This article first appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald.
I HAVE some advice for all those rabid supporters of an Australian republic. The most productive thing you can do when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Australia in April is simple: take off your grumpy pants and get on board.
That’s right, you heard me.
Get excited, engage in those workplace water-cooler discussions about where the royal duo might visit, perhaps even buy one of those glossy magazines with a cut-out itinerary.
Because whether you like it or not, ”Kate and Wills” are popular. And rolling your eyes when somebody expresses excitement about the royal visit isn’t going to change that. Quite the opposite, it’s likely to switch people off to your arguments.
Being snarky is rarely an effective tool of persuasion.
Instead, Australian republicans (and I’m one of them) need to send the message that it’s OK to like the royals and not want them as our head of state.
Having an opinion on Brad and Angelina’s growing brood or keeping up with the Kardashians isn’t incompatible with wanting a republic, so why should royal-watching be?
After the failure of the 1999 republic referendum the (then) High Court Judge Michael Kirby delivered a speech in London on the ”10 lessons” Australians should take from the experience. They’re worth revisiting.
Kirby said labelling opponents of the referendum proposal ”un-Australian” was ”a sure way to alienate them”. He noted how the Queen’s ”admirable personal qualities continue to attract a vital cohort of support to the negative case” (an argument which now applies equally to Kate and William).
Kirby also chastised the media for having ”showed the Queen and her supporters in a bad light”.
The lesson is clear, Australians who dream of a republic need to stop denigrating those with an affection for the royal family. It’s counterproductive and, what’s more, the royals aren’t going anywhere.
If an Australian admires the Queen’s grace, stoicism or colourful array of hats, they’ll continue to do so under a republic. And a directly elected Australian prime minister would be powerless to quell demand for pictures of young Prince George or his party-boy uncle.
American science fiction writer Robert Heinlein once wrote: ”Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”
The same could be said of attempts to shame Australians into disliking the royal family. It just won’t work.
Australian republicans need to accept that Kate, Will, Chuck, Harry and Lizzie do belong in our magazines and gossip sites, and refocus their arguments to why they don’t belong in our constitution.