I sent the following letter to The Australian on Monday 26 September:
“Philip Flood says (26/9) that in the 1999 referendum campaign, Buckingham Palace ’ declined requests by monarchist groups in Australia for the Queen to lend support to their cause. As High Commissioner I received representations from some Australian groups urging me to make approaches to the palace on their behalf.”
“I am writing to point out that Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, which attracted over 72% of the monarchist vote in the Constitutional Convention election and accordingly filled all of the monarchist positions on the official Vote No committee, has always argued that as The Queen is a constitutional monarch it would be improper to try to involve her in the political campaign about Australia becoming a republic.
“Accordingly, ACM made no such request or representation to either the palace or the high commission.
“We argued our case on constitutional grounds only. Hence the gratuitous barb by the republicans that ACM's strategy was ‘Don't mention The Queen.’
… a diplomatic memoir…
These quotations come from a new book by the former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Philip Flood, Dancing with Warriors: A Diplomatic Memoir. An extract was published in The Australian on 26 September 2011.
In the book he says that during 1999, Buckingham Palace declined requests by monarchist groups in Australia for The Queen to lend support to their cause.
As High Commissioner, he says he received representations from some Australian groups urging him to make approaches to the Palace on their behalf.
“I explained that there is absolutely no question of the Queen becoming involved,” he says.
I have no reason to challenge the veracity of these statements. And Mr. Flood does not name ACM. As National Convenor at the time, I can say with complete assurance that ACM most definitely did not seek support from either the palace or from the High Commissioner.
…ACM's clear position: HM is above politics and we are not going to try to change that…
Our position was always very clear and it remains clear. The Queen is above politics; ACM would never seek to drag her down into the political mire.
It is relevant to recall ACM's position. From the time of its establishment in 1992, ACM was in the forefront of the defence of our constitutional system.
In the voluntary postal election for Constitutional Convention. ACM was the second largest group after the Australian Republican Movement.
ACM won 72.82% of the constitutional monarchist vote, followed, in order of size, by Bruce Ruxton’s Safeguard The People, the Australian Monarchist League, Queenslanders for Constitutional Monarchy and the Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats. All of the groups worked closely together at the Convention; there were no disagreements on the important issues.
We have over the years seen allegations by all sorts of people as to what the Queen and the Duke may or may not have said about the Australian referendum. All of this is complete rubbish as none of the journalists, and even a former governor of an Australian state, were there.
The point is we do have the testimony of someone who was actually dining with the Queen and the Duke on the night of the referendum. The widely syndicated Canadian, Mark Steyn, said with complete authority in the leading Canadian journal, Macleans on 21 April, 2006: “As the only journalist on the planet within six feet of a royal facial expression that day, I can exclusively reveal that I haven't the foggiest as to the Queen's or the Duke of Edinburgh's feelings.”
… the High Commissioner's recollection …….
Now we the evidence from the horse’s mouth as it were – the Australian High Commissioner who was carrying the advice of the Australian Prime Minister to The Queen of Australia .
He writes that well in advance of the outcome of the referendum, The Queen had prepared three statements: “one if the yes vote succeeded; one for the contingency of a popular majority, but not a majority of Australia's states and territories, being in favour of change; and one for the contingency of there being no popular moral majority in favour of change.”
Mr Flood makes the mistake here of including the territories. The constitution requires that the referendum pass in a majority of states; the territories are not included in this calculation. In fact the referendum did succeed in the ACT but this was of no constitutional relevance. Nor was it of any surprise.
That The Queen would be prepared for all contingencies is not surprising and indeed is commendable. He says that once the result of the referendum was known, the Palace issued a “restrained and dignified statement” carefully avoiding any “triumphalist tone”
We at ACM were delighted by this. Indeed, we would have been overwhelmed surprised had the statement been triumphalist; we knew that the Queen is above politics and strongly supported that.
Mr Flood says that The Queen was surprised by the failure of the yes vote to succeed in New South Wales and Victoria. This is not so surprising; so was Australia's republican establishment.
Mr Flood says The Queen was sensitive to the fact that a significant body of opinion in Australia was seeking change and would maintain this view. Of course she is – she is very well informed.
I suspect she is also well-informed that this body of opinion has considerably dissipated since 1999, but I'm not sure that Mr Flood appreciates this.
The fact is, most of our republican politicians do. That is why they go through the pretence of saying that "the" republic is not to be raised during this reign, knowing full well that they will not most likely be in Parliament then.
For many of them this is a case of "once bitten, twice shy". They were egged on to jump on the republican bandwagon by a strongly committed commentariat who on this issue were completely out of touch.
I remain astounded at the degree of republicanism in our diplomatic corps. In the course of their duties we know that some – certainly not Mr. Flood- have gratuitously argued the benefits of a republic to foreign leaders. This is wrong; if they feel so strongly they should not accept such a position.
…the following night…
The night after what we monarchists call Affirmation Day, that is the day when the Australian people in all states and 72% of electorates affirmed their support for their constitutional system, The Queen attended the Rugby World Cup Final. She was to present the trophy to the Australian captain John Eales. Ironically Mr Eales had publicly supported the yes vote in the referendum.
Mr Flood recalls that The Queen joined in the singing of Waltzing Matilda and predicted an Australian victory against France that evening. He says that both she and Prime Minister Blair shared Australia's joy when the Wallabies won, 35 to 12.
…his assessment of The Queen…
Mr Flood has a very high opinion of The Queen. He believes that over time she will be ranked “by the British – and certainly by the English – alongside Elisabeth the first is one of the greatest monarchs in 1000 years.”
“She is unquestionably the greatest of all who have been involved with Australia since James Cook claimed the continent for George III,” he adds
.He notes that the Palace well understands that much sentiment in Australia leans in favour of a republic. He doesn't seem to realise that much of that sentiment has dissipated since the referendum. He says that “we” have not resolved the division between those favouring direct election those favouring some form of indirect election.
That is true. Mr Flood, who with so many of our diplomats seems to be in favour of republican change, has to face this. Indeed, until republicans make up their minds they ought to keep their peace and leave the rest of us to look at the serious issues which face this country.
The whole thing has been a great waste of time. In the demands of good governance, why it was so much time spent on such a half baked proposal?
Remember that in the middle of the Constitutional Convention the Republicans suddenly changed their model because they finally accepted the monarchist advice that the presidency they proposed would be so tenured that they were in fact Creating the Beginnings of a French style Fifth Republic.
And they only accepted that advice when it was transmitted to them by Mr Justice McGarvie whom they feared because his model they thought would get the second preference votes of the monarchists and become the convention model.
They were wrong on this – we were never going to vote for any Republic. But Mr Turnbull didn't believe our word. We delivered on this for which we received the specific commendation of Cardinal Pell.
… Australian – British relations…
Mr Flood but it doesn't understand that so much of the Republican push is driven by those with a visceral hatred of all things British. That is not to say that all Republicans are obsessed on this point but a significant number including some very prominent ones.
As we reported in our column of 3 April, 2006 , a low point in relations between Australia and the United Kingdom came unexpectedly during Question Time in Parliament on 27 February 1992 . It was not as though we were in the midst of some acute dispute with Downing Street. The then Prime Minister, Paul Keating, accused Britain of abandoning Australia to the Japanese during the Second World War.
He said that Britain was the “country which decided not to defend the Malayan peninsula, not to worry about Singapore and not to give us our troops back to keep ourselves free from Japanese domination.”
In his irrational hatred of Britain, Mr. Keating is to be contrasted with all – I stress all – of the great leaders of the Australian Labor Party, as well as the conservative side, none of whom have harboured such a curious and irrational dislike of the British.
Mr. Keating has more than once demonstrated that he has little grasp of history, but on this and other occasions he was also ready to offer one of our closest friends the most gratuitous and the most undeserved of insults. As many Australians thought at the time, even if Mr. Keating actually believed this concoction, how dare he say so and potentially damage our relations with a principal ally? Fortunately the British are used to this sort of infantile behaviour and took this in their stride.
Mr Flood thinks that the relations between Britain and Australia would strengthen if we beacme some sort of politicians' republic .
Mr Flood obviously is unaware of the way in which those who were openly monarchist in the 90s were treated.
We were told for example by some of those in the arts in entertainment and the media that they very much inclined towards our cause but it was just not worth their while in letting this be publicly known if they wish to continue in their chosen field.
To me it is a trivial matter that I am condemned on the ARM controlled site as just a “perma-tanned, an Indonesian born blow-in." This indicates the way some republicans target those who do not agree with them. But what would be the reaction if something similar were said of a republican?
The sourness of many of the republicans in defeat suggests that magnanimity would not follow their victory – in the unlikely event that Australia would ever become a politicians’ republic. Just as Paul Keating moved against the traditions of the navy and was moving against the Flag, there are many among the republicans who would purge as much British influence from the country as they could.