In an article in the Adelaide Advertiser, the former Senator, ex-leader of the Australian Democrats and past Australian Republican Movement national committee member Natasha Stott Despoja says there should be no republicanism during the royal wedding. Vice chair of the ARM David Donovan replies.
IT IS ENTIRELY appropriate that Natasha Stott Despoja would choose to use the word "churlish" to describe Senator Bob Brown's decision to retable the Plebiscite for an Australian Republic bill to coincide with the 2011 royal wedding. You see, a "churl" is literally a peasant or a serf, which – in a very real sense – is what all Australians are so long as they continue to be subjects of the apotheosis of British aristocracy—the monarchy. Bob Brown is a good churl representing all of us other churls who desire to break the last feudal links we have with the British aristocracy and allow us to attain true Australian sovereignty, full independence and a head of state who is one of us.
As Natasha would be aware, whenever there are any major royal events anywhere, the republican movement here gets media attention. In a way, this signifies the strength of the cause. The media recognizes that the majority of Australians want a republic and need to reflect their views whenever monarchists step into forelock-tugging overdrive. It will be the same way with this event.
The ARM will be asked for comment and it would be strange and disingenuous for us not to say that these events have little significance or relevance to most Australians. To be credible we need to have the strength of our convictions, to persuade in a calm and respectful way, mindful of Australia's heritage. It is not the time to water down our "republican zeal" because it may make "undecided Australians feel a little uncomfortable", but rather a time to make the case that the monarchy is out of place in our egalitarian nation. To be blunt, it may have been this sort of cynical "realpolitick" approach to campaigning that eventually led the Australian Democrats into electoral oblivion. Of course, the opposite approach – which might be called "conviction politics" – has seen Greens' fortunes rise as the Democrats' declined, making the irony of Natasha's statements manifold.
Despite Natasha's simplistic beliefs, the majority of people probably don't "enjoy a royal wedding". Polls indicate that for every person interested in the royal wedding, there will be about two who aren't interested and who will become frustrated beyond belief by the inevitable media overkill that will bombard us with royal watching leading up to this event. What Natasha is effectively saying is that the majority who aren't interested are less important than the minority who will be tuning in to the event.
It appears to me that Bob Brown is canny in raising this issue at that time, when interest in the issue will be high, which is unfortunately not always the case. So, perhaps rather than asking republicans to tie one hand behind their backs and not respectfully publicize their cause in conjunction with the royal wedding, she could be asking her former colleagues – parliamentarians – to allow a conscience vote on this bill.
Bipartisanship on a republic in a true form may not be possible with the monarchistic Nationals and the conservative right of the Liberals opposed. However, given it is Labor and Greens policy to have a republic, and many more progressive Liberals are republicans, as well as at least one independent in the lower house, a conscience vote has a good chance of success.
Don't buy the commemorative mug Natasha, we need your support.