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Cap #2015-0210

Green baseball-style cap with a white Southern Cross and yellow ‘yes’ printed on the front.

History

This cap was produced by the Australian Republican Movement as part of their ‘yes’ campaign for the Australian republic referendum in 1999.

During the 1990s, support for an Australian republic gained strength and some began to see it as inevitable. Prime Minister Paul Keating, an avowed republican, articulated his and the government’s belief that Australia should become a republic in a speech to the House of Representatives on 7 June 1995, proposing an Australian head of state by the centenary of Federation in 2001. With polls showing a clear majority in favour, Liberal leader John Howard sought compromise by pledging a referendum on the matter at the 1996 election. As Prime Minister, Howard called and attended a Constitutional Convention at Old Parliament House in February 1998 and argued strongly against change. The convention produced a model, endorsed by the Australian Republican Movement, under which Australia’s President would be chosen by a joint sitting of Parliament.

The referendum campaign was hard-fought by both sides. Leading Republicans such as Malcolm Turnbull and former prime ministers Whitlam, Fraser and Keating all endorsed the ‘yes’ case, while Howard and other monarchists including David Flint and Kerry Jones campaigned against it. The key arguments in favour of a republic centred around nationalism and symbolism; that the head of the Australian nation should be an Australian. The monarchist case argued that the current system worked, though some ‘no’ campaigners also favoured popular election of the head of state.

The referendum was held on 6 November 1999 and resulted in 54.87 per cent rejecting the convention’s model. The vote was decisive in most states. Victoria voted to reject by a very small margin, and the ACT voted strongly in favour. Although some monarchists claimed the referendum had decided the question, republicans continued to be vocal and the issue remains a divisive one in Australian politics.

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This cap has historical significance through its connection to the 1999 republic referendum and the question of the importance of the monarchy in Australia. The cap was produced by the Australian Republican Movement, a non-partisan organisation which has led the campaign for a republic since it was formed in 1991. It was worn by a supporter for an Australian republic and reflects the personal way people show their politics, especially during major national debates.

Caps of this kind were worn by booth workers at the referendum’s polling stations, and thus some historical and social significance can be derived from the cap’s role as part of the scenery of a democratic electoral process in Australia. There is social significance too for current supporters of a republic, who look upon the 1999 referendum as a turning point in the national debate, and who continue to press their agenda despite the failure of the referendum to secure sufficient votes.

Details

Width 205mm
Height 130mm
Depth 270mm
Medium Acrylic; cotton; plastic; ink
Creator’s name Australian Republican Movement
Date created 1999