ACM supporters are fully behind the “Return the Governor to Government House” campaign, if the enthusiasm demonstrated at the launch on 9 February, 2007 is any indication. The campaign brochure is now being distributed across the state. (You can download it from the ACM site, www.norepublic.com.au – just click on the photo of Government House on the home page.) Because the New South Wales example has proved so costly and so unpopular, proposals in other states to evict their governors have been so far resisted. But Australians in other states should not think that this issue does not affect them. The eviction represents an assault on that significant check and balance in our constitutional system, the Australian Crown.
The ABC, commercial radio and The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed us about the campaign. The ABC ran the story in several news bulletins throughout the following day. Some emphasized the attack on the constitution, others the increased cost, and others that many eminent people in country NSW could not be considered for appointment. On 10 February, 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the campaign both in its news columns –a side piece on page 5, and in an opinion piece by Tony Stephens, “The hidden hand of Her Majesty.” In response to Mr. Stephen’s question about the commemorations of the 55th anniversary of the Accession, I mentioned services at St Peter’s, Cremorne, St James and St Stephens, Sydney and others around the country. I also spoke of the function organized by the Royal Commonwealth Society after the service at St. James, and a lunch at the Union Club in Sydney. I was at pains to stress that the lunch had been offered by the Australian Monarchist League, and I am delighted that this fact was reported.
(That there is more than one monarchist organization should not surprise us – each one has a different emphasis. In fact there are several, in addition to ACM and the AML. One is the Australian Monarchist Alliance , which offers an excellent email service. Another is Queenslanders for Constitutional Monarchy , who had two elected delegates at the Constitutional Convention – ACM had 19, and the AML 3. There is also the International Monarchist League in Australia (IMLIA) which is now the local associate of the world’s senior monarchist organization, the London based International Monarchist League which was founded in 1943. IMLIA was formed by life members of the IML to keep the link with London, advance the cause of monarchy internationally and receive the IML’s excellent journals, and as well , the Tasmanian Council for Constitutional Monarchy. Then there are the internet sites, such as the lively and informative Australian Republic Unplugged, the well designed “Aussie Crown” site operated by ACM’s active Kingsford Branch, and the website of ACM’s Toowoomba Branch which has been so successful in reaching out to that city’s schools. There is also a site which is under construction, Keep The Queen of Australia, another called simply Queen of Australia , and a site dedicated to Nigel Greenwood’s excellent book, For The Sovereignty of the People. The point is that although monarchists may emphasize different aspects of monarchy, we are united on the fundamental issues and each organization should give credit where credit is due.)
But let me return to Mr. Stephen’s article. It was essentially a review of an excellent new book about the negotiation of the Australia Acts which were enacted here and in London in 1986. The book is “The Chameleon Crown – The Queen and Her Australian Governors,” by Anne Twomey (Federation Press, $49.95). We expect to be able to offer copies soon at a discount, and we have discussed with Dr. Twomey her addressing an ACM function.
The book confirms my view that until 1986, state governments of all parties so distrusted federal governments of any party, that they preferred to have British ministers advise The Queen on state matters. The book reveals something I did not appreciate. This was that the British ministers did not consider themselves as a mere letterbox for the premiers. They took their duties seriously and conscientiously, although they were duties which we had insisted they retain although we were independent. Having read the book, I have completely revised my views on the refusal to extend Sir Colin Hannah’s term as Governor of Queensland , notwithstanding advice to do so given by the Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. What also comes out is the role The Queen herself played in helping to achieve what was the “patriation” of our constitutional system. That said, I still think it would have been morally correct to have put the Australia Acts to the people for approval in a referendum. But I do not think there was any legal obligation to do so.
What is clear from Dr. Twomey’s book is that while a separate Australian Crown had emerged, the British Crown lingered here until 1986. This was not some act of Imperial domination, but because the state governments wanted it that way. Dr Twomey discusses the issue whether there is now one Australian Crown or whether there are seven, as the republicans argued, mainly out of expedience, in 1999. (I believe there can only be one in our “indissoluble Federal Commonwealth” as the preamble to the Constitution Act puts it) At the function with Dr Twomey, I propose to ask her view on an issue which worries some monarchists, I think unnecessarily. This is whether a republic can be achieved through the Australia Act without a referendum. It should be an interesting function