Leadership beyond politics, a quality well demonstrated by Prince Harry, is one of the greatest virtues of our constitutional system. Most Australians identify this feature as the one distinct advantage of our system over America’s. This innate feeling, no doubt revealed in focus groups, explains Malcolm Turnbull’s much-ridiculed attempt to have the word ‘republic’ struck out of the 1999 republic referendum question.
This feeling among Australians has been magnified by the Democrats’ and mainstream media’s refusal to accept the election of President Trump with the associated mob violence. This behaviour will probably worsen when it dawns on the recalcitrants that the mid-term elections have failed to deliver the means of deposing the President on, may I say, trumped-up charges. An unintended consequence will be to instil an even greater reluctance here to trash our oldest institution, even if most politicians wipe the floor with their oaths of allegiance.
The republican movement is very worried. That influential Labor elder, republican Graham Richardson, has declared that with Prince Harry ‘the republic is dead.’
Its only hope of revival is Bill Shorten’s promise to keep the issue alive even if he must vandalise our Constitution.
The fact is the politicians’ republic was given a decent burial with the 1999 landslide. There’s no point re-running this. Referendums on the same subject have never been successful, even when put five times.
When I wrote the first draft of the No case for the official Yes/No booklet for all electors, I followed practice and nowhere relied on the personal qualities and popularity of the Queen. That said, the Royal Family today is as popular as ever, with the young now challenging the elderly as the strongest supporters of the Crown.
This is not, as the ARM desperately claims, because the royals are just celebrities. The young are neither dumb nor unable to recognise virtue; they recognise and admire someone whose life is overwhelmingly dedicated to service.
Forget the latest opinion polls.
Half of Newspoll’s claimed 50 per cent in support of a republic is made up of those partially in support and thus partially opposed. As Manuel would say, ‘Que?’
As for Essential, they changed their question to imply we don’t already have an Australian as head of state, a dog-whistle if ever there were one. We do, the Governor-General. Indonesia apologised to the Hawke government when they failed to recognise what Australian governments always officially declares to all the world.
As for Harry, worldwide recognition of his qualities was triggered when he stated, ever so bluntly, he would not sit ‘on my arse back home while my boys are off out there fighting’ overseas.
As the Washington Post’s Maree Cocco observed, it takes no nostalgia for the Crown to hear the honour in Harry’s vow.
She winced at the fact that, unlike Britain, the sons and daughters of the ‘well-heeled and the well-known’ are largely absent from the US force in Afghanistan. With an elite that still believes in the notion of noblesse oblige, she lamented that while the British ‘send their princes into battle’, the US makes ‘paupers of her military families’.
How, she asked, could a nation ‘founded in rebellion’ become less concerned with ‘equal treatment and shared sacrifice’ than the monarchy it overthrew?
Since then our warrior prince has continue to demonstrate that he is indeed a great and honourable man. From his considerable charitable work, especially but not only in Africa, he is the founder of the Invictus Games which are playing such a significant role in the rehabilitation of the wounded in war, and in reminding civilians of their great sacrifice.
Would not then Prince Harry, with the charming Meghan at his side, make the perfect choice as our next Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief? (I resile in no way from my suggestion on radio 2GB, taken up by other commentators, that Brendan Nelson would make an excellent G-G.)
In reply to the predictably outraged reaction from the likes of Paul Keating on the technical legal argument that the Prince is not a citizen, Keating should be asked why he blocked his own minister’s determination to deport Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali who, as a result of Keating’s intervention, was then comfortably locked onto the path of receiving Australian citizenship. And if citizenship is so important, why have terrorists and other criminals been rewarded by our politicians with Australian citizenship? And why was a man who long campaigned to depose the Queen recently made her representative as Governor of Western Australia? (ACM at least had the good grace not to protest.)
In our system, sovereigns cannot be citizens. It is nevertheless self-evident that the Queen of Australia is Australian, as indeed are her immediate heirs and successors, including Prince Harry.
There are two precedents for the vice-regal appointment of a Royal Prince. The first, Prince George, Duke of Kent, was killed in the war before he could take up his post. Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was recommended by that most legendary of Labor leaders, John Curtin. Only the disreputable Eddie Ward objected.
According to a detailed analysis by the prominent intellectual, poet and publisher, a republican when it wasn’t fashionable, Max Harris, ‘the Duke of Gloucester was our greatest Governor-General’.
If Prince Harry and Meghan were willing to serve, now or in the future, no appointment could be considered without the support of the Leader of the Opposition. While unlikely, Shorten should ask himself why Curtin and the great leaders of the ALP were monarchists.
There is a side issue which became obvious when Harry and Meghan went to Dubbo. The city was suddenly in the world news and the resulting tourism is still causing rejoicing there. Imagine the unprecedented and continuous world-wide interest in this Governor-General of Australia, his wife and his family, and thus in our nation. Imagine the media reaction whenever he represented Australia overseas as our Head of State.
And if Australia doesn’t do it, New Zealand might. Then of course there’s Fiji where the people long for the return of their beloved monarchy taken from them, as the Queen herself lamented, without consulting them and without their approval.