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Richard J. Wood

Queensland Campaign Director (No Republic)

Transcript of an interview with Richard J. Wood aired 8 August 1999, on Radio 4BC

Reporter: (Anthony Frangi): Mr Wood welcome to the programme.

Richard Wood: Good evening Anthony.

Reporter: If I could I start off talking about your efforts to save the Queen's job. The Sun-Herald this morning reports that Mark Taylor will become the public face for the No Campaign in the referendum. In other words, campaigning for continuation of the monarchy. Is, to your knowledge, is that well based?

Wood: I can't say Anthony, I've simply read the front page of the paper as you have. If Mark is joining the team obviously I'd welcome him but really, it's up to him as it is up to all Australians to make their own mind and to choose whether or not to speak up publicly on this.

Reporter: He says that this is news to him. You've got no reason to believe that John Howard has lined him up?

Wood: None whatsoever. Mark Taylor's views on this and on other subjects are his own and certainly no one that I know has been involved in trying to bring him out on this subject.

Reporter: Do you think that engaging celebrities and sportsmen to argue a constitutional matter in a referendum is the way to go?

Wood: It's hard to avoid but I don't really think it helps. A thousand celebrities can be wrong in all of this and I think one of the problems that the republicans have faced is that their campaign has looked like a campaign of the elites by the elites for the elites and getting a rollcall of the glitterati to support a republic I think just reinforces that.

Reporter: And you think you can sell a constitutional argument in the same way that you can flog Olympic tickets?

Wood: (laughs) Well for me Anthony, I just have this instinctive view that the system which has served Australia well for a hundred years and which has helped to make us what we are is worthy of respect and I'll keep supporting it until such time as I hear a better argument and I haven't heard any good arguments thus far for a change.

Reporter: But you'd prefer not to see sportsmen and showbiz people leading this debate?

Wood: Well, look, at the end of the day it's matter for each individual to decide and I really think that as the Prime Minister himself said, celebrities perhaps should stand back.

Reporter: Now Mr Wood, Peter Costello said the other day, I've said this to my friends who are constitutional monarchists, that Australia over the whole course of the century has been gradually lessening the relationship with Britain. That's true isn't it?

Wood: Yes, it is.

Reporter: Now, he went on to say, I just think that the symbolism of the monarchy is something that's going to … that's not going to carry Australia through the twenty-first century. Do you agree with that?

Wood: Well, the monarchy in Australia is very different from the monarchy in Britain. Our monarchy is, essentially, the Governor-General, whereas the Brit … the monarchy in Britain is essentially the Queen …

Reporter: I…

Wood: … I know the Governor-General …

Reporter: …I don't…

Wood: …wears the Crown, so to speak…

Reporter: …I don't think Sir William Deane is King William…

Wood: …in Australia.

Reporter: …I'm not sure that stands up.

Wood: No, but the point is our monarchy is different from the mon … monarchy in Britain.

Reporter: The reason it's different is it's foreign.

Wood: Well …we have a system where the Crown is, in effect, worn by the Governor-General and it's a very good system and people keep saying it's a great system, we don't want to change it. Well, it's impossible to become a republic and not change that system. Now, Anthony, on this question of it being foreign, well, I just don't feel that that is the case.

The Crown came ashore with us in 1788. We went to Gallipoli as a monarchy, we fought in Kokoda as a monarchy. We won all our Olympic gold medals. We became a rich, prosperous and multicultural country under the Crown and I don't …

Reporter: And you don't… do you think we can…

Wood: …see that as foreign.

Reporter: …you think we can go through the next century in the same way?

Wood: Well, obviously, people's reasons for supporting the Crown will change over time. It is true that, once upon a time, we supported the Crown because we felt we were in some sense British. That sense has long gone, but there are other reasons for supporting the Crown and the strongest of them is that it is a very good system of government.

And why should we tamper with it? Why should we go through all the risk of becoming a republic, just to give us -- at best -- what we've already got?

Reporter: Well, Mr Costello also said, some say if you vote in the referendum you'll get a monarchy and some say if you do, you'll get a radical republic. They can't both be right. Now, if there is a no vote in the referendum, in your view, who will have won?

Wood: Oh well, Anthony, if I could just take issue with something there?

Reporter: Yes.

Wood: One of the things that we might get, come November, is a federal republic, with state monarchies and, under that system, you could have a governor, a state governor, representing the Queen, standing in for the federal president. Which strikes me as a real dog's breakfast outcome …

Reporter: Well aren't you…

Wood: … and yet that's the kind of thing…

Reporter: …you've already said…

Wood: …that we're going to get…

Reporter: …you've already said…

Wood: …under this republic.

Reporter: …under the present system, we've got a federal monarchy, with King Bill Deane and five … six state monarchies. What's the difference?

Wood: No, no, no. Well, I think you're somewhat distorting what I said, Anthony. The point is, our Australian system of government is very different from the British one and all the monarch's powers, under our Australian constitution, that we picked, are exercised by the Governor-General. That's why I say there's a sense in which the Governor-General is the Australian Crown.

Reporter: Okay. Well, Mr Costello's main point, though, is that the monarchists and the radical republicans are using each other to defeat the moderate centre and its proposal for a republic. He says the two poles will then defeat the centre and slug it out in a much more divisive debate. Now, that's a pretty accurate analysis, isn't it?

Wood: Well, I don't believe so. You see, some years ago, Peter was an opponent of a republic. Then, at the Constitutional Convention, he supported the McGarvie model. Now he's supporting the Turnbull/Keating model, because he thinks that if that doesn't get up, something worse will emerge.

Well, my view is that you should simply support what you believe to be right. And I think that if there are grave reservations about the Turnbull/Keating model, as there are -- and Peter expressed some of those at the Constitutional Convention -- the best thing is to oppose that model and then put up something that you believe in, later on, if you think that's appropriate.

Reporter: So you don't agree with Peter Reith that the best way to ensure a radical republic, a direct elected president, is to vote no in this referendum? You don't see that'll be the result?

Wood: I think the best thing for Australia is to vote no in this referendum and then just take the future as it comes. If we are going to become a republic -- and I don't see any reason for it -- I'm sure we can do a lot better than this particular republican model.

Reporter: Mr Wood, we thank you.

Wood: Thank you, Anthony.

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