Sunday, April 27, 2008

2020 calls for 2010 Republic!

Australia will be a republic within two years if delegates to the recent 2020 Summit in Canberra have their way. Summiteers in the 'Australian Governance' stream voted three to one to endorse the ambitious target, proposed by Federal Home Affairs Minister Bon Debus. Delegates had originally agreed to a 12-year target. But when challenged he challenged delegates to a shorter time frame, Debus was cheered and clapped. When asked for a show of hands, the summiteers overwhelmingly voted for the suggestion. There was also enthusiastic support for an Australian republic from all the other participants in the Summit - not just those who addressed the governance questions with the republic becoming one of the to-ranked ideas of the entire Summit.

It was heartening to read the recommendations from the 2020 Summit calling for a plebiscite on the issue of whether Australia should become a republic followed by a referendum. The 'Australian Governance' stream ser forth the ambition of a new Australian republic - one which clearly enshrines and upholds the rights, responsibilities, and reciprocal relationships of both citizen and government. This would be enabled by a proposed two-stage process, with wide community involvement and ownership of outcome. Stage 1 would end ties with the UK while retaining the Governor-General's titles and powers for five years. Stage 2 would identify new models after extensive and broad consultation. In the lead up to the plebiscite there needs to be a broad community engagement and education to ensure that all Australians can have a calm, thorough and constructive discussion about our republic. This consultation should be a unifying national experience - not an exercise in establishing 'winners' and 'losers'. Unless Australians are given owenership of the process and proposal, they will likely again vote no to defeat a politicans' republic.

The 2020 Summit has made it clear that the republic is a priority for our nation and the work necessary to achieve this great national goal should begin as soon as possible this year. This work should progress together with the other identified priorties and not be downgraded as being a lesser priority. This is one more step towards making an Australian republic a reality.

With the 10th anniversary of the 1999 republican referendum approaching, it is time to restart that debate

Three cheers for the coming republic!