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“We are nobody’s dominions. We are proud Australians”

Francis VenturaThe notion that an Australian republic would have no ‘trickle down’ benefits belies the fact that we have already built a society with our own blood, sweat and tears and that any nation’s political system must be reflective of its heart and soul, writes Francis Ventura, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Melbourne.

In the very first sentence of Mr Duthie’s recent article on this site, he, perhaps unintentionally, highlights one of the reasons in favour of Australia becoming an independent republic.

He states that it is was a ‘rare occasion’ for Australians to catch a ‘glimpse’ of the reigning monarch when Queen Elizabeth II visited last October.

The issue with that point is that Australia is a modern, prosperous and harmonious society that has managed to make itself the envy of the world thanks to the hard work of generations of Australians who migrated from every corner of the world.

Whilst accepting that our parliamentary system is derived from the British Westminster model, the claim by monarchists that somehow a foreign hereditary monarchy is the reason for Australia’s success is offensive to every single citizen and strikes at the soul of this nation.

In my opinion, such a nation deserves its own Head of State, not the absurd situation of pledging loyalty to a foreign monarch on the other side of the world: Someone who cries with us when we are in pain, laughs with us during times of joy and celebrates with us during times of success.

We deserve a better political system than one where we simply catch a rare glimpse of a foreign monarch as good little ‘Dominions of the British Empire’. We are nobody’s dominions. We are proud Australians.

Secondly, the fact that the Queen attracted large crowds during her visit and somehow that is a reason to reconsider the relevance of an Australian republic is a moot point. The Queen draws large adoring crowds wherever she visits. If Australia had become a republic in 1999, she would still have been welcomed in 2011 with open arms, and rightfully in my opinion.

Thirdly, the notion that an Australian republic would have no ‘trickle down’ benefits ignores the fact that we have built a society with our own blood, sweat and tears and that any nation’s political system must be reflective of its heart and soul. The ability for any Australian child to aspire to the highest office in the land – to be our Head of State – currently doesn’t exist.

Instead all Australian children are raised to recognise the ‘sovereign’ and as such, that we are nothing more than loyal dominions in her vast Empire, rather than aiming to lead. Also, how about for us cricket fans? For the first time, we’d actually appreciate being able to go to the cricket without the English cheer squad yelling ‘get your stars off our flag’, a reflection of the fact that the Union Jack remains on Australia’s flag.

Also, while we are on sport, who could ever forget the Queen awarding England’s cricketers royal honours after they broke Australia’s heart and regained the coveted Ashes trophy in 2005 after eighteen years? This is understandable – the Queen is British – but then you remember that she is also Australia’s Queen. So our own Head of State awarded royal honours to a team that defeated… us? It makes absolutely no logical sense to me. Of course, the heart and soul of Australia goes deeper than just sport, however it emphasises our need to be truly independent.

Mr Duthie then descends into a diatribe attacking not only a potential republican model, which he calls ‘dysfunctional’, but also the merits of democratically-elected representatives. Let’s deal with the model of a republic first. This is a nonsensical argument repeated ad nauseam by denigrators of republics. However I simply remind them of real examples such as Ireland; Germany; South Korea; and of course the United States of America.

In fact, only three G20 nations recognise Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign. China is not a democracy and two others, Japan with Emporer Akihito and Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah, are monarchies. Would Mr Duthie seriously suggest that the other 70 per cent of G20 nations that are democratic republics have dysfunctional models? To borrow a phrase, let’s not ‘beat around the bush’ here.

On our political system, Mr Duthie says that the individuals we democratically elect through the ballot box need to be ‘kept in check’ by representatives of the British monarchy who are selected inconsistent with Australian values. The Governor-General is selected by the Prime Minister alone, leaving the Australian people, nor their parliamentary representatives, without the ability to choose someone who reflects their values and aspirations.

Again, such a claim is offensive to Australia and her citizens, as it states clearly that we are either too immature or incompetent to handle our own political affairs and thus, are in need of an undemocratic foreign monarch to reign over us to make sure we behave ourselves. Of all the claims made by those who oppose an Australian Republic, this is perhaps the most preposterous.

It also fails to  acknowledge the fact that in many parts of the world, notably Eastern Europe and more recently during the Arab Spring, millions of people rose up against undemocratic political systems demanding their right to a vote and a voice in the process. Now, all of a sudden, the reverse is to be desired in Australia according to monarchists, with less emphasis on ‘undeserving’ democratic representatives and more on monarchs to keep us mere commoners in check.

The beauty of democracy is that the people are the owners of the system and the masters of their elected officials. I would suggest to Mr Duthie that he take note of Parliament House’s design, where the roof is covered in grass so that people can walk to the top, reflecting the notion that the people are above the politicians.

Also, let’s consider the current Oath of Office taken by Australian Members of Parliament: ‘I, (name), do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God!’. Despite the fact that our elected representatives should be loyal and pledge to serve Australia and her people, they must instead pledge loyalty to the monarch of Great Britain. This again strikes at the very heart and soul of this nation.

Mr Duthie finishes by saying that Australians should ‘reject politicians who would revel in the delight of having the top job’ and that democratically-elected representatives would be inadequate due to the fact that… wait for it… they would have the nerve to seek the support and votes of the Australian people in order to be elected.

Now that I think about it, I can almost imagine the misery and chaos of a potential future Australia whereby a Head of State is actually chosen by the Australian people, is directly answerable to them through democracy and who ultimately has Australia’s best interests at heart, as opposed to the complete opposite, which is the status quo.

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About me:

“G’day! My name is Francis Ventura and I am currently studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Melbourne. I am also the youth director of the Australian Republican Movement.

“As Melbourne is the sporting capital of the nation, I have a keen interest in cricket and Australian Rules football. I also love exploring Australia’s beautiful environment. After my studies I would like to dedicate my life to human rights, with a focus on protecting civilians living in war zones or under totalitarian regimes.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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2 Comments on ““We are nobody’s dominions. We are proud Australians””

  • Phil S - (January 23rd, 2012 7:14 am)

    Good on you Francis. Very well said. I’d just comment that it would not even be necessary to change the flag if we become a republic. Conversely, we could change the flag while we are still a monarchy, as Canada did many years ago. Getting our own Head of State who is one of us and represents us full time, not part time, is the issue to address. Changing the flag is a separate issue.

  • JohnB - (January 23rd, 2012 8:24 am)

    Francis Ventura, while claiming to be a proud Australian, does appear to make some of the typical mistakes made by republicans, as well as the usual republican tactic of misrepresenting Constitutional Monarchists.

    I’ll just remark upon a few of Francis’s comments, in no particular order.

    (FV) “Whilst accepting that our parliamentary system is derived from the British Westminster model, the claim by monarchists that somehow a foreign hereditary monarchy is the reason for Australia’s success is offensive to every single citizen and strikes at the soul of this nation.”

    Where is this claim made, I wonder? I think Francis should understand that it’s our constitution which has led to our “fair go” society and prevented political interests gaining more power than they have exercised to date.

    (FV) “In my opinion, such a nation deserves its own Head of State, not the absurd situation of pledging loyalty to a foreign monarch on the other side of the world: Someone who cries with us when we are in pain, laughs with us during times of joy and celebrates with us during times of success.”

    The Queen is not only a “foreign monarch”, she’s our own “local monarch” as well. We share her with a number of our Commonwealth cousins, with whom we are allies, friends and share some sporting competition.
    There is nothing wrong with that, ugly rampant nationalism can be tempered by a shared legacy.

    (FV) “In fact, only three G20 nations recognise Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.”

    The relevance of this is questionable, but lets look at it since Francis mentioned it.
    There are around 197 nations in the world, there are 16 nations of which QEII is sovereign, there are 20 nations (curiously) in the G20, and three of these (Canada, Australia, United Kingdom) are members.

    Commonwealth Realms make up approx 8% of the world’s nations, but 15% of G20 nations.
    The economic odds favour Commonwealth Realms, on that statistic!

    (FV) “China is not a democracy and two others, Japan with Emporer Akihito and Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah, are monarchies.”

    China is a REPUBLIC, Japan, like Australia and other Commonwealth Realms, is a constitutional Monarchy, whereas Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. Of these three nations, the one with the greatest freedoms, democracy and highest living standards is the Constitutional Monarchy. On the UN’s Human Development index, Constitutional Monarchy, Japan is at 12, Absolute Monarchy, Saudi Arabia is at 56 and Republic, China, is at 101.

    (FV) “Would Mr Duthie seriously suggest that the other 70 per cent of G20 nations that are democratic republics have dysfunctional models? To borrow a phrase, let’s not ‘beat around the bush’ here.”

    I would not suggest that they are dysfunctional, and verballing Mr Duthie is not helpful, but I would suggest that all those republics as good as they may be, are, on average, at a constitutional disadvantage when compared with our modern Constitutional Monarchies.

    (FV) “We deserve a better political system than one where we simply catch a rare glimpse of a foreign monarch as good little ‘Dominions of the British Empire’. We are nobody’s dominions. We are proud Australians.”

    Nobody, but republicans, are suggesting we are anything other than a free and totally independent nation. There seems to be some great and disturbing cultural cringe amongst many republicans. I have read the most ridiculous reasons for us to become a republic. A few of these reasons include;

    Chinese tourists are confused by Elizabeth’s image on our coins.
    Indonesian tourists don’t understand our constitutional systems.
    An 8 year old mexican boy thought we were owned by Britain because of our flag.
    (These are REAL REASONS which have been quoted by republicans)

    Now, I don’t know about Francis, but to change our constitutional system because of the ignorance of mexican school children shows a most disgraceful cringe. My reaction would be to educate the ignorant, rather than dump our successful system to suit the prejudices of others.
    How can we expect others to respect us, if we cannot respect ourselves!

    (FV) “The ability for any Australian child to aspire to the highest office in the land – to be our Head of State – currently doesn’t exist.”
    Any Australian can aspire to the highest political office in the land, can wield great political power and leadership over Australia, and can make a much greater difference to the lives of ordinary Australians, than can the Queen.

    Anybody who would desire to occupy an office similar to the Queens, is also likely to be the last person you’d want in that role.

    (FV) ” It also fails to acknowledge the fact that in many parts of the world, notably Eastern Europe and more recently during the Arab Spring, millions of people rose up against undemocratic political systems demanding their right to a vote and a voice in the process. ”

    Almost all of those “undemocratic political systems” were REPUBLICS !
    Decades ago, various middle eastern monarchies were overthrown and turned into republics with an even worse record than the monarchies which preceded them.

    (FV) “Also, let’s consider the current Oath of Office taken by Australian Members of Parliament: ‘I, (name), do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law.”

    And of course there are those who have sworn that oath and then deliberately broken that solemn promise in order to maintain their political influence. So that lot are trustworthy ?

    (FV) “Despite the fact that our elected representatives should be loyal and pledge to serve Australia and her people, they must instead pledge loyalty to the monarch of Great Britain. This again strikes at the very heart and soul of this nation.”

    Actually, Francis, the Monarch is not our ruler, she is our Sovereign. In our Constitutional Monarchy she represents the people and acts in their interests. Her role is, officially or through her representative/s, to assent to legislation formulated and passed by the parliaments elected by the people.
    In an emergency situation where the parliament or its officers, acted AGAINST the interests of the people, or in a way counter to the nation’s constitution, the Monarch or their representative (Governor General) has a reserve power to take action to prevent harm to the nation and its people.
    The Queen, or the GG in their role as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, can countermand an order by a rogue prime minister or government, to call the military out to attack the people.

    In many Presidential republics, the rogue leader may well be the Commander in Chief as well !

    I hope Francis might have learned a little here and will concentrate on explaining what REAL benefits a republic would bring to ordinary Australians.

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