Neither bewildered nor annoyed

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Distinguished businessman Harold Lubansky responds to Tony Abbott's Neville Bonner lecture, saying that, as a republican, he is neither bewildered nor annoyed.

IF I COULD comment to Tony Abbott, I’d say that “in the Neville Bonner lecture you made statements of belief to which you are entitled. However you also made allegations and inferences that of themselves are the kind that you refer to as offensive when held by others.”

I would I hope that he has patience and listens; that I do not expect to change his views. I only hope to widen his perspective, that people having a contrary view to his are not simply hostile. Also that such people are not necessarily either bewildered or annoyed at the views that he holds. But that doesn't mean they share or value those same views. I would then say to him:

I note Mathew Franklin’s article in the Australian on your comments in the Neville Bonner Memorial Lecture in Sydney.

Like you, I am delighted for Kate and William. I wish them both every happiness and success for the future. Whenever two people embark on a journey and commitment together one hopes that they will have an enduring relationship.

I note your remarks about those who take great pleasure in the Monarchy and that a change to a Republic is not likely to be better per se, just different. Like you, I believe that if there are things that give pleasure to people that causes no harm to others, then why deny it to them.

I am certainly respectful of Royalty. In 1999 as a Fellow of the World Scout Foundation I travelled with the King of Sweden during his visit to Australia; amongst other things dining with him & our Governors. And should Elizabeth, Queen of Australia, or any of her heirs and successors come to Australia, I would have no trouble providing them with the same level of respect.

Some years ago, sitting next to Malcolm Turnbull at a Liberal Party function that I had sponsored, he advised that of course the Republican issue was not the first item on the agenda for a Liberal Government that he led nor was it likely that change would occur while the Queen was alive.

I agree that a Republic is not the most important issue for Australia. But does that justify inactivity? I am capable of multi tasking. I can operate an Australian business, another based out of China, be active in the Liberal Party, and do many other activities at the same time. When I was Managing Director of Australia’s leading clothing company with over 1000 staff, I still had time to be very active at community level in both Scouting & Football and was proud to be awarded a Centenary Medal for my services to the community. When resources are scarce, time, people, funds etc, one needs to prioritise, but in general the will to succeed in one endeavour does not preclude the ability to succeed in others. I am always amazed at the people who claim they do not have the time for physical exercise, to walk or anything else. You, John Howard, I and many others find it natural to fit it into a busy agenda. So too the Republic, I believe that there are few resources required that will reduce the ability to achieve any other policy or action initiative. Any Government of ability will be able to generate change simultaneously with other endeavours.

Certainly I feel for those who have a fervent desire to keep the Monarchy. I also feel for those who have a desire for Australia to have an Australian head of state, for us to be a Republic as distinct from a Constitutional Monarchy. Unfortunately both cannot obtain their preference.

I am a Republican. I became one in 1969. As a teenager, I became aware of the considerable injustices in our system. I felt like a second class citizen in my own country. My discomfort and feelings of being disenfranchised were so intense that having passed every aspect of my Queen’s Scout Award, I refused to accept it. It would have meant giving an oath of allegiance to the Queen which I was not prepared to do; as in my view the system was absolutely “broke in need of fixing”. I did not want to be bound by an oath of allegiance when I vowed to work for my country to be a Republic. Of course, those issues have long since changed, particularly with the exchange of Acts with UK establishing our own sovereignty. The High Court of Australia, is indeed our highest court, not the Privy Council; the Governor General is no longer appointed on recommendation by the British PM, but the Australian PM; an English citizen no longer comes here by right & does not have full citizenship rights without being a citizen; we actually no longer need a visa to go there, but they do, to come here.

Interestingly, twelve months after I refused to give an oath to the Queen for an award, I was forced to give an oath of allegiance to the Queen in order to join the University Squadron of the RAAF. I almost did not join, but then decided that to be prepared to defend my country I was prepared to give an oath that I regarded as “To the country” and not its nominal head. I graduated as a Pilot Officer as well as my University Degree. I rationalised that a forced oath meant nothing but a freely given oath meant everything.

My wife, born in England, became an Australian citizen. She was rather amused when she renounced British citizenship and renounced allegiance to its Queen while proclaiming allegiance to the same Queen for Australia! Fortunately, in citizenship ceremonies and other areas we no longer swear loyalty to the Queen. I know of at least one person, a US Naval officer who stayed here after WWII who only became a citizen after the Queen was dropped when he was in his 70’s. He would not have naturalised as long as allegiance was to a foreign monarch. In some ways it is a pity we don’t swear allegiance to the Queen, it might mean that more people experience discomfort & advocate change earlier!

While most of the compelling reasons to change have passed, not because the Monarchy is now highly relevant to Australia, but rather they have passed into active oblivion. I still want change.

Tony, I am not bewildered or annoyed by anyone’s regard, love or respect for the Monarchy. I have children and grandchildren. None live with me. Although one son & his family lived with us for 2 months this year on their return to Melbourne from working in Canberra and my other son & his family was with us also for a month on holiday from Oxford UK where he lectures. (I have a Welsh grandson & an English grandson, both dual Australian citizens.) Just because my children have matured and moved on, does not mean there is not respect & love & interaction with us. When, not if, we become a Republic, there is no reason for us to leave the Commonwealth. There is no reason not to respect the Head of that Commonwealth (even though I have a great deal of trouble accepting our future King & Queen’s disregard for the sanctity of marriage and the lack of leadership they show in this regard).

You said If republicans could bring themselves to suspend hostilities, they might come to appreciate that what they currently find inexplicable or even offensive is not so for others and perhaps need not always be for them either”

I am hostile to no one except those who blatantly lied about the realities inherent in the system at the last referendum. I hold dear the right of every Australian to hold their own views. Whether I agree with them or not, I hold dear the right of people to express their views except to the extent that it preaches hatred of others or in anyway infringes the rights of others or in any way exhorts others the same or even to violence.

I will not disagree with you that there are Republicans who say things that are hostile or belittling and when I see that I speak against it. However, what I have seen in that regard might be considered a thimble compared to the ocean from the ACM & the Monarchists.

I neither find the affections for the Monarchy to be inexplicable nor offensive. But for you to suggest that one day I might feel the same is ludicrous. There is more chance that I will metamorphose into a butterfly during this lifetime and fly away.

That doesn’t mean that I cannot feel good for Kate and William with "something as natural and as fitting as the marriage of an appealing young man to an attractive woman". But they are not now and never will be Australians in heart and soul.

Suppose William is watching an Ashes Test match. Do you really think that his emotions are completely neutral and that he loves each of his countries impartially? I don’t hold that against him. He’s an Englishman. He thinks England and loves England. I want my Head of State to think Australia and love Australia.

Today, November 30, Prince William flew into Zurich to argue, network and present for the FIFA World Cup, so too did our Governor General. But our future King did not fly there to represent Australia in any way; he was not there as a spectator. He was there to argue the case on behalf of England. How can a future Head of State and Monarch for Australia be arguing internationally against us?

"For better or for worse, whether it's the constitutional crown, the judicial crown, the crown of the armed forces or even the celebrity crown, the monarchy has been a fixture of Australian life," "Mostly for the good; it's meant something to most people.” So let us celebrate our past, even have affection for it. Let us not have a black arm band view of it. However, neither let us be tethered to it. Let us move forward, united as a country; with a Head of State whose interests, desires and actions are aligned to Australia and Australians.

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Neither bewildered nor annoyed

Distinguished businessman Harold Lubansky responds to Tony Abbott's Neville Bonner ...  
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