Monarchy and the media
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 14 January 2008

Image
Sir Donald Bradman
 

...a knighthood: how else could they be honoured?

There has been some interest these last few weeks in media circles in issues about the constitution and the flag. The Sunday Times asked for an opinion piece on The Queen having become our oldest monarch, and the Herald Sun published a comment on reforms to the Order of Australia. (This followed a piece which misrepresented this proposal.)

Then there was a piece in the Daily Telegraph on 4 January, 2007 by constitutional monarchist, Carolyn Cash on the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s second great conquest, the South Pole. His was the first overland expedition since that of Captain Scott in 1912.  Sir Edmund passed away on 10 January, 2008.

The papers also reported that in the centenary of the birth of the great Sir Donald Bradman, General Cosgrove would be delivering the Bradman Oration before the start of the Test against India in Perth.

Both of these great men, Sir Edmund and Sir Donald, had been  honoured by The Queen with knighthoods in orders of chivalry.

Is there any other honour which could be more appropriate?

 

...former politicians as G-G’s...

I was asked recently by one reporter about a recent story in the Financial Review that the PM would recommend the Hon Kim Beazley as Governor General after Major General Jeffery’s term ends in August.

I pointed out that former politicians have performed very well - Sir William McKell, Lord Casey, Sir Paul Hasluck, the Hon Bill Hayden. The opposition leaders of the day, Mr RG Menzies, as he then was, and Mr John Howard criticised the decision to appoint the former Labor politicians, but both properly ceased all criticism  immediately the appointment was made.

They changed their minds about the appointment  when they saw how the former Labor politicians  exercised their high office. For all of the former politicians accepted that their loyalty was to the Sovereign, not to the party which appointed them, and that they had to be above politics in the exercise of their office.

I told the journalist I saw no reason why Mr Beazley, who is an honourable man, would not also do this.

I would expect him to put aside and certainly not talk about his interest in republicanism, as this is political.  Other sources are the armed services and the judiciary, with several recent departures and those about to retire providing a rich source.

 

...the Flag, awards to the former PM, reforming the Order of Australia, Royalty rates on TV, Auld Lang Syne...

 

....keeping the flag...

On New Year’s Day, the ABC asked me to speak on a programme about our Flag.  Harold Scruby of Ausflag said they would unveil yet another new flag  later this year. He was concerned that politicians appeared in front of the flag, and if they were tall, you only saw the Union Flag.

 Now let’s get that right. Is Mr. Scruby saying that because some politician, who in the nineties could have been going on about a new flag, now appears in front of the flag only because he  knows the people love it, we should therefore change our flag?

I spoke and argued that since our flag was popularly approved and had essentially been with us during most of the life of the country, there was no reason to change it. The fact that people emigrated from other countries, as my maternal parents did, doesn’t mean we should change it, any more than that we should change our language or our laws.

One caller pointed to Eureka, which he said was about fighting England for our freedom. I pointed out the legislation to give us – I repeat, give us- self government was already before the British parliament before Eureka. I also pointed out that the Eureka flag is nothing more than the very popular Australian Federation Flag of 1831 without the Union Flag.

I am delighted to say most people who called in supported the existing flag.

 

....reforming the Order of Australia....


This was followed by an interview on 3AW, Melbourne’s’ high rating talk back station. The presenter, Peter Maher, a republican, argued against my call for the reintroduction of the AK and AD in the Order of Australia, and opposition to a republic.

 He asked me what I thought would happen if the 1999 referendum were repeated today. I said the result would be more overwhelmingly against a republic.

 He conceded, at the end of the programme, that most callers seemed to favour my views.

Michael Smith, who questioned me about the proposal on Brisbane’s high rating station 4BC was sympathetic to the proposal. He was interested in the politicians who have foreign knighthoods.

 “Emeritus Professor David Flint is absolutely right! Australia should restore the titles of sir, lady and dame, “George Bougias wrote to The Sunday Age.

“It is ridiculous that some politicians are only too happy to accept this title from other countries but won’t let other Australians enjoy the honour (as we have for several decades).

“Maybe this is some politicians’ warped version of “Fraternity, Equality, Liberty” where some (politicians) are more equal than others (the rest of the community)?

“No wonder the same lot would love a (politician’s) republic where they can install their friends as “president” and confer other titles and awards as they please.

“Let’s face it.  

“Australians – unlike some of our politicians – “get” the titles of sir, lady and dame and recognise that being dubbed a knight or a dame is a great honour.

“Australians also understand our system of Government (a Constitutional Monarchy or a “Crowned Democracy”), heritage and traditions and don’t like to see it being attacked.

George Bougias ended with this telling point: “That’s probably why there was such a community outcry recently (as shown by Herald Sun polls) when some tried to do away with the “Royal” in Royal Women’s Hospital or The Queen’s Birthday……..”



....the citizenship test...



Channel 7 recently asked me my views on the citizenship test.

ACM  had put in a submission to the Howard government on this, which is on the ACM site, arguing for the restoration of the oath of allegiance rather than a meaningless collective pledge. It also argued that a test should not reduce the government’s responsibility at the time of selecting prospective immigrants. The rules should not be discriminatory, and only potentially good citizens should be chosen.

I said that merely because some people had failed the test it should not be “dumbed down”. The applicant may sit for the test again.  The test is certainly not ideal, but it should not be easier to become a citizen than to open a bank account or get a credit card.

 

....an award to the former PM...



I saw little in the Australian media of the Irving Kristol Award for 2008 by the leading American think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, to the former prime minister John Winston Howard, who joins a very distinguished list of recipients.  I suppose this will receive wider coverage when Mr Howard actually receives it and delivers the Irving Kristol Lecture at the Institute's annual dinner on March 5, 2008 in Washington. I did notice however that David Barnett in The Canberra Times devoted an opinion piece to Malcolm Brooks’ views in a newsletter. Malcolm Brooks is a former MP and is now councillor on the NSW Gosford City Council.  

Mr Barnett noted that Mr Brooks  “... wants to keep the flag and the constitutional monarchy. He wants to foster a spirit of national pride and national identity for a better future as one people with one flag as one nation.”   

 Mr. Brooks has suggested another award for Mr Howard . He expressed the hope that The Queen would bestow an appropriate honour on John Howard for his services to the nation.

No it is the practice in the UK to offer a peerage to former Prime Ministers, but Sir Winston Churchill –who had to be persuaded  to accept a knighthood, and Edward Heath declined to be ennobled.

Tony Blair has not accepted a peerage, at least so far, but Lord Atlee’s and Lord Callaghan’s ennoblement are  testimony to the fact that the British Labour Party is not opposed to this.  The only other former Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay McDonald, refused a peerage and continued to contest elections until his death.  

Now I am not proposing a peerage for Mr Howard, principally because that would have the potential to endanger the health of too many in  the commentariat. I can still rember the large exclamation mark on the front page of one newspaper when Richard Casey was ennobled. "Lord Casey!' the front page announced with shock and horror. 

 

...royal programmes rate...   

We have previously reported on the growing realisation in Australian television that royalty rates.  Pity then that the national broadcaster, the ABC, fails to broadcast events of significance, for example the 2007 Trooping of the Colour, and the service to commemorate the Golden Anniversary of the Queen’s wedding.

But things are improving. As we mentioned here[i], to spearhead their battle to win back television ratings in 2008, the Nine Network has just signed one of Australia's biggest stars, Cate Blanchette to present  a series about our Royal Family.

And t
he series, “Monarchy,” continues on the ABC. The national broadcaster should be commended for showing this, but  the promotional announcement for this which is regularly shown seems to me to be tendentious. It shows the Coronation Coach and then The Queen with a voice over which says that after a thousand years the Head of State is “still” an hereditary Sovereign. Still?  Am I reading too much into this?

Now David Byers, ACM's NSW Country Convener is an astute observer. He has found a direct correlation between the most recent wave of mindless anti- royal insults on the internet and Dr David Starkey's insulting comment about The Queen which went around the world[ii]

 Starkey had made public his flippant conclusions about The Queen's education apparently from one meeting with Her Majesty.  It is surprising that he did not realize that her reserve and comments had more to do with being in the presence of a self confessed "media tart" than any indication of her interests or education.

David Byers made another  perceptive comment about " Monarchy."  It tends to emphasise material to attract the prurient, and this is reflected in the use of terms, such as one particular royal liking "a bit of rough."

This detracts from the series which is still interesting but frankly, can border on the sensational.

 

...Auld Lang Syne...

And in conclusion, did you know that some historians call Auld Lang Syne the most widely known song in the civilized world, while others say it's outdone only by God Save the Queen?

This was the finding in a report in the Canadian newspaper The Edmonton Sun of 1 January 2008.

Actually, I suspect that many more people know the words of God Save The Queen. The words for Auld Lang Syne are in the Edmonton Sun report.



 



[i] Column, New season's TV : Royal programmes to lead, 16 September, 2007.
[ii] Column, Royal TV marred by the" rudest man in Britain" , 24 December, 2007.