England has done so much for me with the common law, its constitutional history, Shakespeare, and the rest. It has furnished my mind, and given me and my family a good living. No other nation gets near its achievements. If Shakespeare is my bible, footy and cricket are my religion. And the law shares the other passions of my life.
But I am also fiercely proud to be Australian – yes, proud. No other nation could do for me. If I am out of this land for a fortnight, I get toey.
We have in this ancient land a vast history and an unlimited future. We have almost lost that cringe that so demeaned us before. And while we think ‘patriot’ is a dirty word, we Australians do love our country. We just don’t say so – except when we play, and beat, England.
There are places – like the Grampians, the Bungle Bungles, the Surf Coast, and Uluru – where I connect to the earth in a way that is real.
Our aboriginals are like that, and their art knows no equal. And beside their and our ancient history, the English story is near to nothing in the eye of eternity.
We can enjoy the British pageantry – they are the experts – and even be moved by it. But it is British, and we are not. We are Australian. We – the people around me here in Yarraville – may have ancestors from all round the world, so even before we come back to our First Nations, it is false and unhealthy to suggest that we in Yarraville, or Yuendemu, should see our history through a British prism.
So, I am affronted when people run my country down. If you insult my people, you insult me.
After fifty years in the law and writing about English history and jurisprudence, I am affronted by any suggestion that we cannot be trusted to conduct our affairs without the intervention of a foreign monarch.
It demeans me that this notion – bred out of insecurity – still gets peddled by people who should know better, but who just refuse to meet the changing moods and needs of our nation.
It is often the same people who refuse to budge on issues like the climate and reconciliation with the First Nations. At the risk of descending to tribalism, too many people seem wedded to yesterday because that platform plays well and pays well among our disaffected, and those cursed by feelings of inferiority, or their contentment with our present mediocrity.
Our constitution is a schedule to an act of the Imperial Parliament, when the Queen was an Empress (of the Indians, not us). The role of the King is simply put, but not clear – as we have discovered on at least two occasions. ‘The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the King and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the King’s representative.’ The Governor-General runs the country by representing the King with his power – in accordance with British conventions.
Here are two anomalies. The King must be an Anglican. That British constitutional law is beyond our power, but it offends us and it is contrary to our laws. Hereditary succession also offends us. If this King lasts as long as his mother, no Australian under about sixty will have had a head of state who was not a white Anglican aged more than sixty.
Each anomaly is absurd and insulting. Does anyone now insist that the King has some reserve power above that of his Australian representative?
If no, he can be removed as useless, like an appendix; if yes, he infringes our sovereignty.
While I accept that our somnolence would survive the late Queen, it is the one aching wound in a life otherwise blessed beyond measure. The change will come, but not in my lifetime.
Now, I cannot vouch for my preferred course, much less measure it, but as I have full faith and confidence in my own people, I have a settled conviction that this nation will flower when we quit our dependence on the English crown, and take our stand in our own right.
All that is left then is detail – and people who say that we here cannot manage that detail cannot think much of Australia.
I do not care for labels like ‘republican’ or ‘monarchist’. All I want is for the executive power of the Commonwealth to be both vested in and exercisable by an Australian under a constitution made in Australia.
Republic – monarchy – independence.
2 thoughts on “The King and I – and the Wizard of Oz”
Very nicely put Geoff.
But ah – the details!
Have recently been immersed in historical portraits of early US constitutional history (Hamilton [biography and musical], Burr [Gore Vidal) and John Adams [tv series]). The struggle to create a new country and its founding documents. Do we have the leaders and thinkers to do justice?
Of course the US system is very flawed. So no ideal. But it has survived.
1. I would be minimalist. Put a red line through the existing document in a few places and get the UK parliament to reenact it.
2. Vidal on Lincoln is terrific.