(L) no introduction needed (R) book cover of “Australians All”
by Mary W Maxwell
This article is mainly about the role of the monarch in Australia. Although I have long been a monarchist, I now say it is absurd for the monarch of Australia to be simultaneously the monarch of a foreign country. If Oz is to have a monarchical government, the person in the role should be Australian. The whole royal family ought to look like a bunch of Aussies.
Many societies have a king; some do not. There were no kings in early human society and in the last few centuries some republics got formed by specifically eschewing monarchy.
How to define royalty? A good circular definition is that the person occupying the throne in a given country is royal. It is the person whom society allows to be the big authority.
It has proved convenient to the continuity of the king’s rulership to say that when he dies his first-born son will automatically take over.
According to anthropologist Pierre van den Berghe, the origin of village chieftainship may have been, simply, polygamy. A man may obtain more than one wife through the having of some personal talent, wealth, or prestige. Once he has multiple wives he also has multiple brothers-in-law.
A big clan is a recognizably strong force – it has many people loyal to its preservation. It also means more “soldiers” to fight anyone who may be a rival to the dynasty.
I am guessing that the chief, having the title “Chief,” would soon enjoy some ceremonious recognition of his greatness. Why? Because we like to do that. We want to feel special about our tribe. We enjoy those moments of togetherness, such as singing the national anthem. It is goose-bump-engendering. Yay goose-bumps!
The British Empire and Us
In the thousand years after Christ, the British Isles had an ethnic group known as the Celts, of which the prominent section in England was the Britons. (Which is why we Down Under are sort of Brit-ish.)
There was a Saxon invasion in the Dark Ages, possibly as early as 500CE. “Seed” was also left by invading Vikings, Romans, and pirates of the Barbary Coast. Really we “British” are multicultural, or at least multi-gene.
In the famous year 1066, England’s king Edward (also known as Saint Edward the Confessor — yes a saint king!) died without an heir to the throne.
Oops. That led to competition, with the king of Normandy (French), and king of Norway, trying out for the part. In January 1066, a British man named Harold had been appointed king of England but nine months later in the Battle of Hastings he had to yield the crown to the winner of that Battle, the Norman William.
Quelle langue parlait Guillaume? Oui, you got it. Hence for the next 400 years French was spoken officially “in court”, a fact we rarely if ever hear mention of.
Fast forward a half-millennium to 1500s when John Dee (the surname Dee is Welsh), a scientist in the reign of Elizabeth I, did odd jobs such as to guard occult secrets and assist the development of an empire. In 1570 Dee wrote Brytannicae reipublicae synopsis.
The British East India Company rivaled — or was in cahoots with? — the Dutch East India trade. We were taught in school that Europeans simply had to get spices from such places as Indonesia, tea from Ceylon, etc. Right?
By the way, Australians are generally not taught that New Holland was the name given to our continent in 1644 by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (1603-1659), long before the arrival of Captain Cook. In 1788 Cook claimed the eastern half of New Holland as British, giving it the name New South Wales.
Children in the US are taught that Americans revolted against George III. It would be more correct, of course, to say that the British settlers in the American colonies revolted; there were no “Americans” until that took place. The break-out is documented in the Declaration of Independence of 1776.
Did Aussies similarly revolt? No, but they gradually cut ties with the mother country. Clearly they did not revolt against the occupant of the British throne, as even today the occupant of the British throne, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, is also the queen of Australia.
By the way, the queen is the only member of the royal family who is royal in Australia. The consort and children of the queen have no status with the Australian Constitution. True, her first-born, Charles, the Prince of Wales, is slated to become king of Australia one day, but today he is not a privileged person here, legally speaking
Oz Has Cut the Apron Strings, Somewhat
From the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 to the Federation of Australia on January 1, 1901, we were a British colony – the same as Canada, India, British Guyana in South America, and so forth. (India, until 1947, was called “British India” – isn’t that a scream? — but it didn’t seem a scream at the time.)
In 1901 Australia became independent – sort of. The Constitution shows that we are to be governed by a parliament. What? Not governed by the monarch? Umm. It’s confusing. The queen herself “sits in parliament.”
Take your minds off the Governor General for a while, as that causes us to be reminded of our Head of State’s ceremonial role. Just consider the monarch’s place in the Constitution. As everyone knows, a bill passed by both houses of parliament does not come into force until it receives “the royal assent.”
In the Constitution, Chapter 1 “The Parliament – General” says:
Section 1- Legislative Power
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives….”
Section 2 – Governor-General
A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.
And we also find in Section 58 of the COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA CONSTITUTION ACT
Royal Assent to Bills
When a proposed law passed by both Houses of the Parliament is presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent, he shall declare, according to his discretion, but subject to this Constitution, that he assents in the Queen’s name, or that he withholds assent, or that he reserves the law for the Queen’s pleasure.
Recommendations by Governor-General
The Governor-General may return to the house in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendments which he may recommend, and the Houses may deal with the recommendation.
My Personal Prejudices
Before continuing I’d like to say why I have been a monarchist (as you may wonder, since I am often tooting off about my nation of birth — the US’s republic is something for which my admiration is unbounded).
The reasons are two. First, I see the monarch in Oz, at least in theory, as the people’s go-to person. Never mind that people don’t in fact go to her – they could.
Second, during the so-called debate for an Australian Republic back in 1998, I was aghast at the way persons – in this modern day and age – were talking as though the changing of the details of government would have any effect on politics.
I think Australians are horribly wedded to the idea that to be a parliamentarian is a “career” and that pollies will be pollies. A change in that culture would be far more effective than a technical change from a constitutional monarchy to a res publica.
So Who Is Australian and Who Isn’t?
As confirmed by the Nationality Act of 1920, Australians were British subjects. There was no “Australian citizenship.” (Isn’t that amazing?). However, after WWII many Europeans immigrated here – such as displaced persons and the 10-pound-passage people – so it became necessary to set up the rules of Aussie citizenship. This was done by 1948 legislation.
Until then any Englishman, Scotsman, Welshman, or Northern Irishman, could enter Australia without question. In the other direction, anyone born in Oz could still have a British passport (if they wished) and could move to the UK unhindered.
My argument in this article is that the Australian monarch should be an Australian. There are key court cases having to do with whether the UK is a “foreign country.”
At Parliament’s website pah.gov.au we read:
In Taylor (2001)(1) and Te and Dang (2002),(2) three judges maintained that while at the time of Federation Britain was not a ‘foreign power’ and British subjects were not ‘aliens’ under Australian constitutional law, this position did not survive Australia’s emergence as an independent sovereign nation.
Other judges argued that British subjects who settled in Australia by the 1970s or 1980s shared allegiance with Australians to a common monarch, and so could not be ‘aliens’ under Australian law. Instead they were part of a new category of ‘non-alien non-citizens’ outside the scope of the detention and deportation provisions in the Migration Act 1958 (Cwlth).
…In Te and Dang, the High Court agreed that the word ‘alien’ was a constitutional not a legislative concept, and that it was for the Court itself not Parliament to define its meaning although Parliament could make laws prescribing who would come within this term. There was also agreement on the basic dictionary meaning of ‘alien’, i.e. ‘a foreigner’ or ‘one born in or belonging to another country who has not acquired citizenship by naturalisation and is not entitled to the privileges of a citizen’.
Can a Foreigner Be a Parliamentarian?
Section 44 of the Constitution says that certain persons
“shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”
One thing that can disqualify him is if he:
(i.) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power….
The case of a woman elected to Australia’s parliament came before the High Court in 1999: Sue v Hill. The Court issued this order:
(1) Answer the questions reserved in each stated case as follows:
(a) Does s 354 of the Act validly confer upon the Court of Disputed Returns jurisdiction to determine the issues raised in the Petition?
(b) Was the first respondent at the date of her nomination a subject or citizen of a foreign power within the meaning of s 44(i) of the Constitution?
(c) Was the first respondent duly elected at the Election?
In short, Mrs Hill did not get a chance to be a parliamentarian.
What about Her Maj?
In Sue v Hill, Her Majesty did not get discharged from Parliament for being a foreigner. Perhaps technically she should. At least it would be conceivable for a Court to rule that the monarch described in section 1 of the Constitution can be Australian.
I repeat Section 1 of Chapter 1:
“The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives….”
Earlier I said please take your eyes off of the Governor-General’s ceremonial role. Now I say please put your eyes on it. The ceremonial role of the queen or her Representative in Australia is an important mechanism for arousing emotions. All people love their traditions – it has a uniting effect.
Also, the solemnity of the job makes the incumbent seem holy. Thus it goes against our instinct of religious reverence to think twice about the Queen or the G-G.
The British queen, or king, has an enormous amount of pomp available. An Australian-born king or queen would have to make do with whatever traditions are native to Oz, including Aboriginal ceremonies and customs.
I think that could prove very healthy.
— Mary W Maxwell landed here in 1980. Thought Waltzing Matilda was the national anthem.