March 14

The Queen’s Homecoming – a triumph

“The Queen is a star!” Alan Jones on 2GB and Channel 9 reflected the emotion and excitement  on The Queen’s homecoming to Australia. He referred to The Queen as always composed, always courteous to those who insult he and want to get rid of her, standing straight and unsupported on the dais in Sydney’s sweltering heat, speaking superbly, and maintaining a schedule which would challenge someone twenty year’s younger.

When she walked towards Gough Whitlam, he struggled to his feet, placing his arm on John Howard’s shoulder for support. He bowed,  shook hands and chatted amiably. I would have liked a photograph showing  The Queen, charming and courteous  as she always is, Mr. Whitlam absolutely charmed and delighted, and the unusual proximity to Mr. Howard . “It looked as if you were either about to pat his head, or attempt violence” I said.  He laughed.

Wherever she went there were welcoming crowds. On all occasions-at the Opera House, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and Admiralty House , she was greeted  as Australian law and practice decrees, and has decreed since the Hawke government settled it in 1984- the bands striking up stirring renditions of both our Royal Anthem, God Save The Queen,  and then Advance Australia Fair.

But they won’t when Her Majesty opens the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. As Alan Jones said: ”We are still a constitutional monarchy. And now she’s going to Melbourne to be insulted. Why doesn’t someone in Canberra  pick up the phone and tell them how to behave…. They( the organizer) are behaving like people who walk through your house in muddy boots”

Why didn’t the organizers check with the Prime Minister first? And when they found out what was the correct protocol, why didn’t they decide to play one verse of God Save The Queen, and then Advance Australia Fair? Their obstinacy is foolish, and embarrassing. 

Apart from the insult to Her Majesty, the London tabloids are likely to decide that the principal story to come out of the opening ceremony will be the rudeness to The Queen. Remember their pretended outrage when Mr. Keating ,whom one denounced as “The Lizard of Oz”, touched her. The Sydney Morning Herald 0f 14 March attacked those few,  those very few monarchists who actually opposed  the playing of God Save The Queen at the Games of having “stooped to arguing that The Queen is largely irrelevant to Australia”. They were of course not referring to ACM, which has consistently argued both anthems be played on all occasions, and that the Crown is central to our constitutional system.

What a pity, as the Opening Ceremony is otherwise sure to be marvellous, and will be watched by an enormous audience, estimated at one billion people around the world.

(Incidentally, a small group of loyal Australians interested in distributing copies of the Royal and National Anthems near the MCG are meeting at the fountain at 55 Collins St between the ANZ and Telstra buildings in  Melbourne on Wednesday 15 March 2006 at 6:00 pm. They expect to be finished by 8:00 pm. What a wonderful intitiative) 

Back in Sydney, coming out of the Cathedral, I was phoned by the BBC. The bells were ringing, and crowds cheering. I was asked what the reception was like. I began: “As you can hear, the reception is joyous….”

The homecoming was a triumph. SBS asked me why I had called it a “homecoming” on the ACM site. I said that is a Canadian term. It recalls the fact that our Queen, the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty, is coming home. As is the Duke of Edinburgh,  demonstrating his celebrated rapier like wit when he was being taken around  to meet the people. 

 I was asked by one of the journalists yesterday whether I thought the NSW Premier’s reference to a republic  was offensive. Simon Benson in the Daily Telegraph of 14 March reported that “ after smirking through an acknowledgement of her reign, he said “…there will always be robust and healthy debate on our constitutional arrangements”.

I thought it was an improvement on the pointed reference to republicanism by the  Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Mr. Kim Beazley in a speech on her first visit after the referendum.  But I thought the Premier’s frequent use of the term  “Head of State’ in his speech repetitious and tedious. This diplomatic term is not   even in the Constitution, and it is so obviously  the only argument the republican movement has for change. Sensible republicans know this is not enough. As Professor George Winterton says , this is an arid and irrelevant debate.

I told the journalist that what was offensive and infantile was Mr. Iemma’s  government’s action late at night last week in ramming through a “private Member’s” bill to remove the Oath of Allegiance. That was an appallingly and deliberately timed insult.

According to Stephanie Peatling writing in the Sydney Morning Herald of 13 March 2005 under the silly headline, “England, England, England, oi, oi, oi”( don’t blame Ms Peatling for the sub-editor’s choice),  Nicola Roxon, federal shadow attorney general in   Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, said Australia has almost become a republic by stealth. "There are no new monarchists being born," she said. "If we bide our time they will all die off… I still think the biggest risk is Prince William meeting someone in an Australian pub."

Wrong on the first point, Ms. Roxon. You are absolutely wrong. You should check your facts before you say something so foolish .  As we have frequently demonstrated in this column, in Australia, in New Zealand and Canada, polls have  consistently shown that republicanism is strongest among the male middle aged not of course that all “baby boomers” are republicans. In a 2005 Morgan Poll, asked  “In your opinion, should Australia remain a MONARCHY — or become a REPUBLIC with an elected President?” only 37% of those aged 14 to 17 voted for a republic. That is right, 37%. Imagine what the results would be in a referendum, where the details of the changes the republicans would prefer to keep hidden until after the vote.

I have sent a letter about this to the Herald. I shall fall off my chair if they publish it.

When you see how some politicians behave, you understand why the public wouldn’t have a bar of the politician’s republic, or the direct election alternative,  which offers to the people what they have been dreaming about, yet another politician. (And that is just at the federal level, and not taking account of the vice presidents and deputy governors etc. Just think of their  superannuation, their  offices, their chauffeurs and their travel for life. We should call it the “honey pot republic”)




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