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The Queen is Not Foreign

Not so! Queen Elizabeth is Head of the Commonwealth to 51 countries and she is also Head of State to 16 of those countries. In Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Papua-New Guinea, the Governor-General is the Constitutional Head of State, the Queen is the symbolic Head of State (the two-tier system). The Queen is specified to be part of each Federal and State legislature, and (titular) head of the executive government of the Commonwealth and each State. The Queen is an integral part of our constitutional governance.

The Queen has borne the official title 'Queen of Australia' since 1953 when the Australian Parliament passed the Royal Style and Titles Act, 1953. She is ours too. The Governor-General is Australia's constitutional Head of State and all Governors-General have been Australians since the appointment of Lord Casey in 1965. There is no discrimination in the appointment of the Governor-General who can be from any background or religion and of either sex.

Clearly the Queen never represents Australia abroad, a function performed by our Australian Governor-General, our Prime Minister and other Ministers. Foreignness implies citizenship of some other place. The Queen is not a citizen of any nation.

Thousands of ordinary Australians (including Arthur Boyd, the 1995 Australian of the Year) don't permanently live here either. Three million of today's Australians (including some of our recent leaders) were not born here.


The Queen should not be invited to open the Olympic Games. The opening must be performed by an Australian Head of State.


The Queen of Australia will surely be invited to play a key role in the Centenary of Federation celebrations which will commence in January 2001. As it is unlikely the Queen would also be able to attend the Olympic Games in continuous stream of constitutional instruments from which it takes character and strength and a new start for the government of a new nation. Its forebears include the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Act of Settlement of 1701, the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the United States Constitution which, in turn, was very largely the attempt of the American settlers to enshrine in one document their conceptions of the essential features of good government which had been won by the English people at home but which were being partly denied in the settlements and plantations in North America.

It has become fashionable in some quarters to deny the past links with the United Kingdom and even to rewrite history. But we cannot expunge something so indelible as the lineage of our constitutional form of government'

The Hon Justice Michael Kirby (ACM Charter Signatory) Address: 'The blessings of the Constitution' to the Australian Constitutional Foundation.
13 August 1996
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