Speech at ARM Event: Roadmap for Republicans

I have been a member for the Australian Republican Movement for 17 years and like all of you in this room I want to see an Australian as our Head of State.

I don’t believe I need to convince you of the reasons why we should become a republic.

Your support tonight speaks of your beliefs.

There have been many speeches made and articles written about why we should become a republic and a multitude of views about the mechanics of how the proposal should be put to the Australian people.

But not much has been said or written about the important work that needs to occur in between now and the vote. 

There is very little focus on the campaign plan.

I have studied and been involved in political and social campaigns for close to 20 years. Every successful campaign I have been involved in had one common characteristic - a campaign plan - a clearly defined goal and more importantly what needs to be done on the way to achieve that goal.

So tonight I would like to outline my views on what we need to do as a republican movement to achieve the change - a roadmap for republicans.

I’m a Republican… but

Many times over the last decade I have heard people say “I’m a republican but…” This phrase has become the calling card of the closet republican and it is invariably followed by excuses why not to fight for our own Head of State.

Republicans need to make the case for a republic.

We are not going to change the views of non-believers by falling silent or qualifying our support for reform on a particular event or date in the future.

When Australians are questioned about their priorities, when it comes to politics the republic rates lowly. We need to make it a priority issue.

When John Howard introduced the Workchoices legislation into the Federal Parliament workplace relations did not rate in the top ten of Australians priorities.

By the time the 2007 federal election rolled around, workplace relations had become the number one issue for voters.

The union movement and the Labor Party made the case for workplace reform. They campaigned to make it a priority, they built alliances with other groups and toured the regions organising events and talks about how the new laws would affect our country. Republicans must do the same.

The Future looks brighter… as a republic

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 our head of state.

We are a leading nation of the Asia Pacific region with a multicultural society, a modern economy and a security relationship based firmly in our region. The best way to demonstrate this is to place our trust in our own citizens to perform our head of state duties and guarantee our future.

In this respect I congratulate the ARM for the Our Identity campaign. Asking our citizens to reflect on the Australian identity and our future is the right beginning for a republican push.

Don’t Damage our Democracy

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.

If we are to successfully argue for a change to the appointment of our head of state we need to explain and re-assure people that our system of day-to-day government will not change.

This requires careful language and arguments regarding the case for a republic.

The refined case should point out that our electoral, parliamentary, executive and judicial processes shall remain the same. But the duties performed by the British Monarch under our Constitution shall instead be performed by an Australian and importantly the method of appointing the head of state shall be determined at a referendum by the Australian people, not by the Parliament.

This is about Australians determining our future together, by building on our great democracy.

Avoid Monarchy Bashing

It is important to acknowledge that negative politics will not inspire Australians to think of their future and the shape of our modern nation.

Such a defining step forward would also be ill-served by attention to the road left behind.

We will not become a republic by tearing down the Monarchy.

Australians are well and truly masters of our own destiny.

We are a confident, independent nation with increasing economic social and strategic relationships in our Asia Pacific neighbourhood.

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.

Build Alliance

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. 

It has been great to see the number of ARM Facebook friends and email lists grow.

The ARM now needs to be active in establishing local groups - putting republicans in touch with each other and encouraging them to build relationships with local businesses, institutions and community groups.

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.

A Passionate PM

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.

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