The republic debate is about more than just the royals and the HOS

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by David Donovan[/caption]


Australian Republican Movement Vice Chair David Donovan says an Australian Republic is about much more than about the royals and simply having an Australian head of state. The monarchy is also unfair, inequitable, undemocratic and out of step with Australian values.

ON APRIL 29 this year, Prince William will marry Kate Middleton. In October, the Queen will visit Perth for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

As the Vice Chair responsible for the media at the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), I predict that these will be my two busiest times of the year. Whenever anyone mentions royalty in an Australian context, the media then thinks “republic” and more often than not gives me a call.

This is as it should be, since the media knows that the majority of Australians want Australia to be a republic now or at the end of the Queen’s reign - at least 60 per cent, according to most polls. On the other hand, it means that the ARM sometimes spends more time talking about royal personalities and personages rather than the things that really matter to us - why an Australian Republic is so important to Australia. The fact is, we have nothing against the personalities - it is the institution that is the problem.

So, before the royal circus hits town, it’s a good time to look at why Australia should become a republic.

There are, of course, many, many, good reasons for an Australian Republic, but the core ones are clear and important.

Firstly, an Australian Republic is about having an Australian head of state. While it is true that Australia is a functionally independent nation, and the Governor General acts as a de facto head of state, under our constitution the British monarch is the font of all legal power in Australia and our formal head of state.

Until we break our last constitutional links to the mother country, our nationhood is incomplete.  Now, after 110 years of Federation, Australia must finally join the world of nations as a full equal, unshackled to any other nation.

[caption id="attachment_3996" align="alignright" width="304"] The British monarchy is "inequitable and undemocratic"

Perhaps even more importantly, the British monarchy is inequitable and undemocratic. It goes against commonly accepted Australian values about which we are justifiably proud – such as fairness, equality and egalitarianism – for Australian citizens to be the subjects of a foreign unelected figurehead monarch. Much more so when we consider that this head of state is selected not through merit, but through the principles of hereditary male primogeniture, and with Catholics being specifically ineligible.

This is discriminatory and unfair, and wouldn’t be allowed under the anti-discrimination provisions of Australian law, yet is still the method of selection for the Australian head of state.

What sort of example are we setting for our children when we say that our society is set up to reward hard work and talent, and with diligence and tenacity you can get anywhere in life - anywhere, that is, except for the very top job, which is reserved for the first born male – or, if no males are available, female – non-Catholic individual born into a particular highly privileged English family.

That we still maintain links to this inequitable and unfair system – and have not asserted our full independence – is an affront to our national dignity. It is something that, irrespective of any fondness we may feel for a particular monarch, we should resolve to correct at the earliest possible time. The current system does not complement a free and fair Australia.

Let’s have a plebiscite on the question Australians have the knowledge now to answer with confidence: “do you want an Australian Republic with an Australian head of state”.

If this is resolved in the affirmative, let’s work to create the best republican Constitution in the world and put it to a referendum against the current system. If successful, we will then be able to move forward into the new millennium as a fully free, united and confident nation.

(This story was also published on The Punch website on 9/2/2011)
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