Sunday 29 June 2008

"The Australian public don't really want a republic.”

Amazing things happen: The Sunday Age published an article that gives the Australian Monarchists a lead over the republicans: Says social researcher David Chalke, referring to data he's accumulated since the turn of the century that shows a steady decline in enthusiasm for constitutional change: "The majority of the Australian public don't really want a republic.”

Chalke's assessment turns the republic into a non-issue. "With only 35% of all adult Australians believing that it is important that Australia becomes a republic — and only 34% of Victorians — Rudd's antennae, or more likely his market research, will be telling him to leave the republic alone for now."

Chalke says the biggest problem for the republicans will remain the republicans themselves. "The Australian public mainly rejected the last referendum because they disliked and distrusted the most vocal republicans. They envisaged a president coming from that cast of Anglophobe elites and were not going to have a bar of it. For the republic to come about it must be a soft sell, a gradual evolution; not a 'crash or crash through' assault. The latter will only end up in republican tears before bedtime, again."

The results of the opinion polls show that there isn’t even a majority for a republic among Labor supporters.

Saturday 28 June 2008

Tackle climate change! - Use royal assistance!

When it comes to fighting climate change there’s a lot of hot air in Australia. Prime Minister Rudd wants to cut Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60% - but only by 2050. That’s a long time and in 42 years none of the politicians who are in power today, will be accountable should this ambitious aim fail. However, it is very convenient to have a target set so far into the future. If nothing will have been achieved by 2018 or 2029, there will still be soft spoken politicians to tell the then audience that there's still a lot of time.

Politicians from both sides pretend, measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions should not effect “working families”. But it is inevitable, that it will change their lives - and quite rightly it should change all our lives -, however the longer they wait to take action, the more harmful and vastly more expensive these necessary changes will be.

Neither Labor nor the Coalition want to become “unpopular” for introducing an trading programme for carbon dioxide emissions that has a cost impact on the mythical "working family". Why don’t they seek for help? The heir to the throne, Prince Charles, could show them – and the Australian public - a way to fight C02 emissions. The Prince of Wales’ Rainforests Project encourages everyone to take part in the fight.

The Prince’s Rainforests Project was set up in October 2007 by The Prince of Wales to find practical methods to slow or even reverse, tropical deforestation and combat climate change.

It is estimated that as much as 12 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation, and both the Stern review and the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change report believe tackling deforestation may be one of the quickest and most cost effective means of reducing emissions in the short term.

The Prince of Wales has long been concerned that the world will continue to live off capital rather than income, and what we enjoy today will be at the expense of our children and grandchildren, unless practical and robust systems are developed to enable broader and longer-term factors to be taken into account more effectively in accounting and decision-making.

Commissions and committees have been established, and policies and strategies developed and put into practice by the Government and companies; however, the translation of this aspiration into effective action is often inhibited by the lack of new “sustainability systems and processes”.

The Prince of Wales established his Accounting for Sustainability Project to address this issue: to provide practical guidance and tools to help ensure that sustainability is not just talked about but becomes an integral part of organisations’ day-to-day operations. The Project focused on developing systems to help organisations take into account, and report, the wider social and environmental costs of their actions.

With contributions from over 150 public and private sector organisations, the Accounting for Sustainability Project came forward with two practical and innovative tools to help organisations meet the challenge of the sustainable revolution.

It is good to see that the future King of Australia produces more than hot air and gives advice to everyone who wants to join his fight against climate change. A pity Australian politicians don’t want to see the future sovereign in Australia to help them and engage the Australian public in making climate change a matter for everyone. How can they claim climate change should be everybody's concern when they are unwilling to use the assistance that is so close at hand?

Thursday 26 June 2008

A Royal visit for Quebec's 400th birthday celebrations

While the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper found it unwise to invite Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Canada, to celebrate Quebec's 400th birthday, the province will not be without a royal dignitary:

French Prince Jean, Duc de Vendôme, will be in Quebec to join in the city's birthday party. On his website Gens de France, Prince Jean posted the news that he will be in Quebec from 28th June to 6th July.

Le Prince Jean se rendra au Québec du 28 juin au 6 juillet et pour le 400ème anniversaire de la fondation de la ville. Le duc de Vendôme est invité par la ville de Québec.

Prince Jean is son and heir of Prince Henri, Comte de Paris, who is claimant to the French throne.

Of course it is only right that the descendent of the French kings who founded the American colonies should be present at the celebrations. It is equally not understandable that the Canadian Royal Family should not be represented other than by the Governor-General.

The non-invitation to Queen Elizabeth caused a stirr in the Canadian media, when it was first reported in December 2007:

CBC News December 10, 2007
"Montreal newspaper La Presse reported that the federal government is not inviting Queen Elizabeth to la vielle capitale' s birthday bash next summer because it would be too controversial. The newspaper report was based on federal documents obtained under access to information laws.

"The Quebec government said it was disappointed to hear the news because it thought an invitation should have been extended despite possible reprisals. Quebec hasn't ruled out the possibility of appealing the decision, said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Benoît Pelletier.

"'We told the Canadian government about our wish to have the Queen present at the 400th anniversary celebrations,' Pelletier told Radio-Canada, the CBC's French-language service.

"'We know there would be controversy if the Queen came to Quebec. But this controversy would be provoked by a minority of people, and we can't be at the mercy of these minorities, these individuals, who still have their gaze turned towards 1760.'"

----------------------------- News Staff wrote:

"Canada's monarchists are upset at Ottawa for what they say is an 'insult' to the Queen, after she was left off the list for Quebec City's 400th birthday bash next year.

"Dignitaries from around the world will be in Quebec City next year to celebrate the city's birthday.

"But there are media reports that the Tories have vetoed a visit by the Queen apparently because it may upset soft nationalists and separatists in Quebec.
NDP Leader Jack Layton said that he doesn't understand why the Queen has been shut out of the ceremonies.

"'Given the people of Quebec City -- I'm sure -- want everyone to come and celebrate the magnificent 400th birthday, I don't know why anyone would want to exclude the Queen,' he said."

Saturday 21 June 2008

May Australia never end up like the USA

Is that what lies ahead of Australia should republicans have their way?

Harper's Magazine:
... one could argue that the American democratic experiment was at least in part an attempt to challenge this “reality,” to establish a political and legal culture from which would emerge, organically, a new sensibility: independent, unburdened by the protocols of class, skeptical of inherited truths. Willing to be disobedient. To moon the lord.

Alas, if that was the plan, it went sideways a long time ago. In today’s America, the majority is nothing if not impressed by power and fame (its legitimacy is irrelevant), nothing if not obedient. As for mooning the lord, the ass to the glass these days is more likely to be the lord’s, and our own posture toward it, well, something short of heroic. Worse yet, should someone decide to take offense, and suggest that it is not the lord’s place to act thusly, he will be set upon by the puckering multitude who will punish him for his impertinence

At a White House reception a couple of years ago, President George Bush asked Senator-elect Jim Webb how things were going for his son, a Marine serving in Iraq. “I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb replied. “I didn’t ask you that,” the president shot back. “I asked you how your boy was doing.” ...

... Democracy, of course, is not an absolute but a relative value: “We’re not perfect,” the cry will sound, “but show us who is!” I’ll take a pass on perfection, but I’ll say this: when it comes to the egalitarian attitude democracy presupposes, the Brits, for all their wigged getups and parliamentary histrionics, have it all over us. It’s not just the formal, procedural differences between the two political cultures (the mandated brevity of the British election season, or the government’s strictures on how much money a candidate can spend) that cast us in a sad and diminished light; it’s the difference in spirit that lies behind, and informs, these distinctions.

In general, the Brits act as though the government is their business and they have every right to meddle in it. Americans, by and large, display no such self-assurance. To the contrary, we seem to believe, deep in our hearts, that the business of government is beyond our provenance. What accounts for the difference? My wife, whose family hails in part from England, has a theory: unlike us, the Brits don’t confuse their royalty with their civil servants, because they have both, clearly labeled. Acknowledging the universal desire to defer, they channel that desire, wisely, into the place where it can do the least harm, a kind of political sump. Americans, on the other hand, lacking the royal catch basin, are squeezed between pretense and practice. Though we continue to pay lip service to the myth of the independent American, we understand it as a fiction—nice for a Friday night with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s but about as relevant to today’s world as a butter churn.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Referendum in Tuvalu confirms Monarchy

In a referendum the people of Tuvalu have voted in favour of maintaining a constitutional monarchy. The referendum asked voters whether they wished to have a president as head of state.

As Radio Australia reported on 17th June, the result was a stunning 64.98% in favour of retaining Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Tuvalu, as Monarch.

Congratulations to the people of Tuvalu for making their stance clear. I hope this result will draw some attention to the Pacific island nation that is facing serious threats due to climate change and rising ocean levels.

Monday 16 June 2008

Quality Journalism? You can’t mean The Age!
Saturday’s Age announced it already on the front page in capital letters: VICTORIA’S FIRST LADY.

But if you thought The Age would report on Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Victoria, then you were wrong. The Age has no love lost for Victoria's Monarch and never reports anything (positive), about Her.

It wasn’t even the no. 2 lady of the state, they portrayed. The wife of Victorian Governor, Jan de Kretser, would certainly be worth a report. Probably The Age never looks on the Governor’s website, where it says: The Queen is head of the State of Victoria but the Governor ordinarily exercises the powers and functions of head of state.

Due to a lack of a Lieutnant-Governor in Victoria, Ms Rosemary McKenzie may be called Victoria’s Third Lady. However, The Age insisted on calling Premier John Brumby’s wife “Victoria's very private ‘First Lady’". Having no clue about state protocol is still a deplorable lack of knowledge and speaks volumes about the journalist who wrote the article, as well as the editor who approved it.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Can Australia afford an Emperor’s visit?
While visiting Japan Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his wife had an audience with the Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on 11th June. According to a newspaper report "Rudd invited the Emperor and the Empress to visit Australia … and extended the invitation also to the Heir to the throne, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Crown Princess Masako.” Not a single journalist seems to have noticed that Prime Minister Rudd was not entitled to invite the Japanese Emperor. It is most likely that he handed over the invitation of the Queen of Australia's representative, the Governor-General, since a head of state can only be invited by another head of state, not by the head of government. Kevin Rudd seems to follow the bad example of his predecessor, John Howard, who continuously sidelined the Governor-General.

One can only hope that the Prime Minister had consulted his republican backbenchers before inviting the royal guests, since recent visits by members of Royal Families were not welcomed by Labor MPs. Take Labor MP Daryl Melham as an example: "I don't begrudge looking after people, but what the royals cost is a bit over the top," he said in September 2006, after a report had revealed that the Queen’s and the Duke of Edinburgh six day stay in Australia had cost “just under $1.5 million”. $662,678 was spent on travel expenses, $81,800 on accommodation, $61,460 on security and a whopping $644,300 for "other expenses'', including entertainment. The same report put George Bush’s brief stay in Sydney as a comparison at $186,000.

Of course the comparison was not done by giving the real figures. A 24 hour stay of George Bush and his entourage in Germany that same year had cost € 20 million or ($ 28 million) and Australia could host the US president at the cheap rate of $186,000? 12,000 policemen shielded him away from the German public. Were there none in Sydney? It seems, no security bill was put up, and certainly no compensation was paid to shop owners who had to close their business for security reasons. Sydney Airport must have forgotten to hand in the bill for the landing strip that was damaged by the president’s Air Force One plane.

The three day visit of the Swedish King and Queen cost double the one day trip of the Chinese dictator-president Hu Jintao to Australia. Not unreasonable, it seems. But republicans cried foul.

Who’s to blame? The Royals, of course, if you follow the critics. The anti-Monarchy reflex makes you wonder if Australian republicans want to avoid any visit of Monarchs and heirs to the throne at all because they fear this might encourage the monarchist sentiment in Australia. “Only a republican visitor is a welcome visitor”, could be the motto.

However, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako will be most welcome in Australia and for once the thrifty republicans should forget their ideological blindness and give the Imperial guests a hearty welcome, if only as a symbol of the long term reconciliation between Austalia and Japan.

Republicans should spare their angry red faces for the time when the Queen of Australia or another member of the Australian Royal Family will be on our soil.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

The Crown protects our civic rights

Three republican opinion pieces in a row, that’s a new record even for Melbourne's daily newspaper The Age. But it demonstrates beyond doubt, how much energy can be set free by thinking about Queen’s Birthday. And a lot of thinking they must do, considering that the latest pro-republican author Christopher Scanlon conceded "the debate about whether Australia should become a republic has had about as much substance as an issue of New Weekly". And to no Monarchist’s surprise he found out: "Even supporters of the republic are hard pressed to explain the meaning of republicanism".

His remedy for the ailing republican movement in Australia is to turn towards "the much longer and richer tradition of republican ideas". Should you now expect any suggestion on how a republican system could improve the life of the ordinary Australian, then Christopher Scanlon leaves you clueless. "In the ideal republic, the greatest freedom is experienced not by Robinson Crusoe, but by a person living in a society where the exercise of power is checked by laws, and where everyone has equal ability to exercise these laws. For republicans, the goal is not only to ensure that arbitrary interference does not happen, but that the very capacity for arbitrary interference is removed."

You may wonder, what he really wants that isn’t already in force in Australia. What is he complaining about? "In recent years, though, the threat of arbitrary interference has grown. Proposed changes to telecommunications laws have sought to give police powers to intercept telephone calls without independent oversight. This has come on top of anti-terror laws that permit a person suspected of engaging in or aiding a terrorist attack to be held without charge for 48 hours." He is right in mentioning these appalling laws, but could he have missed, where all the ideas for the new laws came from? Hasn't he spotted the USA as the republican nation that declares war on everything and everyone? The great republic across the Pacific Ocean became independent in 1776, yet that republican superpower is responsible for the Guantanamo Bay prison system and the mockery of a judicial system that takes place there. The USA are at the top of the list of executions worldwide, barring the other republican superpower the People's (!) Republic (!) of China. But Christopher Scanion is not so much afraid of that sort of restriction of liberty rights for those unfortunate people who suffer under the republican death penalty, but of "arbitrary interference".

Surely he knows, who is demanding fingerprints from all travellers. The collected fingerprints from completely innocent people are kept indefinitely and nobody - except a few insiders - knows what happens to the data collected from millions of people. Even if you avoid going to the USA, you are subjected to US demands: The currently standardized biometrics used for the new type of passports with electronic identification systems, the facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, and iris recognition are introduced worldwide due to USA pressure. Our freedom is not restricted because we enjoy having the Queen of Australia, but because republicans - with small and capital R - cannot collect enough data from us. Does Christopher Scanion really believe, an Australian president would do anything against that?

I wonder, what Christopher thinks about the increasing pressure from the US about Digital Rights Managment ie copyright controls to prevent fair use of copyrighted works and the extension of copyright from 50 to 75 years to ... who knows how long for the benefit of powerful "big media" (of which The Age is a part). Republics where big business set the tone are threatening us all.

I am equally opposed to “arbitrary interference” of any kind, as I wrote before on this blog and I would like to co-operate with Christopher Scanlon in fighting them back and put them, where they should belong: in the dustbin of outdates laws. But despite all efforts I cannot see how in these political fields any republic in the world is doing better than Australia. The points he raises have nothing to do with republicanism, Christopher Scanlon wants civic rights. In that case there is not difference between me as a Monarchist and him as a republican. I see my civic rights better protected by a Monarch than by an elected president who owes his allegiance to parties, pressure groups, his bankers and opinion polls.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Queen's Birthday Holiday
The Age, mouthpiece of the republicans in Victoria, did not succeed in surprising us. In the paper’s Queen’s Birthday holiday edition the editorial claimed, Australia should get rid of Pomp, circumstance and a right royal anachronism. But what other than grumpiness do you expect of a journalist, who has to work on a holiday? S/He hates it and s/he could not care less, if this holiday was to be abolished. Interestingly, The Age just wants to do away with the Queen's Birthday holiday without suggesting what other holiday should be given to the Australian working families. Yesterday Michael Cooney was a little bit more disingenuous, when he demanded - again in The Age - a "Kid's day". Who would dare to say no to that? No politician would like to be called "anti-children" or worse: "anti-working family"!

Indeed, as the depth of feeling accompanying Anzac Day seems to grow more profound each year with younger generations embracing the sacrifice of their forebears, says The Age's editorialist. Queen’s Birthday holiday should be one way to explain, why “their forebears” made the sacrifice of leaving Australia to fight on foreign shores. You may not like the term, but the men and women of the World War I era fought for King and country. They did not fight for the Asia-Pacific region, even if an Australian politician, who wants to spearhead the creation of an Asia-Pacific Union similar to the European Union by 2020, would have liked that. Will they tell us one day, the Great Asian Pacific republic was always the wish of the forebears, and it had nothing to do with their loyalty to the Monarch? The Age would be in the forefront to re-write history. It's the paper's daily agenda. This Queen's Birthday holiday opinion piece should be relegated to the same historical dustbin as most other editorials of The Age.

Sunday 8 June 2008

Republican wants to replace Queen’s Birthday Holiday with another shopping occasion
Queen’s Birthday Holiday is a sting in the flesh of the Australian republicans. Every year the second Monday in June (except Western Australia) this public holiday reminds them of the Australian Monarch. If this day would have no other purpose, this one would be enough reason to keep it in high esteem.

As could be expected, there were attacks on this oldest Australian holiday since the European settlement began. This year’s silliest suggestion came from Michael Cooney: “The first Monday in June should be a new public holiday: Kids' Day”. He published his idea in Melbourne’s Sunday Age, which misses no opportunity to attack the Queen of Australia.

Michael Cooney's opinion piece is utter nonsense. Having a Kid's Day would give shops and supermarkets just another opportunity for a sale promotion just like Mother's Day and Father's Day. The Sunday Age introduces Michael Cooney as policy director of the left-leaning think tank Per Capita. It makes me wonder, why someone with an anti-capitalist attitude should be the advocate of business’ interests. Business would certainly love to have a mid-year shopping occasion. Half way between Christmas Cooney’s “Kid’s Day” must have been on the wishlist of all supermarkets and entertainment parks.

Besides that: I don't have children, but I do have a Queen and I want to show Her proper respect. If you want to do something for children in Australia, why do you want to concentrate on ONE particular day? To forget them on 364 other days of the year?

What a pity, Michael Cooney is so unaware of the Australian connection to Queen's Birthday holiday. The day has been celebrated since 1788 when Governor Phillip declared a holiday to mark the birthday of King George III. Until 1936 it was held on the actual birthday of the monarch but after the death of King George V, in true Aussie fashion, it was decided to keep the convenient mid-year break.

The Queen's Birthday holiday is a celebration of Australia's oldest institution — the Australian Crown — which is now recognised by the High Court as a legal entity separate from the British and Canadian Crowns and is older than our state and federal parliaments, the public service, our court system, police and armed forces.

Monday 2 June 2008

55 Years ago:
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia

For the Queen's 50th Coronation Jubilee the Australian Post issued the stamps shown above. Like all stamps giving reference to our sovereign, they were quickly sold out and are now precious collectors' items. This year's 55th coronation anniversary did not get as much attention as the Golden Jubilee one - very much as the Queen herself wanted it. Only in March this year, she cancelled a diamond wedding anniversary party, because of Britain's economic downturn. The party, for 60 close friends and relatives to celebrate her 60 years of marriage to Prince Philip, was due to take place at the Ritz in London. The Queen felt it would be "inappropriate", as the United Kingdom faced a recession. Although the party was planned and paid for by friends of the royal couple, she was thought it would have appeared insensitive at a time when people are tightening their belts.

The Queen was crowned on 2nd June 1953. This event was the focus for major pageantry and celebrations in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth. The files listed here illustrate some of the arrangements made by the Australian government in association with the event. Australia was invited to have representatives present at the ceremony itself and many celebrations in honour of the coronation occurred concurrently throughout Australia.

Amidst the official celebrations and ceremonies in London, 7 000 seats with a view of the coronation procession were allocated to Australians who would be in London for the event. Within Westminster Abbey itself, 250 seats were reserved for official Australian representatives. Within its official contingent, the Australian Government sent 250 representatives of the armed forces and seven parliamentary delegates to the coronation festivities.

Personal account of the Coronation by Harold Holt
Harold Holt [Australian Prime Minister from January 1966 to December 1967] and his wife Zara were in London for the duration of all the festivities arranged in conjunction with the coronation. On Wednesday, 27 May 1953, at one of the official pre coronation functions, Holt, the President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association made a speech addressed to the Queen. At the function itself, Holt sat to the right of the Queen, with the Duke of Edinburgh to her left. Despite his anxieties about his speech (‘I had to say [everything]… all in five minutes. An agony of the spirit for a politician accustomed to our own windy speech making.’) Holt called it ‘an unforgettable experience for me’.

These are celebration medals that were presented to Australians, awarded for attending, as an invited guest a Royal Occasion.

More on the medals on the digger history and on the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.