If someone were to design an institution that contradicted many of Australia’s most cherished panaceas, it would look not unlike a monarchy. This is a country that likes to see itself as egalitarian and loosely informal, yet continues to embrace a system based on hereditary privilege and strict protocols.
Australians are supposed to be anti-authoritarian – a myth, I know – and yet they continue to advocate an institution founded on deference and docility. This can be a fiercely patriotic nation – and seldom more so than when its cricket team takes on England – and yet its head of state remains a pom. The Queen or King of Australia was meant to be a distinctly un-Australian concept.
And yet it looks like national broadcaster ABC will be broadcasting the King’s Christmas Day speech for years to come. Polls also suggest that the “King Charles moment” that Republicans have been anticipating here for decades was anticlimactic. A Roy Morgan poll conducted after the Queen’s death in September found 60 per cent of Australians want to keep the monarchy, an “overwhelming majority”, up 5 percentage points from 10 years ago. Both genders and all ages prefer the status quo.
These numbers may have been inflated by a sympathy vote after the Queen’s death. Also, the Australians have always applauded long and stubborn innings. But the pollsters also uncovered a bond with the monarchy born out of an anathema to change. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was a common response. That’s what’s so concerning for activists agitating for a local leader. Elizabethan Republicans, so deferential to a loved one, may have been succeeded by shrugging Caroleans willing to tolerate what they see as a benign institution.
Despite this, there is no reason for the Australian republican movement to panic. Labor has clarified that a Republican referendum would be an item on the agenda for the second term. In the meantime, the indigenous voice is rightly a priority in Parliament. If successful, Uluru would be an important confidence builder, demonstrating Australians’ will to modernize the constitution. Moreover, republicanism would be the next logical progression after Uluru and another important step on the road to reconciliation. After all, the monarchy has always been the most visible manifestation of the colonial occupiers of this ancient land.
The Republican movement has a talented new talisman in former Socceroos captain Craig Foster. Foster’s short, two-minute synopsis on YouTube introducing his store is an impressive piece of communication. It contains a Lincolnian phrase: “One of us, for us, by us,” he says, repeating the “of the people, by the people, for the people” of the Gettysburg speech.
In another neat phrasing, Foster argues that the country is “old enough, intelligent enough, experienced enough and capable enough,” which needless to say, but defies the self-denigrating notion that Australia is still in adolescence and not yet ready for full adulthood independence. Though Foster is only half as good a Republican spokesman as he is as a refugee advocate and football expert, the House of Windsor has much to fear. I certainly know who I would bet on in a penalty shootout between Foster and the new Australian Monarchist League leader, former Liberal Senator Eric Abetz.
As a Brit, I’ve always been amazed at how much Australia has retained so much of its British flair. National Day celebrates the moment of colonization. In much of the country, the monarch’s birthday is a public holiday, which is not even the case in my country. But in this Indo-Pacific century, Australia should define itself without resorting to the “motherland”.
https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/arise-australia-our-adolescence-is-behind-us-20221221-p5c81s.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_politics_federal Arise Australia, our youth is behind us