Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch on September 9, 2015, when she surpassed the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria who lived to the age of 81. On February 6 ,2017, she became the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee, commemorating 65 years on the throne. She is also the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror obtained the crown of England.
Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth II also became the longest-reigning living monarch on 13 October 2016, upon the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
The June long weekend has been the date set aside when we celebrate Her Majesty’s birthday. Why June? A tradition that was started by George II in 1748 and which owes its origins to the ageless problem of the British weather, all British sovereigns are given the option of having an ‘official’ birthday. As the Queen’s real birthday is on April 21 (1926), she chose to hold her celebration in June each year and this year she turned 94 years of age.
For the non-baby boomers, the following brief historical observations about the Queen highlight the impact she had on countless lives, and more importantly, the success of the Constitutional Monarchy as a system of government. During Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, there have been:
- Fourteen Prime Ministers in office: from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson
- Thirteen Presidents in office: from Harry Truman to Donald Trump
- Seven Archbishops of Canterbury: from Geoffrey Fisher to Justin Welby
- Seven Popes during the Queen’s reign (Pius XII to Francis)
Presently, Queen Elizabeth II is the permanent head of our Constitution. By her very existence, the Queen and her successors ensure that our democracy, embedded in the Constitution, remains inviolate. Over-ambitious and overriding politicians cannot change this fact and as such, Elizabeth II (and her heirs and successors) remain our ultimate safeguard. FamilyVoice has always advocated the retention of constitutional monarchy as the preferred model of governance for our Commonwealth and has encouraged all Australians to unite to defend our constitutional system of government. Whilst FamilyVoice recognises the different political views in the public square we continue to oppose the attempt by minority groups to promote a republican form of government. In fact, there is deep concern about the potential for ‘constitutional vandalism’ that would arise from policies postulated by progressive left-leaning political parties which seek to achieve a ‘republic’ at any cost.
As a monarchist, there are two issues of concern. First, there is concern that left-wing political parties pledge to attempt constitutional reform without respecting the constitutional provisions for change, which has the real risk of undermining public confidence in our civic system including its government and its parliament. Secondly, there is concern that the appointment of a ‘Minister for the Republic’ would contradict the Constitution and subject executive government and the office of the Governor-General to severe embarrassment.
While any political party is perfectly entitled to discuss and debate the republican question, it is not entitled to undermine respect and confidence in our existing system by inviting people to effectively vote against the Crown without offering any executable alternative.
There is every indication that MPs would not be able to agree on a model to be presented to the electorate in a referendum. Any referendum on a republic could lead to the same chaos which has arisen in the British Parliament following the Brexit debacle, when a popular desire cannot be executed owing to disunity within the Parliament. As the British government has found to its horror and acute embarrassment, it is entirely foolish to gain a mandate for action without the ability to execute the change.
In the UK, the sheer distraction, waste of political energy, the lack of certainty, the demise of one prime minister, has utterly undermined confidence in government and in the institution of Parliament itself.
In Australia, it would be improper for any government to attempt constitutional change without respecting the constitutional provision, which is for the voters to be given precise details about any recommended changes so they can vote with certainty on the issue in a manner which binds the Parliament.
Anything less is to treat the people and the civic system with contempt and to engage in a process of constitutional vandalism. It would be grossly improper for any government to misappropriate the resources of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, requiring its officials to run a glorified opinion poll on a question (as occurred with the same-sex marriage postal ballot), or to instruct the Australian Electoral Commission to hold a plebiscite on a constitutional question instead of running a proper referendum.
In discussions embarrassing to one’s self and the Executive Council, the Governor-General may feel dutybound to point out that each federal parliamentarian must profess allegiance to the Queen of Australia, along with her heirs and successors, according to the Constitution (s42 and its schedule), and that while any MP is free to debate the merits of Crown allegiance, no MP can take ministerial action against the Crown without a mandate from the people, as determined by the referendum mechanism provided in the Constitution. The people must be consulted and must approve constitutional change before the Constitution may be used in a manner otherwise contrary to its own provisions. In other words, no ‘minister for the republic’ can be appointed under the existing Constitution.
A Constitutional Monarchy has proven to be the best form of government, despite many cynically claiming that having a Monarch as Head of State is good for tourism, and not much else, the fact remains that there are numerous reasons why constitutional monarchy has been, is, and will be the best form of government.
Happy Birthday, Your Majesty.
Greg Bondar is the NSW and ACT State Director of Family Voice Australia.
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