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ACM Home arrow The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth
The Commonwealth


The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-three independent member states which grew out of the British Empire.

Only two members, Mozambique and Rwanda, were not British colonies.

The member states cooperate within a framework of common values and goals including the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace.

 The Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organisation through which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General. Meetings of  Commonwealth Heads of Government are held every two years.

 Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth and as such is a symbol of the members free association.  Her Majesty is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth which are referred to as Commonwealth realms. 



...history...


The first usage of the term ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ appears to be to have been in 1884 by Lord Rosebery when he was visiting Australia.  He described the changing the British Eempire  with some of its colonies becoming more independent as a Commonwealth of Nations.

Conferences of British and colonial prime ministers had occurred periodically since 1887, leading to the creation of the Imperial Conferences in 1911. The Commonwealth developed from the Imperial Conferences.

A specific proposal was presented by Jan Christian Smuts in 1917 when he coined the term "the British Commonwealth of Nations," and envisioned the "future constitutional relations and readjustments in the British Empire."  Smuts successfully argued that the Empire should be represented at the all-important Versailles Conference of 1919 by delegates from the dominions as well as Britain.

 In the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, Great Britain and its dominions agreed they were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations".

The members agreed that in future governors general should be appointed by the sovereign after consultation with and advice from the ministers of the respective Dominion.

These aspects to the relationship were eventually formalised by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland delayed ratification of the statute.  Newfoundland never did as it joined Canada in 1948 . Australia and New Zealand did in 1942 and 1947 respectively.



...British Commonwealth becomes The Commonwealth....



After World War II, the British Empire was gradually dismantled to just 14 British overseas territories, still held by the United Kingdom today.

In April 1949, following the London Declaration, the word "British" was dropped from the title of the Commonwealth to reflect its changing nature.  

In addition, it was agreed that the overseas members should no longer be referred to as dominions, but rather as Commonwealth realms

Burma (also known as Myanmar, 1948), and Aden (1967) are the only states that were British colonies at the time of the war not to have joined the Commonwealth upon post-war independence.





...absent friends...




Among the former British colonies, protectorates and mandates  which have  never become members of the Commonwealth are the United States (1776)  Egypt (independent in 1922), Iraq (1932), Transjordan (1946), British Palestine (part of which became the state of Israel in 1948), Sudan (1956), British Somaliland (which became part of Somalia in 1960), Kuwait (1961), Bahrain (1971), Oman (1971), Qatar (1971), and the United Arab Emirates (1971).



...republics...

The issue of countries with constitutional structures not based on a shared Crown but that wanted to remain members of the Commonwealth, came to a head in 1948 with passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, in which Ireland renounced the sovereignty of the Crown[ and thus left the Commonwealth. The Ireland Act 1949 passed by the Parliament of Westminster offered citizens of the Republic of Ireland a status similar to that of citizens of the Commonwealth in UK law.

In April 1949 at a Commonwealth prime ministers meeting in London, it was agreed that a realm could become a republic and if approved by the other members could remain within the Commonwealth.

 Under this London Declaration, India agreed that, when it became a republic, in January 1950, it would accept the British Sovereign as a "symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth".


...until 2007, re-apply...
 

Until 2007, a realm wishing to become a republic still had to reapply for membership of the Commonwealth.  This would have to be approved by all members.  In 1999, ACM revealed that Australian republicans, including the Attorney-General had overlooked the requirements of the London declaration. 

Constitutional monarchists criticised the Republicans for not ascertaing this and ensuring that there would be no objection from other members to any change of status.  This would have required unanimous approval of other members. In practice approval seems to have been ssumed in the absence of an objection.  At that time Australia did not have the most friendly relations with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir. He had vetoed our membership of another international group.

Now,  change to a republic can be effected without reapplication provided the member is observing all of the Commonwealth criteria for membership. The judgement on this is made by the other members acting unanimously.  Thus it could be argued that the 2007 decision could still raise the issue of a veto following a change of status .

Following India's precedent, other nations became republics, or constitutional monarchies with their own monarchs, while some countries retained the same monarch as the United Kingdom, but their monarchies developed differently and soon became fully independent of the British monarchy. The monarch of each Commonwealth realm, whilst the same person, is regarded as a separate legal personality for each realm.  In 1999 th 

All Hallows-by-the-Tower -- London's "Canadian Church" Print E-mail
Written by Rafal Heydel-Mankoo   
Saturday, 17 December 2011

Thursday, 15 December 2011


[This post was written by Rafal Heydel-Mankoo to mark the anniversary of the visit to All Hallows-by-the-Tower of HRH The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) on 15 December 1923, following his tour of Canada. We wonder whether there is a church in London which could claim the status of an Australian or New Zealand church or those of other Realms? ]

Founded by the Saxon Abbey at Barking in 675 (and long known as All Hallows Barking), All Hallows-by-the-Tower (so named for its proximity to The Tower of London), can rightly claim the status of "Canada's Church in London".

The Church of All Hallows-by-The-Tower, is one of London's least explored gems, with its extant roman foundations, atmospheric crypt, tiny underground chapels and historic associations -- from "hatch" (baptism of William Penn) to "match" (marriage of John Quincy Adams) to "dispatch" (burial of Archbishop William Laud).

It was from the spire of All Hallows that the famous diarist Samuel Pepys briefly watched the Great Fire of London. Destroyed during the Blitz in 1940, All Hallows' restoration was due to tremendous assistance from Canada.

British Columbian wood was used in the construction of the spire of All Hallows, whilst the carillon of 18 bells was donated by J.W. McConnell of Montreal. The pews were donated by Canadian Pacific and the Province of Manitoba, whilst the Building Products Council of Montreal supplied the floor tiles.

The Lady Chapel of the Church, which is located at the north of the church, bears what is probably Britain's only stained glass reference to the University of Toronto. The window was erected by Canadian friends of Dr. Hugh Hornby Langton (1862-1953).

The window depicts Dr. Langton's arms along with the following inscription:




Read more...
 
Mr. Cameron goes to Coventry Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 11 December 2011

The refusal of the British Prime Minister David Cameron to join in a new treaty to safeguard the Euro is understandable.  Britain was not going to join the Euro, and the proposed new financial tax would have damaged the City of London by driving business elsewhere.

There was once a famous headline long ago in a London paper about a fog over the British Isles and into the English Channel.  It declared:

                         "Fog over channel, continent isolated."



According to the Telegraph, French President Sarkozy refused to shake Mr Cameron's hand. The bien pensants on the BBC - europhiliacs to a man and a woman - declared knowingly that Britain was now isolated.  As the song goes, What about us?

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[ The Commons is distrustful ]

 

...the EU, Parliament and the people...

 

 

Britain's leading parties have quite trickily avoided over the last several years to refer the EU constiution to the British people as they had promised.  

Because it was so unpopular, even in continental Europe, the European constitution with a few cosmetic changes had to be renamed the Treaty of Lisbon.  The politicians hoped  the British people didn't notice

But at least all British governments have sensibly declined to enter the Euro system, although it was said that Mr Blair was tempted.  But he promised a referendum would be taken before this would occur.  (Understandably, many were wary of this undertaking after they saw what happened to the undertaking concerning the European Constitution.)

Mr Cameron has recently avoided a motion in the House of Commons to put membership of the European Union to a referendum.  Because of the considerable support within the Conservative Parliamentary party for such a referendum, he had to rely on opposition and coalition votes to be sure that the motion would not be carried.




 

 

...weaknesses...

 

 

 

At the time of the creation of the Euro, I was lecturing on this subject and had co-authoredf a book on EU law.  The proposition I put to the class was that without the fiscal and monetary powers of a federal state, the project was doomed to failure.  The contrast with the Australian Federation could not be more stark.  The Australian founders created a federation, democratic at its heart, with sufficient powers to control and support the local currency, which was intended to be an Australian pound.  This was first issued in 1910, maintaining parity with sterling until 1929.

Further the requirement that each member ensure any budget deficit not exceeds 3% and public borrowings not exceed 60% of GDP was not only unenforceable; it was unlikely that accurate accounts would be made in all states. I remember a Swiss colleague telling me that she thought that the Euro would attract financial business away from London to Frankfurt and this was intended.

A fascinating assessment of the European Union was made at our recent State of the Nation meeting In Parliament House, Sydney.  In thanking the Chairman and CEO of Roy Morgan research, Mr Gary Morgan and Ms Michele Levine, Mr Christopher Flynn drew attention to the failings of the European Union.  The problems of the EU have a great potential to impact on Australia, and was much mentioned during the meeting. 

A video of Mr. Flynn’s comments, included in national broadcasts of State of the Nation on Foxtel, Austar and Optus TV follows.







...the Commonwealth...

 

The existence of the European Union and its predecessors has distracted the United Kingdom from the benefits and bonds of the Commonwealth.

In 2009 the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband controversially said that one of the problems of the modern world is the lack of “strong, effective international institutions …  with formal power." 

 That of course rules out the Commonwealth.   He admits that by  virtue of “its unique membership — east, north, south and west, all races, all religions, all regions — I think it can be an effective soft-power institution which at the minimum can help spread understanding and, at best, help promote common action." 

  The Foreign Secretary said  that continuing political and financial support could no longer be taken for granted.  It was difficult to believe then that Mr Miller band was being serious.

The funding of the Commonwealth is derisory: for 2005/06, the Secretariat’s budget was £13.5 million, the CFTC’s £24.1 million and the CYP’s £2.5 million. And that is from everyone – the UK contribution is only a fraction of this.  How much does the UN, or worse the EU, cost the UK taxpayer?



... what the EU costs  the UK...



Read more...
 
The Members of the Commonwealth Print E-mail
Written by The Commonwealth Secretariat   
Tuesday, 29 November 2011


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Jamaica - republican claim much exaggerated Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Sunday, 06 November 2011
The Jamaica Observer published the following letter in response to a claim by a prominent Jamaican republican that "75% of Australians voted to remove The Queen".

The letter was published under the headline "Many Australians support the monarchy".


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Dear Editor,

In his proposal to convert Jamaica into a republic with an executive president, Dr Franklin Johnston in his column of October 28 said some 75 per cent of Australians voted to remove The Queen.

The only vote was in 1999, when only 42.6 per cent of voters indicated their support for the republicans' preferred model. (In Australia, the details of change must be on the table before we vote, not as in the blank cheque plebiscites British politicians use where the details are filled in after the vote.)

The republic was rejected in all states and 72 per cent of electorates.

Neither can Dr Johnston rely on opinion poll trends. Since 1999, support for a vague politicians' republic - we say we are already a crowned republic - has been falling and is below 38 per cent. This trend is reflected in two areas of crucial importance, the young and the immigrants.

Support can also be measured in terms of passion. The only demonstration constitutional monarchists have called was to protest against the expulsion of the governors from Sydney's Government House. It attracted 20,000 - one of the largest and peaceful demonstrations the city has seen. The recent farewell to The Queen in Perth attracted over 100,000 people. I am pasting below a photograph from Melbourne's Federation Square which demonstrates this support.

But when the often self-described "passionate" republicans called a highly promoted demonstration with celebrities during the referendum, only 70 attended, including the celebrities.

When they announced a barbecue on Bondi Beach as the culmination of their 2005 "Mate for a Head of State campaign", only 50 attended, including republican heavyweights.

As a leading republican newspaper lamented last Sunday, "The republic is dead; Long live The Queen."

David Flint

Emeritus Professor of Law



 
Commonwealth not in danger Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 27 October 2011

Exaggeration does not help a case, particularly from one which by its very name suggests some gravity. The Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group is trying to sell its package – which may very well be very worthwhile – to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth by making a claim which, if it is correct, means that no international organisation is at all relevant.

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Last March, the Eminent Persons Group warned that, "The Commonwealth is in danger of becoming irrelevant and unconvincing as a values-based association."

The Group then made several no doubt well considered and worthwhile  recommendations. These include the writing of a charter of shared values for the Commonwealth and the appointment of a commissioner for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

These will need to be carefully considered. But in the meantime, we ought to recognise the value of the Commonwealth for what it is and what it has done. We should also be realistic and make fair comparisons with other international organisations.

The Commonwealth may not be a perfect organisation. But in requiring compliance with standards, it is  superior to most other international organisations


 
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