HRH The Prince Charles Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the Crowns of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and twelve other independent countries, celebrated his sixtieth birthday on 14 November, 2008.
The Australian Crown is the oldest constitutional institution and a central check and balance in our Federal Westminster system. The Crown has been with us on all of the important events in our history, from the settlement through self government to federation and independence. It has been with us in peace and in war, in times of prosperity and times of strain.
But in addition to this, the Royal House has set a standard of service which is rare in the world, and to which all Australians may equally aspire. The Queen learned this at the foot of her father King George VI and her mother Queen Elizabeth. When she turned 21 , and she famously dedicated her life to our service, a promise she has never broken. She has passed this same sense of service to her children, as they have to theirs.
Prince Charles has exemplified this centrality of service in the way in which he leads his life. His years as a young man were spent in the navy and air force where he became a pilot qualified to fly an extraordinary range of aircraft including the wartime Spitfire, the Harrier and the F4 Phantom. He has commanded a ship in the Royal Navy.
It has been in his subsequent life and more recently at a time when most are considering retirement that he has set an example of service which is rare in the world.
He has established a veritable empire of charities touching upon those eclectic areas of interest to him ranging from the disadvantaged, through education, the environment, architecture and other areas. He has views and expresses them; he has beliefs with which not everyone may agree, but he pursues them with passion but with dignity. Indeed in some areas, he could be fairly said to have been ahead of public opinion.
The media have concentrated in the main on his private life as well as certain opinions carefully and malevolently selected to demonstrate a degree of eccentricity, as the same media have long done in relation to his father. And as with his father the many good works which are central to his life are ignored.
As visitors to our website will know, the media at times will publish stories the veracity of which is untested and which the commonly agreed ethical rules of the press and the law of defamation would counsel against that publication should not be undertaken without further investigation. These typically receive and are intended to receive enormous attention around the world; when the truth emerges this is too often downplayed or even ignored.
The Prince accepts all of this with commendable equanimity, tinged at times by a degree of resignation, and except in egregious cases, rarely resorts to the remedies which most would engage.
In Australia, the republican movement is often too lazy to do the hard work to identify the constitutional flaws they so often and so vaguely and imprecisely imply, to say nothing of the remedies for which they must ultimately argue.
Instead they gleefully see in every media fabrication and exaggeration the elusive goal which they seek, to remove our oldest institution, the one above politics, from the constitutional system of our Commonwealth of Australia and to convert it into some as yet unspecified politicians’ republic.
In this way, they excitedly and most prematurely declared the wedding of The Prince to the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005 as the turning point, their golden opportunity. Their heralds in the commentariat foolishly declared that Australians would be uninterested and this would be the early dawn of some new republic.
Although the transmission of the event was very early on a Sunday morning, a time when typically the young would be out and the elderly in bed, the broadcast attracted a record nationwide audience.
Again they will frequently argue that polling showing some marginally increased support for a republic on the Prince’s accession is a firm and clear indication of the future, as if asking people to indicate how they will think in say, two decades time is of any utility whatsoever.
When a leading republican commentator, albeit by what I am satisfied was a genuine error, wrote a prominent piece based on the proposition that a poll by the Murdoch newspapers indicated support for a republic on the Princes accession would rise to 66%, I contacted both to the commentator and the newspaper to point out their manifest error.
But knowing the actual figure was not 66% but 52%, indicating a rise of only 8%, and that on all precedents, any referendum on that figure would be doomed, The Sydney Morning Herald nevertheless editorialised about polling indicating the likelihood of Australia becoming a republic on the Prince’s accession.
For one week this once great journal of record steadfastly refused to publish a letter correcting their gross error, leaving it to the commentator to correct it – in an aside – in his weekly column.
Given this malevolent bias, it is not surprising that the most in the media give little inkling of the dedication to service which is not so much a highlight of the Prince’s life but his very raison d'être.
It is not that the results cannot be measured. His charitable empire seems to function at minimal cost, no doubt because of the service which the Prince freely gives.
In recent years, the annual income is more than – and with the decline in the Australian dollar – substantially more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
About three quarters of a million people, in the United Kingdom and in the poorer Commonwealth, hitherto living in situations which can be described as disadvantaged and or dysfunctional, have had their lives touched and changed by the Prince.
His sense of service has been transmitted to his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, who are treading the same path.
If these facts were widely known – as we at ACM intend to do our best to ensure this – then the accession will have no effect on the debate as to change in Australia. He would be seen as the sort of man he is – an ideal heir to our throne.
In recent years we have taken to marking the Prince’s birthday, and this year ACM had functions in Sydney –three -, Perth at our National Conference, Hobart, Brisbane and Wagga Wagga.
At all of these the expressions of affection and respect for the Prince and his family were strong and clear.
One function was intended specifically for young people, and to capture the occasion, my young colleague Jai Martinkovits has made a DVD with a small but diverse group of young Australian achievers indicating their views on the role and function of the Crown in the constitutional system, and conveying a personal message to the Prince. This has been sent to him as a small gift on the occasion of his birthday.
At the three functions in Sydney, Anna Dowsley sung the beautiful anthem “God Bless The Prince of Wales” , and this was included in the DVD.
On the occasion of his 60th birthday, which fell recently on 14 November, the supporters of ACM, and I am sure most Australians, would join in saying:
“God Bless The Prince of Wales”.
[Follow this link to the Perth Mint ]