Queen & Country: Elizabeth II’s place in post-colonial Australia

Jack Wilkie-Jans writes on the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II

In Australia there is much social political discussion (or a resurgence of) around the topics of Australia becoming a republic and of changing its national flag, as well as the growing movements of Aboriginal sovereignty versus the proposed changes to the Australian constitution to officially include First Peoples of Australia. Such topics seem mostly- if not only- prevalent on or near January 26th.  While such discussions continue to take place and precedence in the mainstream, populist press there also remains a great deal of war and famine around the globe and we are seeing a continuing and growing humanitarian crisis stemming from the Middle East.

Over decades we’ve seen historic paradigm changes in regards to numerous social conventions, such as race relations and most recently positive challenges around the issue of sexuality and marriage equality, taboos which have otherwise stood for centuries. We’ve also been witness to the resistance- some of it savage- such change often meets. The world has also seen in recent years the passing of so many great international leaders and great personalities who have helped shape the 20th and 21st Centuries. Through all of this and through all of the upheavals and positive changes over the past 89 years, 63 years and 11 months, there is one person representing an institution who and which remains a steadfast icon of stability, trust, diplomacy as well as tradition & progressiveness alike: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

 

While several Commonwealth nations no longer have the Queen as their Head of State, she still remains the Head of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, of course, is perhaps one of the Queen’s most magnificent jewels in her long career. A diplomatic feat unheard of in a world where monarchies are overthrown and republicanism has swept into the populist nationalistic discourse; transitioning the British Crown’s kingdom (upon which the sun never set- a remarkable feat of the Queen’s Great-Great-Grandmother, Queen Victoria) peacefully and sustainably into the Commonwealth would have seemed impossible under any other reigning monarch.

 

Her Majesty’s altruism, insight and unmatched experience in world affairs has ensured the successful maintenance, albeit morphed, of not only the “empire” but more significantly her own House. Like in Australia, calls for a republic and independence have been heard loudly from the United Kingdom. The Queen weathered the storm of both Scottish and Irish secession, made it through the other side in one piece while also being able to not simply survive as the Head of State but also thrive due to her ability to heal and ‘make better’ as opposed to merely ‘making do’, ensuring her subjects gained more out of having her maintain. Arguably the two main benefits of maintaining the Queen as the Head of State ensures a nation’s stability and strategic ally in Great Britain amidst a world of turbulence; the other main benefit is the income generated by tourism to estates and also the general interest level there is in such a withstanding institution. Removing the Queen as the Head of State doesn’t so much gain something as it loses something never attainable again and the fact that places like Australia are reluctant to try out a new structure of governance/rule adds to the confidence in the understandable and manageable role of the Queen. Unlike a President of a republic, Vice Regals or the Queen, while assenting to legislative changes, do not sign executive orders. Unlike presidents, Monarchs and their Vice Regals are bound by conventions and preside above politics. The comfort in this security and unknowing of potential abuses of executive power by possibly elected figure heads is what keeps a minimally drafted republic at bay here in Australia. Continue reading