The republic is coming, I thought. No worries...

Richard Neville laments the complacency that robbed republicans of poll victory

GUILT, embarrassment and disappointment confront me as republicanism goes under Down Under. "Why didn't I do more to support the cause?" I ask myself. Or, more accurately, "Why did I do bugger all?"

The tang of sheepishness surfaced several days ago, along with the first intimations of defeat. Oz should have entered the 21st century with a spring in its step and an independent air; achieving a coming of age in time for a new age, a time to re-define itself for the next period of history. As it turned out, the first foray of the republican movement has been a long day's journey into nothingness.

Despite the stakes, why did so many of us for so long, feel so curiously dispassionate? "It's like getting excited about the law of gravity," I said to Malcolm Turnbull years ago. "A republic is inevitable". Maybe it is, like the movement of a glacier, which is a suffocating pace for a century where change will be measured at the speed of light.

Meanwhile, there was no shortage of distractions - a furtively managed Olympics, vanishing rain forests and reefs, a bloodbath on our doorstep.

Another reason for my lack of input into the debate was a lack of excitement about the model. This was nothing to do with the wrangles over who would choose the head of state - the parliament or the people - because either way the victor was likely be dull and dependable. Some pundits feared a Kylie Minogue: if only. No, the problem for me was that a new millennium should have brought forth a new dimension of republicanism, rather than a moth-eaten hand-me-down.

This was the moment to acknowledge the wisdom and traditions of tribal cultures, by incorporating into the model a chief of state to be guided by a council of elders. That is, men and women of high degree from various walks of life and ethnicities to provide a source of spiritual nourishment; an ethical ballast, a circle of leadership based on collaboration and creativity in an age that will welcome it.

The question of leadership was, after all, at the bottom of people's rejection of "Yes!". Yesterday, when I phoned one of my oldest friends to lament the likely result, he shocked me by revealing his voting intentions. This was a brilliant satirist who had made his name by mocking the Royals 30 years before it was fashionable. I asked why he was rejecting the republic, and his answer seemed to speak for the heartland, as well as many wrinkled radicals: "Too many crooks are keen on it."

Not crooks, necessarily, in my view, but the hard hats of power, wealth and number-crunching. Malcolm Turnbull has been magnificent overall, as has Natasha Scott Depoja and others, but our cause never found its dashing populist. We needed a Henry Lawson or a Banjo Patterson, and we got the Treasurer, Peter Costello, We wanted Joan of Arc or Thomas Jefferson, and we got the Murdoch family. (The huge front page graphic in the Australian newspaper commanded "Vote Yes!", thus alienating more swinging lefties, who anyway seemed much more gripped by the rugby World Cup).

As I walked in the drizzle towards the polling centre, friends met along the way confessed to confusion and doubt. It's too late for that now, I hectored, we may not get another chance in our lifetime. A flawed republic is better than no republic. The chirpy monarchists at the high school gate held up their placards: "No Republic. No Worries!" No republic, I thought, no coming of age.

Next time I'll hurl myself into the fray, up to my neck.

t Richard Neville was founding editor of `Oz' magazine in London, subject of the 1971 trial. He returned to his native Australia in the early 1980s.

REVOLUTION? CULTURE, PAGE 1

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable