Monarchists head for win, but dare not mention the Queen

HAD YOU not known better, you could have been forgiven for expecting to see a portrait of the Queen yesterday in the conference hall in Sydney where Australian monarchists held their final rally before the constitutional referendum that could mean curtains for the sovereign.

You might have expected to hear a ringing endorsement of Her Majesty by loyal subjects in the far-flung former colony where she faces her darkest hour - or, at the very least, a rendition of "God Save the Queen".

You would have been sorely disappointed. For the people who are leading the campaign against an Australian republic are not conventional monarchists. They tie themselves up in knots to avoid mentioning the Royal Family, and they never defend the institution of the monarchy.

The reason for this omission - so glaring that republicans have put up "Wanted" posters that refer to the Queen and the Prince of Wales as "missing in action" - is simple. There are few old-fashioned monarchists in Australia - too few to secure a "no" vote in Saturday's referendum, which proposes replacing the Queen with a president as Australia's head of state. What is more, for many Australians the Royals are a turn-off.

Thus 10 speakers took to the podium at the Sydney Convention Centre yesterday without so much as a hint of the Q-word passing their lips. Eventually, an hour and 40 minutes into the rally, Tony Abbott, a government minister, described a fellow speaker as "a loyal servant of Her Majesty the Queen". A frisson ran through the hall, as if he had uttered a profanity.

Rather than thump the tub for the Royals, the monarchists have adopted the extraordinary strategy of allying themselves to a splinter group of republicans who are so strongly opposed to the style of republic envisaged that they would rather keep the current system.

This coalition with dissident republicans - who want a president to be elected by popular vote, rather than appointed by two-thirds of parliament, as is planned - is not some informal arrangement. It has become the cornerstone of the campaign by the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), the country's main monarchist organisation, and it is working, if the opinion polls are to be believed.

The slogan of the ACM's latest television commercial is: "If you want to elect the president, vote `no' to the politicians' republic", the message being that Australians who favour direct election - a majority, according to the polls - should hold fire for a second referendum, proposing a different kind of republic.

Yesterday's rally offered the surreal spectacle of dyed-in-the-wool monarchists such as Mr Abbott sharing a platform with Bill Hayden, a former governor- general and leading "direct election" republican.

As for the 400 people in the audience, they could have come straight from a nursing home; it was hard to keep a straight face when Kerry Jones, executive director of the ACM, declared that "no" voters hailed from all age groups.

When Sir Harry Gibbs, a former High Court chief justice, embarked on a convoluted exposition of the constitutional flaws of the republic, several people nodded off, overcome by the excitement.

The problem facing the monarchists is the difficulty of becoming passionate about the status quo; the sentiment expressed on several T-shirts yesterday - "Who says we have to change?" - hardly makes the pulse race. The "no" campaign lacks charismatic speakers - Mr Abbott is its only effective orator - and celebrity support.

The sole touch of glamour, if that is the right word, at the rally was provided by James Blundell, a country music singer who composed the monarchists' anthem, "The People's Protest". The song contains immortal lines such as: "So we'll vote `no' in November, This republic's not the way, We'll vote `no' in November, Let the people keep their say." If the mainstream republicans are to be believed, the ACM is broke, having spent most of the pounds 2.9m given to each campaign out of public funds. The monarchists deny it, although volunteers with collection buckets worked the rows of seats with grim determination yesterday.

It does not matter if the "no" campaign is not as slick or sexy as that of the republicans. The ACM has already sown enough fear and confusion in the minds of a timorous electorate to ensure that the referendum will almost certainly be defeated.

Yesterday Bronwyn Bishop, another government minister and the ACM's scaremonger- in-chief, warned that a president appointed by parliament would be a dictator. She ended with the rallying cry:

"If in doubt, vote `no'."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower