(This article was written by the Australian Republican Movement's Victorian Convenor, Simon Bateman, earlier this year).
I consider myself to be a lucky person. I’ve had the opportunity to travel widely and see most of the world. One of the places I’ve visited, enjoyed immensely, and made many friends in, is the United Kingdom. It really is a great place.
BUT WHEN I arrive at Heathrow, I am greeted as a foreign national. I am gently ribbed by my friends about my accent, gently mimicked when I greet them with a “G’day” and, more recently, mercilessly roasted over losing the Ashes.
This emphasises to me that Australians are not seen as British by Britons, and we don’t see ourselves as British. Yes, we share a rich common heritage but we are no longer British; not in Britain, Australia, or anywhere else in the world are we anything other than Australian.
Prince William’s visit to Australia will no doubt be met with both curiosity and interest by many Australians, republicans and monarchists alike. Bushfire ravaged communities will certainly appreciate his visit and interest in their plight. I have not met Prince William and have no reason to doubt he is a decent and honest person. He is a young vibrant prince who wants to make a valid contribution. As Jill Singer wrote in The Age, he shows an unusual amount of maturity for someone born into the House of Windsor.
If Australia remains a constitutional monarchy, Prince William could even become our Sovereign—King of the United Kingdom and King of Australia—as he is second in line to the throne. But one recent event shows why our status as a constitutional monarchy under the British Crown just doesn’t make sense anymore.
When we announced our bit to host the 2018 Football World Cup everybody at home got behind it. Our Prime Minister and Premiers went out of their way to support the bid. As a cosmopolitan, dynamic and sports-loving nation, Australia would be a perfect host to one of the world’s premier sporting events. Melbourne could further entrench our status as the sports capital of the world by being an integral part of the cup bid.
Prince William’s support for the English World Cup Football bid is right and proper as he English and potentially a future the English Head of State. The problem for Australia is: where does Australia’s bid stand. This highlights again that it’s not the persons of the Royal family but the institution of the Australian Monarchy that is broken. Though Prince William may become our head of state, his chief loyalty is to Great Britain. This makes sense for him and for Britain as it’s his country, where he lives, and how he sees himself, but not at all for Australia.
Australia today is a democratic and egalitarian country where everybody is equal. You get ahead by merit, not by birthright. Being Australian means acknowledging one of our great local creeds – mateship. Mateship means lending a helping hand and looking out for others. It means relating to all people as equals and not according to the caste and class distinctions as these are characteristics of the old world. And, more than that, it means supporting your own.
Prince William has been given the honour of giving an Australia Day Address at the Victorian Governor’s House. There is one thing William could do if he wants to show he understands Australia and wants to have a meaningful relationship with the Australian people. He could acknowledge in his speech that a majority of Australians are now republicans. He could also acknowledge—as has his Grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II did—that the republican debate is a matter for Australians and that Australia's relationship with Great Britain will always remain strong regardless of how we rearrange our constitutional arrangements in the future.