The republic of Australia

Not forgetting, that for its edition of 2-3 January2016, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper came out with an editorial promoting a Republic for Australia. A break-out from the editorial says: “Supporters of the status quo argue that when it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But it is broken. Australia can never define itself on its own terms while it defers to an inherited democracy.”

I agree. One of the oldest pro-Republican arguments in Australia, and it goes back to the nineteenth century, is The Maturity Argument – that Australia has come of age, is now mature, and should let go the apron strings of Mother Britain. It is the argument I mostly use, the argument I most prefer as an Australian republican. This argument was not resisted by some political circles in Britain itself in the nineteenth century, but it is still resisted by monarchists in Australia itself.

This Maturity Argument also suggests that Australia need not stoop to such tactics as the American colonists used from 1775 – armed rebellion. Politically, the transition could be made quite peacefully, and as far as I know, HM Elizabeth II of Great Britain is herself (probably) not against the idea of Australia becoming a republic.

I might add, that foremost Australian critic and comedian, Barry Humphries, as he narrates a recently-produced documentary on Australia 1950s-1980s,“Flashbacks”, (1998-2003), observes that in the 1970s, it was endlessly said that Australia was “coming of age”, and that Australia expressed some of this by rebelling against Mother England. Paradoxically, Australia by 2016 is probably rebelling less against mother England than it was in the 1970s!

One is required to ask, why would this be? It is partly because Republicans have allowed themselves to be buried by Monarchists and the forces of reaction in Australian political life. The 1970s phase Humphries mentioned seems in retrospect then to have been a false dawn for“coming of age”. Worse, there are other warnings to heed, warnings about matters not evident during the 1970s, warnings which did not seem useful till the world saw the results of the outcome of excessive Reaganism in US politics.

For today, by 2016, there is also the risk that Australians will be harmed by thoughtless adoption of ideas which have grown in the USA since 1775, many of which would be harmful for Australia because they badly suit Australian history, political systems or scale(s) of operations. It seems to me that Australians cannot yet be fully trusted to separate what good and bad that has been learned from either of its great and powerful friends – Great Britain or the USA – since 1788. And so it is up to Australian republicans to re-educate their fellow Australians. Please consider yourself placed on this pathway by reading this, then.
                                        -Dan Byrnes, January 2016.

Author: Dan Byrnes

Dan Byrnes is an Australian poet, writer, historian, a one-time journalist in Tamworth NSW Australia (or, Country Music Capital, Australia). Born in Sydney in 1948, meaning in late 2018 he is aged 70! He is deeply interested in modern Australian history (since 1788), literature, poetry and music. He had a normal high school education plus several stints at university, ending with a double major in History/Psychology, then with an Honours degree in History. Of late, and as he gets older - in 2019 he will be 71 - he spends time compiling and recompiling old work, adding to this blog, and wondering deeply with the history of Australia since 1788, a relatively new country, which received up to 162,000 convicts from Britain, why there is such apathy to maritime history in general and in particular, such apathy to the question: who owned/insured the convict ships?

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