The ACM function in Toowoomba on Sunday 18 February 2007 was a great success. This was principally because of the wonderful work that the branch has been doing for many years among the youth of this beautiful part of Australia, the Darling Downs. I was delighted to be invited to speak at the function, so I flew from Sydney the day before and stayed in Brisbane at a lovely old club. I had planned to take the train to Toowoomba on the Sunday. But Major General “Digger” James and his lovely wife Barbara offered to drive me, so I was saved the embarrassment of being told at the train station that the service had been closed down about ten years ago. I suppose that’s progress, but I can’t see it. (The infrastructure of this country has been run down while far too many politicians indulge in social engineering, republicanism and other fashionable causes while ignoring their core functions.) We left Brisbane on Sunday morning with John Cleland, another stalwart of the constitutional monarchist cause. This one of the few times in my life that I have been chauffeured by a General, and the others were also by General James, a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam. When we parked the car in a beautiful avenue in Toowoomba, a young father who was going to his car greeted us and told us about his children. I am afraid such spontaneous friendliness from a passer-by would be at first received with considerable suspicion in Sydney these days. It is in the country that we still see the old Australia, where friendliness courtesy and civility were the norm.
As soon as we arrived at St. John’s church for the function, the branch’s extraordinarily energetic leaders, Dr John Standley and John Brett handed me to the media. The journalists, broadcast and print were particularly interested in the branch’s successful essay competition for younger school students. The topic this year is as about preparing Prince William for his future role, and it invites students’ advice on this. That certainly captured the media’s attention. This is, I am sure, yet another example of the magic of monarchy, which with the proven superiority of constitutional monarchy will ensure that, as republican Professor Greg Craven predicts, Australians are likely to live under the reigns of King Charles III and King William V. (Professor Craven’s prediction was based on the ARM’s current “we have no model” policy which seems actually to be a preference for an elected presidency.)
The media asked me what advice I would give to Prince William. I said: “There would be no better model, and no better source of advice than his grandmother. I am referring of course to Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, The Queen of Australia.” And isn’t that so? Not only Prince William, but all of us can put up The Queen as our role model. This is because for her duty and service comes first. John Fitzgerald Kennedy enunciated that principle when he stirred a nation and the world with this call: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
We went into the function, which included the branch’s annual general meeting, all chaired by the very capable Patron of the branch, Fairholme College Principal, Mr. Stan Klan. ( Mr Klan’s 1999 Australia Day message was superb; you can read it on the Toowoomba ACM branch site, http://www.ausconstitution.org/aust_day_1999.php)
A beautiful young lady went to the piano and accompanied us in the full National Anthem and again later in the full Royal Anthem. I must confess that I do enjoy the call to arms in the second verse:
“O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.”
At times, when a joyous assembly has been pounding out those words, the faces of many of Australia’s leading republicans have flashed before me. Or I have recalled the euphoria at the end of the Constitutional Convention when John Howard announced he would put the republicans’ preferred model to a referendum, although it failed to be endorsed by the majority of delegates. That sense of premature euphoria was best captured by The Australian’s triumphalist headline “IT’S ALL OVER BAR THE VOTING”
We heard interesting and encouraging reports from John Brett and Dr Standley. We were amused by a republican letter writer in the local newspaper who became more and more extreme, but who seems to have disappeared, perhaps imploding in his indignation. There were the elections, and photos opportunities with some of the youngest monarchists in the land. (Yes, the Honourable Nicola Roxon and Senator Susan Ryan, new constitutional monarchists are being born.) The assembly was particularly delighted when I referred to the in-depth polling which shows that among that crucial group, the young, support for some vague undefined republic is in free fall, down to 38%.( We reported this in our column, “Republic – polls confirm youth not interested” of 17 January,2005.)
The subject proposed for my speech was “ACM – Challenges and Opportunities Ahead .” Apart from saying there are several challenges and many opportunities, I shall leave it to our colleagues in Toowoomba to comment on my speech.
It was a wonderful occasion, and the Toowoomba branch is to be congratulated for their significant contribution to the fulfilment of our mission.