Chapter V – Conclusion

Republicanism as an intellectual movement in multicultural Australia
October 14 1991. © Jessica Stewart 1991 & 1995.


The question of whether republicanism is a rational, intellectual movement has beenin This research through studies of its history in Australia, its salience as a political issue in the modern society, and through an examination of multiculturalism. The issues of nationalism, culture, and identity are intrinsic to the technical detail of separation from the British Crown.

Chapter II concluded that there were basic contradictions in the intellectual arguments put forward by the supporters of republicanism. Instead of constituting a popular workers’ movement as republicanism’s proponents claimed, it remained within the radical academic, political and journalistic circles. For the most part, the workers remained unenlightened and disinterested. The belief among radicals in the nineteenth century that if the bonds between the two countries were not broken fully at that time then they would be strengthened was valid, as time has shown. The movements today are also intellectual as this research has demonstrated but their chances of being able to improve upon history’s record and rally support among the working classes and the whole population is much greater.

Several factors combine to support this argument. Firstly, as Chapter IV demonstrates, the Australian population is far more diverse than it was 100 years ago with support for republicanism coming strongly from the sectors without ancestral links to Britain. Australia’s ethnic mix has changed and the relationship with Britain has consequently changed. This factor shows little sign of abating as multiculturalism develops further as an ideology which is breaking down traditional Anglo dominance. The success of this aim, offering all rights and privileges to all people in Australia, will be accelerated when the Australian governments take multiculturalism seriously. Alongside the enjoyment of different foods and music must come acceptance of religious diversity (such as the highly controversial Campbelltown Mosque temple), Aboriginal land rights, and progress in obtaining equitable representation for different cultures in government. The citizenship ceremony persists with an element of assimilation in requiring allegeience to Britain; its reformation and an Australian republic would encourage allegience to Australia and stimulate more “ethnic” political activity.

A second factor is the intensification of the American alliance as Britain becomes more closely aligned with the European markets. Feelings of loyalty to the Empire, the flag and the Queen have declined considerably as the student response to the opinion poll in Chapter III indicates and these will almost certainly not be revived. The tug-of-war between the Australian nationality and clinging to Britain, so evident in the nineteenth century, does not have a parallel today. Chapter III dealt with the growth of republican parties and organisations which reflect a feeling of urgency about the issue and a reluctance to leave it in the hands of the major parties. This contrasts with the movements last century which declined as the Labor movement and Party formed; workers’ rights and upholding Australia’s egalitarian image took precedence over republicanism. An analysis of the constitution, the events of 1975 and modern republican organisations has illustrated the rationality of a republican system of government in Australia.

As the high priest of modern republicanism, Donald Horne deserves the last word. He maintains that the illogicality of arguments for the retention of the status quo can be demonstrated by just one question. He asks why Australians cannot provide their own head of state instead of borrowing someone else’s when nearly every other nation in the world has an indigenous head of state? “Why object to a policy that is so usual?”132 This encapsulates the argument that this research has tried to demonstrate. The combined republican movements are based on rational arguments. As a result of this, more (especially younger) Australians are warming to republicanism and its current intellectuality may well become popular.

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