April 23

Republican calls for a reappraisal of Prince Charles


A prominent republican has warned against personal attacks on the Royal Family. In particular he has called for a reappraisal of their assessment of Prince Charles.

To many republicans, Prince Charles’ accession  is seen as their silver bullet. This won’t be, for reasons which I explain below.

Personal republicans attacks were intense during the referendum campaign, and afterwards. They didn’t stop with the Royal Family; constitutional monarchists in certain  professions were singled out for particular treatment.

 But not all republicans are playing the royal man rather than the constitutional ball, writes David Ritter in The Australian (23/4).

But, he says, some republicans do seem to think ridicule is essential to winning the hearts and minds of their compatriots.David Ritter is Head of Biodiversity Campaigns at Greenpeace UK in London. 

One of  Australia's leading indigenous land rights lawyers,  his most recent book is Contesting Native Title (Allen & Unwin, 2009).

…benefit of non-partisan moral leadership…

    A republican, he does concede that  there is social benefit in having recognised sources of non-partisan moral leadership.

Now of all the members of the Royal family, Australian republicans have singled out Prince Charles for vituperation.

That’s because the strategy of many, especially the republican politicians, is that with his accession some sort of republic will fall like a ripe fruit into their laps.Dream on, comrades. Getting a republic is not like being eligible for your very generous taxpayer funded superannuation.

It doesn’t work like that.You have to persuade the people that the precise details of your proposal are, as our Founders put it,  “desirable, irresistible and inevitable”

And since they haven’t been able to work out even a rough outline of what they want you have just not reached first base.

Australia’s republicans have not proved to be the world’s best strategists or tacticians.

With everything going for them in 1999, they managed to lose every state and 72% of electorates.

Then there was the Mate for a Head of State. That was so excruciatingly embarrassing that it was hard not to feel sorry for the blighters.    "Australian republicans could do worse than take a fresh look at the much maligned Prince Charles," writes David Ritter.

  (Continued below)


"It has proven all too easy to deride the heir apparent for his human foibles. But what is less well observed in Australia is the moral leadership, carefully practised within appropriate constitutional limits, of the Prince."Consider, for example, the Prince's efforts on rainforests and climate change. Charles has a record of advocacy for practical action that puts many democratically elected leaders to shame. As a politically neutral catalyst, the prince has done a great deal of good."In 2009, as the global climate negotiations tumbled to the ignominious debacle of all-round failure at Copenhagen, it was the prince's Rainforests Project that catalysed momentum on the issue of reducing emissions from the destruction of forests. Deforestation is responsible for about one-fifth of global emissions and now, thanks to the prince's initiative, an international fast start partnership to reduce emissions from deforestation is operational."Charles has since established a broader International Sustainability Unit to seek action on other great transnational environmental problems including a project on the need for a transformation of the world's fisheries. It is a commendable initiative."So what is the lesson for republicans?

"To avoid ad hominem attacks on the Windsors and to pursue a less shrill vision of republicanism. We may not need the monarchy but that is not to say that there are no benefits associated with traditional institutions per se. Bulwarks are required against the destructive effects of global capitalism. Additional forms of leadership and social glue are required for a good society."Just removing the Windsors will not build an Australian republic in the truest sense.

"It is time for a more civil republicanism."   


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