Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Turnbull, honours and the irrelevance of the republican debate

The decision to once again abolish knights and dames from the Australian honours system came in the form of a very short press statement:  "The Cabinet recently considered the Order of Australia, in this its 40th anniversary year, and agreed that Knights and Dames are not appropriate in our modern honours system." Later, the PM amplified his position in a brief doorstop comment.
PRIME MINISTER: Knights and dames. Look, can I say to you, I'm glad you’re, yeah ok, knights and dames. Look it is a long way from being the most important issue in Australia today. But it is a change as you know, removing knights and dames from the Australian Honour System has been, is a decision the Cabinet has taken. Her Majesty's agreed to amend the Letters Patent which are essentially the rules of the Order of Australia and this reflects modern Australia, knights and dames are titles that are really anachronistic. They're out of date, they’re not appropriate, in 2015, in Australia. Thank you very much.
Tim Mayfield from the Australian Republican Movement gloated,  
Goodbye knights, hello possums: The republican dividend in the honours debacle
seeing it as an opportunity to re-start the republican cause. Monarchist David Flint took a different view
Well I was not surprised that this should be the first significant policy change of the Turnbull Government. The change of government of course was hardly to do with any policy problems, it was more about personal ambition...... I've no doubt that Mr Turnbull wishes to impose a Republic - a politicians Republic on Australia at some time when he deems that he thinks that it would be victorious.
I was surprised not so much at the decision as its form and timing. It wasn't necessary at this point since new appointments can only be made on the Government's recommendation. It did continue the process of distancing Mr Turnbull from Mr Abbott, but also reinforces suspicions that many Australians have about Mr Turnbull.

It is no secret that I support Australia's current system of government. I am frankly puzzled by the deep often a-historical views held by certain groups who support the republican cause. They seem to be still fighting old wars that didn't actually make a lot of sense at the time. I think that this helps explain the virulence, as well as the continued sense of disappointment when the broader public dismisses their views.

I don't think any of this matters a great deal, except to the degree that shows light on continued confusions about Australia's history. Australia is not going to become a republic any time soon. There are frailties in the current constitutional system that may make a republic inevitable in the longer term. But no system survives for ever.

Perhaps ironically, the confusions and debates in the broader Australian community are reshaping the narrative among Aboriginal activists. I haven't attempted to write about this yet, although I have referred to it in passing from time to time. For the moment, one element might be summarised as boat people go home !    


2 tanners said...

The movement and the timing surprised everyone, I think. However, the unpopularity of the Abbott move and Turnbull's artfully crafted statement - decision of Cabinet, change approved by the Queen, no direct mention of MT himself - not only distanced him from knights and dames, but also from captain's calls. I thought it was pretty clever, all up.

I agree that the monarchists AND the republicans are fighting last century's least important war. I suggest they all dress up in armour (cavalier and roundhead respectively), join the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and spend their weekends pummelling each other and not their keyboards.

Jim Belshaw said...

I agree that MT distanced himself from captains call and TA, but it will still be seen as an MT move. Had to laugh at the SCA! Wish I had the skills to photo shop. I could do something with your analogy!