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April 05th 2016 print

Codey Swadling

Pirate Pete’s Presidential Pitch

Peter FitzSimons' republican roadshow has just rolled through Orange, leaving at least one member of his audience both bemused and baffled. As the man in the red bandana doesn't fancy the present system, we must squander yet more millions to see how many other Australians feel likewise

hanky headOn Monday, March 29, I attended Peter FitzSimons’ Republican seminar in Orange, NSW,  and to be perfectly honest, left utterly disappointed by his reasoning and attitude. Mr FitzSimons may be one of our most accessible and popular historians, and he certainly has a flair for humorous and energetic public speaking, but he failed to propose any solid reasons why Australia has such urgent and dire need to change from our current system and any benefits such a change would bring.

He repeatedly referred to ‘the sense of Aussie pride’ we apparently stand to gain, apparently because of some great stain on our current system of government, which just happens to be one of the world’s most stable. A republic would also allow Australia to ‘have its own identity on a national stage’; which came as a great surprise to me, considering that the ‘Aussie way of life’ and Sculture is one of the most recognisable in the world. We don’t currently have some nationwide identity crisis, but FitzSimons and his lot are so offended for whatever reason, so caught up in this non-issue of identity, that they are trying to conjure one, oblivious to the real-world problems we actually face.

He is a supporter of the ‘minimalist model’, which essentially replaces the Queen with the close equivalent of a governor-general. without really changing anything. The (few) problems he can name with our current system — such as the possibility of another Whitlam-style dismissal –will all still be there, and will arguably be more prevalent as the governor-general, no known as ‘president’, takes on an inevitably more political role.

When asked for the ‘practical reasons’ for becoming a republic, Fitzsimons, the very Chair of the Republican Movement, could find no better response than his rather distorted conception that ‘national pride’ demanded it, plus the fact that an Australian kid will be able to grow up and become the head of state. What he failed to mention is that we have had Australian-born governors-general for more than half a century.

However, the biggest disappointment of the evening was Mr FitzSimons’ casual disregard for the phenomenal cost, should his vanity project be put to another vote, as in 1999. The bill will run to hundreds of millions of dollars, bet on it. At, say, $500 million, the price tag being bandied about for the promised same-sex marriage plebiscite, that will be more than the nation spent on cancer research from 2009-2011. FitzSimons’ further argument — that our Collins Class Submarines also cost a phenomenal amount — was so lacking in logic I began to wonder if his red bandana had been too tight for far too long. As we are a ‘wealthy country’ and can ‘afford it’, taxpayers should indulge the republican whim and ongoing inferiority complex.

That half-a-billion dollars could literally (in the actual sense of the word) be spent on anything else and make a meaningful difference to a huge number of people. In a country where we still have homeless veterans, large percentages of youth unemployment, the highest skin-cancer rates in the world and remote Indigenous communities without basic amenities and healthcare, there is only so much we can spend solving these issues, and another referendum will only take money away from where it could be spent (or returned to those productive Australians from whom it was taken. What a novel idea!).

Look, I’m all for change where change is due, but becoming a republic is simply something that doesn’t benefit Australia in any tangible way, no matter how much it makes Peter FitzSimons feel better about himself.

Comments [5]

  1. Bran Dee says:

    Thank you for alerting us to the vacuous argument being put forward to try again to make Australia become a ‘bandana’ Republic.
    Would a Republic be any better at solving the dilemma of “remote Indigenous communities without basic amenities and healthcare”? Not unless it was able to stem the rivers of grog to aboriginal welfare recipients. Would there be any better healthcare than to prevent aboriginal mothers from drinking during pregnancy to the extent that now 20% of their babies are severely damaged with FASD. Babies with small heads and consequently small brains and mental problems similar to autism.
    How about a 4Corners program by the ABC on FASD and a public outcry that could close the abusive welfare hellholes called “remote Indigenous communities”?

  2. Eeyore says:

    The bandannered one’s old mate Paul Keating once made the claim that ” no great country has the monarch of another country as its head of state and no great country had the flag of another country in the corner of its flag”.

    A local wag noted that Mr Keating was wrong, there is one great country that has both, that he was surprised Keating forgot it, it is called Australia.

  3. I actually voted for Malcolm Turnbull’s republic. It is one of the few times that I have ever agreed with Lord Waffles of Wentworth on anything. I did so because under no circumstances do I want the ‘President’ or replacement GG or whatever to have any political power. The American political system is even more dysfunctional than ours, the Americans in effect elect a new, but still old fashioned/style of King [or Queen] every four years. Their ‘elected monarchy’ has resulted in the fact that their political system has not ‘evolved’ as much as has our Westminster system and to my mind is now less efficient and effective.
    If ‘Peter the Pirate’ or anybody else wants to change our constitution in any major way in the future to accommodate a ‘republic’ then I would/will only support it if it is designed to achieve what some of the original American founding fathers were aiming at – a ‘limited’ republic rather than a possible ‘un-limited democracy’ with the potential in the to be a totalitarian organisation.
    I would like to see our republic embrace the following for a atart:-
    1. Instead of having a ‘president’ with any political power, let us instead elect the ‘speaker’ of parliament whose sole job would be to ‘run parliament’ in the Westminster tradition.
    2. For any new legislation, after a small cooling off period [to run it past the high court if necessary] the speaker could later then formally sign off on it.
    3. Change the constitution so that it would be illegal for any citizens to be subject to taxes being levied above a certain level – say 30% for direct taxation [wages, profits etc.] and 15-20% for indirect taxation [GST, excises, 'sin taxes' etc.]

    Please feel free to add other constitutional changes as long as they are simple, promote free markets/capitalism/freedom and are simple and clear.
    Cheers Dennis

  4. a propos says:

    Republic? In Australia? Why? Just to satisfy the narcissistic yearnings of incurably progressive and obsessively self-righteous?

  5. Tig says:

    Cody, were there many at the meeting and could you gauge their overall reactions?

    We have not had stable government for 6 years and have been inflicted with 5 PMs during that time. Labor refuses to support any Liberal policies, sensible or otherwise, and they are talking about changing to a Republic for no good reason at all. It seems to me that the GGship is the only part of government that actually is working as it should, so I would be totally against any changes in the near future.