The Prince of Wales will visit Australia at the end of this month, his thirteenth . He was last here in 1994. He will travel to Perth, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra between February 28 and March 5, before flying to New Zealand. Prime Minister John Howard says Prince Charles will focus on three main themes during his stay, including environmental initiatives, sustainable fishing policies and urban regeneration projects. There will be a number of opportunities for the public to meet the Prince of Wales. Details are to be announced soon. Readers will recall the strong request by the Tasmanian Speaker that the Prince visit Tasmania. No doubt this will be addressed in a subsequent visit.
MR BEAZLEY- HIS REPUBLIC AND HIS FLAG
As we learned in our last column, Mr Beazley reacted to the Newspoll with the observation that Australians will only love the republic when they have leaders who love the republic! In the Sydney Morning Herald, 6 June 1994, as Minister for Finance, he indicated that the Government was sticking to its timetable for changes to the Constitutional and the Flag by the end of the century in spite of public opposition. Mr Beazleys attachment to constitutional change provoked a letter from Trevor G. Cowell of Perth to the Australian Financial Review, published on 31 January, 2005, under the heading, LIGHT ON THE HILL GOES UNDERGROUND. Mr Cowell observed that it must have been enough to give ALP supporters the vapours. Number three on his announced priorities aimed at bringing Labour back to government is…wait for it….a renewed push for a republic. Mr Cowell says that when the caucus went back to Mr Beazley, it surely did not expect him to be transfixed by the republican bogey. If the Light on The Hill has faded into a light at the end of a tunnel, he said, the tunnel has just become longer! This was followed on 1 February 2005 by a letter Martin J. Cochrane of Adelaide the published under the heading, AN AUSTRALIAN REPUBLIC IS PASSE. He said that Mr. Cowell was correct in pointing to Kim Beazleys out-of-touch policy of placing a republic high on the political agenda. In his view, Australian electors want to maintain the current comfortable economic status quo and don’t want to see another high-profile talkfest by the self-appointed elite and chardonnay socialists deciding what is good for the rest of us.
MONARCHIES – HOW MUCH DO THEY COST? THE ARAB EXPERIENCE
Some interesting figures have just been published in the international media during a debate about the cost of the Moroccan monarchy. According to The Weekly Telegraph, 15 – 21 January 2005, the cost of the Moroccan monarchy is 18 times that of the British Monarchy. Given that Morocco, with Jordan, is one of the more liberal of the Arab states, it would have been interesting to compare the cost of the Moroccan monarchy with the various Arab republics, some of which have, or are expected to have, an inherited presidency, as in Syria and as is expected in Egypt!
That the Arab monarchies installed by the British have proved to be particularly liberal. I refer to Jordan, Iraq until 1958, and although not created by the British, strongly influenced by them- Egypt until the revolution. It is worth recalling that the last free election in Iraq before that on 30 January, 2005 was under the monarchy. The last king and the Royal family, guarded by one sentry, were the subject of a military coup. Lulled into a truce, almost all were brutally murdered by soldiers who had sworn allegiance to the King, their dismembered bodies dragged through the streets. Only the present claimant, Sherif Ali bin Al Hussein, then two years old, escaped. Iraq was then governed by a succession of tyrants, culminating in Saddam Hussein. Sherif Ali, incidentally, was a candidate in the recent election. A personable and civilized man, he spent most of his life in London, where he was a successful banker. The possibility of Iraq turning to the monarchy to provide a head of state above politics, one who could give unity to the country, has been discussed in the international media. Then in the prestigious diplomatic, international law and relations journal, Foreign Affairs, in the May and June 2003 issue, Adeed I. Dawisha and Karen Dawisha argue that Iraq has several assets doing for it, including an educated middle class and a history of political pluralism under an earlier monarchy. The title of the article was: How to Build a Democratic Iraq. Certainly, the cost of the Iraqi monarchy was a bargain compared with what followed.
THE BRITISH MONARCHY
The British Civil List is 7.9 million pounds per year, a bargain because the government profits from the estates and revenues handed over to the government in return for the civil list. The Civil List is not remuneration or pay for The Queen, it, with certain other grants, is designed only to meet official expenditure incurred as Queen and Head of The Commonwealth. Of course on those occasions when it needs to be increased, many in the British media, always so balanced and objective, insist on wrongly referring to this as a pay rise for The Queen. It is not pay for The Queen-it covers expenditure the Household has to incur to function.
THE COST OF THE AUSTRALIAN AND OTHER MONARCHIES
The cost of the Australian monarchy, in terms of an annual allocation to the Sovereign in the national budget is the ultimate bargain- the cost is not one dollar, nothing,nil. And there will be no golden handshake, no superannuation, even if there were to be an abdication, which we cannot for a moment contemplate. The Queen of course takes her Coronation Oath seriously, and most commendably, does not contemplate retirement. Some other figures were published in The Weekly Telegraph. The restored Spanish monarchy costs, in pound sterling, 5.05, and the Belgian, 4.23. It is no disrespect to either to say that the role and functions of The Queen are on a different scale.
THE COST OF AN AUSTRALIAN REPUBLIC
This is the issue that makes the republican run for cover. If an opinion poll were to ask people whether they want more money diverted from schools hospitals and transport in order to find al republican model which will work as well as the existing constitution, the answer would strike terror into hearts of republicans.
There is an extremely unpleasant surprise for republicans in the figures on cost of various monarchies published by The Weekly Telegraph. This is the cost of the model which Australia’s republican establishment now seems to favour-the French Fifth Republic. This tries, unsuccessfully, to marry the Westminster system with a powerful presidency, formerly elected by a college, now elected by the people. The first five years of the first term of President Chirac were spent with a socialist prime minister-President Chirac is a Gaullist. It would be as if Peter Costello were Prime Minister and Carmen Lawrence the President. Imagine the chaos!
President Chirac is reported to be contemplating running again-his first term was for seven years, but this has been reduced to five. If he does, he will be 77 at the next election, which is due in 2007. Being elected again has its advantages, according to the press. He will continue to be immune from prosecution for alleged corruption in an earlier political role, that of Mayor of Paris.
It is hard to believe anyone would propose this model, but as I argued in The Cane Toad Republic, the first Keating Turnbull republic bore striking similarities to the first version of the French Fifth Republic. This was introduced in 1958 when the Fourth Republic, which also tried unsuccessfully to copy the Westminster system, collapsed. As had the Third Republic, which was wound up when the Germans were advancing in the Second World War. Retreating from Paris to Vichy, the parliament effectively made Marshal Pertain dictator of a new, decidedly fascist France. He preferred, incidentally, to be known as Head of State. The annual budget of the French President is almost three times the British Civil List granted to The Queen. It is 23.3 pounds sterling, that is Aus$56.82 million.
No one is suggesting an Australian President would receive such a budget-at least at the beginning. But if he or she needs to constantly upstage and squabble with the Prime Minister, if he or she needs to campaign constantly for re-election, who knows? Australians know that when the Governor or Governor General comes to a function, he or she is not looking for their votes.
We all know what a President would want.
Until next time,