6 November, 1999
Future Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was chair of the Australian Republican Movement at the time of the unsuccessful referendum for Australia to become a republic. The 'YES' movement was divided between ARM republicans who wanted a parliamentary elected President, and direct election supporters.
All of us who voted Yes can be proud tonight. We did what was right. And when in years to come, our children or our grandchildren ask us why Australia has the Queen or the King of England as our head of state, we can look them in the eye truthfully and say, ‘on November 6th 1999, I voted Yes for our Republic’.
I thank every Australian who voted Yes. I thank you for your patriotism, your optimism and your pride.
The republic will come back. Not as soon as we’d like it to come. But it will return, and I hope we all live to see it.
To those Republicans who voted No, thinking they will soon get another chance to vote, I’m afraid you have been had. Nothing would please me more than for there to be another early chance to vote for a republic, but the people who made those promises to you will do nothing to keep them.
As the years roll on without a republic, do not forget, never forget, who told you to vote No, with the promise of a referendum for a directly elected president.
A promise they never ever intended to keep.
Now today’s referendum was the culmination of a nine year campaign. The Australian Republican Movement should be proud of its achievements. We didn’t win this vote today in the republic debate, but without your tireless efforts, there would have been no republic debate.
There would have been no constitutional convention, no referendum.
Because of our struggle, the republic is indelibly on the Australian political agenda. Together we put it there.
Fighting for the republic in John Howard’s Australia has been gruelling and heartbreaking. But are we further ahead today than we were in 1996? Yes!
Our republican cause united Australians in a way we have never seen before. Who would have imagined we’d have had Peter Costello, Kim Beasley and Natasha Stott-Despoja wearing the same campaign badge. What else but such a great objective could united Fraser and Whitlam, Doug Anthony and Bob Hawke.