This column has long argued – for many years we were alone - that The Queen and the Royal Family represent an extraordinary bargain for each of the sixteen realms over which The Queen reigns and for all of the countries which are members of the Commonwealth of which Her Majesty is Head.
Long presented by republicans as a drain on the taxpayers, the truth is this. Not only is the Royal Family entirely self funding -they actually produce a profit for the British taxpayer. This is apart from their tourist and promotional potential.
As for Australia, nothing - not a cent - has ever been paid to The Queen or any of the other members of our Royal Family. There is no salary, commission, or fees. We pay no superannuation, and there is no golden handshake. The same is true of Canada, New Zealand and the twelve other Realms.
The Queen and no member of the Royal Family receive any personal salary as, for example Presidents typically do.
Nor is there any provision for a pension or superannuation. (Incidentally, King Charles II magnanimously awarded a pension to Mrs. Cromwell, the widow of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell as dictator during the republic had murdered his father after a mock trial.)
In fact the Queen does not retire; and abdication merely because of old age or convenience is ruled out.
In a desperate attempt to show some substantial taxpayer outlays, costs which are going to be incurred anyway, such as security are charged to visits, often on an inflated basis. Of course announcing this is in itself a serious security breach as it informs terrorists and others, but that does not seem to stand in the way of those with a political agenda.
At the time of the Royal Wedding in 2011, some republican commentators were attributing the cost of a public holiday to the Royal Family. The decision to call a holiday was the government's not The Queen's.
Apart from inappropriate and exaggerated attribution of "costs" to the Royal Family, we have also pointed out the fact that the British government and Parliament have failed lamentably to fulfil their side of an agreement made with The Queen at the beginning of her reign.
Because so many fail to appreciate these facts we repeat: The Queen does not receive a personal salary or pension as presidents do.
What is advanced is through the Civil List and other grants-in-aid involve a return of some – some- of her income by way of a UK civil list and grants in aid. These are to maintain the official residences, and to pay the staff, the entertainment, and ceremonial and other functions head of state functions in the United Kingdom.
The Civil List and other grants-in-aid involve the government giving back some of The Queen’s money. The government keeps the rest, well exceeding the grants in aid. This convention began in 1760. It was agreed then that the costs of the Crown would be paid from the Crown Estate and certain other hereditary revenues which would be handed over to Parliament.
From that time the practice developed of the Sovereign agreeing at the beginning of his or her reign to hand over these revenues during his or her reign to the Parliament in return for a Civil List.
In return Parliament would provide sufficient funds to allow The Queen to fund the British Head of State functions.
This has proved to be a bargain, at least in the present reign. But for decades the British politicians have failed miserably to perform their side of the agreement. The Civil List has seen frozen for about twenty years. None of the other Realms contributes. They do pay the outgoings related to the time The Queen or a member of the Royal Family is in the relevant Realm.
In Australia, these have sometimes been artificially inflated by creative accounting, probably for the purposes of creeping republicanism. In New South Wales, Government House was purloined by the politicians for use for purposes including partisan politics at least between the years 1999-2011 ( go to through the Main Menu to the section Return The Governor)
Unwisely, the attributed costs of providing security have sometimes been revealed. This is a dangerous practice as it reveals what security is normally provided, something which for elementary reasons should not be made public. A protest by ACM about this has been considered by the government.
The fact is The Queen and our Royal Family provide a unique an extraordinary bargain. That they also attract tourist and other revenue is of course also a relevant consideration. This is not only in the United Kingdom. A Royal Visit to Australia, for example, can attract international attention.
As far as we know, this column was the first in the world to advance the argument publicly that the United Kingdom government was not fulfilling its side of the agreement with The Queen over her property, the Crown Estate. We would be delighted to be corrected on that. We are even more delighted to learn that reform is in the air.
Republican politicians and too many in the media ignore the fact that Her Majesty is not paid – as Queen of the United Kingdom, Head of The Commonwealth, Queen of Australia, nor indeed as Queen of Canada, New Zealand nor of the twelve other Realms.
According to some lawyers, from at least 1986 Her Majesty is also Queen of Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
[ Not 'Taxpayer subsidy' but 'Queen's income returned' ]
She does not receive a personal salary or pension as presidents do. What is advanced is a return of some – some- of her income by way of a UK civil list and grants in aid. These are not a personal salary. They are to maintain the official residences, and to pay the staff, the entertainment, and ceremonial and other functions head of state functions in the United Kingdom.
To repeat, the Civil List involves the government giving back some of The Queen’s money. The government keeps the rest, well exceeding the grants in aid.The reason is historical. In 1760, the costs of the Crown were paid from the Crown Estate and certain other hereditary revenues. From that time the practice developed of the Sovereign agreeing to hand over these revenues during his or her reign to the Parliament in return for a Civil List.
In return Parliament would provide sufficient funds to allow The Queen to fund the British Head of State functions.This has proved to be a bargain, at least in the present reign. But for decades the British politicians have failed miserably to perform their side of the agreement. The Civil List has seen frozen for about twenty years.
Just look at the graph below. But note that the amount 'Taxpayer subsidy' is a misnomer. It should be 'Queen's income returned'
As we observed here in 2009, if a private landlord behaved as the British government had, the politicians would call for action to be taken to punish them.
...what is to be done?
The usual suspects sometimes challenge me when I advance the proposition that the Crown Estate belongs to The Queen. She has surrendered the revenues during her reign, but in consideration of sufficient funds being made available for head of state activities including the proper maintenance of the buildings.
One of the greatest English constitutional authorities, FW Maitland asserted long ago that when the Prince of Wales comes to the throne he would be entitled to the revenue of the Crowned Estate unless and until he surrendered it.
He was speaking about the future King George V, but the same principle applies today.
The Prince of Wales proposed in the late eighties that the income from the Crown Estate revert to the Sovereign. This is a very sensible solution. The Crown Estate remains the property of the Crown. And while Royal heritage buildings crumble, and the Palace of Westminster was at least before the election mired in scandal, the politicians have introduced new rules which will allow them to claim up to £9,125 a year without producing any receipts.
Julia Gillard’s recent admission that another republican referendum is doomed has revived divisions among republicans (read a report of the Prime Minister’s remarks here). The leadership of the republican movement has let slip their plans to rein in much of the agenda of those who want the people to elect the president.
[Robespierre executed after a coup by fellow republicans during the Reign of Terror under the first French republic ]
With the continuous polling and focus groups that political parties now undertake, Ms. Gillard has accepted that Australians are just not interested in a politicians’ republic. They’re more than happy to stay with our tried and tested crowned republic, one of the world’s oldest and most stable.
[At the time of posting this, there were 174 comments on the ABC site where it originally appeared by invitation. Comments on that site may be made by clicking here]
As republican Professor Greg Craven has warned, another referendum is doomed to an even bigger defeat than the model overwhelmingly endorsed by the republicans at the 1998 Convention. Despite the strong support of most of the politicians and the media, that model failed in all states and 72% of electorates.
Polling trends clearly indicate support is significantly lower now, especially among the young (See Newspoll [PDF] for the trend). Republicanism and flag change are not matters of the slightest concern to the rank and file. The republican movement untruthfully claims 59% want a politicians' republic. But this is on the basis of one rogue poll miraculously produed for the 10th anniversary of the referendum.
This single poll goes against every other poll taken over the last few years. Every one of these indicates declining support for some vague undefined politicians' republic.
Ms. Gillard’s realism and Tony Abbott’s consistent support of our constitutional system have seriously disappointed the republicans. Their agenda since 1999 has been to hide the details of change while engaging in a series of distractions.
They even claim they now won’t touch the flag. But in the nineties they openly indicated their support for flag change. They even sponsored an exhibition of new flags which included one with a banner “F**** off back to Fagland.” And as The Age argues, nobody thinks the flag won’t change under a republic, so why not change it now?
...attacks on Governor, William...
They gratuitously attack royalty and vice regal officers. The sour dismissal of Prince William’s private visit while on leave from the armed forces - "Why’s he coming here?” was a glaring example. Then there was their recent attack on Victorian Governor David de Kretser.
They have even revived their curious 1999 policy of telling ACM how to campaign. They’re now demanding I resign because I pointed to the unfortunate history of republicanism in Australia, tainted as it is by racism and treacherous Bolshevism.
...stunts instead of policy..
They have above all continued their policy of launching stunts designed by the spin doctors to attract media attention. These have included the campaign to have The Queen ”give back” Tom Roberts’ painting of the opening of the first federal parliament, which hangs on permanent loan in new parliament house. Then there was the disastrous campaign designed by leading republicans, the Mate for a Head of State campaign.
...cost of republic....
They have also challenged the fact, long revealed by ACM, that the UK government makes a very handsome profit indeed from the Royal Family through the Crown Estate, that the monarchy attracts enormous tourist revenue, and that The Queen and members of the Royal Family receive nothing for their services to Australia, and certainly not the superannuation, golden handshakes and lifetime benefits their presidents, and vice presidents would be in line for.
More recently they have spent some effort disputing ACM’s calculations of the cost of constitutional change. But ACM’s calculations have included the costs of everything the republican movement has said is still being considered, including the costs of direct election of republican officials.
... divisions among republicans emerge...
In attacking the ACM’s quite reasonable calculations, the republican movement has revealed that much of what the direct elect republicans want is just not going to be allowed.
Actually, only in Queensland and Western Australia is the position of the Queen and Governor "entrenched' in their state Constitutions. Thus, only for those states would another vote be necessary after a federal referendum.
But if they think they can get away with that, the republican bosses are certain to be disappointed. The better opinion is that a referendum is necessary in almost all states. In fact one of the nation’s leading experts on state constitutions has declared that it would be inconceivable if a referendum were not to be held in each state.
Then they say the election of state governors is not going to be tolerated. And if the election of the president is actually allowed, it is clearly going to be a half hearted affair with minimal funding.
The truth is, Australia will continue to have a system based on the British Westminster system and will have a non-Executive President, whichever method of appointment is chosen. Election costs for a non-Executive President, who has few powers, would be minimal. For an appointed President, there would be no campaign costs. And, as far as we are aware, no-one is suggesting State Governors would be elected, to suggest otherwise is simply deceitful.
...walk out threatened at Convention...
The movement’s bosses must have obviously forgotten that it was only through the mediation of the ACM leader Justice Lloyd Waddy that the direct elect republicans didn’t walk out of the Constitutional Convention because of similar strong arm tactics by their predecessors. If that had happened they probably would not have had the first referendum.
ACM has carefully calculated the cost of change based on what the republican movement has said is still under consideration. We were not to know that the movement had pulled the rug from under the direct elect republicans.
From that it seems the republicans are as divided as they always have been.
[At the time of posting this column, there were 174 comments on the ABC site, where it originally appeared by invitation. Comments on that site may be made by clicking here]
The monarchy not only subsidises the British taxpayer through the massive profit the government reaps from the Crown Estate – this year about $A350 million, the British economy benefits enormously through the generation of close to $A900 million a year in tourism. The monarchy also significantly benefits Australia and the other realms.
[ More benefits from one visit than the annual tourism budget ]
According to a report from VisitBritain, 60% of tourists say they are likely to seek out places associated with the Royal Family or the monarchy.
In The Sydney Morning Herald of 29 July, 2010 Peter Woodman reports that The Tower of London was the top royal attraction for international visitors in 2009 with just under 2.4 million visitors - up 11 per cent on 2008.
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, south London, was second on 2.37 million, with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London third with 2.27 million visitors.
Buckingham Palace welcomed 402,000 visitors last year - a two per cent rise on the 2008 figure, while Windsor Castle visits rose 6.3 per cent to 987,000.
..Australia benfits too
In the meantime, all of the other fifteen realms, including Australia and New Zealand have the benefit of the many services of The Queen and members of the Royal Family without any subsidy to the Civil List. Indeed, as Professor Noel Cox indicated, Prince William’s opening of the new Supreme Court building in New Zealand generated a degree of international interest in the country that tourist officials would have pay a fortune to emulate.
The same is true of his visit to Australia. The advertising budget of the tourist office would have been more than exhausted to equal the attention given to his visit in the international media .
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s homecoming to Canada created similar attention around the world.
(You can see the videos on the visit by clicking on the icon “ACM videos” on the left of the front page of the ACM site).
We pay them not a penny, the Prince fitting this in on recreation leave from the armed forces.
...politicians short changing Australia...
Australia governments and organizations unwisely do not seek to draw on the many international advantages which can clearly flow from Royal patronage, including the involvement of members of the Royal Family in functions overseas.
This is because our republican politicians and media take too much notice of the failed republican movement who can’t even tell the people what sort of politicians’ republic they want to foist on them.
This is an example of the obnoxious policy of creeping republicanism, which refuses to recognize the crucial fact that Australia can only become a politicians’ republic with the consent of the people.
The ABC’s 730 Report on 7 July broadcast a highly unbalanced programme about The Queen’s finances. The ABC summarised this report blandly as the British royal household asking Westminster to approve a rise in its official annual income and the prime minister refusing the request.
In fact the report gave a platform for the minuscule UK republican movement to call for the abolition of the monarchy and to make unbased claims of impropriety about its financial reporting. How can the ABC possibly allow such statements to be aired?
The programme concentrated much of the report on the minor issue of a few "grace and favour " residences, which are well known, but ignores the important issue.
This is that for much of the last two decades the British government has seriously short-changed The Queen in relation to her own income and now profits outrageously from her, even at the price of denying necessary and urgent repairs to heritage buildings.
The sad fact is that the British government profits enormously by short-changing The Queen.
...platform for minuscule republican movement...
A representative of some small republican movement had a lot to say, making unfounded allegations, even suggesting impropriety in the accounts.
The story would have been more balanced by pointing out that the vast income of the Crown Estate is The Queen's and that the British government kept back around A$350 million last year.
This column has pointed out for many years that at the beginning of each reign the custom is that the Sovereign hands over her income in the Crown Estate to the government in return for the Civil List, to which are now added certain grants in aid.
We have been arguing that the way in which The Prince of Wales manages his income from the Duchy of Cornwall is a more effective and fairer model, and produces a greater benefit to the public. (See our recent column: "British government mismanages Royal Finances.")
...not one cent from Australia...
And finally, the ABC did not mention one fact which would interest Australian viewers. This is that the Australian taxpayer does not contribute one cent to the Royal Household expenses. Nor does the Canadian or New Zealand taxpayer, nor indeed those from the other Realms for which The Queen addressed the UN General Assembly this week.
We have written to the 730 Report concerning the lack of balance in this programme.
This year the British government will make an extraordinary profit of over A$350 million (under £200 million) from The Queen.
As we have long explained here, most recently on 28 June, this represents an extraordinary bargain for the British government. This is because The Queen has handed over her personal income from the Crown Estate to the government in return for the Civil List and other grants.
This is not for her personal benefit but towards various Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth costs, including the buildings which are the heritage of the nation. In fact successive British governments have been so greedy that funds building maintenance are now grossly inadequate.
Given the dire state of public accounts in the UK, the Civil List and other grants will actually be reduced by more than £3 million this year. This is a decrease in real terms of 12.2 per cent.
...no increase for 20 years...
In fact no increase has been granted for twenty years. In real terms this represents a fall of about 75%.Most of the cut this year has been achieved through a reduction in commercial charter flights and a refund of lease rentals arising from the sale of The Queen’s helicopter, which was replaced last year.
The British government will only return a fraction of The Queen’s money, around 20%. And this is not for The Queen personally, but for official costs.
...totally unsatisfactory practice...
Notwithstanding this, it has been agreed that the accounts be open to greater Parliamentary scrutiny. After the way many British politicians have behaved in relation to their own accounts, and the way they have mismanaged the accounts of the nation, we would suggest that they have nothing to teach the Palace and everything to learn from them.
This practice of surrendering the income of the Crown Estate to the politicians is totally unsatisfactory. The income should be handed to the Sovereign, and any surplus given to the government. This works well with the Duchy of Cornwall, which belongs to The Prince of Wales
...Keeper of the Privy Purse explains...
The Royal Public Finances Annual Report states that Head of State support for 2009-10 was £38.2 million (including VAT of £1.9 million), compared with £41.5 last year.
Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said:“The Treasury contributed the equivalent of just 62 pence per person in the country to enable The Queen to carry out her duties as Head of State.
“The Royal Household is acutely aware of the difficult economic climate and took early action to reduce its Civil List expenditure by 2.5 per cent in real terms in 2009. We are implementing a headcount freeze and reviewing every vacancy to see if we can avoid replacement."
“Property Services funding will be reduced by £0.5 million this year. Work will continue on assessing the condition of the Estate, but it is acknowledged that the necessary cuts in public expenditure will have an impact on the backlog of essential maintenance which it is hoped can be addressed in the longer term.”
“In the meantime, the Household is continuing to pursue opportunities to reduce costs and generate income from the Estate’s assets, including commercial lettings and management charges.”