By Samela Harris, The Advertiser, Nov 3rd, 1999

The eyes of the world are upon us. The BBC is headlining the referendum as "Australia Decides". The British and their media are preening and sniping as they wait for a people they generally revile to hang on to the apron strings of the monarchy.

Asian nations with sour memories of colonialism listen incredulously to the reports of how Australia is tearing itself apart on the republican debate. Americans find the whole thing just so quaint.

Ironically, if you tell an American that the Queen is Australia's Head of State, they will believe you. Tell that to an Australian and they will argue `til they are blue in the face. They seem to think it's the governor-general and the no campaign has allowed this absurd furphy to be perpetuated - because it suits the cause.

Just as It suits their cause to say they don't want politicians in charge of electing their Head of State. When will they clue up? The governor-general is absolutely and exclusively selected by politicians. By ONE politician, the prime mInister. It's the ultimate crony's perk. The PM doesn't have to consult anyone. Bob Hawke described his appointment of his "good mate Bill Hayden". He gave the position as a gift.

And yet the no voters say they don't want politicians to make this decision. They say that the opportunity for any Aussie anywhere to nominate any other laudable Aussie is not fair and open? They say that a screening committee made up of fellow Aussies who hone down the nominations and present a final three to the PM and parliament is more political than the present system? And that the approval by two thirds of the elected politicians is still not democratic enough? They'd rather have a dollar-driven presidential race - for a position which is fundamentally honorific? They would like distinguished Australians to become politicians and enter a cut-throat competition for the job?

This thinking defies logic.

It is my belief that people who say they are republicans but are voting no are not republicans.

Republicans want a republic. They do not want an interminable game. Let's be clear about one thing. There will not be another crack at becoming a republic in the foreseeable future. If we don't take the chance now, we are done, finished, gone, all over. There is no more time for prevarication. Yes means yes. Yes means a new millennium begun with fresh vigor and a sense of pride.

No, which the no voters say is what you should decide if you still can't get your head around the blindingly obvious, will result in this country sinking into a spiritual malaise. The direct electionists, those perverse people who would rather bring the whole thing down than not have their preferred model, will be the ones to carry the can. And, Just say we have their model - a direct election of a new politician for a ceremonial role - then what about the Constitution which they think is being corrupted by a few word replacements? The very people who baulk at minor changes to the Constitution are, in fact, seeking a system which will require a complete upending of the Constitution - because direct election simply is not the Westminster system.

I could go on and on. Like most of the country, I am feeling passionate and immensely frustrated with the obtuseness of my fellow Australians. I have listened to some terrible rubbish from them. Hysterical scaremongering.

Change does require adjustments. It is not easy. Growing up is change. It is not easy. But it has advantages. We become wiser. We understand more. The thing is that change is inevitable. It also is natural.

lf we do not change and grow up as a nation, we will be left behind, clinging to the past like Linus to his blanket in the Peanuts cartoon. The way it's going now, Saturday will be yesterday's day. And if not Peanuts, the world will think we're just nuts.

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