EDITORIAL WEDNESDAY 17.11.10.
It seems that every time there is any kind of bad publicity or scandal any where near the Royal Family, Australia’s Republicans seize the opportunity to question the relevance of the Monarchy. Why, they ask, should Australia have as its head of state a foreign Monarch whose own family are so frequently the cause for embarrassment, rather than one of our own citizens? Why should we persist with old fashioned arrangements which are relics of the colonial era, and an Empire which no longer exists? Isn’t it time that Australia finally cut the apron strings and stood on its own feet, dispensed with the Monarchy, and became a republic?
So often, these are the questions wheeled out when there is any sort of adverse media coverage of the Royal Family. In contrast, the official announcement of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton seems to have left the Republicans without much to say. Perhaps they don’t see any mileage in trying to rain on the parade, and are reluctant to risk any kind of backlash, but it is interesting to stop for a moment and ask ourselves whether this Royal Engagement is of any special significance for Australians, or if it is simply another celebrity story to fill the pages of the tabloid magazines.
While Australia remains a Constitutional Monarchy, the Royal Family will remain relevant, perhaps not so much in themselves and their daily activities, but in the simple fact that they are there at all. For Australians, the relevance is in the constitutional arrangements which have served us well since the beginning of our nation. Our Constitutional Monarchy has provided us with a level of political stability and security which is matched by very few other countries. It means that our politicians are subject to constraints which prevent them from becoming despots, and that even the Prime Minister is simply the first among equals rather than a power unto him or herself.
There may well come a day when Australians decide to become a Republic, but it would be foolish in the extreme to do so simply for the sake of it, or because it is seen as some sort of declaration of independence. We already have our independence, and we have a constitutional system which works very well. If we are to contemplate changing that system it is imperative that we make very sure that the new system we create is actually better than the old one that we tear down. Until such a system is devised, there is no sound reason why the Constitutional Monarchy cannot continue to serve the Australian people.