Article Index

The ARM and ACM

In July 1991 the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) was launched. Its central platform? To establish a republic by the centenary of Federation on 1 January 2001. Described by McKenna as the 'brainchild of New South Wales Labor MLC Franca Arena', the ARM has since operated from the offices of the merchant bankers Malcolm Turnbull and Neville Wran.

Another founding member, Thomas Keneally, described the reasoning behind the movement's formation:
'In a manner all too typical of generous Sunday lunches in Sydney, a number of bottles of Hunter Valley chardonnay had been drained. Neville Wran leaned over the table and said, 'the other thing I want to see happen before I bloody well die is an Australian republic'.'
Thomas Keneally "Our Republic".

Since 1992, political interventions often described as 'republicanism by stealth' coupled with a recognised bias in favour of the republic through the Australian press gave substantial support to the republican cause. In addition the blatant promotion through both funding and policy commitments of the Keating Labor Government until its election defeat in March 1996 has led many Australians to assume that a republic in Australia is 'inevitable'.
The public spokespersons associated with the ARM, coupled with an annual series of lavish $150 per head dinners, has frequently resulted in ARM members and the organisation being described as 'elitist' and out of touch with real Australia. This description is perhaps apt and is compounded by an ARM growth rate less than a quarter of that of ACM. Furthermore, in popular opinion polls, even at the height of the Keating Government's republican push, 'a republic' has never ranked in the top ten issues those polled wanted the Government to address.

The movement to defend the constitution, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), was launched at a public meeting on 4 June 1992. Tony Abbott, the first executive Director of ACM in his book "The Minimal Monarchy" described the organisation as 'the brain child of two Sydney lawyers: Lloyd Waddy, senior barrister and Chairman of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, who acted as spokesperson and organiser; and Michael Kirby, judge and law reformer who drafted a Charter for ACM which embraced everyone from ardent royalists, to strong constitutionalists, to republicans who were in no hurry for change.' Members of the Foundation Charter Council included Sir John Atwill, Aboriginal former senator Neville Bonner, former High Court Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs, Gareth Grainger, Stephen Hall, Angelo Hatsatouris, Sydney University Chancellor Dame Leonie Kramer, Vahoi Naufahu, Justice Barry O'Keefe, artist Margaret 011ey, New South Wales MLC Helen Sham-Ho, former Labor Lord Mayor of Sydney Doug Sutherland and Margaret Valadian. ACM now boasts a list of Supporters Australia-wide well in excess of 16,000.

A rally in Sydney Town Hall on 26 November 1993 addressed by the Hon John Howard MP (now Prime Minister of Australia) attracted a standing room only audience of over 2000. A march from the gates of Government House to the front of Parliament House in Sydney, organised by ACM in January 1996 to protest at the New South Wales Premier Bob Carr's attempt to downgrade the Office of Governor and deny the incoming governor residence in Government House attracted some 20,000 people. In addition ACM's established councils and branches across Australia have successfully held grass roots seminars, debates, luncheons, dinners and receptions for the wider community. Since its formation, ACM's overwhelming source of funding has been average donations of $5—$10 from individual Supporters. Fewer than 30 Supporters have given over $500.

In the lead up to the Howard Government's promised People's Constitutional convention ACM has focused on the need for educating Australians on our working constitution and system of government.

We know from the Civic Expert Group appointed by the Keating Government in 1994 that 82% of Australians know nothing about the content of our Constitution. Through the generosity of our Supporters the ACM resources development programme has included books, a video, collections of papers, our national Newsletter and a variety of handbooks.

In summary

'The Australian monarchy is a peculiar beast. Some would say that it doesn't really exist. But monarchies have an infinite variety, and ours is no less real because it's peculiar. During the 1990s we began to understand it better than we have done for many years, and we can thank the republican movement for that. ... ...

Monarchy is deeply embedded within the Australian tradition. It has its faults, but its virtues are fundamental to our way of life. Until that fact is recognised there is no useful way forward, no means of reconciling monarchists and republicans and no way of pursuing the other option to a republic, the remodelling and rebirth of the system we know.'

Allan Atkinson (Author) Quoted from "The Muddle-Headed Republic"


'We live under a Constitution that was formed without the directions of any women at all, and without indigenous people (including women and men) or, generally, women and men of non–English speaking background or ethnic minorities. ... ... Those rights that are contained in the Constitution would have been framed very differently if women and indigenous people of both sexes participated.'
Dr J. Scutt (Feminist lawyer) Paper: "From a colonial past to an inclusionary future woman — the Constitution and women's rights"
Political Equality For Women Seminar, Canberra 19 September 1996

'Feminist historians are often quite proud of the exemplary achievements of Australian women in the context of world history
— gaining the right to vote so early: 1894 in South Australia, the other colonies a little later, 1901 in the Commonwealth.'
Curthoys & Mueke. (Authors) "The Republican Debate" UNSW Press 1993.

'On 7 June (1995) Paul Keating told parliament ... that serving politicians and those who had served within the preceding five years would be ineligible for appointment as president. In these days of equal opportunity and non-discrimination, Keating wants to insert in our Constitution a provision that world discriminate against two categories of Australians regardless of merit.'
Sir David Smith (Official Secretary to Governors-General 1973-1990) "The Australian" 15 October 1996 p13

'Learning about the Constitution apprises ses people that we have got a constitution which was designed by the British Foreign office to look over the Australian Government's shoulder.'
The Hon P.J. Keating (former Prime Minister) Speech when launching the need for a national education programme to inform people about citizenship and the Constitution! Melbourne, 15 June 1994

'Mr Keating uses history to his advantage. He reinvents it to suit his agenda — the republic.'
Randal Marquee (Canberra Bureau Chief) "The West Australian" 18 June 1994

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