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TEN REPUBLICAN CLAIMS EXAMINED

In addition to the ten major republican arguments considered so far, debates are often peppered with apparently self-justifying assertions by republicans, which gain currency by repetition but which, on analysis, are often highly suspect and certainly far from self-evident or convincing. Here are ten of them.

Often the most persuasive reason that republicans give for wanting to become a republic is that they perceive the Queen to be a foreigner. Although this is the principle sentiment of the republican cause, on examination many of these remarks appear to be of a superficial nature. The argument comes in many guises and each one is considered below:

CLAIM 1 - OUR HEAD OF STATE SHOULD BE 'ONE OF US'

1. The phrase 'one of us' needs closer scrutiny; it is reminiscent of one volk. In what way is the Queen not one of us?

1.1 Is it because the Queen resides overseas—as do many Australians at present? Are they not one of us? Dame Joan Sutherland, David Malouf, Robert Hughes, Clive James, Germain Greer, Greg Norman, Arthur Boyd (six months of the year) even Thomas Kenneally when they are away?

1.2 Is it because of her genealogy—part Scot, mainly German (the family only changed its name to Windsor in 1917) and related to members of nearly every country in Europe?

1.3 Is it because she is Queen of 16 different countries—Where will that leave those with dual nationality in our country—aren't they 'one of us'?

1.4 As our Constitutional Head of State, the Governor-General is both an Australian citizen and resident here—isn't that enough?

CLAIM 2 - WE DON'T NEED THE ENGLISH QUEEN

2. We don't have any relationship with the 'English' Queen or 'The Queen of England'. There hasn't been a Queen of England since the Union with Scotland in 1707.

2.1 As Australia is an independent sovereign country, we have and owe allegiance only to Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia—not as Queen of New Zealand, Queen of Canada or Queen of England if they mean the United Kingdom.

2.2 If we don't have Elizabeth II, we will need someone else to be King or Queen or tear up our Constitution, as the Crown and its representatives appear in one third of its provisions and merely to eliminate references to the Crown will need 76 alterations.

CLAIM 3 - THE QUEEN IS A FOREIGNER

3. What is meant by a 'foreigner'?

3.1 The Queen is by law (the Constitution) an essential part of our Federal Parliament just as she is of every State Parliament. She is also by law, reaffirmed by our Parliaments as recently as 1986, 'Queen of Australia'. She is certainly not 'foreign' to our Constitution. Every valid executive act in Australia since 1788 (and since 1901) has been done in the name of and by the lawful authority of the Queen or her predecessors—how much more integral to a country can one be?

3.2 Is it suggested that Elizabeth II is British and thus 'foreign' to Australia? If so, what of the two million British migrants and residents who have lived here (some nearly all their lives), who vote and pay taxes. Are they, too, 'foreigners'?

3.3 In a 'global village' with a 'global' market, isn't it being rather childish to divide the world into 'us' and 'them' or 'us' and 'foreigners'. Where does it leave our vaunted multicultural policies—do they apply to everyone except the Queen?

CLAIM 4 - THE QUEEN IS NOT AN AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN

4. The Queen is certainly not an Australian citizen.

4.1 Monarchs are not citizens of any country. The Queen is no more nor less than our country's Queen. Elizabeth II is not a citizen of Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Canada or the United Kingdom either. The Monarch forgoes many privileges, such as the right to vote, the right to a passport, the right to take part in politics, so that the Queen is kept out of the day to day political battle.

4.2 Ironically nobody is or can be a citizen of Australia except by an Act of Parliament which only gained its effect when the Queen of Australia's assent was granted.

4.3 How can one who has been part of giving citizenship to others be a lesser part of the body politic than those who choose to take out citizenship?

4.4 To be a citizen is only one way to belong to a country. Many Australians live and work here and pay taxes, who are citizens of another country or dual citizens. As its symbolic head and an essential part of each of the State and Federal Constitutions, the Queen is in those ways more a part of Australia than anyone else.

CLAIM 5 - THE (FOREIGN) QUEEN SHOULD NOT OPEN THE OLYMPIC GAMES-WE SHOULD HAVE AN AUSTRALIAN HEAD OF STATE BY 2000 TO DO IT!

5. Opening the Games is a huge task. Whoever does it merely says 'I now declare these Olympic Games open'. It takes all of, say, twenty seconds! For this reason, some republicans say they want to tear up seven Constitutions, have seven presidents, a new flag and a new anthem by the year 2000!

5.1 Most republics have come about through revolution (USA), war (Germany) or repetition (France is on its fifth!) but Australia will be the world's laughing stock forever being the only republic to come about because of a twenty-second speech before a sporting carnival.

5.2 In any event, the Prime Minister will probably advise our Head of State, who receives all Ambassadors, who travels abroad as our Head of State, who assents to all our laws and is part of our Parliament and Head of our Executive Government, with all the powers of the Constitution at his command—our Australian Governor-General—to open the Games or do it himself! What do you think?

CLAIM 6 - THE QUEEN BETRAYED US AT STRASBOURG

6. The republican assertion can be stated as 'the Queen, as Queen of the UK, betrayed Australia at Strasbourg because she addressed the European Parliament not as Queen of Australia but as Queen of the United Kingdom'.

6.1 This is one of the deceptions put about by those who should know better. Nothing the Queen said at Strasbourg could possibly lead a sane person to say she betrayed Australia. Four times in a four page speech, she urged the EEC to look at the interests of those outside it. As the Queen of Australia, is it to be said that if Australia joins APEC, Elizabeth II is betraying the UK?

CLAIM 7 - THE QUEEN IS 'THE ENEMY OF RURAL AUSTRALIA'

7. The one person in the whole Constitutional debate from whom no Australian has anything to fear is the Queen. She has discharged her duties assiduously since 1952; she has visited Australia (when given permission by her Australian Ministers—she cannot just rock up here when she likes!) on no fewer than twelve occasions; in 1954 as the new Queen; and in 1963,1970, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1992.

7.1 She has seen more of Australia than most Australians, worked with every Prime Minister since Menzies—Holt, McEwan, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard. She has been part of our nation for 45 years and takes a keen interest in Australia.

7.2 Because UK joined the European Common Market, the Convenor of the ARM in Victoria, historian Dr J.M. Hirst, has more than once labelled the Queen (not her country) an 'enemy'—an emotive slander against someone who drove trucks as part of the Allied war effort, on our side, in World War II.

CLAIM 8 - WE WANT 'A RESIDENT FOR PRESIDENT'

8. We have a resident for Constitutional Head of State—that has worked well here for the whole of Australia's history. There is no need to change it. No one else can exercise the powers of our Head of State, certainly not the Queen who is precluded by the words of the Constitution of 1901.

8.1 Implicit in this is the assumption that anyone can stand for election as President, but could they or would they? Sir Zelman Cowen has said he wouldn't. Unless one were a millionaire, who could afford it but a nominee of a political party? Thus we'd get a local millionaire (like Ross Perot in USA) or a political nominee- (Labor's Whitlam, Hawke or Keating; Liberal's Gorton or Fraser; the Democrats' Chipp or Kernot; One Nation's who?).

8.2 Would 'residency' be the only criterion. Could anyone who merely lives here be our president, e.g. foreign visitors, recent arrivals and dual citizens?

8.3 In USA, Presidents must have been born in the country—would we go that far, and exclude all our migrants, a quarter of our population?

8.4 Could someone with dual nationality be president, owing allegiance to Australia and another country at the same time, as many Australians do. (But wait a minute, isn't that what republicans claim was wrong with the 'foreign' Queen?).

8.5 Why did the former Keating government's republican proposal exclude active politicians from standing for five years after they had been in Parliament? Does anyone seriously believe a man of honour abandons his life's principles or his friends after five years?

8.6 What other surprises lie behind 'a resident for president'? If all they want is another resident Head of State (in addition to the one we have), perhaps a local monarchy that lived here would satisfy them (now it was republican Paddy McGuinness who first suggested that).

CLAIM 9 - WE SHOULD NOT SHARE OUR QUEEN (OR HEAD OF STATE) WITH ANY OTHER COUNTRY

9. As the Republican Advisory Committee reported, the Queen's personal duties under the Constitution are very limited—to appoint (and remove) Governors-General (and Governors in the States). This occurs about once every five years; it is hardly exhausting (however her ceremonial and social duties, touring Australia and her other realms, takes more—but not a great deal more—time).

9.1 We thus have all the advantages of the system of constitutional monarchy without the upkeep of a resident monarch (£189 million a year in the United Kingdom—to which Australia contributes not a penny!). Governors and Governors-General cost only what their respective parliaments allow them. Their salaries are presently comparable with those of Supreme Court Judges.

9.2 Thus our 'minimal monarchy' is designed to run on its own, almost completely within Australia—as are the Queen's other self-contained realms in their own territories. Only in UK is the Queen the Constitutional as well as the symbolic Head of State.

9.3 By sharing Elizabeth II with other countries, we have no legal links with them, but share in the symbol of an institution which, after the Papacy, is the oldest institution in Europe, noted for its integrity, unquestionably above politics, completely unambitious and which by its very existence thwarts the ambitions of those would desire to seize both the power and the glory of the State (as, for instance, the President of France, has done).

9.4 Republicans (including the ARM and the former Keating Government) say that Australia will remain in the Commonwealth of Nations, of which the Queen is Head.

How come we can share her as the symbol of the free association of 1.6 million people from 53 countries, from every continent (even countries such as Mozambique, which had no previous association with UK or the British Empire), but we cannot share her as Queen with 16 other countries, including great sister democracies such as New Zealand, Canada and UK and neighbouring Papua New Guinea because once every five years she appoints our Prime Minister's nominee as Governor-General. It is all too silly for words!

CLAIM 10 - THE QUEEN IS BRITISH AND THE BRITISH BETRAYED US IN ASIA IN WORLD WAR II

10. The suggestion (by Mr Keating) that the Queen must go because 'the British betrayed us in Asia in World War II' was about the lowest point of his republican campaigning. Not only was it bad history, it was bad politics; people with British sympathies or who lost relatives fighting alongside the British forces never forgave him.

10.1 Firstly, it is a non-sequitur—it doesn't follow—even if the claims were true.

10.2 Secondly, the claim is nonsense.

10.3 The British had to garrison a world-wide Empire alone at the time of the fall of Singapore; few people expected the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbour or enter the land war in South East Asia, nor if they did, that their armed forces would be so efficient or mobile.

10.4 Singapore was a military disaster for UK and Australian forces . The British suffered very heavy losses (HMShips Prince of Wales and Repulse, thousands of men etc.) as it did in the early days of the war against Germany it was fighting at the same time.

10.5 Nevertheless, the British regrouped in India. Viscount Slim fought the Burma Campaign, UK and USA fought back alongside Australian forces and eventually won.

10.6 At the end of the Pacific War, Britain had over 600 warships in the Pacific.

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