Thursday, July 30, 2009

Australia's first directly elected president

Alternate history is a subgenre of science fiction that contains elements of historical fiction and sometimes time travel, but is unique in that it extrapolates upon how, if a given event is changed, the course of history will be altered from that point forward.

In A. Bertram Chandler’s Kelly Country the narrator is sent back in time, into the mind of his great-grandfather, in order to be able to write an eyewitness account of the Siege of Glenrowan, his ancestor having been among those present in Ma Jones’s pub on that occasion. He somehow gets control of his great-grandfather’s mind and interferes, stopping Thomas Curnow from flagging down the special train, not realising that by doing so he has changed history. As a result of his intervention the Australian Revolution succeeds because the rebels receive considerable help from the United States. The Harp in the South Committee – with Ned Kelly’s famous cousin, Buffalo Bill as its figurehead – raises money and volunteers. Francis Bannerman – the world’s first international secondhand arms dealer – supplies weaponry. Certain officers of the American army regard the war in Australia as an ideal opportunity for trying out newfangled devices in somebody else’s country – Andrews airships, steam-operated Gatling cannons, and primitive tanks with steam-driven, armoured traction engines. When the narrator returns to his present he realises the success of the Australian Revolution has changed the history of Australia and to a lesser extent the world.

At there have been a number of alternate history timelines written that explore an alternate Australian republic. Below is an extract from an alternate history where the Sir John Kerr is the last Governor-General of Australia and elected as the first Australian president in 1975:

Event Date: 1-1-1975
An election called by Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to end the stalemate results in a victory for his Labour Party. The Labourite majority in the House is increased and the Liberal-Country coalition loses its control of the Senate.

Event Date: 28-2-1975
The Australian House of Representatives passes a bill calling for a plebiscite on the issue of the monarchy and Australia's ties to Great Britain.

Event Date: 3-3-1975
The Senate passes the same bill by a sizable margin.

Event Date: 27-5-1975
Australian voters decide to abolish the monarchy and declare Australia a republic. A presidential election will be held on September 1st.

Event Date: 1-9-1975
Sir John Kerr, the last Governor-General of Australia, wins the presidential election over 2 Liberal opponents, former Prime Ministers John Gorton and William McMahon. Kerr gets 53%, followed by 35% for McMahon and 12% for Gorton.

See for the full alternate history timeline.