The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Australia back in October 2018, when Meghan revealed that she was pregnant. The royal couple were a huge hit with the Australian public and helped boost the monarchy’s popularity down under. Such was the impact that support for a Republic plummeted to a 25-year low, as Australians rallied to the Queen.
However, Meghan and Harry’s shock decision to quit the “Firm” has once again left the Royal Family’s future in Australia precariously hanging in the balance, as polls show a surge in support for a republic, particularly among young Australians.
Speaking to Express.co.uk about Megxit Sandy Biar, the national director of the Australian Republican Movement, claimed it was a major boon to his organisation as it would lead to people questioning whether the Queen should still have a role to play in their country’s political life.
“Well, I certainly think it shines a light on the character of the monarchy,” he said.
“And again it gets people thinking about whether that is actually a relevant association or relevant thing for Australia now. Whether the British monarchy in Australia is relevant to Australians.
“If even members of the British monarchy say it’s not relevant to their lives anymore, then how could it possibly be relevant to Australians?”
Mr Biar argued the Meghan and Harry saga exposed the stifling conformity, as well as the total lack of transparency and accountability that lie at the heart of the royal institution and which contradict basic Australian values and principles.
“The monarchy has existed for many, many years with the support of taxpayers and has been a very tightly controlled organisation,” he claimed.
“It lacks accountability, transparency and doesn’t align with many of those Australian values and particularly values that talk about wanting to have your own independence and being able to carve out your own person and have your own view on issues and your own opinion.
“The type of constraint connected with the monarchy isn’t something that sits well with democracy and certainly not Australian democracy and so certainly these events (Megxit) describe the monarchy in its own terms, which has described itself previously as the ‘Firm’.
“This really reinforces the view that this is a closed shop and not one that represents Australians and their values.”
A major bone of contention for Republicans is the power that is granted to the Queen’s representative the Governor-General, by the existing constitutional arrangements.
Under the terms of the Constitution, a Governor-General has the authority to not only dismiss an incumbent prime minister and Cabinet and call for new elections, but can also refuse to grant royal assent to legislation passed by the Australian parliament.
Although these powers have remained for the most part dormant, in rare instances they have been used, causing a major constitutional crisis on each occasion.
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The most serious crisis occurred in 1975, when the Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Gough Whitlam’s Labour government, after it failed to pass a budget in what became known as the Dismissal.
Sir John installed Malcolm Fraser from the minority Liberal party as caretaker prime minister, before dissolving parliament for new elections shortly thereafter.
The shadow of that event still lingers in the memory, with Republicans arguing that such powers go against all principles of democratic transparency and accountability.
Referencing the Dismissal, Sandy Biar said: “History shows that these powers have actually been used.
“So we’ve got these provisions that are ticking time bombs for a constitutional crisis and they’re sitting there latently waiting to be activated at the sole discretion of the Governor-General and the Queen.
“It is not the kind of democratic transparency and accountability that we would expect in a representative government.”
He also criticised Buckingham Palace’s refusal to publish correspondence between the Queen and her Governor-Generals.
The reason given by the Palace was that the content of that correspondence could damage Anglo-Australian relationships.
Mr Biar commented: “This makes us really curious to know what those letters were saying, because again if there’s been accountability and transparency that one would expect from government, surely nothing should be said between two government representatives at the head of our country that would damage our relationships with another country if they were released.
“Again, it’s another reason why we need an independent head of state that can represent Australia’s interests exclusively.”
In a landmark High Court ruling on Friday, Australian judges finally granted public access to the so-called “palace letters” that are held in the country’s National Archives.
Published at Sun, 31 May 2020 00:57:00 +0000