Title: This Time: Australia’s Republican Past and Future
Author: Benjamin T. Jones
Published: 24 January 2018
Publisher: Black Inc.
Category: Australian non-fiction
I voted ‘yes’ in the 1999 referendum, but I haven’t given the possibility of an Australian Republic much thought since. I picked up This Time because the world in 2018 doesn’t look like I thought it would, and as I wondered (and perhaps obsessed) about the role of Australia on the global stage the oft-forgotten matter of an Australian republic caught my attention.
This Time surprised me. I thought I understood the arguments, and I certainly wasn’t expecting anything new. Consider me chastened. The history of agitation for an Australian republic is riveting.
The bloody French Revolution and war of American Independence influenced the early advocates for an Australian republic. So did Scottish and Irish convicts (dumped on Australian shores for arguing that Scotland and Ireland should break free from Britain), and even Canadian convicts (yes, there were such a thing), who were brought to Australia after rebelling against the British Crown. They all found themselves in Australia, yet another outpost of the Empire in need of a break from the damn British.
And in much more recent years, how our status as a possession of the British Crown effects how we think of ourselves as a nation. Do you know how close we came to calling our currency the ‘royal’? And do you know the politicking behind the choice of our anodyne national anthem? And do you understand the extent to which the authority of an unelected monarch was used to change our leadership in 1975?
Jones doesn’t have all of the answers. But he did convince me the broad debate about an Australian republic and what it means to be Australian is an opportunity to address many of the outstanding items on our national to do list. Reconciliation. Australia Day. The national anthem. The flag. Multiculturalism. Even the citizenship of our politicians. And from an outsiders point of view, our role in our region, our relationship with America and our approach to the Asian Century.
If you are even mildly interested in an Australian republic, this book summarises exactly where the debates – and there are many of them, most of them difficult – stand in 2018.
If you are pro status quo (do you think ‘it it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’? Or do you just like the glamour surrounding Royal weddings?), this book explains exactly why the status quo is not what you think it is. When laid out bare, it may actually make you uncomfortable.
And if you are pro-monarchy, well, you won’t enjoy This Time. But you should read it, as you will need to counter the arguments so deftly articulated by Jones.