05/05/2011 - 00:00

How do republicans view independence?

05/05/2011 - 00:00


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If Australia is to cut constitutional ties with Britain it must be for the right reasons.

How do republicans view independence?

WATCHING last Friday’s internationally televised wedding of Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, William, to Kate Middleton prompted me to reflect on three issues that continue to upset certain people.

The first is the fact that Queen Elizabeth constitutionally heads Australia and its component or federated states through Australian governors-general and governors, respectively.

Much to the chagrin of republicans, Australia, like nearby Thailand and Japan, remains a constitutional monarchy.

The second issue is that Australia’s flag has the Union Jack, which they’d like to see removed.

And thirdly, but less obviously, is republicans’ discomfort over the fact that Anzac Day is commemorated as Australia’s military day because, along with the Kiwis, Australian troops went into the 1915 Dardanelles Campaign with British troops under British command.

The common thread in their trio of palpable dislikes is, of course, the British link, something most Australians have valued since Captain Arthur Phillip hoisted the Union Jack at Sydney Cove on January 26 1788.

Apart from the obvious loyalty underpinning and valuing this filial association, there are other reasons that should never be ignored or downplayed.

Consider the following.

Britain in the late 18th century, and on into the 20th, was the world’s most advanced society – economically, commercially, scientifically and politically. Most other parts of the world were backward, even primitive.

In other words, Australia was founded by what was the most modern society of the times.

Australians thereby had ready access to the then most up-to-date practices, procedures, products and methods across a range of commercial, industrial, medical, scientific, cultural and related endeavours.

The first New South Welshmen and women were thus out in front from day one due to these close ties to the world’s frontline economy and society.

Among other things this helped make life so much more bearable in a far-away, unfamiliar continent.

The same, of course, applied to pioneering Canadians and New Zealanders, plus Americans who, just prior to Phillip setting off for Botany Bay had constitutionally broken with England via military methods.

Anyone doubting the significance or value of those undoubted British attributes should perhaps read about the contemporary settlement by the many brave and dogged Russian venturers to Siberia and islands to its east, later sold-off Alaska, down Canada’s Pacific coastline, as far south as Fort Ross (between 1812-41), near San Francisco, thus encountering Spanish settlement.

Those perhaps equally adventurous Slavonic venturers to far-off and at times frigid wildernesses had it tougher since they hailed from backward Muscovy, not rapidly progressing England and Scotland.

Much is made of the so-called tyranny of distance with respect to Australia’s settlement and people’s efforts to prosper.

Easily forgotten, or worse, deliberately downplayed, is the fact that Phillip’s 11-ship fleet reached its destination without loss of a vessel or seaman or passenger.

That’s competence, something that would even be damn difficult to repeat under sail today, a quarter of a millennia later.

True, distance made life more arduous. But competence, skillful and attentive application, and good organisation, won out.

Too little recognition is given to the fact that England was the world leader in maritime skills, shipbuilding, and related aptitudes that steadily but inexorably helped overcome disadvantages of distance.

For example, well before the end of the 19th century, Australians had telegraphic links with England.

Road, bridge, and rail construction was also realised, as was application of electricity, precision engineering and, invariably forgotten, first-class instrumentation.

All are so easily overlooked, although such myopia is unjustified.

But what of the political side of things, how do those who find our British link so distasteful justify their desire for a final rupture?

They invariably claim the past is the past and it’s time Australians moved on to become what they call being ‘truly independent’.

And integral to being truly independent, to them, means a republic, another flag, and emphasising the high soggy Kokoda Trail, rather than Gallipoli’s rugged cliffs.

All well and good, so long as when they call for a ‘truly independent’ Australia, as does State Scene, that’s precisely what they mean and will work uncompromisingly towards attaining it.

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced.

This point is well made in a review by Sydney writer Geoffrey Luck, (‘The Future Under the New Mandarins’, Quadrant, March 2011), of a book, The New Road to Serfdom, by English conservative politician, Daniel Hannan.

Hannan sits in the European Parliament, which, wait for it, has three venues – Brussels (Belgium), Luxembourg and Strasbourg (France).

His book is an eloquently argued litany and assessment of disastrous moves by British governments in wilfully handing across powers over its people to coteries of unelected functionaries, quango-employed mandarins, and commissioners, within the European Union’s ever expanding bureaucratic cobweb.

Hannan specifically warns Americans not to tread this anti-democratic path, which he senses the Obama administration is keen to do.

The British Parliament, meaning two generations of British politicians, has, without the democratic consent of the British people, handed over an array of powers to unelected foreigners who are unaccountable to Britain’s citizenry.

Luck’s review makes the pertinent point that Hannan’s warning to America applies equally to Australia since Canberra can, and does, enter treaties and other fine print arrangements that are neither disclosed nor publicised.

Here then is Luck’s penultimate paragraph, which is a warning to our politicians who so whimsically sign Australians up to arrangements neither electors nor their elected representatives get the opportunity to vote upon.

“Where is all this leading, for America and also Australia,” Luck begins.

“Hannan says the Euro-integrationists dimly perceive that the assumptions of the 1950s no longer pertain, but their response to increased competition from more efficient polities is in seeking to globalise their costs, extending Europe’s [big-taxing] socio-economic model to the rest of the world.

“The first president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, former Belgian PM, hailed 2009 and its G20 summit [which ex-PM Kevin07 took Australia into] as ‘the first year of global governance’ and the Copenhagen Climate Summit as ‘another step towards the global management of our planet’ ...

“Europe has tried to lead the world down the slippery slope of carbon trading schemes, with a rigged market resulting in massive losses due first to over-optimism and more recently to extensive fraud.

“While celebrating its accession to the G20 table, Australia should be aware that it is being sucked inexorably into the whirlpool of international decision-making, a trend that has already seen it cede significant slices of its national sovereignty to unelected administrators of UN conventions.”

State Scene couldn’t say it better.

Invariably those bellowing longest and loudest on Australia needing to embrace republicanism – a flag without the Union Jack, or to forget our role within Great Britain’s military heritage – show no discernible qualms about shedding our sovereignty to foreign-dominated entities like, say, the UN and G20.

Until these uncomfortable brethren abandon being so carelessly open-ended towards such entities, how can anyone believe their wish to see Australia moving further from its British heritage is motivated purely by a commitment to being ‘truly independent’.



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