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'Queen' Camilla of Australia - no thanks!

By Peter van Vliet - posted Tuesday, 29 March 2005

So now the cat is finally out of the Monarchists' bag. Prince Charles’ Clarence House publicity machine has presided over another spectacular strategic failure. Britain’s Constitutional Affairs Minister, Christopher Leslie, has confirmed the title of Queen will be given to Camilla Parker Bowles should Charles become King following their April marriage.

The attempt to badge Camilla as Princess Consort has been exposed as a sham. Despite around 150 staff and over $1 billion in assets Prince Charles has got it wrong. This attempt to minimise the consequences surrounding the Prince’s forthcoming marriage to Camilla has failed.

So where does this leave Australia? It leaves us in the invidious position of having Charles as next in line as King of Australia with his wife, Queen Camilla. It again exposes our ludicrous constitutional arrangements and the fact we have virtually no say over who shall be our next head of state. Clutching at his usual semantic straws, Professor David Flint says Camilla will not be Queen of Australia, but the reality is she will be the wife of the King of Australia, Queen Camilla. That’s getting pretty close!


The whole sorry saga reminds us again that the republic is unfinished business. It brings a renewed sense of urgency to the need to formalise our republican sentiments in our constitutional arrangements.

If there was ever an indication that monarchy’s time was up, it was during Charles' recent visit to Melbourne. Barely 100 people gathered at Federation Square to welcome him including a small smattering of republicans. Most people were more interested in the grand prix festivities on the main Federation Square stage than the hapless Prince. There were probably more hangers on at his free luncheon but you almost got the sense they were there to witness the passing through of a formerly great relic - witnessing the steady and inevitable decline of the British empire over the emerging powerhouse that is modern Australia.

The Prince's wedding arrangements have bordered on farcical. The ceremony will be a civil one for arcane legal reasons, the Queen (his Mum) won’t attend because she is reportedly unhappy Charles is marrying his former mistress, and Charles reportedly won’t even have a best man. This reminds us all that the real problem with royalty is that it seeks to make mystical what is ultimately very human.

Simply speaking, Charles shouldn’t be our next head of state by birthright. By all accounts he may not be up to it and as Chris Laidlaw reported recently in the New Zealand Herald he does not want to be Head of State of New Zealand and by implication Australia. Our head of state should be selected on merit, by Australians for Australians. Most importantly they should even want the job!

Given Charles’ recent trials have thrown an Australian republic back into the spotlight the onus is now on republicans to unite. Analysis of the 1999 referendum has shown that around half of the 55 per cent “No” votes were direct-electionists. To prevent a recurrence of this happening republicans should put aside their differences over models and work co-operatively to get a preferred model up. Then the next time the British Royal family goes into meltdown it will be of interest to our popular weekly magazines but not relevant to our nation’s most important symbolic position.

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Peter van Vliet is a senior public servant.

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