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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 

Republicans Divided Over Commonwealth Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 22 November 2005

While some republicans have decided to politicise the Commonwealth Games, the agenda of others is not only that we should leave The Commonwealth; it’s to kill it off.

The republicans are more often than not divided over most things, although they once reached near unanimity on one.

This was before they lost the 1999 referendum, when most republicans were dead set against our Australian flag. Many despised it, and they did not hide their feelings. And it's all on record.

Now some want to keep it-at least they say they want to keep it. Others prudently say it's another issue.

In any event Steve Lewis, writing in The Australian on 22 November, 2005, has come out against The Commonwealth.

But on reading this you have to suspect that this was just a “teaser” for the real thrust of his piece.

This was to tell us that a hopelessly divided cross-party group of federal MPs is about to rekindle debate about a republic. This is hardly news.

Read more...
 
Republicans rewrite history in attempt to politicize Commonwealth Games Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 05 June 2005

According to press reports, the Australian Republican Movement will use next years Commonwealth Games to dispel fears the nation would be kicked out of the Commonwealth if it becomes a republic.

Australian Republic Movement national director Allison Henry says the Games provide a major opportunity for them to advance the republic debate. We first saw a report of this by Peter Ker in The Age, on 30 May, 2005, STRONG ARM TACTICS.

Read more...
 
The Queen to open Commonwealth Games Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 05 May 2005

According to Peter Ker, the Commonwealth Games reporter for The Age, 6 May 2005 ,The Queen will attend the opening ceremony of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

The Prime Minister John Howard made this announcement on Melbourne radio, and the Melbourne based Monarchist Alliance brought this to our attention. Buckingham Palace is yet to confirm the Queen's attendance, but is expected to do so soon.

It is of course highly appropriate that The Queen, who is the Head of The Commonwealth, should open the Games. The Premier, Mr Steve Bracks had previously expressed the wish that Her Majesty perform this function. The Queen, and members of her family will be warmly welcomed by participants, visitors and by Australians generally.

Until next time,

David Flint

 
The Marriage And The Commonwealth - As Seen By The Times Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 28 March 2005

Australians know from experience that the republican movement will use any tactic to destroy the Crown. In 1999, the republicans sunk to arguing over and over that a No vote was a vote for King Charles and Queen Camilla.

ACM, and the official Vote No Committee chaired by ACM Executive Director Kerry Jones, never once tried to trade on the respect, status and popularity of The Queen. ACM put our case only on constitutional grounds, as did the Vote No Committee.

The Australian people were obviously not impressed by the republicans personal attack on Prince Charles, who has many excellent qualities the media would prefer to ignore-for example that in just the last year, he raised a quarter of abillion dollars for charities in the uK and the poorer Commonwealth countries.

Read more...
 
Lessons For Australia From Commonwealth Countries: The Pacific Region Print E-mail
Written by Justice Ken Handley   
Monday, 20 August 2001
 Print E-mail
 
 
Fiji


Fiji became an independent nation within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970 with a Constitution on the Westminster model which provided for a Constitutional Monarchy It was governed by the Alliance Party, led by Sir Ratu Mara, until the general election of April 1987 when a coalition of the Labor and Federation Parties led by Dr Bavadra, a Fijian, was elected. The Federation Party drew its support from the Indian community, while the Labor Party was supported by western Fijians and urban workers of both races. Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, a former Alliance politician, and a High Fijian Chief, was Governor-General.


Fiji for its size had quite a large Army, dominated by ethnic Fijians, and largely paid for by the United Nations which employed Fijian troops in Lebanon and the Sinai. On 14 May 1987, while Parliament was in session in Suva, Lieutenant Colonel Rabuka, in a bloodless military coup, arrested and detained Dr Bavadra's entire Cabinet. Colonel Rabuka suspended the Constitution, and declared himself the Chief Minister of an interim ruling council.

 

 

(Continued below)

 
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