THE LAST OF THE R-WORD |
By Samela Harris, The Advertiser, Nov 5th, 1999
One last sleep and then it will all be over. Won't we be glad to see the last of the R-word. Let alone the assorted associations which have emerged from "yes" and "no", those little words with big consequences. Is there anything left to be said on the subject of the referendum? Yes and no.
They say that there are people who will not make up their minds on the republican issue until they are faced with the ballot paper. I suppose there are some who will defile the ballot, since they simply don't care. Wasted votes at a crucial time. You can lead Aussies to the ballot but you can't make them vote.
Of course, when it is all boiled down, it does not matter how vocal one has been on the issue, how rich and powerful one is, it is still one person, one vote. This is where the people's will comes into play - whether we like it or not.
So, Janet Holmes a Court's yes vote will even out Kerry Jones's no vote. Both leading lights for pro and con. And so it will go down the campalgn line until the real margins appear from the silent majority. Many have been convinced by the monarchists they are out of their depth with all that complicated constitutional business so the only choice is "if you don't know, vote no"
It has been odd hearing the no campaigners, be they monarchists or the direct electionists, referring to the yes people as "elitist".
One would always have thought of monarchists as being the ones with elitist tendencies - all that royalty business, fancy frocks, knighthoods, curtseys, garden parties. Republicans traditionally are the other side of that value system - they are people's people.
But within the context of this ferocious debate, the monarchists have tried to draw attention away from their own colonial cravings towards the glory of the crown, aristocracy, and Guv House functions, and have subverted the word "elitist" to attack education.
Education has been one of the strengths of the yes team. And, of course, there is the old ocker knocker syndrome which decries education as "poofter". So it was an intelligent tactic for the monarchists to use to get their message down to the grass roots of which they are so proud.
Not that the monarchists are without education. Their head honcho, Kerry Jones, for instance, is no slouch. I interviewed her twice durihg the course of campaign and, frankly, I was impressed. I did not agree with her, but I liked her.
I have been a republican since Britain entered the Common Market. I made this clear to Kerry when we met. She trusted my journalistic ethics and later was civilised enough to acknowledge her satisfaction in my representation. For, rather as in war, Kerry Jones and I, from opposite sides of the fence, felt mutual respect.
In parting I suggested that, while I could not wish luck to her cause, I did believe that she might make a good candidate as president. "No way" she cried. She is a no-woman all the way. And a good one. It is my hope that following the acrimony of the debates and whatever the outcome of tomorrow, the yes and no sides will treat each other with ongoing tolerance and greater respect.
My fondness for other opponents to my cause, for people like Kym Bonython, Jeremy Cordeaux, Dame Ruby Litchfield, is not going to be tainted by this debate. We share this country under whatever system. We are a wonderfully diverse people and the day we all agree will be armageddon. The referendum de bate has brought us out fired with feisty arguments, a country passionately concerned with its identity. This has been wholesome. As much as it has polarised, so has it brought people together.
When the polls are counted, the victors must not preen over the spoils. When the polls are counted, the process is ended - and we must get on with life.
I hope for a yes result, but I am not too optimistic. I believe that the country will lose face in the world and that something of its spirit will shrivel up if it cannot go forward with the times. I will be sad. I will not stop loving Australla- just as I have never stopped loving dear old England, my home for 11 years. None of my feelings will change - just as nothing in Australla will have changed with a no outcome.
The big downside will be trying to explain to overseas people that, even though 33 of the 54 Common wealth nations are republics and five more have their own monarchies, Australla is hanging on to Mother England and the Queen as our Head of State. So, if no's the answer, I will tell the world that, try as she might, the Queen's not getting rid of us. We're the big kid who won't leave home.
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