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THE REPUBLIC QUESTION
We will know when the time is right for change
These past weeks have seen a flurry of opinions expressed about the monarchy and the republic – from one extreme to the other and everything in between – along with just as much variety of opinions about Indigenous history, from treaties and Voices to the more mundane naming of public buildings.
In The Age alone, there appears to be no common ground or distinct “public opinion”. Multiply this across the country, including among the vast numbers who access no daily newspaper, and it is clear there is not one common view about Australia, what it is and what it should be.
If there is no generally held belief about what changes should occur, we should not make significant changes. The time for change will occur when and if a common feeling develops – what 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau might have called “the general will” and what today we might describe as “public opinion”.
When there is a groundswell for change, we will know it and we can then act to implement it. Until then, let’s have quiet discussion, not loud public campaigns.
Pam Cupper, Dimboola
Keep the campaign simple
Back in 1954, I lined up, like most Australians, to cheer Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as they cruised by in a Land Rover. We were pleased to have such famous visitors.
That was then, but this now. These days, I am grown up, and so is Australia. Today, I am a republican and can think of no good reason why we have a head of state from another country.
The coming debate about whether or not Australia should become a republic will give monarchists the opportunity to show us why they believe we should not. But they won’t because they can’t; there is no logical reason. Instead, they will fight to retain this anachronism by instilling confusion and uncertainty.
Republican leaders must be prepared, present a clear and simple plan and utilise the KISS formula: Keep it Simple, Stupid. Do this and Australians will vote “Yes”. If not, you give monarchists the ammunition they crave; doubt, confusion, complication and misunderstanding, just as in 1999, and with the same result.
Ian Braybrook, Castlemaine
A steady hand that unifies across so many divides
As a long-standing supporter of Australia becoming a republic, I’ve been watching the wide wave of emotion at the death of the Queen, and unexpectedly feeling it myself.
It makes me wonder what that is all about. It’s the loss of a long-standing symbol of belonging to something that is above the government of the day – more like love of country. How that allegiance is translated across the Commonwealth is bewildering but perhaps it is a substitute for the shift away from a God-driven rationale as a raison d’être to one that still binds us above party politics.
It has us all quietly longing for that steady hand that unifies across so many divides, that grabs loyalty, commitment and emotion, and now has me asking how I’d feel about a replacement as our head of state with a republican president, about whom I couldn’t give a fig.
Carolyn Ingvarson, Canterbury
It boils down to two questions
Your correspondents who favour remaining a constitutional monarchy are reverting to the John Howard ploy of splitting republicans on the question of direct election of a president. Australians need to answer two questions.
First: are we mature enough to function as a responsible, fully independent country?
Second: if the first answer is yes, would we like to retain the current Westminster system of government with a titular Australian head of state or would we prefer an American-style presidential arrangement?
Any decisions on the republic must be made in two parts.
James Young, Mount Eliza
A hope for understanding
Bravo and congratulations to Tiwi Islander Dennis Tipakalippa (“‘The happiest man alive’: Tiwi Islander wins over Santos”, The Age, 22/9).
Too often mining companies (consider the damage caused at the Juukan Gorge) have no respect for the cultural and spiritual values of First Nations people. In the case of the Tiwi Islands one needs to add the marine environment both as a food and life support system.
One hopes the decision by the Federal Court for Santos to stop drilling at its gas project will be a lesson for all fossil fuel companies to have a greater understanding and distinguish the difference between a commercial enterprise and something that is ancient and belongs to the soul.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading
Stuck in no-man’s land
Your correspondent observes that a “growing polarisation in Australian society between those who think they know best and those who are sick and tired of being lectured to” is manifesting itself in various “culture wars” (“Republic battle”, Letters, 22/9).
Absolutely apt. From issues of a republic and the Voice to Parliament, to the renaming of a hospital, the lines are drawn between those mocked as woke, virtue-signalling progressives, or damned as hard-hearted, ignorant conservatives. And woe betide anyone who through conscientious exploration and consideration, appreciates the positives and pitfalls of either position. They will be damned and mocked by both sides of the culture conflict as inhabiting “no-man’s land”.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
It seems to be catching
The royalist virus has hit Australian Labor leaders.
First, the prime minister is struck down and, in the delirium, declares a public holiday to mark the death of the British monarch with complete disregard for the small businesses, tradespeople and the economy of Australia.
Then the Victorian premier succumbs and without consultation with the affected people decides on the renaming of a hospital with the perfectly good Indigenous name Maroondah to record the death of a British monarch, whose forebears had in the not-too-distant past inflicted dreadful carnage among the Indigenous peoples of Australia.
God save Australia.
Gert Fengler, Bentleigh
Easier said than done
Ross Gittins rightly says it’s “time we cared about renters” (“Home owner dreams float away”, Comment, 21/9).
Easier said than done: it’s not clear how he proposes to change our attitudes to achieve his ideal. There’s not much evidence of reduction in the desire for home ownership, in spite of its increasing unaffordability.
Is Gittins saying he’d prefer to improve conditions for renters, or actually enable them to afford to buy? That’s the dilemma: improving rental conditions is unlikely to remove the long-term aim of ownership.
As others have noted, we’re victims of our own good fortune in having enough space until now to allow the housing market to prioritise low-density ownership sprawl over higher-density rental development.
Our cities are already showing the strains on infrastructure, amenity and community services that could be more efficiently provided at higher density.
Things are unlikely to change unless both potential renters and buyers can see the benefits.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale
An ill-conceived waste
The Suburban Rail Loop is an ill-conceived, irresponsible waste of taxpayer funds and the state Coalition is right to point out the folly of proceeding with this project when the state is desperate for funds for health and education.
The business case was always flimsy, depending on whimsical assumptions and magical thinking (“Suburban Rail Loop’s benefits could be overstated”, The Age, 22/9). In stubbornly refusing to admit error, Labor is likely to continue to tip unconscionable amounts of money over decades into this bottomless pit, to the detriment of us all.
When Labor wins in November, this will not be an “endorsement” of this project but simply a confirmation of just how hapless the Coalition has become as an opposition in this state.
Peter Barry, Marysville
Watch the wording
Having, as a young soldier, presented arms as the beloved Queen Elizabeth drove past in 1954, I have long pondered the dilemma of a republic v an absentee monarchy, trying to decide which would be in the best interest of our society.
The stumbling block, to me, is who would choose the figurehead for a republican system. Our two-party system is, in theory, the best way to have timely decisions made on major issues for our society, but both our major political groups are morally bankrupt as they ignore society’s needs and focus instead on the political game, factions fighting for position and power and individuals for their future prospects in the parliamentary system.
We in the seat of Indi saw the birth and development of a system of independents focused on solving society’s problems instead of personal gain.
John Howard ensured, by selection of the questions, that the previous referendum on a republic would fail, so the wording of any future referendum must be decided by non-politicians and any head of state must be selected by the full parliament or, preferably, by a non-political committee.
Ian Jackson, Yackandandah
It doesn’t add up
Jake Niall (“Brownlow’s midfield heroes, key-back zeros”, Sport, 21/9) well describes several ways the Brownlow falls far short of choosing the best AFL player.
One other way is the ridiculous 3, 2, 1 voting pattern that implies the one who get three votes played 50per cent better than the one who gets two votes and a whopping three times better than the player given one vote.
Gail Greatorex, Ormond
Build on their strengths
Chris Bonnor is spot on with his request for a complete change to our unfair school system (“Our unfair school system is bottom of the class”, Comment, 21/9).
I would go further and suggest an even bigger change – to our curriculum. With some oversimplification, currently our curriculum is designed to find the most suitable people for highly sought-after jobs to feed the needs of our consumer society. It is highly prescriptive, competitive and ensures that many students in the educational process feel inadequate or unworthy.
A better objective for our education system would be to assist all young people answer the question “who am I?”
This new approach could start with some different, but not new, ideas around education. First, start with the strengths students bring to the table – curiosity, diversity and their own lived experience.
If our education system builds on the strengths all young people possess and creates more confident, happier people in the process, our current utilitarian goals will be met comfortably.
Howard Tankey, Box Hill North
What a cop out
So the authorities have decided it is no longer necessary to wear masks on public transport. Instead their use will now be “strongly recommended” but not mandated (“Mask rule lifts on trams, trains”, The Age, 22/9).
What a cop out. In my experience, their use has never been seriously enforced and this move is just an acknowledgment that we have given up. If people refused to wear them when they were obliged to, how many will do so now that it is optional?
Dave Rabl, Ocean Grove
Politics won’t be the same
Thank you, Shaun Micallef, and all your wonderful, zany, daft, insightful and downright wacky characters. And here’s to the marvellous cast, each in their own way absolutely nailing it.
Politics and Wednesdays will not be the same without all of you.
A job well done.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East
A crucial difference
Lucy Cane’s piece (“Education on US quirks vital to a republic vote”, Comment, 22/9) misses the main point. The president of the United States is a head of government as well as the head of state.
How many of those in favour of electing the president of an Australian republic could explain what necessarily follows from this crucial difference?
Andrew Linden, Malvern East
On the right track
The Greens and crossbenchers are right to question tax-break incentives for hybrid cars (“Bid to exclude hybrids from EV tax breaks”, The Age, 21/9).
Just as gas may be a lesser emitter than coal, hybrids may be better than fuel engines, but, environmentally, electric cars powered by renewable energy are the clear winner. Our rapidly changing climate doesn’t allow us time to explore the halfway house. All policies and associated subsidies need to commit firmly to the end goal of net-zero emissions.
Amy Hiller, Kew
Put it to a vote
If the people of any area of the world want to secede from one country and either go it alone or join another, they should be allowed to do so based on a democratic process.
The UN should offer Russia and Ukraine an internationally supervised and verified referendum in east Ukraine. Borders are artificial human constructs, not sacrosanct and not worthy of any bloodshed, let alone nuclear annihilation.
Ralph Bohmer, St Kilda West
Remember where it started
Though they are now known as the Sydney Swans, let’s not forget the club’s origins in South Melbourne. It’s disappointing there is no support from the City of Port Phillip in the form of street decoration, for example, when the Swans progress to the finals.
I realise the council headquarters is in the St Kilda Town Hall but why not illuminate the South Melbourne Town Hall in red and white? There are still many local supporters as evidenced by the numbers who go to Sydney for significant games and those who decorate their houses and fences in the colours.
Lee Palmer, Albert Park
AND ANOTHER THING
Instead of the controversial naming of an entire hospital, how about the Queen Elizabeth ward?
John Cain, McCrae
Premier Daniel Andrews’ proposed renaming of Maroondah Hospital competes majestically with Tony Abbott’s knighthood for Prince Philip.
Rob Hocart, Tyabb
Changing Maroondah Hospital’s name might have worked 50 years ago.
Bill Burns, Bendigo
Come on, Dan, admit you made an error and retract your crazy decision to rename the hospital.
Kate McCaig, Surrey Hills
It’s not that Daniel Andrews is so good, it’s that Matthew Guy is so bad (“Voters shun Guy, giving ALP the edge”, The Age, 22/9).
Les Aisen, Elsternwick
War in Ukraine
When Vladimir Putin’s only meaningful supporter, Xi Jinping, is calling for a ceasefire the game is up. Murray Horne, Cressy
Vladimir Putin’s threat of nuclear war must surely justify the United Nations rescinding Russia’s permanent Security Council position and power of veto. The UN should hold a vote accordingly.
Merryn Boan, Brighton
Does Penny Wong really believe that Vladimir Putin could care less about what she has to say?
Reg Murray, Glen Iris
After watching the funeral ceremony in London, it is clear that many Britons have very sophisticated dress-up cupboards. Presumably, they’ll prove useful for the coronation also.
Dennis Richards, Cockatoo
Gough Whitlam would be turning in his grave, Anthony Albanese and Daniel Andrews.
Tony Murphy, Williamstown
No sanction would be too harsh for the Hawthorn Football Club if these allegations are found to be true.
Brian Morley, Donvale
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