14 June 2022

Don't let the republic pass us by again when the Queen's reign ends

| Ian Bushnell
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The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh

Time to go. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on tour in ’54. Photo: Canberra Airport.

Take a look around you, Australia.

We’re a kaleidoscope of people now, with folk from around the world making their homes and lives in this country that started as a penal colony, ignored the existence of a culture tens of thousands of years old and when the colonies came together to form a nation sought to keep it white and British.

We’re still pretty Anglo-Celtic, and I am proud of those origins, but who can doubt that our country is not the better for the migrants who have found safe harbour here and given so much to it.

Yet after coming so far and forging our own path in the world, we still hang on to the vestiges of British power and the Crown for reasons that are more sentimental than practical, more Women’s Weekly than political reality.

It’s part of our unfinished business.

The election of the Albanese Labor Government has given new impetus to the Republican movement, with the appointment of an Assistant Minister for the Republic.

It has also given us a more culturally representative Parliament that better reflects the changes that have swept the country over the past few decades.

Even the Queen’s representative, Governor-General David Hurley, acknowledged that when Her Majesty departs the time would be right for Australians to discuss whether the monarchy should remain part of the nation’s future.

It was a statement of the obvious, but the shock jocks and monarchists were quick to round on him as if he had uttered some sort of treason.

Anybody who watched the Platinum Jubilee celebrations could not have missed that the sun is setting fast on the second Elizabethan era.

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In Canberra, the new government even followed through on Scott Morrison’s lame gesture of renaming Aspen Island in her name. How many will bother to heed the change?

While the monarchy has refashioned itself from being a symbol of Imperial power with a bloody history to being a more benign institution supporting a range of good causes from saving the planet to mental health, its relevance to Australia in the 21st Century is zero.

Whatever affection there is stems from carefully crafted media images of the Royal family, forget Andrew and Harry and Meghan, that have nothing to do with Australia’s political and social order.

It is pure celebrity schmaltz that has no real role or purpose in this country other than to cultivate a following and sell magazines.

Those who argue that the Crown somehow offers some sort of protection against tyranny can only believe that the Reserve powers the colonially framed Constitution grants to the unelected Governor-General and exercised so infamously in 1975 against the Whitlam Government should remain, along with the monarchial ties to the Motherland.


Aspen Island has been renamed in honour of the Queen for her Platinum Jubilee, but who will heed the change. Photo: Region Media.

It should be remembered that the British monarch would not and cannot intervene in the politics of the United Kingdom.

A lid has been put on that particular can of worms, so destructively unleashed on the nation in 1975, as part of a gentleman’s agreement that it’s best not to go down that path again.

We should also remember that for millions of Australians, Britain is not their Motherland.

The many who were not around in 1975 may argue if the system ain’t broke why fix it? Yet the issue remains unresolved.

If ever the nation opts for a republic, those reserve powers will have to be dealt with.

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There aren’t many who will say that the Queen has not conducted herself with dignity and respect in a role she inherited, or that even the much-maligned Charles has not won some credibility in his latter years.

The pin-ups, of course, are William and Kate, and some might want Australia to linger for some brush with the Camelot they might offer.

But does some romantic attraction for the fairy tale pageant that the monarchy has become justify the status quo?

Not even all Britons are agreed on that, and certainly not the Scots.

We came close in 1999 only to have John Howard skillfully divide republicans to thwart the referendum. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

Of course, it is hard to see with all that Mr Albanese has on his plate that the republic will be anywhere prominent on his to-do list.

But the transition will begin when the Queen goes. It may take some time, but Australia has grown up a lot in the past few decades and the step towards being a fully independent nation truly respectful of all its people has to come.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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