“We are developing a whole new campaign, so watch this space!” he told the Irish Echo. “We are convinced that this is the decade that the republican issue needs to be resolved.”
The debate has simmered in Australia since the Governor-General (the Queen’s representative in Australia) dismissed the Gough Whitlam government in 1975.
The ARM, a volunteer, non-party-political organisation, was founded in 1991. Rising support for an independent Australian nation culminated in a divisive referendum. In November 1999, Australians were asked: “Do you approve of an Act to alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament?”
Even though opinion polls indicated the Yes campaign would win, the motion was defeated 55 to 45 per cent.
“The last time, there was too much of an assumption that it was inevitable,” Mr Morris explained.
He said the people left it to the political leaders, which led to disagreements over how to select a head of state.
Mr Morris says that other options should be considered in electing a head of state and he believes that Australians should aspire to the Irish presidency model.
“Because of our media, which only ever talks about heads of state in England and America, Australians
often don’t know about … the role of other heads of state across the world,” he said.
“Ireland is a good example of a very successful parliamentary system. Even though [presidents] are elected in a partisan election every seven years, the moment the election is over, they rise to a level above politics and they speak for Irish values and Irish ideals; like the Queen speaks for English values and ideals. That is something we are missing in this country.”
Mr Morris served as first secretary in the Australian Embassy in Dublin between 1995 and 1997. During his tenure, he met former president Mary Robinson on several occasions. “She was inspirational; such a fabulous figurehead and an important character to represent Ireland to the world.
“Australians should aspire to have a head of state who does what Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese and Michael D Higgins did for Ireland.”
“I think it is important that every community, no matter where their ancestry is from, is engaged in this issue,” he said. “All Australians should feel that this is their nation.”
He says that while the ARM does not have a stance on changing Australia’s flag or symbols, Ireland again offers a good model.
“People assume that the moment you become a republic, you have to change everything, [but] the symbols don’t have to necessarily change,” he remarked.
“Look at Ireland: They still have the Royal Dublin Society, the Royal Society, even the old letterboxes with the coat of arms – they’re painted green instead of red, but they are still there.
“Ireland is a proud republic but you don’t erase your history.”
In an opinion poll conducted by Newspoll in April 2011, 41 per cent favoured an Australian republic, 39 per cent were opposed and 20 per cent were uncommitted.
“The issue was put to rest for a while but I’m absolutely convinced it is time to wake it up again,” said Mr Morris.