According to an Age/Nielsen poll getting some airing this morning, support for Australia becoming a Republic has plummeted:
An Age/Nielsen poll taken earlier this month shows support for a republic is now running at 44 per cent. This is the lowest level since 1994, and well down from the peak of 57 per cent in 1999, the year the question was tested in a national referendum.
The national poll of 1400 people found almost half (48 per cent) are now against the idea. Such a level of hostility has not been recorded since the late 1970s, when about 61 per cent were against a republic.
I wonder what the question was. I want us to have a republic, but I’d rather the status quo to a direct election model. (Our recent election was presidential enough – we don’t need a Head of State representing one party.) So depending on what then question was, I might have responded with a “no”.
Before the referendum, people probably answered “yes” to the republic question in polls because we thought it’d be a fairly straightforward matter replacing the British Queen with an Australian – but now we’ve been through such a divisive referendum, with no model gaining even close to majority support, it’s not surprising we’re no longer so confident. And, hence, that we’d prefer to leave things be till for the moment. In some ways, so am I – I’m sufficiently disturbed by the direct election model to prefer no movement to movement in a direction which might result in such a step backwards. I’d vote for a minimalist model like the 2/3rds one Keating proposed, but I’m realistic enough to know that it won’t be offered again for a long time – and that even if it was, it’s too easy to destroy by demonising it to the ignorant as a “politicians’ republic” (even though it’s much less likely to result in a politician president than direct election).
The only tragedy here is that the electorate is ignorant enough of our actual parliamentary system that they can fall for lies like the “politicians’ republic” campaign. But the only way to counter that is with better civics education. And we’ve been waiting for that even longer than we’ve been waiting for a republic.