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The latest Republican stunts are as futile as they have ever been

By David Flint - posted Friday, 18 July 2003

As our Australian republicans begin to accept that they have the proverbial snowflake's chance in hell of persuading the Australian people to throw out one of the world's most successful constitutions - they have not been able to agree on a model - they have resorted to a series of stunts, presumably to keep the issue in the media. But as Mr Turnbull has himself admitted, nobody is interested.

The latest Australian stunt was the announcement of a competition to write a preamble to the Constitution, although there is an excellent preamble to the Constitution Act. This recites that people of the several colonies (soon to become the States) humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in "an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown" and of course under the Constitution thereby established.

The alternative preambles will surprise most Australians. They may be fine literary and political statements, but not ones which would reflect their values and beliefs.. You can read them here.


The last attempt to graft a new preamble on the Constitution of 1900 was defeated in a landslide in 1999. But why do I call this latest exercise a stunt? Because it was announced on the Queen's Birthday! For once, this Queen's Birthday stunt was ignored by most of the media.

And at least this exercise, futile as it may be, was not as silly as the demand made - of course on another Queen's Birthday - that The Queen give back Tom Robert's great Federation painting! This, of course, hangs permanently in the new Parliament House. It is owned by The Queen of Australia. In the unlikely event that the Commonwealth were reconstituted as the Federal Republic Mr Keating longed for - although many of his listeners thought he was calling for a feral republic - the title to the painting would pass to the republic, feral or not. Asking The Queen to hand it over now is as silly as asking her to return all of "her" Crown land. A pity then that the Victorian Premier lent his name to that charade. It is the English republicans who are now going to the extreme with the most extraordinary stunts, which bring little credit on their movement.

The Guardian, which when it was The Manchester Guardian was thought of as a serious newspaper, has been advertising for descendants of the Stuarts who would have succeeded to the Throne but for the Act of Settlement, which determined the succession to the Throne after Queen Anne. Although The Guardian had lawyers engaged, they had no client - at least no real client although one assumes The Guardian would pay - and thus no plaintiff to complain that the Act had actually discriminated against them. Notwithstanding advertisements in the German press, nobody was interested!

Notwithstanding this enormous loss of face, the republicans decided then on another tactic, although if this were taken to its conclusion, it would cost a small fortune and tie up the courts in useless litigation.

The editor, a Mr Rusbridger, wrote to the Attorney General advising he would be publishing a series of articles with "the purpose and intention of depriving and deposing Elizabeth Windsor … from the style, honour and royal name of the imperial crown of the United Kingdom …" That was no doubt designed to strike terror into the Attorney's heart! More likely he and his colleagues had a very good laugh, and dined out for weeks on the joke.

Incidentally, Mr Rusbridger said nothing about the entirely separate crowns of Australia, (his Queen's Counsel is Mr Geoffrey Robertson, who is Australian) or Canada or New Zealand, but he did ask - and readers will have to read this twice to believe it - the Attorney to indicate he would not apply the Treason Act. No, I am not joking - the editor actually asked this!


The Attorney General was obviously not going to join in such a farce, and pointed out that the retention of legislation is for the Parliament. So Mr Rubridger, instead of deciding that the joke had well and truly run its course actually began a legal action.

This has had the consequence that, if he were unknown before, Mr Rusbridger is now immortalised in a Gilbert and Sullivan-style law case that will amuse law students around the English-speaking world for generations and generations to come. This is Regina v Her Majesty's Attorney General ex parte Rusbridger and another.

Students will only have to utter those words, "Rusbridger's Case", and they will provoke gales and gales of laughter. As one of the judges suggested, it hardly as if the editor was losing any sleep wondering if a prosecution for treason would follow, even if the paper's attacks on the Crown were actually read. At least one of the judges was scathing - the valuable time of the courts should be spent, His Lordship insisted, on real issues.

You can read the details of the extent to which republicans are determined to score an "own goal" for the Court of Appeal, and in the House of Lords. Readers will detect a certain exasperation on the part of the judges who obviously resented the action, which of course failed absolutely.

The question is, of course, just who do republicans think they are persuading with these stunts. The suspicion must be that they put so much time effort and money into them because they know they cannot devise a republican model superior to the system we presently enjoy.

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This article was first published in the Australians for A Constitutional Monarchy e-newsletter Hot News on 11 July, 2003.

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About the Author

David Flint is a former chairman of the Australian Press Council and the Australian Broadcasting Authority, is author of The Twilight of the Elites, and Malice in Media Land, published by Freedom Publishing. His latest monograph is Her Majesty at 80: Impeccable Service in an Indispensable Office, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, Sydney, 2006

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