Opponents of an Australian Republic continue to imply that republicans have a nefarious hidden agenda, says Lewis Holden.
A CANADIAN republican friend of mine, JJ, once described the republic versus monarchy debate as "obscure", in that it is polarising like no other issue. Both sides, JJ said, take the monarchy versus republic issue seriously. JJ also argued the debate is fairly underdeveloped outside of Australia. What is intriguing though is that one side of the debate in Australia has determined that to win the debate, it must attack politicians elected under the system it supports and replicate the arguments used by advocates of an Australian republic, subtly twisting the language to their own ends.
It seems to me that ACM, the most vocal of the monarchist groups in Australia, has essentially given up defending the monarchy from a philosophical perspective, instead focussing on how likeable members of the British Royal family are. Meanwhile, its constitutional discourse is limited to showing Australia to already be a "Crowned republic", with its own Head of State, the Governor-General.
The former argument is plain sophistry I will return to in a later post, while the latter is nothing more than a political tautology intended to further obscure the debate. They contrast the alleged Crowned republic with a "politician's republic". They know this is an important distinction as Australians dislike politicians - to undermine a republic they must associate it with unpopular politicians.
To counter this, Senator Bob Brown argued in a Senate Committee hearing in 2009 that it would be more accurate to say "People's Republic". This was a mistake. Yesterday on the ACM Facebook page they said:
'...the choice is between some form of Politicians’ Republic or a Crowned Republic. Senator Brown said “What about a People's Republic?”'
Once again this is twisting the truth. Here's what was actually said (extract from the transcript of the submissions on the Bill, curiously not linked to by the ACM):
Senator BOB BROWN—So you do not contend that France or the United States have a people’s republic?
Prof. Flint—I certainly do not contend that they are a people’s republic in the communist sense.
Senator BOB BROWN—No. I am just meaning in that direct sense. I do not lend to the communists the right to own any particular phrase in our language.
Of course, it's hard to fit all that into a Facebook status, but it's clear that the ACM will continue to try and imply supporters of an Australian republic have a nefarious agenda at any opportunity.