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The cosmopolitan social agenda and the referendum on the republic

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-05-05, 01:16 authored by Betts, Katharine
Should Australia become a republic with a head of state elected by a two-thirds majority of Parliament? In November 1999 this question was put to the people in a referendum and lost. The October 1998 Australian Election Study can help us understand this result. This survey shows that economic class and region were both associated with attitudes to the referendum; better-off, better-educated people in inner-city suburbs were more likely to vote yes and poorer, less well-educated people in the outer suburbs and rural areas were more likely to vote no. Trust in political institutions is also important; the more people trust government and political parties the more likely they were to vote yes. However, another factor has a stronger effect on the vote than either economic class, region or trust, and that is attitudes to the new cosmopolitan social agenda developed in the Hawke and Keating years. This agenda includes closer integration with Asia, support for minority rights, especially Aboriginal rights, and support for multiculturalism and immigration. People who approve of this agenda were more likely to have voted yes than people who do not. Economic and locational variables can be thought of as one major set of causes of the outcome of the referendum and attitudes to the cosmopolitan agenda as another. There is an overlap between the two sets but this overlap is only partial, and the effect of support for the cosmopolitan agenda is stronger than the effect of economic circumstances or region. The effect of trust is mid-way between the two major sets. Copyright. Monash University and the author/s


Date originally published



People and place, vol. 7, no. 4 (1999), p. 32-41. ISSN 1039-4788

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