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Turnbull echoing the sighs of the old republic

Turnbull echoing the sighs of the old republic

Friday 23 December, 2016
Considering the results from similar votes overseas, Malcolm Turnbull's vague “one day” committal to the Australian Republic may be the best option.
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Considering the results from similar votes overseas, Malcolm Turnbull’s vague “one day” committal to the Australian Republic may be the best option.

The great question has seemingly raised its frail hand once more. The republic. Should we or shouldn’t we? Having voted in the referendum of 1999, I see the similarities in the reoccurring discussion. Ironically, the conversation back then whirled around the inaction of the Queen; her lack of presence was the reason you voted the way you did. No-one then, as now, could give me a solid enough reason to go either way, but to the polls we did go. As I trudged down to the school hall, which doubles as our voting location, I distinctly remember a lack of enthusiasm. The mechanical ticking of boxes, the mood in lieu of waving the flag.

It was the toss of a coin from shrugged shoulders, which is probably why that referendum fell on its confused face; the lack of a sales pitch. In 2016, as we’ve seen with the British and the Americans, if lasting change is what you desire, it’s best you find something truly divisive as a pretext. But with the politics of pulling the pin en vogue worldwide, I say that joining the populist kids in following their trends doesn’t make you popular too.

Back in 1999, I voted with the Republic, primarily because I didn’t see the amount of change massive enough to vote against it. We already were a republic in everything bar name; I voted to complete the paperwork. The British Empire was a distant memory of my grandparents’ generation. The stiff upper-lip was theirs and not mine, so I voted. On a whim. There didn’t seem to be much at stake.

For supporters, Turnbull’s comments could be a step away from the former leader of the party Mal represents. For those on the fence, it firmly plants us no closer to a decision.

However, in the cratered landscape of 2016, I would vote the other way for two reasons. The first is, as I alluded to previously, that I believe we can learn from the lessons of those overseas – namely that choosing to change history without reading the fine print begets stark division exampled in Trump’s win, or that Britain leaving the EU. Our country at the moment is divided enough; another battle line that separating one neighbour from the other is something we don’t need.

The second reason is that I believe the campaign for the Republic is even more tannic than the 1999 vintage. Over the weekend, Malcolm Turnbull frontlined the Republican movement’s 25th birthday bash (which according to some had a $3,000 table for the discerning working class anarchist) and gave a rousing recommittal speech to the idea of the Republic, with the pull-quote of the evening being “We have no other motive, no other reason than love of country,” which got me thinking.

Love is a subjective concept. You love what you love, and love of country flits from one address to the other. For supporters of the cause, Turnbull’s comments, including an announcement that the date of the Republic’s birth will be that of Queen Elizabeth’s passing, could be seen as a slight, a political step away from his station.

For the Monarchists among us, it serves as a metaphor for the pointlessness of the question, Rule Britannia.

And for those on the fence, it firmly plants us no closer to a decision. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

For what it’s worth, a lot of us would be open to the idea of a Republic, we just need a good enough reason why. Perhaps that is Turnbull’s genius; a knowledge that given the choice at this junction, we’d abuse that power like others have in this calendar year. Maybe then the test in the upcoming referendum, whenever it happens, is not the result but whether we can vote like our own country, and not be influenced by the actions of others.

 

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