The visit by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (try saying that three times quickly) has come and gone.
Each day was a whirlwind of activity, with breathless reporters covering their every move. Websites crashed as fashionistas rushed to buy the latest dress, coat, or pair of shoes worn by the Duchess.
Thousands lined up at every event, hoping for a glimpse. The knockabout Prince and his glamorous wife, holding hands, mingling comfortably amongst the punters.
I’d bet every politician alive would kill for a fraction of that magic fairy dust.
There was only one small criticism by a few. That the Duchess was an actress plying her trade. A polished performer, smiling for the cameras, and delivering her lines.
I’m not sure what else she is supposed to do. Isn’t this her job? Perhaps they’d prefer a bumbling fool in an ill-fitting sports jacket instead.
For some, the royal family is a real-life fairy tale. A world of fancy titles, castles and ornate stagecoaches.
For others, the whole concept is repugnant. That someone can be superior to another by birthright is anathema to them. For these people, we can’t become a republic soon enough.
But my guess is that we are no closer to becoming a republic than we were 20 years ago. Perhaps it is even further away.
Will Australia ever become a republic?
As an immigrant country, you’d think it would be the opposite. That as people come from farther afield — and with less ties to the ‘old dart’ — that Australia would inevitably become a republic.
Figures released by the ABS last year were revealing. 28% of Australia’s population were born overseas — a number that is on the rise.
Expand that out further, and the trend is even more apparent. Almost half of Australia’s population were either born overseas themselves, or at least one of their parents were.
But despite the changing dynamic of Australia’s population, we are no closer to a republic than the referendum back in 1999. For many, it’s not even on the radar.
In 1999, just 45% voted in favour of a republic. Yet republicans will still argue the toss on that.
They’ll argue that the different models splintered the vote. And in doing so, impeded the overall result.
Some republicans wanted the direct-election model. That is, where everyone can vote. What they didn’t want is for only those in parliament to decide.
But that’s exactly the model that got up. The convention held the year prior voted in favour of a parliamentary elected president. To settle any squabbling, a president’s candidacy would need to secure at least two thirds of the votes.
There is also Australia’s history of referendums. Put simply, most just don’t get up. A referendum needs a double majority to succeed. That is, a majority of people, in a majority of states. That’s why some suggest a plebiscite instead.
The difference being that voting in a plebiscite is optional. But unlike a referendum, the result is not binding.
There were also those who simply objected to the title of ‘President’. Especially if the direct election model had got up. They feared that a popularly elected president might believe they had a mandate to promote their own agenda.
Which process to use?
In the past, some have suggested a two-step process. And not a referendum, a plebiscite instead.
First, to vote on whether we want a republic. That is, a simple yes or no. Then second, to debate the type of model we want.
But unless they know the model proposed in the second part, the punters are unlikely to vote in favour of the first question.
Until that is resolved, jingoistic slogans that appeal to the heart won’t be enough.
Across the globe, institutions are breaking down. Infiltrated by activists…or simply by decay and irrelevance. Respect for the institution of government seems to be at its lowest ebb.
Yet one of the oldest institutions, royalty — one that you might expect to also struggle — appears to be flourishing. Some of the punters just can’t get enough.
As you would expect, the visit by the Duke and Duchess sparked some debate about the republican movement. Barely enough, though, to cause a ripple. It seemed that a lot of the traffic went the other way.
Given the choice, my bet is that the punters won’t risk a change any time soon. There is already too much uncertainty around.
And given the current intransigence in politics, who on either side would have the ticker, or the political capital for that matter, to take such a referendum to the people?
Editor, Options Trader
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