Australian anti-royal HQ hit by sabotage

Click to follow
The Independent Online

As if the atmosphere were not already poisonous enough ahead of next month's referendum on whether Australia should become a republic, another ingredient was added yesterday: dirty tricks.

As if the atmosphere were not already poisonous enough ahead of next month's referendum on whether Australia should become a republic, another ingredient was added yesterday: dirty tricks.

The main republican organisation received a threatening fax from a shadowy monarchist group; shortly afterwards, its communications systems crashed. The 20-page message was sent to the central Sydney headquarters of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) by a hitherto unknown group, the Australian Underground and Empire Loyalist Movement.

Listing the names and e-mail addresses of 100 ARM staff and supporters, the document warned: "We are watching your every move. You ain't seen nothing yet." Twenty minutes later, telecommunications in the entire tower block that houses the ARM offices went down, leaving telephones, faxes and e-mails out of action for three hours. New South Wales police are investigating the incident, which is believed to be an act of sabotage. Federal police have also been called in.

The main monarchist organisation, Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), swiftly dissociated itself from the action. Kerry Jones, ACM's executive director, said: "This action is appalling. It is not condoned by anybody that we are associated with."

Australians will be asked on 6 November to vote for or against a proposal to switch from constitutional monarchy status to a republic, with Queen Elizabeth, the current head of state, being replaced by an Australian president elected by two-thirds of parliament.

Hostilities between campaigning groups have been exacerbated by recent polls showing that the proportion of voters is evenly balanced, with a substantial section of the population still undecided.

The Australian Underground and Empire Loyalist Movement is using its Internet website to urge anti-republicans to picket polling booths. It states: "If all else fails, be ready to bear arms and rise against the oppressors."

Greg Barns, campaign director of the ARM, said: "This is well beyond the limits of debate on this issue. It is of concern that there are groups out there, nasty fringe elements, who want to prevent people from putting a legitimate point of view about the republic.

"This sort of thing is unacceptable in Australia. But unfortunately we have to take threats like this seriously."

The incident comes amid rank-and-file monarchists' growing frustration over the ACM's tactics. Instead of defending the monarchy, the group has concentrated its efforts on persuading dissident republicans to vote "no".

This gamble appears to be paying off, however; the ACM appears to be successfully attracting support of republicans who believe that the president should be chosen by the electorate rather than by parliament. It is these voters who may hold the key to the result.

Comments