The Queen’s actual birthday is on 21 April, but her official birthday is celebrated on different days around the country, the Commonwealth of Nations and around the world. In Australia, the holiday was instituted by Governor Phillip in 1788. But Senator Guy Barnett in the Daily Telegraph of 11 June,2007 has decided to use the fact that five Australian states celebrate the official birthday in June to argue for its abolition. Otherwise, he said, we “must look like international fools” celebrating it when we do. This reminded me of the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Professor Alan Gilbert, who argued that if we said “No” to the republicans in 1999, Australia would be an “international laughing stock.”
Rather than being an international laughing stock, I have the impression that the prestige of this country has not been higher. As for our looking like international fools, I wonder what the rank and file think of that. Do Australians like their politicians telling them they must look like international fools? In any event, I sent this letter to The Daily Telegraph:
Different parts of the Commonwealth celebrate The Queen’s official birthday on different days. In Canada it is in May, the Falklands in April, Fiji and the United Kingdom in June and Western Australia in October. If we Australians “look like international fools” – as Tasmanian Senator Barnett (Opinion 11/6) claims – we are certainly not alone. The day is to celebrate our oldest institution, the Australian Crown, which gives leadership above politics. Above all the Crown remains an important check and balance against the political class, both nationally and in the states. The Senator should remember that in 1999 the people in all states and 72% of electorates rejected the best model the republicans could devise. It is about time they accepted this, rather than these continual attempts to remove the symbols and celebrations of the Crown so as to get a republic by stealth.
Incidentally, the Senator may be contacted, by email at [email protected]; by post, at his electorate office at
7250; by phone: (03) 6334 1755, or by fax at (03) 6334 1624