Call us 'crazy' we want an Aussie head of state
MELISSA GUBLIN WRITES IN LISMORE'S NORTHERN STAR - There hasn't been an Australian Republican Movement campaign on the Northern Rivers for more than 15 years.
But popular columnist and former Australian Rugby Union player Peter FitzSimons distanced himself from the thwarted "last century" republican debate when he spoke at Lismore and Ballina yesterday, in his role as ARM chairman.
With bipartisan support for a republic Mr FitzSimons believes "the Southern Cross stars have aligned for a dawn of a new age".
"For the first time we have all ministers, all premiers and both leaders, Turnbull and Shorten, who want a republic. Now is the time to move," he said.
"All we need is energy, engagement and money.
"The time has come. We believe in the 21st century that our head of state should be Australian. Call us crazy."
Mr FitzSimons predicted ARM's grassroots campaign would culminate in a successful referendum in 2020.
"It's simple," he told the Lismore Workers Club audience, which was largely comprised of older men.
"It's a matter of pride and it's a matter of dignity."
Lismore and Ballina are among 100 towns Australia-wide targeted by FitzSimons' vibrant recruitment drive.
Membership has quadrupled this year under his straight-talking leadership.
"The republican movement has to be across the country and it has to be grassroots. That's why I'm here in Lismore today," he said.
ARM was spruiking memberships for $60. According to Mr FitzSimons, an anonymous donor will meet all donations.
Despite the demographic who attended the launch, Mr FitzSimons said he expected the movement to gain appeal among younger voters.
"Once the campaign starts we have a great campaign to sell. And the case for the younger generation is a very strong one. It is ridiculous that we tell young people they can be anything they want but they can't be head of state. But a two-year-old in an aristocratic family in England could," he said.
He said bipartisan support for republican movement was essential for the movement, however it was Labor candidate Janelle Saffin and Country Labor member and Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell who were present at the event.
"The most passionate republican at the moment is Christopher Pyne," he said.
Mr FitzSimons is giving the grassroots movement until 2020 to lift public support from the current 51% to 60% and over.
"We are all blessed to be in this country," he said, "we just need to be our own people."
ARM member Cr Dowell echoed Mr FitzSimons' republican sentiment.
"The time has come," she said.
Cr Dowell said she would be doing her part to propel a grassroots campaign in Lismore.
"I think we have to raise the awareness of it and spread the word. I don't want to see it be hijacked as it was last time by the whole debate about the republican model," she said.
"The wording is very important. Australians traditionally vote 'no' to a referendum."