We are in danger at the moment of simply waving
flags and puffing out our collective chests and smugly asserting that ours
is a wonderful country, and that’s it!
Well yes, ours is a wonderful country – unless you are an asylum
seeker – but our constitutional arrangements are decrepit and reflect
where we have been and not the vibrant, responsive, diverse polity that we
should aim to be in the 21st century.
Furthermore, we are lumbered with a constitutional system that
guarantees no human rights and which has at its peak, a rancid corrupt
Strong words but well chosen, as the Burrell case – involving the
antics of Diana’s delusional butler – has amply demonstrated.
The British Royal Family is a menace to democracy and represents in its
warped view of the world, a cavalier disregard for liberal values.
Roy Hattersley, the former senior British Labor figure, summed up last
week what many of those of us who believe in a Head of State and a
constitutional structure that is genuinely democratic feel about the
Hattersley noted that he "was against the Monarchy because it
embodied the idea of a social hierarchy and encouraged the nation to look
back instead of forward, not because the heir to the throne made
childishly prurient telephone calls ... The real objection to a monarchy
remains the debilitating effect it has upon society".
Spot on! And as we now find out, this corrupt institution is prepared
to subvert the rule of law, cover-up its hereditary madness, and allow
criminal activity to go unchecked within its walls.
The point is: this is our Head of State and her family we are talking
about. This is the institution that our Prime Minister and his wife bow
and curtsy to when they tremble in her presence.
And so while our media and politicians urge us all to strive, in the
wake of Bali, to defend our liberal democracy, they ought to pause to
reflect on the fact that our constitutional arrangements have at their
peak, an institution that is the antithesis of these liberal democratic
I would urge all republicans to see the events in the UK over the past
fortnight as highly significant. It is now clear that the dirty linen of
our Head of State is not simply of a titillating variety worthy of a
third-rate soap opera, but is much more dangerous. This is an institution
that has demonstrated that it has little interest in anything other than
self-preservation and that it will ride roughshod over the rule of law, if
necessary, to achieve that aim.
The institution of the British Monarchy is medieval in intent and
practice – we must highlight this to all who somehow think that our
current system of constitutional monarchy is ok.
This is an edited version of a speech given to the Australian Constitutional Futures Conference in Brisbane on 16 November 2002.
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