Thursday, 24 April 2008

Post #9 Hire a Hall/Everything (Res publica and monarchy/royalty)

Kevin Rudd has reopened the topic of the republic and the (ab)usual suspects have come out whining for their so-called "monarchy". Another twisted word which, along with the phrase "Westminster system", has been thwarting original thought about constitutional reform in Australia for many a weary year. The British royal sovereigns haven't been "monarchs" in the true sense of the word* at least since King John whacked his seal on the first Magna Carta. Any doubt about that was removed, along with King Charles' head, in 1649. And the "Westminster system"? Beats me. It seems to be as many things as there are definers of it. How our federal system, with a "basic law" type of constitution and a serious dose of Americana could be a Westminster system, poses a question I'll leave to those with a few decades to stew over it.

The people who sprout these bogusisms have a purpose, of course, and that's a lot easier to figure out. They are the enemies of change. They just don't want change ; any change. Their motives vary, I believe. Some are probably simply possessed of fixative personalities with an intransigent streak to back it up. Others like the current arrangements where the imprecision of the statute/convention overlap allows power to default (in a de facto and unrestrained manner) to the Ministers of the Crown. Those "monarchists" who are MPs usually fall into this category.

The interesting thing about the debate on constitutional reform is that it keeps locking into this pattern of "the monarch versus the republic". Why doesn't anyone see a distinction between wanting complete sovereign independence for our country and the debate over the type of head of state? I can see it clearly enough: We can have a resident Australian royal sovereign and be independent of Britain. In fact, just to show what a good sport I am, Her Illustrious Majesty Elizabeth, Queen of Australia, may kick on if she pleases. She won't even have to apply for her own job again! That's fairer than the Liberal/National coalition government and their sycophants were to many of our compatriots who became redundant for "operational reasons".

If Her Majesty doesn't care to relinquish the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in exchange for exclusive dominion over the Commonwealth of Australia (mystifying as such a response would be), one of her potential heirs may be willing. There is no need to bring all of the pomp and paraphernalia of the royal concept of Britain to this land; the style of the Governor-General would be quite appropriate. This will call the bluff of the purported royalists - do they genuinely support royal government or is that merely a blind for something else?

We can also tinker with the appointment process; plenty of royalties are elective, not hereditary. Thus we can elect the head of state and have a royal leader in the one go. Once this issue is resolved the dam will burst on all the other constitutional reform that is in abeyance. Perhaps that's why some people prefer to keep us talking in futile circles on this subject.

John Howard was a good example of this, making all of the solemn noises about loving the Queen, telling John Hewson that Australia would become a republic "over his dead body". The truth was put into public view during the Hollingworth episode. For the uninitiated, Howard recommended to the Queen that an Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Australia, Peter Hollingworth, should be apppointed to the Governor-Generalship. After the appointment, nasty stories began to surface about the new GG. He was alleged to have,
during his tenure as a bishop, blind-eyed a situation involving a priest who had taken sexual advantage of a 14 year-old girl who had been under the priest's tutelage. Hollingworth had also knowingly acted as mentor and patron to a priest who had engaged in paedophilia and wanted to continue in the ministry. He attempted to put the fire out by appearing on Australian Story and managed to throw kerosene on himself.

How did the great, self-proclaimed "monarchist", John Howard, respond? By leaving the carcass to swing in the breeze. "It's a matter for him", said Howard. He wasn't going to condemn his own judgement in recommending the man, so he let the fellow continue in office for months until ignominy, in its various forms, drove him to resign. Howard wouldn't tell the Queen to sack the bastard! Why not? Because saving his own political face was more important than the disrespect shown to the Queen by having a patron and protector of paedophiles inflicted upon her as her pricipal viceroy in Australia. When Howard visited the Queen in Britain during the course of Hollingworth's slow death on the vine, he came out of the Palace looking rather discomfited. The Queen had made her views known, one supposes. Now the great monarchist was never so fond of the Queen after that and he was noticeably less effusive when playing host to her in return.

People like Howard don't really give a damn about the Queen. What they do like is the nice, messy constitution that allows power to default into their hands. Power that would be constrained and checked if a new constitution was written. No more sending forces overseas on the strength of a phone call from the White House - the Parliament would be given power over the decision to make war. The same goes for the appointment of federal judges and various other discretions that are usurped by Cabinet Ministers. So, let's petition for an Australian royal government - and see how the "monarchists" cop that!

*All power exercised by one person at their own discretion.

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