The death of the great Australian writer, historian and art critic Robert Hughes on 6 August 2012 in New York prompted me to see if we had any small and unique gems of his authoritative, articulate and avowedly Antipodean expression in the PANDORA Archive. Well, there is no ‘Robert Hughes’ website, but perhaps one of the most interesting remnants of Robert Hughes from the Archive is the speech he delivered at Australian Republican Movement's ‘Summer Rally for the Republic’ held at the Sydney Town Hall on 1 December 1996. Speakers at the rally included Tom Keneally and Andrew Denton among others, culminating in Hughes’s speech titled ‘Our Shared Future’ which he began in typical satirical aplomb, with the words:
“Welcome, fellow chardonnay-swilling elitists. As an expatriate who is still a citizen, I bring greetings from across the wide Pacific, from the land where a Democrat president has won his second term by embracing the social programs of the Republican Party, to the country where politicians feel a stern inner compulsion always to keep their electoral promises.”
The rally was part of the burgeoning expression of the Australian republican movement leading up to the Constitutional Convention, held in February 1998, which was convened to discuss and debate the issue of Australia becoming a republic prior to a constitutional referendum on the issue in 1999. Hughes’s speech was one that aimed to embrace the reality of a multicultural Australia where:
“... we should look front and sideways. First at our fellow citizens, who are the reason for the State and whose will and aspirations are the gravitational field that keeps a head of State in place”.
Of course no Hughes-ian contribution would be complete without the trademark turn of phrase and earthy eloquence for which he was renowned:
“The fear of sudden cultural discontinuity is merely a cistern into which the monarchists can pour their inarticulate bad dreams about multiculturalism.” “We no longer faint in front of the Town Hall and have to be carried away by the zambucks when the Queen grants us the royal epiphany.” “Somehow, [the Prime Minister] thinks, these burps and farts from the deep gut of Australian racism are just what we need to dispel what he is pleased to call the tyranny of political correctness.”
So in memory of a great Australian check out his speech on an early archived version of the Australian Republic Movement website along with the speeches of others from the rally that are no longer on the ‘live’ web.
Australian Republican Movement website (archived 1998) for The Summer Rally for the Republic held on 1 December 1996