Howard's Australian Republic
Simon Orme writes from Sydney
A Sydney Morning Herald/Nielson poll (1), taken late last week, indicated less than a third of the electorate supported PM Howard's proposed referendum question for an Australian republic. But over two thirds supported the so-called Mack direct election republican model - championed last week by senior Government Minister Peter Reith.
Only 24% were opposed to the direct election model, while a majority, 55%, were opposed to the politicians' republic proposed by the Australian Republican Movement and endorsed by last year's constitutional convention.
The alternative referendum wording proposed by the Parliamentary Committee, which did not specify a republican model, received 57% support with 33% opposed.
An estimated 32% of the electorate would be opposed to Australian becoming a republic.
As a result of the poll and the Committee's recommendation, Federal Cabinet is reportedly under pressure to reconsider the wording of the referendum question.
However, PM Howard, in response to a question whether he was prepared to reconsider the wording, said yesterday that "you only change something if what you've got at the moment is defective, and what we have at the moment… is not defective." (2)
This also sums up his view on the monarchy itself.
Meanwhile, today's Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported that the Treasurer, Peter Costello, remained aloof from the republican debate. It said he was also distancing himself from the Australian Republican Movement and its leader, merchant banker Malcolm Turnbull.
The AFR also indicated acrimony is already breaking out among the "yes" lobby due to the likelihood of losing the referendum.
Over the weekend there were suggestions a leading Australian sportsman would enter the fray on behalf of the "yes" lobby. But on breakfast TV this morning, he denied this saying he had yet to make up his mind on the issue.
In other words, last week's Scoop column summarising the status of the republican debate, following Peter Reith's speech, seems to have been on the money.
1) See http://www.smh.com.au/ for a full report on the opinion poll.
2) See AUS: Transcript:Howard Interview under Scoop's Australia wire for today
Simon Orme made narrow escapes from both the New Zealand Treasury and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and now lives in Sydney, attempting to make the NSW electricity sector user friendly.