How times change. The Australian press has been full of favourable stories about a Royal Visit. Andrew Hornery’s social column in The Sydney Morning Herald ( 8/1) demonstrates the continuing proof of that long standing warning from constitutional monarchists. “Never stand between Australian republicans- especially ones from Sydney – and visiting Royalty. If you do, you’ll be knocked down in the rush.”
We should stress at this point that as with other members of the Royal Family, Prince William clearly leaves the question of any proposed constitutional change where it should be – with the Australian people. As with The Queen and his father, he is not here to campaign, just to do his duty as long as we wish the Royal Family to continue.
But to return to the Herald, Mr. Hornery’s theme is, I assume, exciting for readers of his column, “PS”. This is that from details of private entertainment for the Prince while he is in Sydney, social rank in the city and even the nation will be established for many a year. For good reason his piece is headed; “ Now we’ll find out who’s who”.
News Limited’s outlets have a piece by David Murray which, in Melbourne’s Herald Sun ( 10/1), came out under the headline “Prince William is the popular face of the royals with the future monarchy on his shoulders”. It is a fair piece on the Prince.
…."unstoppable push" for a politicans' republic….
But at one point Mr. Murray repeats the line “It's widely assumed, too, that Charles's succession would herald an unstoppable push for a republic in Australia.” This line now pushed ad finitum by republican politicians. Just that would put the wary on guard – remember they thought they had it in the bag in 1999, a much more auspicious time for change. The politicians who push this line do so principally for two reasons.
First, because they full well know that a second referendum is even more doomed than in 1999. That is why they the republican movement is trying to get the politicians to hold a series of non- binding, spin doctored plebiscites to soften the ground.
But the republican movement is even less prepared than they were in 1999. They can’t even say what sort of republic they want. As David Koch told them on Channel 7 when they launched their embarrassing campaign for a “Mate a Head of State”, if they can’t say what they have in mind, they should go away and work that out beforehand.
…end-of-the-reign silver bullet…
Malcolm Turnbull was one of the republican politicians favouring the wait-until-the-end-of-the-reign thesis, adding two other caveats.
These were there had to be consensus on a model, which remains unachieved, and opposition would need to be minimal. Australians for Constitutional Monarchy – who brought out over 50,000 supporters in 1999 – reminded him that opposition would be formidable. Malcolm Turnbull should know. He led the republicans at the barricades in 1999.
In any event the boast the republican movement has been making that both the PM and the alternative are republicans is no longer true. Tony Abbott is now the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Australian Opposition. Before he went into Parliament he was Executive Director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. A claim to being a lifelong monarchist by Tony Abbott would have the ring of truth.
The second reason the republican politicians talk about the end of the current reign as the time to revive a move to a politicians' republic is this. They do not expect to be in Parliament then. Instead, all or most of them will be enjoying their generous retirement entitlements. They will not have to explain themselves.
In any event the republicanism of many of the politicians is probably nominal. An example from Malcolm Turnbull will suffice. He says it is curious that the Prime Minister purports to be a "lifelong republican", but was curiously absent from the republican barricades in 1999.
in the meantime, Her Majesty appears to be in excellent health, and most likely to be Queen for many years. And it is said that she is not impressed with those early abdications on the Continent. The difference is that she, alone in the world, is like Solomon – an anointed sovereign whose duty is to reign. And unlike some of her republican politicians, Her Majesty regards an Oath as something between her and God, and consequently to be honoured.
When some time ago a story was released by a transatlantic social journalist suggesting Prince William was interested in becoming Governor-General, I found considerable interest among the young, including young journalists. The instant dismissal of this by both the then PM and the Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd attracted little support. My impression was that the young found the prospect very interesting.
When I pointed out that the Palace would not allow the Prince to accept the post if it were offered without some guarantee they would not misbehave as in 1975, one reader whom I had assumed was a republican criticised me for cutting off the debate about what he saw an interesting proposal.
In the meantime it would be foolish for republicans to bank on the end of the reign delivering them some politicians’ republic. Their last silver bullet – Prince Charles’ marriage – dissolved when people realised that the Duchess of Cornwall did not have two heads. In fact the number of Australians who watched the marriage- at a time on a Sunday morning when most are either in bed or out raging – indicated a considerable interest in the Royal Family.
…republicans misunderstand Australian character…
And the idea that people would turn on Prince Charles at the end of the reign indicates a complete misunderstanding of the Australian character. As Australians learn more about Charles' tireless work for good causes, and the fact that he raises about half a billion a year for his charities, they will conclude, as one hitherto sceptical Fairfax journalist did some time ago, he would make a good King.
The end of the reign, a moment of sadness and of deep respect will lead to one of the largest media retrospectives known. This will gradually turn into excitement across the Commonwealth and beyond over the coronation and also about the new Prince of Wales. The magic of monarchy will of course swamp any small minded petty calls for Australia to become some undefined politicians’ republic. . The confidence Australians have in their constitutional system will more than reinforce that.