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A natural change to republican supporter

By Wendy Machin - posted Wednesday, 15 September 1999


I wasn’t always a passionate republican. As a former Member of Parliament with the National Party there was a natural distrust of some of the early ALP proponents of change and the pugnacious style of Paul Keating didn’t persuade many conservatives.

There was also some appeal in the homily of "if it ain’t broke, why fix it…?"

However, freed of the shackles of Party pressure on retiring from politics and reassured by the election of a coalition government I started to think a bit more about the issue of a republic and address the nagging doubts I had about the Monarchy in Australia.

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Frankly it seems to me that it is intellectually impossible to continue to support the notion that Australia must have a foreign monarch as its head of state. And judging by the reluctance of all Monarchists from the Prime Minister down to mention the Queen, they also find it impossible to mount an argument in support of this.

Even whilst a National Party MP, it did seem to me that the notion of hereditary Kings and Queens and all their pomp and ceremony was increasingly out of step with modern society. Australia is a particularly diverse culture and a very egalitarian one and these values are at odds with the concept of a hereditary, sectarian and sexist monarchy.

But more significantly, we have been forging our own identity in the world since white settlement and in legal and political terms we have severed all links with the United Kingdom. We have had our own Parliaments to legislate for us for well over a century and we have severed all legal appeals to British courts from our courts.

As Monarchists point out, the Queen has little bearing on our day to day lives and the Governor General is our "effective head of state." So if Monarchists say this, it begs the question ‘What do we need the Queen for?’

The reality is we don’t need the Queen or, as our next head of state, King Charles the third. Although the Constitution says they have considerable power over Australian affairs, they don’t exercise this and we do our own thing very successfully because of the good sense of the Australian people.

However, equally real is the fact that King Charles will be our next head of state, unless Australia votes "Yes" in the November 6 referendum. I don’t believe the majority of Australians really want to wake up on November 7 and confront this – indeed, polls show this to be the case and that is why Monarchists duck and weave trying to avoid mention of the Monarch.

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Clearly it is the right time in our development as a nation to take that final step and make a relatively minor change to our constitution to give us one of our own citizens as our head of state. How can we possibly justify as our head of state one who is not Australian, who is chosen by birthright, who is the Monarch of another nation and lives on the other side of the world? Of course that is intellectually indefensible.

Instead of debating why we should have King Charles III as our next head of state, Monarchists are running am outrageous campaign of lies and scaremongering. Theirs is an emotional and irrational appeal that attempts to tell Australians that we will be somehow unsafe as a nation, should one of us hold the highest office the constitution affords. What a load of codswallop!

We have had the appalling spectres of Hitler and ethnic cleansing raised in lieu of decent argument. We have been told that the flag, anthem and other symbols will be changed should one of us be the head of state. This is a nonsense too. Those making these wild claims know well that these changes can only be made after a vote of the Australian people and that it is not on the agenda for the forthcoming referendum.

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About the Author

"The model maintains our system of Westminster democracy, but...it says to us and the world that we believe in ourselves." Wendy Machin is the Deputy Chair of the Australian Republican Movement and was an elected delegate to the Constitutional Convention in February 1998. Previously she was a Member of the NSW Parliament representing the North Coast for the National Party, and she is currently the Director of Corporate Affairs for Service Corporation International Australia (SCIA), which is part of the world’s largest funeral company.

Related Links
Australian Republican Movement
Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy
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