Where to now for Australian republicans? Nearly two decades on from the demoralising referendum defeat in 1999, the republican flame is being rekindled and Bill Shorten has committed to a plebiscite on the issue if he wins office. Can the mistakes from the 1990s campaign be avoided this time? Are there lessons from history to guide the republican movement in the twenty-first century?
Daniel Deniehy was the first great native-born advocate of an Australian republic. ‘Little Dan’ did not content himself with ridiculing the ‘Bunyip aristocracy’ and highlighting the evils of cronyism and classism. He played to the politics of hope and outlined a vision of a true republic, marked by democracy, meritocracy, and community. Deniehy serves as an example to modern republicans still licking their wounds from the disappointment of 1999. It is not enough to state the shortcomings of monarchy. Like Deniehy, eulogised as the ‘vehement voice of the South’, it is time for republicans to articulate a vision for the future with boldness, passion, and, above all, hope.
Benjamin T. Jones is a DECRA Fellow in the School of History at the Australian National University. He is currently working on an ARC project titled Aristotle’s Australia that traces the civic republican tradition in the twentieth century. His books include Atheism for Christians (2016), Republicanism and Responsible Government (2014), and Project Republic (2013). His next book is titled This Time: Australia’s Republican Past and Future and will be released on Australia Day 2018 through Black Inc. He is also editing a book titled Elections Matter … Even when you think they don’t to be published next year through Monash University Press.