The Royal Visits to Australia are causing some confusion among republicans. They are clearly rattled. First they pretended that there had been an increase in republicanism. We were told on 11 February that on the announcement of Prince Charles marriage, the ARM had had a surge of people signing up as members and supporters.
I asked a journalist, who was interviewing me at the time, whether he had asked the ARM just how many new members they had signed up. He said he had asked, but the ARM was not able to provide the figures ! It is rather odd to announce from the roof tops that you have a surge of new members, but not know how many new members signed up! Interestingly, a telephone poll in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on 15 February asked whether the republican debate should be returned to the national agenda with the announcement of the wedding.
Sixty eight per cent said No.
REPUBLICANS WHO WANT DANISH SOVEREIGN!
Then some republicans, for example Dr Burgman, the President of the NSW Legislative Council, are proposing the Danish House replace ours. I thought they were opposed to monarchy, not just our monarchy! Readers may recall that when Dr. Burgman was elected, she was photographed taking down the portrait of the Sovereign to whom she had sworn or affirmed allegiance. The Green Party, who are committed to some sort of a republic, now have a poll on their site, www.greens.org.au, asking this question:
If Australia is not a republic when the current reign Of Queen Elizabeth ends, who would you prefer as Queen and King of Australia
(A) Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles
(B) Princess Mary and Crown Princess Frederik
(C) Princess Masuko and Prince Narahito of Japan?
Although republican journalists were delighted that the early results on this showed a preference for the Danes, what would they make of the latest? The results today were:
Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles 34% (306)
Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik 27% (241)
Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan 37% (331)
Total number of votes: 878
Perhaps the answer lies in the warning underneath that the poll that it is not scientific!
REPUBLICANS RATTLED BY THE MAGIC OF MONARCHY
Others republicans are obviously worried by the fact that the welcome and interest in Princess Mary indicates that the rank and file Australian rather likes monarchy. They are clearly rattled by the reaction to the magic of monarchy, as they were at the time of the passing of the Queen Mother and then the Golden Jubilee. One writer was so upset with me he attacked me as, he wrote, a popinjay. He questioned my intelligence and called on me to leave Australia- my country.
Another, Mr Peter Carroll, writing in The Australian (8 March 2005) even argued that any hereditary monarchy relies on a genetic premise about the allocation of political rights shared with racism and apartheid! The Herald published ( 12-13 March 2005) a string of letters on the royal visit. The heading for these was: ROYALS LEAVE US MORE DIVIDED THAN EVER OVER MONARCHY.
The first related to my comments to columnist Peter Hatcher published the day before. Of course the columnist cannot publish all your comments. So he did not mention my point that republicanism is essentially a constitutional issue, but that in the area of emotion, monarchy has a remarkable way of renewing itself and manifesting over and over the magic of monarchy.
I had said that when Prince William visits us, the effect will be similar. I pointed out that this magic can come with age too, for example the resounding popularity of Victoria towards the end of her life, the enduring popularity of the Queen Mother, whose passing, to the great surprise of the commentariat, was honoured by a wave of respect around the world. But my suggestion that the reception for Frederik and Mary was a manifestation of the magic that Australians found in monarchy attracted the fury of one republican, Jeff Goddard of St George’s Basin in New South Wales, whose letter was chosen as the lead. In an odd argument for constitutional change, he said of me:
"This popinjay continues to pontificate his love for British royalty to the point where even his supporters must wonder about his intellectual capacity..As I have suggested before , if he loves Britain so much, please leave Australia and go live there".
I have of course absolutely no intention of following Mr Goddards advice.
In the same vein, I recently received a letter-to my surprise from an ARM office holder- highly dismissive of our Constitution, and containing vile and highly defamatory sexual allegations against the Royal Family.
MORE REPUBLICAN DISMAY
Mr John Jackson of Sydney, who declares himself a republican, found the following letter published in the Sun Herald on 6 March 2005 to be a rather pathetic defence. The accession of Prince Charles filled Mr Jackson, who states he has proudly worn two of his country’s uniforms, with revulsion and dismay, even personally insulting.
I had written this:
You were right to say that it would be tactically stupid for republicans to try to capitalize on the wedding of Prince Charles and Mrs. Parker- Bowles. The republican movement, anxious to raise their flagging cause, has not heeded your advice. But the fact that the usual gaggle of so called Royal watchers and experts in London have decided to increase their incomes and circulations in putting words into the mouths of members of the Royal Family will impress few Australians, who can see through this.
If Australians were told that just last year, Prince Charles raised a quarter of a billion dollars for the disadvantaged, they would have a better understanding of his agenda, which they could compare with the ambitious politicians angling to become our first president.
Incidentally, the 1999 referendum question was not, as you suggest, a ‘tricked –up” question. You must have forgotten that the republican movement tried, unsuccessfully to remove just two words from the question, ‘republic’ and ‘president’.
I wonder why.
Incidentally, when I was required to wear a uniform, I also swore allegiance my Sovereign. I assume Mr Jackson did too. I wonder if he is aware of the Prince Charles distinguished service, which I referred to in my last column, and that last year he raised a quarter of a billion dollars for charity.
The fact is that the ARM has painted itself into a hole with its flawed Latham plan and Latham model for a republic. They will not be able to distract the public by abuse, threats or defamation, nor will this neutralise the magic of monarchy.
A REPUBLICAN PRAISES OUR CONSTIUTIONAL MONARCHY
As I was going to my car at Bondi Junction last Friday, I passed an unsteady figure on the ramp. He called out to me :
"David…David , whats your name? Ah yes David Flint. I am a republican myself, and I am sorry, but I am p***ed. Yes I am a republican, but that other thing-what is it called –ah, yes, monarchy-it does have one thing going for it. Stability. Yes, stability. Gees, I am really p***ed – are you? Good on you Dave!"
He staggered off into the distance. I was relieved to see he was not looking for his car but just the way out of the complex, which can confuse even the sober. And that evening I saw a wonderful performance of Hamlet at Bondi Beach performed by the Shakespeare Globe. Appropriate, I suppose, when the current Prince of Denmark is visiting us!
OPINION POLLS AGAIN
The value of opinion polls depends very much on the questions asked. A subtle change in the question can change the result.
The Sunday Telegraph published my letter on the Galaxy Poll on 13 March, 2005:
The poll on a republic (27 February, 2005) suffers from such a surfeit of flaws that its results cannot be taken to be indicative of public opinion. Such polls typically do not explain how the republic is to be grafted on to our constitution which centres on the Crown, nor indeed the costs of the process. The current Latham model involves, putting aside the states, two plebiscites and one referendum federally, and then the regular election of yet another politician as president who will play political games against the government. At this point the cost will be about half a billion dollars with the meter well and truly running. This is incidentally about the amount Prince Charles raises for the disadvantaged over two or three years, a matter rarely reported for some reason or other.
These polls frequently do not even describe the model about which republicans are implacably divided. The Galaxy poll, which does not state the margin of error, attempts to test support for some mythical republic was Prince Charles and Camilla Australia’s Head of State. But Camilla can never, ever, be our Head of State, and foreign governments and organizations say the Governor-General is our Head of State.
ALL THE STATES SAID NO!
Although every state said No in 1999, I have seen reports that Victoria voted Yes. This is untrue and should be challenged whenever the contrary is claimed. David Byers of Bathurst sent the following letter to the Sydney Morning Herald:
It is simply hard to believe to what extent republicans will go to revive their flagging push for an Australian President. One good example amongst the many pro-republican articles your paper prints (for some reason) is the article by Peter Hartcher (11/3/05).
No matter what Prince Charles was to do on a Royal visit the "Peter Hartchers of this world would try to find something bad to say about him and try to show him in a negative light. I have something to remind people such as Mr Hartcher. We had a vote on a republic in 1999 after ten years of pro-republic pushing from the media. 72% of Federal electorates voted NO, every State voted NO and a 55% No majority overall. Accept it!
The letter was published with editing which perpetuates the myth that one state voted Yes. It is to be hoped that the Herald publishes a correction.
It is hard to believe the extent to which republicans will go to revive their flagging push for an Australian president. One good example among the many pro-republican articles your paper prints (for some reason) is the one by Peter Hartcher. No matter what Prince Charles was to do on a royal visit some will always find something bad to say about him and try to show him in a negative light. We had a vote on a republic in 1999 after 10 years of pro-republic pushing from the media. More than 70 per cent of federal electorates voted "No", almost every state voted "No" and there was a 55 per cent "No" majority overall.
SO-CALLED ROYAL EXPERTS
In a previous column I warned that many so-called Royal Watchers and Royal experts were extremely suspect. Not so long ago I read in The Scotsman some extraordinary comments on the forthcoming Royal Marriage by one Harold Brookes-Taylor, who claimed some relationship with Burkes Peerage. I challenged those views in this column. I regret to say Mr Brookes-Taylor died on 5 March 2005, his obituary appearing in The Daily Telegraph, London on 8 March, 2005.
The Telegraph described him as a self-appointed authority on all matters royal. The advantage for journalists was that he was always available to make an arresting comment; his great disadvantage was that he was often wrong. An American, who hyphenated his name, he claimed the most intimate knowledge of the lives of members of the Royal Family, such as the sleeping arrangements of the Queen and Prince Philip. He declared The Queen to be related to the Prophet Mohammed! He spoke confidently and frequently on constitutional matters.
The Palace was forced to issue a rare statement that Brooks Taylor did not know members of the Royal Family and that he spoke without their authority or knowledge. He was for some years managing director of Debretts Peerage, but left after a dispute. The Telegraph says that he subsequently acquired with others the rights to a series of spin-off books published by Burke’s, Debrett’s rival, but not its famous Peerage. But a photograph of him holding a volume was often published. When this went into liquidation, and he went in for marketing Scottish feudal baronies. The Telegraphs assessment is that despite his carefully burnished image, he wrote little, apart from a few book reviews, and edited no books.
Until next time,