I came into this world at a really young age. It was in a hospital in Birmingham in England. When I was three years old, I was kidnapped by my parents and taken from the Isle of my birth and transported by boat to a foreign land called Oz.
My parents, coming here in their early 20s, didn’t really leave England behind forever, but embraced Oz as their home and mostly gave it their allegiance, except in the cricket. So you could say that you could take the man out of England but you couldn’t take England out of the man.
My folks always had a soft spot for the monarchy and embraced the Menzian approach. “I did but see her passing by, yet I love her till I die.” (Please forgive me if my quote isn’t word perfect.) For them, they did not take out Oz citizenship until the mid- to late 1970s, having lived here for about 22 years, then going back to the “Old Dart”, not liking it much there and coming back, taking up citizenship on the second round.
They did not see the need for independence from the monarchy as important, let alone necessary. They saw Oz as a satellite of England and often said that if it was good enough for Canada and New Zealand to retain the monarchy of Britain, it was good enough for us. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
They didn’t see what was wrong with having a Head of State who lived permanently in the country which had colonised Oz. They didn’t see a problem with that Head of State being a hereditary process. They didn’t see an issue with the Act of Succession (UK) being implicit that Catholics cannot ascend to the throne of Britain. (If, God forbid, an heir to the Crown converted to Catholicism, he or she would need to renounce a claim to the throne). They also said, erroneously, that the Governor-General (GG) was in fact our Head of State.
They didn’t see the political tension in having a government in place at the pleasure of an overseas based head of state. They saw the prerogative of the Vice Regal GG to sack a duly elected Prime Minister (and with him, the government of the day), applying authority given under the Constitution as a delegate of the crown, as fine.
They saw the position of the Queen of England as Queen of Australia as sufficient reason to pay homage to that sovereignty.
My conversations with my parents did not wash with them.
I put the point that as an independent nation, recognised by the UN, it was incumbent upon us to have our own Head of State. As I said earlier, they said that as the GGs were, from some time ago, Australian born, we do in fact have our own Head of State. Wrong!
I tried to put the point that having a Head of State that had to be Anglican was discriminatory on the basis of religion. As Catholics, I would have thought that this may have held some weight, but not so. They didn’t care.
I tried to put the point that having someone inherit a job, swanning around at public expense was odd. What happened to getting a job on the merit principle? This didn’t wash either. They saw the monarchy as being well placed to override the decisions of an elected body, if it was the right thing to do!
I tried to put the point that the Act of Succession (as it was during our discussion) discriminating against females. Fortunately for Britain, this has been changed but it did show a misogyny, which is in the Royals’ DNA.
I tried to say that my dream was to live in a country where my granddaughter could aspire to be the Head of State but now she can’t because she is Catholic, Australian born and not of the House of Windsor.
I was talking to a brick wall.
I tried to say that I became a citizen when I was in the National Service at age 21 because I wanted to be a citizen of Australia, I wanted to be a citizen of the armed forces of which I was a member and I wanted to embrace the most precious of gifts a country could bestow.
When talking to these old folks, the issue was clouded by those opposed to the argument of Australia becoming a republic, through arguments around the process of electing a President, talk of changing the flag (always an emotive question) and arguments around the difficulties in changing the Constitution.
We have never been asked these fundamental questions in a referendum.
Do Australians want to become a republic?
Does Australia want its own Head of State?
Should an Australian Head of State be an Australian citizen, renouncing all other citizenships if applicable?
Interestingly, one can’t be a member of the Australian Parliament if one holds dual citizenship, but one can be the Australian Head of State without being an Australian citizen.
I can’t fathom why people would deny Oz the right to be completely independent in every way. Being a constitutional monarchy subordinate to the Crown of another country is an anathema to me.
And as for this notion of QEII being the Queen of Australia, this is nonsense also. History is littered with the kings of a conquering country having themselves declared king of the subordinated country to legitimise that invasion and incorporation. A glance at European history from 1200 to 1870 will reveal that this was commonplace.
I have been back to England a couple of times and have enjoyed the company of my cousins. I have enjoyed the beauty of England.
But I have come home to Oz, to the land of my choice, to the country in which the aspirations of my kids and grandkids can be realised. I didn’t come back to the colonies.
The Queen is beloved by many here in Oz but her passing will signal the perfect time to cut the apron strings and fly the nest forever!