The Queen’s trip Down Under next week is likely to rekindle the debate over whether Australia ought to throw off the reigns of monarchy and declare itself a republic.
But no matter how much debate the Queen’s visit may raise – and it probably won’t be that much – the battle is almost certain to be a losing proposition for Australian republicans, as even they realize.
In an analysis piece, Reuters‘ Michael Perry writes, “Republicans concede any debate will be short lived, and their dream of an Australian republic and president will remain just that — for many years to come.”
As a result of its colonial history, Australia remains to this day a constitutional monarchy. Elizabeth is officially the Queen of Australia. The British monarch is the titular head of state and usually acts purely in the capacity of a figurehead. But the Queen also has the power to dissolve Australia’s parliament, which she did as recently as 1975, bringing down the ruling government in the process.
Just this week, a new poll showed that the monarchy has gained in popularity, with support from 55 percent of Australians. Meanwhile, sentiment in favor of a republic has fallen to 34 percent, its lowest level in more than two decades.
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard supports a republic, but there’s virtually no chance of any movement on the issue from her fragile ruling coalition. And if she’s defeated in the next election and replaced by a conservative monarchist, a likely outcome, then it could be many years before Australians vote on abolishing the monarchy.
Republicans had a chance in 1999, when there was a nationwide plebiscite, but the country voted to keep the monarchy.
Mike Keating, chairman of the Australian Republic Movement, knows he’s on the losing side of the battle for now.
“It makes me feel personally,” says Keating, “and the republican movement generally, a bit despondent about the state of Australian politics.”
At the heart of the current support for the monarchy is an overwhelming fondness for the Queen, especially among older Australians, who see her as a grandmotherly figure. Republican Keating’s counterpart on the opposite side, David Flint, head of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, told Reuters: “The magic of monarchy still has a place, and we saw that at the royal wedding, and we will see it during the royal visit. There is great affection for the Queen.”
During her 1963 royal visit, then Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies quoted Thomas Ford, a poet from the time of the first Queen Elizabeth, to describe the impact of the current Elizabeth’s presence in Australia: “I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die.”
In other news related to Queen Elizabeth’s trip to Australia:
• Buckingham Palace has released a detailed itinerary of the Queen’s ten-day trip to Australia. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will arrive in Canberra on October 19, and will take day trips to Queensland on Oct. 24, when they will visit communities devastated by flooding, and to Melbourne, Victoria on Oct. 26. The royal couple will head to Perth on Oct. 27, where the Queen will attend the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. On Oct. 28, Female First reports, the Queen will join an estimated 100,000 people at Perth’s aptly named “Big Aussie BBQ,” before getting on a plane to head back home.
• In preparation for her Australia trip, the Queen has invited a large contingent of Australians to visit her at Buckingham Palace this week before she leaves. Among the guests at a special royal reception: Kylie Minogue and Clive James.
One guest has aroused particular interest from the fashion press: Andrej Pejic, a male model so androgynous that’s he’s more well known for modeling women’s clothes. The invitation has set off a round of speculation not only about what Pejic will wear but also what he and the Queen might discuss.
“Talk about a dinner party I would give a kidney to be invited to,” wrote Stylecaster‘s Spencer Cain, who then proceeded to compose scenarios.
“Naturally, they will exchange makeup tips,” Caine wrote, as he guessed at the smalltalk — Pejic: ”I just love your foundation, Your Majesty.” Queen: “Thank you, dear. I’ve been getting the same one at Harrods for 400 years now!” Cain also envisioned the ultimate fashion nightmare: “In an atrociously awkward turn of events, they will both be wearing the same outfit.”