February 25

Royal Domino Theory

I have often thought that a royal version of the domino theory applies to all or most of  those countries who share Queen Elizabeth II as their sovereign.   I recall that in the UK in the nineties, before the referendum, I was told  by monarchists that a vote for a republic in Australia would in no way affect the monarchy in the UK.  

I decided that it would be unfair to worry those good people unduly. 

But I was certain that an Australian defeat would unleash precisely the same power elites in the UK and elsewhere. Not that I thought they would necessarily be successful, but an increasingly powerful campaign could be expected.  

That would have the result that some people in politics and the media would jump on to what they saw as a winning bandwagon, just as they did in Austrlalia.  

The fact is an apparently successful campaign, particularly one presented as such by the commentariat, will usually  bring out what can be fairly described as human weather vanes. 


 Had Australia fallen to the campaign to make Australia a politicians’ republic in 1999, we would have seen copycat campaigns, first in New Zealand, and then I would say in Canada.

Whether or not they were successful, movements in other realms would flourish. They would have assumed that their chances of success would have improved had Australia fallen. They would all have sniffed what they thought was the smell of success. 


 ….the Cold War…

        The Cold War domino theory was famously enunciated by President Eisenhower in 1954 when he warned about the situation in Indochina: 

 “Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.” 

As a result of the advance of the Red Army across Eastern Europe, the communists were able successively to seize power in most of Eastern Europe. 

As the countries of Eastern Europe one after another became people's republics, Winston Churchill issued his warning about the iron curtain in  a celebrated address in 1946 in Fulton, Missouri. He observed that: 

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an "iron curtain" has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.” 

 …the head of state and international law…      

 I was reminded of all this when I was asked recently about the proposition that the governor-general is the Australian head of state. This was in an email from a respected reader in one of the other realms. He wondered how this fitted in with the defence of the monarchy.  

I assured him that there has been and is no stronger defender of the monarchy than Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. “And we have the battle scars, and the victory to prove that,” I added.  

“In brief,” I said, “my conclusion – after considerable research – is that the term head of state has its origins in diplomacy. It was introduced as an alternative to the generic term ‘prince’." ( See The Cane Toad Republic, 1999)

 “This is governed by international law. The Australian governor-general is held out to be and is received as a head of state. Under international law she is the head of state. This conclusion does not of course determine the status of the governor-general of the other 14 realms.” 

In response to his observation that you could not have two heads of state I replied: 

“There is no requirement under international law that there only be only one head of state- consider for example Andorra, possibly Switzerland, and England under William III and Mary II. There can even be a collective head of state, e.g., the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.”    

 …the head of state and constitutional law…

 “As for constitutional law,” I said,  “ there is no such designated office in Australia.” 

 I then referred to an overlooked High Court decision I had unearthed a couple of years ago. ( See The Howard Era, ed K.Windschuttle et al, 2009, Chapter 14; David Flint, The Head of Sate Debate Resolved, Quadrant , July-August, 2008)  

The decision  was handed down in 1907, when a bench of Founding Fathers unanimously described the Governor-General as the “Constitutional Head of the Commonwealth," the Governor as the “Constitutional Head of State" and The King as the "Sovereign".

As a senior appellate judge observed when he read the case: “This settles the matter. There can be no doubt now"   

It is ironic to find that some people who claim to speak authoritatively on the subject of head of state have absolutely no expertise in either international law or Australian constitutional law. They have not published, taught or practised in these areas.  And one particular critic of the ACM position seems to change his mind every few years. After an initial denunciation of Kerry Jones, he followed the ACM position, but in the last year or so he has denounced it.  Unfortunately for him, all of this is on record.



…the principal point of contention  in the 1999 Official Yes/ No booklet…. 

The fact is that all leading constitutional monarchists actively involved in the constitutional convention and the referendum campaign, both inside and outside Parliament, concluded in 1999 that:

     “Our constitutional head of state, the Governor-General, is an Australian citizen and has been since 1965.”  

These words come from the Official Yes/No Booklet, which was approved by all MP's and Senators supporting the No case  (mostly constitutional monarchists).

This was distributed by the Australian Electoral Commission to every elector. 

 I should add for the record that I was closely involved in this document, and that I have been entirely consistent in my opinion as expressed in The Cane Toad Republic, which was used extensively in the 1999 campaign. 

The point is the constitutional monarchist case presented to the people in 1999 could not have been clearer.

The claim we had no Australian Head of State was the only serious argument presented by the Yes case. It permeated the official  the Yes case, which was considerably shorter than the No case. In fact there were nine references to this argument in the Yes case, more than for any other argument. 

So the head of state issue had become pivotal in 1999. Whether we had an Australian as head of state was the principal issue in contention in the Yes/No booklet.

Those who voted No would have been aware of the ACM argument that we already had an Australian head of state.

But I should  return to my reply to our reader. 

“The Australian Constitution in section 61 differed from all colonial constitutions,“ I said raising the very important point made by Sir David Smith in his 2005 and to date unanswered magisterial tome, Head of State.  

“Accordingly in 1975 The Queen indicated she had no power to vary or review a determination under section 61.”    

…a pointless debate?….

   In the fight to keep the Crown, Australia, as one of the largest of the realms  and one of the six or seven oldest continuing democracies, is crucial. 

“I strongly believe that had we lost there would have been a domino effect, “I said in my reply.

“It would have unleashed the malevolent republican forces which exist, I can tell you from personal encounters, in the New Zealand media, intelligentsia and politics.  They are waiting for Australia to become a republic and then they will move.”  

 “You say the (head of state) debate is pointless, a red herring or an own goal.  But the only serious argument the republicans had- and have – is the need for an Australian as head of state.  In a national political campaign one side cannot veto the issues raised by the other.”   

 “Conscientiously and in good faith, we concluded on our research that we have an Australian as head of state. We campaigned on that basis.”  

“And we won, convincingly. And not just for Australia.”  

 “We headed off what would have been a copy cat campaign in New Zealand Canada and eventually the UK.”  

And that is how the campaign was conducted and won. 




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