THERE WERE NEVER IN THE WORLD TWO OPINIONS ALIKE

The Pet Vanity Project: Fitzsimons Wants Republic

The Pet Vanity Project: Fitzsimons Wants Republic

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We don’t currently have some nation-wide identity crisis, but Fitzsimons and his lot are so offended and caught up in this non-issue that they are trying to conjure one up, oblivious to the real-world problems we actually face.

Last night, I attended Peter Fitzsimons’ Republican seminar, and to be perfectly honest, I was utterly disappointed by both his reasoning and attitude towards the issue. Mr Fitzsimons may be one of our most accessible and popular historians and he certainly has a flair for humorous and energetic public speaking, but he failed to propose any solid reasons for why Australia has such urgent and dire need to change from our current system and any benefits such a change would bring.

Peter Fitzsimons; historian and Republic advocate

Peter Fitzsimons; historian and Republic advocate

He repeatedly referred to ‘the sense of Aussie pride’ we apparently stand to gain; because Australia must find some ‘great shame’ in our system of government which is one of the most stable in the word. A republic would also allow Australia to ‘have its own identity on a national stage’; which came as a great surprise to me, considering that the ‘Aussie way of life’ and culture is one of the most recognisable in the world. We don’t currently have some nation-wide identity crisis, but Fitzsimons and his lot are so offended and caught up in this non-issue that they are trying to conjure one up, oblivious to the real-world problems we actually face.

What he failed to mention is that his idea of a President/Governor-General would almost certainly be more divisive than he/she would be unifying…

He is a supporter of the ‘minimalist model’, which essentially removes the Queen with our Governor-General (who is our de facto head of state anyway) without really changing anything. The (few) problems he can name with our current system – such as the possibility of another Whitlam-style dismissal – will all still be there, and will arguably be more prevalent as the Governor-General/President takes on an inevitably more political role.

When asked what the practical reasons were for becoming a republic, Fitzsimons, the very Chair of the Republican Movement, could find no better reason than his rather distorted go-to ‘national pride’ reason and the fact that an Australian kid will be able to grow up and be our Governor-General. What he failed to mention is that his idea of a President/Governor-General would almost certainly be more divisive than he/she would be unifying (after all, can you imagine a ‘Riots against Reagan’-style protest against the Queen?) and that we have had an Australian-born Governor-General for more than half a century (who, as Quentin Bryce has said, ‘is in effect Australia’s Head of State’).

However, the biggest disappointment of the evening was Mr Fitzsimons’ casual disregard to the phenomenal cost of his pet vanity project. The cost will undoubtedly be in the hundreds of millions, and if the Gay-Marriage Plebiscite is anything to go off, it will be at least $500 million. That’s more than Australia spent on cancer research from 2009-2011. Fitzsimons’ argument was simply that our Collins-Class Submarines also cost a phenomenal amount, and that we a ‘wealthy country’ and can ‘afford it’. This sort of delusional logic has the effect of stating that we have so much money, we can afford to waste it on this republican inferiority complex.

That half-a-billion dollars could literally (in the actual sense of the word) be spent on anything else and make a meaningful difference to a huge number of people. In a country where we still have homeless veterans, large percentages of youth unemployment, the largest skin cancer rates in the world and remote Indigenous communities without basic amenities and healthcare, there is only so much money we can spend solving these issues, and another referendum only takes money away from where it should be spent. I’m all for chance where change is due, but becoming a republic is simply something that doesn’t benefit Australia in any tangible way.

So Peter, why don’t we move on from this largely irrelevant and inconsequential ‘issue’, and spend our time and money on something really worthwhile, something that will make the Australia we both love a better place for everyone? And while we are at it, we can give that $500 million to cancer and Alzheimer’s research, or to our struggling farmers, or towards developing a sustainable Australia. Surely we can find just as much, if not more pride in knowing that we actually made Australia a better place to live?

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