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The Queen is Head of the Commonwealth of Nations.  No one has put her contribution in this role more clearly than the thirteen year old Australian youth ambassador, Harry White, at the opening of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He said : “Your Majesty, during the past 54 years of your reign you have been the glue that has held us all together in the great Commonwealth of Nations in good times and bad times. The love and great affection that we all hold for you is spread across one third of the world's population in our Commonwealth.”

                                                                                                        

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 The Commonwealth is one international organisation which maintains minimum standards as to continuing membership. While Zimbabwe remains suspended from the Commonwealth (it claims to have withdrawn), a glance at the membership and chairmanship of the defunct UN Human Rights Commission will indicate that different standards apply there.

The Commonwealth brings together countries which are close legally, politically, linguistically and in sport, and which accept certain minimum standards of democratic governance and respect for human rights. Although occasionally disparaged in the media, Australia would be most unwise not to seek to play a significant role there.  

It is true that the Commonwealth encompasses both constitutional monarchies and republics. But if there were to be another referendum, let us hope that the minister responsible first understands the process whereby a member changing from a realm to a republic seeks to remain in the organization, but also ensures that there would be no objection from the other members, any one of which has an effective veto in the event of change. 

 

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