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ABC disgraces itself over coronation

Malcolm Mackerras
11 May 2023

My wife and I watched television last Saturday night and into the early morning of Sunday 7 May. We started at 5pm with the ABC, with every intention to stay there all night. However, we left for Nine after we got sick of the ABC at 5.45. At about 7pm, our son William arrived, and he wanted to watch Ten. We stayed with Ten until the ads started, at which stage we went back to the ABC, or rather the BBC since the coverage was a BBC feed at that time of night.

Broadly speaking my wife and I are social democratic in our political thinking but there is one area where we are conservatives. When it comes to the Australian Constitution, we are firmly conservative. With that in mind, we were pretty disgusted with the ABC on this occasion as we were at its coverage of the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. In that case, we got sick of the ABC because its personalities mocked the English to a degree unwanted by us – so we spent the rest of the night on Seven. In this case, we got sick of the ABC due to the spectacle of watching Julian Leeser as a conservative Daniel in a den of five republican lions.

Everything Leeser said was what we think, namely that Albo’s referendums are tests of what voters think about Australian history. Like him, our view is that recognition of First Nations people in the Constitution will complete the Constitution - beyond which there will be no need for further amendment.

Of the five republican lions, the least offensive was Jeremy Fernandez. His comments were merely inane. Julia Baird was the second least offensive – but she could not resist condemning Buckingham Palace for daring to defend the institution of the constitutional monarchy! Stan Grant was the most offensive. A Wiradjuri, Gurrawin and Dharawal man he saw Australian history through the eyes of one family only – his!

“This is the real Australia, before we get to the fantasy Australia, the Disneyland Australia, let’s deal with the real Australia. Let’s not imagine that we can just look at this ceremony tonight and see it as something that is distant, that is just ceremonial and doesn’t hold weight. It is scars, it is broken bones and it is too many damaged souls and we need to heal.”

Then indigenous lawyer Teela Reid, a Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman told us that the coronation was an “elaborate spectacle for a symbol that represents an institution that perpetrated colonisation at the expense of First Nations people and people of colour.” The fifth republican lion was Craig Foster, co-leader of the Australian Republic Movement. He reminded me that 50 years ago Gough Whitlam was prime minister of Australia but described those 50 since elapsing years so wrongly as to leave me breathless.

I watched Q and A on the night of Monday 8 May and saw Stan Grant again orchestrating an assault on the constitutional monarchy. There was no monarchist in sight. The session saw Jacquie Lambie launch into a typical Lambie rant – condemning the Australian flag and demanding a speedy move to a republic. I thought she made a complete fool of herself but, of course, she received an ovation from the crowd.

Yet there was one interesting contribution during the night. ACT Labor parliamentarian Andrew Leigh made obeisance to the crowd by asserting that “I want an Australian head of state” but then went on to warn the crowd against getting ahead of itself. “The task at hand is the Voice. Let’s not be distracted by Brit bashing that does not help”. That was the message I received though I am not a shorthand writer and cannot vouch that those were the precise words he used.

However, there we saw professional Labor thinking. Labor fears ABC talk of the Grant-Reid-Foster variety because it might drive people like us away from the Voice. They know also that if the Voice is wrecked, the republic would be guaranteed to go down a second time. Like Leigh I want an Australian head of state. Where I disagree with him is my insistence that we already have an Australian head of state, the Governor-General David Hurley. We have him (and the various state governors) in our present Australian crowned republic.

If the Voice goes down, Labor would be wise to cancel the republic. In the (more likely) event that the Voice is carried then we may expect a republic referendum in Albo’s second term. There is no way my vote would be cast to rip the crown out of the Australian crowned republic. But others might – except I feel sure that ABC talk will again put people off. Propagandists like Grant, Reid and Foster seem to think of crowns as being like swastikas. Only a tiny minority of Australians think that way.

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