NOT THE RIGHT FITZ
Paul Zanetti is a Walkley award winning syndicated cartoonist with over 30 years in the media. He blogs at www.zanettisview.com
Some issues shouldn’t be classified as Left or Right – they should be bipartisan. Or just ‘right’, as in ‘correct’. One of those issues is the move for an Australian republic, which is on the boil again.
Unfortunately the renewed push risks ending up a train wreck again, as it was 16 years ago.
The new campaign has already got off to a very wobbly start with the recent appointment of Peter FitzSimons as the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement.
Fitzy, as he’s affectionately known to his nearest and dearest, is an outspoken author and columnist. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s very risky business for the ARM.
He sides unabashedly with the Left, agitating loudly and often in print and on line for Left causes. And there’s the problem. His appointment immediately brands the new push as a Leftist cause. It’s going to inevitably get many people's backs up. Division, not unity.
‘Fitzy’ and his TV host wife, Lisa Wilkinson, are proudly and loudly outspoken Sydney North Shore ‘chardy’ Lefties.
Lisa scored partisan brownie points for infamously shutting down the views of Federal Attorney General George Brandis on the ABC’s Q&A - playing to her audience - on the basis he’s an ‘old, white, man’ (like me). She gave the clear impression she believed her opinion is more worthy because she’s not.
If I were so inclined, I could choose to ‘take offence’ to her ageist, racist, sexist remark. But I shrug it off realising that verbally abusive backhanders used to silence an opposing view say more about those who engage in them, than those they hope to devalue.
When I was a kid I was taught to respect my elders. In many societies, the older generation is revered. The elderly are people from whom we can learn. But it seems being a ‘progressive’ means knowing it all when you’re young (or if you’ve never grown up). Only their opinion is tolerated.
Fitzy’s role as chairman of the Australian Republican Movement is a peculiar, even dangerous, one for the cause because (a) he’s partisan (b) he’s abrasively outspoken and divisive and (c) he often personalises his attacks on those with whom he disagrees.
He’s got all the diplomatic skills of a rugby front row forward on a charge to the try line.
Fresh off the blocks for an Australian republic, he’s already diminished the Queen and the royal family (“a family of aristocrats living in a palace in London” and “Australians needed to move past the “cult of celebrity” that surrounded the royal family”).
Tony Abbott didn’t get spared as “Australia’s last monarchist prime minister” and “he is a little insane” and “Tony Abbott cannot stand in the way of logic. Once he is gone, the tide will go forward.” (Abbott used to be FitzSimons' rugby coach).
His tweets are often agro, which is fine. No problem. Most tweets of the Left are. It’s their stock in trade in the twitterverse.
Just not for a chairman of an important reform movement like the ARM. I get the feeling he was appointed firstly for his outspoken passion for a republic and secondly because he is a darling of the Left media.
But the Left media is already on board. It’s the other side he needs to win over. And he’s not going to do that with his loud one-sided public opinions.
On twitter he goes by the username of M’Lord FitzSimons. Here’s a quick sample of why he may not be suitable for the role of ARM chairman.
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 26
Exactly mate! LOVE Monarchists, standing in front of Buck. Pal. throwing stones at Republicans, & crying "ELITISTS!"
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 24
The same PM that voluntarily stood in front of a sign saying "Ditch the Witch," when Ms Gillard was PM, yes?
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 22
Am writing speech for National Press Club address on the Republic. Please, as an Australian knight, what is Prince Phil's formal title now?
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 21
Steve, u may be right. But my job is not remotely to judge the public sentiment & align with it. Write what I think!
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 20
WALEED ALY at his best (and that is saying something!) Abbott is losing the plot in his war on environmentalists
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 17
This Pommy is the most bigoted, offensive, guest, #QandA has ever had. Discuss.
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 17
Nup. Mostly international guests on #QandA are great. But if I want to hear this kind of crap, I'll watch Fox News
M’Lord FitzSimons Aug 17
I get that the #ABC is trying to be "balanced." But does that mean we always need nutters to balance the sane ones?
And it goes on. His admission it’s not his job to remotely judge the public sentiment & align should ring alarm bells with those who appointed him.
Not quite the right attitude to get the public on board. Importantly he needs to appeal to the very people he needs to win over – the conservatives.
Maybe he doesn’t care.
If he doesn’t then he’s the wrong man for the job.
If he does, then he’s started off appallingly, and he needs to learn some lessons in diplomacy.
It’s evident Fitzy loathes the British royal family, but the movement for a republic shouldn’t be tainted by his personal opinions. The royals are much loved by millions. They’re a deep and long part of this country’s history. It’s those traditionalists Fitzy needs to convince and win over. He’s not there to impress his lefty mates.
The monarchy has played an important role in the nation’s foundation and political stability, regardless of whether Fitzy can’t appreciate that historical fact. The monarchy shouldn’t be dismissed with verbal slap downs.
The inherent challenge of mixing with Sydney inner city and leafy North Shore elitists when you’re an opinion writer (or cartoonist) is you get a narrow view of how Australians feel and what they think.
I had to get out of Sydney to get some perspective on the real Australia.
I’ve lived in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills where I once cooked really bad spag bolognaise for a then 20 year old Lisa Wilkinson (yes, Mrs Fitzy) who was a friend of my housemate, and I’ve lived on the North Shore. They’re a distant world away from the rest of the country with a different set of values.
I can see Fitzy driving this republic train right off the rails to another crash by splitting the mob, not uniting us in his cause. Which is a shame. As a confessed traditionalist, I’m not opposed to an Australian republic. I’m ready to be convinced it’s time. Not by dissing the royals or Tony Abbott but because it may help unite us all and make our nation proudly independent.
But the renewed push needs a good salesman, not an abrasive opinionist, which also disqualifies me, so no I’m not looking for the gig. Neither of us really are eligible.
The last campaign for a republic was lost when it was put to a vote in 1999.
Malcolm Turnbull was the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement at the time. His preferred model was for a president appointed by the parliament, not elected by the people.
That model was arrogantly flawed and doomed to defeat.
Australians were never going to opt for the ‘we know better’ republic. Malcolm didn’t take the defeat well and his relationship with then PM Howard (an avowed monarchist) was irreparably damaged.
I’m ready for the move to an Australian republic by 2020, which is the time frame they’re talking.
But Fitzy, adopt some tact, mate.
How’s that ol’ saying go again? You catch more flies with honey than vinegar (or angry tweets).
And those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.