November 17

Not The Time For A Stunt

There are times when republicans should realise they should NOT resort to their usual stunts to attract attention to their cause.

One such time, surely, is when a man’s life is in issue.

From talkback radio and letters columns in the press, our nation is clearly divided over whether Singapore should impose the death penalty on Nguyen Tuong Van, whose sad mother had written such a beautiful letter to The Queen.

That republicans would seek to score a point at this time is appalling.

That The Age would publish this is provocative.

That The Age would place this under such a headline is tasteless.

That The Age did not publish my or any other letter on this on the next day suggests the newspaper may not be interested in the truth, but rather advancing its republican cause, and, ironically, under the page one banner which still displays the Royal Coat of Arms!

My letter, with the offending piece, follow:

“16 November, 2005 Sir, I am astounded that George Newhouse ( The Age 16/11) would drag republicanism into the attempts to save Nguyen Tuong Van from Singapore’s gallows.

As anyone in the law would know, in such matters, The Queen of Australia acts on the advice her Australian ministers, not her British ministers.

Notwithstanding the enormous personal sympathy The Queen would have for another mother, Mrs Nguyen, constitutionally, she can only act on Mr Howard’s advice.

The Queen will do her duty, as should Mr Newhouse.

David Flint ( Australians for Constitutional Monarchy) 189 Kent Street Sydney etc”

The letter was in response to this piece in The Age of 16 November, 2005. The piece is obviously based on an erroneous report.

It was published under this tasteless headline:


The author is George Newhouse “ a member of the legal teams acting for Vivian Alvarez Solon and Cornelia Rau.”

The piece reads:

“COMMENTATORS and legal advocates continue to protest against the death penalty in the case of Nguyen Tuong Van, an Australian citizen due to be hanged in Singapore.

Nguyen is to be put to death for a drug offence for which he would be jailed for perhaps six years in Australia, and his case has sparked a legitimate debate about whether he deserves to die for his crime.

But the Queen’s feeble response to a plea from Nguyen’s mother, Kim, to intervene in support of her son’s bid for clemency raises serious constitutional issues; it highlights the conflicts of interest that underlie our hybrid monarchy and the limits on the Queen’s ability to promote Australian interests, particularly where they vary from Britain’s position.

When Kim Nguyen recently made her plea to London, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said the Queen would not act without the approval of the British Government.

Is nobody else gobsmacked by that response? While the nation has been focused on humanitarian concerns, the Queen’s announcement has slipped by without comment.

I had laboured under the misapprehension that the Queen was our monarch – the Queen of Australia. I believed, like most Australians, that our Queen took advice on Australian interests from our prime minister and not from the British Parliament.

Surely if an Australian’s life is at stake, we can expect that the Queen will seek the advice from the Australian prime minister and not Tony Blair. But when the interests of Australia conflict with those of the UK, it is the United Kingdom that must, understandably, prevail. Remember they do pay her salary through the British civil list.

So what happens when Australian interests conflict with British interests? The official protocol is that the British will prevail.

It surprises me that republicans did not jump on the Queen’s embarrassing announcement. It is clear that the political and economic interests of Australia and Britain will differ from time to time and it is inappropriate for our head of state to be conflicted in such cases.

It is time Australians had a head of state that does not owe primary allegiance to a foreign parliament.”

Until next time,

David Flint


Nguyen Tuong Van, Republican Stunt, The Age

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