God save the Queen, she’s not a human being… but she’s better than a president

Over on The Drum, Greg Barnes has a whine that Prince William is attractive and, as such, might seduce fickle members of the republican movement into becoming monarchists… or something.  The whole article is a bit weird, to be perfectly blunt.  The monarchists suggest (quite rightly) that personality will be more persuasive to the average Australian than theory.  Barnes takes this to mean that monarchists want Prince William to be next in line to the throne… or that monarchists don’t know how succession works… or something.

It’s not hard to see why the republican referendum was so easily hijacked when you realise that this rather vapid chap ran the campaign.

His biggest problem with the constitutional monarchy we have at the moment is that it ‘den[ies] the right of Australians to have a Head of State who is a citizen of this country’.

Put in these terms, it’s easy to see how wrongheaded the whole republican movement was.  Do we have the right to have a Head of State who is a citizen of this country?  It certainly doesn’t seem to be a natural right and the law makes it quite clear that it’s not a legal right.  It’s fairly obvious that Barnes is attempting some sort of bellyfeel argument for having our own head of state.

In doing so, it shows that he hasn’t really thought this through very well.  The problem with the current arrangement is not that we have an English head of state who gets the role through a stone age ritual.  The problem with the current arrangement is that our current system of government was designed with incentives for individual states to create a commonwealth.  You’d think that this would be a good thing, but when those incentives were designed, there was no concept of ‘Australian’ — until relatively recently, Australians considered themselves English.  The States were not joining out of a common Australian bond (which most Australians now feel): they were joining to protect Australia from Asians.

As such, the Senate is a hopelessly flawed system (‘unrepresentative swill’) and the States are frequently holding out their caps for more cash from the Commonwealth (because resource prosperity in one State doesn’t have direct benefits for Australians in the others).

So despite the fact that we’ve got a flawed system of government, republicans want to throw more representation hazards into the mix because they get teary-eyed about having an Australian head of state?  Give me a break.

If you can already get into the Senate with less than votes than the population of a one pub town, how do republicans think that we’re going to get a balance and sane system for electing a president?  The precedents of other republics is not promising.  Even the U.S. — the usual gold standard for the republican movement in Australia — limits its presidential race to those who can afford to publicise themselves — if they get nominated by their vested interest parties first, of course.

Our head of state is apolitical.  It’s a wonderful system.  We don’t have a lot of trust for politicians in this country.  Why should we trust them to occupy both the role of head of state and the role of head of government?  It doesn’t make any sense.

I have no doubt that we will one day end up as a republic.  I would prefer that day to be after we’ve fixed the other (more urgent) political problems of the current system.

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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