Saturday, September 19, 2015

Turnbull's election is a game-changer for Australian Republicans

Early spring time in Australia is a time of renewal, a time when wattles are in bloom and perfect for political blood spilling.

ON THE evening of Monday, 14 September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull became the 29th Prime Minister of Australia.

The successful coup resulted in Australia’s fourth leader since 2013 and followed an 18-month run of dismal polls from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Abbott had taken Australia by surprise in March 2014 when he brought back knights and dames of the Order of Australia with little to no consultation.

The titles had been discontinued in Australia in 1986 and the decision to reintroduce them was met with much derision. However, the demise of Prime Minister Abbott, a former National Director, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, began with his unpopular first budget in 2014 and continued with his widely-mocked decision to award a knighthood to Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip on Australia Day, 2015.

Facing an electoral wipe-out at the next election, due in 2016, the Federal Coalition turned to Malcolm Turnbull, who came to national prominence as National Chair of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) and chief proponent of an Australian head of state in the lead up to the 1999 referendum.

Current ARM National Chair Peter FitzSimons said
"Mr. Turnbull has been one of Australia’s leading advocates for an Australian Republic with an Australian head of state."
I wrote recently that it was a great time to be an Australian republican. Australia has a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, as well as a Federal Opposition leader who have all declared publicly their strong support for an Australian republic. In his Lionel Bowen speech, delivered in Sydney on 11 June 2015, Bill Shorten pointed out that,
if we were drafting our constitution anew, our head of state would be an Australian. We would say, as a people, our nation’s head of state should be one of us.”
During early spring, this time of renewal, Australia’s most well-known republican has stained the wattle with the blood of the nation’s staunchest monarchist.
With the ascension of the country’s most famous Republican, Malcolm Turnbull, at the expense of the country’s most famous Monarchist, Tony Abbott, the key difference on this sparkling day is that many of our fellow Australians now believe this can happen”, said FitzSimons.
As Peter FitzSimons, the recently appointed ARM National Chair has said:
Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party now have an opportunity to lead a bipartisan process to change Australia’s constitution to reflect our modern, independent national identity.
During his first speech after his elevation to the position of prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull promised a “thoroughly consultative, a thoroughly traditional cabinet government” where he would be a “first among equals”. The emphasis on traditional government and “first among equals” resonates of the language of the Roman republic.

Abbott’s staunch support for the monarchy during his political career and popular visits from Prince William and his family over the past few years had put the republican debate on the backburner. Earlier this year though, the Queensland Newman LNP government and its monarchical horde were removed. Now the King of the Monarchists has been felled.

There is no doubt that the game has changed.

Now that we have Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, it may be time to start saying:
Well may we say God save the Queen”.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Time for Queen to hang up crown

On September 9, Queen Elizabeth Ii surpassed her great great grandmother Queen Victoria and became the longest serving monarch in British history. Certainlyhaving the same job for 23,277 days is an achievement but when will she be allowed to retire?
My grandmother will be 90 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! But poor Queen Elizabeth II just keeps working.
When do you think she will be allowed to retire? Most people these days retire by 60, judges are forced to retire at 70, but Queen Elizabeth II, at 89 keeps on working.
There's no doubt she is a sturdy trooper. But when will she be given a retirement watch from The Firm and be allowed to sleep in, watch reality TV or potter around in the garden?
To make her keep working at 89 seems cruel and unusual punishment. It’s enough to make her wish for a republic.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

National Wattle Day and the republic

Wattle Day is celebrated annually on the first day of spring, 1st September and is a far more meaningful day of celebration than the Queen's Birthday. Wattle captures something crucial to the success of the republic - feeling for country.

Wattle has been the great witness to the entire Australian story. It has welcomed us all – indigenous, colonial and modern day immigrants. Australians may have made a home for themselves amongst the gumtrees, but it is the wattle tree that has found its way into Australian symbolism. Most Australians can recognise a wattle, at least when it is in flower.

Last week during his National Press Club Speech, the newly minted National Chair of the Australian Republican Movement, Peter FitzSimons made a clarion call for movement towards a republic in the next five years:

A generation ago Australia had a go at becoming a republic and for a variety of well-documented reasons – most particularly including disunity, even among republicans, and a prime minister who just didn't believe in it – didn't quite get there.
But that was then, and this is now, and it is our hope and belief that sometime in the next five years Australia can again begin the formal process towards becoming the Republic of Australia – an independent sovereign nation, beneath the Southern Cross we stand, a sprig of wattle in our hand.

Of course, FitzSimons is quoting from the Australian cricket team victory song Under The Southern Cross I Stand with its reference to “a sprig of wattle in our hand”.

Wattle Day is a time when the smells of spring are in the air and the vivid gold of the blossom is literally arresting. It is celebrated annually on the first day of spring when a sprig of Australia’s official national floral emblem, the Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha is traditionally worn. The green and gold of its leaves and blossoms were declared national
colours in 1984 and in 1988 the wattle was adopted as the official national flower. The 1st of September 1992 was formally declared as ‘National Wattle Day’ by then Minister for the Environment, Ros Kelly, and in 1993, the Australian Republican Movement gave its support to Wattle Day celebrations throughout Australia on 1 September.

Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said:
“I am from this land. This place is home."
Like the Southern Cross, the appeal of the wattle is not first and foremost to the idea of the nation — but to the idea of place.

'National Wattle Day' is about land and people. Wattle is the blaze of colour that paints Australia's landscape every year. It is the gold that blends with the eucalypt green to form the green and gold around which Australians so willingly unite. Because wattle springs organically from the land it bonds Australians as a people to the land. ‘National Wattle Day’ captures something crucial to the success of the republic — a feeling for country and a spirit of place. It is from this sense of place that the spirit of the future republic will emerge.

The democracy of wattles – the fact that they grow in all states – was the overpowering reason why the wattle and not the waratah was chosen as the floral emblem in the early twentieth century. In September 1981, historian Manning Clark wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“I love the spring. It means the wattle comes out again. It is a symbol of everything one loves about Australia and the ideal of the uniqueness of Australia. To me every spring holds out the hope that it won’t be long before Australia is completely independent [but I also] share Henry Lawson’s view that blood should never stain the wattle.”

In other words, independence of course, but peacefully achieved.

Wattle is a broad and inclusive symbol. It touches all levels of society, from very early pioneers and World War 1 diggers (buried with a customary sprig of wattle) to victims of the Bali bombings and the nation’s best who are honoured with Order of Australia awards with insignia designed around the shape of a single wattle blossom. Australian Olympic athletes wear wattle inspired green and gold uniforms. A Governor General, Sir William Deane, took wattle blossoms to Switzerland to commemorate young Australians who died there and Prime Minister John Howard wore sprigs of wattle at ceremonies after the Bali bombings.
Wattle grows in all parts of Australia, differing varieties flowering throughout the year. It links all Australians, from the first to the newest at citizenship ceremonies. The wattle flower symbolises an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry

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