We’re going to see the Queen…

Tomorrow the girls and I are taking a half day off and going to see the Queen, as she visits Melbourne for what is likely to be the very last time. We hope to catch a glimpse of her in Federation Square (hopefully now clear of unoccupied Occupiers) when she does the Meet and Greet at 12:30 tomorrow.

I think it will be something special for them, which they will one day be able to tell their great-grandchildren about. “When we were very young we saw good old Queen Elizabeth on her last visit to Australia”. God knows what sort of political situation they will be living in then, but I am sure that the sixty or more years that we have just lived through will one day be known as the “Second Elizabethan Golden Age” on account of the unparalleled peace and democracy that the Commonwealth of Nations which was once the British Empire has enjoyed under her reign.

UPDATE: Well, we saw the Queen, and, as the famous citation had it, we did but see her passing by. It was a little disappointing that the retinue of security guards and other VIPs on the walk through with her surrounded her and made her difficult to see. It was also an interesting experience in crowd behaviour. We arrived fairly early, and, while not establishing front row seats, did get close to the barriers. There was a good spirit especially among the families that turned out. But as the time drew near for the Queen to pass by, suddenly things got ferocious. A number of people in their mid-twenties established their position at the fence, and refused to allow the small children in front of them so that they could see. Others just began pushing and forcing their way to the front. It reminded me more of being in Italy than in Australia! In the end, I picked up two small children behind us and held them up so they could see “the lady in pink”. I felt a little guilty that I did not do this until the Queen was almost finished passing by, but the children’s mother (herself of Zaccheus’ stature) was so thankful that she stopped me later in the street to say thank you once more. Actually, speaking of Zaccheus, I think anyone who has ever been to one of the Queen’s “passing by’s” would know how he must have felt…

Here is a picture I snapped of the occasion:

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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50 Responses to We’re going to see the Queen…

  1. Alexander says:

    A golden age of peace, when we are living through the worst holocaust known?

    • Schütz says:

      I take it you mean the abortion holocaust, Alex? Point taken, but that’s really a result of moral failure in our society rather than the outcome of our constitutional monarchy, isn’t it? I think we can rejoice that we have been relatively free of wars – and totally free of civil unrest in Australia – under QEII. I would hesitate to lay the abortion holocaust at her door.

      • Alexander says:

        True; but, I find it equally difficult to lay the current peace in your sense at her door, either. If standing back and doing nothing except going on a tour every now and again is a successful constitutional monarchy, we might as well have a republic and invite her over as a foreign Queen. We deserve a monarch on our soil—all the time.[1]

        The truth is, today’s pax is merely us sitting on the laurels won by Queen Victoria (who actually did participate in the process, but whose fruits took time to mature), and especially on the bread-and-circuses gluttony of the West the innovation of that age won us.

        Maybe I’m focussing unfairly on the end of her reign, and not considering the whole thing. Perhaps it is Charles who will wear this mantle, but I think future generations will look back and see today as pacified, not as peaceful.

        [1]: My preferred solution, rather than your elective monarchy, is to exclude Prince William. But I would also like each state to have its own monarch, and then we could have a Malaysian-style elective monarchy for the federal title.

        • Alexander says:

          But I do think I want to point out that only shortly before I was admiring her Majesty’s Victorian arms, “Peace and Prosperity” (a theme echoed in the supporters), and thinking how fitting it was.

          It was only when you asked me to think of how the future would judge us. I really do think the future will be harsher on us than we hope, especially as age tempers views.

          But I don’t want to deny the benefits of our age, and I am thankful to be living today, and not at some other time.

          • John Nolan says:

            David, your children’s great-grandchildren will in all probability be speaking Chinese and Europe will be under sharia law.

  2. matthias says:

    John Nolan ,perhaps Hindi,Urdu or Oriya as well. Perhaps even an Aboriginal language whilst the Yanks will be speaking Spanish on the west and South West states and new England still speaking English.some places and Arabic in others. Europe under sharia law in the future? God forbid ! It means that the Gates of Vienna have to be defended again before that terrible scenario. Oh i forgot they have politicians who in accomodating everyone ,have begun to take the hinges of the aforesaid gates

  3. Joshua says:

    To get back on topic:

    Wonderful indeed, to have the Queen here again; I remember when she was last in Melbourne, and I saw “her passing by” directly opposite the Knox Centre (she was visiting or opening some medical clinic). Long may she reign!

    To think that when she first graced our shores, Menzies was P.M., and now Gillard is the one with whom she meets…

  4. Peregrinus says:

    I did but see her passing by, she passed me by quite fast.
    I saw her passing by again when several years had passed.
    And then at some much later stage she passed me by once more
    And there were further passings-by and these I also saw.
    I did but see her passing by, I don’t know what it means;
    Perhaps it’s not my problem, but a problem of the Queen’s

    – Leunig

    • Schütz says:

      Oh, yes, Perry, this little rhyme by Mr Leunig has been going through my mind constantly since yesterday’s outing. It descibes my first-hand encounters with royalty to a T. I was going to post it myself, but you got in first.

  5. Dan says:

    Why do you all like the Queen (or the office she represents) so much for? It’s a rather outed thing all that isn’t it?

    • Schütz says:

      Well, Dan, there’s history and tradition for a start. Lack of respect for that is a very recent phenomena in human affairs, and I don’t think we are the better for it. But there is another meaning of “outdated” other than “old” – ie. something that doesn’t work as good as mor recent inventions. In this regard, the constitional monarchy is not “outdated”. It isn’t broken. It doesn’t need fixing. There is no better solution.

      • Dan says:

        Excuse my typo, I did mean outdated. You guessed correctly.

        “…tradition for a start. Lack of respect for that is a very recent phenomena in human affairs, and I don’t think we are the better for it.”

        A tradition that includes some of the worst atrocities in history. I won’t even begin to describe the effects of British imperialism on the Aboriginals, but also they have wrecked havoc on many countries and peoples, namely with another tradition of theirs, their divide and rule strategy.

        Shall I presume that you mean aspects of their tradition then? But even so, their great traditions were at the expense of their own people. How many suffered and died to build and furnish their palace’s and clothe them in finery. One of the main jewel’s in the Queen’s coronation crown was stolen from India. And besides, many of their traditions were stolen and from Catholicism and elaborated on, particularly seen within Anglicanism. Then there was the persecution of Catholics, after that king of theirs broke away from Christ’s church to do his will, and not that of his Creator.

        This Queen and her traditions, are not worth celebrating, and I’ll be glad the day we dispense of her royal highnarse as the head of this country.

        • Schütz says:

          A rather “black arm-band view of history”, to quote another of our past PMs, Dan. Yes, atrocities happened then and still do all over the world, but we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There have been some significant historical studies done (can’t right now find the right title to give a google reference) which point out the positive contribution that the British Empire made to the world as a whole. Though much of the colonisation was, as you point out, brutish, English colonisation for some reason (probably precisely its system of law and government) has generally produced very good modern democracies. Even the United States – to a large extent – was a part of this pattern – although that is something to be argued in a different place and time.

          And your final comment – which I have not censored – I find simply distasteful. It does you no credit.

          • Dan says:

            “Though much of the colonisation was, as you point out, brutish, English colonisation for some reason (probably precisely its system of law and government) has generally produced very good modern democracies.”

            Does the end justify the means?

  6. Hannah says:

    Dan why do you say that “its a rather outed thing all that isnt it?” it doesnt make sense. were you trying to say that the Monarchy is oudated? If that is what you were trying to say then your last year’s pair of jeans are also outdated. And whats wrong with solid mores of the past, have we replaced them with good new solid ones? please explain!

  7. Joshua says:

    I think the very idea of “outdated” is a stupid and pejorative one, a veritable petitio principii.

  8. Peregrinus says:

    Well, in Dan’s defence, it’s at least arguable that the notion of having a British monarch as the Australian head of state has become outdated, having regard to the way in which the political and consitutional relationship between Britain and Australia has changed since the arrangement was put in place, and having regard to the evolution of a distinct Australian citizenship and nationality since that time.

    Not many countries would think it was a good idea to have a foreign head of state who only spends a few days in the country every five years or so. The incogruousness and inconvenience of such an arrangement might be acceptable if maintaining the arrangement serves other useful functions. Orginally, it served to underline the Britishness of Australia and to support co-ordinated Imperial policy on defence and foreign affairs, but obviously those objectives have long since disappeared into history. There may of course be other advantages flowing from the arrangement, but as both countries continue to evolve the usefulness and appropriateness of a shared monarch will always have to be kept under review.

    Independence from the UK under a shared monarchy, evolving into independence as a republic within the Commonwealth is in fact the norm. That is to say, the majority of independent countries which shared a monarch with the UK have chosen to become republics; only a minority have retained the monarchical connection. That’s no reason why Australia should abandon it, of course, now or in the future, but it certainly means that the idea is not outlandish. And it does suggest that the question of whether the connection might become outdated is always going to be a live one even if the answer, for the time being, is “no”.

    • Hannah says:

      Pere I am sure that there will come a time when the British Royal family will be a distant “relative” to Australia, but now is not it and not even in the foreseeable future. I think as long as we have a population who remembers and is touched by the stories and lives of the Royal family then I think the Republic is still in the distance.

  9. Hannah says:

    Goodness you’re forceful arent you Josh?

  10. John Nolan says:

    Watching the splendid obsequies of the Archduke Otto von Habsburg in Vienna a couple of months back, with the congregation belting out the Imperial Hymn, it struck me that monarchies are fun and republics are, well … boring. The English republic (1649-1660) was remarkably successful abroad but not exactly popular at home. Non-executive presidents in particular are so lacking in charisma that the first such in Australia would have to be a sports personality. In fact I tend to associate ‘president’ less with Obama or Sarkozy than with some tinpot South American dictator strutting about in a comic-opera uniform, and I have yet to see a monarchy prefaced with the word ‘banana’.

    In the recent rugby final were Englishmen rooting for our close neighbour and EU partner France? No, we were cheering on the Kiwis and had it been Australia v France we would have been cheering on the Aussies. Old loyalties still count. Granted, the monarchy has less symbolic value in Australia than it does in Canada where it symbolizes independence from the republic next door. Keep your eye on the People’s Republic of China though, and pray that it implodes within the next half-century.

    • matthias says:

      I agree regarding monarchies as against republics . The latter are a political version of Calvinism-that is elections are predestined to occur every 3 or 4 years, and even in the event of a non political president,there is still a campaign,whilst with a monarchy as with the Papacy, nobody knows how long they will reign for-except God.
      When I get to heaven after Worshipping at the Feet of the King of Kings i want to sit and talk to Otto von Hapsburg, a truly remarkable man,and an example of the Christian prince.

      • Schütz says:

        The latter are a political version of Calvinism

        That is, I think, an historically verifiable thesis.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Provided we overlook the many republics which predate Calvinism (Roman Republic, anyone?) and the numerous examples of distinctly Catholic republics – Venice, Florence, even little San Marino, which existed before Calvin and survived after him.

          • Schütz says:

            Yes, although eventually the Roman Republic collapsed under its own weight. and the others were fairly lightweight in comparison (more city states than nations). In fact, maybe the Roman Republic worked initially BECAUSE it too was a city-state, and it didn’t work so well when it had to govern a much greater area and population.

            Interestingly, I just listened to an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Vatican Radio, where he effectively made the same point Matthias and I are making: Calvinism (and especially the Geneva bible) was seen by the English monarchy as being dangerously republican, and hence the push to develop the Authorised Version.

            • Peregrinus says:

              That argues that Calvinism tends towards republicanism, not that republics tend towards Calvinism. And it certainly doesn’t support the thesis that “republics are a political version of Calvinism”.

              It’s true that the Roman republic did collapse – though, of course, lots of monarchies have collapsed also. On the whole, the trend in collapses for the last five hundred years or so has been monarchies collapsing into republicanism rather than the other way around, so I wouldn’t push this line too far if I were you!

              You make a good point about republicanism and city-states. I think this comes back to civic engagement. If republicanism is mainly about the engagement of the citizen, then it requires a reasonably close connection between the citizen and the state and, in the absence of modern communications and technology, universal education, a strong press, etc, this is only possible – or, at any rate, works best – when the state operates on a small scale. Hence cities might be republics but empires were monarchies.

              But the same is true for democracy, which also requires civic engagement. And, again, we note that the successful early experiments in direct or representative democracy all happened on a fairly small scale – Swiss cantons, post-colonial American states. The first modern large-scale republic – France – ended rather badly.

              But, the point is, we do now have the tools of education, communication, etc, which make republicanism (and, fortunately, democracy) viable on a larger scale. I don’t think the small-scale origins of republicanism are an argument against an Australian republic today. And, if they are, then they are equally an argument against Australian democracy. Don’t go there!

    • Peregrinus says:

      “Watching the splendid obsequies of the Archduke Otto von Habsburg in Vienna a couple of months back, with the congregation belting out the Imperial Hymn, it struck me that monarchies are fun and republics are, well … boring. The English republic (1649-1660) was remarkably successful abroad but not exactly popular at home. Non-executive presidents in particular are so lacking in charisma that the first such in Australia would have to be a sports personality. In fact I tend to associate ‘president’ less with Obama or Sarkozy than with some tinpot South American dictator strutting about in a comic-opera uniform, and I have yet to see a monarchy prefaced with the word ‘banana’.”

      That’s because the corresponding term for a monarchy is “chocolate box”, and of course there are not a few chocolate box monarchies. Australia, arguably, may qualify as a “chocolate box” monarchy in the sense that the Queen plays no active role in the constitution (whereas she does in the UK). Her role in Australia is completely ornamental, and people’s attachment to her is purely sentimental.

      One thing monarchy – at any rate, the British monarchy – does quite well is to put on a show. But it’s entirely possible for a republic to do the same; the splendour and pageantry that surrounds the presidency of France has to be seen to be believed and as for Italy, well, the nation that gave us opera and baroque architecture is not found wanting when it comes to dramatizing the majesty of the state. But the Australian monarchy, in fact, puts on very little show, mostly because it’s only active for about a week or so every five years. The British monarchy puts on a good show, and we can enjoy it at a distance, but we can enjoy it just as well without having it double up as the Australian monarchy as well. After all, no magazines turn down pictures of Mary of Denmark in a frock on the grounds that she is not part of the Australian monarchy, do they?

      At first glance, the main advantage of the Australian monarchy is that it’s ludicrously cheap because the Brits, poor saps, pay for everything. But, actually, if you think the role of a head of state is to be fun, to throw a good party and to look good on souvenir mugs then the thought that, in Australia, we have our fun at other people’s expense won’t do a lot for our national self-esteem, will it? Do we regard being a nation of freeloaders and bludgers as a virtue? Are we not prepared to pay for our own drinks?

      Though, in truth, the Brits don’t pay for everything; they pay for the Queen and her establishment, but we pay for the Governor-General and the various state Governors and their establishments. They cost a bit less, of course but, still, it adds up, and how much fun do we get out of them? They are appointed and removed at the whim of Prime Ministers and State Premiers; how much majesty is there in that? And Prime Ministers and Premiers make it a pretty firm rule to appoint people “lacking in charisma” because the last thing they would want is anyone who would distract attention from themselves. So, while we may not be spending much on our end of the Australian monarchy, I’m doubtful that we get value for what we do spend. To continue the pub analogy, it’s not so much that we won’t buy our own drinks; it’s just that, when we’re buying, we just get a slightly flat ginger ale.

      Frankly, it seems to me we’re missing out. If you’re going to have a monarchy, you might as well have the fun parts. I want decadence! I want excess! I want bitchy arguments over who got invited to court and who didn’t! I want dynastic intrigue and royal mistresses! And I want them more than once a week every five years or so.

      • Schütz says:

        Her role in Australia is completely ornamental

        Not completely, Perry. She still serves a role in our political constition, or she would not be our Queen.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Completely. The powers of the monarch are exercised by the governors, either on the advice of the Australian ministers or on their own intitiative, but never on the advice or direction of the Queen. The Queen lends her name, but nothing else, not even her judgment, wisdom and experience, to the Australian Constitution. Her role is about as ornamental as it is possible to be. (Which is one of the reasons, come to think of it, that I don’t object to it more strongly.)

          • Schütz says:

            The powers of the monarch are exercised by the governors

            Precisely. “The Powers” which the Governors exercise are NOT their own, but the “powers of the Monarch”. But the beauty of our system is that she herself does not exercise them. Which means that she isn’t simply ornamental.

            That, by the way, is the key to my proposal for an Elected Constitutional Monarchy for an Australian Head of State. In proposing the retention of the Governors (both state and federal) we retain the situation in which they are always be exercising a power which comes from beyond them. At the same time, the one in whom these powers actually reside is constitutionally barred from exercising them. They are powers that may only be exercised by delegation.

            • Peregrinus says:

              The GG’s powers are not delegated to him (or her) by the Queen; they are conferred by s. 61 of the Australian constitution. The Queen has no power to alter, extend, add to, modify or restrict them, or to give instructions, advice or commands about how they are to be executed. They are not delegated powers.

              If the GG’s powers come from anyone or anything beyond him, they come from the Constitution of Australia – an eminently republican position!

            • Schütz says:

              Not sure about this argument. By that argument, in a constitutional monarchy the authority of the crown also comes from the constitution. Who then (and i think the personal question is pertinent) is the source of authority? Even the constitution derives its authority from a who, ie. the people of the democracy. But i think the real case is that the constitution, rather than granting authority, should be seen as recognising the authority that exists. Thus the constitution does not grant authority to the people or the crown but recognises that bith are legitimate sources of authority in our constitutional monarchy. It depends on your point of view.

            • Peregrinus says:

              The Australian constitution definitely does not “recognize the authority that exists”, and we can see this by contrasting it with the (earlier) Canadian constitution, which did. Under the Canadian constitutional arrangements (as in force in 1901) the monarch used to issue letters patent which (a) created the office of Governor-General, (b) filled the office by appointing someone to it and (c) delegated prerogative powers (in principle, up to that point, exercisable by the monarch) to the Governor General. However, under the Australian constitutional arrangements, the office of GG is created by the Constitution – not by the monarch – and the powers of the GG are conferred by the constitution – not by delegation from the monarch. The only thing the monarch does is to fill the office by appointing someone. (This appointment was originally made on the advice of British Ministers, but since about 1925 it has been made on the advice of the Australian ministers.)

              This matters. In Canada, the GG exercises powers which could be exercised, in the event of a vacancy, by the Queen, and can (in legal theory) be exercised by the Queen in person while she is in Canada, even if the office of GG is not vacant. But the Australian GG exercises powers which the Queen can never exercise in any circumstances. If there is a vacancy (i.e. no GG and no constitutionally-appointed Administrator of the Commonwealth) the powers simply cannot be exercised. Since it’s a fundamental principle that no-one can delegate a power which he does not possess, the Australian GG’s powers cannot be seen as delegated by the Queen.

              The truth is that, if you insist on a person, then the only person behind the exercise of the Governor-General’s constitutional powers is the Governor-General (just as, in the UK, the only person behind the exercise of the Queen’s powers is the Queen). That’s why I say that, in the Australian context, the Queen is ornamental. She does not fill, in the Australian constitution, the role which she fills in the British constitution. The Governor-General fills that role.

              Confusion arises because s. 2 of the Constitution of Australia provides that the GG is “Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth” and has “such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him”. The assumption is often made that the GG is only and always the Queen’s representative, and that all his powers and functions are those which she has been pleased to assign to him. Not so. Other provisions of the Constitution give the GG a role, and powers and functions, directly. E.g. under s. 61 the executive power of the Commonwealth is exercisable by the GG (and never by the Queen); under s. 64 the GG appoints “officers to administer . . Departments of State of the Commonwealth”, i.e. he appoints cabinent ministers and so forth.

              In Canada, the letters patent which appoint a GG go on to list powers and functions which the Queen is pleased to delegate (or, at least, they used to, until the patriation of the Canadian constitution; I’m not sure what the current practice is). But in Australia, the only powers and functions which the Queen could delegate in this way were her Imperial powers, the ones she exercised on the advice of British ministers; the ones which did not derive from the Australian constitution. There have been very few of these since 1925, relating to Imperial and foreign matters, and none at all since 1986. The executive power of the Commonwealth, i.e. what Australian ministers advise on, has been exercisable by the GG, and only by the GG, since 1901 and the authority for this is not any delegation from the Queen, but s. 61 of the Commonwealth of Australia.

    • Schütz says:

      monarchies are fun and republics are, well … boring

      Bravo, John, couldn’t have put it better myself!

  11. Stephen K says:

    Is this a discussion about the political merits of monarchy in general or about the phenomenon of sentimental and emotional attachment to the Queen as a person of character or as a symbol of a colourful order and pageantry? The former is probably an unresolvable debate. All examples of constitutional form seem bound up with the record and personalities of the people who head or operate them and the elected monarchical form of the Papacy is no different. Thus, the latter proves nothing either. The conclusion is simply that constitutional models are only as good as their exemplars.

    My feelings towards the Queen and the monarchy are based, the more I reflect on it, on childhood associations and familiarity, like one’s favourite old jumper or chair. In 1963 I caught a fleeting glimpse of the Queen (wearing something blue) in her official car as it drove up a Sydney street. I waved a little Union Jack. We’d stand before films commenced as a short trailer showed the band of the Coldstream Guards play the Royal Anthem – the royal yacht ‘Britannia’ – Christmas messages – etc. I’ve also grown to appreciate the character of Prince Charles in particular. I think he is a thoughtful person and will make a good king, and hope that the Queen will now step down to facilitate that. But I recoil from the sort of one-eyed partisanship that would extol one form and revile another.

    The more relevant question is, how can people gifted – that’s the right word – with position and power and influence meet the challenge of not abusing it, or forgetting the precariousness of them, or riding roughshod over the people whom they are meant to serve? And, as we see, both recently and by reading history, this question applies to religious societies as well as civil ones.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Hi Stephen

      I think there are actually three questions here:

      1. Do we like the present Queen, and do we think she does her job well? Pretty well everyone answers this question with “yes”.

      2. Do we like the idea that the British monarch is ipso facto the Australian monarch as well?

      3. Do we like constitutional monarchy in general?

      Obviously they are distinct questions, but equally obviously the answers are not unrelated. If you decide that you like the “common monarch” arrangement that we have with the UK because it gives Australian statehood an international dimension, helps to counter narrow nationalism, reflects and embodies the British strand in the Australian story, or whatever, then you’re very unlikely to say that you don’t like constitutional monarchy in general because, in fact, you consider it a good think in this particular context. If you favour republican forms of government out of political conviction, you’re very unlikely to smile upon the “common monarch” arrangement. And thinking that the Queen does a good job is pretty much a prerequisite for approving of the common monarch arrangement, I would say. And, if you favour constitutional monarchy in principle then you will favour the common monarchy arrangement because, realistically, there is no other way that Australia is going to be a monarchy. (Sorry, David!)

      Declaration of interest: I come from a long line not only of republicans, but of republican soldiers. Both because of my background and upbringing, and because of my own political reflections, I am not at all disposed to favour monarchy as a political system in general. And I am too well-read and well-informed to take seriously the suggestion that, in general, monarchy acts as a guarantee of stability or as a control on abuse of government power.

      On the other hand, I have come to the conclusion that monarchy is not necessarily as harmful or deficient as I think many in my family would have believed. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter greatly whether a government is monarchical in form or republican in form. Governments of either form are capable of doing well the things that governments need to do – serve the common good, preserve peace, govern well, protect and foster the humanity of citizens, and allow the individual and the community to flourish. Equally, governments of either form can do this badly or not at all.

      Republicanism is not really about whether the head of state is elected, directly or indirectly, or chosen in some other way – nomination, inheritance, even lottery. Republicanism is primarily about the engagement and involvement of citizens, seen not only as a democratic right but as a civic duty, and about ensuring that the machinery of the state remains accountable to the people and is not hijacked by special interest groups.

      Seen in that light, it’s not unfair to describe Australia as a “crowned republic” and in fact it’s a good deal more truly republican than many countries which claim the name of “republic”. If I had an agenda for constitutional reform, I don’t think abolishing the monarchy would be at the top of it. I’d worry more about increasing the power of parliament over the executive, and about improving mechanisms for preventing the rights and interests of minorities and outgroups being subordinated to the wishes and feelings of the mainstream, or the establishment. I think the main danger we face is not that those who govern Australia would see themselves as wielding power for their own benefit, but that they would see themselves as wielding power for the benefit of the already powerful, the already established, the already secure. I think all democracies are prone to that; politicians are prone to be responsive to the wishes of those who put them in power, who pretty much by definition tend to be the individuals and classes who already enjoy positions of influence and security.

      • Schütz says:

        As i told the kids yesterday ( in a quick history of our constitional monarchy), the current system balances the transfer of authority from the bottom up with the top down. That seems to me a good outcome of our ‘crowned republic’ as you put it.

        • Peregrinus says:

          If by “top” you mean Prime Minister, then yes. The Queen has no power that she can transfer down. The governors have a little, and what they have they get by virtue of their selection by Prime Ministers/State Premiers. If they exercise their power in a way which pleases the Prime Minister they risk dismissal. They never have to consider whether any exercise of their power would please or displease the Queen.

          • Schütz says:

            No, Perry, you are wrong. As you said above, the Governors exercise the powers of the Monarch. They are “vice-regal”. They don’t have to worry about whether their acts “please the Queen”, as her personal preference is not the issue. The issue is that she is the source of the power that the Governors exercise.

            • Peregrinus says:

              No, I’m right. The monarch cannot exercise these powers, or direct or influence their exercise in any way. In what sense, then, are they “the powers of the monarch”? The powers are exercised in her name, but that’s quite different from them being her powers. They are not her powers in any sense that an English-speaker would accept as meaningful. She has not the power to do what the Governor General routinely does. That’s why I say she is ornamental.

              They are substantially the prime minister’s powers, since the PM can in most circumstances direct how they are to be exercised, and in most other circumstances can hire or fire the person who exercises them if he is displeased with how they are exercised. To the limited extent that they are not the PM’s powers, then they are the powers of the Governor-General personally (as Gough Whitlam discovered when he asked the Queen to intervene in 1974; her response was not that she would not, but that she could not.).

              But neither the Prime Minister nor the Governor-General are accountable to Parliament (or anyone else) for how they exercise these powers. That’s the main objection to the Westminster system of constitutional monarchy. (Note that it’s not an objection to monarchy, or constitutional monarchy, as such. It’s entirely possible to have a constitutional monarchy in which all powers exercised in the monarch’s name are subject to parliamentary or other control. We just don’t have such a system at present.)

            • Schütz says:

              If you exercise powers “in the name of” some one higher up the hierarchical ladder of authority than yourself, they are not your powers but those of the one who delegates them. The issue here is the source of authority, an idea which is, of course, inherant in the word itself. I too have “powers” in our democracy which i delegate to my elected representative in parliament. But i cannot exercise those powers which are rightfully mine except by the act of being involved in the election process. Yet I and my fellow citizens are not “ornamental” to our political system. Authority has to come from somewhere – it does not have to be exercised by the source.

            • Peregrinus says:

              No, no, no. The Queen does not have these powers (i.e. she cannot exercise them herself) and therefore she cannot delegate them.

              Nor do you have any powers that you delegate to your MP. You cannot vote on Bills before Parliament, for example, and therefore you cannot delegate this power to him. You can (take part in) appointing him or selecting him to fill an office whose duties include voting on Bills, but that’s not the same thing. Your only power is to vote in elections and, as it happens, the law forbids you from delegating this power to someone else. (The practice is regarded as corrupt.)

              I think you are confusing “representative” and “delegate” (and doing so in a way that, for a supporter of monarchy, is surprising). There was a heated debate in the late eighteenth century between dangerous radicals like, say, Thomas Paine who considered that a member of parliament was the delegate of his electors, who should vote as he discerned his electors would wish him to vote, and Tories like Edmund Burke who said no, a member of Parliament was not a delegate their to do his electors’ bidding, but their representative. His duty was not to do what they wanted, but what he discerned to be in the interest of the common good. He was elected not to implement their judgment on the questions that might come before him, but to form and implement his own judgment on those questions. (Therefore the electors should elect someone whose judgment and instincts they trusted, rather than someone they thought was biddable.) The issue arose because Burke, a Member of Parliament for Bristol which made enormous profits out of the slave trade, was opposed to the slave trade and voted accordingly. The burgesses of Bristol objected that he ought to be voting in the way that they would want. He would not accept this.

              You can take either side in this debate – and I note you are taking the radical side, you dangerous Paineite – but the debate proceeds on the shared assumption that there is a fundamental difference between a delegate, who gives effect to someone else’s judgment, and a representative, who exercises his own. The term “representative democracy” was coined to describe an alternative to “direct democracy”, in which every question is put to the people for their decision (as in Athens, or some Swiss cantons).

              So, to the extent that the GG is a representative of the Queen, this is very different from being a delegate of the Queen. In fact, as I point out above, being a representative of the Queen is only a small part of the GG’s role but even in that small part he is not a delegate. The powers which he exercises are powers which the Queen can never exercise and, therefore, cannot and does not delegate. The fact that these powers may be exercised “in the name of the Queen” does not meant that they are, even in theory, delegated by the Queen. They aren’t. They are the powers of the office of GG, conferred by the Australian Constitution.

      • Stephen K says:

        I can’t and don’t disagree with anything you’ve said here, Peregrinus. Your final paragraph encapsulates the problem that democracy is supposed, so to speak, to fix. That’s why social and economic justice in Australia has nothing to do with charity but much to do with radical, structural reform. More socialisation, not less, seems to me to be what’s needed, monarchy or not.

        Speaking of political ancestries, you may not be of course (and I’m not asking you to divulge) but you sound as though you could come from a long line of Irish patriots. Amongst my own ancestral lines on both sides I can count seven family names from Ireland, all 19th century immigrants. I was brought up with horror stories of the Black-and-Tans and “Cromwell” was a swear word. I can well imagine and understand that ancestors who had actually fought for freedom from British oppression would feed a greater passion for a republic than was my experience. As it is, any elements of Anglophilia came from my mother, whose maternal side were Scottish and did their Empire duty in the Boer and Great Wars like a lot of other Australians. The rest of the family seem to have been passionate democrats and instinctively rebellious. By that I mean, looking back, we all seem to share a propensity to attach ourselves to lost, hopeless or minority causes. Apart from being rent asunder in the Labor split, we can boast a proud lineage of being too early, too late or in the wrong queues.

        We even get served last in restaurants!

        • matthias says:

          My father was a Londoner and a staunch Elder in the Churches of Christ and i can recall at my cousin’s wedding breakfast-she had married a Catholic- that the Loyal Toast preceded the Grace which was said by the officiating priest. my dad was quite angry ,believeing that Christ not man is King. When i asked my mother she said that dad grew up in a part of London where royalty was not held in great regard ,and where in the Civil war parliamentary forces had been welcomed and that feeling had been passed down each generation . Ironic that my mother was a child of the Raj

        • Tony says:

          I hope this is not getting too tangential, but I had the great privilege of visiting the UK and Ireland recently and one of the highlights was visiting Dublin and, in particular, joining in the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour.

          Dublin (and Ireland) was a highlight because, much to my surprise, I did feel a strong connection with my heritage even though it is distant in my family (the nearest link is my grandfather who was born in Dublin but died when my mother was young).

          The Rebel Tour was great because it was a story told with great passion and brought to life when bullet holes were pointed out and dramas told in alley ways where they actually took place. Of course it was biased, but not mindlessly so and there was a good bit of humour and self deprecation to lighten the load of a tragic story.

          • matthias says:

            Tony when i was working for a university i had to travel down to Geelong frequently. I stayed at a little B&B owned by a lovely irish couple-Owen and Maureen. In the numerous bookshelves I came across Lord Longford’s testimony ,which partially put me on the road to Rome. on the kitchen wall was a copy of THE IRISH DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE Easter 1916. i turned to Maureen and said ,all of the signatories signed it with their lives. Let us remember the last paragraph ”
            We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.” Sadly the irish economy at the moement is anythign but august destiny!!

  12. John Nolan says:

    Tony Benn, a prominent British republican, has said that his main objection to the monarchy is that its once considerable prerogative powers are now devolved not to parliament but to the prime minister, which gives the latter too much authority. There is some merit in this argument.

    That the consent of the monarch is required for the dissolution of parliament is an important constitutional long-stop. Consider the following unlikely though not impossible scenario. A PM narrowly loses a general election, but the opinion polls are moving in his party’s favour. Rather than resign he decides to wait until the new parliament assembles (which he is perfectly entitled to do) and then immediately ask for a dissolution, expecting that the general election in three weeks time will give him a majority. The monarch in this case would refuse and the government, not being able to command a majority in the Commons, would have to resign.

    Peregrinus is right of course; the rights of the monarchy as defined by Walther Bagehot – to be consulted, to advise, and to warn – rather assume that the monarch is not on the other side of the world. By the way, I understand your prime minister hails from these islands. Please accept our heartfelt sympathy and sincere apologies.

    • Schütz says:

      Curiously, if I am not mistaken, both our Prime Minister and our Opposition Leader were both born in England…

      • Peregrinus says:

        Nitpick: Julia was born in Wales.

        John: the scenario you describe can be accommodated in a Parliamentary republic in a number of ways – giving a President the discretion to refuse a dissolution, or having a Prime Minister elected by parliament (rather than appointed by the head of state), or both.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Trivia following upon nitpick: the last Australian Prime Minister to be born in England was Billy Hughes (PM from 1915 to 1923). The only other English-born PM (so far!) was Joseph Cooke (1913-14). Andrew Fisher (1908-9, 1910-13, 1914-15) and George Reid (1904-5) were born in Scotland. Chris Watson (April-August 1904) was born in Chile, and in fact he was never a British subject, and so was ineligible to sit in Parliament or, it follows, be Prime Minister. But this wasn’t appreciated at the time.

          Julia Gillard is the only Welsh-born Prime Minister. There has never been an Irish-born Prime Minister.

          It’s curious that, after more than eighty uninterrupted years of Australian-born Prime Ministers, we’re now seeing the return of Prime Ministers and likely Prime Ministers born overseas.

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