This week we were able to watch an extraordinary news item on the ABC’s “7.30 Report”. While this programme usually deals with Australian topics, ignores the Australian Constitutional Monarchy and more often than not features self-loving TV presenters, last Wednesday, 7th July, it reported on the cost of maintaining a crowned head of state. Mind you, the “7.30 Report” did not deal with the Australian Monarchy, but with the British. The Australians for Constitutional Monarchy criticised quite rightly: ABC gives platform to UK republicans.
Philip Benwell of The Australian Monarchist League wrote in a statement:
“They told us about a crowd of protesters gathered outside Buckingham Palace, but one could see only a handful of people, as opposed to the massive crowds thronging to see the 'Changing of the Guard'.
They spoke to a lone British republican who protested that the Queen cost the British people 62p a year.”
That lone British republican was the well-known Graham Smith, whose analytic skills let him predict in 2007 :
With the same analytic skills he claimed about the British Monarchy, that “the true bill to the taxpayer would be nearer £150m a year if the costs of police and army security were included”.
“Australia's new republic
Whatever the result of the Australian election, there is bound to be one big loser: the British monarchy. ... It is all but certain that Australia will be a republic within the next five to 10 years.”
But his contention that the UK Monarchy is the most expensive head of state in Europe is just plain false either Mr. Smith got his figures wrong or just chose to ignore the reality of the cost of the German or the Italian Presidency both of wich are way above the cost of maintaining the monarchy.
Mr. Smith's figures contradict the Royal Public Finances Annual Report that states that Head of State support for 2009-10 was £38.2 million (including VAT of £1.9 million), compared with £41.5 last year.
Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said in a press release:
"The Treasury contributed the equivalent of just 62 pence per person in the country to enable The Queen to carry out her duties as Head of State.
"The Royal Household is acutely aware of the difficult economic climate and took early action to reduce its Civil List expenditure by 2.5 per cent in real terms in 2009. We are implementing a headcount freeze and reviewing every vacancy to see if we can avoid replacement."
The ABC's Europe correspondent did not do her homework and seemed to have met opponents and suporters of the British Monarchy will little preparatory work. For example, what the “7.30 Report” failed to do, was to ask Mr. Smith which republican model he had in mind to replace the Monarchy. Or they could have put it simpler: Name any republic with the size and population of the UK that is cheaper.
Sometimes republicans say, they’d favour the German model. To which The Daily Telegraph remarked: “The Queen is a lot cheaper than tedious republics like Germany.” Not to mention the rather odd way of selecting the German president.
To continue with the real figures The Daily Telegraph had this to say: ”Head of State expenditure covers the Queen’s duties as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth. It is met from public funds – principally the Civil List and Grants-in-aid (see right) – in exchange for surrender by The Queen of the revenue from the Crown Estate (in 2008-09, the revenue surplus from the Crown Estate paid to the Treasury was £230 million).”
Blogger Malden Capell says:
"The most important question however is this: if Britain were to abolish the monarchy, would these costs go away? Answer: no.It cannot be pointed out stringly enough: The Queen does not receive a salary - neither from the British nor from the Australian taxpayers. The civil list is for the running of "the machinery".
The security bill (even if it were £100 million!) would remain pretty much the same. Equally, the cost of maintaining the palaces would remain the same – the German Bundespräsident has a number of official residences too, after all. The staffing costs, the pensions, the full range of duties a Head of State carries out will still have to be carried out by whatever replaces the monarchy. State Visits would continue. Garden parties would continue. Visits to local councils, receptions and the granting of honours would continue. The Head of State’s functions as constitutional umpire would continue. And of course, the new Head of State would require a salary."
Why don’t British republicans look across the channel to France? As Senator Cory Bernardi recently remarked in Melbourne: “France offers you five republics to choose from.” In the 1958 model Nicolas Sarkozy came to power in 2007. One of his first actions was to grant himself a pay rise, it was actually a staggering 206% salary increase. This week a BBC reporter in Paris pointed to the Elysée Palace and said: “Since Nicolas Sarkozy’s arrival here the expenditures have tripled.” He did not go into details, but the RadicalRoyalist revealed that extravagance is a republican characteristic.
On the Elysée Palace’s website, the official budget for president Sarkozy is given at 112,533,700 € for 2010 (= AUS $ 161,912,088), which is substantially higher than the Queen’s civil list (which is, just to remind you, AUS $65,495,300. Opposition parties in France claim that these figures don’t comprise all expenditures – not unlike the lone British republican.
Everybody knows, that Sarkozy aims higher. His latest project is an aero plane of his own, nicknamed Air Sarko One. Estimated costs: 180 million € (= AUS $259 million). And this is the president's palace in the air:
It goes without saying that not a single cent for this plane will come from the presidential budget.
However, I am sure a British republican head of state would give Graham Smith a ride in his then to be bought presidential plane, just to thank him for his efforts of getting rid of an economical Monarch.