Sunday, August 26, 2007

Well may we say, God save Clive James!

Overseas readers may not be aware that there is such a personage as "The Queen of Australia". There is, and she is, of course, one and the same as the Queen of Great Britain, our much loved and revered Elizabeth II Regina. Over the last forty years, there has been a growing republican movement in Australia which reached its zenith with the referendum in 1999 which failed to get the required support to ditch the Australian constitutional monachy which has served us so well since our foundation as a nation in 1901 (under the other great Queen, Victoria).

The question of when and whether Australia will be "free of the British monarchy" continues to be discussed in leftist circles. Clive James, the British-based Australian commentator and wit, who has recently released a book (given a rather cool review by Fr Richard John Neuhaus in the First Things Blog) "Cultural Amnesia", was asked this very question at the Melbourne Writers Festival, according to yesterday's edition of The Age.
You ask when are you going to be free of the British monarchy? You are free under the British monarchy. What you have to guarantee is that you are free under the next system...

I think it's a very advantageous political system to Australia, to have a connection with the old British monarchy...

I know I must be seen as impossibly conservative, but you can be quite on the left, which I am, and still be culturally conservative.
He also said that it was a "generous act of respect" to Britain to keep the Union Jack in the Australian flag. "Generous acts of respect" like that are, we know, very rare these days--especially among the so called "elites" these days--and so we thank Clive for his reply from the bottom of our hearts. Such generosity and unwillingness to give in to the rampant disease of "cultural amnesia" is very much appreciated.


At Sunday, August 26, 2007 8:18:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

I am an American. One who understands that that really means a citizen of the United States as the term is generally used, and that properly "American" could be used to describe any citizen of anywhere in the two continents called America, and who wishes there were a different name for referring to citizens of the United States.

I am also one who believes our Declaration of Independence and Constitution to be a miracle of human thought, and would rather live, as I do, where those great documents still are working themselves out in the human experiment than anywhere else.

I am also one who is glad our course was not to stay within the Empire and become part of the Commonwealth. And I am also one who thinks our course is not necessarily the only one, nor even the appropriate one in other contexts. And having said all that, one thing more:


At Monday, August 27, 2007 1:39:00 pm , Anonymous Tony Bartel said...

When Father Bill Edebohls was the Anglican Dean of Ballarat he was a strident republican (in the Australian sense) as well as an equally strident Anglo-Catholic. His farewell from the Cathedral was on the feast of Mary, Queen of Heaven. He was asked how he could celebrate Mary as Queen of Heaven when he was such a staunch republican. "I have no trouble with Mary being Queen of Heaven," he replied, "At least she lives there."

One can, of course, have a stable democracy with or without a monarch as head of state. One can also have military coups and dictatorships with or without a monarch of head of state. One can have the rule of law with or without a monarch as the head of state. One can have the abuse of power with or without a monarch as the head of state. One can have constitutional crises (such as 1975 in Australia) with or without a monarch as head of state.

I do not, therefore, believe that the British monarchy has as much to do with the stability and freedom that we have enjoyed in Australia as does the character of the Australian people. I do not believe we will be any better or worse off when we become a republic.

I support the republican movement only because I believe that symbolically the head of state should live in Australia and should always be able to represent Australian interests, especially when acting overseas. The Queen and the royal family are not able to do that, and their first loyalty is always to the government of Britain. For example, members of the royal family frequently represent Britain in trade missions and at times this will work against the interests of Australia. The position of head of state will always be largely symbolic in Australia, but that symbolism is important, and so it should be held by somebody who resides in the country and whose first loyalty is to the country. (And yes, I do not buy the argument that the Governor-General is our Head of State).

Finally, if I were a Roman Catholic, I would be deeply offended that the one thing that our monarch cannot be is a Roman Catholic. The monarch can be Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish or an atheist. But they cannot be Roman Catholic or even married to a Roman Catholic. Such bigotry should have no place in England. It certainly has no place in Australia where the Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious group.

At Monday, August 27, 2007 3:57:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

The issue, Tony, is not whether monarchy is the best form of government, or even if constitutional monarchy is the best form, but whether or not the particular form of government we have at this particular point in time is one that works, works well, and protects and guarentees our freedoms. The answer to the latter is undeniably yes. Whether I am a monarchist or not is immaterial. I do not believe in Monarchy as a political theory, nor in the British Monarchy as an institution, but I believe in the form of government we have at the moment.

It is too much to say that 1975 was really a constitutional "crisis". Yes, it tested our constitution, but far from proving that the constitution was broken and needed fixing, it proved that it worked. There was no "blood in the streets". The old government was deposed because of its inability to govern, and the people were immediately consulted as to whether they wanted to return the old government or a new one. The fact that they overwhelmingly chose to have a new government (something often conveniently forgotten by leftist pro-Whitlamites) shows that in fact the Queen's representative (acting completely within the constitution) preserved democracy rather than undermined it.

I will say this much: one thing that I particularly like about the type of monarchy we have in Australia is that it is an absentee monarchy. The best sort! We don't pay for her upkeep (except when she is on our soil), but she fills a constitutional vacuum without which our government cannot properly function.

As for the Roman Catholic exclusion, I am too much a scholar of history to worry about that one too much.

Elizabeth lives in Britain, and Mary lives in Heaven, but both are (in differing senses) our Queen.

At Monday, August 27, 2007 5:43:00 pm , Anonymous Tony Bartel said...

"The issue, Tony, is not whether monarchy is the best form of government, or even if constitutional monarchy is the best form, but whether or not the particular form of government we have at this particular point in time is one that works, works well, and protects and guarentees our freedoms."

I couldn't agree more. My point was not about what form of government is better, but simply that our government will work, work well and protect and guarantee our freedoms whether or not we are a monarchy or a republic. The reason our government works, works well and protects and governs our freedoms is because of the character of our people and our entrenched cultural values (values which really have very little to do with the monarchy per se).

"We don't pay for her upkeep."

This is surely beside the point. The cost of the republic would be relatively neutral in that the current expenses of the Governor-General would be about the same as for a President.

I would like to see you address the point about the monarch's ultimate loyalty. At the moment we have a head of state whose ultimate loyalty is not to our country and people, but to the people of the United Kingdom, which according to our constitution is a "foreign power." Again it may not make much practical difference, but it is hugely important as a symbol, and symbols are important, are they not? It seems ludicrous that Members of Parliament are not allowed to be citizens of a foreign power, but our Head of State is.

At Tuesday, August 28, 2007 9:23:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Well, I don't know about the loyalty factor, Tony. She is our Queen too, you know, and she is quite aware of that. I don't expect there to be a war between the UK and Australia in the near future, but part of the reason for this is because H.M. regards us as a part of her realm.

The question about whether our freedoms would be guarenteed under a republic entirely depend on the model of the republic--and that is precisely the sticking point, as you know.

It is not as easy as replacing the GG with a President. For a start, the state Governors are also direct representatives of the Queen, not representatives of the Governor General.

In effect, the simplest thing to do would be to replace--not the GG--but the Queen herself with an elected President (God help me how you elect such a bod). Then the Governor General and the State Governors remain in their place as representatives of the President (who is our head of state).

Let me modify that a little to give you what is in fact the "Schütz model" in its totality:

I propose that

1) we replace the monarch of Great Britain with an elected Australian monarchy.

2) The elected monarch exactly replaces the current monarch in the current constition.

3) The elected monarch has exactly the same powers, duties and responsibilities of the current monarch--ie. diddly-squat. All the monarch's functions are carried out by his/her personal representatives (as is currently the case): federally by the Governor General, and in the states by the State Governors.

4) The Governor General and the Governors continue to be selected as they currently are.

5) The monarch is elected to sovereignty over Australia for life, but his/her sovereignty is strictly non-hereditary.

6) The elective body is not the federal parliament, but a "college of electors" comprised of the state governors and federal governor general.

7) The election of the monarch must be a unanimous decision on the part of the college of electors.

At Wednesday, August 29, 2007 4:20:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Although I am an American citizen I still have a great fondness for both Australia and the Queen.

It was in Australia, not the U.S. that I learned to speak English and seeing QE at the beginning of movies, pledging to her at school, her image on the currency -- all left an indelible mark.

Still being a wee bit Eurocentric by nature I have a fondness for monarchial things !

At Thursday, August 30, 2007 7:19:00 am , Anonymous Tony Bartel said...


Things have obviously changed a bit since you lived in Australia. Although the Queen is still on the currency, we do not see her at the movies or pledge allegiance to her. Even new citizens do not pledge allegiance to the Queen but to Australia. Most government oaths and declarations no longer make mention of the Queen. "God save the Queen" is only played if the Queen is actually present. At all other occasions the national anthem, "Advance Australia Fair" is used. In most states senior barristers are "Senior Counsel" not "Queen's Counsel". The list could go on.

All of these things have led to the description of Australia as a "crowned republic". For Australians our loyalty is not to the Queen but to our nation. Which is why any formal change to a republic is only a matter of symbolism. But, as I noted above, symbolism does matter.

On another tack, I reread David's original post, and noted that he tried to tag the republican debate with a leftist political leaning. He must have forgotten that there are prominent supporters of a republic in the conservative government - Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull - as well as among conservative Christian leaders - George Cardinal Pell. The republican debate is dead under the current government, and that may be a good thing, as this is not a debate that needs to consume all our energy all of the time. However, it will eventully come back onto the agenda - either under a Labour government, or under a Costello/Turnbull government.

At Thursday, August 30, 2007 8:01:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

"As I noted above, symbolism does matter".

Actually, I would say that there is something almost "sacramental" about the crown--rather than symbolic. I don't mean that the crown is established by God, but rather that there is something more than a "mere" symbolism, a Zwinglian symbolism, about the crown.

Your comment that we ARE effectively a republic now is, I think, precisely Clive James point. I like the term "crowned republic"--better than a "presidented republic". I would even have no qualms if Australia were to declare itself a Republic tomorrow--but keep the Crown!

By sheer unadulterated luck, our nation has the best of all political systems. I pray we stay that way for a long time to come.

At Thursday, August 30, 2007 8:26:00 am , Anonymous Tony Bartek said...

Of course I meant "symbol" in its fullest sense :-)


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