Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rudd's republican vision

In a recent interview the new federal opposition leader, Kevin Rudd stated he was "relatively relaxed" about the idea of a directly elected president of an Australian republic if that is what the majority of the voters want. He continued, "I am not ideologically committed to an appointed presidency. I'm open-minded on that question. It would be good if we could get to a stage soon where we could say that one of us was our head of state."

However, while supporting a plebiscite on whether Australia should become a republic if he wins government next year, Rudd described the issue as "way down my list of priorities" - behind a strong economy, fairness in the workplace and elsewhere, climate change and a hard line on national security.

As 2007 emerges, the issue of af an Australian republic certainly does not appear centre stage for Australia. It is not top of the agenda with the ALP, does not enjoy multi-partisan support and will probably not be the hot topic of debate for Aussie families when they get together over the Christmas break.

The road to a republic will not be for the faint hearted!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Can I retire, please?

My grandmother will be 81 later this month. She's a hardy soul but there's no way she would be up to the frantic pace needed to be a world leader! But poor Queen Elizabeth II just keeps working. When do you think she will be allowed to retire? Most people these days retire by 60, judges are forced to retire at 70, but Queen Elizabeth II, at 80 keeps on working.

Normally in robust health even at the age of 80, last week she had to scap a day at the races because of a strained muscle in her back. When Rolf Harris went to accept his CBE yesterday at Windsor Palace he received his gong for services to art and entertainment instead from Princess Anne. Also, the Queen had to pull out of opening the new Emirates stadium of English Premiership football club Arsenel in north London on 26 October because of her back injury. This time her 85 year-old husband Philip deputised - can you think of any 85 year old men who are still working?

It is highly unusual for the stoical monarch to slow down on her schedule or withdraw from events. The Queen carries out hundreds of engagements a year alongside her official duties. In 2005 she carried out 378 engagements compared with 509 in 1996. Early in October 2006 she was in Belfast to review British soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland, despite suffering from a bloodshot eye.

Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952 and it was not until July 1982 that she was first admitted to hospital, to have a wisdom tooth removed. She was forced to cancel several engagements in 1993 because of flu while in 1994 she broke her wrist when her horse tripped during a ride on her Sandringham county estate in eastern England. Last year she cancelled three engagements because of a cold and sore throat, while in 2003 she had keyhole surgery after suffering a torn cartilage walking on rough ground. That led to a reduced schedule as she convalesced from the succesul 45-minute operation. Further surgery on her left knee later the same year was combined with a procedure to remove minor growths from her face.

There's no doubt she is a sturdy trooper. But when will she be given a retirement watch from The Firm and be allowed to sleep in, watch Oprah or potter around in the garden. To make her keep working after 80 seems cruel and unsual punishment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Charge it to Charles

The article below was published in the 2006 Spring edition of ARMLET, the quarterly publication of the Queensland branch of the Australian Republican Movement.

"The Australian Government spent $371,079 on a six day visit by HRH Prince Charles in 2005.

The information, revealed in documents obtained from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet by the Australian Republican Movement (Qld) after a FOI application, show the bulk of the costs were for transport ($322,209), with a significant amount also spent on accomodation ($31,224).

The ARM will continue to investigate the costs to the Australian taxpayer of maintaining the royal family in lavish style."

That's just over $5,000 per night for accomodation and nearly $54,000 per day for accomodation - and he didn't even come to Queensland!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Book Review: G Barns & A Krawec-Wheaton (2006), An Australian Republic

Almost seven years ago, 55 per cent of Australians rejected the opportunity to rid Australia of the British monarchy and allow our national Parliament to select an Australian head of state. In Greg Barns and Anna Krawec-Wheatons new book An Australian Republic they state they believe republican fortunes could change rapidly. They examine how the opportunity can be grasped, how the conditions necessary for achieving consensus can be constructed and how the political will to tackle the complex issues of constitutional change can be generated.

Both have excellent credentials in this field: Greg Barns was national chairman of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) from 2000 to 2002 and national campaign director for the 1999 referendum campaign YES case, while Krawec-Wheaton is a recent PhD graduate with a thesis focusing on Australia's republican movement.

This book is certainly timely. In March 2006, John Howard acknowledged there was no guarantees about the English monarchy's future in Australia after Queen Elizabeth II dies or abdicates. In An Australian Republic Barns and Krawec-Wheaton argue that in 2006 the Australian public is broadly republican in sentiment and that forces within both major political parties are sympathetic. For Australia to move to a republic they argue there needs to be widespread receptiveness and enthusiasm for the issue: in other words a preparedness and readiness for change by the public. Polls conducted continue to show that Australians are ready for a republic.

But for an Australian republic to be delivered, more is required. Those underlying sentiments need to be given voice. They need to be captured by a social-movement organisation, as was the case in the 1990s with the establishment of the ARM. However, the central factor needed for the republican cause is agreement between the decision makers. There needs to be agreement upon what form a republic will take. As Barns and Krawec-Wheaton point out, the real problem is disunity inside the republican camp. This book is a blueprint towards building a consensus among the major players and advancing the republican cause in twenty-first century Australia. Rather than focus on the variety of possible models that a future republic might take, this book examines how the opportunity might be grasped.

The challenge ahead is how do we get to an Australian republic? Barns and Krawec-Wheaton have made some ground in showing us the way. The first step is unity between republican protagonists and compromise on an agreed model.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Charles III, you've been dumped.

The pledge of allegiance demanded from every Australian immigrant seeking naturalisation sums up what the whole Oath of Allegiance debate is about.

From this time forward, 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.

The allegiance for these new Australians is to Australia (as it should be) - simple and undivided.

However, the Australian Constitution prescribes a specific Oath of Allegiance for Federal parliamentarians with a different focus:

I, A.B. do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Her Heirs and successors according to law.

It seems strange to maintain a system pledging allegiance to a future King who hasn't been here except for a week in the past 12 years. And when he did come he did not even visit Queensland. Instead we had to make do with Gerryn Connolly, the pretender, in Kig George Square.

But it seems there may be more republicans running this country than we thought. Although Howard made it clear during the 1999 republican referendum that he was the champion of the monarchist cause, he may all along have been a closet republican.

Even though the Australian Constitution insists that every member of Parliament pledge allegiance to the House of Windsor forever, after the 1996 federal elections, the new Howard Liberal government dreamt up a new Oath for the Prime Minister and his Ministerial colleagues. The one they take in the privacy of the Governor General's study is:

I swear that I will well and truly serve the people of Australia and I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.

In this Oath there is nothing about the sons, or the heirs, or the successors, or the laws of the British parliament, which, for example, say that a Catholic is barred from the succession, and if the heir married a Catholic, he is automatically barred from the succession.

It appears Howard and his coeterie have been planning to "cut the painter" upon Lilibet's death for at least 10 years.

This means Howard and is Ministers have dumped the future King Charles III, William IV, Henry IX, Andrew I, and Edward IX. Yet ordinary members of parliament are still bound to the House of Windsor by the Australian Constitution.

Three cheers for the Australian republic ...

Friday, August 04, 2006

My (republican) Oath.
There has been talk over the past week in Queensland on the possibility of calling an early State election. For republicans in Queensland the swearing-in ceremony after the election will be groundbreaking.

In State and Federal parliaments, a member of parliament has not been able to take his/her seat in parliament without first swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Many Australians have felt that this effectively negates the democratic wish of the people as expressed at the ballot box.

All this changed at 12.39pm on 23 August 2005, when Queensland Premier Peter Beattie rose to speak in the Legislative Assembly:

"I am pleased", he said, "to introduce the Constitutional and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2005 ... The Bill provides the option for members of the Legislative Assembly, ministers and judges to make an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Crown."

In other words, following the next State election, Queensland MPs will be able - for the first time - to swear allegiance to the Queen or solely to the people of Queensland.

Symbols are important. The oath of allegiance has been changing around Australia.

On Thursday, 7 April 2005, two days before the latest royal marriage, the New South Wales Legislative Assembly passed a Bill to change the Oath of Allegiance.

Since 1995, members of the ACT Legislative Assembly have had the option of declaring their allegiance to the people of the ACT, instead of the Queen.

In South Australia, a Bill which give's MPs the option of swearing allegiance to the state's people rather than the Queen passed through the Lower House in July 2004.

The times they are a'changin and the oaths are changing with them. It will be fascinating at the next Queensland swearing-in ceremony to watch which option the new class members take. Will their first loyalty be to the monarchy on the other side of the world or to the people of Queensland?

Three cheers for the Australian republic ...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Natural republicans all.
When Professor Peter Doherty, National Australia Day Council's 1997 Australian of the Year, and the 1996 Nobel Prize winner commented that we are all "natural republicans" he was probaly close to the truth. The Federal Treasurer Peter Costello reiterated Peter Doherty's sentiment on the republican referendum night in November 1999 when he stated: "In their hearts and minds the Australian people are republican."

In June 2006, Peter Costello restated on Southern Cross Radio that "Australia already thinks like a republic." Costello was reflecting and acknowledging the presence of republican thinking in Australia and making the assumption that Australian's do not need to be converted to republicanism as they already accept it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Advance Australia (always).

The debate about whether "Advance Australia Fair" or "God Save the Queen" would be played at the Opening Ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games hit a raw nerve with everyday Australians during February and March 2006.

M2006 organisers indicated there was no obligation to play the British national anthem at the Opening Ceremony. If the Queen is the Queen of Australia what problem could she have with the Australian national anthem. To play anything other than "Advance Australia Fair" would be a direct challenge to Australia's national identity.

As the debate advanced, political leaders and the Australian's for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) began talking about a compromise position whereby both anthems could be played. If there's one thing you never compromise it's your identity.

Our national anthem should be the only anthem played during any formal proceedings.

Some monarchists, such as the ACM were embarassed with the prospect of only Australia's national anthem being played and warned Australians that the rest of the world would think Australian's were disrespectful and rude if the British anthem were not also played. They were proven wrong. In typical Australian style, the organisers stood strong on the issue of the anthem and played only "Advance Australia Fair", while also following through on their plan to play some bars of "God Save the Queen" while singing the Queen "Happy Birthday". It was a clever and uniquely Australian celebration about which all Australians should be proud.

Three cheers to the coming republic ...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

You're job is safe, ma'am. Your sons, however ...

In two days time it will be Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday. Most 80 years olds are long retired, but not that trouper the Queen.

For the first time, after midnight in the heart of London, rehersals have been held for the Queen's funeral. As happened for her mother when she reached about that age, a mock funeral march has been staged. They'll do it every year. In the case of the Queen Mother, they'd had lots of practice by the time she died at 101.

But the Queen displays similarly robust health to her mother and there's no sign of her standing down. But when Australia's Prime Minister John Howard stated during her latest trip to Australia during the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, "I don't believe Australia will become a republic while the Queen is on the throne. Beyond that, I don't know", the code appeared that this may be her last visit. But please let's not have any more visits from Charles. His 2005 visit was lacking in crowd-pulling power and plain dull.

The common view is that it will be the death of the Queen and ascension of Prince Charles that will trigger another push within Australia for a republic. When the Queen dies or steps down, that will change things because there is a reservoir of goodwill for the Queen which there isn't for Prince Charles. It would be much better and more dignified to see the debate happen well before such an event.

Happy birthday for 21 April - and three cheers to the coming republic!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Royalty - a man's game
This is my first post to my new blog. The impetus for creating this blog was when the Courier Mail, the main Queensland newspaper, would not publish my Letter to the Editor. If they won't publish my views then I'll have to find other ways to get my message out on the need for an Australian republic.

Below is the Letter to the Editor I sent to the Courier Mail on 13 January 2006 detailing one of the many absurdities of Australia retaining the British monarch as our Head of State. The theme of this blog will be recording why Australia should have "A Mate as Head of State".

Royalty - a man’s game

A decision this week by the British House of Lords upholds a system which supports the idea that a woman can only be trusted for the top job when there are no men available.

The British Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has dismissed suggestions that the British Government remove existing right of male heirs to the throne taking precedence over female heirs.

Monarchists support keeping constitutional monarchy in Australia. Do they also support propping up this absurd fiction that women are only suitable for our top job when there are no men available?

To deny women the same rights of succession to the throne as men underscores the absurdity of Australia's continuing links to the British monarchy.

This decision – which impacts upon the rules determining Australia's Head of State – has been made in Britain, by a British politician, with no consultation with Australia.

This reinforces, once again, that its time that we had one of our own as Head of State. One determined on merit, not gender and birthright.

Australia first granted women the vote and the right to stand in elections as early as 1894, but over one hundred years later we can only have a woman as our Head of State if she lacks a Brother. This is the case with Queen Elizabeth II.

We need to remove such discriminatory and archaic ideas and allow my daughter the opportunity to be Australia’s Head of State.