Now we have another reason for the choice of the 2020 Summit theme, Mao Tse-tung’s "Let a hundred flowers bloom ...”
First there was the 98:1 vote for some undefined republic: the result of ensuring that no one who was prominent in the 1999 “No” case was chosen as a delegate. This contrasted with a Morgan Poll which showed support for a republic with an elected president had fallen to a 15-year low of 45 per cent and among the 14-17 years old, 23 per cent. The overall result was not much different to the last Newspoll, which is usually on an undefined, vague republic. But the latest news from the Summit is that the preliminary report has been changed in a way almost worthy of Minitrue, Big Brother’s Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.
The principal task of Minitrue was to change the records, including the newspapers, so that the authorities were never embarrassed.
The report originally said: “Stage 1: Ending ties with the UK while retaining the Governor-General’s titles and powers for five years. Stage 2: Identifying new models after extensive and broad consultation.” This opened the Summit to ridicule because all ties with the UK were terminated years ago.
The ridicule proved to be justified. But instead of reconvening the governance panel to pass new recommendations, the report was surreptitiously changed. Instead of calling for the ending of ties with the UK the report now contains something entirely different. There is nothing about ending ties with the UK, or retaining the Governor-General’s titles and powers for five years. Instead there is now a call for a plebiscite - hardly something new.
No one noticed the switch, which was probably the intention.
In his Sun Herald column on May 11, Peter FitzSimons (in “Confusion reigns supreme”) even attacked me for daring to criticise what the nomenklatura had removed out of embarrassment.
The republicans have been calling for a plebiscite ever since they lost the 1999 referendum. They want it for two reasons: first, the republicans don’t know or won’t say what they want and second, they think they would lose another referendum.
It is difficult to think of a more irresponsible proposal than this call for a plebiscite to try to ensure a subsequent referendum will skate through. This plebiscite would ask the people to give a vote of no confidence in one of the world’s most successful constitutional systems - without the people being told what the proponents are planning to put in its place.
To return to the original recommendation about ending ties, the problem was that the Summiteers were not talking about ending cricket ties, but constitutional and legal ties. If there were such ties, it would have meant we are not really independent. But we have long been independent. While Lionel Murphy thought independence came in 1901, most experts opt for some time between 1926 and 1942.
The Balfour Declaration of 1926 recognised the independence of all the Dominions, so I am inclined to the view that we were independent by 1926. In any event, the Australian Crown has long been a separate entity from the British or Canadian, New Zealand and other Crowns.
As a consequence the High Court in 1999 disqualified a One Nation senator, Heather Hill, because she owed allegiance to a foreign power and its sovereign, the Queen of the United Kingdom.
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