slow motion train wreck that is Europe (and to be fair, I should note that our lords and masters in Britain had the good sense to stay out of the euro) is a stark reminder of what can go wrong when you hand over one of the reins of constitutional or economic control — no matter how seemingly irrelevant it may seem to day to day life at the time.
Obviously, our relationship with Britain does not involve a common currency, and nor does the Bank of England set Australia’s official interest rates, but it remains the fact that ultimately (and as history has demonstrated) the power to make and break elected governments lies with the throne. Europe should serve as a reminder here.
It would surprise no-one here to learn that after Julia Gillard managed to scratch together a patchwork minority government in the wake of the last election, there were a fair few constitutional lawyers around the traps whose opinions were eagerly sought.
I am not suggesting for a moment we have a government in crisis — after all coalition or minority governments in most western democracies are the norm rather than the exception. And a government on the brink of collapse does not end the year by getting through a carbon pricing package, a mining tax and then managing to insert a large, slippery Queensland rat just where it hurts Tony Abbott the most.
That said, it is still a politically fragile situation, and one that is only a by-election or scandal or two away from a possible shambles — a political impasse that would not be presided over by an elected representative of the Australian people but an agent of the Queen.
The European crisis is very real. A constitutional crisis here is not, but nor is it beyond the realms of possibility.
So in closing, my belief is the best way to promote the advancement of the republican cause is certainly not to play the people (tempting as it may be whenever Prince Phillip opens his mouth), but to leverage off uncertain times; to continually ask the question — if the compost hits the cooler, whether handing ultimate arbitration of the problem over to a non-elected agent of a foreign country is the best model.
That’s what happened in Europe and it has been a tad short of a howling success.
(The views expressed here are Paul Syvret’s alone and are not necessarily the views of his employer.)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Be a Citizen. Not a Subject

Myer Poster
The cheerless teacup warriors from the Australian Monarchist League have been at it again. This time they have protested to Myer Stores regarding their promotion of the slogan in advertising for Republic Clothing Company products: ‘Be a Citizen. Not a Subject’. What a bunch of hypocrites. Should anything even slightly to do with the monarchy be removed, it is slammed as republicanism by stealth. What’s their problem? We are all Australian citizens and no longer British subjects, something the monarchists can’t seem to come to terms with.
The Third National Republican Short Story Competition winners will be announced on 26 January 2012. The theme this year is ‘Citizen or Subject’. The difference between citizen and subject has often been glibly said to be that a citizen has rights whereas a subject has privileges. A subject owes their allegiance to a sovereign and is governed by that sovereign’s laws whereas a citizen owes allegiance to the community and is entitled to enjoy all its civil rights and protections. The difference between citizen and subject lies in where an individual places their allegiance: subjects (to a sovereign) and citizens (to a state; to a republic).
Until 1 January 1949, when the British Nationality Act 1948 came into force, at common law, to be a British subject, one simply had to be born in any territory under the sovereignty of the British Crown. From 1949 onwards every person who was a British subject by virtue of a connection with the United Kingdom or one of her Crown colonies became a British citizen. However citizens of other Commonwealth countries retained the status of British subject and were known by the term Commonwealth citizen. From 1949 to 1982, a person born in England would have been a British subject and a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, while someone born in Australia, would have been a British subject and a citizen of Australia. During this time Australian passports had on the front ‘BRITISH SUBJECT Australian Citizen’.
The status of British subject was retained in Australian law until Part II of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 was removed by the Australian Citizenship Amendment Act 1984 which came into force on 1 May 1987. Australia severed its final legal ties to Britain by enacting the Australia Acts of 1986. However it must be said we have yet to sever our final symbolic ties to Britain as represented by our head of state being the British monarch. In 1999 the High Court found British citizens to be ineligible to stand for election to our Federal Parliament because they owe allegiance to a ‘foreign power’.
In August 2008, Coopers Brewery was forced to drop a billboard ad urging beer lovers to 'Forget the monarchy, support the publicans' beside an image of a frothy schooner of beer after it angered the Australian Monarchist League. The billboard was believed to have been part of a national advertising campaign, but it was unknown how many of them were in use around Australia. The advertisement had received prior approval from the Advertising Standards Board. It was interesting that Cooper's and its advertising agency seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would take offence at the billboard ad.
On 27 April 2011 ABC TV reluctantly cancelled its widely promoted program The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary because of restrictions imposed on the coverage of the wedding ceremony from Westminster Abbey as agreed between Clarence House, the private office of the Prince of Wales and the BBC. At the time the ABC stated “We’re surprised and disappointed at this very late stage to be informed that any satirical or comedic treatment of the marriage of Australia’s future Head of State has been banned.” The Chaser’s Julian Morrow said “For a monarchy to be issuing decrees about how the media should cover them seems quite out of keeping with modern democratic times …. but I suppose that’s exactly what the monarchy is.”
Most Australians like a bit of humour and larrikinism in their politics. Yet any beer ad, t-shirt or satirical show the cheerless monarchists get removed is seen as a victory. It is these teacup warriors who are out of step with contemporary Australia. ‘Be a Citizen. Not a Subject’. Thankfully we can finally do this in law – but the monarchists want to turn back the clock to be British Subjects to what the High Court called a ‘foreign power’. As Australians our allegiance is to us, the people of Australia, which includes our comedy programs, our clothing, and our beer.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Day Off for the Melbourne Cup

The Queensland Government is reviewing the spread and allocation of public holidays in Queensland. Holidays observe important public occasions like Anzac Day and Australia Day but they also give workers and families a chance to rest and have fun together. They let us all balance our work and family life better. When the government chooses holidays it needs to consider what best suits community, family and industry needs, as well as what happens in other states. But what culturally significant thing do Australians do on the Queen’s Birthday? If we’re going to move a public holiday to the second half of the year it should be the pointless Queen’s Birthday to ‘the day that stops the nation’, Melbourne Cup Day.
Queensland is the only state where there are no state-wide public holidays between mid-June and late December. The current proposal from the Queensland Government is to move the Queen’s birthday public holiday to the second half of the year from 2012, ideally to September or October.
Last Monday during the Queen’s eighth visit to Queensland, roads were closed, bridges were blocked, buses re-routed and the Brisbane River cleared when she visited for the first time in nine years for a whirlwind visit of just over four hours.
The Queen may have opened the 1988 World Expo at South Bank and closed the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, but last Monday during her 4.5 hour whirlwind trip of Brisbane, a crowd of 45,000 people crammed into Southbank to see her step off a CityCat at the Cultural Forecourt at Southbank. Every open space at South Bank was packed for the occasion. There was even a ‘mooner’. But I wonder if someone had reminded her that she could vote. When she was in Brisbane would have been the ideal time to complete the online survey on moving the date for her public holiday birthday in. Perhaps during a bit of downtime while cruising on the Brisbane River between Brett’s Wharf and Southbank? The online survey closed on 31 October 2011.
While the Queensland Government is responsible for setting the dates for all state-wide public holidays, there are only two – Labour Day and the Queen’s birthday – that have the potential to be changed. However, Labour Day has special significance for Queensland because of its links to events in the labour movement of the late nineteenth century. One of the first Labour Day processions in the world was in Barcaldine on 1 May 1891 and the public holiday has been celebrated in Queensland on the first Monday in May since 1901. Labour Day is celebrated by workers across the state and May 1 is deeply ingrained in Queensland’s history as a day to recognise workers’ rights.
After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 there was a call to remember her long reign. The result was the creation of Empire Day. On 24 May each year, Victoria’s birthday, an annual commemoration was held which was directed especially at school children to promote loyalty among the dominion countries of the British Empire. This day was celebrated by lighting fire-works in back-gardens and attending community bonfires. In 1958, Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day. However this is no longer celebrated within the Australian community.
The Queen’s birthday public holiday originated in 1912 to observe the birthday of King George V on 3 June. Over the years Queensland, along with most other states, has continued to observe the Queen’s birthday in June even though the actual birthday of Queen Elizabeth II is 21 April. In Western Australia the Queen’s birthday public holiday is held in either September or October. The Queen’s birthday is observed as a mark of respect to the sovereign but is not widely celebrated in community events like other public holidays.
Premier Anna Bligh said all holidays, except for the Queen’s Birthday, marked significant dates and were punctuated with official ceremonies or significance.
“Unlike other public holidays, it’s not celebrated on a date that is particularly meaningful,” Ms Bligh said.
She’s right. Other public holidays are on dates of significance. Australia Day (26 January). Tick. Anzac Day (25 April). Tick. Labour Day (1 May). Tick. Easter. Christmas. Tick. Tick. Queen’s Birthday…errrr? It’s not celebrated on the correct date and there is no official ceremony or community engagement around it. So, rebadging the public holiday in early November to celebrate a day that has a long history in Australia and is part of the fabric of our nation makes a lot more sense.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Britain: please return Australia's birth certificate

Matthew Flinders' original 1804 map contains what is thought to be the first reference to the name 'Australia'. This map is stored at the UK Hydographic Office in Taunton, Somerset, where it is accessible only be appointment. This is the truw Birth Certificate of our Nationa and, as such, deserves to be placed on public display. There is currently a petition for the British Government to have Flinders' original map gifted to Australia so it can be displayed in time for the bi-centenary of Filnders' death in 2014.

In 1801, Matthew Flinders was commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks to map previously uncharted regions of the ‘great south land’. After many adventures and mishaps, Flinders completed his circumnavigation of Australia in the Investigator in June 1803. On his way back to England, Flinders was taken prisoner by the French on the island of Mauritius until 1810. He was to be held there until 1810. Flinders completed his map of the continent in 1804 while languishing in prison. He titled his map: ‘Australia or Terra Australia’. This is the first known use of the name ‘Australia’ by any navigator. The imprisonment of Flinders by the French in the Indian Ocean prevented him from publishing his detailed charts of Australia before the French, who issued Louis de Freycinet’s first complete map of Australia in 1811.

Back in London, Matthew Flinders set about preparing his account of the voyage for publication. A Voyage to Terra Australis was published by G & W Nicol on 18 July 1814, the day before his death. Flinders’ charts of Australia were considered so accurate that they were used for over a century by the British Admiralty. In 1817, Governor Macquarie, learning of Flinders’ preference for the name ‘Australia’, adopted the name Australians have come to cherish.

Campaigners have launched a petition to the British Government to take the map to Australia in time for the bicentenary of Matthew Flinders’ death in 2014. Federal Member for Flinders, Greg Hunt has stated:

"This is the ture birth certificate of our nation and deserves to be placed on public display here in Australia. A document so vital to our national heritage should not remain in oscurity. We want to work co-operatively with the British Government to have Flinders' original map gifted to the people of Australia."

The map has been dubbed the Elgin Marbles of Australian history. The 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were removed from the ancient Greek Parthenon in 1811 by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador at the time. They have been in the British Museum in London since 1817. Greece hopes one day to display the collection in the Acropolis Museum.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

1981: the republic and the wedding

The 29 July 1981 was the 30th anniversary of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral. Where were you back in 1981 when Prince Charles and Diana married? If you’re anywhere approaching 45 or over, you can probably recall exactly where you were and who you were with. For me it was the night of my Year 12 formal. Dresses and cakes were all the talk. However, two days before, the ALP National Conference, almost by accident, endorsed a new policy position to establish an independent Australian republic.

The 29 July 1981 was the night of my Charters Towers State High School formal. As we were such a small Year 12 group we customarily shared the event with the private schools in the country town. The main hall in the north Queensland country town was called the Horticultural Hall, which brings up all sorts of rural images. The other main dance hall in the town was where we learnt and practiced all our dance moves for the big night. The name of this hall reflected the interesting divisions in the old goldfield community. The Miners’ Union Hall was referred to by its abbreviation: MU Hall. However, in a collective loss of memory, townsfolk did not seem to remember how important and influential unionism had been on the goldfield in the nineteenth century and it was known to all and sundry as the ‘emu’ hall. For the Year 12 girls, it was a conflict of almost irreconcilable proportions — do I go to the Formal or watch the Royal Wedding? Cakes and long trains and dresses were all they could talk about. For us boys, it didn’t seem to matter. For me, the only princess that mattered was at the Horticultural Hall. Although it took several more years for her to see me as her prince, we did finally marry!

While all this was going on in Charters Towers, audiences worldwide paused as the fairy tale coach, replete with its Cinderella, rolled up to St Paul’s Cathedral steps and the ‘Queen of the People’s Hearts’ emerged in the crushed cream creation. Everyone gasped, and winced, and laughed when Diana repeated her bridegroom’s name incorrectly.

Interestingly, two days before the Royal Wedding, the Australian Labor Party declared that Australia should become a republic.

At the ALP National Conference in Melbourne the word ‘republic’ was substituted for ‘nation’ when it endorsed a commitment to reform the Australian Constitution. The endorsement of a republic almost seemed to slip through the conference – the vote was 26 to 21 – partly as a result of apparent confusion on the part of the conference chairman, the New South Wales premier, Neville Wran. Wran, for some reason, failed to put to conference a procedural motion which would have deferred a vote on the republican issue until the 1982 conference. Some delegates later believed the procedural motion would have got through.

The proposal to break the tie with the monarchy was moved by a former West Australian Opposition leader, Colin Jamieson, who moved an amendment to one of the national executive’s recommendations on the party’s revised objectives. The executive recommendation proposed

reform of the Australian Constitution and other political institutions so as to ensure that they reflect the will of the majority of Australian citizens and the existence of Australia as an independent nation”.

The successful amendment substituted “republic” for “nation”.

The attempt to defer the vote came from Federal Labor front bencher Mick Young. Mutters of ‘monarchist’ and ‘royal weddings’ were heard as the vote was taken to include the commitment to a republic. There was some amusement, especially as a former South Australian Attorney-General, Peter Duncan – a radical – was bound by his branch to vote against republicanism.

Jamieson said there were 43 sovereign states in the British Commonwealth of which 23 were already republics.

He went on:

They are no less loyal, by being republics, to the British Commonwealth than those which are of other ilk. There are at various times stated to be from 23 per cent to 28 per cent of the United Kingdom that are in favour of Royalty at this time, and very often you see some criticism in the House of Commons of the Royal situation. Without being disrespectful to them, if at a time when Britain decided that they would no longer want Royalty, surely we are not going to have the whole Royal household troop out to Australia.”

Our school formal didn’t quite match the 2,000,000 people lining the streets of Britain, but for us it was a defining moment. Where were you on that evening?

Thirty years later, support for the establishment of an Australian republic remains a part of the policy platform for the ALP and we have had another generation of royal weddings. It feels like it’s time for Australians to ask themselves when are we going to finally stand up for ourselves and become a fully and truly independent nation?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Republican challenge to Australian writers
Entry to the Third National Republican Short Story Competition is now open.
The theme for the Third National Republican Short Story Competition is 'Citizen or Subject'. Short stories will use the theme to speculate on Australian republican futures.

First Prize: $500

Highly Commended: $50

Length: 2000 to 4000 words

Closing date: 6 November 2011

Entry is open to all Australian residents

The Third National Republican Short Story Competition challenges Australia’s fiction writers to speculate on the possible futures of the Australian republic.

Speculative fiction writers deal with possibilities.
They speculate.
They make the future seem real.

However, we can’t achieve anything unless we imagine it first. Before every great invention and before every great journey is the idea. Without ideas and imagination, we are all trapped in the past.

It seems strange there is no tradition of republican speculative fiction in Australia. In colonial times there were republican poets such as Charles Harpur writing in the 1840s and 1850s, and republican writers such as John Dunmore Lang and Daniel Deniehy in the 1850s and William Lane, Henry Lawson and John Norton in the 1880s and 1890s. But where have been the republican stories for the past century? There have certainly been many republican writers during this time but very few examples where republican settings or arguments have been explored in Australian fiction. Republican arguments and explorations of the past and imaginations of the future have almost always been written within the framework of constitutional debates.

Where do the people of Australia fit into this? Where are their myths and stories to tell and retell and remember about Australia’s emerging republican identity?

So, the Australian Republican Movement would like to point the way forward through Australian stories with a republican backdrop. They don’t have to be political thrillers or constitutional whodunits as long as they are an exploration of our future, our republican future.

To read more about the Australia’s emerging republican speculative fiction genre go to

Previous National Republican Short Story winners:
Helen Bersten, Double Lives, 2010 Highly Commended
Sean Oliver Ness, Inauguration Day, 2010 Highly Commended
Kel Robertson, Rook Feast, 2009 First Prize

The competition guidelines and entry form and list of judges are available from

For more information contact

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The source of Bob Katter’s independence
Queenslanders may be united when it comes to State of Origin football but up north there is growing discontent about the way Brisbane governs. Maverick federal independent MP Bob Katter is in the news again with discussions on forming a new political party. This is on the back of his nation stopping actions last year in deciding which side of politics he would support after the hung election results.

In late May 2011 there were public statements by federal independent Bob Katter to establish a new independent political party of disaffected bush nationals: state Liberal National Party MPs Vaughan Johnson, Shane Knuth and Alex Douglas have been approached to form the new political force. Queensland is governed from a state capital located a great distance from the majority of its land area. Over the years this has led to a mistrust of and sometimes open dislike of the southeast by Queenslanders living to the north. Indeed, it has been quipped that the Queensland government logo could represent all the State’s resources draining to the southeast. In 1970 Professor Geoffrey Bolton wrote a history of north Queensland called A Thousand Miles Away. It is in this title that much of the sense of independence and suspicion of north Queenslanders towards the people in Brisbane can be sensed. It is this feeling of isolation and a continuing frontier mentality that pervades the thinking of the people of the north. It is feelings such as these that Bob Katter, “the force from the North” has tapped into to push for north Queensland to become a separate state.

Bob Katter is the independent federal MP for the Queensland seat of Kennedy, which he has held since 1993. The north Queensland federal seat of Kennedy is currently held by Independent, Bob Katter. He has long been a fixture in a diverse seat that stretches from the Gulf of Carpentaria and Mareeba in the north to Boulia in the south, and from the Queensland /Northern Territory border to the Pacific Ocean. At more than half a million square kilometres, Kennedy is the biggest electorate in Queensland and the third-biggest in Australia. In fact, it is more than two and a half times the size of Victoria. Existing since Federation, the seat is named after Edmund Kennedy, an early explorer of Cape York. Katter’s electorate office is in Mount Isa but he lives in Charters Towers.

Kennedy can truly be called Katter Country. The Katter’s have always reminded me of the Phantom. The job is passed down from father to son but the name always remains. Bob Katter followed in the footsteps of his father, Bob Katter Snr, who held the seat for 24 years. Elected to federal parliament in 1966, Bob Katter Snr held the vast north Queensland federal seat of Kennedy for the Country Party, and then the National Party, until 1990. A highly regarded coalition politician and minister, Katter Snr had been an ALP supporter before the Labor-split in the 1950s and in the 1980s was a leading critic of the ‘Joh-for PM’ campaign. Interestingly his son Bob Katter Jnr had been a member of Queensland’s one-house parliament representing the Charters Towers-based seat of Flinders since 1974 where he served as Bjelke-Petersen’s minister for Aboriginal affairs. With his flourishing white hair and trademark R.M. Williams hat, Katter Jr was one of the few state or federal Country/National party politicians respected by Aboriginal clans and their leaders. Katter Snr died of cancer shortly before the 1990 election and his seat was won by the ALP. However, his flamboyant son won it back in 1993.

Bob Katter Jnr was a National Party MP for most of his parliamentary career u
ntil he chose to stand as an Independent in 2001 citing disenchantment with the National Party’s economic policy as his reason. Specifically he was opposed to the elimination of tariffs and subsidies for agriculture, policies he said were killing the sugar, banana and dairy industries that dominate in his electorate. He won in a landslide. Much of Katter’s electoral success is due to the fact that he articulates and champions the interests of rural industries and of rural employment against a Nationals brand that has, in his opinion, become captive to the philosophies of free trade, economic rationalism, deregulation and corporatisation. He is old-style Country Party. Bob Katter has continued to be re-elected and is one of three independents in Australia’s lower house. This sense of political independence portrayed by Katter is a reflection of the community he represents.

The north Queensland town of Charters Towers is a deeply conservative and yet strongly independent community. In some ways both Bob Katter and I represent different aspects of the independent history of Charters Towers. We both draw our political ideals from the same well of independence held deep within the north Queensland community of Charters Towers. Mine draws upon the nineteenth century goldfield independent streak reflected in the emerging union and labour movements and the republican advocacy of the 1890s. This is a tradition that stayed with the community well into the 1950s. However around the time of the Labor split in the 1950s the community moved towards the country party. It is from this tradition that Bob Katter draws his support. A long time resident of Charters Towers Bob Katter personifies the independent stand taken by Charters Towers since the 1960s. He i
s reflecting the bush feeling of independence from urban dwellers. For them it is the bush where the real Australia still lives. However, Katter is also drawing upon the strong narrative of an alternate northern capital located in Charters Towers and its long story of independence.

My family on my maternal grandfather's side have lived in Charters Towers since the 1890s with each generation involved in the mining industry. Growing up in Charters Towers in the 1970s and 1980s my political outlook drew upon my large extended family's working-class mining heritage and deep personal roots within the gold mining town. In particular it was my grandfather's stories of life working the Charters Towers gold mines, and his memories of his father working the goldfield in the 1890s that moulded the way I saw the world. It was obvious that I would approach life with a strong commitment to support the Australian labour movement.

But it was the egalitarianism of the goldfield that seemed to absorb me growing up in Charters Towers. I always had the strong feeling that 'jack is as good as his master'. Charters Towers was a country town of conflicting and clashing ideas. There were townies and bushies; small businessmen and workers; rural conservatives and Labor supporters. A Marxist scholar could have a field day defining class lines and divisions. However, class lines in western Queensland have not changed much. There is still a tacit division between old establishment figures and non-land owners. To marry into the landed gentry is still viewed by many mothers of the brides as a step into a better world. It was these early observations of rural class conflict that sparked my interest in republicanism.

In 1977 I remember seeing for the first time Star Wars. For a thirteen year old
it was the Empire versus the Republic - with the rebels being the good guys fighting against the evil Empire. My first republican moment was played out within the confines of the aptly named Regent Theatre. It was here the working-class community in the historic gold-mining community of Charters Towers cheered on the successful overthrow of the Empire by the rebels within the grand flourish of a space opera.

Built during the gold-rush era of the late nineteenth century, the Regent Theatre stood firm on the periphery of the British Empire. But now it held a republican people cheering on the rebels struggles to overthrow rule by an evil Emperor. A few years later the Regent Theatre became a skating rink. Still the people attended although oblivious to the edifice of monarchy surrounding them. Years later it became a Crazy Clark’s emporium. How this must have embarrassed the old royal. Finally it became a storage building.

By 1983 I was reading Russel Ward's, Australia since the coming of man a
nd listening to Australian music such as Goanna's Spirit of Place. This was time when Redgum was lampooning the federal Liberal government, People for Nuclear Disarmament were active within the community, and many Queenslander's were sick and tired of the Bjelke-Petersen government. For me the radical nationalist approach to Australian history constituted Australia's real past. It was during the 1940s and 1950s that radical nationalist historians wrote histories that retrieved the radical temper of the workers of the past. The radical nationalist view of the 1880s and 1890s reinforced the belief that it was a period of intense interest in ideas, in being Australian and in working out solutions to society's problems of poverty and inequality, and drew its support from the popular beliefs founded in mateship, egalitarianism and socialism. This was best codifed in Russel Ward's 1958 The Australian Legend. In this book, Ward used as his conceptual basis radical distinctiveness. Ward set out to reshape historical thinking about the origins of Australian nationalism. He argued that national identity or the 'Australian spirit' was "intimately connected with the bush and that it derived rather from the common folk than from the more respectable and cultivated sections of society". For Ward, mateship was forged in the hostile environment of the bush and was adopted by the rural unions of the shearers and miners in their famous struggles against the pastoralists during the 1890s. Ward's 'bush legend' was collectivist and democratic in politics. It was the labour historians of the 1950s and 1960s who showed how the organised working-class were the heirs and custodians of the radical nationalist tradition. It was within the radical nationalist historical tradition that I wrote my history honours thesis at James Cook University on the history of the 1890s Charters Towers based Australasian Republican Association. My republican leanings draw from a time before the “The Bob’s Katter”, an older Charters Towers - a time of miners and working class endeavours.

The frontier gold town of Charters Towers was one of the major centres of radical republicanism in the colony of Queensland. Settled in 1872, Charters Towers developed into a thriving reef-mining centre. In 1877, with a population approaching 4,000, it was declared a municipality and by the 1880s, it was one of the major Australian gold reefing fields. During its heyday in the 1890s, Charters Towers was the second town of Queensland with a population approaching 30,000. Since the nearest major town, Rockhampton, was a long boat journey away, all the services necessary to civilisation in a very large area of Queensland were concentrated in Charters Towers. It was perhaps this isolation that fostered the nickname “The World”.

Separated from NSW in 1856, and buoyed by the influx of overseas capital, especially from Great Britain, Queensland’s mining and pastoral industries were booming by the 1880s. For all its radical ferment, it is important to remember that although both Charters Towers newspapers in 1887 were anti-royalist and foresaw the coming of a Federated Australian republic, Charters Towers still largely reflected the attitudes of an English city transplanted to the antipodes. The boom of the 1880s, with an extraordinary influx of British capital involving about five million pounds, had transformed the Queensland economy. The flood of money and employers hungry for profit encouraged the growth of strong trade unions. When relations between employers and workers became strained, the labour movement often blamed the interests of British capital. From here it was short step for many workers to advocate for a republic and separation.

A republican association was formed in Charters Towers in 1890 with a platform similar to the Bulletin’s and within months it had a membership of over three hundred. For the Australasian Republican Association the word republic meant the establishment of individual and political rights. The editor of their journal, the Australian Republican was one of the great republican firebrands of the era, F.C.B. Vosper. He proclaimed;

... A grand United Republic under the Southern Cross which, profiting by the experience and errors of others, shall be as pure and perfect as it is possible for things human to be

He believed republicanism was an expression of the civic individual, and not subservient to factional politics or religion.

In 1852 John Dunmore Lang had proposed in his Freedom and independence for the golden lands of Australia: the right of the colonies, and the interest of Britain and of the world the division of the future colony of Queensland into three subdivisions. In the wake
of the formation of Queensland as a separate colony in 1856 it was widely believed that further subdivisions would take place. Since the establishment of Queensland as a separate colony secession movements have arisen first in northern and then in central Queensland. Before federation secession movements even sent representatives to England to pursue their case. During the 1890s the Separation Movement was especially strong in Charters Towers with the establishment of a Separation League. In 1891 the Charters Towers republican editor, F.C.B. Vosper won the separation essay prize.
J.D.Lang, Map of the proposed seven united provinces of eastern Australia, 1857

Since federation numerous efforts have been made to push the Queensland Government into action. New state groups have organised conventions and petitions to further their goals. At times they have even been close to achieving their aims. In 1910 the Queensland Parliament passed a motion proposing that Queensland be divided into three distinct states. However, the motion was never enacted and despite the efforts of many they have never again come so close to success. A lack of political will both in Britain and Brisbane, the existence of anti-secession groups, as well as divisions within new state supporters have all contributed to the retention of a single state. The North Queensland Self Government League proposes the division of Queensland by the 22nd parallel with the boundary of the new state running just south of Sarina on the coast to the Northern Territory border between Boulia and Mount Isa. It also proposes the capital should be at Sellheim, near Charters Towers, to overcome rivalry between Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.

Historically, those in northern and central Queensland districts have felt neglected by a distant government. A related longstanding gripe of secession supporters is that wealth is transferred to the capital instead of being used for the benefit of the area in which it was generated. In 2010 the independent federal parliamentarian Bob Katter stated,

We have been economically massacred in the north ... it’s the tyranny of the majority being in south-each Queensland – the winner takes all.

Proponents hoped and, as Katter’s statement reveals, continue to hope, that the further division of Queensland would lead to enhanced government and bring economic benefits. At the 2010 North Queensland Local Government Association meeting the fight for independence intensified with 98 of 100 delegates voting in favour of the motion. Bob Katter has called for a referendum on the issue at the 2012 council elections.

The manner in which Bob Katter made his decision to support either federal Labor or the Coalition after the 2010 federal election demonstrates his true independence of character.

Courier Mail freelance photographer Cameron Laird won the 2010 Nikon-Walkley Best Portrait Prize for his photograph of Bob Katter. The image was captured in the days after the August 2010 dead locked federal election at Bob Katter’s home in Charters Towers.

The independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott both ended up backing Labor. Katter held his own press conference just before the others announced which side of politics they would be supporting and stated he would be backing the Liberals.
His family and closest allies said he was deeply torn by his decision to split with the ‘Gang of Three’ and go with the Coalition. But his move was settled in part by the threat of a Labor mining tax but also through his own moral principles in staying loyal and staunch to his knifed mate Kevin Rudd. Katter has said there was “enormous anger” over Rudd’s axing and his decision would have been different had he still been Labor leader. “Kevin’s thinking and my thinking are very similar. I’m very good friends with him,” he said at the time. He also said that he “would most certainly see a moral responsibility to look at the issue of stability”. Katter’s son Robbie Katter, Mt Isa Councillor and next in line in the family political dynasty, said

"People have tried to ostracise him and make him look like an outcast for so many years. But if nothing else, even if his 20 points counts for nothing, the pivotal moment has been the acceptance by the trendy urban types down south that times are tough in rural Australia.”

Bob Katter’s new party has been dubbed the Australia Party. The talks are said to have been revived in recent weeks as a back-up option because the former bush Nationals were disgruntled by Liberal Campbell Newman's takeover of the Queensland Liberal leadership. But there is more going on here. There is the issue of independence for the north and the bush bubbling under the surface. Katter is tapping into a political stance that has been simmering for over a century. However there is another issue of political independence just beneath the surface in north Queensland – the creation of an Australian republic. These two ideals were once cornerstones of the political view of the Charters Towers republican and later Western Australian politician, F.C.B. Vosper. One wonders where the maverick Bob Katter stands on the question of an Australian republic. If he is successful in calling for a referendum in 2012 council elections on a new state of North Queensland will he call for an independent republican state?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My King Charles Cavalier renounces the monarchy
King Charles II was crowned 350 years ago on 23 April 1661. This was at the end of England’s only republican period. The reign of King Charles II is often called the Restoration period. He is also well-known for his love of cavalier spaniel dogs. In fact he and his father before him were both quite dotty over them. Even the style of hair worn
by men at the time resembled the fluffy ears of these dogs. My King Charles Cavalier spaniel, Oscar asked me the other day that on this anniversary he would like to renounce the monarchy and embrace his republican family’s ways. From now on he will be known as a Cromwell Roundhead spaniel. This is his formal notification to the world.

Dogs appear
to have been popular pets with British royals. Charles I took his dog with him to his execution, Richard II had a faithful greyhound that followed him everywhere, Queen Victoria’s dogs won prizes at Cruft’s dog show, and Queen Elizabeth II is well-known for her many corgi’s. Other palace pets have included Henry I’s collection of animals at Woodstock in Oxforshire as early as 1115 which included lions, leopards, lynxes and an African porcupine, James I’s lions which he bred, and George V’s pet parrot which he liked to take to breakfast.

‘Cavaliers’ was the name for the royalists (who were rich enough to be mounted) and ‘Roundheads’ for the Parliamentarians (who had distinctive helmets). The English Civil War which toppled King Charles I is often characterised as a battle of ‘Cavaliers’ against ‘Roundheads’. Charles I was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War. England entered the period known to history as the English Interregnum, or the English Commonwealth and the country was a de facto republic, led by Oliver Cromwell. A political crisis that followed the death of Cromwell in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain. The ‘Restoration’ of the English monarchy occurred on 23 April 1661. This was a time when King Charles Cavalier dogs were also ‘restored’ to prominence.

Charles II (with hair like modern day King Charles Cavalier’s) as painted by Sir Peter Lehy, c1675.

Toy Spaniels became popular as pets during the Renaissance period, especially among European nobility and royal families. These dogs were used to attract fleas away from humans and as a way to cure stress ailments and prevent forms of stomach illnesses. In England these dogs were sometimes called the ‘Spaniel Gentle’ or ‘Comforter’ and were preferred by ladies as pets to help stay warm in cold drafty castles and manors, as well as in carriage rides during the winter months. This spaniel was given the name ‘King Charles’ after King Charles II who had favoured the breed since his youth when he was often seen with several of these dogs.

The first King Charles Cavalier spaniels were recorded in paintings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries as small dogs that were regularly found in the houses of royalty and in court. King Charles I kept a
spaniel named ‘Rogue’ while residing at Carisbrooke Castle. In 1637 Sir Anthony van Dyck painted ‘The children of Charles I of England’. The painting, now held in the National Portrait Gallery, London is of the five children of King Charles I of England, including the future Charles II of England. From left, they are Mary, James, Charles, Elizabeth, and Anne. In the bottom right corner can be seen a Blenheim King Charles Cavalier spaniel, a favourite childhood pet. It was said of him that "His Majesty was seldom seen without his little dogs". Charles II beloved this breed so much that he wrote a regulation stating these spaniel dogs were to be allowed in any public place together with Parliament. That law still exists today.

During the 1700s and 1800s the original breed of King Charles Cavalier spaniels were bred out. At some point during the 1800s the original King Charles spaniel was crossbred with the Pug, producing the modern King Charles spaniel. The original King Charles spaniel had a shorter nose and smaller eyes than the modern King Charles spaniel. Some people were unhappy with the look of the modern King Charles spaniel and longed for a return to the original King Charles spaniel as shown in the paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer. An example is his 1837 ‘Her Majesty’s Favourite Pets’ which shows a King Charles spaniel, a Deerhound and a Greyhound.

In the 1920s, Roswell Eldridge, an American, offered a Crufts Show prize to any breeder who could come up with a dog that was “of the old fashioned type”. This spurred a movement to "recreate" the original King Charles spaniel by crossing modern King Charles spaniels with other dogs. The one thing they didn't ‘restore’ on were the smaller eyes of the original King Charles spaniel, the Pug's eyes remained on the modern King Charles Cavalier spaniel.

My dog Oscar, although ‘restored’ to close to how he looked during the time of the Stuart monarchs, wants to go back to a time when there was a republican spirit in the land and has asked to be referred to from now on as a Cromwell ‘Roundhead’ spaniel rather than the royalist term King Charles ‘Cavalier’.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The 'royal' coin controversies

THE design for an official commemorative coin marking Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement was unveiled just before Christmas 2010, but many royal fans have reported trouble recognising the couple.

In 1963, another royal coin controversy happened in Australia when the staunch royalist Prime Minister Menzies recommended calling the new Australian decimal currency ‘royals’. In this instance the Australian people were not troubled, they were outraged.

The Royal Mint’s unveiling of the design of its new £5 coin to commemorate the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton has led to a torrent of complaints that the couple are barely recognisable on its face.

A Royal Mint spokesman said:

“The inspiration for the design came from photographs of the couple at a sporting event – the play on the traditional portrait is that Prince William is seen in profile, alluding to his royal status.”

Kate Middleton is displayed looking at him face-on in a more informal pose.

The profile image of William engraved on the collector’s piece bears a passable resemblance to the second in line to the throne, but Middleton – who is face on beside him – appears to have aged and gained some weight. Critics appalled at the chipmunk cheeks on the likeness of Kate Middleton have taken aim at the coin issued to commemorate Britain’s upcoming royal wedding. In fact, several critics have compared William’s pic to Al Gore.

The Royal Mint has created many commemorative medals and coins to mark special occasions, including the 2012 London Olympics as well as other royal events, but this is the first time it has created a commemorative royal engagement coin.

Controversies over currency and the Royals have also occurred in Australia. The Australian dollar was first introduced in 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. It appears the people of Britain today are bemused with the difficulty in recognising their own royalty on their coins. Maybe they need to modernise and replace the ‘Royal’ for the ‘Dollar’.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bread or Blood?

120 years ago today F.C.B. Vosper would have been putting the finishing touches on his "Bread or Blood?" editorial for the Charters Towers Australian Republican. In this editorial he called for the establishment of an Australian republic at any cost. Written in support of the striking shearers the editorial was to land Vosper with a charge of seditious libel. As the editor of the Australasian Republican Association’s (ARA) weekly journal he strongly advocated a revolutionary approach as opposed to the ARA’s evolutionary approach to the creation of an Australian republic. It is within this tension that the nature of nineteenth-century radical republicanism can be seen.

"Bread or Blood?" editorial, Australian Republican, 21 February 1891:

The situation at Clermont has reached a crisis hitherto totally unprecedented in the annals of labor struggles throughout the world. Tired of the partial and menacing attitudes of a Government which should be impartial, and of the action of the capitalists who, flushed with victory, wish to exercise the grinding prerogatives of the conqueror, the misrepresentation of the Press and politicians, the shearers have at last risen in open rebellion, and are making an armed march on Clermont fully determined to do or die in defence of their rights. And we commend them. If we were in their place we should do likewise, and needless to say we wish them all success, even should their action precipitate revolution throughout Australasia and lead to bloodshed. The men are placed in this position – they must either have BREAD or BLOOD – WOOL or HEADS – and if the Government be not careful they will have BOTH. It is high time that something besides property should have the protection of the Government – every person should be considered as much if not more. The action of the Government is as despotic and tyrannical as any on the face of the earth. By their present action they are depriving the men of their bread, and by means of armed force they are preventing the men from using those natural opportunities which are necessary to all for subsistence and to which all are equally entitled, and with the money contributed by the very men whom they oppress they are introducing blacklegs and immigrants to a labor market already admittedly overstocked, and while starving their own subjects they back up Victorian crawlers with bayonet and rifle. It is time this sort of thing should cease, and the sooner the better. For our part, we frankly confess that we believe the shearers to be in the right in answering coercive policy with armed resistance, but not only do we so approve but counsel other Republicans and Unionists to follow their example. The Government ought to know that in no country is revolution so easy as here; and once let the masses be roused, then good-bye to capitalistic domination and the sham royalty which is inflicted on us now, and hurrah for the Republic! The time is coming fat, and we should like to see every Democrat able and willing to use his rifle in defence of his rights, whether invaded by Government or by anyone else. We are getting very tired of the present oppression; the election seems a long way off, and the Government are determined to use the utmost of their shortlived power as long as they possess it. We can stand it no longer, and would be glad to see the revolutionary movement spread far and wide, and Australia become at one bound a nation. It is evident that the Government are as despicable tyrants and heartless robbers as could be elected by any people in the world, and they must be overthrown whether by constitutional means or by force of arms matters not one iota. The prostitution of the police force to the capitalistic needs is the last straw on the camel’s back, and if he does not buck he ought to. We believe that the men of Barcaldine, the hardy shearers of the West, will never yield as did their brethren on the coast, but will, with every man his horse and every man his rifle, fight to the bitter end for manhood and Independence. Another defeat would be crushing, but it shall be dearly given, and we warn the squatters and the Government that they are raising such a flame as shall not leave one station unburned nor one town in their possession. Beware! Imperialists! for the doom of your party is at hand, and the day of Independence already dawns – it rests with you whether it shall rise in blood or in peace. At the present juncture, when the forces of Capital and Monopoly on the one hand, and the forces of Labor on the other, are arrayed in bitter conflict, we issue the appeal to all Australia. The liberty which you enjoy today, the rich heritage of citizenship, of which you could take possession; these things have, in the past, been bought for you with great price. The rights which to you may seem so natural and so simple were fought for and won step by step and the price of which was paid by your heroic ancestors was an ocean of blood and a river of tears. With their great bequest of Liberty, which will have its fullest development in Australia, they bequeathed to you the sacred responsibility of guarding those liberties and in doing so, not to hold dear, if needs be, even life itself. We believe that the time has arrived in the history of our commonwealth when its liberties are in danger; we believe a great struggle is imminent, and, therefore, we appeal to you men of Australia to prove that you are not unworthy of your ancestors. We appeal to you to equip yourselves, to bear arms in the coming fray. Your country expects this from you; it is included in the patriotic duty you owe to her. If we thought you would decline to obey her call, we would speak of the maledictions which posterity will heap upon your memories; for the heritage of tarnished liberty and disaster which your apathy would bequeath to them. But we know that you will bow in allegiance to her call and when the time comes carve the way to those greater heights of liberty which lie before you; heights which are grander and fairer than any which your ancestors ever dreamed of. Australians, laborers, MEN; with the fullest knowledge of the consequences: with a knowledge of the horrors of civil war, we call upon you to up and strike for your rights, your manhood, your country and your lives. Exhaust all peaceable means; let no one say that you have wantonly precipitated bloodshed, but if all else fails, strike boldly, mercilessly, fearlessly for your freedom. Do not unto others as they have done until you! If your oppressors will not listen to reason, let them feel cold lead and steel: as they have starved you, so do you shoot them; and allow them not to destroy your liberties and deprive you of your bread without a fight. Better to see the last squatter and the last member of this hateful Government butchered than to see one jot or one tittle of the sacred rights of the people lost.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Real Australia Day

The forgotten day in Australian history is 9 May 1901, the first sitting day of our Commonwealth Government.

The independent colonies became states and put aside differences to send elected representatives to the new parliament.

9 May is the real Australia Day if we want to recognise our unity, our history and our culture, as well as the actions of the many heroes whose efforts lead to creation of the Commonwealth.

Australia's status as a nation was reached on 9 May when the first Commonwealth parliament sat. That should be our national day.