Well, that will cause many of my friends to cringe or worse, but some to cheer! I have a range of friends. Being even more ancient than the King and having been a British Subject in 1954, though born in Australia, I can remember this vividly from when I was 10 years old:
We stopped being British Subjects in 1984 — Google it!
No doubt in 1954 that Elizabeth II was indeed the Queen of Sutherland, and of The Gong:
There in fact she is walking past City Diggers where she had lunch — probably not the rissoles or the barramundi, so she missed out really. Of course it was just the RSL then and a different building, and you can judge yourself how soon after rhe War this was by all those youngish blokes with medals. All dead now, but then so are the Queen and the Duke. But the great thing about monarchy is that being hereditary — though not all are — it simply carries on. So now we have King Charles who has been to Australia very many times. He could almost apply for citizenship!
He does actually do things as well. Like the Prince’s Trust.
So should we have a King?
I did vote for a Republic in 1999, Would I now? Not necessarily….
Let’s see what I said 15 years ago
Links may or may not work.
23 APRIL 2008
It will happen, no doubt about it, by 2050 if not by 2020 (sic!) I honestly cannot imagine the current constitutional arrangements carrying on for all that much longer, but by 2050 I will of course be long dead. I guess though that at that time Australian Monarchists will seem rather like the Jacobites in McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series, and like those Jacobites they will probably still be having meetings. (The irony for the Jacobites is that they resent the displacement of the true monarchs of Scotland by the German Princeling George I, and instead look to another German Princeling, that of Bavaria, as the True Monarch. It’s true that the nearest descendant of James II is a Prince of Bavaria, but that line long since relinquished any claim themselves.)
Meanwhile, reading as I am the wonderful and sometimes cantankerous Norman Davies, this time Europe East & West, I should like to point out, as he does, that the last Queen of England was Anne. Since 1707 there have been no English monarchs as such; Elizabeth II (or perhaps to be quite accurate Elizabeth I) is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but not, technically, of England. All of which no longer has any direct relevance to Australia, but she ALSO happens to be Queen of Australia, and in that role is her connection with us. (See for the current position The Australia Act 1986.) Then there is of course the somewhat vaguer, but still I believe useful, Commonwealth, of which she is the head duly recognised by quite a few republics.
So at the moment, as the coinage tells me quite clearly, Elizabeth II (or I) is the Australian Head of State; but then the Constitution is usually understood to say that the Governor-General is our Head of State, and in practice this is the case. His powers are generally subject to Parliament, but less so than those of the Queen in The United Kingdom. One of the fascinations of reading Frank Welsh’s Great Southern Land earlier this year was the skill with which he traces the powers of Governor/Governor-General from Governor Phillip, who was virtually an absolute monarch in his domain, to the present day, showing what varied from state to state and period to period, and what was retained or modified in 1900-1901 and why. I commend Welsh’s book to you for that alone, though it has other merits too.
I wouldn’t expect Kevin Rudd to be in any hurry, or so I would conclude from what he said post-2020 Summit on the 7.30 Report a couple of days back.
KERRY OBRIEN: I notice one of the participants and author David Maher got one idea just listening at the summit opening to the national anthem, get rid of it was his idea, find a better one. Do you like Advance Australia Fair, do you think it does this nation justice as an anthem?
KEVIN RUDD: Look, the question of the Australian national anthem was settled quite a long time ago.
KERRY OBRIEN: You just don’t want to go there?
KEVIN RUDD: It’s fine.
KERRY OBRIEN: Does it stir you? When you have to stand as you do all the time listening to Advance Australia Fair and the words of Advance Australia Fair, does it stir you?
KEVIN RUDD: It does, and the reason it does is when you’ve got verses like “For those who come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share” that that should be the resolve of any Australian Government, unlike the one we replaced which seemed to pull up the shutters when it came to our proper international obligations, particularly to refugees who found themselves in real strife. For reasons such as that I think the anthem says what we aspire to as a nation. I think Australians sing it and sing it with passion. When it comes to constructing the Australia of the 21st century I think there are bigger challenges ahead of us like fashioning the Australian republic in this area that you’re now talking about, than rewriting with a team of musicologists a new national anthem.
KERRY OBRIEN: The republic is hardly a new big idea. It’s already Labor policy, but purely pragmatic comply [SIC] do you really think the majority of Australians and the majority of people in Australian states are likely or will embrace a republic before the Queen’s reign comes to an end?
KEVIN RUDD: Hard to say is the answer to that one, Kerry. Remember, the republic referendum bit the dust less than a decade ago partly because the Republican side itself of the argument was split down the middle, direct elects as opposed to the Parliament appointing an Australian head of State. That’s why you’ve got to get it absolutely right. What I found impressive about the sentiment of the Australia 2020 summit was people’s desire overwhelmingly, I thought, for us to move to a republic and to become a republic. There was a sense of inevitability about that.
The Queen, who shows few signs of slowing down, will attain the Diamond Jubilee of her Coronation in 2013. However, someone born in 1926 can’t really be expected to go on for all that much longer.
I was, and remain, in favour of an appointment by a joint sitting of Parliament of some suitable eminent person, by the way, rather than direct election. That strikes me as the best way to retain the distance from party politics I think a Head of State will need if we are to preserve something that reflects the best of what we already have, and that best is considerable indeed.
It was all thoroughly debated ten years ago. You may review that here.
Back to Norman Davies. In 2001 he spoke in Sydney.
…I took up British history as a sideline, partly because, like many others, I was dismayed by the general decline of historical knowledge and education in Britain, and partly because of the ever-growing confusion about history and national identity. Very few people here, I suggest, would confuse ‘Australia’ with ‘New South Wales’. Yet many, many English people – and I mean the English – are complacent of the differences between ‘England’ and the ‘United Kingdom’ or between ‘the UK’ and ‘Great Britain’. They have never ever been taught the basic facts about the three Acts of Union – 1536, 1707 and 1800 – and hence about the make-up of the British state in which they live. Far too many British citizens, let alone foreigners, treat ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ as interchangeable terms.
Sorry to say, the same sort of confusion can be met in Australia. The Centennial Publication, Why are we celebrating?, talks of Queen Victoria as ‘Queen of England’ – which she certainly was not. And, as I noticed myself last week, a telephone discount centre on Orchid Avenue in Surfers’ Paradise is offering cheap calls at 29c per minute to the UK and at 50c per minute to Scotland. I can assure you that no canny Scot would ever fall for that one!…
Australia and Britain
The world is changing fast. Britain has willingly surrendered a significant part of its sovereignty to the European Union. Australia is an independent nation that plays its full part in the life of the Asian and Pacific regions to which it belongs. One is fully entitled to ask in the circumstances whether the close links between Britain and Australia will survive.
My answer to that question would be in the affirmative, though not necessarily for the reasons which conservative advocates of the British link might prefer. For a start, most present-day Britons and most present-day Australians share the lot of being orphans of the late great Empire which will never return. For the foreseeable future, they are going to share a common language, and in large measure, a common kinship. Whatever new political or economic framework may emerge, this basic human legacy will remain. One shouldn’t forget that the USA chose to leave the British community before the First Fleet sailed. And yet, 220 years on the ties of the English-speaking world, which are not exclusively linguistic, continue to exert their influence.
And then, I would argue that a multicultural Australia will feel greater empathy for a multicultural Britain than if either of them had escaped the multicultural experience. What is more, the Eurodiversity of the Australian population – the presence of all those ex-Italians, ex-Greeks, ex-Germans, ex-Poles and others – can only help to lubricate relations with a Britain that is firmly installed in the European Union. If, as expected, the European Union enlarges in a few years time to encompass twenty or even twenty-five members, the influence in Australia of people descended from dozens of those same nationalities can only work for closer understanding.
Finally, I would argue strongly for the power of History. (He would, wouldn’t he?) In the late and unlamented Soviet Union it used to be said that, while the future was fixed, the past was always changing. In reality, though the future is always uncertain, the past can never be changed. Nothing will be able to alter the fact that Australia was born and matured in the British orbit. Nothing can budge the historical reality that in 1901, when the Commonwealth of Australia began its journey, it was part of that same great British family to which England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales also belonged. Hence, when the British monarchy has been pensioned off – as it surely will be*: when the UK itself has fallen apart – as it probably will do: when the very word ‘British’ has been consigned to the past – as it possibly may be: the memory will remain. The point will likely be made at Australia’s bi-centennial celebrations of 2101, and, who knows, at the tri-centennial celebrations of 2,201. In a world of growing globalisation, Australia will develop closer contacts with places all over the world. But only one place – not Rio, not Shanghai, not San Francisco – will remain the place from which the First Fleet sailed. And only one country can be remembered as the country by which that first constitution was granted.
Tomorrow is the big day
It ain’t democratic but….
Very true. In some respects it is quite weird!
For the time being Australia is a constitutional monarchy like New Zealand and Canada. Our Head of State is not elected, and neither are the various Governors-General and Governors. But the governments are elected, whether Federal, State/Provincial or Local. Our SupremeCourts are not elected either, nor are judges and magistrates, or police commissioners or dog catchers…. Unlike the USA where everyone is elected and you end up with Donald Trump and some other donkeys we see all over the shop there — the book banners, the racists, the gun huggers….
So like E M Forster I say “Two Cheers for Democracy!” Yes, I am in favour of it.But our way actually works, even with an offshore King!
In truth — and I think the last referendum showed this as much as it showed John Howard’s cunning in manipulating the question — most Auatralians, I suspect, don’t really care.
Craig Foster, the head of the Australian Republican Movement, is an admirable choice.
Mind you I think someone from the Australian Republican Movement with a wicked sense of humour has spiked the Australian Monarchist League by making Eric Abetz its spokesman! Then there is Australians for Constitutional Monarchy with the venerable Flint.But there are monarchist voices worth a listen: