The 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.
“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.”
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?
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