PJ Collins, the leader of Australia’s Arts Party – formed two years ago after Senator George Brandis’ failed attack on the Australia Council – argues that only when we become a Republic, will Australia truly appreciate and celebrate its creativity.
It’s been fascinating to watch the rise of Emmanuel Macron in France. He’s the perfect foil to the slow motion car crash of Donald Trump’s presidency across the Atlantic.
While, like Trump, he rode a wave of popular support to win on his own terms, in clear contrast, Macron’s reign looks set to channel all the positive tenets of French democracy – liberty, equality, fraternity.
He’s formed a cabinet from across the political spectrum, focussed on reform, insisted on gender equality in ‘En Marche’ candidates (as is also the Arts Party’s aim) and refreshingly, half of those candidates are new to politics. Fresh voices, co-operation and popular engagement. Wow. After some very difficult years, there’s a sense of real hope among the French and renewed pride in their democratic Republic.
Now to Australia. A recent poll commission by the new Democracy think tank found that a staggering 54% of Australians now believe our current political system is broken and isn’t working. That’s enough to comfortably elect a majority government if we were voting. Australian democracy is in crisis and we need to look at solutions. There’s an obvious one right in front of us.
It’s time to reignite the issue of an Australian Republic.
This is not the first time the concept has come up, but it should be the last. There’s been plenty of time to think through the model and a popular vote element of candidates, balanced by presidential powers that essentially align with the current Governor General’s, offers a solution that appeals to the majority both inside and outside of our parliaments.
Arts and culture are less valued today than they have ever been by our governments and by implication, the Australian people.
It’s all about who we are and what defines us as a people, as a country. European and American cultural and artistic output is recognised, celebrated and enjoyed around the world. This work fills our televisions, stages and radio waves every day. The note, the performance the written word. Even our Constitution is ultimately a foreign approved creation (the original copy was only lent back to us 1988 – we’ve been given permission to keep it since 1990).
As a country, how lucky we are! We should be at the forefront of human ingenuity and progress. We want Australia recognised as a place where big dreams, ideas and results come from. A country where every Australian is given the chance to be the best they can be across all disciplines, to the betterment of not just us, but the entire world. A country recognised as a Creative Nation, leading instead of following.
But this can only happen after we drop the ridiculous cultural cringe that cripples this country. Arts and culture are less valued today than they have ever been by our governments and by implication, the Australian people. We need to make our own path and be proud of our own ingenuity. We have to grow up.
Once Australia embraces her future as an independent country, then Australian culture will finally have the foundation to thrive.
So yes, a Republic makes a huge amount of sense to us – it will change everything and nothing in Australia. We stay in the Commonwealth. Our treaties remain intact. The daily business of our lives will remain unchanged. But we’ll now have chosen an Australian (or Australians!) we’re proud of to represent us, far above the current petty and divisive political debate (maybe it’ll help them also find common ground). They can appoint our National Chief Scientist, and Chief Artist while we’re at it. Even more importantly, how we think and feel, and what it means to be Australian (both for us and to the rest of the world) will have been profoundly strengthened and transformed.
Realistically, the Queen has not got that long left. She’s in her last decade. Once she dies, Prince Charles will automatically replace her based on our current Constitution – unless we get our act together.
The day we vote for a Republic is the day we can create a moment in history that is collectively our own – an Independence Day for Australia, the new Australia Day. We’re ready to stand on our own two feet – we are independent, powerful, stable and deserve to be the ones who make the ultimate decisions about our future. Where we can create a culture based on real pride, to enrich our lives and the many future generations of Aussies.
We can’t wait until the Queen passes before the Republic issue is finalised. So this is a Call to Arms. Let’s make it happen Australia!