02 January 2018

New Year, New Republic? Maybe it's time for a new idea

Oh dear. It seems the "success" of blowing $100 million dollars on a survey to tell us what we already knew about same sex marriage has rather gone to Malcolm Turnbull's head. I suppose you can't blame him, after all - success isn't something he's had a lot of in recent years; we haven't seen a Prime Ministership that started in hope collapse into a chaotic heap like this since Kevin Rudd.

But having a taste for postal surveys now, he's proposed we have another one, this time on his pet subject - that Australia should become a republic. Now, it seems to me a no brainer, and not just because of course I'd think so, I'm Irish. Surely it is time that we took our destiny into our own hands. Surely both logic and national pride states that we should have an Australian head of state, rather than the offspring of a minor branch of German nobility who happened to be on the British throne when the music stopped on a convoluted European game of musical chairs two hundred years ago? Surely looking to mother England is a bit ridiculous still, in modern, multicultural Australia, where you can't sit in the Australian parliament if you're a dual British citizen but can't be Australian head of state if you're Australian and not British? 

But it's all even more complicated than that last sentence. A republic isn't a done deal. Remember the last time an Australian republic was a thing, with the Constitutional Convention back in 1998 and the resulting referendum in 1999? The republican movement, headed by a then dashing young(ish) Malcolm Turnbull, lost. Most blamed the model of Republic presented to voters, and that definitely played a big part - not just that Australians were asked to vote for a prospective head of state elected by the parliament not the people, but also the fact that there was debate over the model all at allowed the monarchist movement to wedge the electorate to their success.

That a referendum on a republic lost at all in the year of 1999 is a thing of wonder. It's difficult to envision just how unpopular the monarchy was, back in the Nineties. You had the Queen seeming like a dour old toad watching her unattractive children have ghastly sex scandals and messy divorces, then Princess Diana was killed in a Parisian car crash and in the ensuing Royal silence, half of Britain and the world was baying for their blood, with not a small number convinced the Royal Family engineered the crash themselves. 

Yep, we were supposed to be loyal to this lot.

So we hated the Royals then, and still voted to keep them. Now, good grief, if love for the Royal family makes us hold on to the monarchy then a republic would have no chance. The Queen, through successive gold and diamond jubilees, has been transformed in public sentiment from a grumpy and expensive old biddy to a beloved and revered figure, adored for nine decades of public service and not nine decades of life in unimaginable luxury due to a quirk of genetics. Throw in Will and Kate, and now good grief Harry and Meghan Markle, and the popularity of the royals looks assured, at least until the gap between this lot hitting middle age spread and their children attaining adulthood and gossip column status. (They'd want to watch it, William is really balding there).


I'm not excited so much as just grateful British royals can no
longer pretend India is theirs. Photo: Popsugar. 

Any new campaign for an Australian republic will have to compete not only against the tired old arguments of Monarchists - that the Queen is really Australian, that the governor general is our head of state, stability, security, we can't change the name of the RSPCA because it will confuse the puppies - but against the popularity of the young royals. It's understandable that people get excited about them (although some of them are very defensive about it) but it doesn't mean any of them should be head of our country.

In fact, celebrity is a good reason to get rid of the constitutional monarchy. America is doing just fine without a monarchy (Trump government notwithstanding); they have a royal family to admire, read about, gossip about and mark life's milestones with. It's the Kardashians.

The Kardashians offer all the benefits of a royal family, and many more. Yes, they're famous for being famous - and so, basically, are the Windsors. But there's no taxpayer subsidies for the Kardashians; they pay for themselves. They're not restrained by protocols of royal decorum, so if they want to pour champagne through the air into a glass on their butts, have a baby with their sister's boyfriend's ex girlfriend, and torment us with a 25 day Christmas card that WAS SUPPOSED TO REVEAL A PREGNANT KYLIE AND IT DIDN'T AND I'M FURIOUS, they can.



But then there was this:




You can't tell me seeing that happiness after seeing the struggles up close isn't better than the British royal family.

And the Kardashians? Wedding after wedding after wedding.

But there's the biggest advantage of all that the Kardashians have over the royals. When we get bored, we can just move on. No one needs to mint new coins or have referenda or anything; we can all just find a new family to obsess over, the staff at JB HiFi can move all the Kardashians DVDs to the $6.99 bin, and that's it. Quick and simple.

We need to become a republic. We can still watch Wills and Kate and Harry and Meghan; they might even visit sometimes. We can have parliament choose a president, which seems a safer option, or go for the direct election model, which is more likely to win public support and means more chances for democracy sausage, if we do run the risk of President Shane Warne. And we can choose our own families to vicariously share life's journey with.

Let's make it a point of the republican campaign - you can like the young new royals without letting them rule us (someone else can figure out the wording - I can do the sociology, not the soundbites). It's time to mark our country's maturity in becoming a republic, even if we have to admit our own immaturity and celebrity obsession to do so.

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