Rev. Kameel Majdali, Ph.D. “Australia’s Constitution, Crown, and Future”. Retrieved April 20th, 2008 – “MODERN AUSTRALIAN REPUBLICANISM
The word “republic” comes from the Latin term res publica meaning “the public thing.” In a democracy, it can be summarized as “a state where sovereignty resides in the people who delegate their power to their elected representatives.” Another way of putting it is where there is a political (elected), non-hereditary head of state. In our time the term “republic” can be used for democracies, dictatorships, and one-party states alike. While most nations on earth are republics, there is nothing superior or more desirable with that form of government than a constitutional monarchy. It is not a promotion or a step towards further national maturity to adopt republicanism–a look at the political and social problems of many of the world’s republics makes this clear.
Despite the stability and benefits of Australia’s constitutional monarchy, republicanism has made great strides during the 1990’s. The Australian Labour Party made part of the 1991 platform the goal of establishing an Australian republic by 2001, the centenary of federation. Also in 1991, Malcolm Turnbull, Thomas Keneally, David Hill, Neville Wran, the Hon Franca Arena MLC, and others formed the Australian Republican Movement (ARM). Republicanism in Australian received a big boost through the patronage of then Prime Minister Paul Keating, who in 1993 appointed Turnbull as chairman of the Republican Advisory Committee, with a government grant of $600,000. Some have called the ARM an elitist group lacking in grassroots support, whose membership was often half that of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. Nor can they claim to represent the views of all republicans. But the ARM has succeeded to get republicanism onto the national agenda, culminating in the Constitutional Convention of February 1998 and the Referendum of November 1999. In addition to the Australian Labour Party, a republic is backed by labour unions and the Australian media. Some prominent liberal politicians, perhaps to undergo a makeover into a “progressive” and “forward-looking” leader, have switched from advocating the status quo to support a republic.
Reasons given for a republic have included the need to assert our full independence from Great Britain, to rid ourselves of a foreign queen so we can have a resident for president, to help bolster the economy, to aid in Aboriginal reconciliation, to help non-English migrants feel more at home, to help stimulate artistic creativity by breaking the psychological control from Britain, to give us a sense of national pride, and the most famous reason of all, “a republic is inevitable.” Andrew Robb, of “Conservatives for an Australian Head of State” says “A stable, peaceful, confident country needs a cultural figurehead. A person who reigns for the people, but who is above politics, can engender, a great spirit of unity, pride, and purpose in a nation. Today that role can only be filled by an Australian Head of State. To delay is to deny the great benefits that would follow” (ROBB 1997). It is not overtly clear what these benefits would be. Robb assiduously avoids using the term “republic” while calling those who are anti-republic “opponents of an Australian head of state.” All sounds interesting but is it true and is it right?”