Australian republican debate 1999 - and the media's role

Essay by arlex76College, Undergraduate April 2004

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The Australian media played a huge role in providing information to the Australian public during the republic debate that waged before the referendum in November 1999. By focusing on certain issues and particular people and failing to give the Australian public information on all of the issues of the debate, the Australian media helped sway the publics' opinion and therefore the out come of the referendum.

During the constitution convention held in 1998 people representing many different groups concerned with the republic debate argued the main issues of this matter, and eventually came up with the blueprint of the proposed republic debate to be voted on by the people of Australia. The main issues that were discussed during the constitution convention were; the nomination and election of the president and the procedure that would be employed for this, the dismissal procedure of the president, the definition of powers the president would hold and the changes that would be made to the constitution and preamble.

Out of these issues the Australian media focused mainly on the nomination and election procedure of the president and the powers the president would hold. These issues were not only seen as newsworthy because of their importance to the republic debate, but because of the emotions and controversy they held. The issues were sensationalised as the major lobbying groups of the republic debate struggled to persuade the people of Australia on how to vote.

The most controversial issue of the time was that of the election procedure of the president. The division between the direct election supporters and the indirect election supporters was debated in the morning newspapers, on the daytime radio and on the nightly news. The reason this argument was so sensationalised in the Australian media was that it split party lines. The republic...