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Musing on the Monarchy

A small public garden at Healesville in Victoria has a plaque stating that the garden was planted in 1953 in commemoration of the coronation of Queen Victoria II. She was crowned in 1952, almost 65 years ago. For such a long time has she reigned; few regents could boast 65 years in office. And it is over us, Australians, that she reigns; quietly, discretely, non-politically - in the background. But will it always be so? Prince Charles has shown a disposition to make comments on political matters. Will he continue the monarchy in the same silent manner? Surely his time must come soon – no one lives forever. What will happen then? What could happen then?

To Australians it seems strange to have a foreign monarch – it is seen as a quirk of history – an irrelevance. But it was due to the delegated power of the Crown that a sitting Prime Minister was removed from office. And the laws passed by Australian parliaments are not binding until signed by our Monarch, or in her place, one of her representives as Governor or Governor General. When we go walking in state forests, we are walking on Crown land – the term appears through all our land titles and many public places – think of it, Crown land, the Queen’s land, perhaps soon the King’s land?

What if our future King decided not to sign certain laws – ones he disagreed with. What sort of crisis would it create? What if he took a dislike to an Australian government, or an Australian Prime Minister – could he prevent them taking office? Could he remove them from office if he chose? Or could he simply hold the parliament hostage by refusing to sign any Australian acts into law?

Perhaps some see such a Monarch as desirable? Many see our politicians and governments as either self-serving or serving vested interests. Perhaps some may see a remote monarch as offering blessed relief – someone removed from local corruptions and from local populism – someone in a position to make decisions entirely impartially. Potentially such a person – if wise – could make very wise decisions. But if true, what an indictment that would be of us in our uncivilised colonial outpost. After decades of effective independence from a Monarch is our achievement to show our ineptitude to rule ourselves? Have we become an example of how badly a democratic government can act as custodian of a potentially prosperous and beautiful nation? A democratic system that currently is overseeing the destruction of the largest living thing on earth – the mighty Great Barrier Reef.

Perhaps some reject the notion that Australia could benefit from a foreign ruler selectively approving or rejecting Australian laws based on his judgement as to whether they are wise or not. Perhaps they might prefer that he simply use his veto power to hold Australian parliaments hostage to a commitment to create a new Australian constitution? A constitution that removes the potential for corruption from political donations? A constitution that empowers citizens and de-powers the state? One that allows citizen initiated referendums for example?

Either way, we may as a nation soon be faced with the possibility that our foreign regent may be our only hope for deliverance from a failing democratic system – one way or another. If so what a sad state that we have so demonstrated our immaturity as a nation.

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