Saturday, May 16, 2009

Christopher Pearson, Greg Craven, the republican plebiscite and bonnie Prince Charlie

(Above: "M'lud we found this treacherous cur of a direct election republican sneaking into the castle and upsetting the common folk with talk of democracy and people's rights and voting and plebiscites." "He's dead?" "Dead as a common democratic dodo." "Well done men, drag his rotting corpse over next to Kim Beazley, that one in the grip of policy psychosis, and get rid of both of them).
You know I'm looking forward to the day that the talking tampon, known to the world as Prince Charles, tree hugger and environmentalist extraordinaire, becomes King of Australia, and long may he rule over us.

After all, for a few short months, way back when, he attended Geelong Grammar's Timbertop school in the aptly named Victoria, which perhaps was the start of his obsession with trees, or at least timber.

I used to be a republican, but now I see the folly of my wicked ways. How perverse it would be not to experience a monarch likely to call himself a Charlie or a George. As he struts around the world doing a mini-Al Gore and saving the world from itself, he'll drive all the right wing commentariat into a frenzy of fear and loathing.

It'd be a bit like electing a liberal pope who finally worked out that banning sex from the personal lives of priests tends to unbalance them, and make more than a few go bat shit crazy (and might even be a contributing factor in their tendency to fiddle with young boys).

My fondness for the arrival of King Charlie has been compounded by reading Ask right question to get your answer by the redoubtable monarchist Christopher Pearson, who, when not being a Papist, just loves a dash of royalty.

Much of his column is a trip down memory lane, with Pearson reliving the glories of the triumphant defeat of the republicans in the 1998 Constitutional Convention, with the despicable roundheads led by the wretched Malcolm Turnbull.

Pearson claims to have attended the conference as a journalist, on the basis of providing some balance - of a sceptical, contrarian kind - and then proceeded to get into the in-fighting in fine style.

Pearson excuses this breach of ethics on the basis that everybody else was "so avowedly partisan", and therefore he felt at liberty to attend the early morning strategy sessions of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy with Tony Abbott. Ah well, I never thought much of the AJA, nee MEAA code of ethics, especially this one.

4. Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.

There's another eleven, full of pious blather about integrity, but we know where to shove that kind of nonsense, where the sun doesn't shine, when the future of the monarchy in this fair land is at stake (you can catch the rest of the ethical mouthings here in the form of a pdf).

Pearson's idea of journalism, of a white anting, subversive, vichy kind:

We were able to contribute to the day-to-day tactical discussion, then file each evening on the manoeuvres of what was to emerge as far and away the most successful faction at the convention.

While the direct election republicans and Malcolm Turnbull's troops waged running battles, we plotted. Leonie Kramer and David Flint, a law professor, would exchange notes with "Digger" James, Jim Killen and the leading historian of Whitlam's dismissal, John Paul. Lloyd Waddy QC, on whom Bryan Dawe's comic character of Sir Murray Rivers was loosely based, led ACM's contribution to the debate in the chamber and provided a spirited commentary on the problems with each compromise model as it was unveiled.

Oh it must have been fine and valiant days, worthy of Agincourt, or perhaps better evoked by Hal Foster's comic strip Prince Valiant.

But here's the funniest thing. Pearson, via Greg Craven, is now up in arms at the Labor party's current proposal in relation to a republican referendum, on the basis that it is likely to fail.

Craven wants a mandarin model, where the best and brightest select a President, in place of the Governor General, which is to say a dullard political appointee who won't rock the boat.

Craven as quoted by Pearson: The platform's process for a republican referendum seems to have been designed by monarchist David Flint with tactical advice from General Custer.
It is calculated to provoke the worst possible split in the fractious republican camp at the earliest possible moment ... this orgy of plebiscites originated with one of Kim Beazley's rare lapses into policy psychosis when he was Opposition leader ... the critical difficulty is the plebiscites on particular republican models. Plebiscites are nothing more than constitutional beauty contests. The ultimate adoption of direct election will not bring referendum success. It simply will anoint a pathologically flawed model, which will then be torn apart by both monarchists and conservative republicans during a bitter campaign. Go to the bookies now to bet on a yes vote of less than 30 per cent.

Great, so we will have bonnie Prince Charlie as our king, and the planet will be saved. But what's this, Pearson is critical of Craven, and can see a better way forward?

The purpose of the plebiscite is not to contemplate a general notion but to commit to the destruction of the existing system in a two-stage process.

A thumping majority recently preferred that system to the mandarin's republic on offer at the time and, given its sponsors, there's little reason to think the next version will be much of an improvement. Rather, this is a none-too-subtle attempt to herd the direct election republicans into a confected majority before trying to foist a model on them that they regularly say they don't want.

The fairest thing to do is scrap the initial plebiscite, which Craven concedes is "nothing more than a constitutional beauty contest", and stage a convention to frame a question to put to a referendum.

Well yes, I can see the logic of that. The last thing the monarchists want on record is a hearty vote by Australians for a republic. Why that'd be like asking them to vote as to whether they want to see Miss California Carrie Prejean with all her clothes off. A forgone conclusion, the inevitable result of any such beauty contest.

So here's Christopher Pearson urging a convention to frame a question to put to a referendum. Well that worked tremendously well last time, so let's repeat the experiment again. Let's call together all the mandarins and poo bahs and lobbyists and ethical journalists and put them up in Canberra and let them fight and argue and debate, and then walk away with nothing done. I'm thinking 2020 is the perfect time frame, and then the monarchists can send themselves up as another of Chairman Rudd's prattling elites out on a junket.

Makes sense, and perhaps Pearson could attend as an ethical journalist to make sure it fucks up once again, seeing as how everybody else is certain to be avowedly partisan.

As for those stupid Australians, inculcated on the virtues of democracy and voting on things (why these days they even have secret ballots in trade union meetings), well enough of that kind of treasonous claptrap and treacherous talk. After all Chairman Rudd himself is a mandarin who speaks mandarin.

What, not even say by pre-selecting five safe dullards, and letting Australians vote on which dullard might be the symbolic head of state?

Why no, we see the dangers with that current fool woman ini the GG post, who's an activist and has actually been on a trip to Africa, as if she somehow had something to contribute. She just won't shut up and eat her free cucumber sandwiches.

No wonder Craven fears the worst. Again via Pearson:

I had watched Craven, in a couple of Quadrant conferences, in the painful transition from being a monarchist to emerging as a conservative republican by the time he came to the convention. He maintained that ACM should have been so resigned to some sort of republican model getting up eventually that it sued for a timely peace and settled for the least-worst model on offer.

The prospect of a directly elected president, with as much or greater legitimacy than the prime minister, was a guarantee of instability. Why could we not accept something along the lines of the McGarvie model, the brainchild of a former governor of Victoria, which envisaged an unelected president appointed by a regency council?

Yes, yes, but never mind, we know that the dearest desire of Australians urging a direct vote was to reduce the country to the status of an African dictatorship - someone along the lines of Robert Mugabe was probably their preferred leader. After all, if our economy's gone the way of a banana republic, why not go the full hog.

But now I sense a shift in the air. I sense a few in the commentariat might be getting a little concerned about having loopy Prince Charlie rant and rail about the way the world is in a state of carbon crisis. I look forward to his film and book about the carbon crisis due out next year causing something of a melt down in the commentariat.

But most of all I look forward to his phone being tapped while he's king of Australia:

Charles to Camilla, in an intercepted telephone call: "I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out. Oh God, I'll just live inside your trousers or something -- it would be much easier."
Camilla: "What are you going to turn into, a pair of knickers? Oh, you're going to come back as a pair of knickers."
Charles: "Or, God forbid, a Tampax (tampon). Just my luck!" 
Camilla: "You are a complete idiot! Oh, what a wonderful idea."

I just love it when learned men talk high matters of state.

Bring on the plebiscite and let's express a view. If Pearson's right, it will commit Australia to the destruction of the existing system in a two stage process. And if he's wrong, we will have bonnie Prince Charlie as our king sending the commentariat into a frenzy each time he hugs a tree.

Talk about a win-win situation.

(Below: Hal Foster's Prince Valiant in full attack mode on sighting an ethical journalist).

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