When you believe something’s important it’s great to get an opportunity to speak about it. So thank you….

And if I unexpectedly burst into song please forgive me… it’s just very exciting to be up here with two other women. That doesn’t happen in my normal work life…

One woman on a sports panel is rare, more than one – well let’s just say there’s more chance of Melbourne winning a premiership. In the next decade. Or Tony Abbott joining Greenpeace. And converting to Buddhism.

Okay down to business – No matter how we dress this up -the simple question is – in 2014, in modern, multicultural Australia, should we have an Australian or a foreign head of state?

For me it’s like being asked would I prefer a glass of Penfolds Bin 389 or a glass of flat warm beer?

Surely a country that produced the bionic ear, x-ray crystallography and penicillin-based anti-biotics is grown up enough to stand on its own two feet? It’s certainly smart enough.

We need to ask a few more questions – how do we see ourselves? What do we represent? What’s our culture and identity and how do we feel as a country?

Are we comfortable with the idea of somebody, who lives a very different life to most of us, being linked to our affairs? Isn’t there a principle at stake?

Let’s grow up and embrace our future – how can unifying and strengthening our sense of identity be such a bad thing?

This comes down to how we feel about change – because the question of whether we want true independence is surely a no-brainer.

Sometimes we can be led to believe that it’s safer to just do as we are told and not rock the boat – even if that boat sailed in more than couple of hundred years ago.

Change is important for us to evolve. It requires vision, courage, tenacity and perseverance.

Henry Lawson, like so many 19th century republicans wrote about the “inevitable republic” in “A Song of the Republic”.

Sons of the South, aroused at last…
Free from the wrongs of the North and Past
The land that belongs to you.

Here we are some 130 years later – and we’re not truly independent. We haven’t let go.

It’s all a little bit embarrassing.

Change doesn’t have to happen at the speed of continental drift.

How totally absurd it is that we don’t have an Australian head of state. Our children should be able to aspire to that position. Just as they can to be Prime Minister.

I grew up with two bold ambitions – to play netball for Australia and become the country’s first woman prime minister.

I didn’t reach either goal (literally in the first case and having watched Julia’s Gillard’s period in office closely I’m not sure I would have had thick enough skin for the job).

We need someone who can speak, not just for us, but as one of us, who can lead important national conversations – and with an accent from these shores.

A woman or man selected on merit.

Let’s face it – our constitution, on this matter, doesn’t reflect our democratic and egalitarian values.

There are people amongst us, probably not in this room, who swear allegiance to the Queen ahead of their country.

Who could possibly think this is ok?

Well the people who think this is a great idea believe in birthright above merit. And bonus points if you’re a boy. They take delight in Dames and Knights and castles and carriages.

Becoming a republic is not about disrespecting our past. It’s not about burying the British features of our identity.It’s not about trashing our traditions, institutions, court or parliamentary systems.

It’s about us not them!

To quote Paul Keating:

“An Australian republic is not an act of rejection, but one of recognition…our deepest respect is for an Australian heritage…our deepest responsibility is to Australia’s future.”

The debate must be about the future of Australian society, not about the future of the British royal family, no matter how gorgeous the third in line to the throne is.

What does it mean to be Australian?

This conversation needs to be played out in our homes, schools, workplaces, pubs, at the footy, everywhere we gather.

We’re a multicultural society.

Waves of migrants from many different cultures call Australia home.

Our diversity is one of our strengths. Though some people need constant reminding of this.

As the daughter of Stavros Pippos and Athena Koufalakis I’m well qualified to speak about this topic today.

We Greeks know a thing or two about republicanism because we invented it.

The Romans copied us – but that’s nothing new!

Athens and Sparta were “Classical Republics”.

Plato and Aristotle wrote about it.

Is there anything we Greeks didn’t invent?

Ok austerity.

Only a Republic can embody our cultural diversity.

We have evolving relationships with Asia and the Pacific.

And most of us have a strong desire for reconciliation with Indigenous Australians.

Our Indigenous heritage dates back long before the First Fleet.

It’s time to recognise the rightful place of Indigenous Australians in our history.

A move to a republic would provide a good platform for us as a nation to address the deep-rooted social and economic disadvantages that prevent Indigenous Australians from having the same quality of life as the rest of us.

We all know the statistics. And they are shameful.

So what stands in our way of becoming a republic?

The tabloids, would like us to think it’s the popularity of the younger royals.

Our job as republicans is to cut through all the celebrity hoopla and remind people of what it would mean for our country to be fully and unambiguously independent with an Australian head of state.

Yes, the young royals are photogenic and eager to please but what does it all really mean? The royal family itself has been around a long time and although it is strongly opposed to change it does have a remarkable ability to re-invent itself – and to market itself. It also understands the need to do so.

Who doesn’t love a cute baby?

I certainly do. I have one about the same age as George. In pictures they even look similar – apart from the bodyguards, 43 nannies and designer overalls. But liking pleasant people who occasionally wear crowns and robes doesn’t mean I want them associated with my constitution – no matter what happened a long time ago.

This has nothing to do with disrespecting the Queen. I want my son to grow up in an Australian republic – a country that welcomes royals when they visit – but doesn’t fawn and obsess about them and doesn’t have one of them as our head of state.

Does having a republic mean that we suddenly lose all our history and friendship with Britain – absolute nonsense – of course we won’t.

Young Australians will still make the pilgrimage to Earls Court and pink-skinned backpackers will still get caught in rips off Bondi.

There will still be work visas applied for and the two-way cultural exchange will long continue. We will marry them, make fun of them and they will marry and make fun of us.

They will still be Poms.

I have one at home myself – VERY English and fiercely in favour of an Australian republic.

We’ll still take special pleasure in winning the Ashes and beating them in any kind of sport. That’s not going to change.

Does this mean the end of our participation in the Commonwealth games? No, of course not. That would only happen if we decided to not take part.

And what about during troubled times – during war? Would Britain still be an ally?

We are certainly living in very troubled times – but we do share many of the same values and sensibilities as Britain. Britain will always be a good friend and ally – But really when it comes to help and alliances in these sorts of circumstances it’s no secret, post WW2, that we are tightly nestled up to Uncle Sam.

Speaking of which, America is a republic and so is France and Germany and India and Brazil and Switzerland and on and on – and my point here is that not all republics are as shambolic and bankrupt as monarchists would have us believe.

The People’s Republic of Moreland is another fine example.

To become a republic – we need a vote – and the cost of this should not act as a deterrent. Important decisions are all part and parcel of democratic process. This is money well spent!

The ARM model is right.

The first question we need to agree on is do we want a truly independent country with an Australian head of state? Yes or no? The selection method of our head of state should come after that, followed by a referendum.

Australia, we are a grown up and assured country, now is the time to let go of the hand of Mother England. We can walk tall without assistance.

But we must be unified in this cause. Now is the time to reignite the push and I applaud the ARM for stepping up its campaign.

Societies evolve – often too slowly for my liking – but they change. Our values and ideals change with them.

Our constitution has been amended over the years – not too many times – but it has happened. It’s ridiculous to be chained to a strict set of rules written with a pot of ink and a quill feather.

It needs to be modernised again to reflect the independent, multicultural nation we are today.

Is that such a terrifying idea?

When Australia becomes a republic that will be a defining moment in our history.

The world will keep turning. Life will continue on as it always has. For the rest of the planet it won’t mean that much – but for us it will be the start of a new chapter. It will mean something.

Our children and their children, the Sons and Daughters of the South, will look back on this time as a key factor in the shaping of THEIR modern Australia.

Thank you.


Posted Aug 30, 09:11 PM in Articles . Permanent link

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