Referendum Down Under

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Mon Nov 8 20:03:50 MST 1999

Things went very much as planned last weekend. As per usual Australia won at
the sport and lost at the politics. Thus the Wallabies took out the Rugby World
Cup and the referendum to set up a Republic was defeated. For Prime Minister
John Howard, the man who strangled the Republic at birth, there is the distinct
advantage that the glow of success from the sporting field will overshadow the
disaster in the political domain.  It is true though that, like all
substitutions and consolations for this vale of sorrow, our ability to bask in
the reflected glory of John Eales and his mighty men will fade.  But not to
worry the Olympics is round the corner and there are sure to be many moments
when once more our hearts will swell with pride and joy and the feeling that
God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world. Sport then for Australians
will continue to be the rose in the cross of the present and the heart of a
heartless world.
Why though did the Republic fail? It is inconceivable that a modern nation like
Australia would vote *for* the Windsor family.  Not only does the Queen and her
brood represent the feudal, they are also a walking and a living scandal in
terms of their venality, and their moral and spiritual corruption. The very
fact of the Windsors and their ilk is enough to make one long for the Old Gods
to ascend and wreak revenge on humanity. I cannot believe that the people of
Australia gave the British Royal Family a positive endorsement.  Now I know
that the champagne corks are popping in Buckingham Palace and I have just heard
that a new Royal Tour of Australia has been announced for March 2000.  But I
will not agree with the media idiot who said, ‘The workers stayed with the
Windsors’. However it is true that the working class voted no, and we need to
understand why.
What has occurred is in many ways a re-run of the 1996 defeat of the Keating
Labor Government.  Thirteen years of the ALP in power brought about permanent
high unemployment, job insecurity and a massive increase in exploitation on the
job. As a consolation for this, the workers were offered cultural and
constitutional modernisation. Keating in fact began the current push for a
republic. However the working class rejected modernisation and voted for a
return to the past.  Quite simply Howard fooled them here by promising
security.  In reality through his labor reform agenda he has speeded up the
process that Labor had started.
So the workers of Australia are trapped. All political parties have endorsed
the politics of neo-liberalism. No one is offering them other than ‘reform’,
that is blood, sweat and tears. Accordingly the workers have fallen back on the
resentful prerogative of saying ‘no’ to the modernisers who care nothing about
their suffering. I do not rate this refusal very highly for it is true that the
workers will only become hegemonic and dangerous when they say ‘yes’ to a
socialist alternative to neo-liberalism. But for the moment the ‘no’ must
It is also a comfort to note that the Republican camp could not arouse the
enthusiasm of the working class. For who were these republicans?  Their leader
was Malcolm Turnbull, barrister, merchant banker and multi-millionaire. Also
prominent were Rupert Murdoch, American and non-tax-paying capitalist, and a
host of minor Tories such as Amanda Vanstone and Malcolm Fraser. That such
filth cannot lead a popular movement is a wholly good thing. So although I
voted ‘yes’ to the republic and although I also am for cultural and
constitutional modernisation, I understand those who said ‘no’  to a vision of
a republic which would not have improved their lives.

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