History questions for Australian Dopers

In no way do I want to offer offense by these questions. Some months back an Australian doper posted that common belief in his country was that they had done most if not all of the fighting and dying at Gallipoli, and when I posted a cite showing that British deaths were almost twice that of Anzac’s, he was very gracious in acknowledging my correction. In all other dealings I’ve had with Australians, you’ve been similarly fair-minded, so I feel I can raise such questions with you while there are other nations with whom I could not.

The website for the Australian War Memorial states that its countries First World War dead represents the highest percentage loss of any country in that war. How widely is this bit of information distributed in Australia? Is it part of every schoolchild’s education?

Australia lost just under 60,000 lives out of a population of approximately four million, or 1.5%. That equals 3 out of every 200 people, a percentage that’s exceeded only by the extreme cases such as Russia and Poland in the Second World War, or Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance. However, Romanian deaths in the First World War were 335,000 out of a population of 7,830,00, or 4.28%, equaling 17 lost out of every 400 (not counting civilian deaths, against which Australia suffered much fewer). Is this ever mentioned if and when Australians claims the highest percentage of sacrifice?

On another, if somewhat emotionally related topic, will there be repeat of the 1999 vote by Australians to sever official ties with the UK and become a republic? What are its chances this next time?

And, more of a GD question I’ll admit, do you think that its chances of passing would be greater or lesser if, along with the Australians, the people of England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland were allowed to vote on Australia’s severance?

redirect (again)

Only a New Zealander, here – but I thought if those having a discussion on this might like to take a look at this site on military casualties in World War One.

For the record, New Zealand had a casualty record quite close to that of our fellow Anzacs, by percentage of population at the time, if not probably a little more.

Oh, and approximate casualty figures for the Gallipoli campaign.

I was taught that Australians were shunted to the front by the British military, as were other troops (New Zealand, Indian, I think and Canadian, though I may be mistaken). This was presented as a way for the British military to lessen British losses, though how factual this is, I have no idea (just passing on what I was taught). However, I wasn’t taught that we had a higher % loss than other countries. Other schools / states / generations may have been taught differently

One day I think there will be another referendum to become a republic, but what will happen depends (again) on how it’s presented and how’s it’s packaged as a voting issue.

Why on Earth would the British vote on the matter ? Why would they go to that expense ? I can’t see that ever happening.

Sorry for butting in here again, folks, but …

The site for the Australian War Memorial says:

Where did you source your information from with regard to what you put in your OP, Slithy Tove?

The site doesn’t appear to say that at all.

I think the percentage rate to claim Australia had the highest ‘casualty’ rate included injured as well as killed.

This aspect of our contribution to WWI is overshadowed in history studies by the fact that all our combatants were volunteers (two referenda to introduce conscription during the war were defeated), and that they went over to the other side of the world effectively to fight someone else’s war. It is the tight connection of the time to the mother country that is a source of wonder nowadays.

The referendum to become a republic? It was defeated because the politicians gave us the ‘wrong’ model of a republic. We want to elect our own president, and not leave it up to parliament (or the Prime Minister) to choose him/her for us. If we are allowed to choose a model like the Irish have, it will get a 2/3rds approval result.

And if, as a result of a yes vote, we were not allowed to beat a British team in a sporting contest for the next 20 years, the UK would vote 99.94% ‘YES!’

On this page of the site it does


Which I looked ups after watching Robert Hughes say the same thing in his film at the war memorial (not that I assume that Robert Hughes is an official spokesman for Australia.)

I never learned anything about Gallipoli at school. From the outset, I can tell that your figures are certainly not part “part of every schoolchild’s education”.

The “highest percentage loss” figure is completely new to me. I attend ANZAC Day ceremonies every year but I’ve never heard it bandied about.

On the republic:

Personally, I was satisifed with the 1999 proposed republican model, but it was defeated (IMO) by an incredibly well-run monarchist campaign designed to mislead and scare voters away from voting “yes”.

I’m afraid that the next time a referendum is held (no word on when that’ll be), a similar scare campaign will be waged against the direct election model (which I favour less than the 1999 “minimal change” solution, but will vote for anyway).

**Hmm? What proposition would they vote on? Whether to “allow” us to sever? The people of the United Kingdom don’t have the power to stop us.

Oh, and I wouldn’t even take Robert Hughes’s word on weather conditions outside. Another expatriate who needs to Shut the Hell Up about matters Australian.

BalmainBoy is correct - every time I’ve seen this commented on, there’s an assumption that those badly enough wounded to be sent home are casualties.

Imperial forces (especially ANZACs, Canadians and Indians) tended to be used by the British as shock troops, partly to keep the home force casualties low, but also because they tended to be volunteers who were physically more able and also better trained.

It should be noted that the concept of the British Empire didn’t really break down completely until the 1950s or 1960s. Even after WW2 Australia remained on rationing far longer than Britain did so that it could send food and supplies to the British rebuilding effort. While gaining technical independence in 1901, Australia didn’t really make great pretentions to nationhood until the election of Gough Whitlam in 1973.

Finaly, wrt the whole republic referendum debacle. Most Australians want to dump the Queen, who is seen as outdated and quaintly embarrassing - kind of like those naked baby photos your mother showed your first girlfriend/boyfriend.

A government finally got around to organising a referendum, but got voted out before it happened. The head of the government that got voted in wanted (wants) to drag the country back about 50 years, because that’s the way it was when he grew up and it should be good enough for everybody else. He wanted to kill the referendum, but it had too much momentum.

It was quickly realised that there were three points to be argued. Should Australia become a republic? How much power should a president have? and How should the president be appointed?

Popular opinion said “Yes”, “Ceremonial powers only” and “Elected by the populace”, respectively.

In order to get a question to put to the voters, a Constitutional Convention was set up. Citizens would elect a certain number of conventioneers, the government would stack the benches with the rest.

After the Convention election, the major republican group (the Australian Republican Movement) changed their platform from direct election to croniocracy - that the president would be appointed by parliamentarians. There’s excellent indication that the head of the ARM assumed that he’d be appointed by a greatful government as the nation’s first president.

Along with the government appointees, this bloc ensured that the Convention would recommend that the question put to the people in the referendum was one proposing that the queen be replaced with a President who would retain essentially ceremonial powers (the queen’s powers under the current constitution are vast, but unused) and be appointed by parliament. This model was supported by the Centre-Right opposition (the Labor Party), but opposed by the Right Wing government (the Liberal/National coalition), who preferred the maintenance of the monarchy.

This proposal was decried at length as unwanted, and proved massively unpopular with the electorate. The ‘retain the queen’ side campaigned not on their own platform, but on a “not this model” basis, and won - handsomely. Many voters assumed that there would shortly be another referendum with a better model proposed.

This, however, was a godsend to the PM who publicly declared that Australians loved the queen to bits and the question should never be raised again. Some of the more lunatic fringe demanded that treason charges be brought among those who put forward the referendum in the first place.

Australian people went back to wanting a republic where the President was directly elected. The Labor Party went back to questioning how they could have failed to gain another sinecure for faithful party hacks. The PM went back to 1951.

The monarchy remains unpopular. If the same referendum were to be put this weekend, it would probably lose again. If one that accurately reflected the wishes of the population were put, HRH’d be queueing up at Centrelink on Monday.

Apologies for the post length - it didn’t look that big in the reply window.

On the page you linked, Slithy Tove, it says the following :

Quite a different thing from your OP, which is concerned with lives lost / population, not casualties / embarkations.

I wasn’t aware we lost that great a number of our volunteer fighting force, so at least I’ve learnt something today. FWIW, I just spoke with my SO, who attended a different high school and he also was never taught this.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I found the post in question a model of pith and lucidity. Thank you for a quick primer on recent Australian politics.

IMHO, it’s not that the Australian public wants a “direct election” model republic, and was given the option of a "minimalist change (parliament-elected President) one - or vice versa, rather that the electorate was divided on the issue, and the monarchists understandably made the most out of that situation by effectively splitting the republican vote.

I favour a President elected by parliament.

On the Republic, you might note that while a solid magority of Australians favoured a directly elected head of state; based on several threads on this topic, the magority of Aussies either posting on SDMB or G’Dope are minimalist republicans. What you can read into that, I’m not sure.

BigNik has the questions right, but that’s not how I remember the answers.
The concept of becoming a Republic certainly has majority support, but nobody was saying any form of republic was better than a constitutional monarchy.
The question of power of the office were the real game breaker. As you start codifying the powers you comes the recognition of why giving the position a political mandate is not a good idea. Thirdly, if you have an elected (political) office the only people with the organisational resource to mount a campaign for it will be a candidate from one of the main political parties.

This set up the conundrum that the “elected by parliament” model was denigrated as the politicians republic, despite the fact it could have given us bi-partisan support for somebody like William Dean as our first President while the “direct election” model will give us a partisan political wannabe and inevitable conflict between President and Prime Minister.

The election was not won by the monarchists, but lost by the direct electionists, who opted for ideology over pragmatism.

I voted for the referendum, and when/if a direct election model goes to a plebiscite, sorry but I’m voting against it.

I saw this at work and was all set to compose a substantive post (for a change), but TLD and woolly have made that unnecessary. BigNik’s post is otherwise pretty good.

The republic - in the unlikely event that it gets back on the agenda in the next 20 years - will require bipartisan support. It is unlikely that a package of constitutional reforms sufficient to implement a direct election model whilst not appearing to risk threatening the success of our constitutional order could command the attention of Parliament long enough to succeed. Only “appointed figurehead” models have any chance.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t support some appropriate package of reforms, just that it would have no hope of success at referendum without bipartisan support.

It’s unfair to say the direct electionists lost the referendum. Of course they played into the PM’s hand - cluelessly and smugly (a combination that is a touchstone of the Trots). But so did the ARM. Doing deals to get things done is what politics is about, and they showed little interest and less skill.

I’d vote yes for any republican referendum. I do see the pros and cons of elected v appointed, but to me the main priority is getting the Queen out. It’s so embarrasing that we are an independent country with a foreign head of state. It’s embarrasing that I was born in this country and (even if I want to) I can’t become head of state.

I just had a friend who wrote about this very issue. I can’t seem to host it right now as I am on a crappy firewalled connection but if anybody wants to host it for me, email me at xianhangz@student.unsw.edu.au

This might well be true for many people, although i think the whole issue is a little more complicated than that.

Personally, i was (and am) a staunch republican who still ended up voting against the the republic. In making this decision, i paid not the slightest heed to the monarchists during the whole course of the campaign. I knew i wanted a republic, but i also believed that voting for (what i considered) the wrong model of republic would mean that (what i considered) the right model would never be an option.

Now, i concede that some might make the argument that i played into the monarchists hands by adopting this attitude. That’s their right. But i was neither misled nor scared by the monarchists themselves, because their own position was largely irrelevant to my decision.

And i would just like to point out that, contrary to Hawthorne’s implication, not all of us who wanted direct election of the president are clueless or smug, and nor are we all Trotskyists.

With regard to various posts on the thread so far, the ‘minimal change’ movement generally related to powers, and the ‘direct electionists’ weren’t necessarily opposed to it.

What did emerge during debate at the Convention, thoughm was that a directly elected President who did not have actual power would have a mandate for moral power, which an appointed President (or Governor General, or monarch) would not have. This is one of the reasons that parliamentarians were generally opposed to direct election.