There’s an odd assumption in Ireland that Australians love and idolise the British, particularly its monarchy.
The truth is that the king, the man who is on their money in his fancy little hat, has little bearing on the lives of ordinary Aussies. The Royals aren’t funded with Australian tax dollars. When they visit, taxpayers shell out for transport, dinners and security costs. Which is what Ireland did too with King Charle’s three day trip in 2022 costing the Government €1.5 million in Garda resources alone. Australia has had six Royal Visits since 2018 and four of those were Prince Edward and Prince Andrew, which shouldn’t even count. Meanwhile it seems like Charles is popping over to Ireland every time Ryanair has €9 seat deals with his fourth visit in 5 years coming up this summer.
The monarch doesn’t even do the official bits like signing Australian bills into laws – that’s handled by the Governor-General, their Down Under representative. The “GG” role is mainly ceremonial and symbolic. The Irish public would be more likely to know the names of Micheal D Higgins’ dogs (RIP Bród) than Australians who could name the Governor General off the top of their heads.
There aren’t portraits of the queen or king in every classroom any more. We don’t sing God Save the King/Queen and new citizens no longer have to swear allegiance to the Crown in their oath.
In truth, aside from watching the Netflix series or watching their public spats in the media in the same addictive manner you’d watch your neighbours have it out on the driveway, we tend not to think about them very much outside big events.
The death of the Queen Elizabeth was a big event (we got a public holiday) and so is the coronation to a lesser extent (we did not get a public holiday).
So once again, we have started thinking seriously about becoming a republic. We did have a referendum (led by a former prime minister before he got the top job) in 1999. Back then 45 per cent of us said “nah, yeah” to becoming a republic but they were defeated by the 54 per cent who said “yeah, nah” to changing the constitution.
According to polls completed in the past year, 53 per cent of Australians did not support Charles becoming their king yet only 45 per cent thought the country should break away from the monarchy altogether. Another conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald found a jump from 36 to 39 per cent in republic support in the four months after Queen Elizabeth’s death. Another poll said 54 per cent of Australians were happy to dump having a constitutional monarch but only after her passing.
It seems we felt a bit mean upsetting an older lady at the end of her life, sort of like pretending to our elderly grandmothers that we don’t live in sin by sleeping in separate beds when we visit with our girlfriends.
The data and general sentiment suggests Australians have the same attitude to becoming a republic as we do taking down the Christmas lights – we know we should do it and we’ll get around to it one day when we’re arsed.
We’ve already got one referendum coming up this year and the Australian prime minister Anthony Albanease said he had no intention of kicking off another one in his first term.
Australia is a country that doesn’t mess around much with its constitution. There have only been eight changes since Federation in 1901 (Ireland’s racked up 32 since 1937 by comparison). The latest proposed amendment will ask the voting public to recognise the Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the constitution. As well as recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as Australia’s First Nation peoples, it would create a group made up of Indigenous Australians with advisory and accountability functions to the Government on laws affecting them.
Aboriginal activists can be found on both sides of the vote with “yes” supporters seeing it as a profound stepping stone to correcting the country’s dark past and facilitating a brighter future. While “no” proponents worry the Voice is a bait and switch offering that will bring political credit no change while other options like a treaty are preferred as a means of redress.
So in other words Australians are a bit busy to really think about “the other lot way over there”. They are, rightly so, more concerned about the right or wrong way to reconcile with the members within their own community. In a crude comparison it is like imagining if the British living in Ireland, eventually started calling themselves Irish too and then had to make recompense for issues such as land theft, attempted genocide and cultural destruction.
There’s a general pairing of oppression and historical injustice with the Royals in Ireland. To put it in Love Ireland terms they give us the postcolonial ick and things seemed to get fairer when the British and their monarchy left us alone. However in Australia, there’s no pretending racism, prejudice and cruelty stopped when we became in charge of ourselves. From 1991 to 2020 more than 400 Indigenous people died in police custody without a single law enforcement officer being convicted for their death.
Australians can’t blame the monarchy for that, we have to square that up with ourselves first. A republic will have to wait.