Apr 20

Atrocious Undemocratic Decision on Next Head of Commonwealth

The unanimous decision by 53 member countries of the Commonwealth to anoint Prince Charles as the next head of the now defunct British Empire only shows the white Anglo establishment and apologists for Britain personified by the remaining Dominions ie Canada, Australia, New Zealand for what it is, worthy of derision. Where is the democracy among equals, let alone the notion of a popular vote as white British people will continue to head the multi-racial dinosaur by right of inheritance. That Australia went along with this - and has since 2013 or even 2011 as reported when the UK sent out its flunkies world-wide to achieve the succession, means that Malcolm Turnbull has become as weak a republican as Julia Gillard was and that's saying something. That it was unanimous, including by countries who were never part of the Empire, has all the hallmarks of a diplomatic stitch-up and paybacks for previous services rendered eg membership of the UN Security Council, to prop up a desperate British PM reeling in the face of Brexit trying to use the Commonwealth to make Britain look more important than it is (and that will fail dismally) and a whole lot of former colonies continuing to forelock tug before their former masters and mistresses rather than speak the truth.The Prime Minister should be forced to come clean about this decision and the reasons he backed this proposal before humbly apologising to the nation for his weak-kneed complicity - tearful apologies being fashionable just now  -and for having such a poor understanding of how the Commonwealth was formed in the first place - and no, it wasn't King George VI's initiative Malcolm! Perhaps all the real action is really in who is the Secretary-General rather than have a stoush over the symbolic head of a largely defunct body. Compromise is always easier than change for those who lack courage, of course.

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Apr 12

Royal Rush II

As well as Charles and Camilla here for the Commonwealth Games and an oddly restricted ramble through North Queensland and the Northern Territory plus a side trip over to Vanuatu accompanying our Foreign Minister that featured a very large number of Indigenous people in both countries inexplicably enthused by the royal presence, suddenly Prince Edward has appeared justifying a sojourn as an Empire Games spectator (beach volleyball?) with an astonishingly low key visit to four States. This included a large number of games of real (royal) tennis and some obvious make-work visits in Tasmania including the one at the Botanic Gardens to open a boardwalk. One tennis game took place in Ballarat!  These appearances will be quickly followed by another royal heir baby and then the glamorous wedding, even if it also will be low key but heavily televised, in mid May.  The Harry-Meghan link-up will be on a far lesser scale than that for the second heir to the throne in 2011, orders of precedence and place in the pecking order being rigorously observed by the Windsors with just enough excellent PR to cover the gaps. We couldn't help noticing that both Clarence House and the Palace are having trouble with Meghan's honorific. When it's used, it's always Ms. - with a full stop - and this only draws attention to it, the rest of the western world having adopted Ms unadorned years ago.  Kate, of course, was a Miss Catherine Middleton so not much feminism to see there but Meghan isn't a Miss at all, rather a divorced American actress so Ms full-stop will have to do.

Apr 3

Another Republican Sees Greener Grass

With Kim Beazley's appointment as the next Governor of Western Australia, the former Labor leader, Deputy Prime Minister and Ambassador to the US joins a growing list of known republic supporters going over to the other side (also Quentin Bryce and Richard Butler). Quite astonishing that Beazley was appointed to ARM's Republican Advisory Panel of "notables", of which he was one of the most notable, as recently as December last year. Shades of Federation all over again when the British Government/Queen Victoria handed out knighthoods to all and sundry. The republic is going to involve sacrifice including the forsaking of monarchical appointments and our imperial honours. It would just be so interesting to know how many turn down the awards and appointments on principle but we do acknowledge that it is hard to resist the perks, status, patronage, regal piles etc. Even more surprising was the Chair of ARM's reported claim that Beazley would be able to remain on the Republic Advisory Panel and there would be no conflict of interest. WfaAR doubts the Palace - or anyone else - would agree with that position. On the other hand, maybe Beazley sees something about the fate of the Republic that the rest of us can't - see News Item of 1 January 2018 - and has decided to decamp while there is a better offer to hand.

Mar 30

Bling with Royal Connections

The highly publicised exhibition of Cartier treasures opens at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra making much of its royal connections and patronage. There's a whole room of objects lent from the Royal Collection by the English Queen and aristocrats including the famous Windsor Halo Tiara although we now find, it is one of many. Cartier's clients, of course, include the very wealthy apart from the royal houses. To see such a dazzling and expensive display is useful for dwelling on how different their lives are from most Australians, the average household in the Antipodes being a bit short of tiaras or, indeed, events to wear them to. WfaAR noticed that the very fine objects in "the smoking section" were being shunned in a sign of the times. The exhibition is on until 22 July. Next up is Watercolours by the Prince of Wales, sigh,10 August to 18 November.  We have to say that Reko Rennie's strikingly republican works in the national collection are much more heart-stirring than either of these exhibitions.

Mar 20

New Caledonia Independence Referendum

The date for New Caledonia's independence referendum has been announced: 18 November. It has been a long time coming after first being scheduled in 2014 and is strongly supported by the Indigenous Kanaks, making up 45 percent of the total population. New Caledonia has a history very similar to Australia's after starting as a penal colony in the 19th century, having a proud participation in the 20th century world wars and is resource rich providing 25 percent of the world's supply of nickel. It is currently an overseas territory of France and has four members in the French parliament. For more information, click on the link below. ["New Caledonia sets date for independence referendum" by Kim Willsher, The Guardian online, 19 March 2018]

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Mar 10

Another Royal Rush Upon Us

Get ready for the next round of royal gushing. Harry and Meghan front the cover of this months Women's Weekly while the article inside provides no new news on the next British royal nuptials other than a few photos although WfaAR did enjoy the article on the family's extensive collection of tiaras and who is wearing them thesedays. An article in The Australian's Weekend Magazine declared that American divorcee, Markle, will bring a welcome new spark to the stuffy family as she is "already in danger of becoming a fully certified national treasure". No surprise that this statement emanated from Andrew Morton, Diana author and tragic, cobbling together the little that's known about Meghan to present her in the best possible light. WfaAR suspends judgement for the time being. Meanwhile Camilla is reported to have been ordered to come to Australia when she didn't want to. Quite useful, we think, to finally have a royal who admits she doesn't like long distance travel, the heat and the tours. At least she's honest. Charles arrives on 4 April to represent his mother at the opening of the Commonwealth Games. It seems to be lost on a lot of commentators that this visit is about Head of the Commonwealth not our Head of State. Heaven knows why we sent a RAAF jet to pick up the heir pair in Singapore and are also funding a side trip to Vanuatu. Hopefully, the Brits are paying but we won't hold our breath. ["Changing of the Guard" by Andrew Morton, Weekend Australian Magazine, 10-11 March 2018]

Feb 26

Oh for a Proper Head of State

Three weeks of federal political soap opera lead WfaAR to muse how useful it would be to have a proper Head of State to provide wise counsel to the Prime Minister and solace to the nation as voters looked on in despair as agendas were played out and rationales became confused and diffused, moralistic and hopelessly out of place in a modern, secular society. Disillusionment over the behaviour and traits of self-serving politicians is only going to delay votes on the Republic while fast consigning to the bin, any idea that politicians should decide who is to be Head of State and emphasising that the people will have to do the job themselves.

Feb 24

WfaAR on Republic Panel

The ACT ARM Women's Network invited three Canberra women to join one of its panels: Diana Abdul-Rahman, multi-cultural adviser and activist, spoke on the Republic and identity; Kate Carnell, former ACT Chief Minister now Small Business Ombudsman who attended the 1998 Constitutional Convention explained how Australia's trade and diplomatic focus had shifted from Britain to Asia, a sea of republics including those that were former British colonies, since the 1970s and WfaAR talked about the equality issues that should lead women to participate enthusiastically in the creation of an Australian Republic. Good way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon with many questions and comments from the gathered audience.

Feb 15

Launch of New Book on the Republic

Dr Benjamin T Jones' book, "This Time, Australia's Republican Past and Future" is launched in Canberra. Its' a shortish, easy read and the engaging text skates through our republican history from 1788 to 1999, both extensively researched and sourced. The launch function was followed by a wide-ranging conversation with the author touching on subjects as diverse as seditionist convicts including those from Canada; the  far-sighted work of John Dunmore Lang now languishing unread in the stacks of the National Library; Goulburn being the spiritual home of Australian republicanism with due respect paid to Adelaide Ironside and the views of the founding fathers of Federation. Jones, however, cannot resist that male preoccupation the method for selecting the Head of State and comes up with his own version: food for thought he says. At the conclusion, a lively vote of thanks, with pertinent comments on what a future Australian Republic might represent, was made by ANU's Professor Kim Rubenstein, a member of ARM's Republican Advisory Panel (see News Item of 15  December 2017). WfaAR couldn't help noticing the practical questions asked by women in the audience addressing obvious deficiencies, including "why wait until the Queen dies" and "why not use the Republic to bring about Reconciliation"?

Feb 13

No Royals for Head of the Commonwealth Please

The dilemma over who should take over as Head of the Commonwealth when Queen Elizabeth II dies has been covered previously on this website but it has bobbed up again. Media in Britain report that preliminary officials meetings were considering the matter in order to present recommendations to the formal meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) in London in April. This was immediately denied. Of greater concern to WfaAR, were further unsubstantiated reports that the Queen  - current Head of the Commonwealth for no particular reason other than her father, King George VI was its first head - has already sent emissaries throughout the Commonwealth to lobby for her son to take over when he becomes King of England (because he has such a great interest in and experience of visiting 41 out of 53 Commonwealth countries) and the appearance of blatantly self-interested interference in the affairs of the Commonwealth. Nalini Mohabir, Professor of Postcolonialism, Ryerson University Toronto, provides an insightful contribution on the subject addressing: how can a colonial institution champion multiculturalism? Her response: "it can start by electing its leader, not conferring it by birth". This issues in this matter bear a striking ressemblance to the selection of an Australian Head of State - and may be as long in resolution. ["The next head of the Commonwealth must not be a royal from Brexit Britain" by Nalini Mohabir, The Guardian online, 13 February 2018]. And an alert: Prince Charles will be out here, representing his mother our Head of State, to open the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, in early April.


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Feb 1

Reminder About the Embedded Crown

A timely reminder of the complexities of the change to an Australian Republic is contained in James Boyce's article in this months edition of The Monthly. An historian and associate of the University of Tasmania, Boyce sets out the history of allegiance to the Crown, how it was envisaged by the drafters of the Australian constitution and how that concept has changed with the narrowing of concepts of Australian nationalism since 1901. He also draws out the difference between "the Crown" and "the monarch" and "subjects" and "citizens".  He writes "Until the Constitution is changed, the central place afforded to the Crown should remind the High Court, parliament and the executive that loyalty to Australia cannot be rigidly prescribed...Because of the danger posed by perverted patriotism, all our national institutions could benefit from more fully engaging with what it has meant to be a subject of the Queen." He goes on to say that "when all references to the Queen are removed [from the Constitution], the republican task will be to sustain an understanding of nationhood that is not narrow-minded or jingoistic" and concludes that the best way to do this is "to overcome the greatest failure of the founding fathers - racism and the neglect of our Indigenous peoples." ["An Imperial Mess, the High Court vs the Crown" by James Boyce, The Monthly, February 2018]

Jan 23

First Change the Date, then Republic

Before the actual day - and time for the annual soul-searching about Indigenous and colonial history soon forgotten - comes this thoughtful article from Professor Maggie Walter, Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Sociology at the University of Tasmania. She concludes: "Australia, first change the date to begin a just settling, then contemplate becoming a republic".  Her reasoning is thus:

"Reconciliation between the Settler and First Nations populations is a self-evident prerequisite for Australia cutting the ties of colonial dependency with Britain to stand on our own. If we can’t work out that we need to complete the peacemaking between Indigenous Australians – the sole occupiers of the Australian continent for upwards of 60,000 years – and those whose ancestors arrived at or post-1788, we are not ready to be a republic. We might be attracted to republican prestige, with its sense of a national coming of age, but we can’t just take the title. Being a republic brings with it the responsibilities of being a grown-up country." The complete article can be accessed on the link below ["First reconciliation, then a republic - starting with changing the date of Australia Day" by Maggie Walter, The Conversation online, 23 January 2018]

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Jan 3

No Chance for Imminent Republic

Rita Panahi takes a general swipe at the Republic other than talking up its chances once Charles takes over with his shortcomings - meddling in dubious causes and a tainted personal history - spelled out in detail. She dismisses Paul Keating's comments about Australia being diminished by having a foreign Head of State and the Prime Minister's listless suggestion for another - presumably voluntary - postal vote (shortcomings of the various selection models for Head of State also spelled out). She concludes by saying republicans will have to wait for King Charles "before wasting any more public money trying to change the Constitution". ["Republic of Virtue" by Rita Panahi, Daily Telegraph, 3 January 2018] 

Jan 1

Commonsense on Republic

The new republican year gets off to a bright start on the very first day. With the release of 1994-95 Cabinet documents, ALP opposition leader during the lead-up to the 1999 republic referendum, Kim Beazley, is quizzed about the republic Cabinet submissions. In an interview on ABC's 7.30, WfaAR heard the most commonsense ever spoken about acceptance of the Republic. Beazley said that for the republic vote to be successful, the proposition has to be both workable and popular. He added with a chuckle that we had managed the former but not the latter thus far. WfaAR comment: that's where the challenge lies, simple as that.

Quick Info

For a brief but useful guide to republicanism in Australia, see the entry in Wikipedia

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Woman for an Australian Republic, Adelaide Ironside, republican poet and artist, 1831-1867

Self portrait 1855, Newcastle Region Art Gallery NSW

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Senate Inquiry

Report of Senate Inquiry into the Republic Plebiscite Bill released 15 June 2009

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