2010: a Republican year in review

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Lewis Holden


Lewis Holden looks back at 2010 from an Australian and New Zealand republican perspective.

IT'S THAT TIME of year—when the papers start publishing lists of all who have had a great 2010, those who weren't so fortunate, and those who are no longer with us. Sadly, dear readers, this post will be no different. If it doesn't read well, at least we have found a cure for insomnia.

2010 has been a year of great advancement for republicans in Australia and New Zealand. Opponents of a republic believe that we went backwards, largely thanks to a Royal tour and engagement announcement. But to paraphrase Darryl Kerrigan, they're dreaming. And I hope they keep doing so until the Royal wedding in 2011. The more they claim the citizens of our country are deeply interested in matters Royal – and the general public keeps showing that it is not – the more foolish and desperate they look. The truth is the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) is building a formidable online presence and is connecting to younger Australians in greater numbers than before. On our side of the Tasman, we've grown our membership base (largely thanks to those Royal events, funnily enough) and had some respectable, albeit small, wins.

There have been highs and lows. I've covered the Royal non-events, which have made little impact. On the lows side of the equation, this year I have probably received more abusive messages than at any other time in the campaign. A good friend advised me just to dump them, as repeating them only makes it look like you're playing the victim. I sent back witty replies, but wit is wasted on some people (or more likely, I'm not that witty!) But more importantly, it represents perhaps that the debate has gone mainstream and the opponents of change have very little else but personal attacks. On that note, Monarchy New Zealand for the first time tried to take myself to task over allegedly misleading parliament over the cost of the Governor-General. Sadly their own media release contradicted itself (they clearly hadn't bothered to research what misleading parliament actually entails) and couldn't get their own figures to add up.

Meanwhile, former Monarchy New Zealand chairman Noel Cox recently smugly observed that the Republican Movement is a one-man band. Certainly I'm in the media the most, but I still depend greatly on the other members of the national executive, who I thank very much for their work this year.

Of course, the Australian debate has spilled over into New Zealand. On balance, one of the year's highs was Julia Gillard's comments in the lead up to the federal election on a republic referendum following the Queen's death. While they were disappointing in that they set a timeline based on our absentee head of state's lifespan (which is hardly relevant) at the same time they stoked the debate. However, the political master-stroke award must surely go to Senator Bob Brown, for once again tabling his Bill for a plebiscite on an Australian republic on the day of William's engagement.

Professor David Flint kept up his campaign for obfuscation and half-truths, and his campaign to re-litigate the 1999 republican referendum. He accused me of lying about events back in 1999 after I caught him out fabricating statements by Graham Smith from Republic UK and claiming Bob Brown wanted Australia to become a "People's Republic". He continued to claim the ARM wanted to change the flag, despite it being specific ARM policy NOT to change the flag since the mid 1990s. And bizarrely, he praised the Republic of India, probably because they managed to make Prince Charles look good. But his strenuous campaign to show links between communists, racists, the IRA and Gerry Adams to Australian republicans would've been more comical if I hadn't made the mistake of not doing a wider search. I apologise especially to the ARM's media director, David Donovan, for the embarrassment I caused. While I'm on the subject, Dave's work in building the ARM's online presence shouldn't go unnoticed.

...random and annoying use of ellipsis...

One claim that Professor Flint has made that needs to be put to rest is the claim and counter-claim that younger Australians (and New Zealanders) aren't interested in an Australian (or New Zealand) republic. As usual with Professor Flint, there is a kernel of truth to the claim, wrapped in some highly dubious assumptions and delivered in a deceptive bundle of falsehood . I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the assertion no new monarchists are being born is false. I can't remember who said it, or what context they said it in, but it's been repeated to myself a number of times by a new breed of young monarchists. The young monarchists are vocal and often articulate. The difference between us are ideas about identity. While they might take their cues from their elders, we should not ignore them.

Back on our side of the Tasman, Parliament voted 68 - 53 against the Head of State Referenda Bill. The determination to prevent this bill from even being debated intrigued us. In any case, it didn't prevent the issue from being discussed widely almost every month this year. Despite their attempts to kill off the debate, we just keep plugging away.

So what next for 2011? I've already noted the Royal wedding in April. The Queen will be turning 85 and Prince Philip 90. New Zealand will have a new Governor-General appointed for us, the Irish will elect a President. How we'll campaign is something that will be revealed as the year progresses. One thing's for sure though, every year is one year closer!

Merry Christmas and a happy new year all!
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