Advocates for an Australian republic have spent the last two decades patiently waiting for the Queen of England to die.
The revolutionaries reckon it will be easier to sever constitutional ties with Great Britain when Charles III is stamped upon the coins. As Malcolm Turnbull is fond of saying, there are more Elizabethans in Australia than there are monarchists. Should the Prince of Wales outlive his mother, it shall be no small thing for God to save the King.
For the time being enemies of the Crown busy themselves with other matters. The Prime Minister seems to have given up on his republican principles, along with all his other principles. Paul Keating, having retired from active political life midway through his second term, is now entirely devoted to his one true passion: saying catty things in interviews. Even Peter FitzSimons, the chairperson of the Australian Republican Movement, has done little to further the cause. One cannot blame Peter. He has been very busy writing books that people buy in airports. It is just as well that there are no active activists. No amount of effort would stoke enthusiasm for a republic at present.
Doubtless, however, within minutes of Elizabeth giving up the ghost, ‘#republic’ will trend on Twitter. After a respectful period of mourning (a week, tops), parliamentarians, thought-leaders, academics, and commentators will leap over each other to get on The Project, Sunrise, Today, and even, possibly, Studio Ten, so that they might say the words ‘Australia needs an Australian head of state’. The monarchists will not simply close their eyes and think of England. In response to whichever presidential model the republicans dream up, it will be opposed by a coalition of culture warriors, dandies and the elderly. A Current Affair will run stories about grandmothers embroidering the new Prince of Wales on tea cosies. Women’s Day, a parasite on the House of Windsor, will fight to defend the host body. Tony Abbott will be very busy indeed. None of this has yet transpired, but it is difficult to envision a future in which it does not transpire. It shall all be so very boring.
There is a less divisive, less tedious way—a way which would unify both sides of the coming civil conflict before it even happens. The best arguments that republicans and monarchists took to the 1999 referendum were not mutually exclusive. The republicans were right; it is unusual that a nation as proud and independent as Australia would swear subservience to a foreigner. The monarchists were right, too; we have inherited a functioning state (a commodity in short supply) and shouldn’t muck about with the fundamentals of our government. Half the country wants an Australian as head of state, and the other half wants to continue on with our constitutional monarchy. We can have both. Australia needs its own sovereign. Coronate Buddy Franklin.
Our new king doesn’t have to be Buddy Franklin, who kicked 102 goals in the 2008 AFL home and away season, but it should be Buddy Franklin. Were he to refuse, we could crown virtually any well-known, anodyne, national personage. So long as they’re broadly liked, and unlikely to say anything inflammatory, they’ll do. Andrew Bolt, Clementine Ford, Mark Latham and Waleed Aly are out. Hugh Jackman might work, as would a Hemsworth. Margot Robbie would look far better on a commemorative plate than would any of the Mountbatten-Windsors. We already treat our celebrities like royalty. We should, instead, treat one of them as royalty.
All great ideas are ridiculed at first. On the one hand, the coronation of a new, Australian monarch would offend the sensibilities of the nation’s elite cosmopolitans, who’d prefer a president, as though we didn’t already have a surplus of dowdy, middle-aged bureaucrats in public life. On the other hand, there will be a few deranged individuals who would prefer to endure another disastrous King Charles. On the miraculous third hand, however, we could forget the pretenders and coronate Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. Consider the outpouring of creativity that would ensue: our finest artists commissioned to immortalise our national character in a new palace, throne, flag and anthem. We could have a uniquely Australian crown—opal, perhaps—and robes of green and gold. Think of the parades! A republic would, by comparison, sorely lack razzle-dazzle.
A bland state is a modern heresy and an historical aberration. Might we not love, rather than merely tolerate, our leader? We can do better than a portly president, chosen by politicians. We can do better than an ancient, inbred aristocrat from overseas. We can choose an inspirational, indigenous head of state; somebody who instills the nation with the same sort of pride and joy that people felt when they watched Buddy Franklin kick the 2013 Goal of the Year from 75 metres out. Electrify the nation. Coronate Buddy Franklin.
If there is a good argument to be made against having our own monarchy—and there is not—it is that other constitutional changes are more urgent. The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for the ‘establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution’. It states that Aboriginal sovereignty ‘co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown’, and seeks to establish a ‘process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations’. Alas, sovereignty can not co-exist; no one can serve two masters. Anticipating disunity, the Prime Minister has, rather heartlessly, rejected the Statement from the Heart.
So, then, if Aboriginal sovereignty cannot co-exist with the crown, let it exist in the crown. Let us manifest Aboriginal sovereignty in an Aboriginal sovereign. Let us reject the tokenism of an indigenous advisory body.
Let us embrace the tokenism of a Noongar-Wajuk man on the tokens we exchange for goods and services. Australia has a long history of failing to value its indigenous peoples. Let us right that wrong by minting a portrait of an Aboriginal monarch on the physical embodiment of value itself.
Coronate Buddy Franklin.
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