Tuesday 31 March 2009

A Birthday celebration worthy of a Crown Princess

Crown Princess Margarita of Romania turned 60 on 26th March as I wrote four days ago. Her family celebrated the heiress' birthday with a Gala Dinner on 26th March 2009, in the Palatul Casei de Economii si Consemnatiuni (CEC Bank Palace) in the Romanian capital Bukarest.

This information comes from Prince Radu's blog, where he wrote on the celebrations and published the photos I used.

King Michael I of Romania and his eldest daughter, Crown Princess Margarita.

Romania's Crown Princess' birthday was celebrated in style, in the Palatul Casei de Economii si Consemnatiuni in the Romanian capital Bukarest.

Inside the Palatul Casei de Economii si Consemnatiuni a banquet was prepared in honour of the Crown Princess, which was attended by Romanian and foreign dignitaies.

Crown Princess Margarita during her speech at the banquet.

Crown Princess Margarita and her husband, Prince Radu of Hohenzollern-Vehringen.

The Romanian Royal Family, 26th March 2009.

King Michael's decendents, Princess Elena , PrincessIrina and Nicolae de Romania who celebrates his 24th birthday on 1st April 2009.

Nelly Miricioiu performing for the royal audience.

Monday 30 March 2009

"A" republic is not a top priority

The ABC reports from London: "Mr Rudd made the comment during the appearance on BBC television when asked about his audience with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.

"Asked if it was still a live issue in Australia after a model for a republic was voted down in a referendum in 1999, Mr Rudd said Australia would become a republic but the debate 'comes and goes'".

'"The big priority is the one we've been talking about this morning which is the global economy,' Mr Rudd said.

'"Is it (the republic) a top priority issue? No.'

'"Her Majesty is well loved in Australia and Australia will become a republic and we'll have a referendum in due season.'

"Mr Rudd will also have an audience with the Queen and attend a memorial service at Westminster Abbey for the victims of the Victorian bushfires."

Rudd says:

"Her Majesty is well loved in Australia and Australia will become a republic and we'll have a referendum in due season."

Will it become a republic? Isn't he pre-empting the Australian people's right to decide? Isn't that what referenda are about?

What happens if he and his republican supporters lose the referendum again?????

Meanwhile Queensland ABC held a poll and in the Prime Minister's home state 54.5% disagreed with the Prime Minister's assertion that "Australia will become a republic". Only 45.5% agreed with him.

That's nearly exactly a repeated result of the 1999 referendum.

Friday 27 March 2009

Romania's Crown Princess turned 60

Crown Princess Margarita of Romania celebrated her 60th birthday on 26th March. Her father, King Michael I (in Romanian: Regele Mihai , *25th October 1921) was forced to abdicate on 30th December 1947.

In November 1947 the King attended the wedding of his cousins, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in London. There he met Princess Anna of Bourbon-Parma. On his return to Bukarest, the Romanian Communists who controlled the country objected the King founding a family and threatened to shoot 1,500 young people whom they had arrested, should he not abdicate. King Michael left Romania on the 3rd January 1948 feeling, as he once said, as if his heart had died. He had signed, under duress, an abdication that he never recognized.

He and Princess Anna were married on the 10th of June 1948 in Athens, at the invitation of King Paul I and Queen Frederica of the Hellenes. The ceremony took place at the Royal Palace of Athens.

Exile in Switzerland
From 1949 until 1950 the royal couple lived in Lausanne, where Princess Margarita, their first child, was born. Princesses Helena and Irina were also born in Switzerland, in 1951 and 1953 respectively. Princess Sophie was born in Athens in 1957 and Princess Marie in Copenhagen in 1964. In 1950 the Romanian Royal Family established itself in England, in Bramshill House in Hampshire and then in Ayot St-Lawrence, in Hertfordshire. There, the King and Queen ran a chicken farm and built a carpentry workshop. In 1955 the Romanian Royal Family settled in Switzerland in 1955.

Crown Princess Margarita spent her teenage years in Switzerland. For her higher education however, rather than heading straight for Paris and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, her preferred destination, she was persuaded to spend a year with her grandmother, Queen Helena of Romania, a cousin of Prince Philip, in Florence.

"She taught me everything I know. Everything I am is thanks to her. She introduced me to people - diplomats, artists, people from the UN who were working in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Africa." As a result she spent some months working in refugee camps in Ethiopia.

Her years in Scotland
Dreams of art school were, to Queen Helena's relief, quickly replaced by a determination to go to university. A supporter of the Romanian cause offered to pay for her fees and the British consul was summoned.

"We looked through the UCCA handbook and I thought, 'Well, I won't get into Oxford so easily.' I didn't want to go to London because some of my parents' friends were there and I didn't want to get tied down. Scotland seemed so romantic and lovely."

In the early 70s she enrolled at the Edinburgh University. She became a member of the Student Representatives' Council, where she would meet the man who was to share her life for the next five years. Gordon Brown, “a socialist student firebrand” (The Daily telegraph in a long article on that romance) meets the beautiful young Princess. They fall in love. Political principles force them apart. He turns, not into a frog, but into Her Majesty’s Prime Minister. The five-year love affair between Gordon Brown and his Romanian Princess was such that all who knew them in their student days were convinced they would marry.

"She was the one great love of his life," a close friend of Brown's once said. "He has never got over it." The Princess remains friends with Brown and his family.

Crown Princess Margarita, as a great-great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was 81st in line to the British throne at that time and a goddaughter of Prince Philip - something she did not broadcast widely.

Working with the United Nations
After Edinburgh, Crown Princess Margarita specialised in medical sociology. In 1983 she joined the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, transferring, three years later, to the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Six years later her life took a new course. In Romania, the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had been executed. She decided to accompany her father on his return home.

"Getting on the plane was quite emotional. We didn't know what was going to happen to us," she recalls. "It was so strange to look out of the plane window and see the fields; they were huge." This was the first intimation of Ceausescu's collectivist policies that had destroyed rural communities.

"We stayed for a few days and found that villages had been knocked down and 150,000 children were living in orphanages. Ceausescu had wanted to boost the population. Family planning was forbidden, abortion was forbidden, women were compelled to have four children but they had nowhere to bring them up and had to give them to the state. A lot of children had Aids. It was a shock to the eyes and to the soul."

While she was visiting one orphanage, a child in a filthy cot died in front of her. It spurred her on to establish the Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation. "I just didn't want this ever to happen again," she says.

In practical terms, life was "quite difficult; we had nowhere to stay. We didn't have much money. I said to my father, 'I think I had better quit my career and come home.' He said, 'What for?'" Nevertheless, she abandoned her job with the UN and, as the eldest of five daughters, found a role as the family representative in Romania where she began work on her foundation.

Education was one of her first priorities. Romanian doctors, who had not been allowed contact with the West, thought that Aids was spread through the air. Conditions in health centres were, she says, "disgusting. We began to provide training not just for the medical team but for the children in the village about sex education and how to protect yourself from getting Aids."

One of the bodies with which the foundation worked was the Actors' Union, with resting actors providing art therapy for the children. One, who ended up directing an orphanage project, was Radu Duda. His association with Princess Margarita was to prove more than professional and in 1996 the couple married in Lausanne. Created Prince Radu of Hohenzollern-Veringen, he now has an official role with the Romanian government as a trade ambassador.

To make a donation to the Crown Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation, visit http://www.fpmr.ro/

The Crown Princess in her own words

HRH The Crown Princess Margarita of Romania's article for "Leaders" Magazine
Jan. Feb. March 2002, No 1 Vol 25

My country was one with which I was myself unacquainted, though I had grown up in its shadow. As a child I had grown to know it and yearn for it through the eyes and voice of my father, King Michael who was brutally forced by the communists to leave Romania in 1948. But I had never been warmed by its sunshine, never heard the wind in the trees, or felt its earth beneath my feet. My father would tell us stories about this distant land which he called home, and described with such love, longing - and constant pain. I read books about the painted monasteries of Moldavia and Bukovina, about the Danube Delta, we listened to Romanian music, we pored over old photograph albums. Later I read history books and raged at the injustice which had condemned 23 million people to a ruthless dictatorship, to hardship, darkness and hunger, locked behind the impenetrable and seemingly eternal Iron Curtain. The Romanians suffered and I searched for my roots, my history and my identity.

I do not believe that monarchy is the only solution to a country's political ills. But in Romania it remains a fact that the monarchy was removed by a Soviet diktat. And it is equally undeniable that the post-dictatorship transformation in many European states was assisted by historic personalities who either knew how to stabilise critical moments of crises, or project their sheer personality on the events. Does anyone deny that Spain's transformation in the 1970s would have taken a different, and altogether less favourable course if King Juan Carlos, my Father's good cousin, was not there?

My father encouraged me to set up a humanitarian foundation and immediately after that first trip to Romania I launched the work of the Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation with the aim of helping to rebuild Romania - a lifelong task to be accomplished through projects across the country, drawing on people's imagination, aiming to recreate social relations, dignity and hope.

The Foundation is established in Romania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland, France and Belgium. In the UK it is known as Princess Margarita of Romania Trust. This is a whole network which does fundraising activities for projects in Romania, as well as showing to a large number of people abroad the many faces and images of Romania.

We undertake projects in the areas of health, education, civil society development and culture. We encourage initiatives which develop people's potential to shape their own lives, and which can stimulate the revival of local communities, churches, health and educational establishments, and so help to restore a sense of civic responsibility.

Beneficiaries of the projects have included the elderly poor, hundreds of children in orphanages, children with HIV/AIDS, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers and high school students, but just as the Foundation's programs provide help to disadvantaged categories we have also encouraged and supported that which is positive, dynamic and creative in Romania: non-governmental organisations working in the field of child protection, talented young artists, and playwrights. For instance we have a program aiming to provide Scholarships to Young Gifted Children in the Arts. Because of the very difficult economic situation in Romania, there is an enormous amount of poverty, and art has become a luxury. Faced with financial hardship, artistically talented children often become disheartened and find it impossible to go on studying, so they abandon what could be a promising career in the arts and do something else for which they do not care. So we are starting a programme of scholarships for high school students so that they can continue their studies in music, visual arts or dance. We are hoping to raise enough money this year to help 30 students, and we aim to increase that amount every year. Maybe some of you might get involved so that people your own age but less fortunate can be helped.

"Freedom and Hope in Romania"
American Women's Club in Geneva, 17th MAY 2001 By HRH Crown Princess Margarita of Romania

The work of the Foundation is based on one fundamental premise: that Romanian society, just as the societies of other East European states, must be recreated from the bottom up. And this can only be achieved through perseverance despite adversity; determination despite obstacles. Our work acts to coordinate and concentrate our operations away from areas now subject to world attention, by directing our efforts towards medium term grass roots pilot projects - in the areas of health, education, civil society development and culture. We encourage initiatives which develop people's potential to shape their own lives, and which can stimulate the revival of local communities, churches, health and educational establishments, and so help to restore a sense of civic responsibility and pride.

Education and capacity building in particular are built into all of our projects to help make a positive and meaningful change which will have an impact well beyond the life of any financial or technical support given by the Foundation and ensure that the programs achieve sustainability in the long-term.

To date beneficiaries of the projects have included many thousands of elderly poor: for instance last year we assisted over 32,000 senior citizens living well below any arbitrary poverty line, some, earn the equivalent of only $16 a month; other beneficiaries are about fifteen hundred institutionalized children and children with HIV/AIDS, healthcare workers and over 1000 high school students a year, but we also encourage and support that which is positive, dynamic and creative in Romania: non-governmental organizations working in the field of child protection, talented young artists, and playwrights.

There is an important issue that is facing Romania, and one that it has to solve, it is the problem of institutionalized children. It is paradoxical, but, in spite of all the changes that have taken place since 1989, there are still thousands of children living in institutions - over 80,000. In addition, there are about 6,000 children who are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. In 1997-1998 the Romanian Government created an Agency for the Protection of Child Rights which has introduced a comprehensive reform policy for the de-institutionalization of children. The Foundation is one important partner NGO that is taking part in the formulation of the national strategy and has continuously provided feedback and shared the experience gathered in our programs.. The Foundation has several programs not only to help improve the quality of the lives of the kids in institutions but to support as a priority efforts to de-institutionalize them as well.
The aim is to close the orphanages.

Succession of King Michael
HM King Michael named, his eldest daughter, HRH Princess Margarita as his successor and Head of the Royal House of Romania and Custodian of the Romanian Crown after his death. The King mentioned: ‘If the Romanian Nation and Parliament were to decide to reinstate the Monarchy as the form of government’ the King will ask the Parliament ‘to cease to implement the Salic-law as the form of succession, which does not correspond either to the elementary rights in Europe today, or to the values of Romanian society’. A notable proportion of the Romanian population believes that a monarchy would bring the much-needed political stability to their country. Details on the reformed Romanian succession here.

The new Line of Succession to the Throne and to the Headship of the Royal House of Romania was decided by HM King Michael, in keeping with duty to History and to the heirs of the Family:

1. HRH Crown Princess Margarita of Romania, Custodian of the Crown of Romania
2. HRH Princess Helena of Romania
3. Nicholas de Roumanie Medforth Mills (who shall become HRH Prince Nicholas of Romania on 1st April 2010 – according to the Document of the Head of the Royal House, 5th January 2005)
4. Elisabeta Karina de Roumanie
5. HRH Princess Irina of Romania
6. Michael de Roumanie Kreuger
7. Angelica de Roumanie Kreuger
8. HRH Princess Sophie of Romania
9. Elisabeta Marie Biarneix
10. HRH Princess Marie of Romania

Nicholas de Roumanie Medforth Mills will assume the title, style and rank when upon his 25th anniversary or immediately the demise of the current Head of the Royal House and at that time he will enter in the order of succession to the Throne.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Instead of sending more troops, why not give Afghanis what they want?

The Age’s Europe correspondent in Brussels, Julian Borger, read an article on Afghanistan in the British newspaper The Guardian , which he passed on to Australia for publication in today's edition of the Melbourne newspaper.

The US and its European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul Government in a direct challenge to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Mr Karzai. … Many US and European officials are disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai Government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan President will win re-election in August.

[A] diplomat said alternatives to Mr Karzai had been explored and discarded: ‘No one could be sure that someone else would not turn out to be 10 times worse.’"

It speaks volumes that these Western politicians, diplomats and journalists ignore what the majority of the Loya Jirga delegates wanted for their country: The return of the Monarchy.

According to the German political magazine Der Spiegel, Prince Mustafa Zahir claimed 1,347 deputies out of 1,500 of the Loya Jirga that gathered in 2002 to discuss the countries future had voiced their support in parliament for his grandfather as head of state. “Who exactly pushed his grandfather aside, he won't say -- what he means is that the Americans wanted Karzai and no one else from the very beginning. ‘But as a normal citizen,' he says now, he has been 'disappointed' by the Karzai regime.” Prince Mustafa Zahir is a King in waiting and a formidable alternative to Mr Karzai.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Prince William and Prince Harry via a video link at Melbourne's MCG

In their first broadcast address to Australia, Prince William and Prince Harry sent their thoughts and prayers to those affected by the recent disasters in Victoria and Queensland across the Sydney and Melbourne Sound Relief concerts.

"We are very sorry that we cannot join you today in Sydney and Melbourne for these incredible concerts," Prince William said after being introduced by Australian actress Toni Collette.

The Age could not ignore the Princes: "AS THE showers that were dousing the last of Victoria's bushfires fell on the MCG yesterday, a soggy but sated 81,000-strong crowd paid tribute to Black Saturday's firefighters and its survivors, with a whooping, swaying rain dance in the thrall of some of Australia's most legendary music acts.

"The royal family also made an appearance via a video link from London, where Prince William and Prince Harry acknowledged the heroic efforts of the emergency services.

The ABC added: "'Like so many people, we saw the devastating news of the catastrophic bushfires in Victoria and floods in Queensland,' said Prince William. 'For those survivors who have lost someone they love, we can only imagine what they are going through... for them, and for all those left injured and homeless, the tragedy is far from over.'"

Prince William also paid tribute to the emergency service workers and those who volunteered their time to help save lives: “We almost must never forget the amazing and heroic efforts of the emergency services ... who have done so much to save so many lives. Nor must we forget the unsung heroism of countless people who risked their lives to save a neighbour or a stranger.”

Prince Harry thanked the performers who had put on a great show in both cities: “Today, you will all be enjoying these great performers who have generously given their time to honour those who have died and been hurt and those who risked their lives to save others. The line-up looks amazing and the concert is a magnificent effort by the Australian Music Community – to pay tribute in the way they know best. And of course all the funds raised will go a long way to help those who have lost so much. We just want to wish a great, and no doubt moving, evening to all of you – performers and crowd alike.”

Saturday 14 March 2009

We have only “100 months to act” to alter our behaviour

The Prince of Wales today [12th March] warned the world risked bequeathing future generations a “poisoned chalice” if climate change wasn’t tackled.

In a speech to business leaders in Brazil, The Prince highlighted how we had only “100 months to act” to alter our behaviour or risk “catastrophic” environmental damage to the world.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have travelled to South America to focus on the UK Government’s climate change priorities, and The Prince’s speech in Rio de Janeiro follows on from one he made in Chile on environmental issues.

Addressing the Brazilian business leaders at the Itamaraty Palace, The Prince said that global greenhouse emissions were still rising inexorably despite the evidence of the damage they were causing to the planet - disappearing glaciers, melting icecaps and more extreme weather.

The Prince described this failure to adequately tackle the causes of the problem as "gambling away our future".

But he added the global economic downturn offered the world an opportunity as it told us that sustainable development would be the primary driver of economic prosperity in the future.

Speaking in Rio de Janeiro ahead of a visit to the heart of Brazil's Amazon rainforest, The Prince echoed a speech he made in Brazil in 1991, warning that economic difficulties should not stop the world tackling environmental problems.

He told the invited guests: "... any difficulties which the world faces today will be as nothing compared to the full effects which global warming will have on the worldwide economy.

"It will result in vast movements of people escaping either flooding or drought; uncertain production of food and lack of water and, of course, increasing social instability and potential conflict."

He added: "If we once more redouble our efforts to unite the world in meeting perhaps its greatest and most crucial challenge, then we may yet be able to prevail. And thereby to avoid bequeathing a poisoned chalice to our children and grandchildren we only have 100 months to act."

The Prince’s concern for the vital eco-systems led him to set up an initiative in October 2007 to help stop their destruction. The Prince's Rainforest Project is working to make the natural resources "worth more alive than dead" in countries where producers are clearing the land to meet a demand for goods like beef, palm oil, and logs.

During the speech His Royal Highness also described a proposal his Project is developing to launch a bond which would be bought by investors and underwritten by developed countries with the proceeds going to rainforest nations to help them develop their economies without destroying the forests.

Their Royal Highnesses’ overseas tour in March to Chile, Brazil and Ecuador, has a focus on climate change priorities. The Prince’s Deputy Private Secretary, Clive Alderton, outlined the purpose of the trip, which is being carried out at the request of the British Government, to media at briefing at Clarence House.

Mr Alderton explained: “As the Government put it to me, we’re fortunate to have, in The Prince of Wales, someone with 40 years of work and experience on environmental issues who can help lead the charge for Britain in the battle in countries which sit on the front line of climate change.” Because of The Prince’s environmental expertise, many of the engagements during the tour have been structured specifically to support the United Kingdom’s strategic priorities on climate change, he said.

The media briefing was told that Ecuador was also central to the battle against climate change. Mr Alderton said: “Their Royal Highnesses’ visit is timed to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin, the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book “On the Origin of Species” and the 50th anniversary of the Galapagos National Park. Galapagos is, of course, an immensely fragile biosphere but one that depends on revenue from visitors. The key here is for visitors to follow strict rules, including for example the decontamination of aircraft on the way into Galapagos. The Royal plane will be decontaminated just like any other aircraft. Their Royal Highnesses have been invited to the Galapagos to draw attention to the research work which is going on; research which is shared with the international community to broaden international understanding of biodiversity and climate change issues.

As for the question of how much the tour would cost the public purse, Mr Alderton explained that, as with the visit to the Far East in Autumn 2008, Clarence House had taken advice from the Government on whether it should go ahead in the current economic climate. He said the Government had confirmed that they did want the tour to proceed given the importance of the strategic priorities that the visit would address and the bilateral diplomatic relationships it would strengthen.

What a pity the Australian government - and other people saying they were concerned about the effects of climate change - put their republican convictions ahead of the urgent need to take action of climate change. Australia trails behind world best practice and particularly Europe. What would Prince Charles tell the Australians?

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Keep Labour Day!

Yesterday Victoria enjoyed a public holiday. No, it was not Moomba Day, even if the TV coverage seems to suggest this. It was Labour Day, a special holiday for the working people – or as Kevin Rudd would say: the working families.

I did not notice any celebrations of members of the working class. All streets were quiet, well, except for the noise from the Moomba parade, which you could not avoid. One TV station briefly interviewed a worker, who is about to lose her job due to Pacific Brands closing all production plants in Australia. But even she was not in the mood to go out into the street and let the Victorians know about her anger and frustration. Could anyone spot an ALP march for the worker's rights?

Unlike our republicans friends I don’t propagate the abolition of Labour Day for lack of interest. The media did not even lead an attack against Labour Day, unlike their well-prepared though ill-written articles against Queen’s Birthday holiday or Australia Day. Last year The Canberra Times led the squadron: “The focus of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend was raised in Parliament in June 2000, where the relevance and significance were questioned by the Hon John Hatzistergos. An almost identical article to Ms Sherlock’s was run in today’s The Age. I’m not a die hard Monarchist, a Children’s Day (sorry I don’t raise goats) sounds plausible. I know this might sound kind of out there, but maybe we could incorporate ‘Children’s Day’ in the ‘Family Day’ we now celebrate in November?

Emily Sherlock's article demanded: "Instead of honouring our monarch we could soon be honouring our children, with the minister calling for the Queen's Birthday break to be renamed the Kids' Day long weekend."

In The Age Michael Cooney favoured a “Kid’s Day” as well: "This year should be the last Queen's Birthday long weekend. It's time to replace a holiday based on the past with a holiday based on the future. So next year, the first Monday in June should be a new public holiday: Kids' Day." A reply to Sherlock's and Cooney's suggestions can be read here and here.

Of course we had a "Children's Day" in Victoria. It was part of the tradition of the Royal Show for over 120 years before it was abolished by the Kennett conservative government in the mid 1990s. The Age seems to have forgotten that.

The Age, of course, was more robust in its refusal of our Monarch’s birthday holiday: “Queen's birthday holiday gets to the heart of what it means to be Australian today, when only a minority of the population can relate to the redundant symbols and trappings of monarchy and colonialism … in 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day, and the official holiday was withdrawn due to lack of interest and relevance and has now rightly faded into obscurity”.

Who decided that Commonwealth Day was redundant or people did not care for a public holiday? Probably the same sort of politicians that decided we didn't want a Children's Day!

Lack of interest and relevance” could be equally attributed to Labour Day. Should The Age’s criteria be used for the upholding of Labour Day, then it will might “rightly faded into obscurity”, as the editorialist had wished for Queen’s Birthday holiday. I could cite likeminded opinion pieces on Australia Day.

But contrary to the outspoken republicans I can assure the working class, that I fully support having Labour Day holiday here and elsewhere. I think that it serves honouring employees and those people who are self-employed, but depend on the goodwill of employers as well.

I don’t want it changed to a "work-relations day" or to the official Moomba Holiday. I want it as a reminder of the work of the people that is done quietly, but without which this country would not function. At the same time I claim Queen’s Birthday holiday not just for the Monarchists, but for our history and our future, because it reminds us of the overall good functioning democracy in Australia. Labour Day and Queen's Birthday holiday are two sides of the same coin.

Monday 9 March 2009

Out of Africa, but into the centre of the Commonwealth

In recent days the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has been highly criticised for her visit to nine African nations, which is scheduled for this month. It seems, the African tour of the Governor-General is not a welcome event. The unanimous scepticism by the media makes me wonder if they were tipped off by politicians. I do not want to examine, why this could be the case.

However, I was wondering, why all critics failed to look for an alternative solution that could support the Australian government's bid to get elected to the UN Security Council in a more diplomatic way and certainly at a cheaper price. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2009, which will be held on 27th to 29th November in the Trinidad and Tobago capital, Port of Spain, should be the prime target for diplomatic efforts or an Australian charm offensive.

After all, Australia is a member of the Commonwealth, which has 53 independent states, the equivalent of more than a quarter of the UN members. It comprises countries from all major continents of the world, rich and poor, small and large. 26th April 2009 marked the 60th anniversary of the London Declaration, when the modern Commonwealth was born. But the Australian diplomacy obviously has no use for the Commonwealth of Nations. Or why is it, that the lobbying for a UN Security Council seat seems to include visits of the Australian Governor-General to Africa (and may be soon to other countries as well) and “massive aid”, which makes it “hugely expensive”, but nowhere did I find a hint, that Australia was using its Commonwealth membership?

Editorial of The Age: "But the tour has a disturbing political undercurrent because Mr Smith has also spoken of economic, political and strategic advantages that may be derived from closer links with Africa, implicitly raising the question of the Governor-General becoming involved in areas that are outside her job description. And one reason for her African tour — to lobby for Australia's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council — suggests that is so."

Greg Sheridan in The Australian: "In a rather convoluted performance on the ABC's Insiders program yesterday, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith admitted that part of the purpose of sending Quentin Bryce on a nine-nation tour of Africa was to lobby for votes for Australia's bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2013-14.

"This bid is the subject of partisan political debate within Australia. The Opposition believes the Government is going about the bid in the wrong way and charges that, on a series of issues, it has compromised foreign policy in its pursuit of the UN seat.

Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian: "African votes are critical so Bryce is apparently on the job to schmooze leaders in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Ethiopia, trying to convince them to vote for Australia’s bid. When did it become the role of a G-G to do the political bidding of a Prime Minister?

"This task in particular is highly partisan. Winning a seat on the Security Council will not only be hugely expensive, but it will necessitate some massaging of our foreign policy. For example, our traditional support for Israel won’t win many votes at the UN and will no doubt need to be modified to win a Security Council seat.

David Flint, ACM at least knows of the Commonwealth of Nations and the role of The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth, but even he does not refer to this organisation as a support base for the Australian diplomatic efforts: "So when I heard that Her Excellency the Governor-General Ms Quentin Bryce was to go on a seven nation African tour, I concluded that this had something to do with the government’s bid for a seat in 2013 -2014 as a result of the elections in 2012. Whenever Her Excellency travels officially as Head of State, she does so on the advice of the ministers. If there is any criticism of the tour, it is criticism of the government and not of the Governor-General.

"Earlier, Mr.
Sheridan made an interesting comparison between a visit by the Governor-General and one by The Queen.'Unlike the Queen, who can at least gain publicity for Britain, no one knows who the Australian Governor-General is or what she does. So there's no pay-off even at that level.'

"When The Queen attends the place where Commonwealth Heads of Government meet, Her Majesty goes as Head of the Commonwealth, not as Queen of the United Kingdom. ( She does not actually attend the meetings)."

Michelle Grattan in The Age: "Bryce's African trip is tailored to the Government's foreign policy. In effect, she's an envoy at the highest level. The Africa excursion fits well the activist way in which Bryce is defining her job. Even at this early stage it's clear she chooses to be where the action is — and, to the extent possible, where the issues are. … She was in France for Armistice Day (fitting the traditional G-G mould), and with the Australian troops in Afghanistan in January, where she took the unusual course of staying overnight in the barracks."

I am not surprised that the journalists did not think of the Commonwealth, however, I get the impression, that not even this year’s Commonwealth Day reminded Kevin Rudd, Stephen Smith or high ranking diplomats of the chances the Commonwealth of Nations bears for Australia. Whether these chances can be considered minor or splendid is secondary, the Commonwealth diplomacy is certainly more promising than a Governor-General’s visit to Africa.

In Australia the Commonwealth of Nations seems to be reduced to the Commonwealth Games. After hosting the Games in Melbourne in 2006, the Commonwealth drifted away from the minds of the Australian politicians. "The Commonwealth is underused" explained William Hague in general terms in The Times. One can't help feeling that is true when it comes to the Australian diplomacy.
Commonwealth Day 2009

Commonwealth Day is celebrated on the second Monday in March every year.

This year Commonwealth Day was celebrated on Monday, 9th March 2009. The theme was 'Serving a new generation' which is the overall theme for the Commonwealth's 60th anniversary year.

The aim of commemorating Commonwealth Day is to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the work of the Commonwealth to improve the lives of its 2 billion citizens.

You can listen to Her Majesty’s Commonwealth Day Message 2009 here.

Sunday 8 March 2009

When a republican tries to come to the rescue of another republican

After Guy Rundle used last week's Sunday Age to spread gossip and wishful thinking concerning “a” Australian republic, this Sunday’s edition published a letter to the editor written by Barry Everingham – according to The Age "a Melbourne commentator and a republican".

While it is always heart warming to see that the good old-fashioned solidarity still works for republicans, what Barry Everingham wrote, is simply wrong.

Here is his letter and I put my comments in brackets:

"GUY Rundle hit the nail on the head — the yawning indifference to the royals both here and in England is an indication that things are moving, slowly but surely. [When I find “yawning indifference", then it is one for “a” republic, as John Warhurst, himself a leading Australian republican, admitted.]

"A few weeks ago, we got a lesson from
Princess Anne, no less, as to how royal visits, if they do occur [they only occur, when the Australian government sends out an invitation, something our arch-republican politicians very rarely do, but that is not the fault of our Royal Family, as Barry Everingham must know], need to be conducted.

"Representing her mum, our head of state — who already has eight representatives here, but that's a story for another day [may we remind Mr. Everingham that some of Her Majesty’s representatives in Australia are actually not following their Oath of Allegiance and work against the symbol they should well and truly represent?] — Anne flew in, went to Government House, freshened up, showed up at the Day of Mourning service, made a great speech [at least, he admits that it was “a great speech”], mingled with the volunteers and firefighters and then took off to the ravaged areas and, throwing protocol to the wind, gave succour to the suffering and next day was on a plane home. [So what? Did not the Australian Governor-General and the Australian Prime Minister fly in as well? None of them stayed even a whole day and they did not take up residence in a tent or caravan in Marysville.]

"The days of waving kids and blue-rinsed grannies getting all excited when an ethnic German foreigner pops in [that racist remark is unworthy for any Melbourne commentator and even for a republican. Should we follow Barry Everingham’s definition for a family that settled in Britain in 1714 still to be considered “an ethnic German foreign”, then less than one percent of the people of Australia could be considered anything else then “foreign ethnics”. A detailed refusal of this outrageous remark can be found here] are thankfully over for ever [how does he know? Her Majesty’s last visit does not prove his wishful think being more than just that: Republican wishful thinking.]

"Even the most rabid monarchists would admit royal tours today just don't take place. [Yes, but because the pollies don’t like the fact that the attention of the public turns away from them towards the Royal Family, therefore they do not send out invitations.] The Poms themselves aren't too enamoured by the shenanigans of the younger royals either. [How does he know? Did the most reliable source for royal news, Guy Rundle, tell him that? To how many British did he speak or is he relying on the Murdoch media, which very often appear to be the main source for Everingham's articles.]

"Rundle didn't find any interest in the London unveiling of the Queen Mum's statue and here we couldn't have cared less. [I could not find any proof for Guy Rundle’s statement. However, I saw photos of the unveiling of the Queen Mother’s statue. One, which is published here, shows the Earl and the Countess of Wessex . Take a look at the media mob in the background. Photographers galore, I’d say. The unveiling was reported all over the world - excluding Australia, I might add, but we know the reason why - and when I set a link to the German political magazine Focus, then despite knowing how Barry Everingham could find this to be a justification for his above mentioned racist remark.] "It is a case of bring on the republic as soon as possible." [The conclusion is complete nonsense and even Barry Everingham himself cannot wish Australia becoming a politicians’ republic. What else would this Melbourne commentator and republican write on, if not on our Royal Family? Or have you read anything else from him?]

[Her Majesty obviously enjoyed the unveiling of a statue commemorating Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, to repeat her official title, since Guy Rundle keeps insisting, that she was called Queen Mary, something even Barry Everingham could not support. There is hope, after all, that the truth may prevail.]

Friday 6 March 2009

Chief republican doubts Australia would drop the Monarchy over the next 20 years

In an interview with The Brisbane Times John Warhurst, a political scientist and senior deputy chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, expressed his doubts that Australia would drop the monarchy over the next 20 years:

"Prof Warhurst called for the campaign to be revived, but rated the chance of success at only one in three.

"He doubted Australia would drop the monarchy over the next 20 years, and thought that whoever won the next election, be it
Kevin Rudd or Malcolm Turnbull, would not press the issue next term.

"Voters were not very interested in the republic question, Prof
Warhurst admitted."
Politicians don't want a meddling president

Reflecting on The Queen of Australia's representative, the Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Michelle Grattan, The Age's political editor, could not help regretting the lukewarm support a republic enjoys in Australia's ruling class.

"... it is unlikely Australians would accept anything other than a popularly elected president. This is the model hated by many politicians (and Malcolm Turnbull in his pre-politician days when he headed the republic movement). They fear an elected president, unless the office's powers were very precisely codified, could in extreme circumstances become a competing power centre to the prime minister.

"Maybe the complexity of these issues is one more reason why the Rudd Government has been notably slow to put further flesh on Labor's commitment to a republic. Nearly a year on we are still waiting for its answers to ideas — of which support for a republic was one of the most favoured — to come out of the 2020 summit, a gathering that at the time seemed quite important to the PM.

I received the link to this article with the remark: "i like the comment about how the pollies hate the idea of an elected pres...hahahah ...so much for democracy .... "

Interesting that Michelle Grattan referred to Malcolm Turnbull "in his pre-politician days when he headed the republic movement" as if it was a garden club or a senior citizens group. So the republic movement was no political organisation, Michelle Grattan?

Thursday 5 March 2009

A double NO to Peter Costello

At the top of the list of things I most dislike are undoubtedly republican systems of government – either here in Australia or elsewhere in the world; with the acceptable exception of Switzerland, may be, followed at a whisker's distance by my number two anathema: nuclear power stations.

You may guess what I think of a politician who advocates a republic and nuclear power plants in Australia. The double thumbs down go to Peter Costello who used The Age of 4th March to publish his ideas of a sustainable future in Going green must involve going nuclear.

Except for the undeniable fact that Barack Obama was elected US president, nothing in this article is correct. His ideas are discussed here.

May be Peter Costello is on the paylist of French Speedy Gonzales Sarkozy who travels around the world to sell French nuclear power plants. Libyan dictator Qaddafi bought some two years ago, Italian media mogul and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took one last year, Hungary might be bankrupt, but for 5 billion Euros the government will get nuclear technology from France. No country is safe from a visit from Super-Sarko who likes to play the atomic salesman.

So be very wary if Peter Costello invites M. Sarkozy to Australia!

Peter Costello, the worst prime minister Australia never had, has passed the use by date for politicians, but so have his topics: a republic and nuclear power.

Monday 2 March 2009

Australia Bill signed 23 years ago

Rarely, very rarely The Age is reminding its readers that the Australian Crown is a separate entity from the Crown of the United Kingdom.

Today was such a rare event. Hidden in the "On this day" section on page 18 The Age remembered 2nd March 1986: "Queen signs the Australia Bill, formally severing the last constitutional ties with Britain."

If only the fiercely republican journalists of The Age would sometimes look into their own paper to correct their wrong attitude and stop calling Queen Elizabeth II "the English Queen", when she acts as Queen of Australia.

But old habits never die. Especially when they serve their purpose.

Sunday 1 March 2009

A Republican on the road to nowhere

The Sunday Age of 1st March 2009 could not have chosen a more appropriate title for an opinion piece of Guy Rundle: On the road to nowhere. Rundle dug deep into old prejudices and gossip to unearth whatever seemed useful to him to show how he despises the Australian Royal Family. Even the most decayed rumours had to mentioned by this Australian writer living in England (The Sunday Age).

But what kind of a royal expert is Guy Rundle if he doesn’t even get a basic known name right? The Queen Mother was not born Mary Bowes-Lyon, but Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon. According to Rundle, after her death in 2002 she “almost completely faded from public consciousness".

However in July 2008, when the memorabilia of her former man servant William Tallon were auctioned, the 700 items fetched record prices. A note from the Queen Mother instructing Tallon " to pack two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin . . . in case it is needed" was expected to fetch up to $620, it went to a phone bidder for $33,000. Top-priced item was a portrait of the Queen Mother by Sir James Gunn, dated November 1945, which went for $62,000 -- five times its estimate. (Details see: William Tallon's royal mementoes send auction prices soaring)

It is understandable that this auction did not catch Rundle’s attention, because at that time he covered the US primaries, which cost the record sum of US $ 1 billion and culminated in the inauguration of Barack Obama on 20th January 2009, which cost the equivalent of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. But why does he write on something he does not know well?

Calling the Prince of Wales inveterately odd” may be republican speak, but the fact remains Prince Charles talked about climate change long before Penny Wong imagined there might be a ministerial job for her on this topic. And when it comes to Prince Charles’ opposition to GM crop, well, he is certainly in accord with the majority of the Australians ... how odd!!

Nothing is too cheap for Rundle not to use it: “[Queen Elizabeth’s] husband – a surplus unit of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glückburg branch in, as the name suggests, Greece – had an attitude closer to the old Habsburg grandees who were fond of winging peasants with a musket.” I’d like to know, if Rundle could name any Habsburg, even less one who winged peasants with a musket. And ridiculing Prince Philip’s Greek origin should be beyond someone who styles himself as an intellectual. At least he knows - I think - that Prince Philip’s grandfather was born into the Danish Royal Family – which bears the name Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glückburg – before the Greek Parliament chose him as King of the Hellenes in 1863. Does Rundle play the game of nationalistic Greeks? Nobody in Sweden gets upset because their dynasty is called Bernadottes and can be traced back to France. Royal dynasties are beyond nationalism, therefore they can serve their respective nations. I consider that a great advantage in times of nationalistic fervour everywhere.

Not even in math is Guy Rundle firm: “Queen Elizabeth’s mother and aunt [the former wife of the Australian Governor-General, the Duke of Gloucester] both lived past 100, compos mentis to the last, and she seems determined to hang on, presumably in the hope that Charles will predecease her, and the crown will pass directly to William. By then, Australia will have been a republic for two decades or whatever pieces remain of it, in 2030.” What utter nonsense to suggest the Queen would be waiting for her eldest son to predecease her! Since our Queen will celebrate her 83rd birthday this April, she would be 104 in 2030, two and a half years older than her mother was when she passed away. Should Australia have been a republic for two decades by then, Guy Rundle must hurry up to bring it in, in 2010. But there is no Australian republic on the horizon, thank heavens and thanks to people like Guy Rundle who with their mud raking actually help to make people reflect on our Royal Family.