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The British Monarchy - and its dirty laundry - have got to go

By Greg Barns - posted Wednesday, 20 November 2002

We are in danger at the moment of simply waving flags and puffing out our collective chests and smugly asserting that ours is a wonderful country, and that’s it!

Well yes, ours is a wonderful country – unless you are an asylum seeker – but our constitutional arrangements are decrepit and reflect where we have been and not the vibrant, responsive, diverse polity that we should aim to be in the 21st century.

Furthermore, we are lumbered with a constitutional system that guarantees no human rights and which has at its peak, a rancid corrupt British monarchy.


Strong words but well chosen, as the Burrell case – involving the antics of Diana’s delusional butler – has amply demonstrated.

The British Royal Family is a menace to democracy and represents in its warped view of the world, a cavalier disregard for liberal values.

Roy Hattersley, the former senior British Labor figure, summed up last week what many of those of us who believe in a Head of State and a constitutional structure that is genuinely democratic feel about the monarchy.

Hattersley noted that he "was against the Monarchy because it embodied the idea of a social hierarchy and encouraged the nation to look back instead of forward, not because the heir to the throne made childishly prurient telephone calls ... The real objection to a monarchy remains the debilitating effect it has upon society".

Spot on! And as we now find out, this corrupt institution is prepared to subvert the rule of law, cover-up its hereditary madness, and allow criminal activity to go unchecked within its walls.

The point is: this is our Head of State and her family we are talking about. This is the institution that our Prime Minister and his wife bow and curtsy to when they tremble in her presence.


And so while our media and politicians urge us all to strive, in the wake of Bali, to defend our liberal democracy, they ought to pause to reflect on the fact that our constitutional arrangements have at their peak, an institution that is the antithesis of these liberal democratic values.

I would urge all republicans to see the events in the UK over the past fortnight as highly significant. It is now clear that the dirty linen of our Head of State is not simply of a titillating variety worthy of a third-rate soap opera, but is much more dangerous. This is an institution that has demonstrated that it has little interest in anything other than self-preservation and that it will ride roughshod over the rule of law, if necessary, to achieve that aim.

The institution of the British Monarchy is medieval in intent and practice – we must highlight this to all who somehow think that our current system of constitutional monarchy is ok.

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This is an edited version of a speech given to the Australian Constitutional Futures Conference in Brisbane on 16 November 2002.

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About the Author

Greg Barns is National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

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