You know the royals are in trouble when a prominent member of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy writes an article suggesting they’ve passed their use-by date, and a British-owned magazine which has always been broadly supportive of our constitutional status quo prints it (‘Off with their head-of-states’, Speccie Australia, 30 October). To rationalise this heresy, John Ruddick identifies two fealty factions; one being conservatives ‘who have a mystical reverence for the monarchy’, the other being those who, like Ruddick, support it for more practical purposes. His disillusionment with our present arrangement, then, has nothing to do with the questionable behaviour and connections of, to name just the two most recent bad apples, Princes Harry and Andrew, and everything to do with the Queen’s very public endorsement of COP26 and the damage which achieving its net zero goals will do to a mining-dependent economy like Australia’s, not to mention the misery and deprivation it will inflict on the lives of millions of her poorest Commonwealth subjects.
If the UK Crown really has been devalued to the point where it is no longer fit for Australian purpose, says Ruddick, we have three options: transfer our allegiance to the less scandal-prone but geo-politically irrelevant Danish royal family, on the palpably shaky grounds that one of us is already married to one of them (admittedly, something more than one Aussie sheila has tried but failed to pull off with a Windsor); graft a modified republican model onto our existing Constitution to appoint presidents more Claytons than Clintons; persist with the current arrangement on condition that Her Maj and her next two successors get back in their royal box and promise never to dis fossil fuels again. Which last is, of course, just wishful thinking. Even if the Queen – who tends to do what she’s told – complied, we know that Charles would be incapable of keeping his big, stiff-upper-lipped mouth shut if it diminished the useful idiot role he’s performed for every environmentalist cause of the last half century.
So Mr Ruddick might be pleased to hear that there is a fourth option. And pleased also to learn that while being entirely without precedent, it’s an option inspired in one critical respect by the system we’d be discarding. Or rather by the figurehead of that system. The crowning irony of the Queen’s enduring popularity is that she is not what anyone would call a people person. Indeed, she is, in both the meteorological and the geometrical sense of the term, the polar opposite. It’s not just that we never know how she feels about things like Brexit and Scotland and immigration; it’s that we never know how she feels, period. We see her laughing about once a decade, but we’re never in on the joke. We never see her display affection, except for dogs and horses. And we’ve never seen her tear up – even at the deaths of her daughter-in law, sister, mother and husband. Even the Netflix version of her life does not emanate much in the way of warmth. But it’s precisely this inhumanity, this superhuman sang-froid, this automaton austerity, which makes her so good at her job. She is – or at least was, until last week – what a great head of state has to be: inscrutable of opinion, impervious to persuasion, immune to ideology. The embodiment of neutrality. An unchanging monolith of leadership. A rock.
Which begs the question; where is it written that a head of state must be a human being? Or, to put it another way, if Australia does become a republic, why would we need to look for another metaphorical rock to rally round when we have the real thing? A massive iconic one that just happens to be right in the geographical centre of our country. A rock that is already an internationally recognised symbol of our unique cultural heritage. A rock for which Australians already have – and have always had – ‘a mystical reverence’. Uluru is already being pressed into tokenistic constitutional service by one political faction as an aboriginal ‘voice to Parliament’. But why should it not have a functioning constitutional benefit for all Australians? Uluru predates even first nation settlement by millions of years. It makes Stonehenge, the pyramids and the Kaaba look like pop-ups. And unlike a monarch or a president, it is physically accessible to all citizens. There is, of course, one thing it couldn’t do which a governorgeneral can; dismiss a prime minister. I rest my case.
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