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A republic for Remembrance Day

David Tank is new to Webdiary, although he has known about us for years. He is an antipodean (citizen of Australia and New Zealand), a believer in democratic principles and therefore, by definition, a Republican. He is 42 and lives in Queensland. David submitted this piece to Webdiary for publication on Remembrance Day. Thank you for your contribution, and my deepest apologies for not getting it published in time.


A republic for Remembrance Day
by David Tank

This recent talk of the relative importance of the beaches of Gallipoli and the Kokoda Track in framing our national consciousness is futile and unnecessary. A living nation does not have a defining moment.

Australia Day, Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are parts of our story; they give focus to the things that we hold to be important and through celebration and commemorations are taken as proofs of our better nature.

As far as the stories we tell ourselves on these occasions both Gallipoli and Kokoda Track resonate with us as they tell stories of our bravery, and of our tragedies.

Kevin Rudd and Paul Keating are both right about something.

The bungled and arrogant assault on the beaches of Gallipoli under British leadership leading to the heroic deaths of many Australians, or the lethal defense of a Papua Highlands Pass, are both defining moments in the history of Australian nationhood.

But that they could be the defining “moment” is inimitable to the idea of a living nation. Many people and peoples make nations. And as they live and die their stories become part of the fabric of that nation.

Each generation reaffirms its nationality by subscribing to its ideals and acting upon them. The nation can only live through the actions of its people. Its defining moment can only be found at its death knell.

Every living nation undergoes generational renewal and as it does the past stays relevant by how the lessons of its history are told and understood, witness Obama’s deft manipulation of his national iconography.

Our historical understanding must and does change as sure as generational change means people are born, breed and die. Nations change as those generations of people live as citizens of that nation. Who would argue that Germany is the greatest threat to world security in the 21st Century?

So a nation can not have a defining moment until it is dead. And we are most definitely alive.

Of our national days it is Remembrance Day that speaks to me most clearly about our nationality. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918 all nations stopped the killing and every 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month since then men and woman have stood in silent homage and with shared grief for the loss of life the affairs of our nation and others have caused.

This act of silent homage is a demonstration of humility and is made to acknowledge the sacrifices of those who have come before us and as a silent plea for mercy for all who will follow. It is the one national day that is shared with the many others that live beyond our shores.

Remembrance Day speaks most clearly as it speaks to our humanity, and thus should and indeed does, however imperfectly, underpin our definition of nationhood. Did our forebears die in vain? Or did they die building upon and defending our natural freedoms?

On Remembrance Day when we say lest we forget we are actually saying we will ensure that these freedoms will not be not be forgotten and that this ceremony of remembrance is not in vain. That our freedoms won at such high cost will be exercised and defended.

Lest we forget that we are the living nation and not merely the inheritors of what has been won before.

At the 11th hour on November 11 we stand and stay silent for one minute mourning our collective dead. All of them are family to someone and every one of them is by extension one of us.

They stood where we stand, as we do for them, every Remembrance Day.

All of us have choices in life; our nation’s governmental systems represent and reflect those choices. But a living nation is only a living nation as each generation chooses to act and make it so. Gallipoli and Kokoda can inspire us but as those who fought in those battles matter to us it is our actions now that will matter to future generations.

Our idea of being Australian is a powerful one because it has a sense of personal sovereignty intrinsic to it. We own this idea called Australia as we individuals acting collectively give it its substance. Whether you frame our beliefs in words of mate ship and the fair go or as it is more traditionally expressed in the maxim “all power comes from the consent of the governed”, the basis of a living nation and of the Australian nation is the understanding that it is our natural right to make the choices concerning our own destinies.

Those many that have come before us may have fought in the name of king and country but it is our understanding that they fought and died for us and our freedoms, individual and national.

If Australia is to stay a living nation we need to provide ourselves with continuing moments of definition, great moments in our history that reflect both our changing nature and yet reinforce the principles by which we govern ourselves.

For our generation of Australians such a moment of definition will be the establishment of our republic.

A republic founded on democratic principles – on the idea that all legitimate power comes only by the consent of the governed. That we the people are sovereign, that no one is born to rule over us, that we choose who is to lead us.

This Remembrance Day consider that it should be one such day that we declare our Republic. Consider that by doing so we will demonstrate that it is always by our actions that our nation lives and that it is these actions that define us as a people, memories of Kokoda Track and Gallipoli Cove included.

Today as you stand in silence and give remembrance to the fallen remember that we, the men and women of Australia, are the arbiters of our own fate. Let our constitution reflect this truth.

Lest we forget.


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Oh dear

Your comment, such a teenage cliche from such an old man, seems to substantiate the suggestions that I have made about you on another thread, Alan Curran. Regrettably.

Your suggestion

is that the Republicans would only elect a black woman in order to"piss off the Democrats", is it, Alan Curran?


F Kendall, whatever!!!!!


You know what would really piss off the Democrats .... Bush should resign now. Then Dick Cheney becomes President. Then he appoints Condoleeza Rice as VP. Then Cheney resigns two weeks later and Condoleeza Rice, a Republican, becomes the first BLACK - WOMAN - PRESIDENT!!!

the cultural cringe

is considering how other people might regard us, or might respond to our decisions.  It's not about how we greet arrivals....how could you even begin think that, David Tank

It's more like, "what will the neighbours think?"  ... a large argument once of the republic brigade.

I am reminded that Les A Murray, consulted by P Keating, suggested that "the people of Australia" be the head of state. 

In response to your previous post to me, I am unashamedly happy to outsource any state panoply and aggrandisement.   If I could find a country stupid enough to accept the ongoing costs of ex-parliamentarians, from prime ministers to the 40 yr old  Reba Meagher with her $130000 pension for life, then I would happily do it.

The message it sends to the rest of the world, and to our children is:  "Don't buy into this anachronistic rubbish".

You say, "Like any Aussies getting a bit too big for their boots, I'm sure there will always be someone ready to pour a beer over their exalted heads."

As this has never happened. I assume that you have never thought that any bigwig has got too big for his boots.

This is where we differ.

Eliot Ramsey

Since I wrote "Am I agreeing with you, Eliot?"  on Nov 16th, I have noticed other posters, on other threads, suffering the same astonishment, and querying their own viewpoint.

But obviously it is Eliot Ramsey who has been educated here to a more enlightened view.

Sentiments taken onboard David Tank!

Nothing lasts forever (although for a while there I thought John Howard would become the permanent Ruler of Australia).

We've just seen the election of an African American president, not something I thought I would witness in my lifetime. Time will tell if he lives up to our expectations but I believe he will try to effect change, however slowly (like trying to turn around the Titanic) and once the change begins it will be unstoppable. America will have it's 'free' health system eventually and know that they haven't been transformed into communists, as my Canadian friend keeps telling me that his US friends cannot understand Canada's shocking acceptance of a socialist health system (better than ours) when just about everything else about Canadian life is virtually the same as the USA.

Even Britain's Royal Family know they are an endangered species. As the hilarious Prince Phillip once said: "no need to put us against a wall and shoot us, we can be packed and gone in half an hour."

Personally I would like Prince Harry to renounce his British citizenship and hopefuly we could install him as our very own Aussie King. Having seen his love of fun, the pics of the plastered lad struggling with his own bodyguard trying to put him in a car to whisk him home from a nightclub, I thought there is man Aussies would readily take to as a Regent. Of course in the end, the Royals are just like you and me, with better houses, better tailors and dressmakers etc. Camilla should certainly put rest to any question of them being superior in any way.

In my first few years in London I became quite friendly with Dodi Fayed (pre-Mohammed's Harrods days) and once stayed at his Park Lane apartment for 3 months. The shock of hearing that Diana was supposedly having an affair with him was just that - a shock!

In those days his drug habit was so intense that he had a reputation with ladies as being (to put it crudely) unable to get it up. On top of which he was amazingly uninteresting but had enough cash to pick up nightclub tabs and thus surround himself with more interesting people. The death of him and the tragically flawed Diana really signalled the end of any mystery the UK Royals maintained.

Here was the most glamorous woman in the world (who had married beneath her status,being far more aristocratic than the Windsors), dying in a sordid fashion, probably unnecessarily, and with a would-be playboy and a dull one at that. The mystery was finally over and you could almost see it on the faces of the crowds and the Royals themselves marching behind the coffin.

I will accept our coming Republc, and hope Britain accepts the inevitable. For it will happen there in time as well.

Shouldn't really tell you this

I took a telephone call from Lizzie last night Malcolm. She sometimes asks for my opinion on matters antipodean, (their antipodes of course, ha ha I wouldn't presume presume to give her advice on UK stuff nor does she ask; thought I'd better clear that up).

Turns out one of her minions had alerted her to renewed interest in the republic debate and WD was mentioned. She was surprised to find me a contributor, "thought that sort of thing would be somewhat beneath you".

It's not so bad, I reassured her. Of course I said, you're bound to get some strange people on a site like this and it is a blog of course. What sort of people blog, after all? "Well, you for a start," she said and I had some difficulty explaining that I was somewhat different. "Well, strange in what way?" she asked and I said it's better if I give you a couple of examples. There's one fellow who considers himself by implication, to be better than one of our more "colourful" politicians despite all evidence to the contrary, and worse, he has a ludicrous faith in the ability of the hoi pollois to come to an intelligent decision. Then there's another who drops "names" on any pretext, that sort of thing I told her.

Anyway, to get to the point (cut to the chase thankfully, has gone out of style), her main reason for the call was to ask me to tell "that fellow with whom you appear to have an ambivalent relationship" not to worry too much as she would give Royal assent anyway.

That Sydney trip might happen sooner than I thought. In fact, it's remiss of me not have made it before. Young James really needs a talking to, he's making such a hash of it and I promised his father (reluctantly I must admit),  that I'd keep an eye on him and give him sound advice but at the same time, whips and moribund equines were foremost in my mind.

Happy days.

Shouldn't really tell you this

 Never on just any pretense, Scott!

Well don't

Sorry David but you're going have to flesh that out if I'm to make any sense of it; there are times when I can be distinctly thick. Gimme a clue; pretense sounds like pretext? Am I close?

Maybe the people I had in mind when chatting to HM can look after themselves.

On the subject of a republic for Oz, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, refer to King Log... and consider the possibility that the hankering to cut the last remnants of ties to our colonial past are very much a part of Oz psyche's most dismal facet; the cultural cringe.

Pretext or Pretense?

Hi Scott.

Yes I meant pretext not pretense, my apologies. I also agree with you that Her Majesty can look after herself. Thank you very much.

"...the hankering to cut the last remnants of ties to our colonial past are very much a part of Oz psyche's most dismal facet, the cultural cringe."

Hmm, I don't think the "cultural cringe" is our most dismal facet and I don't have any hankering to cut the last remnants of ties to our colonial past. I do not equate an allegiance to monarchy with being the last remnant of our colonial past.

This cultural cringe thing bemuses me, yes time was we would ask a visitor what they thought of our country (sometimes the moment they got of the plane) but these days we are more likely to simply ask if they are having a good time.

Which seems to me to be more the question of a gracious host that a forelock tugger.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it? My point would be if it is irrelevant why not replace it?

A republican system of government based upon democratic principle with legal structures that are transparent and accountable is useful, as even at a symbolic level it informs future generations of the nature of our modern civility .

An hereditary monarchy with democratic processes tacked on merely reflects unfinished business.

It seems to me that at the heart of the arguments that proponents of the status quo make are fear and distrust. They seem to say that people can not be trusted to make such decisions, that we may end up with a dictator, or god forbid a populist lacking in good table manners!

And yet it is the very strength of our democracy that today ensures the stability of our society. That same stability that leads such proponents to exclaim "if it ain't broke don't fix it". I find it odd that they defend that part of our constitution that mars our democratic integrity. Indeed that they seem to fear the very thing that has given us the stability they so esteem.

Oh dear

David, funny how words come back to haunt one.

"This cultural cringe thing bemuses me, yes time was we would ask a visitor what they thought of our country" etc.

Two weeks later and you are let down by those of your countrymen who came up with that pathetic Olympic ad and yes, "cultural cringe" was mentioned about three times in "Letters to the Editor."

Only one thing counts as a republic.

I turned down the last offer of a republic because I found it distasteful that someone like "Ironbar" Tuckey would get to vote on an Australian head of state but I wouldn't.

Otherwise, David, I couldn't agree more with your argument.

My calculation of the vote distribution at the referendum is that a bit less than one third of the "no" vote were "direct electionistas". That is a solid blocking vote against the pale withered option of a head of state determined by a joint sitting of both houses (or some such).

republic shrublic, just a brand name change

First I must heartily concur with Justin Obodie. If a republic comes we must get the day off. Moreover, we should also keep the Queen's birthday as a mark of historical respect for where we came from (insert any other useful cliches here). And, very importantly, the new holiday should always fall so as to create a long weekend. The next most important question is whether to have it in the summer to enhance our long holidays or whether to have it in Winter or early Spring, which are currently short of a long weekend.

I'm afraid I can't take any other part of the debate seriously since it just devolves back to the limp and largely checkmated question about whether to have an elected president or not. Back in the 1990s the bipartisan republican movement, having complacently assumed a high level of political ignorance in the average voter, decided to push for the presidency as a symbolic and otherwise meaningless change that would avoid addressing any real constitutional issues.

Even this foundered when up against a wily politician in Howard. He was happy to play hardball identity politics with Keating and then move on to split the Republican movement over the direct election, or not, of said President. The democratic instincts of the average voter (or their naive equation of republics with the USA) clashed with the symbolic politics of an elite bent on a re-branding exercise and we stayed monarchial.

The Australian political model is in need of real renovation; as a liberal democracy our system is pretty second rate in its responsiveness, accountability and the protection of its citizens. Heck, the previous government was able to collude with a foreign power, aid it in the torture of Australian citizens and the system has not been capable of any sophisticated response at all. Australian citizens apparently therefore actually remain mere subjects. But the republican debate has absolutely nothing to do with these problems; rather, if anything, it functions as means of papering them over with a new facade of symbol based legitimacy. Worshipping a president is only slightly less pathetic than worshipping a monarch, both are really only for primary school children bussed in for the occasion.

The republican movement operates at the level of brand name change and treats the public with about the same level of contempt as the advertising industry. We are talking about the equivalent of a move from Pepsi to Pepsi max but with even less fizz.

As for Remembrance Day, this is actually steeped in the imperial tradition. It is a very big deal in the UK and we are connected through the waste of lives and the fact that they to a large extent died identified as British fighters for the empire and under the Red Ensign. I think it's a good tradition but it's not a good touchstone for a shift to a republic.

Why is it a good tradition? Because those young men died in the most terrible and senseless manner and the only thing that might give even a shred of decent meaning to the waste is that they are remembered. But then again the "never again" bit pretty much goes missing, indicating they may have died completely in vain after all.

The Bridge

Tony: "First I must heartily concur with Justin Obodie. If a republic comes we must get the day off. Moreover, we should also keep the Queen's birthday as a mark of historical respect for where we came from (insert any other useful cliches here). And, very importantly, the new holiday should always fall so as to create a long weekend."

There is a rather nice tradition in France called le pont, 'the bridge'. Basically this means that if a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday the French take the 'bridged' day (Monday or Friday) off, too. Thus, every public holiday that doesn't fall on a Wednesday provides you with a long weekend and about a third of the time it's a four day weekend.

I'm sure we could import this part of the French republican model into Oz without much fuss.

No fuss at all

There is much to admire about French culture, Dylan, although I think many of us have figured out le pont for ourselves.

Now, if we can just arrange to celebrate Republic Day on the first Tuesday after each anniversary, I'll vote for it.

Here, here, to the bridges!

Oh Bravo, bravo Dylan. Now we are talking, this is something to get excited about. I did notice on the last couple of Melbourne Cup days many more people were treating it like Easter and nicking off for a four day weekend. In fact, Cup Week (note it is now all in capitals) is almost becoming a week off in Melbourne. Serves Kennett right for taking away Show Day. Now if we can just get those still working in this week to start being paid penalty rates.

I guess in general terms, with pay rises so hard to come by and people being overworked way past 9-5 all over the place, the best way to push back is more public holidays.

Mmm... so we should make a fuss of the President too. Then we can have Constitution Day, the Aussie Republic Day and President's Day.

Oh, and who do I want for our first president, Gough of course! So we better organise the brand name change fast.

My republican schizophrenia

I should, with everything else I believe, want a Republic. Having known the wonderfully coiffured David Flint for a few decades (and such a nice man really) but having never agreed with anything he says, I should definitely be demanding a Republic.

Several things put me off the idea. Malcolm Turnbull and his disastrous handling of the Australian Republican Movement is one. And I like the Royal family. In fact, I like most royal families.

I love grandness. I shamelessly joined the local street party in our little mews street off Portobello Road for Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee in 1977 along with the neighbours - Queenie my cleaning lady who lived opposite (and was everything you expect a "Queenie" to be - think Coronation Street), Private Eye writer and poet Christopher Logue on my other side, muttering about the useless Royals, and opposite, the daughter of French film star Jean Paul Belmondo who simply thought we were all barmy waving about little Union Jacks with tears welling up as we watched the Queen's speech on the new colour TV propped up at the end of the table.

I loved watching the wedding of Charles and Diana live on television, as beside me, a Hoorah Henry of a friend who had lost his inheritance in a Lloyds syndicate wept (after a bottle of my gin) as he quite rightly said-"no-one can put on a show of pageantry like the British". I was transfixed by the funeral of Diana 15 years later and thought, "well no-one can put on a funeral like them either".

I think I may have teared up myself watching the wedding of Prince Frederick of Denmark to our Tasmanian gel and was thrilled with the whole toy soldier look of the affair. Crowned heads of Europe in wonderful fancy dress, brilliant medals, feathers and gold brocade and the very idea that the sailing mad King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden would turn up in full Admiral naval regalia.

I once sat transfixed as the "Queen of London Society " Lady Edith Foxwell came to stay at my flat for one night (but left 3 weeks later and left behind a huge telephone bill), regaled me of stories of English royalty, of her great and rare honour in being awarded a title by Royal Warrant in 1947, of scandals amongst the nobility, of who the "headless man" was in the notorious and scandalous photo with the Duchess of Argyle and so on, until she abandoned me for a better offer to join Zsa Zsa Gabor at the Hotel Intercontinental.

As a regular visitor to Thailand I am awed by the sheer unmatched love the Thai people hold for the world's longest reigning monarch King Bhumibol. When the Thai Royal Anthem is played on TV and radio everyday at 5pm I almost stand to attention (it's a marvellous tune-written by the King - a superb jazz musician).

In 2006 I watched in fascination as a million Thais in yellow t-shirts crowded Bangkok's Royal Square to pay homage to the King's Golden Jubilee. I marvelled as a Royal cavalcade swept past me in Bangkok - a dozen police outriders with starched \white gloves and crisp blue uniforms leading half a dozen cream Toyotas - carrying I think, the Queen. followed by another 6 outriders. How clever, I thought, to travel in such humble autos.

A week later in Pattaya I encountered a similar motorcade, this time with the King's much loved and popular daughter, except she drove herself in a battered red Volkswagen, behind 4 police cycles, followed by staff in 2 Mercedes and another 4 motorcycle police.

At 19, I was nearly run over by a cavalcade in Amsterdam as Beatrice, the Queen of Holland rushed to the Opera. In Piccadilly I drew along side a Rolls Royce in my tiny Mini and Princess Anne looked at me for a second, winked and tore off.

My hero is Tony Benn, the British Labor left wing MP, The most intelligent politician in England who reflects every idea I have ever thought and who has never said I thing I disagree with (yet if I were he, I'd have never renounced his hereditary titles - Lord Wedgewood Benn, Viscount Stansgate).

I once met the de-throned King Constantine of Greece at a David Jones’s cocktail party. As a child I fainted in the hot sun while waiting for The Queen to arrive at Casino in northern NSW. I missed her but at least I was there, albeit briefly, in the front row.

I would have been leading the charge during the Russian revolution but probably, being a minor Bolshevik official, who if I had been in the right place at the right time, would have helped spirit the Romanovs to safety.

In short, I'm a Royal groupie. Like Malcolm B Duncan, I can't think that anything that replaces them will either be less expensive or work any better. And I simply hate the fact that I and John Howard think the same in this.

However, I've come to a belief that Howard - an admitted Thatcher acolyte is actually an anti-Royalist working from the inside. Thatcher, lower middle class like Howard, hated the idea of Royalty and the aristocracy. I think all Conservatives hate the Royals. Look at the list of nonentities that the Coalition has invested as Governor-General. A former minister who resigned after a forgettable scandal and a army chap whose name no-one can recall.

Contrast that with the glamorous Quentin Bryce who conducted herself so admirably in France this week (and wouldn't it have been Howard there but for the election!). Or the last Labor appointee as GG - Bill Hayden and the wonderful Dallas.

In fact, it you look at much of British history, it's the more common man who has much in common with Royalty. Who was the current Queen Elizabeth’s favourite Prime Minister? - the very working class Harold Wilson (despite some claiming he was a Soviet spy) - the one who as a cabinet minister in a previous Labor government helped introduce the great British Welfare State. And who was the PM Liz hated the most? Thatcher.

Unfortunately, an Australian Republic, like global warming, is inevitable. I'll have to learn to live with it.

Republican schizophrenia

Hi Michael, thank you for your wonderful response, for a while there I felt quite transported, swept up and away by your beautiful and evocative prose.

I too have had the occasional run in with royalty and while I agree that they are on the whole thoroughly likable and even sometimes quite inspiring I am always left wondering what they would have chosen to do if they had not been born into that particular family business.

As I once said to a young (and very lovely) woman who was considering a long term relationship with the Crown Prince of one ancient line, "remember he has no choice in the matter, he is by birth a future King, all he can do is choose whether he is going to do it well, or at least attempt to do it well. He has less choice than you or I. But who is to say that he should not be allowed to be happy?"

Michael, you adore the grandeur, the pomp and circumstance, the delightful silliness of the gold brocade and feathers and the honest plucking of your heart strings but would you really trade for life in a gilded cage?

I too believe it is true that the commoner has more in common with Royalty than those with merely pretensions to a higher status. In my experience there is always a mutual sympathy between people who understand they have to do what they have to do. We understand that both to work a double shift to keep a roof over the heads of your children or to learn to smile graciously as you give a limp wristed wave, can be soul destroying.

I too remember the Jubilee, the Wedding, the Funeral, the Coronation Street street party, the endless Wedding broadcast with endless speculation about The Endless Wedding Dress. I remember my older brother saying Di was a bit of alright to which my mother replied "Yes but Chris my dear you could not keep her in the style to which she is accustomed" and his lightening quick retort "yes but she could keep me in a style I would LIKE to become accustomed too." Ah how we laughed!

I too remember the constant replay of Di's car in the tunnel, the good words spoken and the enormous outpouring of grief amid the futility of a tragic and senseless loss.

Was there a lesson in this death? Yes there was, our Royals stripped as they are of any real power are left only the trappings of ancient glory and their celebrity. We have reduced their birthright to a curse.

To those such as David Flint I would say; if you truly love someone set them free!

Unlike you, Michael de Angelos, I am not a royal groupie. On every occasion I have met a Royal, be they European, Asian, or Polynesian, I have always seen the person first, not the title.

Yes, there is a thrill to such encounters, they do carry themselves differently and there can be such a thing as a regal bearing bordering on the mystical. But frankly, it's irritating, their birthright is a lie; they were not born to be our leaders, however symbolically, just as you and I were not born without the right to choose who will represent us.

I would humbly suggest, Michael De Angelos, that you seek a cure for your schizophrenia, find another outlet for your love of grandeur and help us to remove this curse from the heads that wear a Crown.

Then perhaps our Australian Republic will be inevitable.

Queen of the Antipodes

If we get a Republic can we have the day off?

If not can we bring back Empire Day? At least we got to blow stuff up.

Anyway a day off woud be good, and very Australian; maybe we could have the day off and blow stuff up as well.

OK we won't blow stuff up but since we got rid of Empire Day what use is a Queen or a King?

And if we must have a Queen why not one of our own?

Dame Edna would do the trick nicely.

Blow up

Justin Obodie, Methinks that the way Rudd,Swan and Tanner are running things there are going to be a lot of Australians having days off, to blow things up.

After all Rudd has blown up the surplus, why should he have all the fun with our money.

I wonder if Gough still has has Tirath Khemlani's phone number, Swan could borrow $4 billion to see us out till Christmas.

Or he could invest it in the business above Nathan Rees office, that seems to be a thriving business.

Richard:  Alan, do you reckon the Libs would like to be in power right about now?


You may well be correct Alan, but at least they have managed to get interest rates down (how clever and prompt) and rates will be going lower. The punters must be lovin' it - having no debt myself I think it's a bit of a bummer but what can you do.

Blow up

Richard, maybe if Howard & Costello were still in power the other world economyies would not have panicked and we would not have any crisis.

Just a silly Glenfiddich moment, but you never know.

Well that's it for the week, off for and early night to get ready to buy some bank stocks in the morning.

Richard:  Glenfiddich?  It's not just early birds that get worms, Alan.  One in every good tequila bottle, many in a friendly dog.

Am I agreeing with you, Eliot?

(tries to get my head around this reversal).

Constitution Republic and Foreign Recognision

What would our constitutionalists say if Australia were to become a republic and  the British Govenment aka Her Majesty's Government recognised the change of status of Australia as well as all countries with which has relations do liikewise.. at that stage any constitution in existence would be null and void pending a Constituent Assembly creating a new constitution.

The British Government did likewise in the case of South Africa in 1961 and when at the end of the apartheid regime in 1994 did not require that Souith Africa revert to being a monarchial state again.Despite a constituion in Czechoslovakia that country split into two separate republics.

Richard:  It's a pleasure to see  you again, Bernard!

Constitution Republic and Foreign Recognition

Hi Bernard, thank you for your comment.

I suspect that when our current constitution is declared null and void it will be because the people of Australia have decided to make it null and void. International legal recognition will reflect that reality, not create it.

Yes, we will require a new constitutional convention in order to write a new constitution, and yes, I am confident that we can do better than that borderline farce we saw in '98.

While in a society as stable as ours the need to convene a constitutional convention is measured over the generations, it is none the less a very real need. After all, who among us can honestly say they consider our current constitution to be anything but flawed?

There are a lot of issues that can be be attended to at a constitutional convention that are practical, not just symbolic. A constitutional convention is how we will attend to those issues as well as the more symbolic.matter of monarchy.

 But firstly, let's establish a legitimate need for the people of Australia to convene one. Let's simply ask the people if they wish to be a republic.

I think that if the people go to polls with the idea that our constitution must reflect our values then the answer given at that referendum will be a resounding yes.

The idea of monarchy, just the idea of it, whether its practical application is merely ceremonial or not, is not one of our values.

That one person, or any one family, wherever they may reside, is born with an intrinsic right to lead us is not one of our values.

We value ourselves as being a democratic people and a democratic people lend power, they do not bow before it. 

I believe we Australians are as good as any other and that a republic symbolises that understanding, Monarchy is no longer a justifiable symbol.

It is after a referendum shows that the people of Australia agree with this proposition that we can then go to a democratically elected constitutional convention and sort out what kind of republic we want to be. This is not an urgent and violent necessity caused by oppression but rather a measured response to an understanding of how our civility should be ordered.

There is plenty of time to get this right.

This is now becoming irritating

Define what you mean by "republic", David Tank, and I shall gladly cast my vote. It won't make a blind bit of difference to the way the place is run, it will cost a fortune and it will determine the view of a majority (will voting be "compulsory" as it was not when the States decided to federate?) at a particular time.

I have set out the law for you. In practical political terms, I don't think the Australian people are prepared to vote for something that is just an idea rather than a proposed model. Could we, just to save time, have a referendum on the question of whether we support motherhood, bestiality, underage sex, hothouse tomatoes and homosexuality?

The most important question is: if you had a referendum and the people voted "NO" as they did decisively both in 1988 and in the Republic debacle, would you abide by the result?

Bet you wouldn't. I'd love to hear your next excuse for denying the will of the majority (otherwise known as democracy).

Now, bugger off, we have a country to save.

Clear as mud

You're going to have to do a lot better, Malcolm, if you expect lay folk to understand your reasoning. I've spent some time examining the constitution, specifically those parts you referenced and can find nothing that gives me any indication as to how you came to your conclusions. As I understand it, what your are saying, to use a clumsy and possibly obscure metaphor is that it can't pull itself up by its bootlaces.

S9 of the Covering clauses specifically refers to 128 as the mechanism for changes. Regardless, The Statute of Westminster gave teeth to the Australia Act.

The Statute gave effect to certain political resolutions passed by the Imperial Conferences of 1926 and 1930, in particular the Balfour Declaration of 1926.

One of the effects was removing the last imperial bond of power of British Parliament over dominions. The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 was repealed in its applications to the dominions. After the Statute was passed, the British government could no longer make ordinary law for the dominions, other than at the request and with the consent of that dominion. It did not, however, immediately provide for any changes to the legislation establishing the constitutions of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This meant, for example, that many constitutional changes continued to require the intervention of the British Parliament, although only at the request and with the consent of the Dominions as described above. These residual powers were finally removed by the Canada Act 1982, the Australia Act 1986, and the New Zealand Constitution Act 1986.

The key passage of the Statute provides that:

No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof. The Statute gave effect to certain political resolutions passed by the Imperial Conferences of 1926 and 1930, in particular the Balfour Declaration of 1926. One of the effects was removing the last imperial bond of power of British Parliament over dominions. The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 was repealed in its applications to the dominions. After the Statute was passed, the British government could no longer make ordinary law for the dominions, other than at the request and with the consent of that dominion. It did not, however, immediately provide for any changes to the legislation establishing the constitutions of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This meant, for example, that many constitutional changes continued to require the intervention of the British Parliament, although only at the request and with the consent of the Dominions as described above. These residual powers were finally removed by the Canada Act 1982, the Australia Act 1986, and the New Zealand Constitution Act 1986.The key passage of the Statute provides that:

No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.

Regardless, ultimate power rests, theorectically with the Queen and she has given an indication that she will approve the will of the Australian people.

What I'm suggesting is that you quote those passages that gave you cause to come to your conclusion. Tedious I know but you took it on yourself to play the role of tutor and in this you have piqued my sometimes obsessive curiousity.

Eliot, there's one thing I forgot to mention. If Kerr wasn't bad enough, in this dumb country we'd wind up with Alan Jones, Dick Smith or John Laws. I wouldn't object to a constitution that required a two thirds majority of a joint sitting, that way we'd get someone reasonable.

Your slip is showing by the way. You have an admiration for Barack Obama?

Good enough for me

Scott Dunmore: "You're going to have to do a lot better, Malcolm, if you expect lay folk to understand your reasoning."

Why, would you think I expect the great untutored to understand my reasoning? It is perfectly clear if you read and understand. That gives rise to three possibilities: you can't read; you don't understand; or, for some reason you choose not to understand what you read.

s 9 of the Covering Clause is an enactment of the Imperial Parliamant that can only be altered by the Imperial Parliament. s 128 of the "Constitution" has nothing to do with it and is not capable of altering it.

Your references to the Statute of Westminster and the Australia Act simply misunderstand both: all they do is to stop the Imperial Parliament from passing laws regulating the internal affairs of the Dominions or (in our case) Australia. Given that they are merely Imperial enactments of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, they could be repealed tomorrow by the Imperial Parliament without reference to us. They do nothing to affect the continuing validity of the Covering Clause.

I have been studying this stuff for about the last 35 years. You want a free opinion you can understand? Not likely. You want an opinion you can understand? Send LOTS of money.

Not good enough for me

That, Malcolm, read angry. Somebody, untutored, had the temerity to question your reasoning?

Why, would you think I expect the great untutored to understand my reasoning? It is perfectly clear if you read and understand. 

Why then would you flap your gums to an audience you don't expect to understand; are you ego driven? Who do you think you are impressing? Save it for your constitutional lawyer mates.

Given that they are merely Imperial enactments of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, they could be repealed tomorrow by the Imperial Parliament without reference to us.

That was a point I had made in my original (unsubmitted) response before I got deeper into it. Yes, and where would that leave us? Back to pre Federation law applying to individual states, Federal agencies without authority etc.

In a short space of time I've developed an interest in this subject as a result of your post and would be be happy to learn from you, fulfilling my imagined role of Webdiary as a forum for knowledge interchange. My respect for you, however, only extends so far. You have not addressed the questions I posed. It is not sufficient to say "go read", you are required to explain your logic process otherwise your conclusions have no currency.

Yes, it was bloody angry

If you can't follow a simple statement of the bleeding obvious, why should I be bothered explaining it further?

I have quite a lot of respect for you, Scott Dunmore, but how does one manage to define 1 in fewer words than the concept?

Webdiary is a forum for the disemination of information. I have disseminated. Want private tutoring? SEND MONEY.

Reading list: Crisp, Australian National Government

Quick and Garran, Constitiution of Australia Act

Twoomey, The Constitiution of NSW

Evatt, The Role of the Colonial Governors

Lane, The Australian Constitution

Odgers, Senate Practice

Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice

Justinian, Institutoes

Blackstone, Laws of England

Hansard, passim.

The Proceedings of the Constitutional Convenetions.

Then, get back to me. We might be able to have some Webdiary debates face to face.

Might even be able to charge an entry fee. proceeds to charity of course - I'm working onsetting myself up as a charity.

Slow down

Only "quite a lot "? I'm flattened but you still haven't addressed the points I raised. I'll waive my consultant's fees in respect of yours.

The bleeding obvious, Malcolm, is precisely what's missing. Every appellate court judge, especially the High Court's, in handing down their judgement , gives reason for their decision. That's all I'm asking of you.

Studying the constitution for 35 years? I could, if I put my mind to it be able to quote it verbatim in two days flat with full understanding. I know it's not that simple but it is not that long a document and in fact is one of the simpler pieces of legislation, subsequent qualyfing acts not withstanding.

You must excuse me for the time being, I'm busy on other stuff.

In the meantime, don't post in anger, (thou hypocrite, myself); it colours one's judgement. Whether subsequent events prove you right or wrong, my estimation of you will not change.

Sleep on it.


"the wankers don't want "a real republic", says Eliot Ramsey...(8.49 on a Saturday night:  how is your personal life, Eliot?)

What is a real republic? Can you suggest an example?

The perks

F Kendall: "What is a real republic? Can you suggest an example?"

One where the President is elected, has constitutionally defined powers with which to exercise his or her mandate, is constrained by an independent judiciary, and a fixed term of office. All overseen by a popularly elected legislative assembly.

Say, France or the USA or the Czech Republic as examples?

You know, the exact opposite to what is being proposed by the Republican wankers?

And seeing as we already have a Prime Minister who more or less satisfies all the above requirements, you must begin to wonder why they want a non-elected 'President' on top of that?

Oh, that's right. The perks.

point of information, or pedantry?

Just to be clear, and not necessarily detracting from your other points Eliot, the Czech Republic has a weak president, who is elected by a joint parliamentary sitting and who has very limited powers, slightly greater than the British monarch because s/he gets to nominate judges to the constitutional court. Basically, however, the Czech PM is in charge for as long as s/he commands a majority in the lower house.

That said Vaclav Havel made the presidency an important tribunate, much to the annoyance of the current Czech President, and then PM, Klaus, who was a neo-liberal finding it difficult to accommodate Havel's dissident tradition philosophising and concern for the creation of a good society based on human rights. (Anyone wanting to know why Australian PMs have anxiety about the notion of a President and why neither major party would have a bar of one who had been elected, and had the legitimacy that would come from that, need only look at Czech history in the 1990s for some clues.)

I personally think it’s mistaken to try and define a republic via a set of institutions, a powerful presidency, for example, is not a prerequiste. A republic is certainly not monarchial nor aristocratic but it is not necessarily a democracy either. And notions such as separation of powers are as much a liberal idea as a republican one.

I would suggest the primary positive orientation of a republic (what it is, rather than what it is not) is the emphasis on the citizenry and the social contract that brings them together, and the rights and duties they agree in some manner to undertake. The republic is the creation and representation of a congregation of citizens. There is also the assumption of an active civic culture underpinning it. How all this is arrived at and who qualifies for citizenship has varied over time, eg in Rome it was freeborn men, and in the early United States it was men of property, and in neither was citizenry conferred on slaves or women. One could say these days the focus is about democratic republics but unfortunately Soviet communism has rendered that term rather olid. However, only a moron would use this befoulment of the term to try and attack the notion of an Australian republic. (Enter, stage right, the Australians for a Constitutional monarchy?)


=: "How all this is arrived at and who qualifies for citizenship has varied over time, eg in Rome it was freeborn men, and in the early United States it was men of property, and in neither was citizenry conferred on slaves or women."

Rome. Oh, goody. There's something to aspire to.

Occide! Verbera! Adhibe! (Kill him! Flog him! Lay it on!)

- familar crowd-calls at the Coliseum.

Penitent for being pedantic again

Eliot "familiar crowd calls at the Coliseum".

Um, well actually I prefer the original, Colosseum, though the later spelling is accepted. Also it was built in AD 70s, well after the expiry of the Roman Republic (SPQR - Senate and the People of Rome) though the badging SPQR was kept on for ideological reasons into the imperial era. The emperor was king by another name incidentally. Indeed, the theory was that he represented the sovereignty of the people, not a million miles from some of the reasoning underlying the contemporary British monarchy. There is much of the Roman history we don't want but we have drawn on the tradition of Roman law in a highly beneficial way, and don't forget the architecture and the aqueducts! (I'm also glad we have the writings of Tacitus and Cicero.)

But then all this is not really addressing your point or mine. We risk being embrangled off the topic. I have great skepticism about the republic (see my post republic shrublic) and you seem to as well. But to pick up just on the Roman ref, well that was a jab of the short sword.

Did enjoy the Latin barracking phrases though, not un-reminiscent of the Aussie Rules "stick it up 'em". This itself, to bring us back to the topic, is no doubt a descendent of the bayonet calls of the First World War arriving back in Australia. And perhaps in it we can even find homoerotic overtones that take it back past the Romans to the ancient Greeks. But now I am in a state of complete digress.

The Great South Land

Eliot Ramsey, cheer up - after all, it might be Our Kylie rather than Our Cate (please note the spelling...).

F Kendall, the wankers are those who don't agree with Eliot, of course.

del espirito santo

What section of the population would you describe as "the wankers", Eliot Ramsey?

A Head of State living 10,000 miles away suits me fine

David Tank: "Each generation reaffirms its nationality by subscribing to its ideals and acting upon them."

So much for multiculturalism. I reckon the test of democracy is the extent to which any set of constitutional arrangements can tolerate diversity, including conflicting and opposed ideals.

I don't care how the Head of State (as opposed to the Head of Government) is appointed as long as she or he shuts up and stays out of my life.

I was recently reading Giles Milton's book about the destruction of the very multicultural city of Smyrna in 1922, Paradise Lost.

To a considerable extent, the very socio-linguistically and religio-confessionally diverse  citizens of Smyrna, now called Izmir, got along together very well in that, then the only majority-Christian (80 per cent Greek Orthodox) and indeed the wealthiest and most liberal city, in Ottoman Turkey.

Jews, Christians of every stripe, Muslims, even British Anglicans and American Baptists, had for decades and even centuries worked and lived alongside each other in their hundreds of thousands, thanks to the complacent and easy going nature of the local Ottoman Turkish governors who realised they more or less represented nobody in particular in the city and had the aplomb and common decency therefore to stay out of everyone's lives.

As a result, the city liberated the ingenuity and enterprise of its citizens, turning it into a hugely successful trading port and export centre, and giving its population lives the envy of the rest of the Mediterranean.

What utterly destroyed it was the twentieth century bickering between post-World War One Greek nationalists and Turkish nationalists over the supposed national "identity" of Ionic Greece/AegeanTurkey, and thus the hapless citizens of Smyrna.

By playing on the ethnic and religious identities of the Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims, the competing governments in Athens and Ankara in no time had a really lovely, eventually massive, war raging in and around Smyrna which quickly engulfed the city, leading to one of the most horrific human catastrophes of the 20th Century.

Just by the way, the head of the YMCA in Smyrna, Rev. Asa Jennings (a New Yorker by origin) played a major role in organising the evacuation of the non-Muslim populace from the inferno which destroyed the city.

His grandson (with whom I have corresponded ) is still alive and hoping to produce a film documentary about those horrific events, but in the meantime I recommend the book by Giles Milton.

A Head of State living 10,000 miles away suits me fine. The last thing we need is to start squabbling about who or what he or she should be.

An Australian Republic won't get us a Barack Obama. It'll get us another John Kerr but worse - he'll think he has a mandate.

Australia works fine. Shut up and leave it alone, I say.

This is a bit more like it

On the same side for a change Eliot, did you catch my post a few days ago on another thread?

Your quiet revolution may be some time coming, David, if this is anything to go by.

Instinctively I feel Malcolm maybe be wrong and now I'm going to swot constitutional law to see where he's coming from; after all, we've had a referundum, was it pointless from the outset?

Watch this space.

Yet, at the going down of the sun, and in the morning

The combination of ss 2, 5, and 9 of the Covering Clause and ss 1 and 6 of Chapter I of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act ("the Act") mean that, notwithstanding s 128, which only applies to the Act itself not the Covering Clause, The Commonwealth can never constitutionally become a Republic.

Try your revolution if you like but it still would not create a Republic.

I am no monarchist, I just interpret the law as it is immutably writ.

Madam President du République du Australien Grande Terre Sud

Malcolm B Duncan, hi. The wankers don't want a real republic.

They want instead to anoint a series of special, favored individuals who'll swan around cutting ribbons and handing out medals to boy scouts and giving us us moral 'uplift' about being being 'many' but also being 'one' whilst otherwise touring World War One battle fields in France just when the Pinot Noir is coming out of the cellars and the Camembert is ripe.

How long would it be before Cate Blanchett became Madam President du République du Australien Grande Terre Sud, with Phillip Adams a heartbeat away as her potential successor?

I cannot wait. Where's the bucket?

Fiona: Your French just gets better and better, Eliot.

Law is immutable?

Hi Malcolm, thank you for your comment.

Divine law may be immutable but the laws of man are a more fragile affair. Nations have replaced their constitutions before and it is well within our capabilities to do so peacefully.

The revolution will be friendly.

I hope you are right

David: "Divine law may be immutable but the laws of man are a more fragile affair. Nations have replaced their constitutions before and it is well within our capabilities to do so peacefully."

There have been many disputes over our Constitution over the years and even the experts are sometimes divided in their judgements.

The Howard government, in my opinion, seemed to use the Constitution as an excuse for matters of contemporary concern which may not have applied when the document was written.

I would like to believe that, while laws may be the basis of civilisation, some laws could be unsuitable to say, changing technological and religious standards, and therefore should be subject to change if a society of whatever political colour, wishes it so.

I think it fair to say that we are always in a state of flux with regard to some of our laws because of, perhaps, different attitudes may be more acceptable.

Like you, I also believe that there should not be any laws in our Constitution which if, after time have become anachronistic, cannot be altered.

Of course I am not an expert on the Constitution. However, I would like to believe that any interpretation of its contents from time to time should remain as precedents until that content is either changed in context or removed altogether.

It seems to me that if there is no provision for such an important situation in our Constitution then we should have a referendum to make it so.

I hope you realise, David, that I am no legal eagle nor am I an expert in just about anything. But such a problem should be able to be corrected peacefully as you suggest.

With my reasoning attitude of the possible problem I hope you are right.

Brevity is the soul of wit

David Tank exhorts me to abandon wit.

Ok. Since you do not seem to be capable of understanding what I intended to be a clear and unequivocal "never", here we go.

The document we generally refer to as "the Constitution" is an enactment of the Imperial Parliament (of necessity, given, that, at the time it was enacted, 1900, there was no Commonwealth of Australia). It falls into three parts (like Gaul): the Preamble; the Covering Clause and the Clauses that set out the legislative power of the Commonwealth and its machinery of Governance. The last clauses are enlivened by s 9 of the Covering Clause. Without that provision, there would be no Commonwealth. Neither the people nor the Commonwealth have the power to alter s 9. (Here, I leave aside any argument about the intendment of the Australia Act - you'll have to read my Ph D thesis for that. - save to note the Australia (Request and Consent) Act 1985 and say that, in my view, nothing in either of those Acts affects the continuing validity of s 9 of the Covering Clause.)

Because the office of Queen is entrenched in the Preamble and the Covering Clause, and s 2 extends the provisions of the Act to "Her Majesty's heirs and successors in the sovereignty of the United Kingdom" we are stuck with an Imperial model forever. Section 3 gives those successors the exclusive power to appoint our Governor-General.

We have no constitutional power to appoint our own Head of State. That is the sense in which the document is immutable.

Now, what I expect will happen is that the United Kingdom will become a Republic. All its Parliament need do is pass amendments to the Act of Succession (again see my thesis), assented to by the Crown and, hey presto, you have a Republic of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Interestingly enough, however, the only change that would create under our Constitution is that the heirs and successors to the last Monarch in right of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom would become the President and his successors according to laws of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It would not permit us either to abolish the office of Governor-General or appoint our own.

Immutable: Australia can never constitutionally become a Republic.

The first version took 81 words, the second, 387; the thesis will run somewhere between 250-300 pages. Like me to stop now?

Da mihi factum, dabo tibi ius

At your finest  Malcolm; most impressive.

Remembrance Day

..should make us understand that these artificial barriers of "generation" or "nation" are both divisive and nonsen..se.

No one "leads us".  We don't need a fuehrer.  Heads of state are there to reflect us, not "lead"us, as if we are a mob of livestock.

We make our own decisions, our own choices, that reflect our own values.

Becoming a republic offers the advantage only to those ambitious to attain that high post.  It offers NOTHING to the citizens.

Rejecting the republic means that we (a) save on the multi $ such a post would bring - (at present this is largely paid by the UK govt:  what a rort to our benefit)   (b) our society would trundle along more or less as it has - and who wants a big change in that?  (c) we wouldn't degenerate into the kind of awe that the US has for its presidents....

Can you really want to change all this, David Tank?

Reply to F Kendall

Hi F Kendall, thank you for your comment. I am glad someone has made reference to Remembrance Day in their response.

Yes, nations are artificial, after all they are man made, "generations" however, describes an observable natural phenomenon which every living species undergoes and long term generational change is something we call "evolution."

That we make our own decisions, our own choices, is the personal political value that a democratic republican model of government represents. A monarchy with its assumption of the right of a few to be born to rule is the direct opposite. 

Yes Remembrance Day reminds us of the folly of war and its appalling cost in suffering and loss of life , but it also reminds us that those of us who went into the maelstrom did so of their own will, by their own choice and that we too do as we do of our own will and by our own choosing.

Understandings between nations and understanding between generations are only as divisive as we choose to make them.

Becoming a republic offers the advantage only to those ambitious to attain high office? No. It offers advantage to all those who believe that we should organise our affairs with honesty and transparency and in accordance with our political values. It offers advantage to those who would seek to instil in their children a belief that they too will be free to make their own choices as it is their right to do so.

An Australian Republic is merely an expensive gesture? No, gestures count, symbolism matters, if only in the mind of a child who has not yet learnt the art of adult hypocrisy.

F Kendall, what is the message your "rort to our benefit" sends to the world, our own citizens and our children? Are you saying that we should be proud of ourselves as hypocrites and complacent thieves? 

Whatever powers we eventually choose to endow a President with those powers will be lent not taken, there will be no Australian Fuehrer F Kendall, our democratic laws and our democratic nature will attend to that. 

But yes, you are right about something, as always the leadership we democratically elect will reflect our values.

And finally, like with any Aussie getting a bit too big for their boots I'm sure there will always be someone ready to pour a beer over their exalted heads at the Australia Day BBQ.

"Hail to the Chief", give me a break, more like "chuck us another snag would you Bruce!"

You can lead horses to water...

I assume by your silence Malcolm that you've ended this conversation.

You do yourself a disservice you realise?

If you explained your logic process I could tell you where you went wrong.

The ingratitude of some people.

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