Where to for an Australian republic?

By Geoff Gallop

August 20, 2018

Australia’s two flags – british and aboriginal – flying together in downtown melbourne

What sort of republic do we we want and and how do we get there, asks Geoff Gallop in the 2018 Daniel Deniehy Oration delivered in Goulburn on August 18.

It’s so important that we create  opportunities as are provided by people such as Daniel Deniehy (1829-1865) or events such as the debate over the NSW Constitution Bill of 1853 to dig deep into our past and explore the various ways of thinking and living that have contributed to our political culture.

Deniehy had fire in his belly and the words to back it up. He was an Australian democrat but, as was the case with so many like him past and present, he became disillusioned with the compromises associated with electoral politics. Reflecting on his life leads us to think about the relationship between ideas and politics or, as it’s better put, between theory and practice. His decline into alcoholism reminds us that there are personal and not just political issues involved when battles are fought, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

His speeches against Chinese immigration also remind us of the racism that co-existed alongside Australian radicalism as it developed its demands, firstly for self-government in the colonies and then for a new nation. Sad, but true, human existence is a web of contradictions and its Australian version is no different despite the efforts of the no-armband school of Australian history to purify it of sin. Good and bad. Light and dark.  That’s the world, our role being, as Leonard Cohen put it, to ring the bells that can still be rung, to learn from experience, and bring hope to the table of power.

In my case tonight, it’s the bell calling us to an Australian Republic. The questions to discuss: What sort of republic and how is it to be done?

My journey with the republic

Cutting our constitutional links with the British Crown has appealed to me as an important objective for our nation ever since my high school days in Geraldton. Why, I’m not completely sure but I think it’s because of all those Post-World War Two references I picked up at social gatherings involving my parents’ family and friends. They weren’t all Laborites but they all eulogised John Curtin and spoke glowingly about the stand he took in resisting Winston Churchill’s 1942 demand that the 7th Division be deployed to Burma rather than return immediately to Australia.

It was simple, Britain was Britain and Australia was Australia and we should be pursuing our own interests in our own way – and through institutions that were ours and ours alone. Remember at that time we were still living in the days of the British Empire, British Governors, appeals to the Privy Council and God Save the Queen. No Queen of Australia then, but rather a Queen advised by her British Ministers in her dealings with Australia. Much better it would be, I thought, to free us from all of that and Australianise the system.  It would lock us in as a democratic nation free not just from an aristocracy as William Wentworth had wanted and Deniehy opposed so brilliantly, but also from a heredity monarchy and all of its social hierarchy.

A lot has happened since then, including in the way I think about Australia and the world. For all intents and purposes – but not without some continuing irritations we should always add – Australia is now independent of Britain, the Queen being the Queen of Australia, but above it all and represented locally by the Governor-General and the Governors. While these steps to national self-determination were being taken new issues related to race and indigeneity, ethnicity and immigration, and human rights and responsibilities, were coming onto the agenda to create a new and more forward-looking concept of republicanism. In a recent edition of The Monthly[1] described it well:

“It was inseparable from a grand and subtle vision of a country with a creative voice in the world and the region, uncompromised by old attachments or current alliances; of an open and tolerant multiculturalism; a modern, resilient economy alive to the unprecedented opportunities on offer in the region; an extended social democracy, aware of its flaws and with the will to repair them. Thus would Australia at last realise its potential and become the mistress of its destiny.”

It was, he said, a republic with a purpose including I would add, recognition of our indigenous peoples as an essential component.

It’s got to be said, however, that the many efforts to incorporate this new outlook into our Constitution, thus making it clear what we stood for as a nation, have yet to be successful. No Bill of Rights in the 1970s and 80s. No republic in the 1990s and, still today, no proper recognition of Indigenous Australia in the Constitution. It’s not as if reforms haven’t been made courtesy of some of our legislatures and the High Court; they have, but their incorporation into the written text of the Constitution, and all of the status and power that brings, has yet to follow. That’s a test for a nation we’ve yet to pass.

In order to achieve this more difficult aim, the words that inspire will be needed but so too will be the political strategy that not only sees referendum proposals supported in both the House of Representatives and the Senate but also ensures these proposals survive the ruthless campaigning that inevitably follows in a referendum campaign.

Albert Einstein was once asked: “Dr Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?”. The great scientist replied: “That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics”. [2]

To the politics then …

Three Australian Constitutions

To begin with, I will attempt to locate the major elements in the body politic not as we normally do by way of an account of parliamentary politics but rather as they are defined by their attitudes towards the Constitution. I will describe three major ways of thinking about the basic document of our nation; a document that can only be changed through referendum – a very republican idea that the founders took on board from Switzerland. To each of these ways of thinking is attached different answers to a question: Is the Australian Constitution to be thought of as a matter of finished or unfinished business? What emerges are sets of attitudes and objectives, each looking for supporters to promote   them; ideas in search of a home.

“What marks out Modern Australia is its willingness to cross this boundary on the one hand but its incapacity to make it happen on the other. This has created an atmosphere that borders on panic every time a substantive reform to the Constitution is proposed.”

Firstly, there is Indigenous Australia. Despite many setbacks and a range of efforts to extinguish it, Indigenous Australia is alive and kicking. It brings to the table a unique set of experiences and a powerful claim to be recognised as “the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands”. For this to happen there would need to be “substantive constitutional change and structural reform”. [3]

For Indigenous Australia, then, the Constitution is a matter of unfinished business. Put the republic on the table for discussion and it is a “Reconciled Republic” they seek.

Secondly, there is what I will label Nationalist Australia, nationalist because it reveres our current Constitution and whose first instinct is to oppose any change. Inasmuch as there were left over issues from our colonial past they have been dealt with in the Australia Act 1986. The Queen is there, in the mix, but as the Queen of Australia represented by the Governor-General and the State Governors. They applaud what we’ve inherited from Britain in the form of parliamentary democracy but note also its uniqueness as a “Washminster” system: federalism, the Senate and the High Court being part of what we’ve added along with the provision for referendum from the Swiss.

Nationalist Australia has as a key objective: the defence and protection of  the existing Constitution. The Constitution is pictured as finely tuned, change one part and all are affected. It is acknowledged that change is provided for but to be supported it has to be consistent with current principle and practice. Their motto — it works why change?  Put the republic on the table for discussion and they say we’ve already got one, a “Crowned Republic”.

Modern Australia, the third of my groupings, takes us back to the quote from Don Watson. It’s restless with what has been inherited from the past and keen to see an end to the White Australia policy along with a wider range social, economic and constitutional reforms. Over the years since it first emerged in Australian politics, most obviously in the youth rebellion of the 1960sand 70s, three major constitutional objectives have been in play – Indigenous recognition, equal rights for all and an Australian Republic.

As noted earlier in my talk, much has been achieved on behalf of Modern Australia through parliaments, both state and commonwealth, and the High Court most notably in the Mabo and political communication cases, but the Constitution itself has yet to be changed such that it is clear that Australia is – and wishes to be seen as an “Australian Republic-rights-based, reconciled and democratic”.

British and Irish republican Australia

You will have noted I’ve made no mention of British Australia as a serious force. Yes, it’s there feeding off the many ways in which British traditions and practices have become ours too. It’s also a ferocious supporter of the current Constitution and as such a useful ally of Nationalist Australia in its defence of the Australian way. It’s very conservative in disposition, worries enormously about sovereignty when indigenous recognition is being considered and goes into tail-spin when a republic is being proposed. However, as we saw with the attempted re-introduction of knighthoods by Tony Abbott it has little resonance today. So too does its opposite number – what we might call Irish Republican Australia – have little impact today, although like British Australia it does take up the cause – and with vigour – when the occasion requires it. For them the British Crown is – and will always be – just that and representative of a history of oppression.

When it comes to the politics of the republic, British Australia and Irish Republican Australia come close to cancelling each other out, the bigger and more important agendas being set by Indigenous, Nationalist and Modern Australia. The older British/Irish dynamic (might we call it a sectarian battle?)  hasn’t died out but republicans would do well not to make this issue the centre-piece of their rhetoric and strategy.

It may seem strange that the category Nationalist Australia and not British Australia is used to locate the key defenders of the current constitution. It’s a distinction between those who say it’s to be defended because it is essentially British as opposed to those who say it is ours and it works, the Queen being part of the mix rather than a separate and foreign element. Those of us who are republicans believe we can do better than this; that the persistence of the monarchical element continues to feed into our culture and politics a strange mix – a head-of-state who is “here” but “not here”, a “fair go republic” that tolerates the inheritance of office and a nation without “one of its own at the centre of things”. For those who defend the current system the argument is simple – it works! The fact that many amongst us agree with this, including those who declare a belief in the “theory” of a republic if not one in Australia today, is one of the many political challenges that faces republicans.

Indigenous Australia

In more recent times, it seemed that national agreement was coming on the question of constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. Remember the Aboriginal and Torres Islander Peoples Recognition Act 2013 with its sunset date of two years to “provide parliament and the Australian people with a date by which to consider further the readiness of Australians to approve a referendum to amend the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”. Remember too the Expert Panel created by the Gillard Government and chaired by then Professor now Senator Pat Dodson which recommended significant empowerment by way of a constitutional clause prohibiting discrimination “on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic or national origin”. It seemed so close but it wasn’t to be, the Expert Panel’s proposals meeting with immediate resistance as a “step too far” and, as a one-clause Bill of Rights, not the way we do things in Australia. [4]

Now we have a new, widely supported proposal from Indigenous Australia that would establish a “Voice to Parliament”. It’s not intended as an alternative centre of legislative power but as a representative body that would “provide advice on proposed laws that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”. [5]  It was endorsed by a National Constitutional Convention held at Yulara near Uluru following extensive meetings held from December 2016 through to May 2017. Dialogues involved 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-delegates out of a population of 600,000. As the Referendum Council [6] pointed out “it engaged a greater proportion of the relevant population than the constitutional convention debates of the 1800’s from which First Peoples were excluded” from all of this came their consensus statement concerning a Voice in the Constitution – and a Makarrata Commission to facilitate “truth-telling” about our history. It has its supporters within Parliament but not from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Still it’s survived this first round, is on Labor’s agenda for government, as ordinary law if not constitutional law, and is in the wider system of parliamentary committee deliberations.

In a sense, Indigenous Australia could be said to have found a resolution to the inevitable “differences within” and now has real authority and focus for its campaigning within the political class and the community. And, as Shireen Morris [7] has observed:
“An amendment guaranteeing a First Nations Voice was specifically designed to uphold the Constitution, respect parliamentary supremacy and eliminate legal uncertainty; yet it would also constitutionally empower Indigenous people with a voice…”
It’s been backed up with appropriate words to include in the Constitution and gained solid support despite Coalition objections, the Australia Institute[8] finding 46 percent in favour, 29 percent opposed and 24 percent unsure. Essential Research[9] found 44 percent in favour, 14 percent opposed and 27 percent neither supportive nor opposed. Of course, polling numbers considered in isolation of a campaign, particularly a referendum campaign, can be very misleading, but what they do tell is that there is a base upon which victory can be achieved – if the politics are played effectively. That means effective leadership, unity in the ranks and solid alliances when the heat is on.

What’s important to note in this context is the apparent belief of some amongst our indigenous leadership that their cause is best served by putting the republic to one side, even questioning its relevance generally given the national independence  outcomes from the Australia Act of 1986 on the one hand and the unfinished business of Indigenous recognition on the other. Similar arguments surfaced during the 1999 campaign and fed into the monarchist hymn sheet that the model being proposed was one made by and for the political elite and of little or no interest to Indigenous Australians. What then do we republicans make of this?

Of course, no one should presume that Indigenous Australia is necessarily pro-republican. So too is the frustration that exists amongst Indigenous Australia about the progress-or lack thereof-of constitutional recognition fully understandable.  My point is political and it is that Indigenous Australia is best served by establishing its base in Modern Australia where support for constitutional recognition, along with an Australian republic and proper rights protection, are central to the whole enterprise. Nationalist Australia, on the other hand, is not in a position to deliver; structural changes just not being in its DNA.

This is not an unimportant question given the commitment by Bill Shorten   to conduct a plebiscite should Labor win government. It’s a plebiscite to legitimise and pave the way for work on the model to be taken to the people which is on the table, not a referendum under Section 128. Despite this difference, it’s still important to remind   ourselves of what happened in 1999 and what it may mean for the proposed plebiscite.  Back then, Modern Australia didn’t face its maker – the Australian People – with a united front. In fact, some republican advocates broke away, joined the monarchists and campaigned for a no vote on behalf of a “real republic” that would involve direct election. It was a most unholy alliance, a case study in divide and rule where both moderate and radical republicans lost out. It reminds us that all-or-nothing attitudes, my republic or none, are nearly always a constraint on progress, particularly when it comes to the complex and difficult politics of constitutional reform.

It would certainly be a tragedy for Modern Australia if Indigenous Australia pushed back against the republic in any plebiscite to facilitate further work on the issue. The republican case is one for all Australians, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous. Indeed, at the core of republican belief is opposition to discrimination and the opening up of the office of head-of-state to one amongst us whatever their racial, ethnic or, indeed, religious background. No stone should be left unturned in order to ensure success in what will be no lay down mesire. So important is it too that Australia’s republicans share in the spirit that is Modern Australia’s vision of not just a free and equal nation but also a properly reconciled one. Their cause ought not to be just an escape from an overseas monarchy but also one that embraces recognition. One movement, two tasks as the Chinese might put it!

As noted earlier in my talk, there was real hope back in 2013 that constitutional recognition would be achieved as it had bi-partisan support and just needed some space to find the right words to include in the Constitution. It seemed that the leadership needed in Canberra to make it happen was at last going to be exercised. The Australian Republican Movement (ARM), of which I was Chair at the time, indicated its in-principled support for recognition and a “reconciled republic”.

This is how ARM Director David Morris put it at that time: “A fundamental pillar of an Australianised constitution is to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander heritage and the ongoing, central role of our first peoples in our identity and our shared future as Australians”.[10] More recently the ARM has reiterated its support for recognition in means as well as ends. In its submission to the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition National Director Michael Cooney has said: “Australia should have a vote on the Indigenous questions on the date and in the form that Indigenous leadership and community want it held”.[11]

The brutal reality is that Nationalist Australia consistently baulks at structural and substantive change in the Constitution. No sooner was the ink dry than they came out in opposition to the Dodson recommendations. They see the Queen as Queen of Australia and Indigenous people as already there as part of the electorate that guides it all. At best they will agree with one vote one value but certainly not the principles associated with one people, two histories. For Nationalist Australia the question Manning Clark asked in 1988 “Australia: Whose Country Is It?” has been decided; none of the “torment” and “doubt” about which Clark and those like him feel.[12] Amongst their number there are supporters of reform so long as the Constitution isn’t altered – no Bill of Rights or indeed a clause prohibiting race discrimination but a Human Rights Commission; although I note its role as a check is now being questioned too. No republic but the Australia Act 1986. No substantive recognition but new words for the Preamble.

What marks out Modern Australia is its willingness to cross this boundary on the one hand but its incapacity to make it happen on the other. This has created an atmosphere that borders on panic every time a substantive reform to the Constitution is proposed. Indeed, the very fact that such proposals are opposed at all is enough to kill them off before campaigning and a vote of the people, the case being made on the basis that there is “a lack of bipartisan agreement”.  That’s happening now but given the success of the campaign to achieve marriage equality it’s worth re-examining the matter. Marriage equality was an issue that didn’t relate to the Constitution as such, unlike Ireland in that respect, but it did put a big issue on the table for community wide dialogue, a popular vote and parliamentary decision. Unlike earlier times it wasn’t categorised as “just too hard”. Consider this in relation to Labor’s strong support for a Voice and the continuing consultation and deliberation being done by them and Joint Committee on Constitutional Recognition on matters of detail. Bill Shorten has committed to ordinary legislation as a first step, arguing that it will be “easier for a referendum to succeed and harder for a scare campaign to be run if we already have lived experience of such a body”. He sees such legislation as a “pathway” to constitutional recognition.[13] One can see the argument for such an approach to achieve the ultimate goal while at the same time noting it also has the potential to become an end-in-itself.

When it comes to a referendum the challenge will be to overcome the argument that Voice creates two classes of Australian and, as such, will divide a united nation. Professor Ann Twomey’s response to this is pertinent: “Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander peoples have a distinctive constitutional position as Australia’s indigenous peoples. They have pre-colonial rights to their lands and waters, and cultures, languages and heritage that have endured for millennia. No other group is in the same position in Australia”.[14]

Scaremongering all too often works but usually at least some segment of truth is required for it to be effective. Determined advocacy by a united indigenous voice and community leaders would make for a formidable force. There would be critics of course – “one nation or two” they would cry – but how vigorous and broadly based would that opposition be when confronted with a united indigenous voice, a well worked out proposal and their own consciences in the face of a people long wronged but hungry for co-existence. Remember too the support that was built up in many sectors of the community, including business, by the Recognise Campaign. That five-year campaign (2012-2017) raised awareness of the issue from 30 to 75 percent, attracted the support of more than 318,000 citizens and 160 businesses and community associations, and conducted 386 community meetings.[15] All too often in politics we assume the future will be the past. It isn’t, politics being an art not a science. Those times come when history beckons as LBJ put it so bluntly when seeking to convince southern Democrats of the need to embrace equal rights.

One would hope that whatever course is taken, Indigenous Australia will be properly involved in the process of deciding, republicanism being about means as well as ends. That leads me to ask – what about the prospects for the Australianised constitution, the other task for a movement to a new and modern Australia?

The Australian republic today

The plebiscite question Bill Shorten has committed his party to should he win government is: “Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?” Shorten’s leadership on this represents a significant step forward from where the issue has been situated since 1999 and should Labor win, the opportunity presented by the plebiscite must be embraced by all republicans.

Support for a yes vote on the question of the Australian Republic has been consistent over the last few years. ARM polling back in 2016 had it at 48 percent and The Guardian Essential Report has found similar results – 44 percent in January this year and 48 percent in May. Numbers opposed have ranged from 29 to 31 percent. As with Uluru figures they have to be read with caution but like them too they indicate a solid base on which to build. Note too, that there’s a good number, around 20 percent, with no opinion either way!  In terms of a model for the republic the polling consistently shows support for direct election at above 60 percent.[16]

You will have noted, I’m sure, that the question proposed says nothing on the type of republic we should have, just that it be one with an Australian as head of state. There are, in fact, about as many views on this as there are paid-up members of the ARM! There are minimalists and maximalists, selectionists and direct electionists, conservatives, moderates and radicals. They are all there, in the mix, and for some their views have been   non-negotiable, as we saw in 1999.

It follows that some way of creating unity from disunity is going to be an important factor in determining the future of Australian republicanism. One way to do this is to make a judgement call on what model has the best chance of success amongst republicans and within the community. I’ve always thought for example that a head-of-state directly elected by the people and with powers and responsibilities broadly similar to those exercised by the Governor-General today, would make a good fit with community sentiment, particularly if the nomination process was designed well and the powers related to the Office were clearly defined and partially codified. What came to be called the Gallop Model was put to a vote at the 1998 Convention, one of two direct election models, the other being that of Bill Hayden. It came in front of the Hayden Model in the first round of voting (27 to 4) but was knocked out in the second, one vote behind Richard McGarvie’s minimalist model 30 to 31).[17]

Despite the shortcomings of the republican model that achieved most support at the Convention I went on to campaign for it when it was taken to a vote of the people in 1999. To do otherwise when so many had worked hard to create a truly Australianised system wasn’t the way to go in a world when opportunities like this are rare.

The better way to go beyond the models to the issue of process: “What is the best way to determine a model for the Australian republic, one that has the stamp of authority such that it can win support across the board?”  This is a question that hasn’t been given adequate consideration but one that can’t be avoided if republicans are serious about their objectives. Let me give an answer by considering this issue in relation to the proposed plebiscite.

Winning a yes vote on Labor’s question will not be as easy as it may seem because it still leaves unanswered the issue of the type of republic that will be put to the people in a referendum. I can easily imagine the sort of campaign that will be launched by supporters of the status quo: “How can you vote on a question that doesn’t tell you what type of republic it would be? Wouldn’t a yes vote just give a blank cheque to the politicians – again! Those republicans can’t make up their minds. Doesn’t their uncertainty on this tell you something?”. Make no mistake such interventions have real potential as persuaders!

One would hope that there’s plenty we can say in response to those arguments that would have appeal across the board, including amongst some who support the Washminster model and the Constitution that currently underpins it.

There’s the fact that the Queen is a British citizen, not one of our own.

There’s the hereditary principle that sits uncomfortably alongside our belief in a fair go.

There’s the new and multicultural Australia that seeks unity around the principle of   social equality rather than around an inheritance from the past in which it’s difficult if not impossible for all to share.

There’s also the chance we have, as Michael Cooney has put it, to create a new institution with real dignity and prestige attached to it.[18]

A good dose of national pride counter to the exclusivist nationalism of the past, plenty of liberal and democratic principle, recognition of the diversity that seeks expression and belief that we can create something better- not a bad list of issues to campaign on!

These are all very good arguments but I’m led back to ask whether they will be effective in the absence of a commitment on the process to be followed. This takes me to the republicans, particularly those in Parliament. Time and time again they are sent a clear message – it’s the people who “own” the Constitution and whose views will ultimately determine the matter. These voters don’t like it when the issue is treated as a political football and they don’t like it when their wishes are not taken seriously and ignored. They will be suspicious of any “fix” agreed to at the top or any process of consideration that simply reproduces the factions, posturing and short-termism they see at work today. They want republicans all – be they are radicals, moderates or minimalists – to take a breath and realise it is an issue for the people and not just they who need to be convinced on what would be best.

What we actually need is commitment to a “republican means for a republican end”, one that would follow a successful plebiscite. It would be a Citizens’ Assembly, mostly randomly selected but also including political party representation to deliberate and recommend a model for the future, much like the Irish did in the aftermath of the twin crisis in their economy and their church. [19] Their Convention was made up of a   mix of party political representation (numbers of participants being proportional to votes received) and randomly selected citizens – 33 from the parties, 66 randomly selected and an independent chair. It met from December 2012 to 31 March 2014. In our case the numbers involved and timetable for deliberation would in all likelihood need to be greater. You will have noted of course that the Irish incorporated politicians into their proceeding, but as a minority. This was a sensible move given that Parliament needed to be on board, and indeed they would in Australia too if the matter is to be progressed. The success of the Irish approach to deliberative democracy is there for all to see. So too have there been successful deliberations in Australia. For example, in 2009 a Citizens’ Parliament of 150 citizens, one from each electorate selected at random from the electoral roll, met in Canberra to consider improvements to our political system.[20] By all accounts this event, which was sponsored by the not-for-profit New Democracy Foundation, produced high quality deliberation, a shifting of views as it progressed and specific recommendations at the end. I wasn’t surprised this Parliament went well as my own government in Western Australia had been an active in this space, the stand out example being our Dialogue with the City where 1,100 participants (including one third that were randomly selected) deliberated o the future of metropolitan Perth.[21]

In advocating a body of this nature, we would be realising Modern Australia’s deeply felt hope that we could reproduce the 1890s and its creative spirit but this time with the previously excluded fully engaged in the process. Indeed, the whole point of deliberative democracy is to create “mini-publics” that replicate the population at large. As two of its advocates, Oliver Escobar and Stephen Elstub[22] have put it: “The principle here is that everyone affected by the topic in question has an equal chance of being selected, and this underpins the legitimacy of the whole process. Participants are typically selected through stratified random sampling, so that a range of demographic characteristics from the broader population are adequately represented – e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion, and so on.” When established such assemblies move through a learning, a consultation and a deliberation phase, following which a vote is usually taken to decide a final outcome.

I’m convinced that the commitment to such a process would be received well by the public. It would be the first time that genuinely democratic and systematic attention could be given to defining the institution that would be an Australianised head-of-state. Interestingly, too, it would be possible to think about ways and means by which such an office could play a role in the context of indigenous recognition. For example, in respect of the Voice to Parliament the process of transmitting advice from indigenous to parliamentary Australia could be formalised and institutionalised as an event in which the head-of-state acts as the conduit. Symbolic such things may be, but necessary and important too!

Let me finish by returning to Daniel Deniehy and his beliefs. David Headon[23] has written of the people/politician dichotomy that underpinned his politics and continued to play a role in the movement to federation later in the century. It all came down to the question as to who were the trustees of a coming republic, the “honest and zealous patriots” or the “political oligarchs”?  The Constitution made it clear that it was to be the people not the political class. This leads Headon to conclude that “nothing less” than a “partnership” in which “politicians work with the people, not on their behalf” will give us a republic.

I fully concur with this assessment and trust I’ve shown how it can be done, inspired one can only hope from success with Indigenous recognition such that it’s not only an Australian but also a Reconciled Republic that emerges. Pride from a people united by principle and who are engaged to deliver should ensure that it is so.


1. “Rethinking the Republic”, The Monthly, April 1, 2018.

2. Quoted in Reardon, It’s All Politics (Doubleday, 2005), p.2.

3. The words come from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, 2017.

4. See Davis, M& Williams, G. Everything you needed to know about the Referendum…(NewSouth,2015)

5. See Twomey, A, “Putting words to the tune of Indigenous recognition’, The Conversation, May 20, 2018.

6. Final Report of the Referendum Council, 30 June 2017, p.10.

7. “A Voice, not a Veto”, ABC Religion and Ethics, 11 June 2018 (first posted 26 May, 2018)

8. The Australian Institute, Polling – Uluru Statement, December 2017.

9. Essential Report – Uluru Statement, 6 June 2017.

10. ARM Press Release, 13 February 2013.

11. Submission 147 to the Joint select Committee on Constitutional Recognition…

12. Speaking Out of Turn: Lectures and Speeches 1940-1991, 1997, pp.138-45.

13. The Australian, Feb 12, 2018.

14. Twomey, “Putting words to the tune…”

15. “Recognise Campaign Successful…”, Reconciliation Australia, June 29, 2018.

16. Research for ARM (Factuality, June 2016) and Guardian Essential Research,16/1/2018 and 22/5/2018.

17. On the models see Direct Election Republic Model (Australia) in Wikipedia.

18. “Seizing our Republican Moment”, Tocsin: John Curtin Research Centre, Issue 2 (2017), p.23.

19. See Constitutional Convention (Ireland) in Wikepedia.

20. See Australian Citizens’ Parliament: Final Report (February 2009).

21. See Hartz-Karp, J. “A Case Study in Deliberative Democracy”, Journal of Public Deliberation, 1(1)2005.

22. “Forms of Mini-Publics”, Research Paper in newdemocrcay.com.au

23. “Republicans, Politicians, and People’s Conventions…”, Papers on Parliament, No.33, May 1999.

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