An open letter to Tony Abbott from Australian republicans

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Courier-Mail front page after PM Abbott's much derided decision to reinstate imperial honours.

The prime minister's sycophancy towards the British monarch’s grand-descendants has become too much for many Australians. On behalf of millions, the ARM national director has written Tony Abbott an open letter. History editor Dr Glenn Davies reports.

THE PUBLIC REPUDIATION of Prime Minister Abbott’s knights and dames decision showed that Australia has moved on from the old colonial way of thinking.  However, on 24 April 2014, Prime Minister Abbott stated in Parliament:

Many decades, hence, when a currently unknowable Australian prime minister welcomes your son, King George VII to this building, that will be a sign of the stability and the continuity in the life of our nation.”

In response, David Morris, national director of the Australian Republican Movement, has written 'An Open Letter to Mr Abbott':

Mr Abbott,

When you were elected by the Australian people, you did not swear allegiance to Australia and its people, as had your predecessors in recent times, but you swore allegiance to the Queen. 

When you welcomed Prince Harry to an important military commemoration, you did not make the day all about honouring our military, but you said ‘we all feel monarchist today.’

When great Australians have been honoured for decades with a meritocratic Australian honours system, you – to great ridicule – brought back colonial titles, knights and dames.

And when Australians warmly welcomed visiting British Royals, treated by the media as global celebrities, you dragged an innocent baby into your personal crusade to take us back to colonial thinking. Back to a time when the infant Australian nation was but a realm of an Empire.

Mr Abbott, if the baby visiting us this week with his parents becomes King George VII, it may well be a sign of the stability and the continuity in the life of the British nation.

But you are Prime Minister of the Australian nation.

In Australia, the stability and the continuity in the life of our nation comes from our people, not from people who live on the other side of the world.

It is the Australian people who have built the world’s greatest nation, one of the most deeply democratic, egalitarian and successful places in which to live.

It is the Australian people to whom an Australian prime minister should swear his allegiance.

It is the Australian people who should be sovereign and it should be from the Australian people that we choose our next head of state.

Every Australian baby should have an equal opportunity to aspire to be our head of state.

The history of the Australian nation is a stable and continuous road to national confidence, unity and independence. 

Our nation might not always live up to our ideals, but we deeply believe in equal opportunity, being judged on merit and hard work; we believe in fairness and multiculturalism.

We are not a society that believes one person should be born to rule over everyone else based on their race, religion, place of birth, privileged family and gender. No, we are not all monarchists, Mr Abbott.

We know not everyone agrees. Some want to take us back the past when we had a colonial mentality, when we did not back ourselves.

Yes, monarchists fought against Australia having our own national anthem, just as they fought against ending appeals to the Privy Council. But our nation is so much better because the monarchists failed.

Yes, Mr Abbott, monarchists are on the offensive again, co-opting global celebrities to their cause, but our nation will be so much better when we stop dragging innocent foreigners into our domestic debates.

The global celebrities you drag into your cause cannot defend themselves, they cannot enter the debate because they cannot have a view.  This is our nation, not theirs.

Our relationship with their nation will be much more mature when we back our own, first and foremost.

Australians warmly welcome tourists.

Well, maybe not quite that warmly... (Image via Global Post)

Yes, the Australian people will welcome a future visit from King George VII of England to our country, that will be a sign of close friendship.

And we will do so as a free nation with dignity and self-respect when it is an Australian head of state who leads that welcome.

ARM nation director David Morris is right, of course.

The Royals represent Britain, but cannot represent us or unite us as Australians. 

We have our own identity as Australians.

Australians believe in freedom and equal opportunity, not that some are born to rule over others.

Australia today is one of the world’s great nations, with a bright future that must be 100 per cent in the hands of the Australian people. We are ready to move on from our colonial past and become a fully independent nation with fully Australian national institutions, including our own Head of State. 

So amongst the media frenzy about visiting British celebrities, don’t mistake goodwill for the cringe of earlier decades. We can, of course, have affection for Britain and its celebrity Royals — but affection does not mean allegiance.

The British Royals are welcome to visit as representatives of Britain, however we look forward to the day when the British people and their Royal Family themselves welcome  a visit from Australia's Head of State.

Dr Glenn Davies is the Australian Republican Movement's Queensland branch convenor. Find out more about an Australian republic at ouridentity.org.au.

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