Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shallows and miseries

A post-mortem of Australian republicanism

When Queen Elizabeth paid her sixteenth official visit to Australia in October, some sage at Reuters predicted that the royal tour would “reignite debate about whether the nation should become a republic.” Seasoned students of Australian republicanism knew this would prove to be poppycock: and so it did. As things turned out, the Queen’s visit sparked much discussion of her aqua hat, and her wattle brooch. When our Prime Minister bowed to her instead of curtseying, there was some talk of whether that constituted the diplomatic equivalent of a headbutt. But the only discussions of republicanism I heard concerned how little everybody was talking about republicanism.

Australians are used to hearing predictions about a resurgence of the republican spirit. But the dog of Australian republicanism keeps failing to bark. I wonder if we need to examine the possibility that it is dead. If it isn’t, it’s certainly in a very bad way. A recent poll said that only 34% of Australians now favour a republic. Polls should always be treated with caution, but few Australians would doubt the veracity of that one. All you need to do, in order to confirm it, is stick your head out the window and listen to the sound of silence. Nobody talks about the republic any more. And this is an age when people are ready to talk and tweet and blog about pretty much anything ... [read more]