Republicans are used to monarchists manufacturing myths to try to scare people away from supporting an Australian republic. We have recently written articles debunking some of these myths, including one on the cost argument and the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” furphy.
However, it is always somewhat shocking when nominal republicans, usually those in public life, come out and suggest we should delay making Australia a truly independent nation. We understand why they do it - most politicians would probably much rather leave the republic issue in the too-hard basket - but we still find it quite perplexing.
An Australian republic, after all, is our Australian issue. It is about us as a nation, as a people. As such, we can, and should, grasp it whenever we summon the national will to do so. Can you seriously imagine a citizen of the USA agreeing to a foreign national serving as the Head of State of the USA? Or of a German agreeing to a French national being at the apex of their constitutional arrangements?
Either possibility is, of course, unimaginable. Unfortunately, this is precisely the situation we have here in Australia today. We calmly accept that the eldest son of an English-German aristocratic family, who must be a member of the Church of England, sits by birthright - without regard to accomplishment - at the top of our constitutional tree. It is almost seems as if we agree with Prince Andrew who recently claimed that it was in the Windsor genes to lead. Do we really think that in egalitarian Australia? Of course not.
But, you might ask, what about the other 15 countries who have borrowed the same monarch as us? Well, it is hardly too special an arrangement. There is Canada with its French heritage; New Zealand, where knighthoods were recently re-introduced; and several colourful Caribbean states very few people could name. Are we really happy to leave ourselves simply categorised as an ex-colony like them?
Some people bizarrely claim that the institution of the monarchy provides stability. These people conveniently brush over or forget, for example, the several thousand victims of the civil war in Northern Ireland that continues to this very day. No, Australia’s stability comes from the good sense and peaceful nature of the Australian people, not from an unelected foreign figurehead.
Whatever it is that people think the Queen does for us - head of state, sovereign or grand high poohbah - we don’t need her to do it for us anymore. We have an abundance of talented, capable and deserving Australian men and women who can look after Australia excellently in any role we require filled; no need to tremble, no need to equivocate, no need for a learner period, no need for any more delay.
So, why do we hear the plaintive call to “wait until the Queen dies” (or maybe abdicates)?
Some would say, because many of us respect the current monarch. That’s true, but is that really a reason? This is not about an individual person, the Queen, at all. It’s about the absurd institution and its absolute irrelevance to our Australian identity and ethos in the year 2010.
Some would argue that it will be easier to win the republic discussion without the Elizabeth Windsor factor. Again, that’s probably true, but still a complete cop-out. Why are we always opting for the easy option? Are we trying to convince ourselves that if Charles or William, or whoever else was monarch, that the royal institution would represent our national aspirations less well? Or are we saying that we think we know them and their foibles and are not too keen on them personally? None of these people can add to our sense of Australian identity or hope to be able to unambiguously represent us on the national or world stage. They’re English - we are Australian - it’s simple; a total no-brainer.
According to the press, the Queen was amazed that we voted “No” in 1999, Prince Philip said we were “bloody mad” when told the result and Prince Charles has said that Australia should become a republic. As for the younger royals, William Wales has spent three days in Australia in the last 27 years and quite happily describes himself as English through and through while he wanders around the world promoting English football, often in direct opposition to Australian national interests (e.g. 2018 Football World Cup hosting rights). It shouldn’t matter to us Australians, but in case you were worried, frankly, the Windsors couldn’t care less if Australia was a republic or not.
The point is, philosophically, it makes no sense for us to delay.