Desperate for that silver bullet which will drop some politicians’ republic into their laps, Australia’s official republicans rushed to capitalise on Soap Oprah, as the Daily Telegraph headlined what threatens to be serialised into ‘Les pensées sublimes de la duchesse souffrante’.
Much of what was claimed is fiction.
Thus, it was not the colour of his skin, but King-Emperor George V’s 1917 decision to cull the number of princes, that denied Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor the title Prince. But if and when Charles succeeds, he will become HRH Prince Archie of Sussex.
It was bad enough that this was such a whingeing interview, what was far worse was the betrayal of family. The rule against washing dirty linen in public is sound; for good reason divorce proceedings cannot be published.
As for those who claim, without evidence, that the royal family is racist, they ignore the respect Queen Victoria had for her servant Abdel Karim, making him her Munshi as well as awarding a CVO, or that wonderful vision of Queen Elizabeth dancing with President Nkrumah at a farewell ball in Accra in 1961.
As for what is claimed to be a republican awakening, why do so many elites feel obliged to declare themselves ‘republican’? Like ‘multicultural’, ‘republic’ is a Humpty Dumpty word; it means precisely what the user wants it to mean. As the Charter of Australia’s Constitutional Monarchists, drafted by Justice Michael Kirby, acknowledges, some (including John Howard and Tony Abbott) conclude that Australia is already a republic, a ‘crowned republic’.
To Montesquieu, England became a disguised republic in 1688 when the parliamentary-appointed monarchs William and Mary effectively rejected any dispensing power the Stuarts Kings claimed to suspend and vary legislation.
How ironical, then, that the US Supreme Court shows no inclination to restrain the pretender from almost daily exercising a dispensing power like an out-of-control latter-day Stuart monarch, something George III never tried to exercise.
Meanwhile in Canberra, two MP’s, still fresh from swearing allegiance to their Queen, preside over a taxpayer-funded club of ‘parliamentary friends’ for something which they know or should know already exists, an Australian head of state. This was demonstrated in 1987 when Bob Hawke did what any PM would do. He called off a state visit to Jakarta when President Suharto, probably badly advised by an Australian diplomat, declined to receive the Governor-General as head of state. The Indonesians apologised and the visit went ahead the next year.
When ACM was masterminding their landslide victory in the referendum, very much a collective achievement, I worked with Sir David Smith and Justice Ken Handley on the head of state issue, writing on this in our two campaign books and in the first draft of the official No case for the Yes/No booklet for all voters. The result was I was invited by a foreign university to sit on an expert panel to examine a doctoral candidate on this very subject. There is no doubt among ACM’s team of experts that the Governor-General is head of state.
The only reason the official republicans are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Australians on this is they cannot give any other reason for this change. The ones they were advancing in the Nineties were so ridiculous they became a laughingstock, with Al Grassby and Neville Wran actually claiming unemployment was caused by the Crown and would be cured by their politicians’ republic.
They can hardly admit what Real Republican Ted Mack told me, that the real reason for a politicians’ republic is to concentrate even more power in the hands of the politicians.
The two Canberra MPs I refer to are Liberal Jason Falinski and Labor’s Matt Thistlethwaite, believe it or not, shadow assistant minister for the republic. They’ve been joined by the head of an equivalent NSW parliamentary club, Matt Kean, who also seems to be the minister against coal and for more expensive and unreliable electricity.
Now it’s not as if the unfortunate taxpayer has not already spent enough on this folly, with millions down the drain on a constitutional convention, referendum, 2020 summit and at least a dozen inquiries and committees, all to no avail.
So shocked by the referendum were they, the official republicans have kept their revised model secret for over 20 years. It was going to be revealed through an unworkable process involving two plebiscites and a referendum. Having realised this will never get off the ground, they have just announced the model will emerge at the end of the year through a convention, probably similar to their failed 2001 Corowa conference which an ACM delegation attended only because former governor Dick McGarvie pleaded.
The likely outlines of that model, revealed previously here, are an elected president, likely to be called ‘governor-general’ and stripped of the reserve powers. Real Republican founders Clem Jones or Ted Mack would never have agreed to that.
Constitutional change is needed but not with the Crown which works well and at minimal cost. There is a strong view in the Labor party that constitutional recognition of the indigenous must have priority.
The history of referendums is such that it is clear that Australians need to be persuaded that any proposed change will significantly improve the governance of the country.
To many of us, the most serious problem needing constitutional change is in the accountability of the political arm. This would be through an elected convention under the Corowa Plan as proposed by our great founder Sir John Quick as the only way to achieve federation.
The republicans are now talking of a convention, but one thing is sure. It will be selected and not elected.
This and the model which will emerge will be based on an untruth about the head of state. Australians are too wise to fall for that.
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