This Just In: Republican Debate Revived

Reuters reported about half an hour ago that Prince Charles will marry Camilla Parker-Bowles on the 8th of April. Kim Beazley’s recent desire to revive the Republican debate in Australia will now probably get a kick along. However, that will be for the wrong reasons if it’s solely because of the “scandalous” nature of the royal relationship. I doubt that framing the issue in terms of whether Australians wanted Prince Charles as their future King was one of the most successful ARM tactics in 1999 (the whole campaign though was horrendous…). Basically, the monarchy as far as Australia goes is an anachronism and we should cut the ties no matter who is on the British throne.

There are some bigger issues raised for the UK though – not least the position of the Church of England as the Established Church but one divided over the propriety of marrying divorced people, but also the continuing political power of the monarchy – as evidenced by Prince Charles’ habit of writing helpful notes to British Ministers, and the continuing symbolism of a religiously exclusive and socially hierarchical regime which works against any notion of meritocracy in “New Britain”.

UPDATE: Full report in The Guardian.

FURTHER UPDATE: As predicted at Troppo, the debate’s “revived” today according to the ARM, who claim they’ve been deluged by emails and phone calls saying Camilla is the “last straw for the monarchy” etc etc. If we get to see more of the inimitable Flinty in his capacity as head of the ACM, it’s all good though.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Rafe
2021 years ago

It is not hard to sympathise with the republican spirit but in a larger context it is a zero order issue. The really pressing political issue is to diminish the scope and reach of politics so that every thing under the sun does not become a political football to be kicked around to score points in debate. The Rau case is a classic. Instead of focussing on the facts and the issues in a problem-oriented manner it has all been a rush to judgement on people who had nothing to do with the case.
At the philosophical level it means attention to the problem of sovereignty, to appreciate that the big question in politics is not “Who shall rule” but “How can the rulers be kept under control so people can get along and live their lives to best effect?”.

blank
blank
2021 years ago

Whether Charles III (or William V or even Henry IX) is King of the UK, Oz, NZ, Canada, PNG, &c.,&c., is an irrelevance.
The British monarch exercises no power in Australia.

The Leader of the Democrats in SA, Sandra Kank, wrote a letter to The Advertiser yesterday pointing out that “Australia is a republic in all but name”

She went on to say “and one day we will rectify that anomaly, too.”

But there’s the rub – the electorate is unlikely to vote for a republic unless the president is directly elected, and the politicians will not offer any republic which sets up an alternate power base in competition with the PM.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

“The British monarch exercises no power in Australia.”

This is a misunderstanding of the constitutional position, although an understandable one in that it’s peddled by both monarchists and republicans for their own separate purposes.

In fact the monarch could potentially exercise decisive power in a Whitlam dismissal-type situation, by the timing of her intervention (if any). The Queen wasn’t actually involved in the Whitlam/Kerr affair, but that was because Kerr chose (probably contrary to convention) not to advise her of what he had in mind, and Whitlam wasn’t given any time to advise the Queen to sack Kerr pre-emptively (and later claimed he wouldn’t have done so anyway).

Had Kerr followed convention and (a) kept the Queen advised; and (b) warned Whitlam in advance that he faced dismissal instead of ambushing him, then Whitlam (and certainly a PM of lesser moral fibre) might well have been tempted to resolve the situation by advising the Queen to sack Kerr before Kerr could sack him. The Queen’s decision as to the timing of her intervention (because she would certainly have sooner or later been constitutionally obliged to accept the PM’s advice) would then have determined whether the government stood or fell in this ultimate constitutional crisis situation. That’s real power on any view, and it isn’t a fanciful scenario either.

Peter Stryzlecki
2021 years ago

At the risk of being serious for a moment, couldnt agree with your post more Mark.

I thought you were supposed to be doing your thesis ….

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

“At the risk of being serious for a moment …”

It’s a risk I’m not prepared to take. I’m still thinking this thing through. If we accept (as I certainly do) that the monarch fulfils a critically important “cutout” role in our constitutional system in a dismissal stand-off between PM and G-G, and that the 1999 referendum republican model was fatally flawed in lacking such a cutout mechanism (and therefore gave excessive power to the PM), what then?

I’ve canvassed various options before, but one I’ve never explored previously is the option of a home-grown Australian monarchy. After all, if we can contemplate with straight faces the prospect of a jug-eared galoot like Charles as king and Camilla as his consort, why is a bunyip monarchy any sillier?

Who would we choose? Maybe Lleyton Hewitt and Bec Cartwright if they get hitched. After all, the main day-to-day function of the monarchy is to provide filler for women’s magazines, and Lleyton and Bec already combine sport and TV trivia, two of the other principal obsessions of tabloid media. Grant Kenny and his wife Lisa might be worth a look too, although they’re a bit past it now. Or maybe we could persuade Ian Thorpe to stay in the closet and marry Cathy Freeman. The possibilities are endless.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

I’m not clear on why it would revive the Republican debate. At the end of the day the Australian take on the British Royals is, broadly, one of disinterest – apart from ‘New Idea’ readers, a few elderly ladies and David Flint (who, come to think of it, is a bit of an elderly lady himself)

I think the Queen herself is viewed as a kind of respected if vaguely defined and remote institution but no-one really dwells on what happens thereafter. Perceptions of our day-to-day constitutional arrangements don’t extend past Yarralumla. The Monarchists managed to turn the Republic debate into a referendum on the trustworthiness of politicians to deliver constitutional arrangements. The electorate perceived it as an exercise in political self- aggrandisement. The great nation-building narrative of PJK got completely lost in the ether.

I don’t think the marriage of two old Brit boomers pushing 60 is going to have much impact at all.

Fyodor
2021 years ago

I agree with Geoff. The marriage of two divorced boomers shouldn’t raise any eyebrows in this country.

There’s no reason why this should have any impact on the republican debate, which seems to be contested by only one side these days. Everyone else has moved on.

Guy
Guy
2021 years ago

I don’t think this will be enough to revive the republican debate – at least not while JWH as PM is so keen on preserving glorified colony status for Australia.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

I am a republican in the sense that the people should have a direct say in who their head of state is. To be fair to the ARM an organistion I am very happy to excoriate at every opportunity, it DID get me to engage this issue and to think seriously for a bit about how we should be governed.

A part of the debate I have no interest in is that part that seems to require deriding a man who has worked hard for his people and produced real benefits to his community. Another part that I hold to be counter-productive is the portrayal of Australia as some kind of backward colony too because it is part of a monarchy. We know what motivates those people, they’ll get nowhere.

Anyway I always thought the idea of having a head of state that is not a citizen to have some merit. We could import somebody as a guest for a fixed term. Admittedly, the possibility of a foreign Head of State needing at sometime to be a “cut out” would be sensitive but that’s true of all models. Wouldn’t it be great to have somebody like Margaret Thatcher or GWB come in and reside for a bit while topping up their super?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

“the electorate is unlikely to vote for a republic unless the president is directly elected, and the politicians will not offer any republic which sets up an alternate power base in competition with the PM.”

At the moment, blank, I’d be rather partial to an alternate power base in competition with the PM. But I’m yet to see any real evidence that this has happened in countries with comparable models – when was the last time that the German, Israeli or Irish President exercised countervailing power or was the subject of political controversy. I have no problem whatever with a directly elected PM, and though I voted “yes” in 99 almost voted “no” as did a lot of Republicans because of the model on offer.

Peter, see this post:
http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/008457.html

Geoff and Fyodor, I agree that it doesn’t materially affect anything in terms of the Australian debate, as I said in the post, but I’d put money on the meeja saying “Australians are concerned at the prospect of Princess Consort Camilla and this will revive the Republican debate”.

Ken, I agree that the constitutional power of the monarchy is a real issue and that the “Australia is really a Republic with the G-G as head of state” is a furphy.

“Or maybe we could persuade Ian Thorpe to stay in the closet and marry Cathy Freeman.”

Tread carefully, Ken. Thorpey threatened to sue an artist in Melbourne for putting together a collage where the word ‘gay’ was written on a poster bearing his image.

And if we’re going to import royals, I suggest that we adopt the suggestion that we anoint the Danish Crown Prince and “our own” Princess Mary – since last year proved that her picture on magazine covers already outsells everyone else’s. We could then acquaint ourselves with the hitherto obscure minor Danish royals and enjoy two sets of scandals along with those that the Windsors continue to generate. Or is it only the Windsors? If the Danish royals are sensible enought to import a non-royal/aristocratic bloodline, maybe they’ve got something going for them!

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“Tread carefully, Ken. Thorpey threatened to sue an artist in Melbourne for putting together a collage where the word ‘gay’ was written on a poster bearing his image.”

Though Thorpey did say, “not that there’s anything wrong with that” from memory :)

blank
blank
2021 years ago

If I read your post correctly, Ken, the only power the British monarch has is to decide on the actual timing of the withdrawing of the GG’s commission, if the PM advises her to.

According to Kerr, he did not inform the Queen of his intentions, as this would have embroiled her in a political decision, which was constitutionally his alone.

What direct communication is there normally between the Queen and the PM? Is there actually a ‘convention’ that the Queen interferes in the relationship between the GG and the PM?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Geoff, which kinda undermines any rationale for suing for defamation!

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Geoff and Fyodor, see the update to the post. The ARM reckon their phones have been running hot and their email inbox clogged this morning with messages from Camilla haters yearning for a revival of the Republican debate.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

Never mind the Republic, what about Camilla never being able to be queen, and having to settle for a second rate title like Duchess of Cornwall?

Since Charles, as I recall, once wrote to Camilla saying he wished he was one of her tampons, I think she deserves the title, Countess of Libra Fleur. Sounds good, doesn’t it? I can’t wait for the photos in Vanity Fair: “The Prince of Wales and the Countess of Libra Fleur arriving the Negresco to attend Prince Otto of Saxony’s 50th birthday party.”

saint
saint
2021 years ago

Dumb question. The Australia Act (I think that’s what it’s called. Too lazy too look). Was that in force when Whitlam was around? Does it change anything?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Blank

There is a convention that the Queen will follow the advice of a PM regarding the appointment (and therefore logically the dismissal also) of a G-G. In a formal constitutional sense the G-G can only be appointed and dismissed by the Queen.

Up until 1975, there was also a convention that the G-G kept the Queen informed about significant aspects of his performance of his role as the Queen’s representative. Kerr elected not to inform her (as you say to avoid her becoming embroiled in domestic politics), so that one may argue that the convention has now evolved to a point where the G-G is no longer expected to do so. That conclusion would be reinforced by the passage of the Australia Acts in 1986. Nevertheless, the universal view is that the G-G remains obliged by convention to warn a PM of the danger of dismissal (i.e. this is a convention that hasn’t ceased to exist despite Ker having ignored it in 1975). Thus it remains the case that, if a G-G DID so warn a PM and he/she was unscrupulous enough to then advise the Queen to sack the G-G, we would still have the Queen exercising a decisive role in determing who would prevail, merely by virtue of the timing of her acting on the advice of the PM (she could properly delay for long enough to provide cover to the G-G if so minded). Thus the Queen’s real and potentially powerful role in Australia’s constitutional system still exists.

blank
blank
2021 years ago

“Never mind the Republic, what about Camilla never being able to be queen, and having to settle for a second rate title like Duchess of Cornwall?”

I distincly remember in a tv series about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson that a ‘morganatic’ marriage was mooted.
The PM of the time said (in the tv series) that such a thing was not possible in England, and that the King’s wife would be the Queen.

If the Queen lives as long as her mother, chances are Charles could pre-decease her – he already looks pretty raddled to me.

trackback
2021 years ago

My Kingdom For A Horse

CLARENCE HOUSE has officially announced the engagement of His Royal Highness Prince Charles to Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles.

trackback
2021 years ago

camillot

So Charles and Camilla get their affairs in order. The cynics would tell you it’s a move to deflect the heat on the amount of money he spends on the upkeep of his lover.