Charming Malcolm's stationary train

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If you thought we'd see real change from the corrosive policies of Tony Abbott under this charming new prime minister then you are now sitting on a stationary train, just like the republic, writes IA's managing editor, David Donovan.

SO, AUSTRALIA DAY has come and gone for another year. I'm not sure about you, but I deplore the date this day is celebrated on. Surely we could find a better day — one inclusive of all Australians, not just post-colonial arrivals.

Of course, A. Day this year was distinguished by an open letter from all Australian state and territory leaders supporting Australia becoming a Republic. One might have thought that this would be manna from heaven for former Australian Republican Movement chair – now Australian prime minister – Malcolm Turnbull ... but no.

Charming Malcolm immediately kicked the (republi)can down the road, saying he didn't want to be part of another "heroic defeat". (Narcissism, much?) He then said that we should wait until the Queen's reign ends. When she dies, in other words — which could be 20 years from now, based on her mother's elongated lifespan. He said that momentum for a republic needs to come from the grassroots, not from politicians.

But wait a minute. Doesn't an Australian Republic need both? I mean, the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) may have quadrupled its membership since Peter FitzSimons took over as chair last year, but even if it had ten times more members, it wouldn't matter a bit if it can't find legislative support for its agenda.

(Click HERE to sign the petition.)

As you might know, I am a former media director and vice chair of the ARM. I recall former chair Major General Michael Keating often likening the Australian Republic to a stationary train. That is, most people may support a republic in principle, but since they don't know when the train will be leaving the station, they are reluctant to get on it — that is, get active in the Movement. That's because no-one wants to sit around in a train sitting idle at the station not knowing when – or if – it might be leaving.

So, the republic can only come about after Parliament sets in place a process for becoming a Republic. The public cannot do that. It cannot force Parliament to schedule a referendum, or a plebsicite – or anything, in fact – under our system.

So, Malcolm is wrong. The Republic can only come about through political leadership — something he won't do, because much of his party are extremely conservative, see him as a dangerous leftie and are looking for ways to remove him as leader. Consequently, Malcolm will do anything to appease the rightwing extremist wing of the party — even if that means disavowing causes he previously championed.

So he will stop conscience votes on gay marriage — but let his MPs ignore a $160 million plebiscite he’s called on the issue. Stop meaningful action on climate change. Not fully fund Gonski and the NDIS. He will keep tax loopholes for rich corporations and individuals. In fact, he will cut their taxes and bring in a 50 per cent increase in the GST, which will only harm poor people. Charming Malcolm will even allow his mad predecessor to speak to an American extremist anti-abortion group. And, of course, Malcolm will sacrifice not a shred of political skin to progress an Australian Republic.

So much for soft, cuddly, progressive Malcolm. Some people may see Malcolm Turnbull as charming, but charm is nothing more than a whistle on the wind. Entrancing for a moment, perhaps, but then gone. If you thought we'd see real change from the corrosive policies of former PM Tony Abbott under this "charming" new prime minister then, I am afraid to say, you are now sitting on a stationary train. Just like the republic. Make yourself comfortable. You could be there for a while.

But don't expect the mainstream media to tell you about this interrupted service. They purchased sleeper cabins on the Turnbull slow train long, long ago.

You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

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