Tag Archives: monarchy

Long live King Charles? An Australian republic is in Turnbull’s hands for now

The Conversation

Benjamin T. Jones, Western Sydney University

The first time a British royal came to visit Australia he was shot. Prince Alfred survived the assassination attempt in 1868 and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was named in his honour.

It was an inauspicious beginning to royal tours of Australia but a century and a half later the nation is still constitutionally wedded to the British monarchy. Prince Charles – the future King of Australia – finished, on Sunday, his 15th visit to the country. While there have been no assassination attempts, nor has there been the outpouring of adoration that marked the Queen’s inaugural visit in 1954.

Why is Australia still attached to the monarchy? In his new book Australia and the Monarchy (2015) journalist and historian David Hill notes the seeming irony of a:

young, rebellious, egalitarian nation [maintaining allegiance to] an ancient symbol of power and social inequality.

Following the close but unsuccessful republican referendum in 1999, the notion of replacing the British monarch with an Australian head of state has fallen largely off the national radar.

How is it that Tony Abbott’s reintroduction of knighthoods was mercilessly lampooned and yet the equally medieval and anachronistic concept of hereditary monarchy is accepted?

The answer lies partly in cultural nostalgia. For much of Australian history Britishness and Australianness have been fused together in a dual identity. Australia’s most significant early prime minister, Alfred Deakin, articulated this nationalism as “independent Australian Britons”. Even in 1954, the Sydney Morning Herald declared:

Australia is and always will be a British nation whose greatest strength lies in the traditions she has inherited from England.

This collective nostalgia for the British connection was exemplified by John Howard, who argued passionately against Paul Keating’s attempts to cut the last remaining constitutional links and to reimagine Australia as an independent nation in the Asia-Pacific.

Keating’s now famous 1992 “cultural cringe” speech in federal parliament crystallised a larger national debate. Were the 1950s – with the Menzian attachment to monarchy – a “golden age” as Howard had claimed?

Paul Keating’s ‘Cultural Cringe’ speech, 1992

Cultural nostalgia certainly explains some of the modest enthusiasm for Prince Charles on this recent visit. Around 50 – 100 well-wishers attended most public events.

Renae Williams, for example, waited with her daughter for over six hours to see Charles and his wife, Camilla, in Adelaide last week. She told the Sydney Morning Herald that:

When I was little I met Diana [Princess of Wales] and that memory stuck with me forever. I’m hoping to do the same for my daughter.

Cult of celebrity

The royal appeal today has more to do with the cult of celebrity than reverence for the institution, built on a foundation of inequality that most Australians reject. This is particularly illustrated with the popularity of Charles’ photogenic children and grandchildren.

Even for those with no interest in the royals, there is a sense of constitutional stability, combined with a general mistrust of career politicians, that lends weight to the monarchical catch-cry: “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”.

Yet, the recent tour has provided some evidence that a future, un-elected, King Charles does indeed represent a broken system. Essential Research conducted a poll commissioned by the Australian Republican Movement that asked 1,008 voters:

When Prince Charles becomes King of Australia, will you support or oppose replacing the British monarch with an Australian citizen as Australia’s head of state?

51% of responders supported moving to a republic. Only Australians born before 1953 have lived under a different monarch, and it would seem much of the cultural nostalgia is tied to the Queen personally rather than the monarchy or a lingering sense of Britishness.

Malcolm Turnbull speaks after 1999 referendum defeat.

ALP Leader Bill Shorten and Greens leader Richard Di Natale are both firmly committed to an Australian republic. The Australian Republican Movement has had a membership surge following the appointment of influential writer, and former Wallaby, Peter FitzSimons as chair.

With Malcolm Turnbull — also a former chair — now prime minister, it would seem a perfect republican storm is building, but all may not be what it seems.

Turnbull’s first priority is to heal some of the fresh wounds from his recent coup that saw him wrestle Liberal leadership and the prime ministership from avowed monarchist, Tony Abbott.

He has reaffirmed his personal republican position, but has given no indication it will be a priority for his government. Senior political correspondent Sophie Morris suggested in the latest Saturday Paper that Turnbull has given up altogether on the issue that brought him such heartache in 1999.

Turnbull, as with Rudd and Gillard before him, has thrown the onus on the Australian Republican Movement and the people at large, suggesting there must be a public groundswell of support before he acts. History suggests this is unlikely with complicated constitutional debates and a topic that is crucially important from a symbolic point of view but has little bearing on everyday lives.

Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall hold boomerangs while visiting Kings Park on November 15, 2015 in Perth.
AAP Image/ Paul Kane/Getty Images

The 1990s movement was not the result of initial public enthusiasm. Of course, individual republicans played their part, not least Turnbull, but it was largely the initiative and leadership of Paul Keating which stoked the flames.

Using his clout as prime minister, Keating established the Republican Advisory Committee in 1993 and elevated the issue from niche lobby interest to national significance.

No referendum has ever passed without strong prime ministerial support. Arguably the Liberal landslide of 1996 that saw Keating, the most pro-republic prime minister in our history, replaced by Howard, the most pro-monarchy — until Abbott — was what really sunk the movement.

As things stand, despite the best efforts of FitzSimons and the Australian Republican Movement, Charles’ next trip to Australia may well be as its king.

Strong and consistent republican support from the prime minister is the missing ingredient to restart the national discussion. In his memoir of the failed referendum Fighting for the Republic: The Ultimate Insider’s Account (1999), Turnbull expressed confusion and frustration that Howard would not use his prime ministerial power to see in a safe, minimal change republic.

That power is now in his hands if he chooses to use it. One thing that remains evident is that an Australian republic is anything but inevitable.

The ConversationBenjamin T. Jones, Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Humanities and Communication Arts, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Explainer: how are Australia’s knights and dames appointed?

The Conversation

By Adam Webster and John Williams

Prime Minister Tony Abbott caused quite a stir when he re-established the appointment of knights and dames under the Order of Australia early in 2014. For this to occur, no law needed to be passed. Instead, Her Majesty The Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, amended the Letters Patent for the Order of Australia awards.

In 2015, it was the knighthood given to the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, that proved for many to be the Australia Day barbecue stopper. But how is it that Prince Philip – someone who is not an Australian citizen – is awarded a knighthood? Can foreigners even be awarded honours under the Order of Australia?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to delve into the language of the Letters Patent.

What are Letters Patent?

Letters Patent are a legal document signed by the Monarch (or the Governor-General) that grants some sort of right, status or title.

When a royal commission is established, the appointment of the royal commissioner is done so by Letters Patent. One recent example is the appointment of former High Court judge Dyson Heydon as the royal commissioner to investigate alleged corruption within trade unions. Some not-so-recent examples are the letters patent signed by the monarch establishing each of the Australian colonies during the 1800s.

The Order of Australia – our system for recognising the achievements of outstanding Australians – was established by Letters Patent in 1975. Letters Patent are unique in that the document is approved without reference to parliament. This is how knighthoods and damehoods were re-established without the involvement of parliament. Abbott simply instructed the Queen to amend the letters patent.

How are knights and dames appointed?

Knights and dames are essentially “captain’s picks” of the prime minister. Abbott said he “consulted with the chairman of the [Australia Day] Council for the Order of Australia and … with the Governor-General”.

Appointments are made:

… with the approval of the Sovereign on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, by Instrument signed by the Governor-General.

To understand the appointment process it is necessary to have a close look at the clauses in the current Letters Patent.

Clause 11 of the Letters Patent states that:

Australian citizens … are eligible to be appointed to the Order.

It also allows non-citizens to be “appointed to the Order as honorary members”. In short, it establishes two categories of eligibility.

There are also important clauses that relate specifically to appointing knights and dames. Clause 11A(1) states that:

Appointments as Knights or Dames, or honorary Knights or Dames, in the General Division shall be made for extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit in service to Australia or to humanity at large.

The other important clause is 11A(2), which deals with non-citizens. It qualifies the previous clause by stating that:

Notwithstanding subsection (1), a distinguished person who is not an Australian citizen may be appointed as an honorary Knight or Dame … where it is desirable that the person be honoured by Australia.

What is unclear from the wording of these clauses is whether non-Australian citizens can only be given honorary knighthoods. On one reading of the clauses, non-citizens can only be given honorary knighthoods. An alternative view is that while this may be the sense of the clause, it is not mandatory: that is, non-citizens may also be awarded the “ordinary” knighthood or damehood.

There is no mention that Prince Philip’s award is an honorary appointment. This raises the question of whether Prince Philip’s award should be viewed solely as “honorary”. However, the distinction is important.

The distinction of “honorary” knights and dames

Why does it matter whether Prince Philip’s award was “honorary” or not? Only four knights and dames can be appointed each year. However, this limitation of four per year does not include “honorary” knights and dames.

If Prince Philip’s award was not an honorary appointment, it has taken the award away from an Australian. If Prince Philip’s was an honorary appointment – and this fact was omitted from the list released on Australia Day – it highlights that while only four Australians can receive knighthoods or damehoods, there is no limit on the number of appointments that the prime minister could make to people who are not Australian citizens. The prime minister could start handing out honorary knighthoods or damehoods to foreign leaders left, right and centre.

The 2015 Australia Day honours may be remembered for many reasons. However, the show-stopper was the decision to add a knighthood to Prince Philip’s long list of titles. We can hardly wait for the Queen’s Birthday honours list.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged with permission). Read the original article.

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