Published on Australian Independent Media Network 20.5.23
So where is the roadblock to an Australian republic? Too many have assumed, for too long, it was simply hereditary monarchy — once Queen Elizabeth had passed the bejewelled orb and sceptres to Charles the road was then clear.
Incontrovertibly, the need to precisely frame a sound referendum question is crucial — together with a weather eye to good ‘timing’. But that’s NOT the issue. There are three obstacles which currently preclude Australia from becoming fully independent. They are; the Voice, raw politics, and corporate Christianity. More on that shortly.
Conversely, the public at large want a republic, with the latest figures coming from the Secular Association of NSW (SANSW) who commissioned a national poll, in mid-April, through the reputable YouGov research group.
Significantly, every generational category — from Gen Z through to Boomers and ‘Silents’ (over-70) — showed majority support for a republic. Only 24 per cent were opposed, with 53 per cent in support, and 23 per cent who were unsure — but that figure may have resulted from a question perhaps too bold for some moderate Christians.
Do you agree or disagree that an Australian republic should be entirely secular and not provide taxpayer-funded grants, tax exemptions, as well as exceptions to discrimination law for religious groups.”
Max Wallace, Secretary of SANSW, pointed to another YouGov survey in February this year which showed 53 per cent agreed to the additional issue to separating religion from government. He said, “these surveys add to the thought that Australian public opinion has shifted to a more progressive place after the 2022 federal election.”
Which again begs the question of where the road blocks are. First is “The Voice”, which currently has broad majority support. However, with the “No” case being driven from the right it remains unclear what the final referendum outcome will be.
Nevertheless, it is crystal clear what the prime minister’s sequence of priorities really are. In The Guardian on 3rd May he said, “… my priority is constitutional recognition [of Indigenous Australians] – I can’t imagine … as was suggested by some … that we should be having another referendum on the republic before that occurs.”
So what happens if The Voice referendum fails? Will Albanese focus on a republic? Hell will likely freeze over first.
Raw politics is the second roadblock. Coming from the same Guardian piece, Anthony Albanese said he doesn’t want to be a prime minister who “presides over just constitutional debates”, warning republicans in Australia that a referendum is not “imminent”. The PM argues the economy, climate change, and perhaps knitting will come first.
Albanese also confirmed that, despite being a “lifelong republican”, he has sworn allegiance to the new king Charles in the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. As a Catholic, that would also sit uncomfortably with the PM, as Charles is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England — the titular head of that Church.
Roadblock number three is surely Christianity, which flows smoothly from Australia’s allegiance to king Charles – via our prime minister. That makes a republican referendum problematic for the Catholic Albanese. And Christian churches here see God’s hand in the Coronation, with its opulence, pomp and pageantry – and riven through with the entire playbook of the Christian faith. Even the ABC and SBS went overboard with their obsequious coverage.
This is why a “genuine” Australian republic is tragically so far away. Religion and conservatism go hand in hand. It has aways been so! So, while Christianity is in rapid decline among the populace, it is the church power brokers, the influencers, and the political manipulators that stand in the way of a republic.
Meanwhile the anointed religious organisations and their PR consultants continue to walk the corridors of both state and federal parliaments. It is a source of power that is made easier with so many of our politicians — and senior bureaucrats — being practicing Christians.
Case in point. Examples are numerous but one contemporary issue illustrates the influence that church leaders have on religious politicians. The fresh NSW Catholic premier, Chris Minns, has replaced Opus Dei premier, Dominic Perrottet, only to set up a new multifaith religious advisory group.
The Sydney Criminal Lawyers (SCL) ran the story online, headed in part; “Time to De-Christianise Parliament”. It also quotes the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) asking ethical questions on how these on-going religious privileged continue to marginalise the non-religious.
SCL includes quotes from NSW Greens MLC Abigail Boyd (who also moved a motion for an alternative to parliamentary prayers). They reported that; “Boyd does expect resistance … especially amongst the disproportionate number of members who are of the Christian faith.” It is also true of most Australian parliaments.
This is NOT to deny MPs their faith — rather, it is whether their faith drives their own personal agenda!
It is quite misleading to quote Census 2021 that shows 43.9 per cent as “affiliated” Christians. That figure includes the 25 per cent of “social” and “notional” Christians. But problems of religious influence in politics come mainly from committed “regular” and “devout” MPs who tend to covertly weaponise their religion.
Those quoted religious categories (and the raw statistics) come from the 152-page academic research report, commissioned by the RSA, and titled; “Religiosity in Australia”. See page 22 — but read it all.
We saw overt examples of predatory Christianity from MPs such as Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott and others. But the problem of defending progressive social policy comes from covert parliamentarians of devout faith. Their political agenda is to overturn secular legislation — just as the US Christian right killed off Roe vs Wade.
There is a section on all parliamentary websites for MPs to reveal their religion. Most avoid any display of openness and honesty about their religious leanings, so the public at large remains blind to religious influence.
That needs to change. Our democratic structure is fragile — and America demonstrates almost daily how religion can subvert a viable democracy. It matters not that an IPSOS poll in 2016 showed that 78 per cent of Australians wanted to “separate religion from the business of government.” But who’s listening?
Until we have secular parliaments (no we don’t), there will be no secular republic. And Australia will remain a Christian theocracy — which is not so very different (politically speaking) from an Islamic theocracy; only with less tyranny.
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