Why is it that so many self appointed Royal experts and Royal watchers have to repeat offensive gossip which, were it not about the Royal Family, would attract a defamation writ and massive damages? Why is it that the media publish this rubbish ? The answer is the Royal Family cannot, for practical reasons, sue. If they did, the media would never do what they do when the know they will lose, settle the case out of court. What they want is to see, of course, is a member of the Royal Household, even the Royal Family, in the witness box. There the media would unleash the most savage lawyers to ensure the cross examination was turned into a circus, which when reported, would raise circulations and ratings, and the notoriety of the self selected Royal watcher, who is often secretively and sometimes openly republican. An example of the usual Royal watching diatribe was recently published in the online newsletter, Crikey.com.au, which is widely read in media and political circles, Founded by Stephen Mayne, the newletter would publish without verifying the accuracy of the story. However it usually published corrections. It was recently acquired by Eric Beecher. When it published a piece which contained offensive comments about the Royal Family from a self selected Royal watcher and republican, who often writes to the press, I sent the following protest which was published on 16 March 2005 under this heading:
DAVID FLINT REPLIES TO BARRY THE ROYAL WATCHER.
Monarchist and former Australian Broadcasting Authority head, David Flint, writes:
With the change of ownership, it was to be hoped that the determination of what is newsworthy on Crikey would develop and begin to reflect a more mature judgment. It was to be hoped that the criticism of public figures in the most puerile terms would have ended and would be replaced by something more sophisticated, something akin to what was once typical of our quality press. And yet, you have not only included Mr Everingham’s obsessive ramblings on the recent royal visits, you have unbelievably categorised them as a "top story."
It is understandable that Mr Everingham, a self-styled royal watcher, should be rattled by the people’s interest in Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik. One of the characteristics of monarchy is its inherent magic, and what is sometimes termed its ability to reinvent itself. The republican historian, and leading republican intellectual, Mark McKenna wrote of this recently in The Australian. His conclusion seems to be that Princess Mary is a disaster for republicanism.The more important issue is the continuity of our constitutional system, one which the shadow Attorney General inexplicably declares to be "odd". The fact is anyone, even a Royal watcher, can design a constitution.
Unfortunately most are abject failures. To have one which works, and works well over generations, in war and in peace, is rare. One of the few is Australia’s, which makes this young country paradoxically one of the world’s oldest democracies. In fact, it is one of the oldest seven, five of which are constiutional monarchies, and four of which have Elizabeth as their sovereign.
And in the meantime, year after year, the UN Human Develpoment Index finds that the most successful countries in the world tend to be constiutional monarchies. It is little wonder that Mr Everingham has to resort to his insults, including a contrived costing of Charles’s visit not used in relation to any one of our other official visitors. The real fact concerning cost is that the republican movement diverted millions from schools and hopitals into the last campaign in the nineties. They were given carte blanche to come up with their very best model. It had the support of most of the politicians, the celebrities and the media. It was defeated in every state and 72% of electorates.
And yet, it dominated the nineties and distracted our politicians from their core functions.
The republican movement now demands the taxpayers fund yet another even more expensive campaign, the Latham plan. This involves not one but three votes in two plebiscites and one federal referendum and heaven knows how many state votes. This is surely republicanism by exhaustion. This is to culminate in the Latham model for a republic involving even more elections to achieve what Australians are all dreaming about yet another politician. And in this president’s battles with the government of the day, the result will be to make the country ungovernable. Fortunately, we shall have the opportunity to debate this before the people vote. Serious republicans, Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Craven, for example, believe it will be defeated in a landslide larger than in 1999. And you, dear taxpayer, will pay the bill.
Until next time,
(The just posted referred to the founder of Crikey.com.au as Stephen Warne. It should of course have been Stephen Mayne- I apologise for that. I am grateful to one of our subscribers who spotted that. The corrected column above.)