Reconciliation + Republic = Australia 2.1

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By Tess Lawrence | Contributing editor-at-large


I am not going to take the rap for newlyweds Kate and Wills cancelling their Australian honeymoon. The darling lovebirds are surely welcome to country. I''ll always put the billy on.
The Prime Minister of Australia may well have struck a secret agreement with the monarch we time share with Britain, to pull her finger out about converting Orstralia to a Republic whilst Queen Elizabeth is still alive - but I did not.
Also, I''m long done with tugging forelocks.
Several weeks ago in Independent Australia, I revealed that according to a Labor Party source (and others), whilst in London with her Consort Timmy Tams to attend the Westminster Abbey wedding of the now freshly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Julia Gillard was hastily summoned to an unscheduled meeting with Her Majesty who made it clear she would not consider a Republican Australia as a personal affront but rather welcomed it and importantly, wished to be a proactive signatory and participant in our Constitutional coming-of-age.
The Labor Party informant put it thus ''It was the nearest thing to an Order that Her Majesty could make''.
It is known that the 85 year old Monarch is ''irritated at being treated more as a senile and benign grandmother rather than the Head of the Commonwealth.''
I was told that the Queen (and others) had asked her Welsh-born Australian Prime Minister to refrain from publicly discussing the matter until after she returned home so as not to ''overshadow the Royal Wedding or Honeymoon''. Fair enough.
I reported that Prime Minister Gillard had agreed to this and planned first to discuss the matter with ‘a small group of trusted advisors'' (which might be hard to find) ''and only then call a special caucus meeting to discuss a plan of action before making any public announcement''.
My April 30 story thus put a spanner in the works; not that anything much works in the Gillard Government or the Supposition either.
The day before she met with the Queen, sources confirmed that Ms Gillard met with British Prime Minister David Cameron at No 10 Downing Street and then rushed off for further discussions with Prince Charles at Clarence House — and that the subject of the Republic also arose.


The story was picked up on ABC TV''s The Insiders on Sunday the next day.
Presenter Barrie Cassidy led the discussion and commentator Kerry-Anne Walsh confirmed the Queen''s attitude towards a Republic was well known and that she had written about such things herself back in Paul Keating''s day (remember the 1992 Queen''s visit, when he dared to place a knightly hand on the small of Madge''s back as he guided her through the adoring throng, provoking the screaming headline ''Lizard of Oz!'' in the British tabloids).
Here''s a You Tube clip of The Insiders segment, in case you missed it first time around:

Walsh confirmed that there was "no political leadership in Australia to take this forward".


The next day, Monday May 2, an interview with Tess Lawrence scheduled for 11.15 am on ABC News Radio was cancelled.On Thursday, May 5, Independent Australia published emails from managing editor David Donovan and Tess Lawrence to ABC presenter John Barron.
There have been heightened discussions and ''feelers'' between Australia and Britain in relation to the continuing vexing issue of a Republic and the pragmatic Queen is known to be impatient with Australia''s lack of will and constant vacillating.
The conversation has strangely been more one-sided though.




Ironically, it is our Mother Country that appears keener to cut the umbilical cord to its former offshore detention centre and showcase penal colony.
The Queen is in historical legacy mode and keen to tidy up unfinished business for succession planning purposes — not only in Australia but also throughout that diluted offspring of the once mighty British Empire—the Commonwealth. She''s entitled.
Australia is the remnant of that once mighty colonial yoke. And we''re still locked in a permanent curtsey position.
Although the main people smuggler in those days was the Empire itself, the practice was an effective mechanism by which to originally secure and populate this country and provide a working army of prisoner slaves.


We kept them in shackles and leg irons (forerunner of Julian Assange''s electronic ankle bracelet) and provided meagre vittles and water, much as Serco does today. And if our Federal Parliament actually does any work for the people this week, we might find out more about Serco''s culpability.
If only those olde prisoners used their initiative like modern recalcitrant detainees and sewed their lips together or jumped off rooves. We could have saved the Privy Purse on takeaways.
Oops, sorry, just remembered that the kidlets in those days were rather inventive on escaping abject misery. At Port Arthur, two little boys tied themselves together and cradling heavy rocks to ensure they wouldn''t survive, plunged to their deaths off the cliff into the Tasman Sea, for a better life dead than to serve a cruel sentence for the term of their unnatural lives.
I hope the story is apocryphal but it is horribly close to the truth of the origin of our modern species and the birth of our federation of states and territories.
Given such colonial parentage, it is little wonder that today we have embarrassingly reverted to type and are maniacally canvassing anywhere and everywhere as potential offshore detention centres; often without so much as a buy-your-leave to their hapless Governments.
But hey, we''re used to that. After all, we lied to the world on paper and swore black and Royal Blue that Australia was ''Terra Nullius''. What''s more, we celebrate this lie on Australia Day.
We stole Australia from the Australian Aborigines. Simple as that.


At least the Dutch paid the equivalent of $24 worth of bling to the Indigenous Americans for Manhattan.
The fact that the American Indians thought it was gift for sharing the land, is their silly fault. Anyway, everyone knows there is no return on sale and damaged goods. The statutes of liberty and limitations have run out. Besides, they''ve got all those casinos now so they can''t complain. Here in Oz, only poor white people can afford to play the pokies.
No wonder Queen Elizabeth wants to get Orstralia off the Palace books. How many Chelsea Pensioners live over here on an English pension? How many Aussies retire to England on an Aussie pension? There could be a Class Action brought upon such class warfare!
But, in fairness, as far as Lillibet is concerned, she is desperate to do the right thing. Her Majesty deems an Australian Republic as a Rite of Passage as well as a Right of Passage.
But here on Terra Australis, rather than the matter being viewed as non-partisan evolutionary and non-revolutionary progress — it is still deemed a politically dangerous manoeuvre by successive insecure Governments and Oppositions who have neither the will nor the skill and self-confidence to take it on. Why?
With the legacy of the failed poorly worded referendum in 1999 in our political swag, we seem to lack the courage of those who unanimously voted YES on behalf of aboriginal rights in the 1967 Referendum.
The charming romance between commoner Kate Middleton and Prince William is indeed a happy diversion for some in a world whose headlines and deadlines are daily mired in natural or man-made disasters.
As I write, followers of California-based Doomsday radio evangelist Harold Camping are putting away their clean undies for next time, in readiness for the rain check on the Rapture. It''s not quite over, you know, because their final, final, end-of-the-world clearance date is actually October 21.
But oh me oh my, it was a great little earner for Harry. Give us this last day our daily bread. Credit cards accepted. You''ll pay pal. Forget about the Nigerian Scam - too believable! These doomsday dudes are the real deal and generated millions of dollars of donations for themselves. Go figure. Bigga than Zumba.
It could still happen. After all, we seem to be working hard to destroy the world ourselves. We might yet beat god to it.
It is unsure if Doughty Harry and his group of unhappy campers are counting down Greenwich Mean Time, but hey, you might as well eat that whole bar of chocolate now. I have. So now we all have to replenish our doomsday chocolat survival kit. What''s not to love?


Coincidentally, The Queen – who enjoys a chocolat or two, especially if they''re Charbonnel and Walker – who is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Prince Philip will be in Australia just a few days after Armageddon to launch the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth on October 28-30.
She will catch up with most of the 54 countries in the Commonwealth — although Fiji was chucked out in 2009 because of the coup d’état and Nauru is named and shamed on the CHOGM in arrears with the fees.
How much are the Membership fees? Are they in the form of a tithe? A fifth of the crop? A Peppercorn? No-one seems to know. Or care.
But if we helped out Nauru with re-opening its detention centre facilities that we closed down in 2007 and redirected to them the millions of refugees and asylum seekers who hourly lob here with greater frequency than Melbourne''s trains, they would be able to pay their overdue fees before you could shout '' land ahoy.'' Don''t they know it''s Christmas Island time?
After all, Nauru is a former colony of ours. Knobless oblige and all that.



We''re sort of a little Britain aren''t we, in that respect. Ungrateful sods those Nauruans. We only charged them a paltry $21 million for the phosphates mine in 1970 when we granted them independence, too. Practically gave it away.
As for Fiji, they''re in such a mess those natives — so uncivilised. Frankly, we should do a Terra Nullius on them and take over the place and set up an offshore detention centre there as well.
We can''t get enough of them.
Don''t bother asking. Just do it. The men are such wusses. They wear skirts. And they''re that overweight from loafing about all day and a bit dippy from coconuts falling on their heads. They wouldn''t dream of moving the trees. Too much like hard work.
In fact, we could do a brill ad campaign in, say, Indonesia and Malaysia, directed at accredited people smugglers and boat people and promote the place and its fabulous beaches and friendly detention smiley staff who simply adore kids and will babysit them while detainees choose from a selection of recreational activities such as fire-lighting training, riot practice, roof planking and learning how to scale a 15 metre barbed wire electric fence backwards. For the men there''s macramé lessons. Come in handy for hanging basket cases.
All this could be such a deterrent to them heading here to God''s Own you know. Can''t think why anyone hasn''t thought of it before. Kill them with kindness.
I''ve changed my mind about Nauru, now. Although it''s easy to become a bit misty-eyed when one contemplates those days when the natives weren''t revolting and Australia held colonial sway as well as the swagger stick; when we could be more specific about the Pacific.
Madge must get a bit nostalgic for those Somerset Maugham days from time to time. I know I do.
It was all much better in black and white than colour.
But the monarchy has just clocked up a few records that means it has to be more than a One Act Player. It has to have relevance. That''s a hard one for Orstralia. Apparently, Prince Charles is now the longest heir apparent in history and his Mum is the second longest reigning monarch in British history, clocking up 59 years in the saddle a few weeks ago.
If she can hang on until September 2015 she will beat the 63 year old record of her Great, Great Grandmother and Empress of India, Queen Victoria.



As it is, next year, when Britain celebrates the London Olympics, the Scepter''d Isle will also be celebrating Queen Elizabeth''s Diamond Jubilee.
Britain will be piping hot and not since the days of The Beatles and Carnaby St will she have had such an opportunity to celebrate all things British — although what that means these days is open to conjecture, as it is in heaven, Australia and elsewhere — where borders and immigration habits have become fluid, sometimes by default.
The Commonwealth countries are scheduled to play a role in those Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Given that the Queen''s presence at CHOGM will be her last in Australia before the DJ, I hope we are taking the hat around to fellow members to give Madge a worthy pressie that is symbolic of her long reign.
Australia becoming a Republic would be a fab two-way pressie. A win/win situation.
My informants say it was mooted that an announcement in the Queen''s presence would provide a perfect backdrop for the launch of the Australian Republic campaign — and would indicate there was no rancour over the matter as the Queen would be presented as an equal ''partner'' in the conversion; it would be like an amicable divorce—joint custodians of a shared history.
It is understood that Prime Minister Gillard is furious that her discussions with Britain were revealed in Independent Australia and there has been a concerted witch-hunt to establish the sources of the leaks since only a small number of insiders were initially aware of the project.
The Queen was a bit peeved initially, I''m told, but is now not overly fussed at the revelations. Palace sources say she views the leak as typical of the inept way the matter continues to be mishandled by Australia. She has a point.
Longstanding sources say that Britain would be amenable to an open and consultative co-operative task force arrangement. It''s not a secret. Why should it be? And I''m certainly not going to keep such shared information from the Australian people.
We should all have the opportunity to thrash out, debate and argue, criticise, support, ridicule, endorse and champion the whole issue.


Why should our Prime Minister, our Government and a moribund Opposition do any of this behind closed doors? Why should we be locked out of debate and discourse and not even be consulted?
It is understood that The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were advised to cancel their Australian honeymoon because of the revelations in Independent Australia and the discussion on the The Insiders.

Clarence House did not want the honeymooners to walk into a wall of media controversy and even further incursion into their privacy. Fair enough. Prince William would have been interrogated about complicated Constitutional matters.
I was told, ''This is not a matter that rests upon William''s shoulders. Nor has he been briefed.
Her Majesty is a walking encyclopaedia on these things. She is, after all, our resident expert on the subject. Even Charles will play more a liaison role as next in line to the throne.''
It can now be revealed that it was this understandable protective grid around the royal lovers that contributed to Clarence House (read Prince Charles) withdrawing the rights to the live feed of The Royal Wedding to the ABC''s The Chaser.
(As stated in my original article, Prince William''s successful recent trip to Oz confirmed to both the Palace and Australia that the popular and personable young man has endeared himself to Australia and was viewed more as Diana''s son rather than heir to Prince Charles. Plus, the groom-to-be was also checking out possible honeymoon locales.)
The Duke of Cambridge loves Australia — and is still keen to take his new bride to visit the country so beloved by his mother. His maternal grandmother, Frances Shand Kydd was married to an Australian. The Duke and Duchess are both vigorous and energetic sporty types – not in a dour Balmoral way – but in an athletic great outdoors adventurous way.
News that Australia was to have been the honeymoon destination leaked out — and from one of the more trusted scoop magnets. I only alluded to the honeymoon on April 30.
Writing in Britain''s Sunday Mirror on April 24, Australian based journalist Frank Thorne and colleague Keri Sutherland revealed that Kate and Wills were set to honeymoon on Australia''s Lizard Island.
After which, ''Plan B'' was hastily put in place with the Palace making the unexpected announcement that the Duke of Cambridge would inexplicably be returning to work as a chopper pilot for a week — whilst a new honeymoon location was sorted in the Seychelles.


It is understood that for some time, ''friendly'' Constitutional lawyers and experts have been re-examining protocols – both in the UK and in Australia – but that another hurdle in the move towards a Republic is causing angst — the predicament of many of our Indigenous sisters and brothers. Still poor fellow my country.
Sources confirm that Australia''s failure to deliver on its promise of a Treaty with Indigenous Australians poses both ethical and constitutional hindrances for Australia becoming a Republic.
In its 2011 Report, Amnesty International, whose motto is “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness" points out that in August last year Australia appeared before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
Amnesty cites that key concerns were “lack of protection against racial discrimination in the Australian Constitution, the partial restoration of human rights protection, disproportionate imprisonment rates for indigenous people and continued indigenous deaths in custody."
It is understood that Britain has been revisiting the text and circumstances of its New Zealand Waitangi Treaty, signed on February 6, 1840, by representatives of the British Crown and Maori Chiefs.
In November that year, in her exquisite regal hand, Queen Victoria signed a Royal charter establishing New Zealand as a separate colony. How come the Brits gave a guernsey to New Zealand''s indigenous people and not to us?
How come New Zealand wasn''t declared Terra Nullius like we were? It''s time for us to render that lie Nullius and Void, surely.


The Queen is most definitely in Reconciliation mode. It is so easy to lampoon and deride her and her dysfunctional family — at the expense of disguising our own dysfunctional Constitution that doesn''t even acknowledge the original owners of what we now call Australia.
She remains a singularly powerful and truly majestic persona, that goes far beyond her Constitutional orb. That Crown sits atop a formidable intellect. Whilst the measure of her riches is perennially up for speculation, her wealth of knowledge is not. She is a commanding presence, as even those of us who have met her briefly, or but passing by, can attest.
No amount of spin doctoring, tutelage, or strategic speechwriting can manufacture such things; consider the failed attempts by Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell.
From all accounts she is a skilled negotiator and very competent mediator. New laws and public mores mean that even the British Monarchy is now subject to certain disclosures and transparency and the formal tabling of official business and documents.
One of the reasons that Clarence House was able to pull rank about The Chaser live feed was simply because the Royal Family retained particular copyrights over the live feed and coverage within the Abbey in particular. The decision could have been challenged in both the British and Australian Courts, I understand, but then those mega ratings would have been in jeopardy.
And the ABC and other major networks have coverage of the Olympics and future Royal access to consider, funerals, christenings, more weddings and... a Diamond Jubilee! And if you think the wedding of The Young Ones was a superlative pageant — well hang about boys and girls.
Not since Elizabeth''s Coronation will we have seen such pageantry. Satire, freedom of speech and ‘naughty boys'' (as The Chaser boys were described to me) sometimes become expendable in such circumstances.



Never was the Queen''s personal pulling power and courage put more to the test than her triumphant four day state visit to the Republic of Ireland.
Never would Elizabeth have been viewed as being more ''British'' and never would she have more represented ''the best of all that is British''.
I say ''courage'' because although at all times the Royals remain to-die-for terrorist targets, her pilgrimage to Ireland upped the ante and tension to an overwhelming and palpable extent.
She arrived on the very day of the 37th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in which 34 people – including an unborn baby – were killed and hundreds wounded.
It remains the biggest loss of life on any one day in the blood drenched history of '' The Troubles''.
Moreover, a victim advocacy group Justice for the Forgotten had already written to the Queen asking for access to the secret files on the bombings.
There was no artifice in her dress and in her wearing of the Green, her demeanour, her words or in the shared sorrows of the history of those two countries much of it writ in blood. Her entire visit was about Reconciliation and the fact that while we are all bound to our past there is no need to be shackled by it.
The gracious and genuine conduct of both host and guest remains a salient lesson. And not just in Europe.
When she uttered the Gaelic words "A Uachtarain agus a chairde" at the State Dinner held in her honour at Dublin Castle, President Mary McAleese mouthed ''wow!'', echoing the sentiments of many in that room who were both moved and enthralled by Elizabeth''s words and the effort she had made to make everyone feel the first among equals.
As with all true Reconciliation, the ongoing hurt of the past was acknowledged.
The day before, the Queen and the President both laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance, where, said Elizabeth, it had been “impossible to ignore the weight of history".
She said that so much of her visit “reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation.
“Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.
“...the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.
“These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.
" But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us.
No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations".

The Queen acknowledged that the effort towards Reconciliation was a two way street.
“Madam President, you have done a great deal to promote this understanding and reconciliation.
You set out to build bridges. And I have seen at first hand your success in bringing together different communities and traditions on this island".
The Queen spoke of the complications overcome in the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland and how it was
“A knot of history that was painstakingly loosened by the British and Irish Governments together with the strength, vision and determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland."

She applauded the work of all involved in the peace process and that taken together,
"...their work not only serves as a basis for reconciliation between our people and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail".


Listening to The Queen''s Speech, I was struck at how much of what she said bore relevance to Australia, to Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians — and a Republican Australia.
“There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines, but which are at the heart of our shared narrative. Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom...and have come home to each other over the years".

One of my Palace contacts made it quite clear several weeks ago that the Queen believes a Republic would in no way “impair the affection and special relationship".
She said a similar thing in her speech.
“These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource...a golden thread...we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren" the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of".


Australian journalist Angela Long has lived in Ireland for 20 years and has her own astute take on things and hit me with some impressions.
On President ''Macca'' McAleese mouthing ''Wow'' at the Queen speaking Gaelic ('' President and Friends''):
"Macca is usually very, very discreet...the Queen spoke of the future, how suffering had afflicted both sides/countries of the conflict.
“Some people said David Cameron, the British PM, had a tear in his eye. Cynics claimed it was just some of famously smooth Cameron''s hair gel melting.
“One notable thing was the lack of access the ordinary public had, even to seeing her entourage sweep by.”
The Irish authorities were terrified that there might be even a mild form of protest, such as a tomato being thrown at a car.
“For days beforehand parts of the city were sealed off. All manhole covers in the city were cemented. And people going to theatres the Queen would NOT be visiting had their handbags searched! Made no sense.
“One of the more humorous of letters to the flagship newspaper The Irish Times, said that the royal visit would definitely be good for international tourism because of all the footage of Dublin''s sparkling streets unmarred by traffic.
“Anyway, there were protests by a small hardline Republican minority. And six representatives of the Gaelic Athletic Association from the North refused to attend an event at Croke Park in Dublin.
"Sinn Fein, including President and now MP in the South, Gerry Adams, said they would not be taking any protest action and one had to look to the future and be restrained, etc.
“And, a lot of people couldn''t care less. But the mainstream media did its best to have us all weeping with joy. RTE, the state broadcaster, was very obsequious. Thrilled at the thought of ladies-in-waiting and all those posh people honouring us with their notice."

And no sooner has Queen Elizabeth flown back to the comfy surrounds of Buck Palace and the corgis, than US President Barack Obama will be flying in tonight (Oz time) on Air Force One with First Lady, Michelle for their Irish Riverdance.
Obama will be visiting some of the same places as QE2. Moreover, he is expected to maintain the Reconciliation theme of his extraordinary and powerful Middle East and North Africa address on May 19 (US time).
Like several Presidents before him, he will meet up with some Irish rellies and visit his ancestral home - on his Mum''s side. One of the rellies is a Tom Donovan and I reckon he bears an uncanny resemblance to IA Managing Editor David Donovan. That means that David could be related to President Obama. If you need further proof, David has big ears, like Barack. I rest my case. This could surely earn the Independent Australia crew a trip on Air Force One.


The American royals will only have 24 hours and the itinerary is chokkers, so they''ll be moving faster than Michael Flatley on steroids.
The Obamas will stay a wee bit longer on the ground when they go to the UK for a sleepover with Madge and Phil at the Palace. I wonder if the Obamas will swap the Air Force One monogramed glasses for the bespoke Royal Warrant soap ?
And if you think that Reconciliation, Treaties and cabbages and future kings will not be discussed by the Obamas and Windsors, in this penultimate year of the Queen''s Diamond Jubilee, I encourage you to think again.
They''re both on message. We should be too. Reconciliation + Republic = Australia 101.
We must not let the nobler aspects of the '' Arab Spring '' dissipate. Nor abandon the children of the revolution. I feel it has rekindled gentle waves of courage and contemplation in other countries - and in older democracies. It has reminded us how we take for granted those things that some people never had. And how democracies such as our own have deteriorated into faux democracies?
Our citadels of power are just that. Our politicians spend their time jockeying for attention and pollster popularity. Parliament should be our home but we the people have been cast from it and we have become servants to our politicians and servile to their venal ambition.
It is time we changed the locks.
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