It will be a shameful day for Australia if it does not change its Constitution to both prohibit racial discrimination and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The proposed changes are, individually, both worthy and overdue. But together they become complex enough to threaten the success of any referendum.
The recommendations are to remove the “race power” section, prohibit racial discrimination, but allow positive discrimination “for the purpose of overcoming disadvantage, ameliorating the effects of past discrimination or protecting the cultures, languages or heritage of any group”, to recognise indigenous Australians in the Constitution itself (rather than in a preamble), and to acknowledge indigenous languages.
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Australia has its own identity, there is no question of that. What it doesn’t have, while we have this umbilical cord link to a foreign power, is its own unambiguous Australian identity.
Try to explain Australia’s current arrangements to an Indian or a Greek person and you can see them struggling to keep a straight face.
One of Australia’s most distinguished diplomats, the former Indonesian Ambassador Richard Woolcott, once wrote that when Australian diplomats are received at official functions overseas, the anthem that is played is ‘God Save the Queen’ and the Queen is toasted at the end as head of state.
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If they weren’t busy washing their hair, watching paint dry or rubbing lard on the cat’s boil, more Australians would have got along to the small soiree in Canberra earlier this month to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the failed republican referendum.
The event was entitled “Ten years on, it’s time to mend the nation’s heart”, taking its cue from Malcolm Turnbull’s pointed referendum night sledge against his eventual boss, Prime Minister John Howard, over his allegedly sinister role in skewering the yes vote.
A small ceremony was held on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra – Canberra being a terrifically appropriate choice as, from all the states and territories, the ACT was on its own in voting yes - where a statement was read urging both sides of politics to revisit the case for constitutional change.
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We forget to consult history at our peril.
It is very relevant to the Rudd Government’s latest assault on the sovereignty of the people – that is the proposal of its hand picked committee, headed by Father Frank Brennan, to impose upon them a charter of rights masquerading under the title of a Human Rights Act.
The last time Labor tried for a bill of rights it was by way of a Constitutional amendment to insert a mini bill of rights with the aim of continual enlargement.
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Yesterday we blew the froth off a couple in honour of our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, and observed her birthday with a package of pieces on the republic which, overall, concluded there appears to be no mass groundswell for another crack at constitutional reform.
Even the republicans are worried that our pollies are simply waiting for the Queen to die so that the issue can somehow resolve itself. Follow the links below to read the pieces.
The losers in 1999 have the utter gall to demand we abandon our oldest public holiday celebrating our oldest institution, one central to our Westminster system.
On almost every Queen’s Birthday republicans usually rush into the media. This year they’re saying putting republicanism on the political agenda will help the nation recover from the recession. Without a scintilla of evidence, they say the growing interest in Anzac Day is because of republican sentiment.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. In the nineties they were saying a republic would overcome unemployment, improve trade, free artistic talent, increase immigration, and enhance our standing in Asia.
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The republic debate has evolved since 1999. Traditional approaches to the question still have bite, including general arguments for or against monarchy/republic as well as the nationalist appeal of a republic in Australia and the cost to the public purse of constitutional change.
But the recent Senate hearings into Senator Bob Brown’s bill to hold a republic plebiscite at the time of the next election displayed a number of new developments.
The inevitable first new aspect of the debate has been about the meaning of the 1999 referendum result. An important thread of monarchist argument, often tried in letters to the editor, has been that the matter has been decided because the people have spoken. Republicans have had their chance and should abandon their cause.
Here’s the worst political ad ever made in Australia:
It’s not a very good version, I know. It’s grainy, and the words don’t line up properly.
But you get the general idea: the two worst prime ministers of our modern history, delivering a boring and patronising monologue about something which should have been exciting and inclusive.
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Slack-jawed Queenslanders from Logan, Roma and Warwick, brooding hermits in remote South Australian hamlets who can’t explain the sudden disappearance of their parents, Tasmanians who get on a bit too well with their cousins…stand aside the lot of you.
As of this weekend’s referendum, Western Australia is officially the most backward state in Australia. The state that’s synonymous with sun has embraced darkness for an extraordinary third time, with a majority of sandgropers siding with the cows and the curtains to reject the devilish communist plot known as daylight savings.
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