The republic referendum – 20 years on
‘A socialist’s republic’ by Humphrey McQueen
November 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the unsuccessful referendum on whether Australia should become a republic. Strange that such an important issue should have lain dormant for so long.
To mark the occasion we present Humphrey McQueen’s article ‘A socialist’s republic’ which originally appeared in ‘Republics of Ideas’ a collection of essays edited by Brad Buckley and John Conomos in 2001. The article is republished here with their kind permission.
The republic referendum was soundly defeated with the ACT the only jurisdiction voting in favour. Yet at the time, public opinion polls showed a majority of Australians supported a republic. So why did the referendum fail? Many would argue that the Yes campaign, headed by Malcolm Turnbull, foolishly split the Yes vote by insisting that Australia’s head of state should be chosen by Parliament rather than by direct election. This was a very divisive issue with memories of the Whitlam dismissal still fresh in the minds of many voters.
In his article Humphrey McQueen suggests that republicans would continue to vote No as long as the elected president retained the power to dismiss an elected government – which is precisely what the Turnbull-led Yes campaign wanted.
Link to the article here.