The Courier-Mail


Con­sti­tu­tional change is a dou­ble stan­dard of breath­tak­ing pro­por­tion, writes Rowan Dean


SO HERE’S how to be a hyp­ocrite in mod­ern Aus­tralia.

First, jump up and down and blather on about the need to change our Con­sti­tu­tion to recog­nise the crit­i­cal role in­dige­nous Aus­tralians played in our col­lec­tive past.

Then, jump up and down (prefer­ably with a red ban­danna on your head or a fat cigar in your mouth) and blather on about the need to change our Con­sti­tu­tion to re­move recog­ni­tion of the crit­i­cal role im­pe­rial Brits played in our col­lec­tive past.

Oh, and while you’re at it, make a big fuss (it’s the cen­te­nary af­ter all) of how much you ad­mire the An­zacs and wish to hon­our their “spirit”.

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing, and the re­newed push for a re­pub­lic couldn’t have been timed with more ex­quis­ite per­fec­tion to high­light just how two-faced and id­i­otic the en­tire en­ter­prise is.

Start with in­dige­nous recog­ni­tion. What is be­ing asked of ev­ery­day Aus­tralians is that we vote “yes” in a ref­er­en­dum in or­der to amend our Con­sti­tu­tion (ie our le­gal frame­work) to re­flect, some­how, the idea that there wouldn’t be a mod­ern Aus­tralia were it not for the fact that in­dige­nous Aus­tralians were the first peo­ple to in­habit the con­ti­nent.

The ges­ture will be a sym­bolic nod to the past, and no doubt that sym­bol­ism will be fur­ther en­hanced with end­less smok­ing cer­e­monies, “welcome to coun­try” prayers and the like.

Also, if Noel Pear­son has his way, there will be some kind of in­dige­nous “com­mit­tee of el­ders” that Par­lia­ment can call on to of­fer opin­ions on leg­is­la­tion that per­tains specif­i­cally to in­dige­nous Aus­tralians.

Next comes the re­pub­lic. What is be­ing asked of ev­ery­day Aus­tralians is that we vote “yes” in a dif­fer­ent ref­er­en­dum to also amend that very same con­sti­tu­tion – our le­gal frame­work, re­mem­ber – in or­der to re­move, for­mally and ir­re­vo­ca­bly, the key sym­bolic con­nec­tion to those who ac­tu­ally framed it.

This de­spite the fact there wouldn’t be a mod­ern Aus­tralia if it weren’t for the Brits in­vest­ing un­told wealth and hu­man toil in this land as part of their Em­pire, thereby giv­ing mod­ern Aus­tralia the very laws, jus­tice sys­tem and demo­cratic struc­tures that make it one of the most suc­cess­ful, pros­per­ous and en­vi­able na­tions on Earth.

The Aussie monar­chy to­day is unique – a cer­e­mo­nial nod to the past that is ev­ery bit as sym­bolic as a smok­ing cer­e­mony. Sim­i­larly, the role of our monarch is lit­tle dif­fer­ent, and cer­tainly far less po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful, than the sound­ing board pro­posed by Mr Pear­son and his white­bearded el­ders.

So, on the one hand we change our Con­sti­tu­tion to em­pha­sise an im­por­tant part of our history that we over­looked at the time, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously we amend our Con­sti­tu­tion to erase from mem­ory one of the most fun­da­men­tal parts of that history.

Not sure about you, but I find that not only a dou­ble stan­dard of breath­tak­ing pro­por­tion, but worse, un­be­liev­ably creepy in its Or­wellian ma­nip­u­la­tion of the past.

But the bad tim­ing doesn’t stop there. We are cur­rently – rightly – cel­e­brat­ing the cen­te­nary of the An­zac de­feat at Gal­lipoli. For so many rea­sons that are too com­plex to go into here, the sad An­zac tale has be­come the defin­ing



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