Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Surely time for an Australian Head of State

Wayne Swann said on 13/8/18: When MPs who have returned to the Parliament after renouncing their UK Citizenship than have to pledge allegiance to Queen Elizabeth its surely time for an Australian Head of State.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

The Australian republic: our great unfinished project

Today is the anniversary of the formation of the Australian Republic Movement, established on 7 July 1991. The first National Chair was the author Tom Keneally. The single goal of the organisation is for Australia to become a republic.

Old ARM logo
Republicanism emerged as an issue of major public debate during the 1990s, when the popular definition of “republic” was simply the removal of the British monarch as Head of State and viewed as the last step in Australia’s political development.

The Australian Republican Movement began over lunch at the residence of the former Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran. In 1987, Wran had publicly stated his support for Australia becoming a republic and nominated 2001, the centenary of Australia’s federation, as an ideal date. He said that he expected moves towards a republic would gain ground during the 1990s. Wran was supported at the time by Prime Minister Bob Hawke. On 7 July 1991, a group of prominent citizens held a meeting in Sydney to launch a republican movement under the chairmanship of author Tom Keneally and included many eminent persons from the political left and cultural centre of Australian society.

The 1991 Foundation Members of the Australian Republican Movement were Tom Keneally, the late Geoffrey Dutton, the late Professor Donald Horne, Jenny Kee, the late Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, Franca Arena, the late Faith Bandler, Mark Day, Geraldine Doogue, the late Colin Lanceley, the late Harry Seidler, Malcolm Turnbull, David Williamson and the late Hon Neville Wran. Tom Keneally was the first National Chairman and was succeeded by Malcolm Turnbull in November 1993.

The question of whether or not Australia should be a republic has been debated for longer than most people imagine. Australians have long discussed the idea of replacing the constitutional monarchy with a republican constitution even during the 19th century, before federation in 1901.

In early colonial NSW, the American rejection of British rule and the violence of the French Revolution were well known. Republicanism was often used as political language to challenge government authority and only hardened the resolve of those in power to savagely repress any supporters. In 1795, the “Scottish Martyrs” arrived. The many Irish convicts brought with them antipathy towards the British. Convict uprisings such as the 1804 Castle Hill rebellion were labeled republican. However, in most cases the convicts were not looking for political change, they just wanted to return home.

The founding members of the Australian Republican Movement in 1991

The period from 1840 to 1856 was one in which colonial grievances reached their height. In Sydney in 1850, the outspoken firebrand Reverend John Dunmore Lang, The People’s Advocate editor E.J. Hawksley and the young Henry Parkes campaigned through the Australian League for a republican form of government when the British Government wanted to reintroduce transportation of convicts. In the early 1850s during the gold rushes, there was an influx of large numbers of migrants from Europe and the United States to Victoria, many of whom were sympathetic to republicanism. This caused British officials to fear the possibility of revolution. In 1854, the Eureka Stockade rebellion at the Ballarat goldfield was ultimately a republican desire for government by the people. However, the urgency vanished when responsible government was granted in 1856.

In the latter half of the 19th century, republicanism became strongly anti-monarchical and nationalist in sentiment. The “inevitability” of an Australian republic became a common theme. In the late 1870s, the traditional Irish enmity towards British authority can be seen in the republican sentiments expressed in Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter and later in Kelly gang member Joe Byrne’s Declaration of the Republic of North East Victoria.

During the 1880s, there were 15 republican organisations and 20 newspapers or journals in cities and major country towns. This republicanism was often focused on struggles between capital and labour. From 1884, The Bulletin expounded a strong anti-monarchical attitude. In 1887, republicans twice defeated attempts at Sydney Town Hall to pass a loyal resolution congratulating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee resulting in an open clash between thousands of demonstrators. Soon after, Sydney had a Republican Union and a republican journal led by Louisa & Henry Lawson and George Black. It was in The Republican that Henry Lawson published “A Song of the Republic”.

In 1890 and 1891, the Australasian Republican Association on the north Queensland goldfield of Charters Towers had over 700 members, published a regular journal and established republican branches. The Australian Republican editor, F.C.B. Vosper, published an inflammatory editorial at the height of the 1891 Shearers’ Strike calling for revolution and the declaration of the republic. He was arrested and tried for seditious libel but eventually acquitted.

The Commonwealth of Australia was the title chosen for the new nation at the 1891 National Constitutional Convention. Although there was controversy over the republican ancestry of the term, it was the title accepted in 1901. Prior to the mid-1890s, republicans had insisted that national independence could only be achieved by Australia’s secession from the British Empire. However, by 1901 federation was seen as the first step on the road towards political independence.

In the 1960s, republican activity was restarted by authors Geoffrey Dutton and Donald Horne. At the same time, the student magazine, Oz, lampooned the monarchy. A decade on, the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by the appointed Governor-General on 11 November 1975 outraged many Australians. The 1975 Constitutional Crisis drew attention to Australia's Constitutional arrangements and, since those turbulent days, several notable Australians declared a commitment to an Australian republic. There were many Town Hall meetings and calls to "maintain the rage". During these years, the Australian Labor Party edged towards declaring itself for the republic. This it eventually did in 1982.

Republicans proposed 1988 for the establishment of an Australian republic. This was not to be.
In the 1990s, the popular definition of “republic” was simply the removal of the hereditary monarch. This was seen as the last step in Australia’s political development. In 1991, the Australian Republican Movement was established. In 1993, Prime Minister Paul Keating formed the Republic Advisory Committee, led by Malcom Turnbull, to prepare options on how to achieve a republic with minimal constitutional change. In June 1995, Keating announced his goal of a republic with an Australian Head of State.

The 1998 Constitutional Convention helped to strengthen the debate for a republic. While the republic was a major issue in the late 1990s, the debate caught up in an argument about the best selection method for the Head of State. It was on this crucial issue republicans divided. In the absence of a proper process to resolve those differences, Australians rejected the 6 November 1999 referendum 55-45%. No political leader has subsequently emerged who wants to find common ground amongst Australians and to break the logjam. This is where it became frozen for more than a decade.

During 2012, the A.R.M. undertook a thorough review of why the republic issue had stalled. A new campaign was trialed in Tasmania in late 2012 and a new “listening” campaign was rolled out across the country in 2013 on university campuses, at multicultural festivals and other community events in an effort to engage all Australians in a conversation to find as much common ground as possible about who we are as a nation. The A.R.M. asked thousands of people, “Who do we want to be?” Overwhelmingly, people said, “free, fair, multicultural… and Australian”. It is in such a consensus response that lays the potential for Australian unity. This is a unity that can only be given expression by an Australian as our Head of State and all of our national institutions in our own name.

At the end of 2013, UMR conducted a poll following Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s comment in which she expressed her hope that:
“One day, one young (Australian) girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first Head of State.”
Those in agreement, 48%, far outnumbered those opposed, 32%. These results were in a similar range to most other polls that show strong support for a republic. So, even with the issue off the agenda for more than a decade, half of Australia supports becoming a republic, there are many undecided and the status quo has no capacity to achieve majority support on the yes/no question.

31 January 2014 was the 20th anniversary of the new citizenship oath, which replaced a mandatory pledge of loyalty to the Queen, with these words:
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
On this date, the Australian Republican Movement released a poll showing overwhelming support for the pledge of allegiance to Australia and its people and not to the Queen. When Tony Abbott was sworn in as Prime Minister in late 2013, he pledged allegiance “to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia”. Some other prime ministers have pledged allegiance to “Australia and its people” (which is also the pledge new Australians are required to make). When asked by UMR in a poll, ‘Which do you prefer?’, 70% supported the pledge to Australia and its people, with only 20% agreeing with Mr Abbott’s pledge to the Queen.

In 2015, distinguished author, journalist and Australian rugby union international Peter FitzSimons was appointed head of Australia's Republic Movement. A passionate republican, FitzSimons is well known through his regular Sydney Morning Herald column as well as his many books. As one of our foremost writers of Australian history, FitzSimons has captured some of the pivotal moments that have shaped our national identity.

The political landscape in Australia is definitely changing. The push for a republic has gone from strength to strength in recent years with support from a resurgent membership, the majority of federal parliamentarians, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Over the last few years, Australian media has become a cheer squad for “celebrity” monarchy, framing the republic debate as all about a family in Britain, when actually our great national cause is about the sovereignty of the Australian people. The monarchy is clearly no longer an institution that can unite Australians. It’s broken. The monarchy sits above our system of democratic government but cannot represent us, our identity or our values as a nation.

Bill Shorten’s 29 July 2017 republican statements are in line with the timelines proposed by the Australian Republic Movement. This includes a plebiscite in 2020 that asks the people of Australia a very simple question:
‘Should Australia have an Australian head of state?’
The A.R.M. is calling for a non-binding vote – a plebiscite – by 2020 on the question of whether Australians want one of their own in the job. There is a momentum happening around Australia. With 2020 marking 250 years since Captain James Cook landed, surely it must be time for us to stand on our own two feet.

This is our great, unfinished project.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Keeping the republican flame alive in Australia

Independent Australia turned eight on 24 June 2018. Throughout the 2010's Independent Australia has kept the republican flame alive in Australia. Congratulations to managing editor David Donovan, who has nurtured his baby to this impressive milestone.

I REMEMBER how nearly a decade ago the first article was published — the day after the "night of the long knives", when Julia Gillard rolled Kevin Rudd for the prime ministership. At the same time Rudd was being deposed, IA emerged as an independent Australian voice.

Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia, a nation that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens, its environment and its future. A country that is fair and free.

In a volatile and changing online media landscape, Independent Australia has not only managed to stay afloat but has become a strong alternate voice to the mainstream media.

Since those first days, Independent Australia – founded by former Australian Republican Movement vice chair David Donovan – has become the premier republican voice in Australia.

Over the past eight years, Independent Australia has gone from strength to strength.

Since those early days, Independent Australia has become the premier republican voice in Australia, the modern day version of The Bulletin in its heyday of the 1880s and 1890s.

Australia has a long tradition of independent, republican journalism. This tradition was first established in newspapers such as the People’s Advocate and the Empire of the 1840s and 1850s, supported in The Age in the 1870s and 1880s, and from a constant theme in publications in the 1890s, such as the Newcastle Radical, the Wagga Hummer, the Cairns Advocate, the Melbourne Tocsin, the Hobart Clipper and John Norton’s Truth. But it was in the pages of the Bulletin of the 1880s and 1890s that the flowering of republican ideals can mostly noticeably seen to emerge.

Over the past eight years, the task I have taken on with IA is to begin to document some of our shared republican history. For me, this historical journey had begun much earlier with my 1988 James Cook University history honours thesis, The Australian Republican: a Charters Towers based radical journal, 1890-1891. Coincidentally, the first edition of the Australian Republican was published on 21 June 1890 — 125 years, almost to the day, before Independent Australia.

But there is still a great deal more to document. Australia’s republican past has a rich and deep seam. It’s important to remember that our future is inextricably linked to our shared past.

It has been a long time since Australia has had such a strong republican voice. Australia’s republican voice has been lost for a long time. There have certainly been many writers, artists, academics, and politicians who have actively advocated for an Australian republic over the past century, however they have not had a home where they can all shelter under the same roof.

Independent Australia has become that space, a republican space, a republican civic space where republicans and others can debate the issues that are important to our political and civic future.

The anniversary of the establishment of Independent Australia on 24 June comes a few days after the winter solstice, a time of reflection at a quiet time of the year. In the lead-up to the winter solstice there are other Australian republic moments.

On 7 June 1995, the Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, formally announced his support for an Australian Republic. This date often falls on the same weekend as the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in most Australian states.

In a televised speech to Parliament entitled 'An Australian Republic The Way Forward', Keating laid out his vision for Australia’s republican future. This was the culmination of nearly a decade of discussion on constitutional change. In the course of his speech to the House of Representatives, he announced his government’s intention to transform the Commonwealth of Australia from a constitutional monarchy into a republic.

Keating's only concession to the European and British past was
"... that the Australian republic retain the name “Commonwealth of Australia. 'Commonwealth' is a word of ancient lineage which reflects our popular tradition and our Federal system."
Prime Minister Keating’s media release stated:
It is the view of the Government that Australia's head of state should be an Australian and that Australia should be a republic by the year 2001. I announced in the Parliament today the Government's approach to achieving the transition to an Australian republic. The proposals involve minimal change to Australia's system of government and institutions.
This is the final step to becoming a fully independent nation. It will permit the full and unambiguous expression of Australia's national identity.
The Government is releasing its proposals as a focus for further public discussion and debate. All Australians should participate in this important national debate.
Keating proposed a minimalist plan for a republic, concentrating on the single task of installing an Australian as head of state.

Few Prime Ministers have provoked such strong public reactions as Paul Keating. Even fewer have presided over such dramatic changes to Australia’s economy and society. A self-professed "big picture" person, Keating had his eye directed towards the future and not the past, to Australia, and not over his shoulder back to Britain.

In his speech to the National Library 25th Anniversary Dinner on 13 August 1993, Keating stated:
If we can't imagine we can't determine our future, we can't act, we can't change. And we'll fall behind."

Speculating on the Australian republic: Five Award Winning Short Stories, Kindle Edition, 2014

It seems strange there is no tradition of republican speculative fiction in Australia. In colonial times there were republican poets such as Charles Harpur writing in the 1840s and 1850s, and republican writers such as John Dunmore Lang and Daniel Deniehy in the 1850s and William Lane, Henry Lawson and John Norton in the 1880s and 1890s.

But where have the republican stories been for the past century? There have certainly been many republican writers during this time but almost no examples where republican settings or arguments have been explored in Australian fiction. Republican arguments and explorations of the past and imaginations of the future are always written within the framework of constitutional debates. Where do the people of Australia fit into this? Where are their myths and stories to tell and retell and remember about Australia’s emerging republican identity?

Thanks to David Donovan and all the contributors to Independent Australia, the republican tribe can look around and see who they are. So, Happy Birthday Independent Australia, and here’s to a long, independent life.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Queen's Birthday Holiday - time to imagine our future Australian republic

Today is the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in all Australian states, except Queensland and Western Australia.

Queen Elizabeth II turned 92 on 21 April 2018. It has always seemed absurd that Queenslanders acknowledge the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II at a completely different time to her actual birthday. Certainly a long weekend in June is a great way to start the winter snow season but when will Queen Elizabeth II be allowed to put up her feet?

Most 92 years olds are long retired, but not that trouper the Queen. My grandmother will be 92 later this year. She's a hardy soul but there's no way she would be up to the frantic pace needed to be a world leader!

The idea of celebrating the sovereign’s birthday was introduced in 1905. After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 there was a call to remember her long reign. The result was the creation of Empire Day. On 24 May each year, Victoria’s birthday, an annual commemoration was held which was directed especially at school children to promote loyalty among the dominion countries of the British Empire. This day was celebrated by lighting fire-works in back-gardens and attending community bonfires.

In 1958, Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day. However, this is no longer celebrated within the Australian community and there is little public awareness of it..

The Queen’s birthday public holiday originated in 1912 to observe the birthday of King George V on 3 June. Over the years Queensland, along with most other states, continued to observe the Queen’s birthday in June even though the actual birthday of Queen Elizabeth II is 21 April. In Western Australia the Queen’s birthday public holiday is held in either September or October, and Queensland, as of 2016, on 1 October.

Queen Elizabeth II is unlikely to abdicate. It is most likely she will stand by her promise to serve as monarch for the rest of her life. The only time she has suggested she may agree to abdicate is as a fictional character at the end of Sue Townsend’s brilliantly satirical novel, Queen Camilla in which the UK has elected a republican government and the Royal Family has been exiled.

Although the Queen’s Birthday public holiday is observed as a mark of respect to the sovereign there are never any public celebrations. Nothing actually happens. Perhaps this is the true metaphor for the purpose of monarchy in an egalitarian society?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Royalty comes and royalty goes, but is never a part of Australian identity

The monarchy has been in the news in Australia over the past few weeks. A royal birth, Commonwealth Games opening, CHOGM leader elections, binge-watching 'The Crown' and now a royal wedding. But we’ve been here before. Remember Charles and Diana’s wedding.

THE BRITISH ROYAL hatching and matching have been in all the celebrity magazines. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, recently had her third child. This is followed today (19 May 2018) by the royal wedding between actor Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, set for St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

1981 was the year of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral. Anyone approaching 55 or over can probably recall exactly where they were and who they were with on 29 July 1981. For me, it was the night of my Charters Towers State High School formal.

Charters Towers was founded in 1872 during the gold rushes and developed into a thriving reef-mining centre. In 1877, with a population approaching 4,000, it was declared a municipality and by the 1880s, it was one of the major Australian gold reefing fields. During its heyday in the 1890s, Charters Towers was the second town of Queensland with a population approaching 30,000. Since the nearest major town, Rockhampton, was a long boat journey away, all the services necessary to civilisation in a very large area of Queensland were concentrated in Charters Towers. It was perhaps this isolation that fostered the nickname “The World”.

The boom of the 1880s, with an extraordinary influx of British capital, involving about five million pounds, had transformed the Queensland economy. The flood of money and employers hungry for profit encouraged the growth of strong trade unions. When relations between employers and workers became strained, the labour movement often blamed the interests of British capital. From here it was short step for many workers to advocate for a republic and separation.

A republican association was formed in Charters Towers in 1890 with a platform similar to the Bulletin’s and within months it had a membership of over three hundred. For the Australasian Republican Association, the word "republic" meant the establishment of individual and political rights. The editor of their journal, the Australian Republican was one of the great republican firebrands of the era, Frederick Vosper.

Vosper proclaimed:
"... A grand United Republic under the Southern Cross which, profiting by the experience and errors of others, shall be as pure and perfect as it is possible for things human to be."
Vosper believed republicanism was an expression of the civic individual and not subservient to factional politics or religion.

On my mother’s side, our family has lived in Charter Towers since the 1890s, resulting in a town with cousins as far as the eye could see. It was the egalitarianism and mateship of this north Queensland goldfield that seemed to absorb me growing up in Charters Towers. Probably came from my family’s long mining heritage. Whatever way, I always had the strong feeling that "jack is as good as his master".

As we were such a small Year 12 group, we customarily shared the event with the local private schools. The main hall in the north Queensland country town was called the Horticultural Hall, which brings up all sorts of rural images. The other main dance hall in the town was where we learnt and practised all our dance moves for the big night and reflected the interesting divisions in the old goldfield community. The Miners’ Union Hall was referred to by its abbreviation: MU Hall. However, in a collective loss of memory, townsfolk didn’t seem to remember how important and influential the association had been in the 19th Century and commonly referred to it as the "emu" hall.

Leading up to our big event it was all about cakes and long trains and dresses. This was all the girls could talk about. However, for the Year 12 girls, the evening was to become a conflict of almost irreconcilable proportions — do I go to the formal or watch the royal wedding on TV at home?

A long time ago – on 10 November 1977 to be precise – I remember seeing Star Wars for the first time. I was 12 at the time. My first republican moment was played out within the confines of the aptly named Regent Theatre, with a working-class community cheering on the successful overthrow of the Empire by the rebels.

For me, it was the Empire versus the Republic — with the rebels being the good guys fighting against the evil Empire.

We sat in the dark envelope of our town’s only theatre — my parents on one side and younger brother on the other. The theatre still had hessian low-slung seats arranged in long rows. It was like a beach scene at night without any water. Not that we had ever been to the beach. North Queensland beaches in the 1970s were basically mud, mangroves and sharks, with the added thrill of a high chance of being stung by jellyfish.

The lights went down, the fanfare came up and then that Star Destroyer emerged on the screen. As a kid, the movie was just jaw-dropping. Science fiction was nothing new for us in Charters Towers but we had no idea how revolutionary the Star Wars space opera would be.

Built during the gold-rush era of the late 19th Century, the Regent Theatre stood firm on the periphery of the British Empire. But now it held a republican people cheering on the rebels struggle to overthrow rule by an evil Emperor.

By 1981, the Regent Theatre had become a skating rink. Still, the people attended, although oblivious to the edifice of monarchy surrounding them. Meanwhile, audiences worldwide paused as the fairy tale coach, replete with its Cinderella, rolled up to St Paul’s Cathedral steps and the "Queen of the People’s Hearts" emerged in the crushed cream creation. Everyone gasped and winced and laughed when Diana repeated her bridegroom’s name incorrectly.

Our high school formal didn’t quite match the 2 million people lining the streets of Britain but for us, it was a defining moment. That night the girls declared for us rather than a privileged few on the other side of the world. They stood with their own Charters Towers princes rather than watch the royal wedding on TV.

Michael Cooney, national director and CEO of the Australian Republic Movement, has been playing down the level of interest in the latest royal wedding:
"It is a very sentimental occasion for some people or admirers of Harry's mother Diana, a guilty pleasure for some and for others it's all a bit English and a bit remote," he said.
"It's a big occasion in England and lots of people will enjoy being part of the audience but I don't think anyone really believes it's a big occasion for Australia."
Peter FitzSimons, national chair of the Australian Republic Movement, wrote an article recently titled 'You can be a republican and welcome a royal wedding'.

Dr Benjamin Jones, historian and recognised expert on republicanism, was quoted stating that:
Australians have always been able to separate the cult of celebrity and big royal events from constitutional matters.
“It’s an insult to the intelligence of young Australians to say that because they enjoy watching royal weddings, they want a royal to be the Australian head of state,” he said. “They might also enjoy reading about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but no one is advocating they be the head of state.”
The teacup warriors at the Queensland Young Monarchist League will be watching the royal wedding live at the Queens Arm in New Farm if that interests you. If you’d like to dress-up in your royal wedding best to impress, perhaps the Treasury Brisbane may suit. Perhaps watching the royal wedding from an event cinema on the big screen might be more your style. If so, you are encouraged to attend wearing your own wedding dress again. But for many Australians, it appears the royal wedding in London has become an excuse to have a party.

Of course, this is all a bit of fun. Playing dress-up and pretending that fairytales are real. However, I’ve argued previously there is no place for princes in modern Australia. The public repudiation of previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking.

For us in Australia, royalty only ever visits us from somewhere else, from across the seas. It’s not something that lives with us. Royalty comes and royalty goes, but it is never a part of us.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Queen’s Birthday – time to talk succession planning

The British Royal family appears to be preparing for the end of the Queen’s reign by undertaking succession planning. Prince Charles is well-known as the heir to the British throne, however it may be less known that the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward has been tapped on the shoulder to be the next Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Elizabeth II turns 92 today. I’ve asked before, when will she be allowed to put up her feet? Most 92 years olds are long retired, but not that trouper the Queen. My grandmother will be 93 later this year. She's a hardy soul but there's no way she would be up to the frantic pace needed to be a world leader! Even though retirement plans for many people keep going further and further beyond 60, Queen Elizabeth II has still well and truly exceeded this.

There will be lots of world leaders in London to help her celebrate her birthday at the Royal Albert Hall as it will be the day after the week long Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting will have finished. CHOGM 2018 summit was held this time in London from 16-20 April 2018 to allow the Queen to attend. This was the first time the UK has hosted the CHOGM summit since 1997 and many suggest this may be the Queen’s last time she attends. It is of course also an opportunity for lots of other royals to have photo opportunities at a world forum.

Queen Elizabeth II has been the Head of CHOGM since 1953. The question of whether her successor as CHOGM leader should be another Commonwealth leader or the next British monarch — who will be head of state in 15 of the 53 Commonwealth nations — has long been described as the elephant in the room at high-level meetings of its officials.

Queen Elizabeth II’s position as head of the Commonwealth isn't hereditary and not everyone is particularly excited about the prospect of Prince Charles taking over with some thinking her replacement should be directly elected and preferably someone from a small nation.

At the opening of CHOGM on Thursday, 20 April 2018 the Queen said that it is her “sincere wish” that her son, Prince Charles, carries on her work as leader of the Commonwealth. These comments are the first by the monarch to tacitly address the issue of succession at what is widely regarded to be her last Heads of Government meeting as she no longer travels long distances.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared he will back Prince Charles as the next head of the Commonwealth. However, a poll of the British by the Australian Republic Movement in August 2017 found almost two in three do not want Prince Charles to replace the Queen on the throne. Only 39% of those Britons polled said they trusted the man who is set to be their next king – and 80% of respondents agreed that a country’s head of state ‘should only be a citizen of that country’.

This critical decision on who shall serve as head of the Commonwealth will occur at a leader’s retreat at Windsor Castle on Friday, 20 April 2018 – the day before her birthday. A vote happening in the monarch’s castle on whether they will continue as the head of an organisation of states that they at one stage owned, reminds me of Monty Python’s Dennis the Peasant’s query on why ‘You don’t vote for kings’.
The CHOGM 2018 leadership succession issue highlights the British royal family preparations for the end of the Queen’s reign. All businesses have succession planning. The British Royal family is no different. However, there has been a family succession plan process in place for a number of years now for her husband, Prince Philip.

Prince Philip officially retired in August 2017 at 96 after his dramatic announcement of his intention to retire from active royal duties in May 2018. Since his birth, Prince Charles has known he will take over the top job eventually, however it is more recent that his youngest brother Prince Edward has been tapped on the shoulder to be the next Duke of Edinburgh.

In an effort to secure his promotion to his father’s job, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, quietly came into Australia in early April on the slip-stream of his older brother Prince Charles. Throughout April 2018 he has been criss-crossing Australia attending the Commonwealth Games, and, as the Chair of The Board of Trustees of  The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, attending 32 engagements across Melbourne, Ballarat, Hobart, Brisbane, and Adelaide, from formal receptions, Award presentations, meetings with government officials and the community sector, to meeting Award Participants and their families at community centres.

The major focus of his visit is to promote the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, named after his father, more than 60 years ago.

Prince Edward was appointed Earl of Wessex upon marriage on 19 June 1999. The Kingdom of Wessex played the leading role in the unification of Anglo-Saxon England in the ninth century. The last person to hold the earldom was Harold Godwinson, prior to his accession to the English throne in 1066. If this title has not been used in over 1000 years is it at all relevant in the world today? Perhaps he should be called the Earl of Westeros (rather than Wessex).

I don’t think Prince Edward would hope for his family to be as dysfunctional as the Lannister’s from G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Many Lannister’s appear to come to gruesome ends. Although it is what happened to the last holder of the title, Earl of Wessex. Westeroes or Wessex. Does either place really exist? Perhaps it’s our fascination with modern fictional royalty that helps bolster off-line royalty these days.

It would seem based upon the amount of illegal downloads by Australians of each Game of Thrones episode they would have a better understanding of the family trees of the Household of Westeroes than the Windsor dynasty.

In keeping in keeping with the tradition of a monarch's son receiving a title upon marriage, but preserving the rank of duke for the future, Prince Edward is the first British prince in centuries to be specifically created an earl, rather than a duke. However, he will eventually succeed to the title Duke of Edinburgh, currently held by his father. It is for this branding reason that he has taken on many roles from his father, Prince Philip including attending Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme ceremonies around the world.

On 1 September 1956, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II helped to found the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (commonly abbreviated DofE),  in order to give young people "a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities".

In 2014, in an effort to maintain relevance with the youth of Australia, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in Australia removed Prince Philip’s royal monogram from all their logos and replaced it with the strongest symbol of popular sovereignty – the shape of the Australian continent.

The removal of Prince Philip’s monogram followed on the heels of the removal in 2012 of the 40-year-old pledge to Queen and God by Girl Guides Australia. This decision was based on a survey of all 28,000 guides and leaders on changing their promise. After 18 months of intensive consultation of Australia's largest volunteer girls group, most of them girls between the ages of 10 and 14, it was agreed that from 6 July 2012 Guides Australia would drop the pledge of allegiance.

The refreshed Girl Guides' promise has its 28,000-strong group now promising to do their best
' be true to myself and develop my beliefs" rather than to "do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country.'
The modernisation of the Girl Guide pledge reflects Girl Guides desire to move with the times in the understanding that Australia is changing; it speaks of this nation seeking its own identity as part of being Australian.

This was something Scouts Australia had done over ten years ago. In 2012, Richard Miller, then national chief executive of Scouts Australia, explained that in 2001 the Scout Promise was also changed so that an individual had the option to omit reference to the Queen. It appears the youth movements of Australia understand that, to increase membership, they have to appeal to multicultural Australia rather than a by-gone British Australia. Overt symbols of royalty have no place in twenty-first century Australia and perhaps nor do any references to the British crown.

It is likely the DofE people looked at the same membership rate projections as the Girl Guides and realised that, to remain relevant and viable in an Australian setting, they must become multicultural with a focus on service to this country. However, by 2015 the personal monogram of the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria had been returned to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Australia logo.

I’ve argued previously there is no place for Princes in modern Australia. The public repudiation of previous Prime Minister Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking. 

The 53 Commonwealth nations - including 32 Commonwealth republics - are about to make a democratic decision about their next head.  That is a good thing, and their democratic decision should be respected.  The position for Australians is the opposite.

It is a disgraceful fact that without constitutional change the citizens of Australia will not even be consulted on our next head of state. One morning we will simply wake up to hear news from England that will change our country for decades to come. This cannot stand.
If CHOGM 2018 is discussing succession - and if the British royal family itself is prepared to make arrangements for after the Queen's reign - Australia should certainly do the same.  

We should decide. 

Australia should have a national vote on whether we have an Australian as our head of state, and whether our head of state should be elected by the people or by the Parliament, in 2020.  A referendum should follow to put this in place by 2022.

But even for those who think Australia should be a republic after the Queen's reign ends, that means starting preparation today.

Thompson Twins – King For A Day

Thursday, April 05, 2018

GC2018 Commonwealth Games: 150 years of British princes vising Australia

When Prince Charles opened the 2018 Commonwealth Games last night, he bookended 150 years since the first British prince – Prince Alfred in 1867-68 – visited Australia.

THE 2018 COMMONWEALTH GAMES will be held from 4-15 April 2018 on the Gold Coast, in Queensland and will involve 70 nations, 11 days of competition and 18 sports — including the debut of beach volleyball and the para-triathlon.

On Wednesday, 4 April 2018, Prince Charles and his wife, Duchess Camilla was welcomed at a reception at Old Government House, Brisbane before heading to the Gold Coast for the opening of the Commonwealth Games. Prince Charles will be deputising for his mother, Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the Commonwealth Games.

On the eve of the royal visit, former Prime Minister Paul Keating said in the UK Sunday Times that Prince Charles has no desire to be the next King of Australia, and believes Australia should sever its ties with the monarchy of Great Britain and become a republic, charting its own independent course as a nation.

The public repudiation of former Prime Minister Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking — and yet princes keeping coming to Australia. It used to be only once a generation thing. Now they seem to be coming all the time. It used to be as rare as a bunyip sighting. There’s no place for princes in Australia.

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is an opportunity to emphasise that an Australian republic and having our own head of state does not require a change to Commonwealth membership. There are 53 nations in the Commonwealth and 32 are republics. Not all of the member states (Mozambique and Rwanda) were former British colonies. Other than Britain, five Commonwealth nations have their own hereditary Head of State — Brunei Darussalam, Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland and Tonga. Although Queen Elizabeth is the Head of the Commonwealth it doesn't mean she is the head of state of every nation in it. The "Head of Commonwealth" role is not hereditary and may simply disappear when she passes on.

In February 2018, it was reported by the BBC that a “high-level group” of Commonwealth leaders met in London to review the governance of member nations and to examine who should take over as head of the Commonwealth when the Queen dies. The group is not sure they want Charles – who would then be King – as the Head of the Commonwealth — and because it’s not actually a hereditary position, the members of the Commonwealth will have a say.

The Commonwealth leaders want to have a say in who will be their next leader. This is in contrast to Australians who have no say in choosing our next head of state. Perhaps Australians should decide whether we want an Australian as our head of state and how an Australian head of state should be chosen.

The Australian Republic Movement recently invited Prince Charles to address an Australian audience about why he’d like to be Australia’s head of state, rather than an Australian.  Despite the fact that during his five-day stay, Prince Charles is likely to be attending events and making a few speeches, he recently declined the invitation to discuss the future of the Australian monarchy.

The first prince to visit the shores of Australia arrived in November 1867. The latest British royal visit is a bookend to the first royal visit, which occurred over five hot months from 1867 to 1868. This was undertaken by Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred — a Royal Navy captain on a round-the-world voyage on board the HMS Galatea. Stops were made at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. He first landed at Glenelg, in South Australia, on 31 October 1867. As the first member of the British royal family to visit the Australian colonies, he was received with much enthusiasm. During his stay of nearly five months, Alfred visited Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania.

At a meeting on 20 January 1868 to elect three trustees from the subscribers to the fund for the erection of the first Grammar School in Brisbane, there was a discussion on the probability of Prince Alfred – who was about to visit the colony – to lay the foundation stone.
The Brisbane Courier on 21 January 1868 stated:
... as almost a necessary consequence, the school would be in some way connected with his Royal Highness by name. As, however, the number of institutions which either now did or promised to bear the name of Prince Alfred, or Duke of Edinburgh, in the other colonies, had become almost beyond all count, he would suggest that they had better confine themselves out here to some such name as the "Prince’s School", or "Queen’s School" … [another] said he believed according to the 'Grammar Schools Act' they were bound to call the school the "Brisbane Grammar School".
During his visit to Brisbane, Prince Alfred laid the Brisbane Grammar School Foundation Stone on 29 February 1868. However, the people of Brisbane refused to yield to the pressure around all the colonies to name all institutions after the visiting royal. Instead of naming the school after him, the event was commemorated in the school with his coat-of-arms included in the northern stained glass window of the "Great Hall". The fact that he wasn’t liked much helped the burghers of Brisbane maintain their "republican" stance.

On 12 March 1868, during his second visit to Sydney, Prince Alfred was shot in the back with a revolver by Henry James O'Farrell in an attempted assassination while picnicking on the beach in the Sydney suburb of Clontarf.

This created a wave of sectarian hatred and fanatical declarations of loyalty. In this climate, republicanism became associated with Fenianism, violence and anarchy. One result of the Irish would-be assassin O’Farrell’s shot was that Henry Parkes passed the Treason Felony Act, which made disloyal talk of any sort a crime, punishable by six month’s prison. Prince Alfred was wounded just to the right of his spine but was saved from serious injury by the rubber suspenders he was wearing to hold up his trousers. He recovered fully and continued on his world tour. O’Farrell was found guilty of attempted murder and was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 21 April 1868 — the birthday of the current British monarch.

The first royal tour included a school rejecting the use of a royal title, as well as being shot at while attending a beach barbeque. The first event has an echo in the current abolishing of knighthoods. Hopefully, though, there won’t be any incident at a Gold Coast beach birthday like at Clontarf Beach in 1868.

The British royal hatching and matching have been in all the celebrity magazines for nearly nine months. The Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton is reportedly due with her third child on 23 April. This will be followed on 19 May with the Royal Wedding between actor Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, set for St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. However, Australians appear to be unswayed by the royal engagement and support for the British monarchy hitting a record low, with 52 per cent support for a republic and only 22 per cent for a monarchy.

Perhaps it’s our fascination with modern fictional royalty that helps bolster off-line royalty these days. For us in Australia, royalty only ever visits us from somewhere else, from across the seas. It’s not something that lives with us, is part of us, except in our imaginations and creative fantasies. We feel this when we are binge-watching The Crown, or watching trilogies with Australia’s own fictional High Elven Royalty, Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and the Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett – who ironically has been a strong supporter of the Australian Republic Movement in the past) who voluntarily agreed to diminish and go into the West.

Maybe the closest we come to Australia's own home-grown king is in July each year when the Australian Crown along with his nobles and courtiers takes to the Field of St Michael's, during the Abbey Medieval Festival, at Caboolture, north of Brisbane — the largest authentic medieval re-enactment event in Australia.

Royalty comes and royalty goes, but it is never a part of us. Most Australians would have a better understanding of the family trees of the Households of Westeros than the Windsor dynasty. I’ve heard it said that the moment when King Joffrey chopped off the head of Ned Stark many Australians became republican.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

University Republic Clubs begin to 'mend the nation's heart'

The level of youth interest in university republic clubs across our nation refutes claims young Australians are uninterested in an Australian Republic.

THE ENERGY and vigour of new beginnings at the start of university life resonates with the future possibilities of an Australian Republic. A way forward, rather than looking back.

There are now the following university republic clubs on university campuses:

The University of Queensland Australian Republic Club is one of the most active university republic clubs on Australian campuses and has been involved in Republican movement activity on campus since the early 1990s.

In the first edition for 2018 of Semper Floreat, the University of Queensland Student Union newspaper and Queensland’s oldest student newspaper, University of Queensland Australian Republic Club (UQARC) President Oscar Green of­fers his reasons for why the idea of an Australian Republic is important.

Mr Green said:
For me it’s about fairness. It’s not fair that Australians don’t get to have a say on who their head of state is, and it’s not fair that, while we have the British monarch in that position, a deserving Aussie is missing out.
All government positions should be chosen on merit in­stead of family connections.
Australia is one of the most democratic countries in the world, so becoming a republic will celebrate this tradition and make people appreciate what Australian citizenship means.

The UQARC hopes to start a discussion of the issue among students. Mr Green said:

People are going to talk about a republic more and more the closer we get to the end of the Queen’s reign and the prospect of Charles as the King of Australia. It just makes sense that Australia should have an Australi­an head of state — if we were writing the Constitution today, would we pick the leader of another country for our highest office?
Mr Green also encouraged students to come down to the UQRAC stall in the Great Court. But you know the future of our nation is in good hands when you see a koala in an Australian Republic Movement shirt grooving on to Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh.

In 2017, Year 12 student Dan Crowley wrote in his winning essay'Why I am a Republican':

Australia is a country of merit and reward. That's why we worship sports heroes, those such as Bradman who mastered his craft with a golf ball, a wooden bat and a water tank. That's why those born into wealth and privilege are expected to prove themselves and help those without, and why we so instinctively support the underdog.

We have forged our nation, our own identity and our own set of values. We are a nation of builders, and we earn our own crowns. From the remnants of our colonial past, we have built something of our own. A nation by no means perfect, but a nation of our own. A nation shaped by land, climate, history and shared experience. A nation with culture, passions, food, sport, music and humour of its very own. We have built this ourselves from the ground up, and the fact the Queen can just pass by and be adorned with our crown and eternal love should insult every one of us.

A new poll showing the majority of Australians support an Australian republic, while support for the monarchy has fallen to its lowest recorded level. Just 22 per cent of respondents disagree that Australia should be a republic with an Australian as head of state. 52 per cent agree that Australia should be a republic.

The poll also shows Australians know the difference between celebrity news and an independent constitution. Asked if the engagement of Prince Harry and the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge make a difference to their opinion about a republic, 67 per cent of respondents said no. What’s more, 22 per cent of people said they are in fact more likely to support a republic as a result of the royal news!

The poll busts the myth that young Australians support the monarchy because of the popularity of ‘young Royals’.  In fact, opposition to a republic is weakest among young people. Just 17 per cent of Aussies 18-24 years old and 15 per cent of Aussies 25-34 are opposed to a republic. In every age group surveyed, more people agree that Australia should become a republic with an Australian as head of state than disagree.

It’s time for a new conversation about Australia, our identity and our responsibility, and to take the future into our hands as a fully independent nation. It is heartening to see young Australians of all political colours and persuasions all around Australia wrestling with these ideas.

It’s time we stopped limiting future generations. We must tell them an Australian is good enough to be the head of Australia. We need one of our own in the top job. We are a people who believe in fairness and in a fair go for all. So why is the top job in Australia limited to someone overseas who was born into it and never earned it? Our shared national values mean that any Australian should have the right to our top office rather than complete exclusion from it.

Australia’s best and brightest university students appear to have already embraced these ideas.

On 6 November 1999, the Australian Republic Referendum failed, but now it seems Australia's youth are beginning to "mend the nation’s heart".

Sign up to find your University club here.