Sunday, December 31, 2017

Australian Republic Advistory Panel announced

2017 has been an exciting year of momentum for the Australian Republic Movement. 2018 is scheduled to be a year of conversations, as the Republic moves up the national agenda.

In politics, the Prime Minister restated his support for change, as did every Premier and Chief Minister; the Opposition leader promised a national vote by the end of the forst term if elected; and the Leader of the Australian Greens formally joined our federal Parliamentary Friendship Group.

In December 2017 the ARM launched the Republic Advisory Panel, a group of leading Australians who are committed to an Australian head of state and who have agreed to serve as patrons for our cause. The panel is a diverse group of women and men who have each made significant contributions to Australia in fields including government, media, acadamia, business and the law. For each of these individuals, their decision to join the Panel is a great sign of their confidence in the Australian Republic Movement and their commitment to the idea of an Australian head of state.

"The campaign for an Australian head of state is a big Australian cause - with a big head of steam building up. We're drawing on support from every community and every section of society and today is another big step forward," said Peter FitzSimons, Chair of the Australian Republic Movement.
"These leading Australians have generously offered their time and energy to a great campaign. They share a simple belief: Australia's head of state should be a citizen of Australia. Who could seriously argue anything different!"

Louise Adler, Chief Executive, Melbourne University Publishing
Kim Beazley, Former Deputy Prime Minister, former Leader of the Australian Labor Party, former Ambassador to the United States
Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, Managing Director, Transfield
Larissa Behrendt, Professor and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney
Steve Bracks, Former Premier of Victoria
Tim Fischer, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals; Former Ambassador to the Holy See
Ross Fitzgerald, Author and historian
Marina Go, Chair and non-executive director
Catherine Harris, Chairperson, Harris Farm Markets, Rugby League Commissioner
Robert Hill, Former Minister for the Environment, Former Ambassador to the United Nations
Helen Irving, Professor of Law
Simon McKeon, Philanthropist and 2011 Australian of the Year
Jane Needham, Senior Counsel and former NSW Bar Association President
Kim Rubenstein, Professor, Law School, and Public Policy Fellow, Australian National University.
Clare Wright, Historian, author and broadcaster
Talal Yassine, Managing Director – Crescent Wealth

Earlier this year, the Australian Republic Movement opened an essay competition inviting students from across the country to tackle the statement, 'An Australian head of state will better represent Australian values and identity'.

In his winning entry, published here by The Sydney Morning Herald, Victorian Dan Crowley explains that he's a republican because 'we have forged our nation, our identity and our values'.

The next generation of Australian republican leaders are stepping forward, though many weren't even born at the time of the 1999 referendum.

The future looks bright.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Oaths of Allegiance are out of touch

Between now and Christmas there will be a lot of swearing heard from politicians around Australia.

So, let me get this straight...

Federal MP has dual citizenship with Britain? Disqualified. Head of State is 100% British? No problem! How can we keep chucking out MPs with dual citizenship when our head of state isn’t even a citizen at all.

On Monday 13 November 2017, the constitutional storm over the dual citizenship debacle blew in replacement Senators for those who had been declared ineligible by the High Court to hold political office in Australia’s Federal Parliament as they contravened s44 of the Australian Constitution. Some of the senators were declared ineligible due to having British citizenship by descent. But how will the replacement senators reconcile the absurdity that to become a member of the Federal Parliament they must swear an Oath of Allegiance to the British monarch.

As at 10 November 2017 there were 12 Senators and federal MPs who were under constitutional question. Currently there will be at least two by-elections held due to federal MPs acknowledging they hold dual citizenship. There may well yet be more by-elections unless a general election is held. Yet when the by-election results are finally tallied, or a double dissolution election is held and the next federal parliament is elected, these same MPs and senators will be required to swear allegiance to the Head of State of the country of which their colleagues are citizens and as a result had been declared ineligible to be elected to the federal parliament.

Say what?

Surely this is the elephant in the room. How is it possible for the High Court to disqualify members of parliament on the basis of Section 44 of the Australian Constitution, as being (unknowingly) citizens and therefore subjects of a foreign power, when these same MPs and ministers swear allegiance to the monarch of this same foreign power (and her descendants), who happens to be our Head of State?

There can be no doubt that the "Queen of Australia" is a British woman, yet we, here in the Antipodes, are quibbling about people we have elected to our Federal Parliament whose dad or mum was of British ancestry.

It’s worth remembering that, on 3 December 2007, one week after the election of the new Rudd Federal Labor Government, a "very republican moment" occurred when Kevin Rudd and his ministry swore an oath to
"...the Commonwealth of Australia, its land and its people."
The significance of this moment was the new Federal ministers swore an Oath under Section 62 of the Australian Constitution to the people of Australia rather to Queen Elizabeth II, a foreign monarch.
When Kevin Rudd was sworn in as the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, wearing R.M. Williams boots and a grin as wide as the verandah of his suburban Brisbane Queenslander, he declared:
I, Kevin Michael Rudd, do swear that I will well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia, her land and her people, in the office of the Prime Minister, so help me God.”
Taking the office of Prime Minister (Executive Councillor) involves swearing an Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation. However, under Section 62 of the Constitution, the form of the Oath of Office is not prescribed for a minister, but by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Of course, the new Oath was given to the Governor-General on Rudd’s advice, yet he could not have technically given that advice until he became an Executive Councillor. No doubt, this advice was relayed earlier, perhaps through or with the approval of the caretaker, John Howard. In taking this Oath, Rudd acknowledged the republican ideal that ultimate political authority lays with ‘the land and the people’ of Australia rather than with the British monarch.

The Rudd Oath should not be confused with the Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation under Section 42 of the Constitution required to be made by a Member of Parliament or Senator before taking his or her seat.

Section 42 involves swearing or affirming to
' faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law.'

This Oath was also used for ministers until the Keating Labor government removed reference to the Sovereign. However, with the election of the Howard Liberal government in 1996, the Oath to the Queen was restored but without any reference to 'Her heirs and successors'.

The real issue behind the question of the Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation concerns where political authority ultimately resides. Should Australian political authority continue to be derived from the British monarch and, ultimately, God — or should it be acknowledged that popular sovereignty resides in "the land and the people" of Australia? This is a fundamental question for the republican debate.

The historical position of the Divine Right of Kings was that the power of the monarch was derived from God.

Indeed, Romans 13:1 states:
'...there is no authority except God which God has established.'
Queen Elizabeth II had to first attend a three hour Coronation ceremony to almighty God, which in turn gave every citizen in her realm immediate sovereign protection. But how does a divinely ordered constitutional monarchy fit into a modern multicultural society?

In recent years, there has even been discussion in Britain about changing the Coronation Oaths. This begs the question: What relevance do Coronation Oaths have to Australia when they can themselves be changed? But even though the current British monarch swears a Coronation Oath and is anointed in the same way as the Kings of the Old Testament, the Coronation Oath is essentially a human construct. It has a historical basis rather than a biblical basis.

The Bible is not really interested in the system of government under which God's people live, it is more interested in the compassionate nature and morality of government. The Old and New Testament show God's people living under a variety of different systems of governments, from the theocracy of Moses to the Roman rule of the New Testament. But even if ultimate authority does come from God, it doesn't necessarily flow through the forms and symbols of the state. The evangelical Christian tradition says authority flows through God's direct relationships to individuals.

In 2007, Kevin Rudd, Christian and republican, asked for God's help, not authority, to serve as Prime Minister of Australia. Republicanism does not acknowledge God as the ultimate source of authority in our society, rather it is ‘the land and the people’.

In 1887, Henry Lawson wrote in his Song of the Republic’:
Sons of the South, make choice between
the land of the morn and the land of the e’en,
the old dead tree and the young tree green,
the land that belongs to the lord and the Queen,
and the land that belongs to you.
It was during the 1963 Royal Tour that Prime Minister Robert Menzies, who was "British to his bootstraps", said of the young Queen Elizabeth II:
"I did but see her passing by, and yet I'll love her 'til I die."

The tide appears to be turning towards a republican future, a future grounded more in a love of country, perhaps even in Dorothea Mackellar's My Country, where she wrote
'I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains.'
One of the essential definitions of a republic is a state based upon popular sovereignty, in which all public offices are held by persons deriving their authority from the people, either through election by the people, or appointment by officers themselves elected by the people. The exclusion of the reference to the Queen in the Federal ministerial Oath is a tangible step towards repositioning political authority for a republican Australia. Symbols are important and the words in this Oath reflect more meaningfully the reality that our Ministers serve the people of Australia and not a foreign monarch.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard continued with the Keating/Rudd Oath with swearing allegiance to Australia. However, on Wednesday, 18 September 2013, the newly minted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott returned to the past by swearing allegiance to the Queen.
Responding to this, the then national director of the Australian Republic Movement, David Morris, said in a statement:
'Our elected representatives should swear allegiance solely to Australia, rather than loyalty to someone born to rule over an Empire long gone. We call upon all elected representatives to pledge 100 per cent loyalty to Australia.'
It is interesting that the Federal minister's Oath has been a republican intellectual battleground over the past 25 years. Australia's three most recent Labor prime ministers – Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – all used similar words when they were sworn in. But Tony Abbott, an avowed monarchist, reverted to the previous pledge to Queen Elizabeth II, as did John Howard, and as did also Malcolm Turnbull.

Australians need a head of state of our own — someone who can lead the dignified part of our national life away from the day to day screaming match of Parliament and Q&A. Australia shouldn’t be looking backwards to Britain and the monarchy rather we should be confidently facing the future. It’s no longer appropriate in today’s Australia to have divided loyalties. Back in the early 20th Century, Australians were still called “British subjects” and many still sang 'God Save the Queen' — but no more. Today, our loyalty and our identity is Australian, not colonial. Australia should always come first for our elected representatives.

In an oath that has barely changed since Australia federated, anyone enlisting in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) today – Army, Air Force or Navy – must swear that they
'... will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law ... and resist Her enemies.'
Say what? Is there a single member of the 80,000-strong ADF that signed up to serve the Queen and resist her enemies? What about Australia's enemies? Surely they deserve a mention as well?

In 1994, a different pledge was introduced at Australian citizenship ceremonies.
It replaced the pledge of allegiance to the Queen with
'I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect and whose laws I will uphold and obey.'
In 2014, polling undertaken by the Australian Republic Movement found that seven out of ten Australians supported pledging allegiance to Australia and its people, rather than to the Queen.
The "currency lads" of the mid-19th century would often use the toast "To the land, boys". Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appeared to have taken Henry Lawson's advice and chosen "the land that belongs to you" over "the land that belongs to the lord and Queen".

Our nation’s values are democratic. To have an institution sitting above our Parliament, over which a foreign family is born to rule, is out of date with our identity as an independent nation. It’s about time our oaths of allegiance were changed to reflect this.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remember, remember, Australia's republican November

Remember November, because November is the "republican season" in Australia.

November always a time of remembering.

The Feast of Saints is held at the beginning of November and is now widely observed across the world to remember those recognised as today’s saints — known or unknown, mighty or lowly.

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

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

Recently there have been claims the British monarch was involved in Australia’s 1975 constitutional crisis.

But as ARM National Chair Peter FitzSimons wrote:
'Nothing has changed since 1975 to stop this happening again.  And next time, it might not be an adviser to Queen Elizabeth having these kinds of secret meetings on Australia’s internal affairs, but a courtier of none other than King Charles.'
Early November also sees the anniversaries of the 2014 memorial for Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (1971-1975), as well as the 12 November eulogy delivered for Professor George Winterton.
Winterton was a first-rank constitutional scholar and pioneer of the modern republican debate. He spent most of his career at the University of New South Wales, was a prominent republican scholar and writer, a member of the Republic Advisory Committee in the mid-1990's and a key delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention that crafted the minimalist republic model rejected in the 1999 referendum. More than anyone else, he produced the model that went to the people in the 1999 republic referendum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a great time to be an Australian republican. The momentum is building. In every state and territory as well as federally, our premiers, chief ministers, Opposition Leader and Prime Minister support having an Australian as head of state. And in October 2017, Federal Labor Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten appointed Matt Thistlethwaite as Shadow Assistant Minister for an Australian Head of State.

And now New Zealand has a republican Prime Minister. Perhaps they might become a republic before us?

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

In any case, November is a great time to be an Australian republican.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Royal poll shows there may not be a King's Birthday holiday in the future for Queensland

The heir to the British throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are coming to Queensland to open the 2018 Commonwealth Games. A British poll has found almost two in three do not want Prince Charles to replace the Queen on the throne. If the British don’t want him then why are we having him as a stand-in for the Queen next year?

In a blow to the monarchy on the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in Queensland, a poll of the British by the Australian Republic Movement has found almost two in three do not want Prince Charles to replace the Queen on the throne. Only 39 per cent of those Britons polled said they trusted the man who is set to be their next king — and 80 per cent of respondents agreed that a country’s head of state “should only be a citizen of that country”.

As I wrote last year, Queensland became a little less "Queenie" with the move by the State Government of the Queen’s Birthday holiday from the second Monday in June to the first Monday in October in 2016. Around Australia, the Queens’s Birthday public holiday is held on the second Monday in June, except WA and Queensland. WA had their Queen’s Birthday holiday on Monday, 25 September 2017 and reflected on how the latest royal poll is bad for Prince Charles however in Queensland no one seems to have noticed the move.

With Queen Elizabeth now in her 90s, Australians can expect to hear two words with repeated frequency: “King Charles.” The perceived unpopularity of the Queen’s son is a fact backed up by polling conducted between 25 and 28 August 2017, days before the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. Michael Cooney, ARM national director stated:

You get one Queen Elizabeth every 400 years, that’s the truth. It’s a big thing for Australians to understand – that if we don’t want King Charles, we have to have a republic. If we don’t have a republic it’s not up to us.”

Cooney said the message was clear – a King Charles was “unpopular and untrusted, even at home”.
What this really shows is that the question for Australia is not whether we have change, it is what kind of change we have. And the choice is between either King Charles or an Australian, chosen by Australians, to be the head of state.”

Michael Cooney said the decision by the Australian Republic Movement to poll UK citizens was made because “they have more influence over the result than we [Australians] did”.

Despite the popularity of the new generation of royals, with William, Catherine and Harry helping to reinvigorate interest in the monarchy, Australia would have King Charles as its head of state.

The one thing we know is it is highly predictable the next king of England and king of Australia is Charles. We are not going to have William as our next king. Becoming a republic will not stop them from visiting for things like the Invictus Games, or the Commonwealth Games, or things like that. But it will mean we have a chance to have our own head of state.”

Prince Charles will open the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April 2018 and read the message contained in the Queen’s Baton. The message is currently on a 388-day trek across the nations and territories of the Commonwealth after the launch of the Queen’s Baton relay at Buckingham Palace in March 2017.

The 11-day Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will be the 21st instalement of the Commonwealth Games. First held in 1930, as the British Empre Games, the event has been staged fout times in Australia. most recently in Melbourne in 2006. When the Commonwealth Games comes to the Gold Coast, Queensland in 2018, there will be more than thirty republics competing - from India and South Africa to Singapore and Samoa.

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association which consists of 52 independent nations that span Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific and are diverse – they are amongst the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries.

This association of states evolved from the British Empire. The Commonwealth, unlike most international organisations, does not rest on a written constitution, does not have a central government, nor impose any rigid contractual obligations. With the London Agreement on India in 1949 many member states have employed the Indian precedent of continuing as a Commonwealth member after they have revoked their allegiance to the Crown and become a republic.

Since 1949, the Commonwealth has evolved into an association of states where many recognise the Crown only as the head of the Commonwealth, not of their individual state. As the Commonwealth has developed it has become increasingly subject to the will of the member countries as a whole and not simply that of Britain as its most powerful member. Queen Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth although the choice of the next Head will be made collectively by Commonwealth leaders.

In the lead up to the 1999 referendum on the Australian Republic, monarchists firmly established a particular myth in many Australians minds. This is the one that pretends that as a republic we won’t be able to continue to participate in the Commonwealth Games. It needs to be made clear that Australia will still be a Commonwealth country if Australians vote to become a republic at some future date – whether during the Queen’s reign or after it.

In 2011, David Donovan wrote that during the Commonwealth Games in India, there were 32 Republics competing out of 53 member nations as a whole. Upon becoming Republics, all these countries applied for and were immediately readmitted to the Commonwealth. At the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the issue of membership was considered in response to an application by Rwanda – a country that had never even been a British colony – to join the Commonwealth. The committee issued a statement on 25 November 2007 that was to be called the ‘Kampala communiqué’, that stated:

“88. Heads of Government also agreed that, where an existing member changes its formal constitutional status, it should not have to reapply for Commonwealth membership provided that it continues to meet all the criteria for membership.”

If Australia had become a Republic before 2007, exactly the same process would have occurred – Australia would have reapplied and been immediately readmitted. Since the 2007 Kampala Declaration, of course, Australia wouldn't even need to reapply — it would simply continue as a Commonwealth nation even after becoming a Republic.

It appears the next King of Australia is very unpopular in Britain: 63% of those surveyed do not want Charles to be King; and only 39% said they trust the Prince. But because Britain is a monarchy, they don't get to decide, and neither do we.

So, the Queen’s Birthday public holiday is connected to a complete lack of community activity or acknowledgement and a poll now tells us the British people have no faith in their next monarch.

This is all absurd.

A new head of state is inevitable within a few years - but an Australian head of state is not inevitable.

Perhaps the value of the Queen’s Birthday public holiday is to have time to quietly reflect the future of our nation. If we don't do anything, we get King Charles III.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

An heir, spare, and one for the country

With the official announcement of the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge, it seems William and Kate will have an heir, a spare, and one for the country.

Congratulations to the British royal pair. The growing British royal family seems to be taking a page out of the Princess Mary book and her Danish royal brood of four.

No doubt the relentless celebrity that will surround the unborn prince or princess will continue to add to the British royal stamp of approval. Nevertheless this royal celebrity is an image dominated by an obsessive media and popular cultural landscape, which treat royalty as entertainment rather than as a political institution.

I hope one day soon that any Australian child will have the opportunity and honour to become an Australian Head of State, and not because he or she has had the privilege to have been born into Britain’s royal family.

I look forward to the day when Australia’s Head of State is determined by merit, not birthright, and affirms Australia’s values as a free, fair, democratic, multicultural nation.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Our Wattle Republic Speech - 1 September 2024

September 1, 2024
Parliament House
Speech to inaugural joint sitting of both Houses of the Australian Parliamentary Congress
President of the Commonwealth of Australia
‘Our Wattle Republic’
September 1 has many names. Some welcome it as spring’s dawn, a time to celebrate nature’s renewal. For others it is Wattle Day — a time when the smells of Spring are in the air and the vivid gold of the blossom is literally arresting. Wattle Day is celebrated annually on the first day of spring, and captures something crucial to the success of our new republic — a feeling for country – for today is the first day of our new republic, the Commonwealth of Australia.
A sprig of Australia's national floral emblem, the golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha is traditionally worn on the first day of spring. The green and gold of its leaves and blossoms were declared national colours in 1984 and in 1988 the wattle was adopted as the official national flower. In Australia, the wattles are the largest genus of flowering plants. In Australia you could plant two or three different wattles for every day of the year, and still have plenty left over, for Australia has more acacia species than the year has days. These acacias are extremely diverse and found in habitats from rainforest to arid lands.

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.

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. 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. 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. Like our people, wattle has great diversity (with nearly 1,000 species) and resilience. It is a unifying symbol for all Australians. There is no other symbol that says so much about us and our land.

Because of its association with the land and the care that indigenous, settler and modern day Australians have for it, Wattle Day can be seen as an occasion to celebrate and honour the shared earth. Respecting and caring for land, protecting its native flora and fauna, and using wisely its water resources are major challenges to commit to as a people. Australia's future is bound tightly with the health of Australia's environment and land. As a living expression of land, wattle links us to the earliest occupation of the Australian continent. Indigenous Australians used wattle for thousands of years as a season marker (a sign that the whales were coming), as a source of food, and the raw material of hunting and sound instruments. This is part of wattle's wonderful heritage as a unifying symbol of land, people and the nation - a symbol that has no unpleasant baggage.

Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said: 

“I am from this land. This place is home."

The first known use of wattle as a meaningful emblem in the Australian colonies was in Hobart Town in 1838 when a resident suggested wearing a sprig of wattle to celebrate the golden jubilee of the landing at Sydney Cove. There was in this seemingly small gesture a suggestion of an independent Australia. At a regatta in 1842 to mark the anniversary of Tasman's discovery of Van Diemen's Land, many of the celebrant's again wore a sprig of wattle. The Golden Wattle was the first symbol of the Adelaide Australian Natives' Association's 'Wattle Blossom League'. On Foundation Day, 26 January 1891, the Adelaide Australian Natives’ Association represented itself with a Wattle Blossom Banner embroidered with Golden Wattle by its ladies' branch.

But it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that an official Wattle Day was proclaimed after a suggestion made by the naturalist Archibald Campbell in Sydney. Campbell's suggestion led to a meeting to form a Wattle Day League which coordinated the states into celebrating the first Wattle Day on 1 September 1910. The Wattle Day League was a patriotic society in the vein of the Australian Natives' Association. The day was a celebration of the unique land, people and institutions of Australia, and was marked in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney with activities including the planting of wattle trees in the school grounds, decorating public sites with wattle and wearing wattle.

At the time the Sydney Morning Herald wrote: "To the native born Australian the wattle stands for home, country, kindred, sunshine and love - every instinct that the heart deeply enshrines".
The celebration of the day continued until the beginning of the First World War.

Wattle first appeared on Australia’s Coat of Arms when the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 18 January 1913 promulgated a new Coat of Arms for Australia.  During 1911 and 1912, Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher had taken a keen interest in the complex question of national identity and set about to ‘Australianise’ our government system and national symbols. Home-grown symbols, he knew in his heart, were essential for a nation so young. Among the significant changes made in the 1913 Coat of Arms was the inclusion of a spray of wattle as a background feature and a Federation Star, and instead of a shield displaying the English cross of St George, there was one showing the emblems of the six states. It is all the more appropriate that Wattle is the background of our national Coat of Arms, as it has been here for millennia. Wattle has welcomed us all — Indigenous, colonial and modern day immigrants. Wattle has been the great witness to the entire Australian story.

For many Australians when you mention wattle they don’t immediately think of the spray around the Coat of Arms, or the design embedded in the order of Australia. Rather the first thought is the last line of Henry Lawson’s stanza from Freedom on the Wallaby.
So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrant feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!
In 1891 the battle lines were drawn and action spread across central Queensland shearing sheds and towns, from February 1891 until well into May and June. Henry Lawson’s poem was his comment on the 1891 shearers’ strike and represented the rebellious spirit of those times. Lawson was writing about freedom and independence in Australia, and although he may have alluded to "blood on the wattle" he was never a serious advocate of armed revolution. His was more a call to address a sense of injustice. 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.
In 2015, during his first National Press Club Speech, the then 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 was 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 is a broad and inclusive symbol. It touches all levels of society, from very early pioneers and World War I 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 has journeyed with us in kitbags, pockets and letters to places that become synonymous with our shared story, be they Gallipoli, Kokoda or Swiss canyons. Wattle is a metaphor for innocence and hope, the constant promise of rebirth, that simple and powerful beauty of the wattle flower — indigenous, Australian, unsullied by the memory of war and destruction.
So, when the blaze of wattle lights up the Australian landscape each year, let us all remember that the wattle is a symbol of our land that unites us all. So, on this Wattle Day let us all take a moment and reflect on the wattle flower which symbolises an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry. Our new Commonwealth of Australia is a fully and truly independent Australia, a republican nation that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens, its environment and its future. A country that is fair and free.
Three cheers for our new Australian republic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hitting the Streets for the Australian Republic

We're hitting the streets to spread the message that Australia should have an Australian as head of state - and we need your help.

The plan is simple: we are holding street stalls across the country where we'll ask people to sign up as supporters. The more people we reach, the more interest we build for the republic. The campaign is growing but the momentum depends on supporters like you. That's why we'd like you to come along and give us a hand:


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pathway to an Australian Republic: Turnbull and Shorten must unite

It's time for Turnbull and Shorten to unite on Australia becoming a republic.

The political landscape in Australia is definitely changing. The push for a republic has gone from strength to strength in recent years with support from a resurgent membership, the majority of federal parliamentarians, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten brought the campaign for an Australian republic to a new peak at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne last night, 29 July 2017, as the Australian Republic Movement’s guest of honour and keynote speaker at its Gala Dinner.

National chair of the ARM Peter FitzSimons said the event demonstrated the broad bipartisan support within the community:
I daresay The Royal Exhibition Building won't have seen such an inspiring display of Australian nationhood in its arches since it hosted the first meeting of the Australian Parliament.”
Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten said, when speaking of his long-term support for an Australian republic, that he appreciated the historic opportunity to address the Movement and its supporters:
"I’ve always been a passionate republican and I’m looking forward to continuing to press the case for an Australian republic. We can get this done."

The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, the location of the first gathering of the Federal Parliament in 1901, will now become known for another pivotal moment in Australia’s history — the biggest gathering of Australian republicans from across the country.

Earlier that day, Bill Shorten had announced at the Queensland ALP State Conference in Townsville that Australians would vote in a plebiscite on becoming a republic within the first term of a future Labor government. He stated that, if Labor wins the next election, a Shorten government would appoint a minister with direct responsibility for advancing the republic debate.

The Royal Exhibition Building was erected for the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880-1881. As a "Palace of Industry", it displayed the technologies and achievements of the mechanised age. Huge temporary halls housed exhibits of the latest products from more than 30 nations. Pianos, typewriters, lawnmowers, electric lights, carriages and decorative homewares were all on display. Public taste in Melbourne was changed forever.

The 1880 International Exhibition was the greatest show the city had ever seen and attracted over 1 million visitors. A second, even larger world fair, the centennial International Exhibition, was staged there in 1888. The Royal Exhibition Building is the only surviving "Palace of Industry" from a 19th Century world fair on its original site. It is still in use as an exhibition venue.

The Great Hall has been the scene of many events, but it was probably most crowded and most popular during the two international exhibitions, 1880-81 and 1888-1889. The Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880-81 attracted more than 1.3 million people over eight months. The Carlton Gardens were the scene of trysts and assignations, gossip and introductions, as friends, families and lovers met to buy their tickets and stroll through the vast halls.

On 9 May 1901, the Melbourne Exhibition Building hosted the opening of the first Federal Parliament of Australia, following the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January. After the official opening, the Federal Parliament moved to the Victorian State Parliament House, while the Victorian Parliament moved to the Exhibition Building for the next 26 years.

The campaign for an Australian republic is uniting Australians from across the political divide. The address by Bill Shorten at the 2017 Pathway to a Republic Gala Dinner follows on from a passionate keynote speech in support of a republic by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the ARM Gala Dinner in December 2016.

There Prime Minister Turnbull proudly declared,
I am an Australian and proud to say so. Our head of state should be someone who can say the same.”
On Saturday, 17 December 2016, in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney, Prime Minister Turnbull helped the Australian Republican Movement celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Australian Republican Movement national chair Peter FitzSimons said the dinner would “... honour those who’ve got us to this point” and Mr Turnbull was “at the forefront of our founding fathers and mothers”.

He continued:
The dinner is also a moment for the ARM to outline its vision for the future. A vision in which Australia takes the lead and completes the journey to full and final independence.”
Turnbull, who co-founded the Australian Republican Movement 25 years before, had previously said he did not believe Australians would support a republic during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. It was here that he outlined a road map toward an Australian head of state. If you haven't seen it, you can read the speech here.

However, PM Turnbull also made it clear in his speech that he considered himself an Elizabethan and believed that this journey should not begin until the end of the Queen's reign. With respect to Prime Minister Turnbull, as a long-term avowed republican, his use of the term "Elizabethan" is incongruous.

Professor John Warhurst has reflected that Turnbull will now be lampooned for his use of this phrase:
“... just as the monarchist Sir Robert Menzies is often held up to ridicule for his gushing address to the Queen during her 1963 royal tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Canberra. To express his admiration for the Queen, Menzies famously quoted the lines from Thomas Ford's poem "There is a Lady Sweet and Kind" which read "I did but see her passing by and yet I love her till I die."
Bill Shorten’s 29 July 2017 republican statements are in line with the timelines proposed by the Australian Republican Movement. This includes a plebiscite in 2020 that asks the people of Australia a very simple question:
Should Australia have an Australian head of state?
With 2020 marking 250 years since Captain James Cook landed surely it must be time for us to stand on our own two feet.

Perhaps, in the words of Paul Kelly, not “before too long”.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Queenslander's silent on no Queen's Birthday holiday

This is the second year Queensland no longer has a Queen’s Birthday public holiday in June — and no one seems to notice it’s gone.

AROUND AUSTRALIA, it is the Queens’s Birthday weekend — except in Western Australia and Queensland. The Queen’s Birthday public holiday is held in most Australian states and territories on the second Monday in June.

As I wrote last year, Queensland became a little less "Queenie" with the move by the State Government of the Queen’s Birthday holiday from the second Monday in June to the first Monday in October in 2016. This year, Queensland will hold the holiday on 2 October. In WA, it will be 25 September.

After the election of the LNP Newman Government in 2012, until its shock electoral loss in January 2015, there was a steady output of ideological revisionism aimed at bolstering the concept of monarchy in Queensland.

During 2011, there had been widespread consultation by the Bligh Labor Government on changing the public holiday system in Queensland. It was agreed, in 2012, that Labour Day would remain in May and the Queen’s Birthday public holiday would move from June to the first weekend in October, while retaining a one-off Queen’s Diamond Jubilee public holiday in June 2012.

All this was thrown out the window later in 2012 when legislation was passed through the Queensland Parliament by the newly elected LNP Newman Government to move the 2013 Labour Day public holiday from the historically traditional 1 May to the first Monday in October and the Queen’s Birthday public holiday back to its previous June timing. The change in attitude towards the public holiday timetabling suggested the Newman Government was determined to take a conservative monarchical stand.

Labour Day has special significance for Queensland because of its links to events in the labour movement of the late 19th Century. The first weekend in May has been of major cultural and historical significance for the union movement in Queensland ever since the state’s first Labour Day procession – and one of the first in the world – took place in Barcaldine on 1 May 1891. The Labour Day public holiday has been celebrated by workers in Queensland on the first Monday in May since 1901 and is deeply ingrained in Queensland’s history as a day to recognise workers’ rights.

With the election of the Palaszczuk Labor Government in Queensland in 2015, one of the first actions was changing the Queen’s Birthday public holiday for 2016 to the first Monday in October and restoring the Labour Day public holiday to the first Monday in May.

The push for a republic has gone from strength to strength in recent years with support from a resurgent membership, the majority of federal parliamentarians, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. On Australia Day 2016, Australia's premiers and chief ministers made public declarations supporting an Australian head of state. The Australian Republic Movement has now confirmed most Federal MPs and senators want to ditch the monarchy. Sydney’s North Shore has a reputation for being home to staunch monarchists, but a few days ago every elected politician in that area from State and Federal politics was asked where they stood on the question of Australia becoming a republic. In short, if it was up to this patch of Australia, we’d be saying hello to an Aussie head of state any day now.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will bring the campaign for an Australian republic to a new peak, as the Australian Republic Movement’s guest of honour and keynote speaker at its Gala Dinner on 29 July 2017. The Pathway to a Republic dinner in 2017 will bring together supporters of a republic from across the country at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne — the location of the first gathering of the Federal Parliament. Chair of the Australian Republic Movement Peter FitzSimons said the event demonstrated the broad bipartisan support within the community.

When the Lord Chamberlain called an emergency meeting of the British Royal Household a few weeks ago, the French media quickly announced that Prince Philip had died and the world expected the worst. Happily, it was a false alarm. However, it did drive home the fragility of the status quo and the fact that the Queen recently turned 91. There is no point denying that the day fast approaches when she will no longer be the Queen. When that happens, there is a plan that will swing into action with the uttering of a secret code from the palace. We will automatically and almost immediately have a new monarch as our head of state.

The next British monarch will be a King — most probably King Charles. And it will be decided not by our own deliberate and independent choice, but by laws of the United Kingdom: the Bill of Rights (1689) and the Act of Settlement (1701) as amended by the UK Parliament in 2010. Moreover, according to the laws of Royal Succession, our new monarch can only be a natural (non-adopted), legitimate descendant of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and must be in communion with the Church of England. Under the current system, no Australian could ever qualify to the highest office in our country. We currently have no choice in the matter. It will just happen to us, regardless of what we might think. We will simply wake up to the news.

The Prime Minister has said that the proper time to consider the issue of the Republic is upon the Queen's demise. Some say it is disrespectful or morbid to talk about the Queen's passing. I think that's wrong. It is too late. It will allow something enormous to just happen to us while we sit back passively, unable to do anything about it.

The Queen’s Birthday weekend in June in Queensland has slipped away quietly without anyone commenting that it has gone, nor querying why it now pops up in early October for no apparent reason. Perhaps this attitude of irrelevance towards celebrating the Queen’s big day each year is a reflection of the larger attitude towards the British monarchy within our every day lives.

Tickets are available for the ARM Gala Dinner in Mebourne for as little as $50 a head for students and pensioners HERE.