On 2 August I had just spoken at a function about the political situation in Syria in the Parliamentary Theatrette it when I was invited with Jai Martinkovits into the Strangers’ Room – the parliamentary dining room.
There we were delighted to see – in all of their majesty – the portraits of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh flanking the State Coat of Arms with the Australian Flag and the New South Wales on the nearby pillars.
This was a decision of the presiding officers Hon.Don Harwin the President of the Legislative Council and the Speaker,the Honourable Shelley Hancock MP, strongly supported by the Rev. Fred Nile MLC.
Congratulations to them for doing their duty.
It was with some considerable pleasure that I could just make out the royal portraits when the former Premier Kristina Keneally was filmed speaking in the Stranger’s Room in early August, as the following clip shows. You will see more of the portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh.
( Continued below )
These portraits had been scandalously removed in 2006 by previous presiding officers led by the Hon Dr Meredith Burgman who was then President of the Legislative Council.
Among the reasons they gave were occupational health and safety requirements! This involved staff climbing up under ladders to take the portraits down because some obsessed republicans objected to dining in their presence. The portraits would then be returned to their place.
On her election to that office, Dr.Burgmann posed for a photograph which appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald showing her taking down the portrait of The Queen from her office.
This was yet another example of politicians in parliaments and local government councils who have engaged in the disgraceful practice of creeping republicanism – republicanism by stealth – ignoring the very clear decision of the people in 1999 to retain the Australian Crown.
The late Professor George Winterton, a distinguished authority on constitutional law, and probably the leading Republican intellectual in Paul Keating's Republic Advisory Committee and at the Constitutional Convention, completely disapproved of creeping republicanism.
Not only did he think this wrong until the people actually approved of the installation of a republic, he also thought it a misguided tactic. He explained: “The more the people see the symbols the more they will wish to be rid of the Crown.”
I disagreed on that of course. I think I have been shown to be right.
In The Daily Telegraph (1/2) Kate Sikora reports that “after a decade of being hidden away,” The Queen's portrait has been returned to the walls of state parliament. There is a poll about this on the site.
…Oath of Allegiance ….
She adds that the oath of allegiance to The Queen will also be returned.
“Premier Barry O'Farrell has bowed to Mr Nile's wishes and will restore the oath, taken by new MPs upon entering parliament, which was abolished by the previous Labor government.
"After intense lobbying by the Christian Democrat leader, the Queen's portrait is now hanging in parliament's Strangers Dining Room. The portrait of the Queen's husband Prince Phillip has also been returned, next to the state coat of arms.
Mr Nile told Ms Sikora he had been assured by Mr O'Farrell that his motion to bring back the oath could proceed, indicating he had government support.
"The Premier agreed to allow the motion to proceed, which must mean he is happy to support it," Mr Nile said.
"Labor watered it down, so now MPs promise to serve the people of NSW. I want to bring it back to the Queen, her heirs or successors."
Under Mr Nile's changes, new MPs will have the choice of either the pledge or the oath:
"It was part of Labor's republican stance along with removing all the portraits of the Queen from the public foyer and dining rooms.
"It was a form of sneaky republicanism.
"Legislative council president Don Harwin told Ms. Sikora that many members wanted the portraits returned:
"They had been gone for a long time and they were taken down without any consultation with members."There had been some inquiries to speaker Shelley Hancock and me about the portraits and we decided to restore their position."
Mr O'Farrell told Ms. Sikora that the issue had been raised with him by Mr Nile after the election.
"I indicated a view that it would be better to give MPs the choice of swearing allegiance to the people of NSW or the Queen of Australia, her heirs and successors – in the same way as MPs have a choice of swearing or affirming when taking the oath," he said.
"Any decisions about the royal portraits is a matter for the presiding officers – not the Premier.”