February 21

I want to vote for The Queen



One of the 50,000 ACM supporters working on the polling booths during the 1999 referendum tells the story of the large and powerful Fijian of truly Rugby Union proportions who, when Malcolm Turnbull's people thrust Vote Yes pamphlets into his hands, pushed them back, saying :" I want to vote for the Queen!"

And not so long ago, we reported that The Council Of Chiefs still regards Elizabeth II as Queen of Fiji. As Her Majesty said in 1987, when the coup leaders forced a republic on to the unwilling Fijian people, she was "sad to think that the ending of Fijian allegiance to the Crown should have been brought about without the people of Fiji being given an opportunity to express their opinion on the proposal"

Now we suspect that there might be quite a few Australian politicians who would love to be able to do that. But thanks to our Founding Fathers, the Constitution cannot be changed without the clear approval of the people in a referendum.

I was reflecting on what had happened in Fiji at a recent awards function where the quite magnificent presenter was from Fiji Television.

She is Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, another talented member of that distinguished Fijian family. During her winding up she told a story of one of the stars of the Coronation, the majestic Queen Salote of Tonga, who won the hearts of the crowds by riding in an opencarriage notwithstanding the pouring rain.

Queen Salote was a frequent visitor to Sydney-my mother told me of her dramatic entrance into a night club as the band played her anthem, and how friendly and down to earth she was.

Afterwards I asked Mrs Ganilau whether, or perhaps when, The Queen would. return into her place in Fiji.

"Professor Flint, you need have no concern. She has never left. Just go into the home of the most humble villager-you will find not only her photograph, but those of her family and her mother and father!"

The reason the coup leaders removed the Crown in 1987 was that it was an impediment to their designs on the governance of Fiji.

But they could and never can remove The Queen from the hearts and minds of the Fijian people. Nor indeed from Fiji 's postage stamps, and nor from Fiji's banknotes and coins. Neither has her presence disappeared ,through her ubiquitous photograph, from almost every public place throughout the Fijian islands. 

In a different and more subdued way, there is also a deep reservoir of affection for The Queen in her other Realms.

If you doubt that, just remember how members of the all knowing commentariat predicted a sea of indifference for both the Queen Mother's funeral and the celebration of the Golden Jubilee.

And remember how each one of them, and especially their Australian cheerleader, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton, had egg on his face.



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