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The republic referendum in Australia: a view from the left



The modest republican
constitutional change proposed in the November 6, 1999, referendum was hardly the
most significant political question facing Australians in recent times. Nevertheless
the results provide a very useful snapshot of a changing Australia.

results were actually much better for the republic than most of the media would
admit. A 46.5 per cent Yes vote for a republic, first time up, is a very good result
when you consider that British-Australia was still celebrating Empire Day about
30 years ago, and when you remember the enormous grip all the hype about the British
royal family still had in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

older Australians can remember being bussed as schoolchildren to showgrounds during
royal visits to stand in the hot sun waiting for the Queen to pass by. For most
of the period since white settlement, the Australian establishment has energetically
promoted the monarchical British connection as an invaluable support for the hegemony
of the ruling class in Australia.

better understand the results, I have studied the detailed figures, booth by booth,
for all the seats in NSW, and the national results for five categories of votes.
The following analysis is based on my examination of these results, supplemented
by some useful figures supplied by Mick Armstrong in the magazine, Socialist
, published by the group of the same name, which was one of the socialist
groups with sufficient understanding of the class forces at work in the referendum
to very sensibly advocate a Yes vote. Mick Armstrong's article is very useful and
a lengthy quote from it is worthwhile here:

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