Don's Diary

November 19, 1999

Monday

A weekend in Potsdam at the Australien Zentrum. End with a mystical experience - climbing the ramp inside the transparent dome of Sir Norman Foster's reinvigorated Reichstag with the lights of Berlin spread out on one side and a mirror system within that allows us to see each other from dozens of angles, parodying the deceptions inherent in the lives of the building's daytime

occupants.

Tuesday

Interview for Finnish radio on the Australian referendum. Only two months ago it seemed Australia would vote comfortably for a "resident for president" but the monarchists have fought back, arguing "if it ain't broke don't fix it". Australia, as a federation, has to vote both by a majority of people and by a majority of states for change to be implemented. A few hundred thousand Tasmanians, whose state votes are worth 12 times those of New South Welshmen, might determine the final outcome.

Wednesday

Launch a far-from-dry book, The Westminster Tradition and Australia, written by a marvellous octogenarian scholar from Perth, Western Australia. It is a delight to watch him play with his audience, advancing on them from behind the lectern, retreating again and never missing a punchline.

Thursday

Interview today for Irish television news on the republic. They ask why the issue has emerged in Australia in the past six years. The answer I give is that these were the years of the accession to real political power of the post- Vietnam-war, post-Britain-joining-Europe generation. For this generation the British relationship is merely history. In recent opinion polls age seems the best indicator of attitudes, with the under 35s strongly republican, the 35s-55s evenly split and the over 55s strongly monarchist.

Friday

In a background briefing for

Chinese television I am asked whether Australian women are particularly monarchist because they admire the Queen as a mother. I suppose the Australian Women's Weekly, the nation's top-circulating mag, has always covered the royal soap with tea and sympathy. But I have to

say that polls show that only

10 per cent of monarchist voters talk of personal loyalty to the monarch - the rest are concerned only with political stability. Nevertheless, the Queen of Australia continues to float ethereally above us in her sovereign stratosphere, vestigal but somehow reassuring.

Saturday/Sunday

Bed-ridden with laryngitis. I have to pull out of some media engagements commenting on the referendum results as they come out. As forecast, the vote is for the status quo. But anyone who thinks that this is the end of the matter is mistaken. The Crown in Australia is now in a twilight period, still there but with insufficient support to be beyond challenge.

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