Time for a home-grown head of state, not a ring-in

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Allison Henry says Australia has the talent for a home-grown head of state that is not selected under the archaic principles of primogeniture and religious discrimination.

Intrepid Australian explorer Douglas Mawson - not eligible to be Australian head of state

WHAT DO Douglas Mawson, Frank Beaurepaire, Albert Namatjira, Mark Oliphant, John Flynn and Howard Florey have in common? How about Mary Gilmore, Enid Lyons, Miles Franklin, Edith Cowan, Dorothea Mackellar and Nellie Melba?

All famous Australians, men and women of achievement and inspiration, some internationally renowned. None able to be Australia's head of state.

Perhaps some of these individuals may not have been suitable national leaders and representatives. The point is that they were never given the chance.

Instead - and still - Australia's system of constitutional monarchy means that our head of state will always be the citizen of another country, an individual appointed not on merit, but on birthright.

As things stand, the line of succession to the top job in Australia is pre-determined by a 200-year-old British law embodying a hereditary system that barely reflects the values of 21st-century Britain, let alone contemporary Australia. Without constitutional reform, our next head of state is destined to be Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor of London, England, and Australians will have no say in the matter.

This is offensive to many Australians not only because it is an inherently discriminatory system, on the grounds of both gender and religion, but also because – in a robust democracy such as Australia – Australians have no say in the machinations of who our next head of state will be.

A few years ago, the former British Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, dismissed suggestions that the British Government abolish primogeniture in succession to the throne. This is the underlying principle of succession in Britain, whereby male heirs will always take precedence over female heirs.

While acknowledging that it was "not right to have gender discrimination" in relation to succession, Lord Falconer argued that it was "not the time to embark on change" as "the heir to the throne is a man, the heir to the throne's son is a man and his second son is a man".

How enlightened. This decision - which has an impact on the rules determining Australia's head of state - has been made in Britain, by a British politician, with no consultation with Australia.

If such a decision had been made in Australia, action could arguably be pursued under our Sex Discrimination Act, which has for the past 20 years outlawed such blatant gender discrimination.

This development reminds us once again that constitutional monarchy is an inherently discriminatory and undemocratic system that has little to offer contemporary Australia.

It's time for change.

Prince Charles Windsor, Australia's next head of state

Our head of state is an important symbolic role that should be unambiguously filled by an Australian, drawn from among us and representing only Australia.

No matter his affection for Australians or his good intentions, Charles, with his rare visits to our shores, cannot possibly understand Australia or its people. As the citizen of a foreign land he cannot possibly embody our diverse national identity or effectively represent Australia, to ourselves and to others, as our future king.

It is time that we had one of us in the top job. A resident for president.

Australia's next head of state should deserve the job, not simply inherit it. Supporters of the constitutional status quo - which polling consistently identifies at just 35 per cent of Australians - suggest that there is no one who could fill the top job nearly as well as our present queen or future king.

Nonsense. Cast a quick glance around Australian society today and you'll see there are any number of worthy potential heads of state in our midst. Each Australia Day, for example, we celebrate and honour the champions of contemporary Australian society: men and women drawn from all walks of life, background, language and religion.

As in the past, we don't lack the talent to fill the role of head of state with an Australian.

So let's get on with it. Australians deserve and need one of us in the top job: a mate drawn from among us rather than a monarch to reign over us.

(Alison Henry is a former national director of the Australian Republican Movement.)
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