Australia - the last thing on the Queen's mind

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When Australia's head of state Queen Elizabeth II visits Ireland this week and then meets with Barack Obama, senior correspondent Barry Everingham says she will be doing so purely on behalf of Britain.

The Queen in Northern Ireland in 1977

By Barry Everingham | Senior correspondent

This week, the Queen of Australia will have two very important events to occupy her — on Tuesday she will begin a State Visit to the Republic of Ireland; she’ll then rush home (to London) to be there for the arrival of Barack Obama and his wife, who begin an official visit to the UK.

Ireland’s major Catholic newspaper The Tablet puts the visit into perspective. The paper editorialises that the visit is being made to foster trade and tourism.

"The paradox of this visit is that while the background is extra­ordinary, it is being approached in almost mundane a chance to increase tourism and foster trade – the normal currency of such ceremonial state events elsewhere."

How right the newspaper is.

As I have repeatedly written — the Queen’s visits to foreign countries are nothing more or nothing less than trade missions to bolster British trade and, to a lesser degree, tourism.

I’ve covered enough of them to see first-hand the number of UK Trade Department officials and leading business people who accompany the Australia head of state as she does nothing at all to promote Australia or Australian trade or tourism, whilst laying it on thick for her own country.

The only Australian she’ll see or speak to while she’s in Dublin will more than likely be the Australian ambassador and that will be a fleeting meeting.

At least the archaic and insulting practise of naming our envoys “Her Majesty’s Australian Ambassador” has been discontinued along with the removal of her portraits, which once were displayed in our overseas missions and caused untold confusion to the locals who saw them — the Queen of England’s portrait hanging in an Australian embassy? What’s going on? Was the often asked question causing embarrassment to our hard working diplomats.

I’m indebted to one of my oldest friends and certainly one of Australia’s most senior and well respected former diplomats, Richard Woolcott, for sharing the following in his biography “Life After the Department”.

Writes Woolcott:

"When our governor-general has sought to travel abroad, or has travelled abroad, our diplomats have on occasions been embarrassed because of the problems associated with having him received as real head of state.

"Sir Ninian Stephen was obliged to defer a visit to Indonesia because President Suharto took the view, correctly, that the Queen, not the governor-general was Australia’s head of state.

"When Bill Hayden was to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, US security authorities were not sure of his status and the level of protection he should be afforded in New York. They sought advice from the British Embassy in Washington! The embassy’s answer was, quite properly that our head of state was Queen Elizabeth II."

Concludes Woolcott:

One can only imagine the impression this left in the minds of officials of our major ally, which had severed its own connection with the British Crown some two hundred years earlier.

Local (Australian) monarchists are drawing stupid parallels with William’s recent visit here — with David Flint once more going into idiotic hyperbole saying William didn’t receive a cent for his trouble or a huge superannuation payout.

For God’s sake, why would he?

His grandmother and his father are enormously wealthy and the lad himself inherited his own fortune when the Divine Diana died. In addition, he is on a UK serviceman’s salary and no doubt retirement package. Flint seems to love the gravy train.

How Catholic Ireland will regard the head of the Anglican  Church – who is bound by law to accept the insulting and bigoted banning of a Catholic inheriting the top job in the UK and the other (in the main, but with a few exceptions) Mickey Mouse countries of which she is head of state – remains to be seen.

As the Queen embarks on her tour, Australia will be the last thing on her British mind.

Which begs the question — why on earth do we still continue with this ridiculous situation?  
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