August 26

An honourable man: Dr Brendan Nelson

The former Federal Opposition leader Brendan Nelson announced on 25 August that he will not stand for re-election. Dr Nelson was a minister of education and then defence in the Howard government. He was elected Liberal leader following the 2007 election defeat, but was   replaced by Malcolm Turnbull in September 2007.

To the surprise of many in the media, Dr. Nelson honoured the Oath of Allegiance which members of parliament swear.

                                          

In the 2005 Dame Pattie Menzies Oration he recalled the essential role of the Crown in our Constitution. The power wielded by The Queen resides, he said, not in what she exercises but that which she denies others – notably political figures.

Although symbolism is important, he said, a republic was not our most urgent need. In the past three years the only people he had heard raise it had been in the federal parliament. Australia will inevitably return to the issue at some point, he said, but he hoped the nation would decide on the basis of the system of government that serves us so well.

…not a republican…

 But even as late as 2006, one leading newspaper claimed Dr. Nelson was a republican.

Speaking at the opening of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy 2007 National Conference in Sydney in August, 2007, Dr Nelson declared himself a constitutional monarchist, rather than a royalist. This distinction between different types of supporters of Australia’s constitutional system reflects the charter which has long guided ACM, for ACM is very much a broad church.

According to the  Sun Herald of 26 August, 2007 he said:

"We enjoy a stability which is the envy of many people throughout the rest of the world. A shift would see the nation leave behind a system that gave Australia stability, not through power wielded by The Queen or the Governor-General but instead it is the power they deny others.

"If you transferred that across to a person who may be elected in some form or another, either by the public or a majority of the parliament, then the fundamental balance of power in our country will change. People will expect, quite understandably, a person who is the president perhaps under a republic to exercise power in the name of what is popular."

…strong and effective defender of the Flag…

 

In introducing Dr Nelson as speaker on the celebration  of The Queen’s 83rd birthday this year, I reminded those present that he has been a strong and effective supporter of both the Australian Crown and the Flag.  Against advice, Dr Nelson had ensured that every Australian school receive a kit on the Flag prepared by the excellent Australian National Flag Association.  

Dr Nelson recalled that as Minister for Education he had visited a school where he had seen no flagpole. The head mistress gave an extraordinary reason for its absence. This she said was because the children had come from such a diverse range of countries and cultures, it was inappropriate to fly the Australian Flag.

Let me repeat that. Because the children had come from such a diverse range of countries and cultures, the principal had decided that it  was inappropriate to fly the Australian Flag.  

When Dr Nelson returned to Canberra he issued an instruction that, as a condition of receiving federal funding, every school in the Commonwealth would have to fly the Australian Flag, and would be assisted to do so.

Dr Nelson has played a significant role –perhaps the most significant role – in the resurgence of respect and honour which the flag now enjoys. Indeed most of the flag changers have retreated into silence these days. Some have even announced their conversion to its cause.

It is time to wish Dr Nelson, and Mrs Nelson wife well, and to place on record the appreciation of all patriotic Australians for the strong and effective defence he has given to our heritage.

  


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