Many times over the last decade I have heard people say “I’m a republican but…”.
Usually followed by excuses why not to fight for our own Head of State, this phrase has become the calling card of the closet republican.
It’s true that for some a downturn in support for the cause has affected motivation.
But as republicans it is imperative we continue to set the groundwork and keep making the case for a republic, because quite simply the views of non-believers will not change if we fall silent.
When Australians are questioned about their priorities, when it comes to politics the republic rates lowly. We need to make it a priority issue.
To do this the republican campaign must act as a unifying force for Australia’s future.
We need to unite Australians, not divide them. The only way to achieve this is to focus on our modern identity and our future. We need to demonstrate the benefits for our nation and our people from having one of our own as Head of State.
We are a leading nation of the Asia Pacific region, with a multicultural society and a modern economy. We have a strong security relationship firmly based in our region.
We are one of only a few countries on earth who can lay claim to this, and not have our own Head of State.
I recently asked a group of people in my community why we should become a republic? When one person answered that we should have an Australian as our Head of State, another person asked “Isn’t the Prime Minister our Head of State?”
We are rightly proud of the system of government and the nation we have built together.
We need to explain that a republic will not change the way we are governed.
It is important to acknowledge that negative politics will not inspire Australians to think of their future and the shape of our modern nation. We will not become a republic by tearing down the Monarchy.
We should be respectful of the role of the Monarchy in our heritage but overwhelmingly concentrate on our next steps to maturity as a nation-proud of our past but focused on an independent future.
Successful campaigns are like a snowball - as they roll on they get bigger and bigger.
The Republic campaign must get bigger and connect with more Australians. Republicans must set up talks, attend events and do local media in regional areas.
Finally, the Republican cause needs a national champion, and that champion must be a Prime Minister.
Australia needs a pro-republican Prime Minister if it is going to become one.
Every successful cause has had a leader that can capture public attention, someone who can win hearts and minds and change views. Our cause is no different.
The only successful referendums in Australia are those that have a Prime Minister leading the argument for change. A Prime Minister has a media megaphone like no other person in our nation.
Not since Paul Keating has our nation had a Prime Minister with the necessary passion for a republic required for a successful referendum.
If republicans want a republic they need to begin setting the groundwork now and they need to support a republican candidate for Prime Minister at the next election.
There is nothing inevitable about Australia becoming a republic, so the next time you hear someone say “I’m a republican but…” pull them aside and remind them, nothing worth having ever comes easy.
The campaign needs to begin now and focus on the future.
With the right leadership, message, alliances and hard work we can build a stronger nation as an Australian Republic.