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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 

The Commonwealth & the Anglosphere, not Brussels Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 15 July 2010

Under proposed European Union legislation, the British budget will have to be submitted to the EU for clearance before it goes to the House of Commons. The British government will no doubt oppose this constitutional outrage, but it will be unable to stop this being imposed on them by a qualified voting majority under the European Constitution disguised under the name of the Treaty of Lisbon.

This should of course be the last straw for any British politician with a modicum of respect for British institutions and above all the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.  But they, or most of them, have been part of the problem – at least until now.

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...politicians’ duplicity....



 

The Blair government solemnly promised the British people that they would not ratify the EU constitution unless the people first approved it in a referendum. But then the Constitution was rejected in two referendums by people famously more in favour of the so-called European project than the British - the French and the Dutch. If it were left to the people, it would have been doomed.

But the chief skill of too many Europhile politicians is their deviousness. They decided to ratify the constitution, or its essence, through the back door. This would be by an innocuous sounding treaty amending the other major EU treaties. The Blair government then claimed duplicitously that  this was not covered by the promise for a  referendum.

The politicians of other European countries also avoided referendums, with the exception of Ireland, where the Constitution required this. When the Irish people rejected the Treaty, the politicians agued the well known EU principle adopted by Australia’s dwindling republican movement: the people must keep on voting until they get it right.

The Treaty of Lisbon was then passed at a second Irish referendum.




...enormous cost of the EU...





Incidentally, what does it cost the UK to belong to the European Union?  As you can imagine, the answer to this is disputed. The Bruges Group estimated that in 2007 this was £52.4 billion, about A$90 billion each year.  Whatever the amount, there are three undeniable truths about it. It is enormous, it could be better spent and it is a complete waste of money.  The UK could have the same trade and investment access to the EU as Norway has under a free trade agreement, without giving up its sovereignty to the Brussels clique.

Image

The "advantages" of belonging to the EU include  unlimited immigration from Europe, European decisions on how to spend euromoney in the UK, and above all the  argument so beloved by  British politicians from Ted Heath onwards. This is that being in the EU puts the UK in the cockpit of Europe.

This is not so. The cockpit has always been fully and amply filled by the French and Germans co-pilots, and the door to this cockpit has always been well and truly locked against anyone else. The wealth of the British serves only as economic fodder for the EU.



...politicians turn their backs on the Commonwealth...





Apart from their abject europhilia, it is a mark of too many British politicians today that they do not appreciate the great role that the Commonwealth has and could play. The total budget of the Commonwealth is £50 million( note, that is millions not billions).

 That didn’t stop former Foreign Secretary David Miliband warning in 2009 that continuing political and financial support could no longer be taken for granted. Why?  The Commonwealth  is not one of those “strong, effective international institutions … with formal power"  - like the EU of which he was so beloved.

In fact the EU is precisely the sort of model which other regions ought to avoid if they wish to achieve real progress. Common currencies and ”ever-closer” bureaucratic unions  are recipes for trade distortion, stagnation and corruption.

And the British people have never shown any interest in this.




...the British people don’t...







The British people are closest  to the people of the Anglosphere- the Commonwealth and the USA -rather than to the alien bureaucracy which is the EU.

Just one example demonstrates how far the views of Britain’s euro elites are from those of the rank and file.

In 1995 in the Turbot War the Canadians arrested a Spanish ship illegally fishing just outside of the Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone.

Spain was supported by the EU, including the German Navy.  The UK and Ireland supported Canada.  And to show their support, British fishing boats took to flying Canadian flags.  Canada, after all, had in living memory stood by Britain in her darkest hour. The British fishermen also believed the Spanish fishing fleet regularly breached quotas in British waters.

The dispute escalated when a Cornish fishing boat flying the Canadian flag was arrested by the French customs. They thought it was a Canadian ship fishing illegally in French waters. Overnight, Canadian flags were flown from a large number of British and Irish vessels, the rest of the EU supporting France and Spain.

The disputes were eventually resolved diplomatically, but you can see what the rank and file thought.




...closer culturally...




The point is that culturally the British are closer to the Commonwealth and the US than they are to their neighbours. Becoming like Norway, and as Britain once was - proud and independent - would save billions, surely an important consideration in its current financial situation.

No longer weighed down by the burden of a sclerotic European bureaucracy, those free and open links in the Commonwealth, and the Anglosphere would grow without any artificial inhibitions. ( The Anglosphere is the Commonwealth and such countries as the USA, Ireland, Israel and Jordan)  

The new British government has a golden opportunity to put Britain onto a more exciting and stimulating path, linked to her old friends, forging exciting relationships with new economic powerhouses such as India and moving closer to the world’s single superpower, the United States.

With her cultural links, language, economic power, defence role, law and history, Britain could play a key role in enlivening the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere as a free association between similar countries. And think of the money they would save.

 
Image
[Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt on The Prince of Wales ]
   



 
Canada and the Commonwealth Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Friday, 02 July 2010
 
Commonwealth Schools Debate, 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Schools Challenge Debate is a major part of the Commonwealth Day celebrations in New South Wales each year. In 2010 the theme was “Science, Technology and Society.”.

Two teams, the New South Wales Public Schools Team and  the Archdale Team, debated this motion: “That Science and Technology have enhanced Society.


Image
[ Stephanie White from Abbotsleigh School ]

 

The NSW Team – Max Phillis from Sydney Boys High School , Beba Cibralic from Macquarie Fields High School and Christopher Walsh from Normanhurst Boys High School, with Lloyd Cameron as Debate Team Leader - argued the affirmative case.

The Archdale Team – Stephanie White from Abbotsleigh, Rosie Connolly from SCEGS Darlinghurst and Carolyn Harris from Kambala , with Claire Duffy as Debate Team Leader - argued the negative case.

The debate was held in the beautiful Legislative Assembly chamber in the New South Wales Parliament. This no doubt encouraged the debaters whose performance was formidable, and that made the decision of the adjudicators particularly difficult.    

The adjudicators were The Hon. Max Willis RFD ED CSI, former President of the NSW Legislative Council , Paul Scully-Power AM DSM, and Professor David Flint AM.  Professor Flint also chaired the debate.

During the Gala Lunch which followed the debate, in the presence of the Governor, Professor Bashir, members of  the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, and of Parliament, the Hon. Max Willis announced that the Archdale Team had won. The adjudicators stressed that both teams had done very well, and coming to their decisions was difficult.

 Each member of the winning team received $200 and each member of the runner up $100, donated by Mr. Willis.



...press report...

In “Stephanie can talk people into believing technology isn’t good” the North Shore Times (23/30) featured a report on debater Stephanie White. “Don’t argue with Stephanie White,” it said.

” You won’t win - not a chance.”

“The year 11 Abbotsleigh student has demonstrated her formidable way with words convincing debate judges, including legal luminary Professor David Flint, that science and technology had not enhanced society.”

“Stephanie, 15, was second to speak in the Archdale debating team that won the Commonwealth Day debate at State Parliament early this month.”

“She and Carolyn Harris (Kambala) and Rosie Connolly (SCEGGS Darlinghurst) were chosen from hundreds of NSW debaters to take on a Combined Schools team.”

“To convince the judges the girls used examples from warfare, health and the environment.” “’It was definitely a difficult position to take, but we were able to convince the judges unanimously,’ ” Stephanie said.

“’The standard of the debate was very high and all the arguments were sophisticated.’”





...Commonwealth Day....


 Since 1977, Commonwealth Day has been celebrated throughout the Commonwealth on the second Monday in March.  The Queen attends an inter-denominational service held in Westminster Abbey, followed by a reception hosted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General. 

The Royal site recalls that modern communications technology allows The Queen to speak to every part of the Commonwealth through her annual Christmas and Commonwealth Day messages.  

Both messages are delivered by The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth to the peoples of the Commonwealth as a whole. They are special in that they reflect Her Majesty's personal views and are not drafted on ministerial advice.

 

In the video below  of her 2010 address, Her Majesty speaks about the role of science and technology in the Commonwealth.


   

 


...Celebrations in Sydney...





Each year the Commonwealth Day Council of New South Wales, a voluntary body, celebrates Commonwealth Day at Parliament House in Sydney.  This includes a Gala Lunch. 

 During the lunch in 2010, which was attended by the debating teams, MP’s and consular and diplomatic representatives, Her Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir, read the Commonwealth Day Message from Her Majesty The Queen.

Earlier she had reviewed the Scots College pipe band and lines of students bearing the fifty four flags of the members of the Commonwealth.


 










 
Commonwealth Day 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Each year, The Queen attends the Commonwealth Day celebrations in London. Since 1977, Commonwealth Day has been celebrated throughout the Commonwealth on the second Monday in March.

The Queen attends an inter-denominational service held in Westminster Abbey, followed by a reception hosted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

Image

The Royal site recalls that modern communications technology allows The Queen to speak to every part of the Commonwealth through her annual Christmas and Commonwealth Day messages.

Both messages are delivered by The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth to the peoples of the Commonwealth as a whole. They are special in that they reflect Her Majesty's personal views and are not drafted on ministerial advice. 

In the video below  Her Majesty speaks about the role of science and technology in the Commonwealth in her annual address. Commonwealth Day was celebrated throughout the Commonwealth.

Iin Sydney, the Commonwealth Day Council arranged a major function at Parliament House involving schoolchildren. A report on  this will soon be posted.

  

 

 
The Queen opens Commonwealth meeting Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting opened in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday 27 November. ( A video follows, as well as the text of Her Majesty's address.)

The Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma warned of the 'looming existential catastrophe of climate change' and said the organisation had to restate its 'shared responsibilities towards the preservation of our planet'.


Guests to the private session on climate change included The United Nations Secretary General  Ban Ki-moon, the President of France  Nicolas Sarkozy and the Prime Minister of Denmark  Lars Loekke Rasmussen change.

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They had been invited to Trinidad by the Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, who said there had been 'some concern about the way negotiations were going ahead of Copenhagen next month'.'A political statement out of (the Commonwealth) is not a statement that one can take lightly,' Mr. Manning told journalists on Thursday.

'It comes with the weight of so many countries and so many people, that therefore we feel it can have some effect on influencing the way that the discussions go in Denmark.

'Sky News reported that climate change and rising sea levels, blamed on global warming caused by greenhouse gases emitted mostly by the world's industrial powerhouses, threaten many developing nations, a number of which are Commonwealth members.The Commonwealth this year celebrates its 60th anniversary.

The conference is expected to decide whether to admit the former Belgian colony of Rwanda as its newest member.According to Sky News, the move is backed by Australia, Britain and Canada, but there is concern over Rwanda's rights record following the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people died.

The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has indicated he will at some point raise the issue of changes to the law relating to the succession, in particular as it affects Catholics and women.

Sky News reported that leaders from Gambia, Namibia and Nauru were absent from the table on Friday, as well as the military leader of Fiji, which was suspended from the Commonwealth in September for refusing to schedule elections by October 2010.




....The Queen's speech  opening of CHOGM.... 
 

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