1 JUNE 2014

My name is Adam Collins, I’m the convener of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Republican Movement.

I am here to offer you a very warm welcome on behalf of the State Council.

This is an excellent turn out, and makes the point very clearly that the ARM is back in business in Victoria.

A strong and vibrant ARM is vital to working towards the constitutional change everyone in this room craves – an Australian head of state.

It is the unfortunate reality that Republicanism in Australia has suffered from a decade or more in the wilderness.

And a lot of people would suggest with an activist Monarchist in the Lodge and the irrepressible celebrity machine that surrounds the Royal family that this will continue.

But that’s why there couldn’t be a more important time for Republicans to stand up and be counted.

Now, there is no doubt there is a big job ahead of us.

But this is critical unfinished business for our country, so as Republicans we have a responsibility to take the lead on this national debate.

Not least, we have to explain to the 3.4 million Australians who weren’t on the voters roll in 1999 why it should be an Australian – not a Brit – holding our constitution’s highest office.

Whilst it sounds so simple when put that way, history tells us that constitutional reform in Australia is incredibly hard work.

And what is absolutely certain is that it won’t happen on its own.

Contrary to popular belief, it definitely isn’t inevitable.

It takes years of slogging it out in the public debate to build momentum for change.

And that’s exactly what this forum is about today: building momentum, and building our movement so we can together build the case for change.

So I’m thrilled that you can all be part of this important conversation today to do your bit.

We have an excellent panel of speakers to lead the conversation through the course of the afternoon.

 Melissa Conley Tyler, Australian Institute of International Affairs

 Melba Marginson, Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition

 Rhys Muldoon, award winning actor and columnist

 Tony Walker, Australian Financial Review

 Sarah Capper, Victorian Women’s Trust

 Michael Cooney (as the panel MC), Chifley Research Centre

And of course, with no further ado that leads me to introduce our keynote speaker, the Honourable Mark Dreyfus QC MP.

Before entering public life, Mark spent two decades as a prominent barrister, appointed as a Queen’s Council in 1999.

He was elected to the House of Representatives at the 2007 election, representing the electorate of Isaacs in Melbourne’s south-east.

After the 2010 election, Mark joined the executive as Cabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate change.

In 2013, he joined the Cabinet, where he was appointed Attorney-General, later also assuming the position of Special Minister of State.

He is now the Shadow-Attorney General.

And of course, for our purposes today, he is a proud and passionate Republican.

Please make him welcome. Mark Dreyfus.