Tony Abbott and the Cultural Cringe
Written by Thomas Flynn   
Thursday, 04 August 2011

There are lots of ways to finish a sentence that begins "the trouble with republicans is..."

One way is to say "...they attack the arguments which monarchists do not use" another would be "...they don't know and, what is worse, they don't know they don't know".

There have been a couple of examples of this recently attacking Tony Abbott for supposed hypocrisy.

[ Australian to the bootstraps]

[Continued below]

Recently the British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Julia Gillard praising her stance on a carbon tax.

In response Mr Abbott attacked this as yet another example of the cultural cringe to the old country.

Aha, say the commentators, Abbott is a monarchist and therefore guilty of the most extreme form of cultural cringe and therefore he is a hypocrite

The trouble is that support for the Australian crown is not about cringing, whether of the cultural or any other variety. It is just republicans attacking arguments monarchists do not use. They don't know and they don't know they don't know.

...Mr. Whitlam cringes before the mother country..

The cultural cringe is a funny business. The way people go on you would think it was conservative monarchists like me (or Tony Abbott) who would be most prone to it. But remember the dismissal of Gough Whitlam. I am 34 now and it happened 18 months before I was born, but for some reason it still animates the republicans. Gough Whitlam claimed that the Senate had no power to hold up finance bills. There is this act you see and it says this:

If a Money Bill, having been passed by the House of Representatives, and sent up to the Senate at least one month before the end of the session, is not passed by the Senate without amendment within one month after it is so sent up to the Senate, the Bill shall, unless the House of Representatives direct to the contrary, be presented to His Excellency and become an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified, notwithstanding that the Senate has not consented to the Bill.

Actually there is no such act in the legislation of the Commonwealth of Australia. That passage is an adaptation of section 1(1) of the UK Parliament Act of 1911. It has no force in Australia and yet Gough Whitlam, that great cringer before the mother country, asserted that it did.

(While we are on the subject I should note that although Professor Flint does not go so far I would to say that Robert Menzies was wrong to assert that the Senate could not block supply - as has recently been revealed. It could and it can, as both sides in fact said at different times before the 1975 crisis. Senator Lionel Murphy went so far as to table all the previous occasions when ALP senators attempted to block supply.)

Anyway, back to the Prime Minister's mailbag.

...who is kowtowing now?

David Penberthy writes in the online magazine The Punch an article even whose headline presents what we are told soldiers call "a target rich environment".

With the revelation that Britain’s conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had written to Julia Gillard applauding her "bold step" of putting a price on carbon, Abbott came over all republican, saying the Poms could do what they liked and Labor should stop kowtowing to the motherland.

"It is interesting that the Labor Party now wants to engage in a bit of cultural cringe to the old country," Abbott told reporters. “"I have great respect for Britain but I don’t think everything that is done in Britain should necessarily be slavishly copied here in Australia."
It was a pretty funny line coming from the bloke who devoted two years to running an hysterical scare campaign against "the politicians' republic" in defence of our British head of state. ('One Rule For Britannia, Another for Abbott', The Punch, 2 August 2011 - what does that headline even mean?)

There is nothing particularly republican about not wanting to kowtow to the UK. The Australian Crown is precisely that - an Australian institution. To be sure we got the Crown from the UK. We also got the English language, the common law and cricket. That does not mean we should reject any of them.

Her Majesty the Queen is not a British subject. She does not carry a British passport - or indeed any passport. With respect to the UK she is the Queen of the UK. With respect to Australia she is the Queen of Australia. Her Majesty is Australia's sovereign, bearer of the Crown from which all authority in Australian government flows. On the other hand the Australian Head of State (an obscure diplomatic term the  republicans appropriated) is the Governor-General.

When Paul Keating talked about an Australian President he said the President would be Head of State and would replace the Governor-General which means that Governor General is Head of State. The High Court of Australia described the Governor-General as Head of State. So did the Rudd Government when announcing the visit of the Governor General to Africa. Game over folks, we win.

...monarchist mastermind?.....

Back to Penberthy

Abbott can often be heard claiming that politicians can’t be trusted. It’s a weird tactic given his line of work. Yet this was the cornerstone of his successful demolition job on the republic, when he masterminded the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy “no” vote saying that a president appointed by the parliament would hand too much power to “the politicians”, of which he is of course one.

I yield to nobody in my admiration for Tony Abbott, who took on the job of Executive Director at a time when such a move was supposed to be a career-killer and who once managed to get a large slab of the ACM Charter published in The Australian of all places. But his was not the only mastermind involved. One thinks of Lloyd Waddy and Michael Kirby (whom the Keating government feared so much they had him promoted to the High Court in a bid to destroy ACM - still here Paul!), Nick Minchin, Kerry Jones, Sir David Smith and somebody you might have heard of called David Flint.

David Penberthy seems to think that attacking politicians is dishonest coming from a politician. When in Australia in 1995 and asked about the republic debate Margaret Thatcher herself observed "that those who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch ought to perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians." ('That’s why the Lady is a champ', Australian Financial Review, 21st November 1995). (Were I to assume everybody knows Margaret Thatcher was a politician, would that be another example of the cultural cringe?) Perhaps the reason why those who think politicians are a rum lot go into politics in the first place, is because they want to improve things.

...ACM does not cringe...

Paul Syvret writing in The Courier-Mail on 2nd August 2011 had another go.

This may not come as a surprise, but Abbott's immediate response to this repudiation of his scare campaign [by David Cameron] was a big "no". In fact, he labelled Labor's gleeful receipt of the Tory missive from the Old Dart as "cultural cringe to the old country" - hardly the words of the staunch monarchist he has previously claimed to be.

Again the commentator assumes that a monarchist is a cringer. Not true. Try again.

You can be exasperated at those Australians pathetically grateful at international recognition and still revere the Australian Crown. But these two do not know that. They don't even know they don't know.